From Ugly Duckling To Lovely Swan!

Restore to me the joy of your salvation, and uphold me with a willing spirit.

(Psa 51:12 ESV)

Someone has said that there are two kinds of people: those who say there are two kinds of people and those who do not. D. James Kennedy once quipped that “there are three kinds of people: those who can count and those who can’t.” We can all agree it’s unfair to put people in tight, tidy little categories. Putting people in categories do not do justice to the complexity of what it means to be human.

However, I think some typologies are useful, especially when it deals with the spiritual/moral state or condition of a person. Jesus taught that there were only two kinds of people: saved and unsaved. He used metaphors from the world of agriculture: goats (unsaved people) versus sheep (saved people); weeds versus wheat. So, Jesus taught that there are only two spiritual/moral conditions. But, even though there are only two spiritual states—i.e. spiritual death and spiritual life—there are differences in how we perceive these spiritual states or conditions. The story of “The Ugly Duckling” by Hans Christian Anderson captures this well. Just as the little swan thought he was a mallard, likewise could there be sheep who think they are goats? The clear teaching of Scripture is yes!

In light of this Dr. R.C. Sproul believes that there are four types of people. First, there are those who believe they are saved by grace, and are in fact saved by grace. Second, there are those who do not believe they are saved by grace, and are in fact not saved by grace. These first two groups are aware of their spiritual condition. However, there are two other types of people (type three and type four) who are not aware of their spiritual condition. The third type of person, though truly saved by grace, is not sure whether he or she is saved by grace. Then there is our fourth type. There are people who truly believe they are saved by grace, but in fact are not.

St John penned his first letter (1 John) when he was as an aged apostle, an apostle who had a pastor’s heart. John explains why he wrote his first letter. He says: “I write these things to you who believe in the name of the Son of God that you may know that you have eternal life” (1Jo 5:13 ESV). Pretty simple. John is saying that he is writing to that third type of person who, though saved, is not aware that he or she is saved, or at least not totally sure or not as deeply rooted in confidence. Such people live their lives as ugly ducklings, though in reality they are beautiful swans in the eyes of God.

In conclusion, in the near future I will be preaching (in my own church) an expository sermon series through the first letter of John. My purpose is the same as John’s original purpose: that is to confirm my parishioners in their faith with these four typologies in mind. My hope is that through this study they may (like King David) have the joy of their salvation restored from ugly ducklings to lovely swans! If you are an ugly duckling may God confirm you as His swan!

Soli Deo Gloria

Carl

Leave a comment

Filed under Uncategorized

Believing is Seeing

No one after lighting a lamp puts it in a cellar or under a basket, but on a stand, so that those who enter may see the light. 34 Your eye is the lamp of your body. When your eye is healthy, your whole body is full of light, but when it is bad, your body is full of darkness. 35 Therefore be careful lest the light in you be darkness. 36 If then your whole body is full of light, having no part dark, it will be wholly bright, as when a lamp with its rays gives you light.

(Luke 11: 33-36)

We have all heard the axiom: “seeing is believing.” It is a pithy way of saying that only hard, concrete evidence is convincing. However, this saying assumes a lot. One thing it assumes is that our eyes do not lie to us. But is this true? Recently on the news I came across a report about baseball. This report said that the baseball mechanics of throwing a fast ball have all been mistaken. New computer models are contradicting traditional wisdom. How?—the reporter asked. The answer: “our eyes lie to us.”

Not only do our eyes lie to us, but so do our minds and hearts. On a spiritual/moral level, the reason why our eyes, minds, hearts lie to us is because of sin. Apart from the “lamp” of Christ, sin darkens the eye; sin dims the mind; sin blackens the heart! Disbelief is a function of the soul wracked with sin and guilt. Sin and guilt distort reality from inside and out! This is, in one sense, what our Lord means when he says, “Therefore be careful lest the light in you be darkness.” Without the light of Christ, seeing is believing a lie!

However, the light of Christ is the wisdom of God. Faith (the topic of last month’s article) is a function of a soul liberated from sin and guilt. Faith brightens the eye; faith illumines the mind; faith whitens the heart! This is, in one sense, what our Lord means when he says, “If then your whole body is full of light, having no part dark, it will be wholly bright, as when a lamp with its rays gives you light.” With the light of Christ’s wisdom believing is seeing the truth! This is what C. S. Lewis meant when he said in a famous quotes: “I believe in Christianity as I believe that the sun has risen: not only because I see it, but because by it I see everything else.”

In the book, Raised? Finding Jesus by Doubting the Resurrection, author Jonathan Dodson writes, “The resurrection is a dividing line—a parting claim.” Here’s how he illustrates that “dividing line”:

The resurrection is like a river that parts a road. People are on the road approaching the river. Arriving at the river of the resurrection, you look across it to where the road continues and see quite a few cars are there. In your doubt, you can’t imagine how people got to the other side of the river. How did they get across? How can rational people come to the belief that Jesus died and rose from the dead?

Faith is the unnoticed ferry, lying hidden near the bank of the river that can take us from the riverbank of doubt … to the other side of belief in the resurrection. [But] it’s not blind faith … You don’t cross by closing your eyes and wishing Jesus’ resurrection was true. No. You cross with your eyes wide open. This is an informed faith, faith in a historical plausible resurrection, attested by hundreds of witnesses, one proven to be worth believing.

In conclusion, you’ll notice there is a dividing line. On one side, there are those who see in order to believe; on the other side, there are those who believe in order to see. The resurrection of Christ is God’s proclamation that believing is seeing the truth, the truth that we are sinners in need of a savior! What side of the line are you on? If you are wracked with sin and guilt receive him now! Repent and believe! Let Christ spiritually resurrect you from death to life today in hopes also of a bodily resurrection when He returns for His church!

Let us close with this prayer from John Piper:

“Lord, open the eyes of our hearts to see the supreme greatness of your wisdom and power. Make our eyes good. Heal our blindness. Fill us with the all-pervading, all-exposing, all-purifying, all-pleasing light of your presence.”

Soli Deo Gloria

Carl

Leave a comment

Filed under Uncategorized

Vanished Boundaries of the PCUSA

17 “You shall not hate your brother in your heart, but you shall reason frankly with your neighbor, lest you incur sin because of him. 18 You shall not take vengeance or bear a grudge against the sons of your own people, but you shall love your neighbor as yourself: I am the LORD. 19 “You shall keep my statutes. You shall not let your cattle breed with a different kind. You shall not sow your field with two kinds of seed, nor shall you wear a garment of cloth made of two kinds of material.

(Lev 19:17-19 ESV)

22 You shall not lie with a male as with a woman; it is an abomination. 23 And you shall not lie with any animal and so make yourself unclean with it, neither shall any woman give herself to an animal to lie with it: it is perversion. (Lev 18:22-23 ESV)

A few years ago a book came out to explain a phenomenon in Protestant Mainline Liberal churches. The book Vanishing Boundaries scientifically correlates diminishing numbers of Liberal church membership and attendance with “vanishing boundaries.” These boundaries are issues of faith and morals. What the church believes (doctrine) and how the church lives in the world (morals) separate us from our pagan neighbors and culture. If what we believe is no different from the culture, and how we live no different from the culture then what do we offer that is different? If we are no different, then we are irrelevant, salt that has lost its taste.

Being different (holy) is a major theme in Scripture. Let me give you a lengthy example. Many people have told me that they have tried on many occasions to read the bible from Genesis to Revelation. They move along very well through Genesis and Exodus, but things come to a screeching halt when they get to Leviticus. Why? I think part of the problem is that most people do not understand the placement of Leviticus. Leviticus is situated after Exodus and before Numbers. Of course this is self-evident, but what more does it mean? Exodus is about leaving the land of bondage and sin (literally and figuratively), while Numbers is about entering the promise land of freedom and holiness in God. Leviticus is simply about preparing the people of God to live lives that are set apart, consecrated to God—in a word holy. The children of Israel needed a spiritual detox. They needed to be detoxed from Egypt. God had taken the Jew out of Egypt, but now God must take Egypt out of the Jew. Too much of Egypt is still in them. In order for Israel to be God’s people they must be wholly unlike the gentiles of Egypt and Canaan. To do this God lays down certain specific “boundaries” in Leviticus. God has already given them the Ten Commandments from on high, a sort of birds-eye-view of morality. However, the people also needed examples or cases on how the Ten Commandments are to be worked out. How do we apply God’s law to everyday living? What does holiness look like on the ground from a worm’s perspective? This is the purpose of Leviticus. This is why Leviticus is so specific, clear and unambiguous about so many issues. Leviticus provides a moral order for Israel in the midst of the moral chaos around them.

Another important point to make is to note not only the specificity of the law in Leviticus, but also the types of law that are specified. Broadly speaking, in the Scripture, there are three types of law: Ritual, Civil, and Moral. Ritual law deals with the religion of Israel. An example of this are the laws surrounding animal sacrifice. Secondly, Civil law deals with political, judicial, and social issues. These laws serve to govern the civic life of Israel as a nation. Examples of this sort of law(s) deal with certain expectations and penalties surrounding certain civil statutes. So if someone were put to death for committing adultery then the penalty is an example of the civil use of the law. Thirdly, there is the moral law. This is (I hope) self-evident. The moral law governs behavior, intent, and results stemming from certain behavior. The moral law defines what is right and wrong, good and evil. An example of this is adultery. Adultery is evil (and so are all sex outside of marriage between one man and one woman). So, in light of this, acts of adultery are wrong. Now, a discerning mind will notice that though these are distinctions it does not mean that they are separate. Civil law goes with the moral law. The penalty of adultery is a civil issue, but the wrongness of adultery is a moral issue. In fact, morality is the foundation of civil law. This is true even in our modern, secular (increasingly) pagan culture. An immoral law is by definition an unjust law; and an unjust law is no law at all a la St. Augustine! The same is true for the ritual law of Israel. For the theocratic state of ancient Israel, ritual law (though distinct) was mandated by the State; if one violated a ritual law that person not only violated the ritual aspect of the law, but also the moral. Why?—because God said so (Ipse Dixit)! If God said “eat this, but don’t eat that!” and we did the opposite… we violated not only the ritual law, and not only the civil law, but the moral law as well.

You may be asking right now—why are we getting a lecture on law? You said this was going to be brief. Well these distinctions are essential for you to understand what I will share next. Chapter 19 lays down specific statutes that deal with seeds and cattle and garments, while Chapter 18 deals with illicit, sexual relations and acts. Chapter 18 is primarily dealing with moral issues. Chapter 19 is primarily dealing with civic, social issues. Many biblical scholars believe that the statutes concerning the mixing or not mixing of different cattle, seeds, and clothing material serve also as object lessons for Israel, lessons and statutes that teach and prohibit the Israelites not to mix with the pagans of Canaan, like they had done with the Egyptians. This is God’s way of saying he wants Israel to be nothing like the pagans, not only concerning issues of faith and morality, but even things like how one tends his livestock, how one tends the land, and even as in how one tends to dress. So, the least we can say is that chapter 19 is about civil, social, even ritual issues. The text is not making an argument of moral equivalence: that is to say, mixing and matching your wardrobe is morally equivalent to homosexuality or bestiality. Now, Chapter 18 is not primarily about civic, social, ritual issues; it is about moral issues. Sexual immorality was as common in the ancient pagan world as it is in today’s modern, neo-pagan world. As I noted earlier, God not only wanted Israel out of Egypt, but Egypt out of Israel. Unlike civil and religious laws (which are provisional), the moral law never changes. What is sin in the past is sin in the present and will be sin tomorrow!

Now the purpose of the religious, civil, and moral laws of Israel was to distinguish Israel’s gentile pagan neighbors from the people of Israel. God was setting boundary lines of demarcation, separating the Old Testament church of Israel from the mass of pagan perdition. The same was true for the first century church. The apostle John noted this distinction. He wrote:  And the world is passing away along with its desires, but whoever does the will of God abides forever. (1Jo 2:17 ESV). John was telling his generation that though they are in the world they are not of the world.

As I write this the PCUSA has officially changed her constitution to reflect our pagan culture. The PCUSA has erased the boundary lines. By officially defining marriage to include same gender she is calling good evil and evil good. I fear that the jugular is cut, and she will bleed to death. The boundaries have vanished, and a flood gate of iniquity will follow on a scale never seen. My heart grieves. Pray that she will repent and turn back to her God!

Soli Deo Gloria

Carl

Leave a comment

Filed under Uncategorized

Faith and Belief!!

Examine yourselves, to see whether you are in the faith. Test yourselves. Or do you not realize this about yourselves, that Jesus Christ is in you?–unless indeed you fail to meet the test!

(2Co13:5 ESV)

What is faith? What is belief? Faith and belief in the English language are used quite differently! There is a classical distinction in theology regarding faith. In one sense there is faith, a faith whereby we have a strong connection toward someone or something! Faith in this sense is a grasping, a clutching, a hanging onto that which you trust with dependency, sincerity, and hope! This sense of faith is what we do. Faith is subjective.

However, there is another sense of faith, faith in the sense of what we believe, i.e., the object of our faith. This is normally what we mean in the English language when we speak of belief! Belief is objective!

There is a line from a famous Peanuts cartoon which combines these two notions of faith. It says, “It doesn’t matter what you believe, as long as you’re sincere!” In this statement, “sincerity” correlates with our first notion of faith; it’s someone’s faith sincerely grasping, clutching, and hanging onto something with dependency and trust! What is this something? It’s “what you believe!” But notice the rather odd, naïve clause: “It doesn’t matter what you believe….” Isn’t it rather naïve to trust if that which we trust is not trustworthy? This “peanutty” assertion assumes that the act of trusting makes something trustworthy! But isn’t it the other way around? Doesn’t a trustworthy person or thing make the act of trusting possible? You wouldn’t trust ISIS to teach your children tolerance? Would you? Nor would you think that by trusting ISIS to teach your children tolerance would make ISIS trust worthy! How absurd!!

But how many of us treat our Christian faith this way? We think that the content of our faith is irrelevant! All that matters is our faith, our trusting, and our sincerity! But this could not be further from the truth! Hell will be full of sincere people who have been sincerely wrong! Sincerity is not the touchstone of genuine, saving faith! The touchstone of saving faith is the object of faith. The object of the Christian faith is Christ. Paul warns us to examine our lives to see if we are “in the faith!” Christ is the only way to be saved or justified because Christ is the only trustworthy object of faith!

Our belief about Jesus is essential to salvation. However, belief about Jesus is not enough. Belief about Jesus requires belief in Jesus! Belief in Jesus is a sinner’s grasping, clutching, a hanging onto and trusting in Jesus with dependency and sincerity! Faith without belief is mindless, but belief without faith is heartless!

Last month I wrote on the subject of the gospel. I shared that the gospel is all about Jesus: his life, death, burial, and resurrection! But what connects a sinner to the gospel of salvation? What connects us to Jesus? One of the many gifts God gives in saving us is the gift of faith. Paul says, “For by grace you have been saved through faith. And this is not your own doing; it is the gift of God…”(Eph 2:8 ESV). Paul, in II Corinthians, notes that the object of “the faith” (Christ), is a central touchstone for whether we are a genuine believer or not. But Paul also notes in Ephesians that the act of faith, i.e. the act of sincere trusting, is also a gift! This gift of faith is conversion!

Conversion is one of the marks of a true believer, and a healthy church! Faith is turning to, and trusting in Jesus! Faith is what we do! Faith is an ability we have, but an ability we do not have on our own! Faith is an ability God gives graciously! But, faith is only half of the equation. Next month I will discuss the second half of conversion: that is repentance! But for now, may God continue to build us up in our faith! May our ability to sincerely trust and depend upon God mature us, to grow us into mature believers, and to grow us into a mature church!

Soli Deo Gloria

Carl

Leave a comment

Filed under Uncategorized

Partnership Of The Gospel

Paul and Timothy, servants of Christ Jesus, To all the saints in Christ Jesus who are at Philippi, with the overseers and deacons: 2 Grace to you and peace from God our Father and the Lord Jesus Christ. 3 I thank my God in all my remembrance of you, 4 always in every prayer of mine for you all making my prayer with joy, 5 because of your partnership in the gospel from the first day until now.

(Phi 1:1-5 ESV)

The renowned British journalist and satirist, Malcolm Muggeridge, famously quipped that “All new news is old news happening to new people!”  It is true that what is “new” to us many times is not new, but must be rediscovered. This rediscovery is “old news” to “new people!”

This is especially true of the greatest of all news, that is, the gospel! The term gospel literally means good news! In general, the gospel is the good news of salvation: human beings being rescued from eternal damnation by running from sin (repenting) and trusting in Jesus (faith). The source of this good news is God the Father. It originated from God the Father. However, the good news is primarily about the person and work of Jesus Christ. Christ is the only mediator between man and God, connecting us to the Father.

So there are four main components to the gospel: God, man, Christ, and human response!

To summarize these four components, the bible teaches that God is holy, so holy that he must judge and punish sin. That is bad news for human beings! Why? The bible teaches that all human beings are born sinful, alienated, and hostile to God. Because of this, all human beings are subject to the just wrath of God. Simply put, we human beings aren’t right with God because something isn’t right with us, but deeply wrong. And that wrong is the moral condition of sin. The combination of a holy God and sinful man is like oil and water. It doesn’t mix.

This is where Jesus comes into the mix. Jesus Christ who is fully human and fully God, lived a sinless life, died and shed his blood on the cross to bear God’s just wrath in the place for all who believe in him, and rose from the grave to bring eternal life. God commands everyone to respond to the message of the gospel through faith and repentance, to turn from their sins and trust in Christ in order to be saved! This is the gospel, the good news. What is deeply wrong with us is supernaturally made right by faith in Christ through the power of the Holy Spirit. This is what Paul means when he speaks of the “righteousness of God!” We are made right with God or made righteous, not by our self-righteousness, but Christ’s righteousness for us!

Why is this important for us to rediscover? One reason, as Martin Luther noted, is that in “every generation there will be the threat of the gospel going into eclipse.  Every time the gospel is proclaimed, clearly and boldly, opposition arises and conflict comes.” Satan hates the gospel and he will do any and everything he can to erase the good news! The Prince of the Puritans John Owen opined that Satan’s attack comes via the rage of a lion through persecution and/or the subtly of a serpent through false teachers within the church. Regarding the latter, this was what was happening during the 16th century Reformation! The Reformers, as Luther, Calvin, and others, rediscovered the good news of the gospel after generations, and generations of the gospel being eclipsed.

Another reason why it’s important for us to reclaim and rediscover the gospel is that a gospel driven church is a healthy church. As I shared with you previously, I agree with Mark Dever that a gospel driven church (what he calls the Third Mark of a Healthy Church), along with Expository Preaching, and Biblical Theology, is an essential mark of a healthy church. A gospel driven church builds unity and brings glory to God. In fact Paul speaks of a special unity we have in the church based upon the gospel. He described the church of Philippi’s unity based upon the gospel as a “partnership of the gospel!” Partnership is a technical term in New Testament Greek referring to “oneness.” Just as the gospel of salvation makes the individual Christian one in Christ, likewise the gospel fellowship of believers in the church makes us all one together as the body of Christ. This is the bases of our unity. The gospel is the glue which hold us together!

In conclusion, there is much cause for division in the American church today. It is during times as this that the gospel is further eclipsed, causing further division and discord! May we in our local churches continue to rediscover the gospel in our lives, and in the life of the church! May the old time religion of the gospel renew us! May this two thousand year old news continue to make us new people in Christ!

Leave a comment

Filed under Uncategorized

A New Year’s Reflection

For I am not ashamed of the gospel, for it is the power of God for salvation to everyone who believes, to the Jew first and also to the Greek. 17 For in it the righteousness of God is revealed from faith for faith, as it is written, “The righteous shall live by faith.” (Rom 1:16-17 ESV)

We hear in today’s modern pop-psychology and, as well as, in much of the self-help genre in both secular (and unfortunately) Christian book stores that in order to be prosperous or happy or upright we need to think more positively about ourselves, that all we need is a little more faith in ourselves. This attitude is usually most noticeable during the New Year: our culture “resolves” to live better; we resolve to live our lives empowered to live upright. “Upright” is defined by exercise, eating right, losing weight, reading more books and a little less television…etc. The problem is that we quickly burn out, and lose power to keep the standards that we have created. One reason is that we lack the mental focus, the desire, and the will to be upright. In biblical terms, we simply lack faith.

Of course mature Christians and astutely pious students of the Bible (which are one and the same) know that… that is the problem: that is, the object of our faith is misapplied. The object of faith—that is, our mental focus, desire, and will—ought to never be ourselves! We are too weak of a crutch to depend upon! Biblical faith is never focused on the power of the human will and desire, but on God’s power, that is, the power of God to save us. Our help always comes from the Lord!  God helps us in Christ, we who are totally helpless in saving ourselves from spiritual death, from the wrath of God, from meaninglessness and purposelessness. In one sense God always saves us from ourselves. God never helps those who help themselves! When we help ourselves (self-righteousness) we make our lives, our human condition worse.  This is why Paul proclaims proudly that he (Paul) is not ashamed but proud of God’s Gospel which is God’s own power (and only power) able to save us. All one must do is believe, have faith in God’s power to change us in the only way that really counts. The result of salvation is being right with God or upright with God. Salvation is not a promise of wealth, health, and happiness as preached by today’s false prophets.” Salvation is not a “this-worldly salvation” (though we can be saved now in this world). Salvation is an “other-worldly salvation.” Salvation is not spatio-temporal. Salvation transcends our space-time continuum. No doubt God the Father through Christ will on the Lord’s Day break into space and time to bring heaven to earth, a total transformation of the heavens and the earth with our Lord’s second coming to resurrect those whom are dead in Christ. But, for now, God spiritually saves us by making us right with Him (righteous) in and through Christ’s active and passive obedience/righteousness. We receive this gift through faith. God gives this gift by grace. This great salvation empowers us to live for God as salt and light and as witnesses to this great salvation to our corrupt generation.

In conclusion, during this New Year may all of us resolve to refuse to focus on ourselves, but wholly on God’s power, His power to continually change us!  All we must do, day-in and day-out, is to have faith: that is, to trust and obey and focus our minds on God’s great salvation to daily renew our minds or as Paul says: “The just shall live by faith!”  May we too live by faith.

Soli Deo Gloria

Carl

Leave a comment

Filed under Uncategorized

Nothing is Impossible for God!

18 Now the birth of Jesus the Messiah took place in this way. When his mother Mary had been engaged to Joseph, but before they lived together, she was found to be with child from the Holy Spirit….22 All this took place to fulfill what had been spoken by the Lord through the prophet: 23 “Look, the virgin shall conceive and bear a son, and they shall name him Emmanuel,” which means, “God is with us.” (Mat 1:18, 22-23 NRS)

• Why is it important for us (as Christians) to believe in the doctrine of the Virgin Birth—other than of course it’s taught in the Scripture? What use is it? It is a sacrifice of our intelligence?
Pastor William Carter said that on his Christmas vacation on his first year in college, he had become an expert on the birds and the bees. Biology was his major, and after a semester in the freshman class, he was certain that he knew more biology than most adults did in his hometown … including his minister. A few days before Christmas, he stopped in to see him. He received him warmly and asked how he had fared in his first semester. “Okay,” he replied, avoiding the subject of his mediocre grades. But then he told his pastor, “I’ve come home with some questions.”
“Really?” the pastor replied. “Like what?”
“Like the virgin birth. I’ve taken a lot of biology, as you know,” which meant one semester in which he received a B-, “and I think this whole business of a virgin birth doesn’t make much sense to me. It doesn’t fit with what I have learned in biology class.”
“What’s the problem?” he asked.
“There had to be a father,” he announced. “Either it was Joseph or somebody else.”
His pastor looked at him with a coy smile and said, “How can you be so sure?”
“Oh, come on,” he said. “That’s not the way it works. There had to be a father.”
His pastor didn’t back down. Instead he said something that Carter said he’ll never forget: “So – why not God?”

That’s a good response “Why not God?” In fact that is not only a reasonable response, but a biblical response: “…she was found to be with child from the Holy Spirit….” Luke says it this way: “34 And Mary said to the angel, “How will this be, since I am a virgin?” 35 And the angel answered her, “The Holy Spirit will come upon you, and the power of the Most High will overshadow you; therefore the child to be born will be called holy–the Son of God. 36 And behold, your relative Elizabeth in her old age has also conceived a son, and this is the sixth month with her who was called barren. 37 For nothing will be impossible with God.” (Luk 1: 34-37ESV) Notice Mary is just as dumbfounded as Carter the first-semester-biology major (with one class with a B-) who cynically asks “come on! That’s not how it works?” Mary responds in a similar way: “How will this be, since I am a virgin?” We would ask today: “Is it in the water?” The difference between Carter and Mary is that Carter is a cynic and Mary was not. Skepticism and cynicism are not intellectual virtues. Skepticism and cynicism are usually the coward’s-way-out. Anyone can be a skeptic and cynic: the minimum requirement is to have both a small mind and small heart. Carter at the time was small minded and hearted indicative of his sophomoric reliance on his grasp on how things really work. But Mary did not rely on her own grasp of how things work; she relied on and had a sufficient grasp on another reality, the way things are truly done. Mary did not look to secondary causes for reality, but the primary cause of reality (i.e. God). Gabriel reminds Mary this: “For nothing will be impossible for God!” In other words God can not only override nature and natural causes and natural laws, but God can (and has) suspend nature and natural causes and natural laws: God can suspend gravity, second-law of thermodynamics, all the laws of physics. Why? God made it!! For Mary to believe this was the most reasonable thing to do. But in regard to Carter (the young sophomoric cynic) he came to realized how unreasonable he was, realizing he had been the one sacrificing his intelligence. Only a fool would say there is no God! And only a fool would say such a thing (Virgin Birth) proves impossible for God!
• But this does not answer my original question: why is it important for us to believe in the Virgin Birth? What use is it? There are at least two reasons the Virgin Birth is useful for Christians.
First, the Virgin Birth teaches us that God occupied history. Unlike the Occupy-Wall Street- Protesters, God did not pitch a tent on property that was not his; God pitched His tent on his own property. The Virgin Birth teaches and affirms what all of Scripture teaches as affirms—that is that the Creator is sovereign over all of His creation (including us), that God is outside of space-and-time, yet intimately within space and time, that He is concerned about us, so concerned that God became flesh (incarnation). This flies in the face of our modern pagan culture—our neo-pagan, sophomoric, cynical culture rejects the Virgin Birth. The reason? We are taught that we live in a closed-universe: closed off from God. All things existing are material and can be explained mechanistically or materially. [science defined by closed-universe]. The problem with this so called scientific definition or understanding of reality is that it is not based upon science, but philosophy. Philosophically, the Virgin Birth teaches that our universe is open. Theologically it is open to God as Creator and Redeemer in Christ through the incarnation.
The second reason the Virgin Birth is useful is that it teaches that Jesus was not a mere man: God-Man. Familiarity can breed disrespect and contempt. When you get to know someone the mystique fades and we’re no longer interested. This happened to Jesus. People in his hometown of Nazareth did not honor Jesus because he was a hometown boy. There is no mystique to a hometown-boy. You don’t want a hometown-boy whom you’ve baby-sitted and changed diapers to grow-up and become your OB-GYN? The Virgin Birth gives us an insight into just how radically different and unique Jesus was and is. The Virgin Birth teaches that though God became flesh (familiar) the manner of His incarnation makes Him unfamiliar. Unlike Carter the young sophomoric cynic who is comfortable with what is familiar, Mary accepted the unfamiliar mystique of her virgin birth.
In conclusion, as we make our preparations during this second Sunday of Advent, may we keep focus on not only the meaning of Christmas (Jesus born to die) but also the mystique of Christmas. Too often we are too familiar with the biblical stories of Christmas, too comfortable with what we think we know. May we become less like Carter the young sophomoric cynic, and be more like Mary (one of the greatest women of faith) whose faith was open to God and His activity in this world, and a faith that was challenged, not fixed on the familiar and comfortable but willing to be stretched and molded, knowing nothing is impossible for God. AMEN!

Leave a comment

Filed under Uncategorized