Repentance

I was thinking the other day about Jordan Peterson, and why his message of “get your life together” is so attractive to alienated young men.  Why is he – a secular prophet – able to speak so well into peoples lives?  And why is the church seemingly unable to speak the same way?

Jordan has a message. He articulates the problem well, however the solution “sort yourself out”, while having some impact, ultimately falls short.

But, it is a message that resonates.  And, it resonates because it is the secular version of the call to repentance.

And that matters.

Because we know we are not all that we should be, and we want to be more. And, to be honest, a lot of us want to be challenged to be more than indolent dissipating failures.

So, where is the church falling short? Why can Jordan reach people with a partial message, whereas we have a message of real hope?  I think the answer can be encapsulated in that one word – Repent!  To often we skim over the problem, the mess we would really rather not look too closely at, in order to quickly arrive at the solution.

In other words, we want our grace free, and cheap too, thank you.

We don’t want to see the real and lasting damage our sin does to us and all those around us.  Because facing up to that is too painful. Better to give it lip service and move on.

Only, we can’t. Because it is not that easy. It has been said that the deepest human need is to be forgiven.  Not food, not shelter, not love (all of which are essential).  But rather to be forgiven.

“Whoever has been forgiven little loves little (Luke 7 v47)”  Yes, but that is not because they did not sin much. But because they have not really understood how much they needed to be forgiven in the first place.

So, the Church which proclaims the solution – Jesus, who bore all our sins – without ever fully articulating the problem, is a Church that is not bringing the full gospel to a hurt and needy world.

If you don’t face people with who they are, the real and lasting pain of all our sin, then you can never profess Jesus in a way that makes any sense.

In short – for the Church to proclaim Jesus, we must first call all to repent. Then, and only then, do we have a message that will speak to everyone’s deepest need.

 

Repent, then, and turn to God, so that your sins may be wiped out, that times of refreshing may come from the Lord

Acts 3 v19.

 

 

 

 

 

 

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Hope

In you, Lord my God,
I put my trust.
I trust in you;
    do not let me be put to shame,
    nor let my enemies triumph over me.
No one who hopes in you
    will ever be put to shame,
but shame will come on those
    who are treacherous without cause.
Show me your ways, Lord,
    teach me your paths.
Guide me in your truth and teach me,
    for you are God my Saviour,
    and my hope is in you all day long.
Remember, Lord, your great mercy and love,
    for they are from of old.
Do not remember the sins of my youth
    and my rebellious ways;
according to your love remember me,
    for you, Lord, are good.
Ps 25 v1-7

It is Easter again, and I am only just beginning to get my head around it.  For so many of us, Easter is a welcome respite from a long, hard work week – an extra day in a weekend to recover from everything we have had to do, all that life has thrown at us.

But Easter is so much more.  It is literally the pivot point of history, a kairos moment that turns darkness to light, death to life, despair to hope.  Before, we were lost in a mess of our own making, straining unsuccessfully to reach for the light we had lost.  After, we found a Way had been made for us, forgiveness bestowed, the light Himself had come down to rescue us.

To get there though, we cannot skip Good Friday.  We all want the Good News of Easter Sunday – He is Risen! – but we shy away from the full reality of the cost paid on Good Friday.  The physical description of crucifixion is bad enough, but that was a pale shadow of the real sacrifice Jesus paid – the one that culminated in, with a loud shout – It Is Finished!

crown of thorns2

At that moment, He had taken on the fullness of our sin, and in so doing found Himself separated from the One with whom He had enjoyed communion before the founding of the world.  I can only begin to imagine that cost – immense, unimaginable, soul crushing, heart breaking.

As the Holy Spirit continues to illuminate my heart, I begin to see more and more His gift.  On the surface, I live a pretty ‘good’ life – but there is still, even after all these years, such darkness to plumb.  Selfish, unloving thoughtlessness – the Trinity I often de-facto worship is the one of Me, Myself and I.

Those who have been forgiven little, love little.  Those who have been forgiven much, love much!  Only, we have all been forgiven so much, if we only have eyes to see.  The debt that Jesus paid was not trivial.  There is no such thing as a venial sin – only sins of which the essential offensiveness have not yet been fully comprehended.

We can only fully appreciate the sacrifice made on Good Friday when we have our own hearts revealed to us – and it is the same realisation that brings the hope and joy of the risen Christ on Easter Sunday.  Now that is Good News!

easter-1443348_1920

 

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The Silent Judgment

Fifty years and 8 million murders later, and that just in the U.K. What is it that we have made of ourselves? How can we avoid judgment?

Then I reflect, who says that we have? I look at our society, its increasing totalitarian secularism, its weak sinful leadership, the madness by which we tear down our own houses – and I think, no, we have not avoided judgment. It is just that we are too blind to see that we have been left to it – our will be done.

Lord have mercy, Christ have mercy, Lord have mercy.

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On Prophetic Speaking

The one who speaks prophetically to a culture is rarely subtle, and almost never popular. Not for him the parable, whose message is aimed in (appropriately) a parabolic arc behind the audience’s defence line; there to stage a sneak attack of truth, for those with ears to hear.

No, a prophetic judgment is more akin to a straight-out, all guns blazing, attack on the main defence line. It is resisted fiercely, and often successfully. There are exceptions, but the rule is that this kind of prophetic word is rejected by the recipient/s, up to and often after its fulfillment.

So, why bother? Two reasons. Firstly, truth must be proclaimed, however unpalatable, and warning given – whether heard or not. But secondly, and perhaps more importantly, is the other part of this kind of prophetic word.

While the enemy is being fast engaged and the battle raging, behind comes a second team. That team is charged with planting a garden in the midst of the battle. Where it rages the strongest: a flower here, a plant there. To leave something behind in the resisters’ heart – the hope of something better. That when their plans have come to nothing, and all has fallen to ash – the memory, the hope remains – that all is not lost.

A prophet is called upon to pass the judgment of God – but that is only really the starting point. Beyond that, a prophet’s true mission, once all things have been revealed for what they really are, is to bring the message of hope. That beyond the battlegrounds and desolations of the human heart lies a garden of Hope that is tended by the Carer of our souls.

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Tolerance, Diversity and Inclusion

Every age must have its gods, and this age worships at the altar of Tolerance, Diversity and Inclusion. Seemingly benign gods, at least at first. As long as you keep your sentiments and thought process shallow enough, what’s not to like?

  • The god Tolerance – extending a benevolent gaze upon all who think correctly.
  •  The god Diversity – who will allow worship at its altar as long as you wear the uniform.
  •  The god Inclusion – who warmly welcomes those of whom the other gods approve.

Just make sure you are not beyond the pale of social acceptability, or you will discover the flip side of these wonderful, warm sentiments!

I find it remarkable that so many apparently cannot see that these gods represent the precise opposite of what is presented: the intolerance, uniformity and exclusion of a creeping totalitarianism.

These seems to be the pale, insipid caricatures of ‘gods’ for a society that has rejected its God – has rejected faith, hope and love, in favour of…what? Why do many accept such poor substitutes – like eating thin gruel when a sumptuous four course meal is laid out before you?

The true Trinity, the only God that ever matters – existing beyond eternity, wrapped in Love inexpressible – Father, Son and Holy Spirit  – still calls people, to bring them home, where there is warmth, food, fellowship, light and peace.

But no, we will not. And we know so little about the Truth, that when a man reads from the Bible on a train, people run – because they do not even recognise the words of our Father enough to be able to distinguish it from the Quran.

The fields really are white for the harvest. When you look at the ‘competition’ – well there is really none.  Just that thin gruel, with people staying at the table only because if they leave, they know they will be mocked, hated and bullied.

If Christ be for us, who can be against us?  Is this really the best the devil can do?  We have such an opportunity – to reach a starving people again with the Gospel – Good News for all of us.  That Jesus –  when we were far off, sinners and rebels, came to seek and save us, to forgive and reconcile us.  That’s a meal worth eating, and a meal worth inviting other people to share.

Blessings on your day today,

Peter

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Truth

Truth is the first casualty of war, they say, and it’s not just physical war.

Just the other day, in my country, a voice was raised up in the public space – maybe the very kind of voice I mentioned in my last post – that had the temerity to be unequivocal in speaking standard Christian moral orthodoxy in matters such as marriage and abortion.

The result was predictable – ‘archaic’, ‘utterly abhorrent’, ‘belongs in the 18th century’ were some of the tamer comments.  However, the one thing that links all the responses is that none of them stray to any discussion as to the correctness, or incorrectness, of the moral views.  It is just assumed, a priori, that the views are wrong because they are old, because they are not culturally approved, and because to give them any credence is to open oneself to bullying.

There is a reason for this – the spirit of this age does not do well on the battleground of Truth vs. Lie.  That’s God’s territory.  Any argument that strays into serious discussion of the right and wrongs of a position is dangerous territory.  Better to assume the argument, cast scorn on the one who is articulating dissident thoughts, and appeal to the ‘everybody thinks’ mentality.

And, if that’s not convincing enough, maybe we can apply a little corporate pressure:

“We have 580 companies involved with the [Australian Marriage Equality] ad campaign. If you’re unhappy with a company that’s involved with the campaign you won’t be able to bank and you won’t be able to fly anywhere.”

True quote from a CEO, though I don’t plan on linking to it.  The message is clear – if you value getting along in the world, if you aspire to leadership, maybe even if you would like to keep a job and some semblance of normal life, don’t say the wrong things.  If you have heterodox thoughts, keep them to yourself.  For now.  Later, we will be back to ensure you bend the knee by saying the right things too.

It says something to the inherent weakness of the current cultural zeitgeist, that it can only maintain its position by an increasingly intolerant clampdown on any opposition.  Eventually, like all lies, it will collapse under its the weight of its own contradictions.  Everything that can be shaken, will be.  But not until it has done immense damage to real peoples lives.

I pray for more courageous voices to be raised up – to say what currently cannot be said, to face down the bullies and the vicious intolerance of the ‘tolerant’, to raise a standard for the Lord’s armies.  Because, as I said previously, those who are with us are far, far greater than those opposed.  The mouths of the liars will eventually be silenced, and the truth – indeed the Way, the Truth and the Life – will have the victory.

 

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Those who are with us

Now the king of Aram was at war with Israel. After conferring with his officers, he said, “I will set up my camp in such and such a place.”

The man of God sent word to the king of Israel: “Beware of passing that place, because the Arameans are going down there.” So the king of Israel checked on the place indicated by the man of God. Time and again Elisha warned the king, so that he was on his guard in such places.

This enraged the king of Aram. He summoned his officers and demanded of them, “Tell me! Which of us is on the side of the king of Israel?”

“None of us, my lord the king,” said one of his officers, “but Elisha, the prophet who is in Israel, tells the king of Israel the very words you speak in your bedroom.”

“Go, find out where he is,” the king ordered, “so I can send men and capture him.” The report came back: “He is in Dothan.” Then he sent horses and chariots and a strong force there. They went by night and surrounded the city.

When the servant of the man of God got up and went out early the next morning, an army with horses and chariots had surrounded the city. “Oh no, my lord! What shall we do?” the servant asked.

“Don’t be afraid,” the prophet answered. “Those who are with us are more than those who are with them.”

And Elisha prayed, “Open his eyes, Lord, so that he may see.” Then the Lord opened the servant’s eyes, and he looked and saw the hills full of horses and chariots of fire all around Elisha.
2 Kings 6 v8-17

In the current cultural insanity that grips the nations of the West, I am aware that our battle is not against flesh and blood, but against the “rulers, against the authorities, against the powers of this dark world and against the spiritual forces of evil in the heavenly realms” Eph 6 v12. The forces arrayed against us are strong – governments, corporations, judiciary, social, religious and media – all pulling for a brave new world where all cultural norms of past millennia are uprooted.

But, like for Elisha, those who are with us are far, far greater than those opposed – if only we have the eyes to see. A mighty, invisible, golden army fights for the Lord! But…we need to pray. The only way this power is released is through prayer.

The impossible compliment of prayer, being co-creators in the Lord’s purposes, is available to all who are His. Do we want to see voices raised up that have the power to roll back the tide of darkness? Then…to pray is the key.  Pray like we believe, that we know, that those who are for us are far, far greater than the camp of those opposed.

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