Drippings from the Honeycomb
More to be desired are [the rules of the Lord] than gold, even much fine gold; sweeter also than honey and drippings of the honeycomb. (Psalm 19:10)
Christ and Christmas
“It’s the most wonderful time of the year.” Speaking of time (and something that occurs occasionally) Christmas Day and New Year’s Day will both occur on the Lord’s Day (Sunday). How will you spend your day? Will worship be at the centre of it? Because the Lord is interested in how we spend our time and commands us to gather on the first day of the week (Acts 20:7; 1 Corinthians 16:22; Revelation 1:10; Hebrews 10:25). Christ comes before Christmas (and New Year’s). Did you know that Christians didn’t celebrate Christmas until about AD 354? That’s because the Lord’s Day (and its remembrance of the Resurrection) stood as the central time of worship. While a significant event Christ never commanded us to remember Christmas (or New Year’s) but He did command us to gather together each week. English Protestants, right up until the late 1800s, including Baptists, did not celebrate Christmas and even worked on Christmas Day. In another extreme, today Christmas has become its own sacred day of self for many. It’s a day I sleep in; a day I spend with family; a day I open presents and do tradition x, y or z. It’s the only day of the year Tim Horton’s is closed! But for Christians worshipping Christ in His way on His day comes before Christmas. As such I think it is most sad to hear of many churches that will be closed on Christmas Day as Christians put human traditions (even good ones) ahead of Christ. As those who often chanted “Keep Christ in Christmas” it is rather ironic. At MBC we want to put Christ first and build our meaningful family time and Christmas traditions around Him. (If you have non-Christian family members with you, let your priority in worship be a witness to them; or invite them along). We’ll still be meeting on Christmas morning, though at 1030 instead of the usual 10 (and we won’t be holding our evening service). This will allow families times to do their thing when they wake up and for the rest of the day, yet still keep Christ central; after all, that’s what the first Christmas in AD 354 was all about, a worship service to remember the birth of Christ. I pray that whether we’re away and visiting another church or here at home, we’ll keep Christ in Christmas and so maintain the true wonder, the wonder of worship.
We live in a changing culture. It isn’t changing from Christian to post-Christian (that change occurred in the 1960s–80s). We’re changing from a post-Christian culture into an eddy of the unknown.
Now as the under-dog (yet with an Almighty Captain, the Lord Jesus Christ), how do we as Christian churches engage with our culture?
At a recent conference a non-Christian and Christian help was offered to answer this question. I thought it was worth restating with some of my own commentary.
The Christian faith used to be the worldview and moral code of Canada. People would ask: does this honour and glorify God; what does God think about this; what does the Bible say; is this good or bad; does it love God and love others, etc…?
As people came to hold the Christian faith nominally these questions were asked, not through reason, but through intuition: that is, because of what we’ve received, I don’t feel comfortable with X, Y, or Z.
Today, most people still do not use reason to inform their worldview, rather they subjectively rely on intuition.
Because of this shift Christianity went from being celebrated, tolerated or viewed as quaint to now being seen as increasingly dangerous.
In “Righteous Mind: Moral Intuitions are Different,” social psychologist explains what our culture’s new moral intuitions are:
If we simply speak louder (like in so many language quandaries) we don’t actually facilitate understanding. If we simply give a straight up yes or no answer, our view will likely clash with theirs.
While sometimes we’re left with no other option than providing a straight up answer without an explanation (and know that God will use such faithfulness), we need to learn to be better listeners:
If one gives an answer before he hears,
it is his folly and shame. (Prov 18:13)
The purpose in a man's heart is like deep water,
but a man of understanding will draw it out. (Prov 20:5)
When pressed for a yes or no answer on any moral or theological question we might respond, “I think your question deserves more than a one syllable answer.” Ask questions. Attempt to figure out what ethic (see above) they’re operating from. Build trust through listening. Where have they come from that has led them to this place? Finally help them understand why something is right or wrong (harmful, oppressive and unjust) and tell the better story of how Jesus’ way is better, freeing and just.
In apologetics and evangelism we must learn to speak the truth in love or blend grace and truth as the Bible teaches.
What is Sin?
It is such a little word; it seems as if the answer would be correspondingly simple.
For many sin is an inconsequential thing. It is not that bad. It is merely a wrong or a bad act. Others differentiate between really bad sins and really small sins (or mortal and venial sins). Mr. Oxford defines it as “an offence against God.” Wayne Grudem defines it as: “A failure to conform to the moral law of God in act, attitude or nature.” Many other Christian and non-Christian definitions have been offered.
What then is sin? The answer, like many, is simple but not simplistic; in fact it is rather more expansive than many people think.
Prior to the act of disobedience in Genesis 3 we actually find the root of sin, which is pride—the desire to be as God (Gen 3:5). This is the opposite of the humility—entire dependence upon God—that Adam and Eve were designed for. Standing at the centre of both the English words sIn and prIde is the letter “I”. So to sin is to be proud, to place yourself ahead of God as the most important object, the centre of attention and worship and the determiner of right and wrong.
Perfect humility is perfect trust. Corresponding to our pride comes the presence of distrust. In pride faith is turned from God to self and the things of this world. Hence it follows that Heb 11:6 says, “without faith it is impossible to please God” and Rom 14:23 says, “whatever is not of faith is sin.” This is a rather more expansive definition of sin! It means that even a good act done without faith is sin. It means we cannot be saved by our works. It certainly means salvation can only come through believing the Gospel. It means even doing the right thing for the wrong reason as a Christian is not pleasing in God’s eyes, it is sin.
Is it any wonder then that we are saved by faith alone in Christ alone. The undoing of our problem could not come through any other means. We must trust in the Gospel of Jesus Christ; the one who was perfectly humble and filled with trust that He went to the Cross to stand in our place so we might go free.
Because of the inter-working of pride and distrust in the heart, this root sin becomes disobedience to God’s Law. He is the great and holy Law giver. To break a single command of His is to sin and be guilty lawbreakers, criminals, rebels, dishonourable, etc, (Ja 2:10). The wages, or consequences, of which can only be death, our due penalty (Ro 6:23a).
The word sin means to “miss the mark.” It is an archery term. We sin through putting ourselves first, distrusting God’s character, commands and promises and ultimately by disobeying His Law.
We truly are great sinners; yet rejoice that Christ is an even greater Saviour!
May we not remain in sin but come to Him for justification and sanctification, forgiveness and holiness.
 In the Garden, though pride and distrust were part of the temptation to sin, these were only realized in the act of disobedience. Now, however, because Jesus teaches sin springs from the heart, the presence of pride and distrust are sin. We don’t sin and so become sinners; we’re sinners and so we sin.
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