Saturday, February 10, 2007
Saturday Night Links (w/ music by the BeeGees)
Should we all turn ourselves in? (I bet cookies with somebody)
Don't know why, but this put me in mind of this:
and I'll take any excuse to watch Python.
Wouldn't something with an eyepatch and pegleg be more appropriate?
Men???? I don't think so. However, it does explain much of history. And basketball.
World's most valuable dog...for a short while anyway.
That's a mess of chitlins. (OK, give me a break, I know chitlins are pig intestines...)
Now you'll have to wipe your feet when you leave the house.
Related Tags: joke, humor, sarcasm, wisecrack
Quicksilver is in my opinion a character that has never really reached his potential, and I am not sure why. He is a mutant with all the baggage Marvel has placed on that label which is where his best story lines have come from, but as he has moved from his father's Brotherhood of Evil Mutants to the Avengers, married an Inhuman, and now serves as an enforcer for his father's mutant nation of Genosha, he has never really been more than a really fast errand boy.
His powers, in comparison to the DC variety speedster, are quite limited. The DC speedsters bend the laws of physics pretty severly. Pietro just runs fast. I have always wondered if that was a function of Marvel not wanting to be appear to do blatant rip-offs (although they did it so often...?) or they really thought about the fact that a mutant origin for superspeed would manifest quite differently than the origins used in the DC universe, which are born in physics, not biology. Boy, how's that for utter comic geek speak?!
This page is put of the story that made Qicksilver an enduring character, even if without his own title. When he and his sister Wanda (The Scarlet Witch) broke away from daddy Magneto, it made for great comics. But their father haunts them still today. Pietro works with his father to build a world separate for the much maligned mutants while Wanda is carefully kept sedated after completly destroying the Avengers in a fit of madness. A flawed father has produced flawed children. They did not know they were Magento's children when they broke from him, but one often wonders if these stories influenced George Lucas, vice versa, or if it is just the old classic tale of family and flaws.
I have always liked Quicksilver's look if not his personality and story. The lightening bolt is the classic speedster motif, but it is well executed in Quicksilver to be distinctive, attractive, and not derivative. Someday, he may get what he deserves out of the comics.
Related Tags: comics, comic art, comic books, speedsters, Flash, Quicksilver
Friday, February 09, 2007
What Is The Church's Business
I also have to agree with Seth's closing question
Substantive theological exchange?You see that raises the question of precisely what the church should and should not be doing. I berated Evangelicalism yesterday, but there is good with the bad in that movement. Evangelicalism arose from the great American experiment of religious pluralism that pretty much necessitated the establishment and free exercise clauses of the constitution. In its emphasis on individual salvation, Evangelicalism took the opportunities offered by the constitution and made the indidividual the instrument by which the church can exercise its will on the state. This was a good thing. As it took hold, the state and religion have flourished. But as I pointed out yesterday, taken to its extreme, this movement, like all others, gets out of hand.
This is part of the reason I am evangelical in the context of a more traditional denomination, for the denomination provides the checks on rampant evangelicalism. However, it is obvious from this, and many other boneheaded moves the PC(USA) has made, that the denomination has still not quite figured out how to change its efforts at working these things out - choosing to act directly instead of through its membership.
The problem with this approach is that as the church acts on a purely political level, instead of seeking to change lives that in turn act politically, it attracts people interested in the politics, but not the religious. I do not here refer to the alliance with the Jewish groups, nothing wrong with allying yourself with other religions for social action. I talk instead about people inside the PC(USA) who are there almost purely for political action, with little or no concern about personal faith or development. That frankly is the source of the great tensions in the PC(USA).
Direct political action simply is not the church's business, and when it acts so, it does so at the expense of the mission to which Christ called it. My prayer for my belived PC(USA) would be that it would hold fast the mission, and let the members do the politics.
NOTE: I did not even get into how incredibly stupid a political action raising the minimum wage is - it's a Democrat hobby horse and that's all it is. This is a strictly politically partisan move on the PC(USA)'s part, which is stupid piled on stupid.
Related Tags: PC(USA), minimum wage, church, politics, mission, Evangelicalism
Links In Which I Bet You're Tired Of Colts References...
The EU - significantly lowering the standard for what it means to be "a criminal." You know, if we keep lowering the bar, eventually we'll all be criminals, then what will we do with the real jerks. You also know that;s been tried don't you? It was called the Soviet Union. One of the ways they controlled the population was pass so many laws, everyone was a criminal, then you can turn the state into a prison.
Sounds like interplanetary pollution to me. Now that is a crime!
Why can we get money for this, but not space exploration?
If communists like capitalism!
If "Doomsday" actually arrives...Who will be around to plant them? Particularly someone with the combination.
Wish this happened more.
Darn, now my wife knows what she's getting for Valentines's.
Thousands spent inventing a new cat toy.
At last - reality TV where I could feel at home.
I know it's wrong, but hacker can be pretty funny.
I wonder if these guys were going here?
Having eaten in a few British pubs, I also think they risk death if they don't...
Related Tags: environment, doomsday, planets, space, joke, humor, wisecrack, sarcasm
Thursday, February 08, 2007
1 Cor 11:20 - Therefore when you meet together, it is not to eat the Lord's Supper,Doing it alone kind of defeats the purpose don't you think? Certainly violates how Christ set it up.
Evangelicalism, with its heavy emphasis on individual salvation has, I think reached its logical conclusion - the church of one. Isn't that what this implies? What makes me sad is that I used to proudly think I was an evangelical, but I am increasingly in doubt about that.
But here is the bottom line question - why do people want to have a faith like this? What makes a church of one attractive? Of course, some people just don't get it, and yes there are cultural influences in that direction. But don't we have the power of the Holy Spirit? Shouldn't we be able to overcome cultural influences?
But we find ourselves as followers, not leaders. We don't ask what church should be, instead we ask what people want church to be. We put ourselves into submission to cultural influences instead actually being a cultural influence. And we are left with home communion kits for one. ARRRGH!
What impulses and motivations have gotten us here. Lots of possibilities, and they are all the wrong ones.
Have you ever thought about the fact that a focus on evangelism comes at the price of working on ourselves? But what is really sad is that we dilute the gospel when we aren't working to become what the gospel is designed to make us. It's like a 400-lb man doing commericals for a gym without any "after" pictures.
It's time to get very serious about being Christians and being the church, not growing the church.
Related Tags: church, evangelicalism, communion, church of one
Still Euphoric About The Colts Links
The National Council of Churches continues its slide into irrelevance.
New Age nonsense, or science? More importantly, why would similar work by some scientist looking into something Biblically related by automatically dismissed?
Heavy Christmas drinking and partying, leading to unprotected sex, could be to blame for a record number of abortions last month, says a UK charity.Anybody besides me horrified at those numbers, but more at the casualness of the whole thing?
A total of 5,992 abortions were carried out at Marie Stopes International's nine UK clinics in January - a rise of 13% on the 5,304 in January 2005.
This is more in a month than at any time in the charity's 32-year history.
But pregnancy advice groups said the figures probably reflected poor access to contraceptive services.
David Hasselhoff no longer has the worst music video of all time. Consider: (WARNING! If you watch all of this you may end up running out of the room and actually damaging yourself.)
You have to love small town politics.
Could explain the low tourism numbers.
Linked because I know my wife will want to see it.
Is this really the kind of cultural creep we want?
Yes, well, argue all you want - it's really mine.
And thus the Elvis-like rumors about Steve Irwin begin.
Related Tags: environment, new age, life, joke, humor, wisecrack, sarcasm
Wednesday, February 07, 2007
Ministry To Whom?
I am looking back on years of preaching and seeing certain themes addressed again and again -- sanctification, spiritual gifts, the church, specific of Christian ethics. It is clear that most of my preaching is addressed to believers, who share a common framework of thinking with me, and I am helping them awaken to live by what they know.I am reminded of the days when the Godblogosphere was a less crowded and less contentious place and we had a grand discussion on who was the audience for preaching - see here -- here - here. I am not sure we ever settled the issue, but we sure did talk it to death. Two quick thoughts on Lauterbach's comments.
But if I listen to my preaching from the perspective of some of my secular friends, it does not make sense. I can hear them now: What is this pretrib rapture? What is sanctification? WHY does God tell us to do or not to do certain things? Why is marriage inviolable? Why do you think you have absolute truth? Why do you get angry about certain things and not about others? Why do you speak so often about gender issues? What do you think of women being paid less for the same work?
I wonder if for the lost person sitting in our preaching services would be the equivalent of me sitting in on a lecture on engineering codes or new software design?
I wonder how many of our debates and discussions are intramural disputes? I am not saying they are insignificant as we must uphold the truth. I am wondering if I have lost touch with the questions that come when we engage unbelieving people with the Gospel.
He is absolutely right that no Christian should become so inculcated with life in the church that they lose the ability to communicate with the unchurched. We also have to remember the primacy of our mission to spread the gospel. Of this I have no dispute. I also agree that much of what we spend endless hours debating and dicussing is just not all that important.
But having said that, we are also a body of many parts, and all those parts are necessary.
1 Cor 12:14-21 - For the body is not one member, but many. If the foot should say, "Because I am not a hand, I am not a part of the body," it is not for this reason any the less a part of the body. And if the ear should say, "Because I am not an eye, I am not a part of the body," it is not for this reason any the less a part of the body. If the whole body were an eye, where would the hearing be? If the whole were hearing, where would the sense of smell be? But now God has placed the members, each one of them, in the body, just as He desired. And if they were all one member, where would the body be? But now there are many members, but one body. And the eye cannot say to the hand, "I have no need of you"; or again the head to the feet, "I have no need of you."Preaching is an important ministry, but it is not THE ministry. It is not necessarily the job of the preachng service to do everything - lift up the people of Christ, reach the unsaved, etc. Certainly not all at the same time.
I think the question should be, "Is the preaching uplifting?" It certainly should not become bogged in "endless disputes," it should seek to glorify God. It may reach the unchurched directly, or it may reach the churched that in turn reach the unchurched, but either way, the mission is accomplished. That which glorifies God will bear fruit.
Related Tags: preaching, audience, ministry, body of Christ, church
Did You Notice? The Colts Won The Super Bowl Links
Apparently we are not the only ones confused about faith issues sometimes. Even more evidence.
Ignorance breeds fear. It would take 3 posts to explain why there is no problem here which is the problem.
You know integration did not help here, black and white culture are still distinct and still at odds. There is no discrimination anymore, but that is different.
Tell me again about how lots of regulation, and welfare, is a good thing.
Hence we blog.
Because the average pet owner is not pathetic enough. We certainly wouldn't know anything about it either. Speaking of which, the vet from hell.
Hence the big ears and hemophilia.
It's a good thing Russis is not run by thugs and such.
Related Tags: global warming, radioactivity, faith and the environment, joke, humor, wisecrack, sarcasm
Tuesday, February 06, 2007
Conviction, Resulting In Humility
That we have many different views of our common Christian faith is unremarkable to me, but that we have huge fights over them, worse, that we celebrate the decline of branches of that faith, I find abhorent. I am often accused at this point on being somehow "soft" or "mushy" or "relativistic" or some other perjorative, most notably, that I do not believe there is "truth." Which is a symptom of what I find abhorent.
I search constantly for the truth. I am a pretty hard-core Calvinist and believe that to be as close to the truth as I have yet to discover. I am perfectly willing to debate it with anybody interested in a genuine intellectual search for the truth. But I stop there. I am not willing to press the point to the level of animous. My unwillingness to do so is not born of a lack of conviction, but of a deep conviction, resulting in humility.
I fail to understand how, as Christians, a people defined by their fallen nature, we can become so prideful of the salvation we received as a gift of grace...
Eph 2:8-9 - For by grace you have been saved through faith; and that not of yourselves, it is the gift of God; not as a result of works, that no one should boast.Wouldn't "works" include the development of a theological understanding or a liturgical tradition?
Do I wish everyone was as I, yes, I do because I think I have it right. But I lack the surety of having it right. I am willing to argue, I am willing to discuss, but I am not willing to coerce, nor am I willing to wish ill on the other. Mostly, I trust God to handle it.
Related Tags: ecumenism, truth, humility, faith, works
Note to the people that thought this up: As one half of the childless couple it is only, I repeat only, the love of Jesus Christ that prevents me from telling you what I really think. Please contemplate that.
Hyperbole demands hyperbole. The whole discussion left science behind in the dust a long time ago.
Crying shame. WW is lost in all media at the moment, political correctness has turned her flat.
While we're talking about movies, not too sure about this one. Screwtape isn't movie material - it's impact will have to be lost in the translation. Note to Justin Taylor who is just quoting Gene Vieth - Ralph Winter is a personal aquaintance of mine - he has always been a producer, never a director, and there is nothing "promising" about him, he has executive produced some of the biggest films in the business, starting with several of the earlier Star Trek movies.
Edible art as cannibalism!?!?!? YIKES!!! I no longer consider myself weird for this is beyond my imaginative capabilities.
I can think of so many products that should NEVER be marketed this way.
Ouside bars this strike me as a must.
I hate it when that happens.
Talk about getting away with it.
Obviously, my parents did not love me enough.
Related Tags: Indianapolis sports, Butler basketballl, global warming, marriage, jerks, Screwtape Letters, joke, humor, wisecrack, sarcasm
Monday, February 05, 2007
Time To Leave
- ...abandons the fidelity of faith
- ...negates the authority of faith
- ...severs the continuity of faith.
- ...destroys the credibility of faith
- ...obliterates the very identity of faith
Does that not sound remarkably like the effects of sin? Of course it does, because that is precisely what it is. Having said that, we are confronted with two possible paths. One is to say, we all sin from time-to-time and move forward, the other to toss the sinner from our midst, as they have essentially done by leaving the ECUSA. The question, in a very real sense boils down to "are there limits to grace?"
Quickly will come the answer - "NO!" but then we should never leave a church, ever. And yet the evidence of the Reformation and its many denominational departures would, if we are to say it is a good thing, indicate that there is a limit, for there is a time when departure becomes necessary.
First of all I think there is a difference between personal and institutional grace. While I am confident God's grace to individuals is boundless, I am not convinced He will grant it limitlessly. If He did, there would be no Hell, no condemnation. But I am also convinced that the amount of grace to be extended to an institution is far less than the amount of grace to be extended to individuals.
The purpose of institutions is to gather together the power of the many and funnel it into a single direction. It must accentuate the positives of the many with regards to that direction while simultaneously limiting the negatives. In other words, the standards for an institution must be higher than an individual or the institution is no longer succeeding in its purpose. Thus, in this instance, even if grace were appropriate to a similarly situated individual, it is not so to the institution.
So why then am I still in the PCUSA, which is very close behind the ECUSA in all the areas they cite? The answer is a simple one. The PCUSA system gives me far more room to have voice, and far more room to have impact, and far more room to separate myself from the negative and remain institutionally attached than the ECUSA does. I have the power to change things in the PCUSA that is simply not available in the ECUSA to a person in my situation.
I may fail, in fact I think it likely; however, it is part of being a good Prebyterian to try until I am out of options. These people were out of options, I am not. At least not yet, anyway.
Related Tags: ECUSA, PCUSA, church, leaving, standards, grace
COLTS WIN LINKS!
Jonathon Adler, writing at the Volokh Conspiracy debunks the criculating story that "anti-global warming science: is bought and paid for. Somebody has to pay for science folks, and the mechanisms by which that is accomplished. Is is bad when people on one side of a debate does, but not the other? Well when it is more about politics than science....
I am beginning to think Christian appeals on global warming are straightforward efforts to play on in-built Christian guilt. The sad part is this manufactured guilt is displacing things we really should feel guilty about, and the gospel itself is cheapened.
Looking at literature. I think this is an op-ed "in disguise." I like it.
Tell me again there is no slippery slope - first smoking, now this.
I took my wife to one of these places in South Dakota on our honeymoon. She never lets me forget it either (Hey - it was fun and I had been there as a kid!) It is fun, and I hate to see one go.
Committment, obsession, or addiction? It was the PENNY slots so I'm thinking just dumb.
The real reason they usually have air fresheners hanging in cabs.
This could get messy - we know what apes ususally throw back.
Related Tags: Indianapolis Colts, global warming, literature, political correctness, joke, humor, wisecrack, sarcasm
Sunday, February 04, 2007
On To Victory Colts Links
Can the church survive stuff like this. Time to go tearing through the Temple courtyard again....
Why I pay for anytime, anywhere, no long distance minutes. - YIKES!
Speaking of YIKES! I do wonder how it tastes though.
First of all - I'm not sure how they identitified him - Wookies hardly stand out at this location - and secondly, this is probabaly the smallest crimes in the area in any one hour period. Pickpockets work the place like a buffet line. (Note: It's only about 5 miles and seven cultural barriers from my home)
This is the dumbest thing I have ever seen! I did the problems in my head in a fraction of the time, but of course, I was forced as a child to memorize the evil, fascistic multiplication tables. (HT: In The Agora)
The modern monastic.
Related Tags: Super Bowl, Indianapolis Colts, evil in church, joke, humor, wisecrack, sarcasm
Sermons and Lessons
CHRISTMAS EVANS, a Welsh Baptist preacher, was born at Isgaerwen, Cardiganshire, South Wales, in 1766. Brought up as a Presbyterian, he turned Baptist in 1788, and was ordained the following year and ministered among the Baptists in Carmaerthenshire. In 1792 he became a sort of bishop to those of his denomination in Anglesey, where he took up his residence. After a somewhat stormy experience with those he undertook to rule, he removed to Carmaerthen in 1832. He distinguished himself by his debt-raising tours, in which his eloquence brought him much success. It is said that once when he was preaching on the subject of the prodigal son, he pointed to a distant mountain as be described the father seeing him while yet a great way off, whereupon thousands in his congregation turned their heads in evident expectation of seeing the son actually coming down the hills. He died in 1838.
For if, through the offense of one, many be dead, much more the grace of God, and the gift by grace, which is by one man, Jesus Christ, hath abounded unto many. - Romans 5:15.
Man was created in the image of God. Knowledge and perfect holiness were imprest upon the very nature and faculties of his soul. He had constant access to his Maker, and enjoyed free communion with Him, on the ground of his spotless moral rectitude. But, alas! the glorious diadem is broken; the crown of righteousness is fallen. Man's purity is gone, and his happiness is forfeited. "There is none righteous; no, not one." "All have sinned, and come short of the glory of God." But the ruin is not hopeless. What was lost in Adam is restored in Christ. His blood redeems us from the bondage, and His gospel gives us back the forfeited inheritance. "For if, through the offense of one, many be dead; much more the grace of God, and the gift by grace, which is by one man, Jesus Christ, hath abounded unto many." Let us consider, first, the corruption and condemnation of man; and secondly, his gracious restoration to the favor of his offended God.
I. To find the cause of man's corruption and condemnation, we must go back to Eden. The eating of the "forbidden tree" was "the offense of one," in consequence of which "many are dead." This was the "sin," the act of "disobedience," which "brought death into the world, and all our woe." It was the greatest ingratitude to the divine bounty, and the boldest rebellion against the divine sovereignty. The royalty of God was contemned; the riches of His goodness slighted; and His most desperate enemy preferred before Him, as if he were a wiser counselor than infinite wisdom. Thus man joined in league with hell against heaven; with demons of the bottomless pit against the almighty maker and benefactor; robbing God of the obedience due to His command and the glory due to His name; worshiping the creature instead of the creator; and opening the door to pride, unbelief, enmity, and all the wicked and abominable passions. How is the "noble vine," which was planted "wholly a right seed," "turned into the degenerate plant of a strange vine"!
Who can look for pure water from such a fountain? "That which is born of the flesh is flesh." All the faculties of the soul are corrupted by sin; the understanding dark; the will perverse; the affections carnal; the conscience full of shame, remorse, confusion, and mortal fear. Man is a hard-hearted and stiff-necked sinner; loving darkness rather than light, because his deeds are evil; eating sin like bread, and drinking iniquity like water; holding fast deceit, and refusing to let it go. His heart is desperately wicked; full of pride, vanity, hypocrisy, covetousness, hatred of truth, and hostility to all that is good.
This depravity is universal. Among the natural children of Adam, there is no exemption from the original taint. "The whole world lieth in wickedness." "We are all as an unclean thing, and all our righteousness is as filthy rags." The corruption may vary in the degrees of development, in different persons; but the elements are in all, and their nature is everywhere the same; the same in the blooming youth, and the withered sire; in the haughty prince, and the humble peasant; in the strongest giant, and the feeblest invalid. The enemy has "come in like a flood." The deluge of sin has swept the world. From the highest to the lowest, there is no health or moral soundness. From the crown of the head to the soles of the feet, there is nothing but wounds, and bruises, and putrefying sores. The laws, and their violation, and the punishments everywhere invented for the suppression of vice, prove the universality of the evil. The bloody sacrifices, and various purifications, of the pagans, show the handwriting of remorse upon their consciences; proclaim their sense of guilt, and their dread of punishment. None of them are free from the fear which hath torment, whatever their efforts to overcome it, and however great their boldness in the service of sin and Satan. "Mene! Tekel !" is written on every human heart. "Wanting! wanting!" is inscribed on heathen fanes and altars; on the laws, customs, and institutions of every nation; and on the universal consciousness of mankind.
This inward corruption manifests itself in outward actions. "The tree is known by its fruit." As the smoke and sparks of the chimney show that there is fire within; so all the "filthy conversation" of men, and all "the unfruitful works of darkness" in which they delight, evidently indicate the pollution of the source whence they proceed. "Out of the abundance of the heart the mouth speaketh." The sinner's speech betrayeth him. "Evil speaking" proceeds from malice and envy. "Foolish talking and jesting" are evidence of impure and trifling thoughts. The mouth full of cursing and bitterness, the throat an open sepulcher, the poison of asps under the tongue, the feet swift to shed blood, destruction and misery in their paths, and the way of peace unknown to them, are the clearest and amplest demonstration that men "have gone out of the way," "have together become unprofitable." We see the bitter fruit of the same corruption in robbery, adultery, gluttony, drunkenness, extortion, intolerance, persecution, apostasy, and every evil work?in all false religions; the Jew, obstinately adhering to the carnal ceremonies of an abrogated law; the Mohammedan, honoring an impostor, and receiving a lie for a revelation from God; the papist, worshiping images and relics, praying to departed saints, seeking absolution from sinful men, and trusting in the most absurd mummeries for salvation; the pagan, attributing divinity to the works of his own hands, adoring idols of wood and stone, sacrificing to malignant demons, casting his children into the fire or the flood as an offering to imaginary deities, and changing the glory of the in¬corruptible God into the likeness of the beast and the worm.
"For these things sake the wrath of God cometh upon the children of disobedience." They are under the sentence of the broken law; the malediction of eternal justice. "By the offense of one, judgment came upon all men unto condemnation." "He that believeth not is condemned already." "The wrath of God abideth on him." "Curst is every one that continueth not in all things written in the book of the law, to do them." "Woe unto the wicked; it shall be ill with him, for the reward of his hands shall be given him." "They that plow iniquity, and sow wickedness, shall reap the same." "Upon the wicked the Lord shall rain fire, and snares, and a horrible tempest; this shall be the portion of their cup." "God is angry with the wicked every day; if he turn not be will whet his sword; he bath bent his bow, and made it ready."
Who shall describe the misery of fallen man! His days, though few, are full of evil. Trouble and sorrow press him forward to the tomb. All the world, except Noah and his family, are drowning in the deluge. A storm of fire and brimstone is fallen from heaven upon Sodom and Gomorrah. The earth is opening her mouth to swallow up alive Korah, Dathan, and Abiram. Wrath is coming upon "the beloved city," even "wrath unto the uttermost." The tender and delicate mother is devouring her darling infant. The sword of men is executing the vengeance of God. The earth is emptying its inhabitants into the bottomless pit. On every hand are "confused noises, and garments rolled in blood." Fire and sword fill the land with consternation and dismay. Amid the universal devastation wild shrieks and despairing groans fill the air. God of mercy! is Thy ear heavy, that Thou canst not hear? or Thy arm shortened, that Thou canst not save? The heavens above are brass, and the earth beneath is iron; for Jehovah is pouring His indignation upon His adversaries, and He will not pity or spare.
Verily, "the misery of man is great upon him"! Behold the wretched fallen creature! The pestilence pursues him. The leprosy cleaves to him. Consumption is wasting him. Inflammation is devouring his vitals. Burning fever has seized upon the very springs of life. The destroying angel has overtaken the sinner in his sins. The hand of God is upon him. The fires of wrath are kindling about him, drying up every well of comfort, and scorching all his hopes to ashes. Conscience is chastizing him with scorpions. See how he writhes! Hear how he shrieks for help! Mark what agony and terror are in his soul, and on his brow! Death stares him in the face, and shakes at him his iron spear. He trembles; he turns pale, as a culprit at the bar, as a convict on the scaffold. He is condemned already. Conscience has pronounced the sentence. Anguish has taken hold upon him. Terrors gather in battle array about him. He looks back, and the storms of Sinai pursue him; forward, and hell is moved to meet him; above, and the heavens are on fire; beneath, and the world is burning. He listens, and the judgment trump is calling; again, and the brazen chariots of vengeance are thundering from afar; yet again, the sentence penetrates his soul with anguish unspeakable: "Depart! ye accurst! into everlasting fire, prepared for the devil and his angels!"
Thus, "by one man, sin entered into the world, and death by sin; and so death passed upon all men, for that all have sinned." They are "dead in trespasses and sins," spiritually dead, and legally dead; dead by the mortal power of sin, and dead by the condemnatory sentence of the law; and helpless as sheep to the slaughter, they arc driven fiercely on by the ministers of wrath to the all-devouring grave and the lake of fire!
But is there no mercy? Is there no means of salvation? Hark! amid all this prelude of wrath and ruin, comes a still small voice, saying: "Much more the grace of God, and the gift by grace, which is by one man, Jesus Christ, bath abounded unto many."
II. This brings us to our second topic, man's gracious recovery to the favor of his offended God.
I know not how to present to you this glorious work, better than by the following figure. Suppose a vast graveyard, surrounded by a lofty wall, with only one entrance, which is by a massive iron gate, and that is fast bolted. Within are thousands and millions of human beings, of all ages and classes, by one epidemic disease bending to the grave. The graves yawn to swallow them, and they must all perish. There is no balm to relieve, no physician there. Such is the condition of man as a sinner. All have sinned; and it is written, "The soul that sinneth shall die." But while the unhappy race lay in that dismal prison, Mercy came and stood at the gate, and wept over the melancholy scene, exclaiming: "Oh, that I might enter! I would bind up their wounds; I would relieve their sorrows; I would save their souls!" An embassy of angels, commissioned from the court of heaven to some other world, paused at the sight, and heaven forgave that pause. Seeing Mercy standing there, they cried: "Mercy! canst thou not enter? Canst thou look upon that scene and not pity? Canst thou pity, and not relieve?" Mercy replied: "I can see!" and in her tears she added, "I can pity, but I can not relieve!" "Why canst thou not enter?" inquired the heavenly host. "Oh!" said Mercy, "Justice has barred the gate against me, and I must not - cannot unbar it!" At this moment, Justice appeared, as if to watch the gate. The angels asked, "Why wilt thou not suffer Mercy to enter?" He sternly replied: "The law is broken, and it must be honored! Die they, or Justice must!" Then appeared a form among the angelic band like unto the Son of God. Addressing Himself to Justice, He said: "What are thy demands?" Justice replied: "My demands are rigid; I must have ignominy for their honor, sickness for their health, death for their life. Without the shedding of blood there is no remission!" "Justice," said the Son of God, "I accept thy terms! On me be this wrong! Let Mercy enter, and stay the carnival of death!" "What pledge dost thou give for the performance of these conditions?" "My word; my oath!" "When wilt thou perform them?" "Four thousand years hence, on the hill of Calvary, without the walls of Jerusalem." The bond was prepared, and signed and sealed in the presence of attendant angels. Justice was satisfied, the gate was opened, and Mercy entered, preaching salvation in the name of Jesus. The bond was committed to patriarchs and prophets. A long series of rites and ceremonies, sacrifices and obligations, was instituted to perpetuate the memory of that solemn deed. At the close of the four thousandth year, when Daniel's "seventy weeks" were accomplished, Justice and Mercy appeared on the hill of Calvary. "Where," sai Justice, "is the Son of God?" "Behold him," answered Mercy, "at the foot of the hill!" And there He came, bearing His own cross, and followed by His weeping church. Mercy retired, and stood aloof from the scene. Jesus ascended the hill like a lamb for the sacrifice. Justice presented the dreadful bond, saying, "This is the day on which this article must be canceled." The Redeemer took it. What did He do with it? Tear it to pieces, and scatter it to the winds? No! He nailed it to His cross, crying, "It is finished!" The victim ascended the altar. Justice called on Holy Fire to come down and consume the sacrifice. Holy Fire replied: "I come! I will consume the sacrifice, and then I will burn up the world!" It fell upon the Son of God, and rapidly consumed His humanity; but when it touched His deity, it expired. Then was there darkness over the whole land, and an earthquake shook the mountain; but the heavenly host broke forth in rapturous song: "Glory to God in the highest! on earth peace! good will to man!"
Thus grace has abounded, and the free gift has come upon all, and the gospel has gone forth proclaiming redemption to every creature. "By grace ye are saved, through faith; and that not of yourselves; it is the gift of God; not of works, lest any man should boast." By grace ye are loved, redeemed, and justified. By grace ye are called, converted, reconciled and sanctified. Salvation is wholly of grace. The plan, the process, the consummation are all of grace.
"Where sin abounded, grace hath much more abounded." "Through the offense of one, many were dead." And as men multiplied, the offense abounded. The waters deluged the world, but could not wash away the dreadful stain. The fire fell from heaven, but could not burn out the accurst plague. The earth opened her mouth, but could not swallow up the monster sin. The law thundered forth its threat from the thick darkness on Sinai, but could not restrain, by all its terrors, the children of disobedience. Still the offense abounded, and multiplied as the sands on the seashore. It waxed bold, and pitched its tents on Calvary, and nailed the Lawgiver to a tree. But in that conflict sin received its mortal wound. The victim was the victor. He fell, but in His fall He crusht the foe. He died unto sin, but sin and death were crucified upon His cross. Where sin abounded to condemn, grace hath much more abounded to justify. Where sin abounded to corrupt, grace hath much more abounded to purify. Where sin abounded to harden, grace hath much more abounded to soften and subdue. Where sin abounded to imprison men, grace hath much more abounded to proclaim liberty to the captives. Where sin abounded to break the law and dishonor the Lawgiver, grace bath much more abounded to repair the breach and efface the stain. Where sin abounded to consume the soul as with unquenchable fire and a gnawing worm, grace bath much more abounded to extinguish the flame and heal the wound. Grace hath abounded! It bath established its throne on the merit of the Redeemer's sufferings. It bath put on the crown, and laid hold of the golden scepter, and spoiled the dominion of the prince of darkness, and the gates of the great cemetery are thrown open, and there is the beating of a new life-pulse throughout its wretched population and immortality is walking among the tombs!
This abounding grace is manifested in the gift of Jesus Christ, by whose mediation our reconciliation and salvation are effected. With Him, believers are dead unto sin, and alive unto God. Our sins were slain at His cross, and buried in His tomb. His resurrection bath opened our graves, and given us an as¬surance of immortality. "God commendeth his love toward us, in that while we were yet sinners, Christ died for us; much more, then, being now justified by his blood, we shall be saved from the wrath through him; for if, when we were enemies, we were reconciled to God by the death of his Son, much more, being reconciled, we shall be saved by his life."
"The carnal mind is enmity against God; it is not subject to the law of God, neither indeed can be." Glory to God, for the death of His Son, by which this enmity is slain, and reconciliation is effected between the rebel and the law! This was the unspeakable gift that saved us from ruin; that wrestled with the storm, and turned it away from the devoted head of the sinner. Had all the angels of God attempted to stand between these two conflicting seas, they would have been swept to the gulf of destruction. "The blood of bulls and goats, on Jewish altars slain," could not take away sin, could not pacify the conscience. But Christ, the gift of divine grace, "Paschal Lamb by God appointed," a "sacrifice of nobler name and richer blood than they," bore our sins and carried our sorrows, and obtained for us the boon of eternal redemption. He met the fury of the tempest, and the floods went over His head; but His offering was an offering of peace, calming the storms and the waves, magnifying the law, glorifying its Author, and rescuing its violator from the wrath and ruin. Justice hath laid down his sword at the foot of the cross, and amity is restored between heaven and earth.
Hither, 0 ye guilty! come and cast away your weapons of rebellion! Come with your bad principles and wicked actions; your unbelief, and enmity, and pride; and throw them off at the Redeemer's feet! God is here waiting to be gracious. He will receive you; He will cast all your sins behind His back, into the depths of the sea; and they shall be remembered against you no more forever. By Heaven's "unspeakable gift," by Christ's invaluable atonement, by the free, infinite grace of the Father and Son, we persuade you, we beseech you, we entreat you, "be ye reconciled to God"!
It is by the work of the Holy Spirit with us that we obtain a personal interest in the work wrought on Calvary for us. If our sins are canceled, they are also crucified. If we are reconciled in Christ, we fight against our God no more. This is the fruit of faith. "With the heart man believeth unto righteousness." May the Lord inspire in every one of us that saving principle!
But those who have been restored to the divine favor may sometimes be cast down and dejected. They have passed through the sea, and sung praises on the shore of deliverance; but there is yet between them and Canaan "a waste howling wilderness," a long and weary pilgrimage, hostile nations, fiery serpents, scarcity of food, and the river of Jordan. Fears within and fightings without, they may grow discouraged, and yield to temptation and murmur against God, and desire to return to Egypt. But fear not, thou worm Jacob! Reconciled by the death of Christ; much more, being reconciled, thou shalt be saved by His life. His death was the price of our redemption; His life insures liberty to the believer. If by His death He brought you through the Red Sea in the night, by His life He can lead you through the river Jordan in the day. If by His death He delivered you from the iron furnace in Egypt, by His life He can save you from all perils of the wilderness. If by His death He conquered Pharaoh, the chief foe, by His life He can subdue Sihon, king of the Amorites, and Og, the king of Bashan. "We shall be saved by his life." Because He liveth, we shall live also. "Be of good cheer!" The work is finished; the ransom is effected; the kingdom of heaven is open to all believers. "Lift up your heads and rejoice," "ye prisoners of hope!" There is no debt unpaid, no devil unconquered, no enemy within your hearts that has not received a mortal wound! "Thanks be unto God, who giveth us the victory, through our Lord Jesus Christ!"
Related Tags: sermon, lesson, Christmas Evans