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It’s About Time… Part 4 Godly Arithmetic

Time-0518

 

 

Psalm 90:11–12 (NKJV)

11    Who knows the power of Your anger?

For as the fear of You, so is Your wrath.

12    So teach us to number our days,

That we may gain a heart of wisdom.

 

Numbering days is just that, counting them but, in this context, with both eternity and the brevity of human existence defining the sum. It is a gaining of that particular perspective necessary for resisting the temptation of thinking time is anything other than a creation by God and a gift from God.

This numbering of days has at least four consequences-it reminds us that time is passing by and with each passing day fewer remain. It also focuses us on the day we now have, how valuable it is as an opportunity to please God in some way or other and not waste it on vain and empty projects. Thirdly, it places our lives within the framework of God’s time, measured by the days, months, years seasons and holy days He established from the beginning in Genesis and reiterated again and again throughout the Bible. Finally, numbering our days leads to wisdom that is something we gain and something we give to God, like a gift of a life well spent.

The basis for this fourth consequence is the language of Psa. 90:12 suggesting two interpretations about this wisdom of numbering days. The NKJV reads “that we may gain a heart of wisdom” whereas the NASB reads “that we may present to You a heart of wisdom”. These are both entirely acceptable translations and, therefore, can be considered together like both sides of a single coin. In other words, numbering our days does something to us and something for God. The former seems easy to understand but the latter provokes a pronounced wonderment, at least for me. It make me think that if I can present to God wisdom, I could present something else as well, say stupidity for example, like engaging in the wanton consumption of all things worldly. Consequently, according to the first translation, instead of gaining a heart of true wisdom I might instead gain that kind of wisdom James describes as “earthly, natural, demonic”. (James 2:13-15)

Given the sweeping panorama of this Psalm it is noteworthy that numbering our days follows a reference to understanding the full depth of God’s wrath and judgment, i.e. the proper ‘fear of God’ which we know is the “beginning of wisdom”. It is true that familiarity breeds contempt and with the grossly warped views of God being promulgated these days, portraying God as an indulgent parent, such familiarity excludes the respect due His Name; it is in my judgment an idolatrous frivolity. This is not to say that being a Christian is morbid but that the joy, gladness and happiness promised us can only be such when balanced with a proper fear of God; this is  ‘wisdom’ we bring to God. The upshot is we need God to teach us this unique and wise numbering of days. Left to our own devices, the gravity of the matter will surely escape us. And Who better to ask for help than the creator of time Himself? And, so with David we can pray

4      “Lord, make me to know my end,

And what is the measure of my days,

That I may know how frail I am.

5      Indeed, You have made my days as handbreadths,

And my age is as nothing before You;

Certainly every man at his best state is but vapor.

Selah  (Psalm 39:4–5 (NKJV)

 

W.G. Ryzek 2014

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

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The God Who Speaks,The God Who Hears- Part 2

 

 

torah-at-sinai

Last time we considered the remarkable fact that God has a Voice and speaks to His people, His Voice spanning the centuries between the Old and New Testaments, the very same speaking to us now. We began with Israel’s encounter with the Voice of God at Sinai and ended with that same Voice becoming Incarnate in the Jesus, the Word of God.

This installment is about the equally remarkable fact that God listens and is quite concerned with what we have to say. Once again we turn to Exodus and the experiences of God’s people, only now instead of being emancipated and hearing Yahweh in the wilderness, we see the Hebrews crying out because of their horrific bondage as slaves in Egypt (Ex. 2:23-25).

“They cried out and their cry for help because of their bondage rose up to God. So God heard their groaning and God remembered His covenant with Abraham, Isaac and Jacob. God saw the sons of Israel and God took notice of them.” (NASB)

It is interesting that remembering His covenant with their ancestors and taking notice of their plight are associated with God hearing them. In the Septuagint, the verbs heard, remembered, saw, and took notice are all in the aorist tense, indicative mood indicating events occurring in the past; i.e. He had already heard, remembered, saw and took notice of His people, it was not something new to God, but to the Hebrews it was good news, indeed that God had, after all, heard them and was still hearing. Ex. 3:7-8 sheds light on this when God says to Moses that He has been aware of their sufferings and is now preparing to act on their behalf.

Now, fast forward to the New Testament when Jesus talks to His disciples about prayer and what we are to seek after (Matt. 6:7-8, 32). Twice in these verses Jesus says that God knows about those things we all need. The verb ‘know’ is in the perfect tense, indicative mood meaning God knows now even before we ask. He hear us and is listening, not just to the sounds but the meaning of what we say, therefore knowing what we are all about.

Speaking requires hearing and listening is an essential part of hearing, really hearing. What I mean is listening suggests an attitude, an inclination towards, an interest in what is being heard. But, nothing is heard without first speaking, at least in these contexts. God speaks and then listens for a response and when a response comes, He hears it. We speak, listen for a response and when it comes, hear it; that is if we are interested at all in whomever our speech is directed. And herein lies the rub: there are those who “have ears but do not hear” or, we might say, hear sounds but do not understand what they mean, or hear but do not listen. This is the difference between us and God, and thankfully so; God both hears and listens with perfectly clarity of understanding and always, without exception, responds appropriately. On our part, however, His words may be clamoring for our attention but we simply are neither hearing nor listening.

The point of all this is that God hears us, really hears us, hears everything in fact and is constantly listening for our response to Him. He is never deaf as we sometimes are and even answers us when we haven’t even uttered a word, like those times when anguish of heart smothers verbal speech and all we can do is groan and travail, just as the Hebrews did in Egypt. Therefore, we are encouraged throughout the New Testament to pray, even pray without ceasing, all the while knowing our words are not falling on deaf ears. He is eager to hear from us and listens closely to what we say.

This whole thing about communication between Creator and creature, this speaking and hearing on a two way street is astounding when you think about it. And think about we should for no greater privilege is afforded us than to have an audience with God whenever we want and no greater power available than aligning our will with His. Hear then, and listen to the words of Jesus, our God Who Speaks:

“This is my commandment, that you love one another as I have loved you. Greater love has no one than this, than to lay down one’s life for his friends. You are my friends if you do whatever I command you. No longer do I call you servants, for a servant does not know what his master is doing; but I have called you friends, for all things that I heard from the Father I have made known to you. You did not choose Me, but I chose you and appointed you that you should go and bear fruit, and that your fruit should remain, that whatever you ask the Father in my name He may give you. These things I command you, that you love one another.” (John 15:12-17 NKJV)

 

The God Who Speaks-The God Who Listens

torah-at-sinai

One of the most remarkable stories in the Old Testament and, at the same time, one of most theologically charged, is that occasion when God ‘speaks’ to Israel from Mount Sinai (Ex. 19:5, 16 and 20:18-19, 22). This fearsomely impressive Voice set the God of Israel apart, way apart, from all the other gods of the land, those many dumb idols, unable to speak, listen or act.

One such theologically significant idea is this: that God has a voice and speaks to His creation in general and, in this case, Israel in particular, is an act of self-disclosure, or what we call ‘revelation’, a revealing that could not otherwise happen unless He chose to do so. This self-disclosure of the God Who Speaks shows He has something to say to all of us, all the time, and since it is He who speaks, every word is important, eternally so. He speaks to get our attention, invite us into a relationship with Him and elevate our creatureliness into that sublime existence defined by everlasting Life, Light and Love.

It is also a communication of intention, “I’m going to do this and that” indicating purposefulness, design and an inexorable will to accomplish all He promises. By listening to whatever His “this and that” is we take part in those eternal decrees established before the foundations of this world were ever laid. He desires that we find, fulfill, and consummate our destinies thereby accomplishing His eternally benevolent will for each of us.

Because the speaking God of Israel so frightened the people, Moses became God’s voice. Some regard him as the first of a long line of prophets sent by God to speak to Israel. Of course, the culmination of these prophetic ministries is Jesus, the Word Incarnate, God speaking to us as one of us; Hebrews 1:1-4 summarizes it well.

This fact is illustrated by an equally remarkable event paralleling the one at Sinai when Jesus was transfigured. In all the three accounts recorded in the synoptic gospels (Matthew 17:1–9, Mark 9:2-8, Luke 9:28–36) the disciples are told to “listen to him.” And in each of these accounts the verb ‘hear’ or ‘listen’ (depending on the translation) is in the present tense, imperative mood which taken together means a command to hear Him now and keep on hearing Him. And, this Voice from ‘heaven’ is the same that spoke to Israel at Sinai thus linking the testaments together into a seamless whole, only now with the full force of His thundering self-disclosure and intentionality communicated by the Incarnation of Logos.

Furthermore, the verb  ἀκούετε (listen) means not just physically hearing sounds but hearing with understanding; it is the opposite of Jesus’ indictment that many, if not most of those following His ministry, had “ears but did not hear” what He was saying. Listening to the Voice is an inclination towards Him, an attentiveness to what He says, a patient anticipation that He will speak and a willingness to obey what He says. None of this is easily done these days what with the cacophony of voices demanding our attention and our own propensity to hear what we want to hear.

Thus, the question set before all of us is this: are we listening for and hearing the Voice of the God who speaks shown by our obedience or are we listening to the siren songs of the world only to end up shipwrecked on the rocks that seek our destruction?

The point, then, is this:

 

For we have become partakers of Christ, if we hold fast the beginning of our assurance firm until the end, while it is said TODAY IF YOU HEAR HIS VOICE, DO NOT HARDEN YOUR HEARTS AS WHEN THEY PROVOKED ME” (Heb. 3:15)

© W.G. Ryzek 2014

 


 

Hye Bub! Whaddaya Looking AT?- Part 6

 

 

 

an old man looking at something

Parts 1-4 of this series provide the first answer to the questions “what should we be looking at?” and “what should we be seeking after?”  In sum, we should be looking at and seeking after what is unseen because what we call ‘reality’ exists by means of what we can’t see. (Heb. 11:3) Seeing the unseen, therefore, reveals to all believers that ‘eternal weight of glory’ behind this otherwise unsubstantial, fleeting and temporal life. (2 Cor. 4:17-18) This is what it means to “walk by faith and not by sight” (2 Cor. 5:7) for it is only faith that gives us ‘healthy’ eyes to see the unseen, fill us with light and make us lights in a world overwhelmed by darkness. Now, consider this:

Hebrews 12:1–2 (NKJV)

Therefore we also, since we are surrounded by so great a cloud of witnesses, let us lay aside every weight, and the sin which so easily ensnares us, and let us run with endurance the race that is set before us, looking unto Jesus, the author and finisher of our faith, who for the joy that was set before Him endured the cross, despising the shame, and has sat down at the right hand of the throne of God.

One important theme of this letter to the Hebrews is the suffering and persecution that comes because of faith in Jesus and resulting temptation to turn back from this faith that proclaims Him the fulfillment of all the Old Testament spoke of concerning Israel’s Messiah andthat He is the Savior of all people who embrace Him, whether Jew or Gentile. Hebrews 11 and 12 bring the whole discussion of remaining faithful to Jesus in spite of horrible circumstances to a climax first by showing the necessity of seeing the unseen by faith, citing a host of examples who did just that and, second, that Jesus, who is the Alpha and Omega of all that exists (i.e. the Word through which creation came to be) is at the same time the Author and Finisher of the faith by which all of us now bear an “eternal weight of glory”. Therefore, “looking unto Jesus the Author and Finisher of our faith” is a logical second answer to the questions ‘what should we be looking at’ and ‘what should we be seeking’.

The word “looking” is the Greek word ἀφορῶντες and means, among other things, to have one’s eyes fixed upon something or someone; more colloquially, we might say “to be fixated” on Jesus. Looking unto Jesus (not a preacher, church, Christian celebrity, secular celebrity, athlete, music artist etc.) makes Him that singular Center around which our lives revolve. But, more importantly, since He is the Originator of the very faith whereby we see the unseen, singleness of vision fixed on Him alone is the only way we ever ‘see’ anything in proper perspective.

The point is that looking at and seeking after anything the world considers worthy of pursuit will most assuredly fill us with darkness. Should we try looking at the world and Him at the same time, as many do these days, we will become cross-eyed, unable to run the race set before us.

But, even though we know all this, there many shiny objects out there to distract us, aren’t there? A perilous change within Christianity is that many ‘shiny objects’ once plainly seen as sinful and idolatrous are now accepted as harmless, vestiges of an old-fashioned way of life that can’t be sustained in our modern world. From the way men and women, boys and girls, dress, the way they talk, the places they go, what they look at and seek after, to the epidemic moral laxity that now guides their life-changing decisions, the myriad shiny objects of the world have eclipsed the Originator of their faith. He is ‘watered down’ to an innocuous and non-threatening ‘nice guy’ that champions even the vilest life-styles in the name of love, tolerance and acceptance. And all of this is not just happening on the streets but also in churches that once held fast to the gospel and to the centrality of the King of Kings and Lord of Lords only now to have taken their eyes off Him to look at the new shiny objects the world displays.

We must see Jesus, not as we would like Him to be, not in our image, but as He really is. This cannot happen, nor will it happen, until all of us become fixated on Him again and stop looking at everything, and everyone, else as a guide to the kingdom. There is no substitution for and no alternative to Jesus: He is all in all or He is nothing to us; no in-between, no place for being cross-eyed, trying to look at the world and Jesus at the same time and then expect to be filled with light, much less ‘see’ where we’re going.

© W.G. Ryzek 2013

Hey Bub! Whaddaya Looking At?- Part 5

an old man looking at something

Parts 1-4 of this series offer the first answer to the questions “what should we be looking at?” and “what should we be seeking after?”  In sum, we should be looking at and seeking after what is unseen because what we call ‘reality’ exists only because of what we can’t see. (Heb. 11:3) Seeing the unseen, therefore, reveals to all believers the ‘eternal weight of glory’ behind this otherwise unsubstantial, fleeting and temporal life. (2 Cor. 4:17-18) This is what it means to “walk by faith and not by sight” (2 Cor. 5:7) for it is only faith that gives us ‘healthy’ eyes to see the unseen, fill us with light and make us lights in a world overwhelmed by darkness.

The next few blogs give the second answer, namely that we must be “looking unto Jesus, the author and finisher of our faith”. Doing so insures that what we look at and seek after make Him that singular Center around which our lives revolve. But, before we consider this second answer I think it necessary to digress a bit because Christmas Day is fast approaching.

Apparently, according to some polls I’ve seen, only about half of Americans think Christmas is uniquely religious while the other half see it as merely a cultural phenomenon. Even if this polling is only remotely accurate it indicates the darkness within our world is deep, far-reaching and increasing as human history draws closer to its completion. That Light has come into this dark world is part of the Christian message and  as far as this series is concerned means that being filled with light is to be like Jesus when He became flesh and dwelt among us.

It is worth noting that some applications of the word ‘light’ in the New Testament are not only meant to be antithetical to darkness (i.e. sin and evil) but also a counter to proto-gnosticism (via Platonism and neo-platonism) developing in the early 1st century Church (addressed in John’s gospel, 1st John and some of Paul’s letters)) and, later, full-blown Gnosticism fought against by the first post-apostolic church fathers leading to the Nicene council in AD 325. These philosophies generally agreed that the material world is evil (darkness) and all that is immaterial is good (light). Of course, such views ran counter to any notion of incarnation, God becoming ‘flesh’, and became the basis for heresies that denied the full deity of Jesus. That Light is an incarnate Person is unique to Christianity.

Consider with me, then, these New Testament passages that, when taken together, remind us of the enormous magnitude of the Incarnation.

Luke 2:25–32 (NKJV)

25 And behold, there was a man in Jerusalem whose name was Simeon, and this man was just and devout, waiting for the Consolation of Israel, and the Holy Spirit was upon him. 26 And it had been revealed to him by the Holy Spirit that he would not see death before he had seen the Lord’s Christ. 27 So he came by the Spirit into the temple. And when the parents brought in the Child Jesus, to do for Him according to the custom of the law, 28 he took Him up in his arms and blessed God and said:

29             “Lord, now You are letting Your servant depart in peace,

According to Your word;

30             For my eyes have seen Your salvation

31             Which You have prepared before the face of all peoples,

32             A light to bring revelation to the Gentiles,

And the glory of Your people Israel.”

 

Among other things, this passage, based on older prophecies, shows that we Gentiles were included in God’s salvation plan all along, that together, both Jews and Gentiles, would make up the Church, the Body of Christ. We, like Simeon, have truly “seen the Light”.

 

John 1:1–14 (NKJV)

1 In the beginning was the Word, and the Word was with God, and the Word was God. He was in the beginning with God.

In Him was life, and the life was the light of men. And the light shines in the darkness, and the darkness did not comprehend it.

There was a man sent from God, whose name was John. This man came for a witness, to bear witness of the Light, that all through him might believe. He was not that Light, but was sent to bear witness of that Light.

That was the true Light which gives light to every man coming into the world.

10 He was in the world, and the world was made through Him, and the world did not know Him. 11 He came to His own, and His own did not receive Him.

12 But as many as received Him, to them He gave the right to become children of God, to those who believe in His name: 13 who were born, not of blood, nor of the will of the flesh, nor of the will of man, but of God.

14 And the Word became flesh and dwelt among us, and we beheld His glory, the glory as of the only begotten of the Father, full of grace and truth.

 

This profound passage unveils what transpired at His Incarnation, God becoming flesh, Light and Life ensconced in a human body for all to see from birth, through death to His resurrection and ascension.

John 8:12 (NKJV)

12 Then Jesus spoke to them again, saying, “I am the light of the world. He who follows Me shall not walk in darkness, but have the light of life.”

John 12:35–36 (NKJV)

 

35 Then Jesus said to them, “A little while longer the light is with you. Walk while you have the light, lest darkness overtake you; he who walks in darkness does not know where he is going. 36 While you have the light, believe in the light, that you may become sons of light.” These things Jesus spoke, and departed, and was hidden from them.

 

1 John 1:5–7 (NKJV)

 

This is the message which we have heard from Him and declare to you, that God is light and in Him is no darkness at all. If we say that we have fellowship with Him, and walk in darkness, we lie and do not practice the truth. But if we walk in the light as He is in the light, we have fellowship with one another, and the blood of Jesus Christ His Son cleanses us from all sin.

 

Matthew 5:14–16 (NKJV)

 

14 “You are the light of the world. A city that is set on a hill cannot be hidden. 15 Nor do they light a lamp and put it under a basket, but on a lampstand, and it gives light to all who are in the house. 16 Let your light so shine before men, that they may see your good works and glorify your Father in heaven.

These verses show that because He is the Light, we are lights in the world and, to the degree we “walk in in the light as He is in the light” we have continuous fellowship with Him and are effective at illuminating this world with truth.

Luke’s version of the lighted lamp gives us the relationship between being a lamp, the condition our eyes and what we ‘look at’ and what we ‘see’ which brings us back to the theme of this series laid out in parts 1-4.

 

Luke 11:33–36 (NKJV)

33 “No one, when he has lit a lamp, puts it in a secret place or under a basket, but on a lampstand, that those who come in may see the light. 34 The lamp of the body is the eye. Therefore, when your eye is good, your whole body also is full of light. But when your eye is bad, your body also is full of darkness. 35 Therefore take heed that the light which is in you is not darkness. 36 If then your whole body is full of light, having no part dark, the whole body will be full of light, as when the bright shining of a lamp gives you light.”

 

I end this installment with a heartfelt Merry Christmas to all who follow this blog and to all who may come across it from time to time.

 

 © W.G. Ryzek 2013

Hey Bub! Whaddaya Looking At?- Part 4

 

 

an old man looking at something

This series has to do with what we look at, what we see and whether we are filled with darkness or light. The darkness of the world feels like a vice-grip that slowly but steadily increases pressure to squeeze out what remaining light that remains. It is necessary, then, for us to look at the proper things and see them for what they are.

Take this ‘holiday’ season, for example. People, both buyers and sellers, are frenetically preoccupied with the economic bottom line the Christmas shopping season portends, even more than in past years. It is mammon on steroids taking attention away from the Christ of Christmas in order to make itself the center of attention. Looking at, and seeing mammon so flagrantly, almost obscenely displayed (along with its many cohorts through the media and advertising) will squeeze us with spiritual pressure to “conform” to the world instead of being“transformed by the Spirit”. And, I’m convinced as the day of our Lord’s return approaches, all of this will only get worse making it even more important that we consider carefully what we are looking at, what we are seeing, and what we are seeking.

In response to the question posed in the first blog “what should we be looking at?” the first answer comes from Paul and his example of “looking at the unseen”. We find this in 2 Cor. 4-5 where Paul describes his ministry and is the wider context of chapter 4:16-18 which we touched on in the last blog.

 

2 Corinthians 4:16–18 (NKJV)

16 Therefore we do not lose heart. Even though our outward man is perishing, yet the inward man is being renewed day by day. 17 For our light affliction, which is but for a moment, is working for us a far more exceeding and eternal weight of glory, 18 while we do not look at the things which are seen, but at the things which are not seen. For the things which are seen are temporary, but the things which are not seen are eternal.

 

Looking at the unseen and not what we see naturally is one path to overcoming the blight that bombards our natural eyes every day and gaining the proper perspective on what we look at and what we seek after. Otherwise we end up seeing everything the way the unregenerate do and find ourselves in lockstep with them rather than that illustrious list of saints found in Heb. 12.

The sum and substance of what Paul is getting at in these verses is stated in 2 Cor. 5:7: “for we walk by faith, not by sight…” and is a testimony to the veracity of Heb. 11:1-6. We interpret our environment and make judgments about it according to what we see. Paul tells us that seeing naturally is to see only what is temporary, fleeting, and, in fact, unsubstantial; the world around us is like a vapor or a fog. The judgments we make about it then are usually wrong, or at best, shortsighted. By ‘looking at things unseen’ we come to perceive an inward daily renewal culminating in an eternal weight of glory no matter what appears to be the case to the natural eye.

Now, to the phrase “eternal weight of glory”. To begin with, no Christian is merely just what he or she appears to be. We are a new race of beings, an alien race in fact whose home is not this world. If we are seeing things properly, none of us should ever feel at home here but be continuously “looking for the city which has foundations, whose architect and builder is God.” (Heb.11:10 NASB. Italics mine) Seeing believers this way insures a love and respect due such glorious beings.

Secondly, we are already substantial, weighty, heavy, thick, radiant, eternal beings. However, in our present form, this weight of glory cannot be fully revealed, contained or sustained but nevertheless, to the unsubstantial vapor that is the world around us, we are impenetrable and immovable filled with the glory of God that is His Spirit within us.

Thirdly, there is something going on inside us of which the world has no clue. While it is in a state of decay, we are continuously rejuvenated even if it looks like we are falling apart. From the context of his letter Paul is addressing a specific kind of decay namely suffering associated with his ministry.

The point here is we are not from this world anyway, we all have a mission to carry out, everything around us is temporal and decaying, and so we give ourselves over to preaching the gospel without any reservations. Why?  We are renewed, rejuvenated, restored, strengthened by supernatural power no matter if the natural man is under duress and even facing death. The suffering is temporary and will yield to eternity. So, we imitate Paul when we “look at things unseen…” and “know that if the earthly tent which our house is torn down, we have a building from God, a house not made with hands, eternal in the heavens.” (2 Cor. 5:2 NASB)

Just like Jesus who Himself was the embodiment of an eternal weight of glory we are the light in this world of sad and pathetic disintegration, to hold back the darkness until that appointed time and the end of all things as we know them. Thus, we come full circle to what He said in Luke 11:33-36 and Matt. 5:13-16 and are reminded that the walk of faith of which Paul speaks depends on what we look at and how we see it.

Luke 11:33–36 (NKJV)

33 “No one, when he has lit a lamp, puts it in a secret place or under a basket, but on a lampstand, that those who come in may see the light. 34 The lamp of the body is the eye. Therefore, when your eye is good, your whole body also is full of light. But when your eye is bad, your body also is full of darkness. 35 Therefore take heed that the light which is in you is not darkness. 36 If then your whole body is full of light, having no part dark, the whole body will be full of light, as when the bright shining of a lamp gives you light.”

 

Matthew 5:13–16 (NKJV)

13 “You are the salt of the earth; but if the salt loses its flavor, how shall it be seasoned? It is then good for nothing but to be thrown out and trampled underfoot by men.

14 “You are the light of the world. A city that is set on a hill cannot be hidden. 15 Nor do they light a lamp and put it under a basket, but on a lampstand, and it gives light to all who are in the house. 16 Let your light so shine before men, that they may see your good works and glorify your Father in heaven.

 

Hey Bub! Whaddaya Looking At?- Part 3

an old man looking at something

2 Corinthians 4:16–18 (NKJV)

16 Therefore we do not lose heart. Even though our outward man is perishing, yet the inward man is being renewed day by day. 17 For our light affliction, which is but for a moment, is working for us a far more exceeding and eternal weight of glory, 18 while we do not look at the things which are seen, but at the things which are not seen. For the things which are seen are temporary, but the things which are not seen are eternal.

Luke 11:34–36 (NKJV)

34 The lamp of the body is the eye. Therefore, when your eye is good, your whole body also is full of light. But when your eye is bad, your body also is full of darkness. 35 Therefore take heed that the light which is in you is not darkness. 36 If then your whole body is full of light, having no part dark, the whole body will be full of light, as when the bright shining of a lamp gives you light.”

 

There are many ways of looking at something, or someone. just as there are different ways of ‘seeing’. The English language has terms like “gaze, stare, peep, glance, peek, gape, gawk” to describe some of these differences. Greek also has different terms for ‘looking and seeing” that to one degree or another parallel English counterparts

The word ‘look’ Paul uses in his Corinthian letter (2 Cor. 4:18) is from the same root word spoken by Jesus in Luke 11:35, one of the verses upon which this series is based. The NKJV translates σκοπέω  “Therefore take heed…” but the NASB has a better rendering: “Then watch out…” (or, put another way, “look out”) which more closely corresponds to σκοπέω used here as a warning.

The verses quoted above show a connection between ‘seeing’ and ‘looking’ and Paul gives us one answer to the question posed in the first blog, namely what sort of things we are to be looking at. Being filled with light is accomplished by “not looking at the things which are seen, but at the things which are not seen…” because the “the things which are seen are temporal, but the things which are not seen are eternal”. (2 Cor. 4:18 NASB)

So, we are to look at what can’t be seen and the more we look the more we see. This apparent contradiction is in fact the way things really are and to those outside the faith appear as sheer lunacy. But all Christians know it’s true: we really can see unseen things when we look at things properly.

Now, some ideas to note about this. First, from Paul and Peter we learn that this sort of looking and seeing has to do with living the Christian life in the midst of adversity and preaching the Gospel to the unsaved. Second, this kind of looking is a fixation, a staring at, and not just a casual or occasional glance; i.e. what  ‘catches our eye’ remains the focal point. Third, this sort of looking is possible only by means of faith. (Heb. 11:3) Fourth, we must become convinced that what we look at in the natural course of life will pass away and, even now, is being replaced by “an eternal weight of glory”.

This phrase “eternal weight of glory” is at the very least profound and is meant to awaken our consciousness to what IS the case about the temporal/temporary Christian life, not what we might suppose it to be. The phrase “eternal weight of glory” is meant to show the sheer substantiality of what is really real as opposed to what is only fleeting; in Paul’s case suffering for the Gospel, and with Peter, a “proof” of our faith accompanied by inexpressible joy in the midst of temporary adversity that comes with living an authentic Christian life. (1 Peter 1:7-8)

In short, when we look at the right things and thereby see clearly we are changed, illuminated, ‘filled with light’ and become light shining in the spiritual darkness that is the kosmos under the dominion of sin and Satan. This is at least part of what Jesus meant in Luke 11:33. Furthermore, when we look properly (in this case, at the unseen) and see things the way they really are the more substantial and ‘weighty’ we become. While our natural condition is fleeting, fragile, almost ghostlike, here today gone and tomorrow, Paul says we are being renewed day by day gaining spiritual weight (which he says is glorious) over and against our inherent weakness as fleshly beings.

These words of Paul call for further attention and will be the subject of our next installment.

© W.G. Ryzek 2013

 

 

 

 

 

Hey Bub! Whaddaya Looking At? -Part 2


an old man looking at something

The teachings of Jesus we looked at in the last blog spoke of being filled with light or darkness depending on the condition of our eyes, whether healthy or diseased. This suggests there are two ways of seeing things, either in a healthy or an unhealthy way which, in turn, has a great deal to do with what we look at and seek after. The fact is what we look at affects us profoundly because the objects of our attention indicate the condition of our will to habitually see certain things.

Now, consider these two passages:

 By faith we understand that the worlds were framed by the word of God, so that the things which are seen were not made of things which are visible. (Hebrews 11:3 NKJV

16 Therefore we do not lose heart. Even though our outward man is perishing, yet the inward man is being renewed day by day. 17 For our light affliction, which is but for a moment, is working for us a far more exceeding and eternal weight of glory, 18 while we do not look at the things which are seen, but at the things which are not seen. For the things which are seen are temporary, but the things which are not seen are eternal. (2 Corinthians 4:16–18 NKJV)

These verses show us that, to the natural eye, nothing is what it appears to be; it is always far more or far less than we think. We simply don’t have the perceptual apparatus to see everything we’re looking at; something is always left out, or added depending on our predispositions. (See my blog “Running Into Trees”) Once we acknowledge our extraordinary limitations at seeing anything for what it really is then these verses make sense even though prima facie counter intuitive and seemingly irrational.

These passages are also foundational for learning to ‘see’ properly because they are ‘reality’ verses encompassing ontology, cosmology, epistemology and anthropology. That all things seen are made by things unseen (cosmology), that the visible is temporal while the unseen eternal (ontology), that we have both an inner and outer man, one visible the other not (anthropology), and that we understand all this by faith (epistemology) show the two dimensions that correspond to natural and spiritual ‘seeing’. By itself natural seeing is bound to fill us with darkness whereas spiritual seeing fills us with light. We need both to get around this side of heaven but only spiritual sight illuminates the way we must go.

At any rate, the point here is that faith opens our eyes to see what is really real and what we really are (2 Kings 6:15-17 is a great example). What ‘catches our eye’ now is wholly different from before; where once God was absent He now appears everywhere and we begin understanding that “in Him we live and move and have our being….” (Acts 17:28)

One axiomatic idea we learn from Hebrews 11:3 is the actuality and functionality of “the word of God”. By actuality I mean that the Word of God IS and by functionality I mean what His Word DOES, namely create. This has special significance to all of us whose outer man is daily perishing as Paul describes in his second Corinthian correspondence noted above. By looking at the unseen, which can only be done by faith, we know that at the same time we are perishing we are being renewed. This is what His Word says (its ‘isness’, it cannot be any other way) and what it does, namely re-create (renew) the inner man even though we ‘see’ the outer man disintegrating.

Of course, we know Paul isn’t speaking of just old age here but the effects on the physical/natural man through ministering the gospel without regard to what he calls “light affliction” which we know from other passages entailed floggings, stoning’s, shipwrecks, prison time, various and sundry beatings and the Lord only knows what else. The “eternal weight of glory” in contrast to the perishing natural body is what we see ‘when we look at what is ‘unseen’ which is one example of what Hebrews 11:3 suggests.

The word ‘look’ Paul uses is therefore worth considering and will occupy our next installment.

 © W.G. Ryzek 2013

All Prim and Proper: Clothing for the Well Dressed Christian- Putting on Christ

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Gal. 3:26-27  For you are all sons of God through faith in Christ Jesus. For as many of you as were baptized into Christ have put on Christ.

 Rom. 13:14    But put on the Lord Jesus Christ, and make no provision for the flesh, to fulfill its lusts.

 

I think it’s fairly clear that when Paul’s uses “putting on” and “putting off” his main concern is the moral and ethical conduct of his readers reflecting the new way of life appropriate for a Christian. This is especially clear in Eph. 4:20-32 and Col. 3:5-11.

Now, “putting on Christ” expands our focus to the union existing between the believer and the Lord Jesus. This union is the basis for, and necessary condition of, the very possibility of “putting off the old man” and “putting on the new man”. It is a new kind of existence expressed by a new kind of life-style and the reason the Christian life is a transformation into something totally new, not a reformation of something old.

It can be said that Jesus is the first New Man, the ‘first-born of many brethren’ (Rom. 8:28-30) because He is the second Adam (1 Cor. 15:45). Through His kenosis (self-emptying) and incarnation (Phil. 2:5-8) He became Godman (Gk, theanthropos) and, subsequent to His resurrection and glorification, He remains Godman forever. He is that Singularity, infinite, eternal, irresistible from which all creation springs and the Source of a new humanity. There is none like Him, nor can there ever be, and there is nothing in all of creation, old or new, that is like the Church of which we are a part.

There is, then, an everlasting connection between the nature of the ‘new man’ we ‘put on’ and Godman, the Lord Jesus Christ.(Rom.13:14) Baptism is the external ‘sign’ of being enfolded into, identifying with what Jesus did and Who He is by ‘dying’ to all that preceded this confession of faith, the life of the ‘old man’. (Gal. 3:27) Thus, the union of our redeemed existence with Godman is the ‘new man’ created in every believer and, collectively, in His Body, the Body of Christ in which each of us participates and contributes to the praise of His glory. This is what we are to “put on” and doing so is life eternal.

This imperative to “put on the Lord Jesus Christ” takes on even greater significance given its context, one that is particularly àpropos for this time in history; indeed, “the night is far spent, the day is at hand.” (Rom. 13:12) There is a wedding soon to come and we are warned to be prepared for the event. Two parables of Jesus point to this. The first is found in Matt. 22:1-14 about the wedding feast with verses 11-12 pertinent to this discussion. One of the guests is confronted by the host for not being properly clothed and then taken away to anything but a party. Being properly clothed, then, is far more than a fashion statement but required for the events soon to come.

The second is found in Matt. 25:1-13 and addresses specifically the need for preparedness. Again, the focus is on a wedding and the participants advised to have their ‘lights on’ when the Bridegroom arrives. (see Rom. 13:11)

If you have been following this series, recall the first installment had to do with “putting on the armor of light”. Interestingly, that passage (Rom. 13:12) is in the same context as Rom. 13:14. Therefore, putting on the ‘armor of light’ and ‘putting on the Lord Jesus Christ’ go together and speak of being properly clothed and being adequately illuminated as the above parables suggest.

The point is, then, that being a properly clothed Christian means ‘putting on the Lord Jesus Christ’. In other words, ‘putting on the new man’ supersedes, overcomes, and ‘kills’ the ‘old man’ thereby becoming successful at making “… no provision for the flesh, to fulfill its lusts”. (Rom. 13:14)

© W.G. Ryzek 2013

 

American Idolatry (And The Whole World for That Matter)-Part 5: Lessons from the Golden Calf

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The Old Testament demonstrates that Israel had a frequent problem with idolatry. It officially began with the golden calf, although some might argue otherwise. But, whatever the case, we Christians of the 21st century can learn a great deal by studying this inaugural lapse that ended up being repeated over and over again during their history. It turns out that the forces leading to idolatry haven’t changed and God’s attitude and response to it hasn’t either. So, adding to what we learned in earlier blogs from passages in Paul’s writings, we now turn to Moses and Exodus 32-34.

The backdrop for this story of the golden calf is the Hebrews immersion in the religious idolatry of Egypt. The God of Abraham Isaac and Jacob was, for the most part, forgotten by the people until the call of Moses, their dramatic deliverance by “I Am” and the revelations given at Mount Sinai. What is noteworthy is the gods of Egypt (like most idols in the Old Testament) were visible and tangible, associated with nature and human experience whereas “I Am” remained invisible and transcendent; i.e. the Hebrews could never ‘see’ God like they could ‘see’ idols. It was Moses, not God, they experienced directly and, consequently, the deliverance stories and the golden calf incident show how they continually railed against Moses, accused him of leading them astray and insisted he should take them back to Egypt as if he and not “I Am” was responsible for everything. They couldn’t get over the hump that while they could see what He did for them, they could never see Him.

This point is brought home when some of the more vocal people questioned whether Moses would ever return from the mountain. They didn’t know what had become of him, whether he was alive or dead, whether he had abandoned them or had lost interest in the whole matter (Ex.32:1). But whatever they were thinking their attention was not on God to whom Moses went to see but on Moses himself. Since he had seemingly gone missing it was time to carry out plan B, build an idol and head back to Egypt, something that was on their minds anyway.

Now, given Aaron’s proximity to Moses as his ‘mouthpiece’ thinking that a little more resistance to this idea of building an idol seems reasonable. But, it looks as though Aaron fell right into step and even took leadership over its construction. (Ex.32:2) This is a classic case of the tail wagging the dog, when idolatry among the people spills over to the leaders themselves and they join in and even encourage it.

From all this we can learn that when our attention is turned away from God’s leadership to God’s leaders, to men and women like ourselves, idolatry is not far behind. While we might abhor the ‘cult of personality’ pervading our culture many of us nevertheless do precisely the same thing, idolizing leaders, ministries and even doctrines. When we ‘see’ only the surface of things, the splashy displays, the huge auditoriums, the large number of people, and self-promoting preachers, our need for sensory stimulation overshadows the fact that the ultimately and eternally Real cannot be seen except by faith. Like the Hebrews, then, not being able to ‘see’ God can lead to worshipping something we can. And by surrounding whatever, or whoever, the object of our devotion is with enough ‘Christian’ religious trappings it becomes easy to hide what is really going on.

© W.G. Ryzek 2013

On the Meaning of Mercy- Blood…Blood Everywhere

The word for mercy (hilaskomai) Jesus uses in the parable I wrote about in the first article of this series connects the two Testaments regarding the meaning of propitiation. Recall that in the Septuagint translation of the Old Testament, hilaskomai is rendered ‘propitiary’ and by ‘mercy-seat’ in the NASB and NKJV. It is used in the New Testament and translated mercy (only twice Luke 18:13 and Hebrews 9:5) and as propitiation (1 John 2:2 among others). Propitiation, propitiary, mercy-seat; these words all have something in common, namely the shedding of blood explicitly displayed in the sacrificial system of the Old Testament described in Exodus and Leviticus and by the sacrifice of Jesus in the New.

Reading Exodus and Leviticus leaves no doubt about the centrality of blood sacrifice in Israel’s worship of Yahweh. It wasn’t something they dreamed up either; God was very, very specific about what was acceptable for worship, what each sin demanded as a sacrifice, how often and so on. The number of animals required by that many people is staggering and the amount of blood shed each day, week, month and year equally staggering. The most important of all the sacrifices was the Day of Atonement when propitiation for the sins of Israel was secured by the blood from the sacrifices being sprinkled on the mercy-seat of the Ark of the Covenant. Upon the merit of the sacrifice and the High Priest’s carrying out the ceremony properly God was justified in granting mercy to Israel instead of displaying wrath. This in turn made it possible to have a continuing relationship with Israel.

But note here that the propitiary sacrifice offered was in essence a ‘substitute’ in the place of Israel. God’s wrath/judgment requires the death of the offender, blood needs to be shed, as ‘payment’ for the offense; death is the wage we earn, and deserve, for sinning. But with a substitute, the penalty of death is placed upon it thereby taking the place of Israel in the Old and the whole of humanity in the New Testament. Therefore, in the background of all this, especially the idea of propitiation, is the theological term “penal-substitutionary doctrine of atonement” which forms the basis for what many Christians believe Jesus’ actually was. I say ‘many’ Christians because there are several other explanations for Christ’s death and what it accomplished besides this one that other Christians follow. Perhaps we’ll go there another day, but I digress.

Of course, we know from the Book of Hebrews all of this was the shadow of the Reality that would be the shedding of Christ’s blood on Calvary. What we need to see clearly now is that the propitiation upon which mercy rests and that for which the Publican cried out accomplishes two things: the aversion of wrath from the sinner and the reconciliation of the sinner to God, both sometimes designated by the term ‘atonement’. And specifically, we must see that God’s wrath against sin and sinners is real.

It is very important given the days in which we live that we are clear about God’s wrath is and isn’t; it isn’t a cosmic temper tantrum or something like it but rather an anger, extreme anger in fact, at sin and all its consequences and, therefore, totally consistent with His nature as Love and Light. But we must emphasize that it is also anger at the sinner, the guilty party; wrath is directed at ungodly people. This is why Luke 18:13 is so important because the publican is asking for mercy (propitiation) not just because of his sins, but because he is a sinner who sins and, as such, an object of God’s wrath. Remember from the last lesson that mercy as propitiation (hilaskomai) is that which is granted by someone (in this case God) having the authority, the means and the justification to be angry towards and execute judgment against a guilty party. It is never just sin that is at issue, but the agent, the sinner is always in view. Paul himself points this out clearly in his letter to the Ephesians when he says that they

were dead in your trespasses and sins,

in which you formerly walked according to

course of this world, according to the prince of the power of the

air, of the spirit that now working in the

sons of disobedience. Among them we too

all formerly lived in the lusts of our flesh,

indulging the desires of the flesh and of the mind

and were by nature children of wrath, even as the rest.

(Eph. 2:1-3 NASB italics mine)

 

Christians can usually expect at least two reactions to this truth from people in our politically correct and morally relativistic culture. The first is that the idea of blood sacrifice is absolutely barbaric, uncivilized and must be rejected, at least by ‘enlightened’ societies. Their opinion of the Crucifixion is the same; no god worthy of worship would allow such torture to satisfy some standard of righteousness.  Second, that God can be characterized as wrathful (along with ideas like a final judgment, hell and eternal damnation) is equally abominable to the sensitive modern mind, especially that of a liberal theologian; after all, they say, “God is love”. Therefore, by association, if you believe a blood sacrifice is necessary for God’s mercy to be granted and without it the sinner will suffer His wrath, then you are an ignorant, uneducated, backwoods barbarian at best.

But, even though I expect the world to reject the notion of a wrathful God, I find it interesting that in many evangelical churches it is seldom mentioned; hell, yes, judgment, yes but that God is angry, really angry with sinful humanity? Well, not so much because it goes against the image that God-is-love, the message that gets top billing along with God as a kindly dispenser of goodies. An outsider who first hears about God’s wrath, or reads about it in the Bible might get the impression from such a church that God’s wrath and His love are inconsistent, incompatible, and contradictory; I’m convinced many Christians think exactly like this. But this is for another day to consider.

Besides averting God’s wrath against sinners, propitiation as the basis for mercy makes it possible for them to be reconciled with God. The point is important; it is not enough that they escape punishment or His wrath; just as with Israel, God seeks to be brought into a relationship with the offender, a loving, compassionate and forgiving relationship, hence mercy. Add to this the desire of God to actually change a sinner into a saint and provide all the necessary means to accomplish this, the picture of salvation we hear of in the Good News takes shape. Instead of wrath we receive love and forgiveness; instead of a sinful nature we are transformed into the image and likeness of His Son who is our propitiation, even our Mercy-Seat. This is the kind of mercy we can expect from God, even now, and we can never lose sight of the fact that blood, real blood, was shed that we might receive it.

Well, this study so far is pretty basic but nevertheless helps us understand what God’s mercy is and our need for it. Next time the practical and devotional aspect of mercy/propitiation will be our topic which is really the most important part of this study. I’ve added a link to a song I find appropriate concerning His mercy-He simply never lets go of us. Control/click on the link and enjoy.

 

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Hx5Y9DhoLJQ

 

To all my followers of “SoWhat’s the Point?” this study is also being posted on a different blog that is focused more on theology and, therefore, a bit more involved than what I’ve been doing thus far. The new blog is located at drwryzekphd.wordpress.com and is entitled Godtalk-Biblical Theology for the Avid Christian.

 

 

Thoughts on Peter’s First Letter, cont’d

This is a picture of chapels hewn into the rock by the early Christians in Asia Minor (modern Turkey), part of the same area that Peter’s audience lived.

Being a pilgrim requires a certain level of detachment from surrounding culture and its influence. The challenge for us is to be engaged with secular culture for the sake of the Gospel while remaining detached from “the world”.

James in his intensely practical letter says that being “friends with the world is to be the enemy of God” (James 4:4). John tells us to “…not love the world or the things in the world.If anyone loves the world, the love of the Father is not in him. For all that is in the world-the lust of the flesh, the lust of eyes, and the pride of life-is not of the Father but is of the world (1 John 2:15-16). The sobering part of this imperative is the word for ‘love’ that John uses. It is from the Greek word agape, which is precisely the love we are to give to God and our brothers and sisters in Christ. Thus, the point of these two writers is that being friendly with the world and loving the world is tantamount to not loving God and far worse, being the enemy of God.

I think there is some confusion about what being worldly really means. John’s definition above is helpful and I write about it in other articles (“The Real Enemies of the Christian” series) at faithwriters.com. Simply put, the ‘world’ (kosmos) is all that opposes the kingdom of God because it is under the dominion of sin and the demonic. This is why James speaks so forcefully and unequivocally that being friends with the world is to be the enemy of God.This echoes what Jesus said about the impossibility of serving two masters; it will either be God or the Devil/world. And to all the so-called free-spirits who that think they are masters of their own destinies, understand there is no third option. It is a concrete either/or and never a both/and.  Let’s see what Peter has to say about all this when he advises his audience of pilgrims how to live during their exile.

Lets look at chap. 1:17 first and make some connections with other verses that set the stage for this idea of having no intercourse with the world. Peter uses the term παροικία which means ‘resident aliens’ in 1:17 and is translated by the phrase “throughout the time of your stay here”. This designation adds to the idea of ‘pilgrims’ in the NKJV or “exiles” in the ESV (παρεπίδημος) found in chap. 1:1.These words are used together in chap. 2:11. The point here is that their status as non-permanent non-residents “scattered” about in this region (diaspora, chap. 1:1) is the occasion for a certain kind of conduct and the counsel Peter gives is based on this fact. Peter’s language here hearkens back to the same kind of ‘scattering’ we find in the Old Testament when the
Jews lost their homeland to invading forces and were “carried away” into captivity. It is clear Peter’s audience was being persecuted.

Now, let’s try to imagine what it must have been like for these people in Asia Minor. Living for Christ was heavily penalized. They are being persecuted by former friends and associates, by their own relatives and by pagan religious leaders. It would be like you suddenly being rejected, ridiculed, held in suspicion, your livelihood threatened and punished in multiple ways by friends, family and society-at-large for simply professing faith in Christ. It would be very easy to start thinking that being a Christian is to be a low-class member of the community , an aberration, like having a sickness so others avoid you at all costs. It could make you feel inferior even if by societies standards you were thought of as ‘successful’. I think this is why Peter reminds them of their royal lineage as citizens of another country in chapters 1 and 2.

For example, Peter uses the term ‘elect’ in verse 2 to describe these people. By virtue of this divine election, they belong to God and, therefore, their circumstances are not accidental nor do they reflect any kind of divine abandonment. They are part of a divine plan and divine decision that was established before the world was even created. This entire letter expands and illustrates this point. They are, therefore, not to think of themselves as rejected nor victims of out-of-control circumstances, but rather as citizens of another “world” because they are not citizens of this one (the kosmos); they are pilgrims and foreigners and shall always be such no matter what their location.Therefore, for a Christian to be and to feel alienated in the midst of worldly culture should be of no surprise. The mistake for us all is when we try to assuage this sense of alienation by joining in with the surrounding ‘worldliness” (kosmos) that, remember, is opposed to the kingdom of God.

We can illustrate this point by referring to the Ephesians letter. Παροικίa (resident aliens) is used by Paul in Eph. 2:19 to declare that Gentile Christians are not strangers and foreigners with regard to God but rather fellow citizens with the saints and members of His household; it is an image of family and belonging. So, taking Peter and Paul together, we can say that Christians are spatially and temporally located in the ‘world’ and are therefore strangers, foreigners and sojourners while, at the same time, members of God’s family, His sons and daughters belonging to a different kingdom. So, people who reject God remain strangers and foreigners to His kingdom while remaining “at home” in the world whereas Christians are at home with God and become strangers and foreigners to the world. Thus, for James at least, being ‘friends with the world” when your allegiance is to God is tantamount to treason.

More to come…….

Thoughts On Peter’s First Letter

I do a lot of research and Bible study. During these journeys I come across interesting insights that are not really widely known. These little nuggets can start a kind of mini avalanche of ideas and before long I’m buried in God’s truth.  It’s really fun and returning to the mundane tasks of everyday life is hard.  But for me at least everyday activities are enhanced by this experience and I hope as you read these blogs your experience will be the same.

1 Peter 1:1–2 (NKJV)

1       Peter, an apostle of Jesus Christ,

To the pilgrims of the Dispersion in Pontus, Galatia, Cappadocia, Asia,
and Bithynia,
2 elect according to the foreknowledge of God the Father, in
sanctification of the Spirit, for obedience and sprinkling of the blood of
Jesus Christ:

Grace to you and peace be multiplied

The map above shows the region of Asia Minor where the recipients of Peter’s letter lived. It most closely corresponds to modern-day Turkey.

Note first of all the idea of ‘pilgrims’ (παρεπιδήμοις). A better rendering for this word is “foreigners” and suggests people displaced (hence, diaspora, scattering) and living somewhere that isn’t really home.

At the very least this word signifies that wherever we are or whatever circumstances we face our lives here are only temporary; i.e. we are merely passing through. And the
reason we’re only passing through is because we’re on a journey searching for a
lasting (permanent) city (Heb. 13:14). To think otherwise is to court the danger of becoming entangled in the affairs of the world (kosmos) which for most of us is the ‘foreign land’ in which we live as aliens. One sure sign this is happening is how comfortable we are with the attitudes, values and activities displayed by a culture uncompromisingly opposed to God.

Taking these in order, consider the world’s attitude. It can be summed up by the word narcissism; i.e. self-love. And this attitude is fast becoming blatant and pandemic displayed most dramatically through the increasing lawlessness we witness around the world. The attitude of narcissism generates a value-system that only accepts a morality of self-interest because self-love acknowledges only the law of self-serving hubris and therefore rejects any restraint on this impulse. The actions that follow narcissistic self-interest are characterized by ‘using and abusing’ whatever will feed this beast of self-interest.

 Now, if we find ourselves taking this-worldly attitude in stride in and even joining in we are putting roots down in the wrong soil. In chapter 2:11 Peter tells these foreigners (using the same word found in chapter 1:1-2) that they should “…abstain from the desires of the flesh that wage war against the soul.” On the positive side, they should “conduct themselves honorably” so that even though they are accused of wrongdoing their lives counter such perceptions. And as 21st century Christians we should
do the same. We are not to think “we’re stuck here (wherever that is) so let’s make  the best of it” but rather be proactive by living exemplary lives, a sort of ‘bloom where you’re planted’ kind of attitude.

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