Living in Light of God’s Justice

Posted by on Jul 28, 2015 in Featured, The Attributes of God

Living in Light of God’s Justice

Editor’s note: The purpose of this series is to help our readers think through what the attributes of God are and their importance to the Christian faith.

attributes of godA few years ago while I was working on my undergraduate degree I was late for an 8:30am Hebrew class. So I ran out of the house, jumped in my car, and sped off to Dallas. As I was speeding in my little red Chevy Cobalt, I saw him and he saw me.The lights came on and he pulled me over. The police officer got me for 79 in a 65. I had a few options because it was my first speeding violation so I took the plea deal, “deferred adjudication.” Basically the judge would “defer my sentence” if I fulfilled his requirements. He placed me on probation for a few months, I paid a couple hundred dollars, and finally took defensive driving so that I wouldn’t have a ticket on my record.

This is an example of the human justice system. You break the law and you pay. When speaking about God’s attributes Scripture reveals that He operates according to His righteous standard when He administers His divine justice. Thus when one thinks about God, one must acknowledge that God is righteous. In our English language we have two different words: “righteousness” and “justice.” However in both Greek and Hebrew there is only one word group behind these two English words.[1] Speaking then is systematic terms when you read Scripture, righteousness and justice is speaking about one attribute of God.

Defining God’s Justice

It is helpful at this point to provide two categories when speaking about God’s justice. The justice of God is often viewed as a retributive act, meaning God because He is righteous must act to punish those who sin against His character revealed in the Law. In this case God exercises His justice. Yet it is also important not to miss the fact that God’s justice is restorative as well. For example throughout the Psalms when God acts in His justice He is acting to save according to His covenant love and faithfulness (Ps 9:7; 33:5; 37:28; 89:14; 103:6; 140:12; 146:7). As God acts to exercise His justice He is doing so to set the wrongs of this world to right. The result of His justice in this world is shalom. The Old Testament reveals that God’s justice is retributive and restorative. He acts in His justice to punish those who transgress Law but also through His justice who acts to restore peace.

The Climax of God’s Justice

In the New Testament we see clearly these two aspects of God’s justice achieved in the cross of Jesus. Paul argues in Romans 3:21-26 that God’s justice is revealed fully in the death of Jesus. Luther called this paragraph, “The chief point, and the very center place of the epistle, and of the whole Bible.”

Paul argues that God’s righteousness/justice is revealed apart from law but is attested to by the Law and Prophets. This means that God’s righteousness/justice is revealed apart from the Law but remains consistent with the demands and teaching of the Law. It is important here to understand both the restorative and retributive aspects of God’s righteousness. Paul states that the righteousness/justice of God is climaxed in the death of Jesus, in which sinful humans can be justified, e.g “set right.” The way God’s faithfulness and salvation is displayed in the world is through the saving act of Jesus Christ, which is received by us through faith. When we trust in the redemptive act of Jesus, God’s faithfulness is displayed. This means that God’s retributive and restorative justice is displayed in the cross of Jesus. Since we have sinned we deserve God’s justice. Jesus was punished in the place of sinners (retributive) but also through His death sinners are restored back to God (restorative).

Here is the dilemma: If God just simply forgave sinners his justice is called into question. If God simply punished sinners his mercy is called into question. Through the Cross, God can remain just by condemning sin and demonstrates mercy by forgiving sinners who trust in His Son. It is in the cross event that God remains just and the justifier of those who have faith in Jesus. The justice of God is now defined by the cross of Jesus; the One who is punished for sinners and restores sinners to God.

Towards an Eschatological View of God’s Justice

The injustice in the world is evidence that something is messed up. The injustices in this world are a result of our individual rebellion. Scripture reveals that this present evil age is moving towards the telos where God’s retributive and restorative justice is once and for all revealed. At it’s apex Revelation presents a vision of the New Creation replacing the Old Creation. This is an eschatological reality where God’s justice brings about shalom through the marriage of Heaven and Earth. The ungodly, Death, Hades, the Dragon are cast into the lake of fire and the resurrected saints enter into God’s peaceable kingdom. The punishment of the ungodly, the resurrection of the dead, and the establishment of the New Creation are God’s final acts of retributive and restorative justice. The revelation of God’s restorative justice is located in the resurrection. The resurrection is God’s final verdict on those who have faith in Jesus, whereby He vindicates them by triumphing over death itself. Death is therefore judged and God’s justice is revealed. Michael Bird states, “Those who denied justice and inflicted injustices receive justice at the end. God’s people rejoice, the nations worship God, and the entire universe gives God glory.”[2]

The Church as a Billboard of God’s Justice

The Church then as it anticipates this eschatological reality lives in the present as a signpost of God’s justice. Bird again explains,

“The church is meant to be the billboard for the world to come…The life of the church is to hint at what the world would look like in a redeemed state: righteousness flowing like a river, lions lying down with lambs, swords beaten into plowshares, and grace and mercy mingling together. We can work for justice in this world as part of our preparations for the next world.”[3]

Practically, members of a local church have experienced the justice of God in the person and finished work of Jesus. As a result we are called to live out God’s justice in this world as a preview for the next. The way in which God’s justice impacts our individual lives through the death of Jesus ought to shape the way we live in this world now in light of God’s eschatological justice. Whether it is calling those who commit injustice in this world to repent or treating our neighbor the way we want to be treated. God’s justice as revealed in the person of Jesus is displayed through the Church.

[1] Wayne Grudem, Systematic Theology, 204.

[2] Michael Bird, Evangelical Theology, 307.

[3] Ibid, 308.

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Be Sanctified in Truth

Posted by on Jul 28, 2015 in Featured, The Gospel and the Christian Life

Be Sanctified in Truth

quotescover-JPG-67-300x300-17727_300x200Sanctify them in the truth; your word is truth. (John 17:17)

In John 17 we find what is known as Jesus’ high priestly prayer. This supplication to God is divided into three sections, one focused on Jesus himself, the second on Jesus’ disciples, and the final section devoted to all future generations of believers. One element of this prayer that is contained in the plea for the disciples is “Sanctify them in the truth; your word is truth.” While clearly a request for those disciples that would soon be sent into the world to preach the message of the gospel, the need for truth and to be sanctified in truth applies to all believers. Furthermore, knowing where the source of truth is located is also of great importance.

A term such as sanctification is often one of those theological terms that is misunderstood and misapplied. The word translates as sanctify is the Greek verb hagiazō meaning “to separate from profane things and dedicate to God”. This idea of something or someone being set apart to God is found throughout Scripture. Items in the temple were set apart. The people of Israel were set apart from all the other nations. In fact, anything called by God or used in service to God is set apart.

John Frame provides a great definition of sanctification noting it is “God’s work to make us holy.”[1] We can see in this definition that sanctification is not an act of our own personal effort, but rather it is a divine work, one completed in our lives by God. Frame further elaborates on sanctification commenting that “sanctification is not only a past event, but also an ongoing process. It begins in regeneration, and we can think of sanctification as the outworking of the new life given in regeneration. In that ongoing process, God works in us, but he also calls us to work out salvation. It is all of God, for all things are of God. Sanctification is a work of the Holy Spirit on the basis of Christ, who is our sanctification.”[2] There is definitely a lot to chew on when it comes to sanctification. I want to focus specifically on the work of the Holy Spirit in this process as it relates to Scripture, the source of truth.

We live in a work where truth is more often than not viewed as relative to the individual. Truth is defined by the pursuit of personal passions or by popular vote. As believers, we live by a completely different construct, one that views truth as rooted in God who is eternal, and His Word which contains guidelines that do not change with the passing whims of society.

As noted by John Frame, sanctification is a work of God completed in our lives by the Holy Spirit. In order to understand what that work includes as it relates to John 17:17 and the request made by Jesus, we have to journey back to the Old Testament:

“This is the covenant I will make with the people of Israel after that time,” declares the LORD. “I will put my law in their minds and write it on their hearts. I will be their God, and they will be my people.” (Jer. 31:33)

This covenant is what is referred to in Hebrews 10:16 meaning the covenant noted in Jeremiah applies to all those called by God to be His. Those who are His will have something written on their hearts. What is to be written on our hearts you might ask? It is God’s law, His holy Word. This is why when Jesus asked for believers to be sanctified in truth, He followed that request up with the declaration of God’s Word being the source of that truth.

If we claim to be a people of God who are interested in pursuing truth, we must be committed to rooting ourselves in the source of truth – God’s Word. Far too often, the pursuit of truth is stifled by personal opinion or even some traditions we hold dear that are not always founded in the Word of God. Perhaps this is why Scripture commands us to “test everything; hold fast what is good.” (1 Thess. 5:21) Testing everything does not mean we are to test based on what our favorite author, blogger, pastor, or scholar has stated. The basis for testing everything is the only unfailing source of truth – God’s Word. The canon of Scripture is the rule and standard for how the truth is to be defined. Furthermore, the Holy Spirit is not writing on our hearts the words of our favorite author, blogger, pastor, or scholar. Conversely, it is God’s law, His Word that is written on our hearts so that we may be sanctified in truth. Those set apart by God should always look to that which has been provided by God (Scripture) when we want to know what is true and what is false.

My challenge to you today is to focus on examining everything in light of God’s Word. If you desire to be holy as God is holy, part of that process is the uprooting of man’s word and the planting and growing of God’s Word in your heart. We have to be willing to admit that some things that have taken root in our hearts and minds is not based in sound doctrine. We are told in Scripture what to do with anything that is not sound doctrine – it is to be rejected.

Get in the Word and start stripping away through the work of the Holy Spirit that which does not belong as part of sound theology. Hold fast to truth and dig deep into the Word of God. We are a people set apart to God for holiness. Let us never hold dear to our hearts that which is not holy and from God regardless of how comforting that particular belief system may be to us. If it is not rooted in Scripture it is not from God and is affecting our approach to God’s Word.

Be sanctified in truth! God’s Word is truth!

[1] John Frame, Systematic Theology (Phillipsburg: P&R Publishing, 2013), 983.
[2] Ibid., 987.

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Three Critical Truths About the Sovereignty of God

Posted by on Jul 27, 2015 in Featured, The Attributes of God

Three Critical Truths About the Sovereignty of God

Editor’s note: The purpose of this series is to help our readers think through what the attributes of God are and their importance to the Christian faith.

attributes of godA few years ago, during a low point in my life and ministry, I had somewhat of an awakening spiritually. While I had been a believer and even was in ministry, it was one of the first times that the pages of Scripture came fully alive to me. Reading through Genesis, I began to see the story of Joseph more fully than the old flannelgraph stories could ever describe. The story is well known that Joseph suffered through the wrongful actions of his brother selling him into slavery, as well as the false accusation of Potiphar’s wife sending him to prison. Most of us know the story well enough that we could, with little preparation, re-tell the whole account at a moment’s notice. The awakening came to me when I began to see that what took a few pages to cover in Genesis was actually many years in the life of Joseph. I began to wonder what Joseph must have thought during those years. Did he wonder if it had been worth saying no to Potiphar? Did he question why his father sent him to check on his brothers that day? What opened my eyes to a hint of what Joseph might have felt was Genesis 40:14, where Joseph asks the cupbearer to “mention me to Pharaoh, and so get me out of this house.” Surely I had read it before, but for the first time, it became clear, Joseph was not just robotically believing the truth of Genesis 50:20 “God meant it for good,” he was struggling through the wilderness of evil that his brothers’ actions had intended. Joseph, like me during that time in my life, wondered why God would have allowed this and, at times, schemed for ways to escape.

I give this long introduction to lead into our topic for today: the sovereignty of God. There are many directions we could go with this topic, in particular as it relates to our understanding of salvation. However, for our purposes, I want to focus on the sovereignty of God and its impact on the totality of life in Christ. We love to talk about God’s sovereignty at the end of the road looking back, as Joseph in Genesis 50, but we are less inclined to find comfort in the Genesis 40 moments of life, when the story is not quite finished. Most of our lives are lived in the Genesis 40 moments, where we are required to reach out in faith, trusting that God really is sovereign. How might have Joseph acted differently in Genesis 40 if his faith in God’s sovereignty was strong? Is God sovereign in those transitional stages of life, when the diagnosis is not great, the road seems closed ahead, or the pain simply will not lift? In these and in every moment, we need to lean heavily on the solid theological foundation that our God is always a sovereign God.

Sovereignty is a term that indicates both a position of prominence as well as power or rule. The one who is sovereign has the authority and the ability to have dominion over a group of people. Considered biblically as one of God’s attributes, we understand the sovereignty of God to mean that He has the rightful position as our Creator as well as the all-powerful ability to rule the whole universe (Psalm 24:1-2). The earth (and the whole universe) is the Lord’s because He made it. The challenge with this doctrine, however, is that it runs counter to our culture of independence. We do not easily accept others telling us what to do and even less do we allow others to tell us what we have to do. We value free will in our lives so much that to suggest that God is sovereign, is to admit that we are not. The sovereignty of God must also address the question of how human decisions fit within this theological assertion. Failing to adequately answer this question leads us down the road toward the so-called “open theology of God,” which states that God is somehow subject to what man decides. It is true that humans are given the opportunity to decide, but we must hold this in tension with the truth that all such decisions do still happen under the sovereignty of God.

Perhaps one of the best biblical texts to examine closely in the doctrine of God’s sovereignty is Isaiah 46:8-10. From the midst of the Babylonian captivity, as God prepares the way for a return to the land, God tells us:

“Remember this and stand firm, recall it to mind, you transgressors, remember the former things of old; for I am God, and there is no other; I am God and there is none like me, declaring the end from the beginning and from ancient times things not yet done, saying ‘My counsel shall stand and I will accomplish all my purpose,’ calling a bird of prey from the east, the man of my counsel from a far away country. I have spoken and I will bring it to pass; I have purposed, and I will do it.”

From this passage, I see three things that God wants us to think about as we consider the sovereignty of God. First, there is the need to actively remember the sovereignty of God. Three times in verse 8 we are told to remember, recall to mind. In our Genesis 40 moments of life, we will be most tempted to forget the sovereignty of God. Second only to these times will be times of plenty and comfort. Nebuchadnezzar found this out the hard way (Daniel 4). However, most of us will be on the other end of the spectrum, where the pain seems unending and the prayers seem unanswered. There is nothing so important in our walk with God as remembering God is sovereign when the trials come. It will strengthen our faith if we remember this. It also has potential of wrecking our faith if we forget. This is the difference between Job saying, “The Lord gives and the Lord takes away, blessed be the name of the Lord” and Job’s wife saying, “Curse God and die.” Remember God is sovereign and by His will the trials come and you will stand firm.

Second, we are to think about the truth that God is God. We have to understand that the sovereignty of God is important simply because God is God. He is eternal, holy, good, wise, and all the attributes we have been reading about in this series, clearly demonstrate that He is God and there is none like Him. To say that God is sovereign is to acknowledge that the right and rightful One has the keys to the universe. This critical truth has been the case from the beginning and will be until the end. The seemingly insignificant things in life do not escape the view and the will of God, “Are not two sparrows sold for a penny? And not one of them will fall to the ground apart from your Father.” (Matthew 10:29) This is the God who we rely on as our sovereign God. The sovereignty of God has meaning only when we understand the truth about the sovereign God.

Lastly, God wants us to know that He is the God who keeps His promises. Isaiah 46:10b-11 serves as a megaphone to this truth, “My counsel shall stand,” “I will accomplish”, “I have spoken and I will bring it to pass”, “I have purposed, and I will do it.” Recently, a friend and I were talking about Abraham and how he struggled to believe God, despite the fact that God had promised him verbally that He would make his descendants as the stars of the sky. At one point in the conversation, when applying it to our uncertain future, we thought, at least Abraham had a verbal promise of what God was going to do. However, we gently rebuked each other to recall that we have a whole book of God’s promises, those that have already been fulfilled in the lives of others and those which are applicable to us today. We remembered that God promises to never leave us or forsake us, that He promises to provide for our needs, and that He promises to take us home to be with Him in eternity. A solid faith in God’s sovereignty helps us to stand in the midst of seemingly hopeless situations. God will do it because He said it.

Whether you stand right now in a Genesis 40 moment, where doubt creeps in and seeks to take over, or in a Genesis 50 moment allowing you to look back on the Word and works of God, fight to remember the sovereignty of God, both now and forever, and stand firm on the solid foundation of God’s sovereignty.

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On Those Missing Verses In Your ESV and NIV Bible

Posted by on Jul 25, 2015 in Bible, Featured

On Those Missing Verses In Your ESV and NIV Bible

Jefferson-BibleI’ve noticed several people post this on Facebook:

I’m sure you know that NIV was published by Zondervan but is now OWNED by Harper Collins, who also publishes the Satanic Bible and The Joy of Gay Sex.
The NIV has now removed 64,575 words from the Bible including Jehovah, Calvary, Holy Ghost and omnipotent to name but a few…
The NIV and ESV and other versions have also now removed 45 complete verses. Most of us have the Bible on our devices and phones.

Try and find these scriptures in NIV or ESV on your computer, phone or device right now if you are in doubt:
Matthew 17:21, 18:11, 23:14; Mark 7:16, 9:44, 9:46; Luke 17:36, 23:17; John 5:4; Acts 8:37
…you will not believe your eyes.
Let’s not forget what the Lord Jesus said in John 10:10 (King James Version)
If you must use the NIV or ESV
BUY and KEEP AN EARLIER VERSION OF the BIBLE. A Hard Copy cannot be updated. All these changes occur when they ask you to update the app. On your phone or laptop etc. Buy and KEEP EARLIER VERSIONS AND STORE THEM.
There is a crusade geared towards altering the Bible as we know it; NIV and many more versions are affected.

While one cannot deny the affiliation between Zondervan and Harper Collins, there is not a “crusade geared towards altering the Bible”. I guess I should say, there is not a crusade towards altering the Bible that Crossway’s ESV and the original NIV are part of. So why the missing verses on your app or in your Bible?

Simple. Every one of these “missing verses” were not part of the original manuscripts.

Consider Matthew 17:21 for example. You will notice in your ESV a little note which says, “some manuscripts insert verse 21: But this kind never comes out except by prayer and fasting”. If you read this in a KJV you’ll notice it simply says, “Howbeit this kind goeth not out but by prayer and fasting”. No footnotes or anything. So what gives?

In 1881 Westcott and Hort published a Greek New Testament using numerous ancient manuscripts which were not available to the original translators of the KJV—way back in 1611. When we discovered these ancient manuscripts we see that in a few places they didn’t square up with the existing manuscripts. In some places—like Matthew 17:21—the text was omitted in the older manuscript. When you run into one of these differences it is called a textual variant.

When you encounter one of these textual variants the interpreter/translator has to attempt to figure out why there is a difference in the text. And so why would newer manuscripts have Matthew 17:21 but older manuscripts not? Which would should we trust more?

Look at Mark 9:29 (even in your ESV and NIV Bibles) and you will notice a verse that sounds very similar to what was omitted in Matthew 17:21. Now is it possible that a copyists would have inserted material from Mark 9:29 to make it square with Matthew 17:21? Absolutely. In fact we find that this was actually a somewhat common practice.

So what most likely happened is that a well-meaning copyist somewhere along the way put Mark 9:29 here at Matthew 17:21 to get the two Gospels to square up. And his error here was copied and copied and copied from that point forward. And so we conclude that Matthew 17:21 was quite likely not part of the original text. In order to be accurate to the original you won’t find it in your ESV Bible.

There is no plot to undermine the Word of God. These are very conservative scholars that are doing the work of textual criticism to help us have the most accurate translation of the Bible as possible. And lest anyone think, with all this talk of textual variants, that your Bible cannot be trusted heed these words of David Alan Black:

“No biblical doctrine would go unsupported if a favorite reading was abandoned in favor of a more valid variant…a doctrine that is affected by textual variation will always be adequately supported by other passages.”

Rather than causing us to lose confidence in the reliability of Scripture the work of textual criticism helps us to be able to say with at least 95% accuracy that we know exactly what the original manuscripts stated. So don’t freak out and think that the NIV and ESV are being taken over by a group of people trying to hide God’s Word from you, in fact the opposite is true.

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Why Pornography and Internet Shaming are Basically the Same Thing

Posted by on Jul 24, 2015 in Featured, The Gospel and the Christian Life

Why Pornography and Internet Shaming are Basically the Same Thing

Kayaking_in_Glacier_Bay_Alaska1-1024x744-300x217New York Times writer Tim Kreider coined the term, “Outrage Porn,” to describe what he sees as our insatiable search for things to be offended by. Based on hundreds of comments and letters to the editor, Kreider says that many contemporary people feed off of feeling 1) right and 2) wronged. Outrage Porn resembles actual pornography. It aims for a cheap thrill at the expense of another human being, but without any personal accountability or commitment to that human being.

Outrage Porn often escalates into the public shaming of groups and persons. Labeling, caricature and exclusion occur as offended parties rally together against a common enemy.

There are many forms of online shaming. There is passive-aggressive shaming via the non-responsive ignoring of personal emails, comments and tweets. A person gets singled out via an unflattering photo shared without permission and intended to mock. Another is left out of a group selfie that says, “You are not one of us.”

Active-aggressive shaming is more direct. The angry blog, the critical tweet, the vicious comment on Facebook, or whatever the method – people try to hurt people. Sometimes the shaming escalates into a mob, a faux-community that latches on to the negative verdict and piles on.  Under the pretense of righteous indignation, the mob licks its chops as it goes about demonizing, diminishing and destroying its target.

The Power of Shame

Finger waggingAndy Stanley once said in a sermon that it would take just five poorly chosen words, spoken in the wrong setting, to destroy him personally and professionally. This nightmare came true for Justine Sacco, a PR consultant who posted an offensive tweet – just twelve words to her 170 followers – while boarding a flight to South Africa. When her plane landed, she discovered that her tweet had gone viral. In a few short hours she had become the headline, the inhumane bigot and common enemy to tens of thousands of people. On the basis of those twelve words, she lost her career and the life she once knew. Anything good she had done prior to the infamous tweet became as a vapor. Looking back on the incident, Sacco reflected:

I had a great career, and I loved my job, and it was taken away from me, and there was a lot of glory in that. Everybody else was happy about that.

Imagine for a moment. Your entire life, all you had ever done or worked for, reduced to a single, ten-second lapse in character and judgment. And those who brought you down? They never met or heard of you before today, and will never again think of you after today. To those who brought you down, your name was never sacred. Rather, it was a pornographic product – Outrage Porn – to be consumed and evangelized as the latest cheap thrill. Your character assassins will never have to look you in the eye. Nor will they be held accountable for turning you into a nothing, or for their blatant disregard for your whole, image-bearing person.

Scripture and Shame

Outrage Porn is not new. The holier-than-thou New Testament Pharisees “trusted in themselves that they were righteous, and looked down on others with contempt” (Luke 18:9). It’s there in Simon the Pharisee as he shames the woman anointing Jesus with perfume and washing his feet with her tears and hair. She is “a sinner.” Not a person, but a thing. Not a woman, but an animal. Not the image of God, but sub-human trash (Luke 7:36-50). It’s also there in those who brand the woman caught in adultery with a Scarlet Letter. The mob encircles her, ready to pile on and destroy. Had Jesus not intervened, they would have destroyed her just like the Internet mob destroyed Justine Sacco for her single act, the act that she apologized for through tears. But apologies don’t make good stories, do they? They aren’t as tweetable.

What Shame Tells Us About Ourselves

shameThe pious Pharisee’s bravado and righteous indignation is just a mask for self-justification. Forming a mob around a common enemy – around “the sinners” – was the groupthink of deeply insecure, small men looking for a way to medicate their own small egos at the expense of a scapegoat – a scapegoat who was no more shame-worthy than they.

When tempted to join the mob and to shame, maybe we should shift our eyes from the computer screen to the mirror. Maybe we should ask ourselves why we, too, enjoy the caricature and the labeling. Maybe we should ask ourselves why we, too, are prone to “Like” and “Share” when someone else’s whole life is reduced to their most foolish, offensive – and profusely-apologized-for-through-tears-like-Justine-Sacco-did – public moment.

A Better Way Forward?

As a Christian who is active on social media, I often remind myself that each image-bearing name is sacred. The ninth commandment, which warns against bearing false testimony of any kind about one’s neighbor, must remain in the forefront. I must remove all negative caricature – the exaggeration of someone’s worst features and the censoring out of her or his best ones – from my words, both spoken and written. It is unChristian to bless God while cursing a person with a face and a soul.

What if instead of condemnation, we became known for giving benediction? What if instead of being on the hunt to catch people doing wrong, we went on the hunt to catch people doing right? What if instead of looking for someone to curse, we started looking for someone to bless? What if instead of naming people according to their worst behaviors and features, we named them according to their best and most God-reflecting ones?

Even When The Shameful Story Is True

11HAnd when the damning narrative is true? When the horrible account about a person is more reality than caricature? Even when this is the case, humble restraint and self-reflection should be the starting point. When Ham exposed Noah for his drunkenness and nakedness, Shem and Japheth did not join in the exposing. Instead, they reversed it. Looking away from the nakedness of their drunk Dad, they respectfully covered him. In covering his nakedness, the two brothers also covered and restored Noah’s good name. For this, the two received a blessing. Ham received a curse.

And we all tremble at the thought of receiving a curse for tearing down a name and doing violence to a soul.

Or do we?

This post first appeared at Scott’s blog and is posted here with permission.

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You Are Worth More Than Your Social Stock Says You Are

Posted by on Jul 24, 2015 in Featured, The Gospel and the Christian Life

You Are Worth More Than Your Social Stock Says You Are

imagesToday you are going to log into some sort of social media — likely you’ll log into a number of accounts. Your eyes will gravitate to different functions of that media. You’ll check notifications. You’ll look at your feed. Inevitably, you’ll take stock of social capital. How many followers do you have today? How many friends? How many likes/favorites? You may even take a moment to check your Klout or find out what your SumAll score says about you.

Social media is a narcissists playground. And if anything is true about social media it is that it is the well-tilled soil to cultivate generations of narcissism. The invention of social media is not altogether different from the invention of the mirror. Both were intended to be utilitarian devices; both end up as tools of self-absorption.

Sadly enough, not unlike a mirror, social media can be manipulated. You can purchase a mirror that makes you look more slender than you really are, and you can build a social media profile that is far more impressive than who you are in person. The inverse is also true. When you stroll through a funny house, you will often see your reflection in mirrors that uglify or distort your true person. Likewise, we will often stroll through social media and see things that are not true of ourselves and, also, are not true of others.

The reality is you’re looking into the wrong mirror to measure your worth.

You see, both a looking glass and social media are not accurate representations of who you are. They are but “dim” representations (1 Cor. 13:12). There are many in the world who do not have the foggiest idea of who they really are. It’s because they are always looking into imperfect mirrors.

If you know Christ, and if his Word is in you, then you have hope. You have an idea of where your true net worth comes from; you have a real mirror to look into. God says his Word is a mirror (James 1:23). And reading 1 Corinthians 13:12 rightly should lead us to a forward looking understanding of what it means to be face to face with ourselves when we see the enduring love in which we abide. If we are united to Christ, new creations, and heirs of eternal life, then we don’t just look into the mirror of the Word that is law, but we look into the mirror of the Word which is gospel. We see Christ face to face; we see love; we see grace; we see forgiveness.

Sure enough, social media can and will tell you something about yourself. But it is truly a one-dimensional impression, just like a mirror. It’s a flat picture of who you are. It’s a virtual image. Your social media worth is not your true net worth. It’s also not where your true worth should be found.

It’s true that as time has passed, the line has blurred between virtual avatars and the true image and likeness we bear. What happens in the virtual ether transfers into real life and vice versa. But whether it be in the real life looking into a mirror or the virtual life looking into a social media mirror, you have to remind yourself that your truest self — the most accurate picture of yourself — is not one that can be manipulated, uglified, or distorted. Your true self is rooted, beautified, and clarified by the gospel of Jesus Christ.

Just remember this, when you encounter God face to face, he’s not going to see notifications, favorites, likes, and retweets. He’s going to see Jesus. Jesus stood in your place at the cross. And the cross is the only event truly worth notifying others of, favoriting, liking, and retweeting. It’s the only noteworthy news because it is the only truly good news.

Is that convincing to you? Convincing enough to diminish the worth of your social capital so that the worth of Christ may be elevated in your eyes?

Anything that takes the place of God becomes an idol. And anything that is elevated above God becomes an idol. It’s all too easy to turn social capital into an idol. It’s easy to look onto a profile and determine a person’s worth by what they’ve said, quoted, gif’d, instagrammed, and who follows them or who they follow. What’s worse, you don’t just diminish your own worth, but you slay other people’s worth by letting something so artificial become so pivotal.

Friend, you are worth far more than your social stock says you are.

This post first appeared at Joey’s blog and is posted here with permission.

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