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The Gospel Never Ceases to Amaze

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Some things, no matter how many times you experience them, no matter how many times you hear or read them, never grow boring, stale, or tiresome.  

For some people it's a place such as the beach or the home where they grew up.  For others it's a piece of music or a work of art.  

In J. R. R. Tolkien's fantasy masterpiece, The Return of the King, the hobbit Pippen has this experience over the sound of distant horns.

In one of the most desperate scenes of the book, the armies of Mordor breach the gate of Minas Tirith.  The Lord of the Nazgûl rides in triumph and terror into the city.  Yet at that precise moment, the horns of the Rohirrim, who had come unforeseen to the battlefield, erupt in the distance.  Gondor will be rescued!  The Lord of the Nazgûl is forced to depart and . . . .  

"When the dark shadow at the Gate withdrew Gandalf still sat motionless. But Pippin rose to his feet, as if a great weight had been lifted from him; and he stood listening to the horns, and it seemed to him that they would break his heart with joy. And never in after years could he hear a horn blown in the distance without tears starting in his eyes.  (J. R. R. Tolkien, The Return of the King, Book 5, Ch. 6, The Pyre of Denethor)

The braying of distant horns never grew tiresome to Pippen.  It always evoked this poignant moment of joy.

The Gospel produces that same fruit in our hearts.  Romans 1:18 - 3:20 descends in a dreadful description of God's just wrath towards proud, rebellious, and idolatrous humanity. Then there's the wondrous turn in 3:21 which leads to these verses. . . . 

Romans 3:23-25 "All have sinned and fall short of the glory of God, and are justified by his grace as a gift, through the redemption that is in Christ Jesus, whom God put forward as a propitiation by his blood, to be received by faith."

There it is!  God counts to us the perfect righteousness of Christ as a free gift!  We are freely given the gift of forgiveness, passive righteousness, and eternal life though we've doe nothing to deserve it!

This is the theological core of Christianity and how contrary it is to the social fabric of western culture.  The doors of this world open and close based on your cleverness, connections, wealth, or morality.

Yet, this free gift of imputed righteousness isn’t discovered by the clever; it’s discovered by those who know their folly and see the wisdom of God in Christ.   

This free gift of eternal life isn’t accessed by the well-connected; it’s accessed by those who connect themselves to a first-century commoner, Jesus of Nazareth.

This free gift of eternal life with God can’t be bought to the wealthy; it’s freely given to those who know their need and come to God with empty hands.

This fee gift of righteousness isn’t earned by those who conquer their sin; it’s given to those who realize that they need someone else to conquer it.

The Gospel is unparalleled!  It never ceases to amaze.  

Posted by Matthew Roberts with

Repentance for the deeper insubordination

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Anyone in a position of leadership experiences insubordination.  A parent hears it from children, a teacher from students, a supervisor from employees, and a shepherd from the sheep.  

Insubordination can be necessary when authority is abused.  Consider the actions of the mid-wives in Exodus 1:17 or the Apostles in Acts 5:29.  

Yet, most insubordination against authority is simply an extension of our cosmic insubordination against God.  We resist any intrusion on our prerogative to be the master of our lives.  All earthly authorities are a distant and very tainted echo of God's authority.  Furthermore, criticism is a reflection of pride; it's a way of saying, "I could do better."

Anyone in leadership eventually experiences a type of insubordination that especially bothersome.  It occurs when subordinates blame the person in authority for something out of the leader's control.  A family trip by car is delayed by traffic from bad weather.  The weather isn't in the parents' control,  but the children grumble against them.  The Chromebooks of a classroom fail to start.  The failure isn't the teachers fault but the students murmur against the teacher.  Distant economic factors cause a business to stall.  The employees blame the supervisors for mismanagement, but the economic realities are outside their control.

The question is really, "Who superintends all the events of our lives?"  When we're insubordinate against earthly authority in a matter that's beyond their control, then on a deeper level we're really grumbling against God.  This is precisely what we see in Exodus 16.  The people blame Moses and Aaron, yet Moses and Aaron correctly pinpoint that the people are criticizing the LORD.

Exodus 16:1-8 Israel set out from Elim . . . and the whole congregation of the people of Israel grumbled against Moses and Aaron in the wilderness, and the people of Israel said to them, "Would that we had died by the hand of the LORD in the land of Egypt, when we sat by the meat pots and ate bread to the full, for you have brought us out into this wilderness to kill this whole assembly with hunger."  . . .  So Moses and Aaron said to all the people of Israel, "For what are we, that you grumble against us? . . . the LORD has heard your grumbling that you grumble against him - what are we? Your grumbling is not against us but against the LORD."

The next time you're tempted to complain against a person in authority ask yourself, "Can this leader really fix the problem?"  If it's outside their control, then you would be wise to hold your tongue because you'll be inadvertently chastising God.  

Furthermore, because God has already exhibited His love at Calvary, then we can trust that whatever disappointments, annoyances, or set backs that we experience are actually gifts of His love.  A mature faith sees all pleasures and disappointments equally as gifts of God's love.  A mature faith will even rise to worship and thank God for a sharp disappointments.

Posted by Matthew Roberts with

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