Thursday, May 5, 2011

Valley of Vision

The Valley of Vision

Lord, high and holy, meek and lowly,

Thou has brought me to the valley of vision,

where I live in the depths but see thee in the heights;

hemmed in by mountains of sin I behold

thy glory.

Let me learn by paradox

that the way down is the way up,

that to be low is to be high,

that the broken heart is the healed heart,

that the contrite spirit is the rejoicing spirit,

that the repenting soul is the victorious soul,

that to have nothing is to possess all,

that to bear the cross is to wear the crown,

that to give is to receive,

that the valley is the place of vision.

Lord, in the daytime stars can be seen from deepest wells,

deepest wells,

and the deeper the wells the brighter

thy stars shine;

Let me find thy light in my darkness,

Thy life in my death,

that every good work or thought found in me

thy joy in my sorrow,

thy grace in my sin,

thy riches in my poverty

thy glory in my valley.

Tuesday, May 3, 2011

Are you God's enemy?

Are You an Enemy of God?

You adulteresses, do you not know that friendship with the world is hostility toward God. (James 4:4)

For good or ill, without question our children imitate us. What they see in us — our values, actions, and speech — significantly influence them. After giving four reasons for the quarrels and conflicts we face in our families and communities, James the apostle summarizes his words with a stinging indictment. He calls his audience — the converted Jews, the twelve tribes dispersed abroad — adulteresses. This is not the first time God refers to his covenant people with such disdain (see also Isa. 1:21, Jer. 3:3-10). This term is a common prophetic portrayal of faithless Israel. In Deuteronomy 31:16, as Moses is facing death and Israel is soon to enter into the Promised Land, Yahweh tells him that his people will play the harlot with the strange gods of the land, that they will forsake him and break his covenant which he had made with them. He vividly portrays this in Ezekiel 16:23-26 after reporting how he had rescued his people from helplessness as new born infants, cleansing them, taking them into his care. They rewarded his faithfulness by whoring after other gods in a most horrid and lascivious manner. And we see how God punished his servant Solomon who began his kingly reign as one who loved God (1 Kings 3:1ff) and soon enough 'loved foreign women,' going after the wicked gods of Ashtoreth, Chemosh, and Milcom (1 Kings 11:1ff). James says that friendship with the world is proof of hostility toward God. What does he mean by 'friendship with the world?' John addresses the issue (1 John 2:15-17), saying that one who loves the world does not have the love of God in him. Jesus says that the coming of the Son of Man is like the days of Noah, when men were eating, drinking, marrying, and giving in marriage, until the day Noah entered the ark, and they did not understand until the flood came and took them all away (Matt. 24:37-38). In other words Noah was warning people of the coming judgment of God but they continued living as they always had, totally oblivious to their peril.

Recently our house was without hot water on a Sunday morning so I went to my local workout facility to shave and shower. I was amazed at how Sunday was 'just another day' to so many people. They were 'eating and drinking', apparently giving no thought whatsoever to their souls, preferring instead to feed their flesh on the Lord’s Day while their souls languished. Thus friendship with the world is thinking, valuing, or acting in ways contrary to God’s law. It means living as though one is not accountable to the Creator, Sustainer, and Redeemer. This hostility toward God reveals itself in numerous ways. Some mock God, saying, 'Let us tear their fetters apart, let us cast away their cords from us' (Psa. 1:1-2). In other words, 'Why should we be restricted by God! We will do as we please.' Others are enemies of the cross of Christ whose end is destruction, whose god is their appetite, whose glory is in their shame, who set their minds on earthly things (Phil. 3:18-19). That is, they do not see the centrality of the cross for personal, familial, ecclesiastical, or national living. They go first to the latest studies on how to rear children or how to solve our economic problems, without realizing that man’s greatest and most foundational need is to be in right relationship with God through the death and resurrection of Jesus. In summary James is saying that one who is a friend of the world is an enemy of God.

This begs at least two questions — are you an enemy of God and what does this do to your children? While the blood of Christ removes the wrath and condemnation of God from the true follower of Jesus (Rom. 3:24-26, 1 John 2:2, 4:10) some want to push this further by saying that God is never angry with the Christian. This is both dangerous and unbiblical. We are told that God can be pleased with our actions (1 John 3:22, Col. 1:10, 3:20, Heb. 13:16). If he can be pleased then he conversely can be displeased (Hos. 9:4, Isa. 1:14, Jer. 6:20). Further, we are told not to grieve the Holy Spirit (Eph. 4:30), and we know that Jesus wondered or marvelled at the unbelief of those in his home town (Mark 6:6). Clearly Jesus was angry with Peter when Peter told him that he would not allow Jesus to be arrested. Jesus rebuked him by saying, 'Get behind Me Satan! You are a stumbling block to Me; for you are not setting your mind on God’s interests, but man’s' (Matt. 16:21-25).

It’s like this — a father, walking hand in hand with his four year old, finding his child breaking free from his grasp and venturing into a street of heavy traffic, watches helplessly as he narrowly escapes being hit by a car that comes to a screeching halt. The first emotion of the father is relief, but the second will likely be anger. Why? Because he loves his son and does not want him needlessly to suffer! Likewise, to be sure the wrath of God is removed by Christ’s atoning or propitiating death, but he still is angry with his people who persist in sinful rebellion against him.

So, one way you know you love the world and consequently are an enemy of God is when your values are contrary to the six petitions of the Lord’s Prayer (Matt. 6:9-13). As a baptized and professing follower of the Lord Jesus you ought to be all about hallowing God’s name, seeking his glory above everything else in your life. You ought to be all about the salvation of sinners in all the nations of the world. You ought to be zealous in submitting joyfully to God in every circumstance of life, of being content with your daily bread, of being able to forgive others who have wronged you, of being so zealous for holiness that you are careful to avoid temptation that could plunge you into eternal ruin (Heb. 10:26-31). If you are not 'all about' these things then you are an enemy of God. And on the other hand, if you are 'all about' seeking first the kingdom of heaven, of earnestly praying for, labouring for, and delighting in the six petitions of the Lord’s Prayer, then you are a friend of God. His smile is on your life. He is pleased with you.

Your children are watching you. What are they seeing? Do they see a parent who says he loves Jesus but who exhibits a love for the world, whose life is set on mammon, who lives contrary to the Lord’s Prayer? Surely we all fail in this to some degree, but we must repent. How? Get a fresh glimpse of the beauty and loveliness of Jesus, remembering how you were an enemy of God, how you were without hope and without God, how you were headed to perdition. Then remember God’s mercy to you in Christ. Dwell on his glory and power. Ask the Holy Spirit to stir within you a love for the things he loves and a hatred for the things he hates. The only way to get it is to go daily into the 'sanctuary' (Psa. 63:1-2, 73:15-20), to spend long periods of time in sweet communion with him.

This article by:
Rev. Allen M Baker, Pastor of Christ Community Presbyterian Church in West Hartford, Connecticut.