Wednesday, August 18, 2010
The "Bad News" Of The Gospel
Jehoiakim had one of his servants read the scroll of Jeremiah’s prophecies out loud. As he listened, the king would take a knife and cut off portions of the scroll, burning them in the fire that the king used to warm himself (36:21-23). Jehoiakim showed no interest in hearing God’s word through Jeremiah: “Neither the king nor his attendants showed any signs of fear or repentance at what they heard” (36:24).I think there are two levels where this is true. One is the obvious level about rules we do not like. Admonitions about homosexual practice are increasingly ignored - certainly by the Episcopal church, and soon by others. But I think that almost minor compared to the more general level on which we experience the central truth Roberts identities.
If you’re receiving these Reflections, you surely care deeply about Scripture and its truth. I doubt that you’d be tempted to imitate Jehoiakim in any literal way. But there are parts of God’s Word that are difficult to hear. Yes, it is full of good news and reassurance. But it is also full of corrections and admonitions. Scripture cuts to the heart of our sin, calling us to repentance. And sometimes we’d rather not listen to such challenges. At least I’ll admit that sometimes I’d rather not pay attention to the parts of the Bible that unsettle me. So, though I’d never actually cut them out of the Bible and burn them in my fireplace, I do tend to ignore them.
Too often, way too often, the gospel is offered as a means of self-improvement, without acknowledgment of the fact that the road to such improvement begins with repentance - and further that each step on that road begins with a prayer of confession. We want to be good, but we want to ignore the fact that we are sinners.
In fact, I think it fair to say that we try to do away with the "rules" that most confront us with our sinfulness. Rather than confess, we change God's church in a way that there is, apparently, nothing to confess.
But what is truly amazing about these facts, is that we cheat ourselves out of so much that is so good. We are the one major impediment to actually achieving the state of blessedness that we so desire. In taking the shortcut, we never arrive at the destination.
Maybe instead of tearing it up and throwing it in the fire, we should just follow the map God has given us.