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Jeremiah 33: You Are Not Rejected

September 24, 2017 Leave a comment

Most Christians I know have felt rejected by God at some point in their life. Some of them struggle with this feeling on a regular basis. This is especially true when they have some sin they keep repeating or believe they have committed a sin so big God cannot accept them again. As most of us have discovered at some point, sin has real negative consequences in our life, sometimes very grave consequences, and when we are facing this difficult repercussions, it feels like God is not there with us, and thus has rejected us. The people of God in Jeremiah 33 felt this too.

23 The word of the Lord came to Jeremiah: 24 “Have you not observed that these people are saying, ‘The Lord has rejected the two clans that he chose’? Thus they have despised my people so that they are no longer a nation in their sight. 25 Thus says the Lord: If I have not established my covenant with day and night and the fixed order of heaven and earth, 26 then I will reject the offspring of Jacob and David my servant and will not choose one of his offspring to rule over the offspring of Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob. For I will restore their fortunes and will have mercy on them.”

The people of Israel and Judah are in exile. They are no longer under their own kings, but are being ruled at home and abroad by the Babylonian empire. Their countries and their central cities have been destroyed. Their holy places are in ruins. And they know it is because of their sin, because they neglected justice and worshiped the gods of Babylon that YHWH allowed Babylon to destroy their nation. Naturally, in their present state of despair, they conclude God has rejected them.

YHWH has always allowed for freedom to sin. Such liberty is built into the structure of Creation. Sin, because it is a deviation from the good God’s design, has negative consequences. God allows for these negative consequences because He wants human choice to have power to impact the world positively. With this power also comes the ability to impact the world negatively. When these painful consequences occur, it is tempting to, like the exiles, believe God has rejected us.

As we see, this is not the case. God is not giving up on His people. He made promises a thousand years prior and hundreds of years prior which he is not abandoning. He is faithful even when the people who claim to follow Him are faithless. The end is not the present moment of suffering, the end is instead a full restoration provided not through the faithfulness of His people, but by his own mercy. He always has a plan for good.

For those who have seen Jesus in the Scriptures and met Him in our lives, how much more does this promise ring true! Jesus puts on display mercy and acceptance even of those who have rejected Him, even of those who killed Him, in a way so clear it cannot be mistaken. Jesus is the character of God in human flesh and in the gospels we see Him reaching out to the most rejected sinners on page after page. The message of God to His people is always, ultimately one of hope. He is always standing with open arms to all, even those who run from him, waiting for them to turn and fall into His unconditionally loving embrace.

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John’s Birth Narrative

April 10, 2017 Leave a comment

I’ve taught about this topic based on this section of text at church before, but for no reason in particular, this passage has been running through my head again and I thought I would try to clarify and solidify my thoughts through writing.

Unlike the gospels of Luke and Matthew, the gospel of John does not tell us about the birth story of Jesus at the beginning of the book. Instead, John chooses to explain Jesus’ entrance into the world as the Creator God taking on human flesh to bear His image perfectly and put on display humanity as humanity was intended to be. However, it is my contention that John’s gospel does contain a birth narrative, but the birth of Jesus does not occur until the end of the book.

So as not to get bogged down, we will be flying through these texts, only pointing out what is pertinent to my argument, and deliberately ignoring some of the most important elements of the story. We’ll start with Jesus on the cross nearing death.

John 19.25a-27
But standing by the cross of Jesus were His mother, and His mother’s sister, Mary the wife of Clopas, and Mary Magdalene.
26 When Jesus then saw His mother, and the disciple whom He loved standing nearby, He *said to His mother, “Woman, behold, your son!” 27 Then He *said to the disciple, “Behold, your mother!” From that hour the disciple took her into his own household.

For our purposes, there’s only one thing I want you to pay attention to in this passage, which we probably normally wouldn’t give a second thought. Who are the women here? Well, we have Jesus’ mother, whose name every reader or hearer (hereon, we’ll use only the term reader, even though most of John’s original audience heard this text read to them) knows. Mary of course. Then we have Mary and Mary. So, Mary, Mary, and Mary.

The text goes on to tell us about the death of Jesus. He’s given sour wine, then He parallels Elohim in Genesis, with, “It is finished.” At this moment, Jesus gives up His Spirit.

Everyone is in a hurry to bring him down from the cross before the Sabbath or they would have to leave the bodies on the cross for a whole day cuz silly reasons. To double check to make sure Jesus was dead, they pierce his side, and out of him flows blood and water. He was quite dead.

Then we come to the story of Jesus’ burial.

John 19.38-42
After these things Joseph of Arimathea, being a disciple of Jesus, but a secret one for fear of the Jews, asked Pilate that he might take away the body of Jesus; and Pilate granted permission. So he came and took away His body.
39 Nicodemus, who had first come to Him by night, also came, bringing a mixture of myrrh and aloes, about a hundred pounds weight. 40 So they took the body of Jesus and bound it in linen wrappings with the spices, as is the burial custom of the Jews. 41 Now in the place where He was crucified there was a garden, and in the garden a new tomb in which no one had yet been laid. 42 Therefore because of the Jewish day of preparation, since the tomb was nearby, they laid Jesus there.

We’re reading through John and we hear Mary, Mary, Mary, there is a ten verse depiction of Jesus’ death, and after we come immediately to Joseph. Mary, Mary, Mary… Joseph. “Mary” is fresh in reader’s minds, and then “Joseph.” What is commonly associated with these two names in close proximity to one another? Jesus’ birth. I think John wants us to have the story of His birth in mind right now. Given that both of these names are common, it is perfectly plausible their usage is purely coincidental. I would tend toward calling it a coincidence, except for other elements of the text.

Because of what we see in the rest of this gospel, we know John is a well thought out writer who is very deliberate about what he says. Rarely, if ever, does he provide specific details without reason. He tells us Jesus is going to be laid in a tomb, a new tomb. No one had ever been laid in it. Just like the Virgin Mary when she gave birth to Jesus (Pun not intended in the Greek). It’s a virgin tomb.

Here’s the kicker of the passage, and perhaps the most important reason for seeing this part of John as a sort of birth narrative. John tells us Nicodemus is there. Nicodemus is here to both foreshadow what is about to happen and to provide a theological explanation of what does happen. No other gospel tells us about him. Not only that, John also happens to specifically point us to the first meeting Nicodemus had with Jesus. The importance of referencing Nicodemus is found in this conversation.

Nicodemus comes to Jesus at night to get some questions answered. We pick up this iconic conversation in John 3.2

this man came to Jesus by night and said to Him, “Rabbi, we know that You have come from God as a teacher; for no one can do these signs that You do unless God is with him.” Jesus answered and said to him, “Truly, truly, I say to you, unless one is born again he cannot see the kingdom of God.”

Nicodemus *said to Him, “How can a man be born when he is old? He cannot enter a second time into his mother’s womb and be born, can he?” Jesus answered, “Truly, truly, I say to you, unless one is born of water and the Spirit he cannot enter into the kingdom of God. That which is born of the flesh is flesh, and that which is born of the Spirit is spirit. Do not be amazed that I said to you, ‘You must be born again.’The wind blows where it wishes and you hear the sound of it, but do not know where it comes from and where it is going; so is everyone who is born of the Spirit.”

Jesus continues on in the conversation to frame this new birth as a “heavenly thing” and as what brings the “life of the age (of the kingdom of God)” to the reborn. He also talks about himself being raised up as the means by which the people of God will receive the salvation from death to receive the life he speaks about in this passage.

With this background in mind we come to the resurrection in John 20, the climactic moment of the author’s birth narrative. In this chapter, Mary goes to Jesus’ virgin tomb and finds it empty. Later she is the first to see the risen Jesus whom she mistakenly believes to be the gardener.

John’s reference to the story of Nicodemus provides one lens through which we are to view Jesus’ resurrection. It is the new spiritual birth which allows the reborn to see the kingdom of God. What was confusing in John 3 has now become quite clear. No, it’s not about climbing back into the mother’s womb. Other than being impossible, that would simply result in another birth of the flesh. This is a birth of a different sort.

The gestation process of the new birth takes place in a tomb. The precursor to a birth of the spirit is a death to the old fleshly ways of law, sin, division, centralized religious control, and the like. Jesus’ death to sin on the cross was his conception and the resurrection with a new, imperishable body is his birth. Jesus was born again with a body fit to see and experience the kingdom of God.

The resurrected Jesus in the garden is the new Adam, the first of humanity to experience both a birth of water and one of spirit. Jesus lovers are to follow him into the tomb that they might also be born, “not of [blood nor of the will of the flesh nor of the will of man, but of God” (John 1.13). As revealed in the conversation with Nicodemus, it is the raising up of Jesus like the serpent which enables us to share with Jesus in this spiritual rebirth through death and resurrection – experiencing the life of the age in the present as we await the fullness of this life in the future.

*As a pertinent post-script, Jesus frames his death and resurrection as a birth story in John 16.20-22 as well.

The Church, the Gospel, and abuse of the pulpit

January 22, 2012 1 comment

The following is written by John Weirick. John is a physically distant and electronically close friend. He is a lover of Jesus, leader of men, communicator of the gospel, and, as displayed here, a wonderful exegete of the culture. You can find his website in my blogroll to the right.

Atlanta, Georgia’s Ebenezer Baptist Church, according to its website, is “built on the solid rock of Jesus Christ,” and has long been an environment fostering the social justice movement. Boasting its great history as a leading site of Civil Rights events and coordination, Ebenezer Baptist was even pastored by Martin Luther King, Jr. in the 1960s.

It’s not surprising that this was the location hosting senior White House adviser, Valerie Jarrett, on the anniversary of Dr. King’s birth. It was reported that Jarrett praised Dr. King’s work as essential to the possibility of Barack Obama ascending to the Oval Office. Many may also remember that then-Senator Obama manned the pulpit in 2008 prior to reaching the presidency.

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“It felt appropriate to have her here,” said Rev. Raphael Warnock. Ebenezer is several weeks into a voter registration drive, which will continue until November elections, providing attendees the opportunity to register in the lobby before leaving the church facilities.

Jarrett spoke before Warnock’s sermon, and garnered the audience’s applause with two remarks in particular:

“We all sleep a little better at night knowing Osama Bin Laden and his lieutenants are not plotting a terrorist attack against the United States.”

“Teachers and firefighters and policemen, whose jobs are now in jeopardy because Congress, well let me be specific, because the Republicans in Congress…”

More thoughts on news stories.    More thoughts on the Gospel.

Warnock’s sermon continued the politically charged theme, leaking tones of his liberation theological bent, even calling out Republican presidential candidate Newt Gingrich:

“Mr. Gingrich, let there be welfare reform, and let it begin with you…He is playing an old game that’s part of the southern strategy…I think he’s relying on old logic of scapegoating and race baiting.”

I am deeply disturbed, and I am not alone.

As we’ve joined Jeremiah on his thoughtful and concerned exposition of what the Church of Jesus should look like, this is no doubt an issue that has broad implications. There is no shortage of discussion material that could be explored here, including the proper relation of politics and the Church, individual Christians involved in politics, government roles, social justice, civil rights, racial tension, liberation theology, and other contentious topics. However, my main concern here is this: how should the Church use the pulpit?

Even setting aside the issue of the “legality” of all but endorsing a political candidate by hosting one of his top advisers and representatives, and speaking against a candidate (threatening non-profit, 501c3 status), this is a bold move by Ebenezer Baptist Church. [IRS: “…Public statements of position (verbal or written) made on behalf of the organization in favor of or in opposition to any candidate for public office clearly violate the prohibition against political campaign activity.”]

Why did Rev. Warnock surrender the pulpit to such a figure? What did he hope to accomplish with this? Was this an intentional, thoughtful use of people’s time attending the church gathering? How is Jarrett’s celebration of the death of Bin Laden providing the audience meaningful spiritual substance? What perception does this give the public at large about Ebenezer Baptist Church? Or about the Church locally, nationally, or globally? Do we want the world to see the Church in this light, as a forum for more political and socioeconomic divisiveness? Does the Church not project a perception of who God is and what He’s like?

How should Jesus’ Church use the pulpit?

A position of leadership and speaking to a gathered body of people should not be taken lightly, and therefore must be stewarded wisely. The pulpit, as a placement of authority, ultimately belongs to God and not man; we are only borrowing it, but we’ll be held responsible for how it is used.

The intention of the pulpit is to proclaim and celebrate God’s truth in Scripture and the world, to remind us of His heart, to call us out of sin and to repentance, to cast vision for the direction God calls his followers, to instigate believers to live adventurously with God’s Spirit in loving and serving the world, and to bring us back to the centrality of life: while we were still stuck in the mire of sin, Jesus dwelt among us, died to put our sins to death, and resurrected to bring us also back to life in Him. The pulpit is about the Gospel, because without it, truth is incomplete, God is too impersonal, the world too un-navigable, our lives of no culminating significance, and grace too unattainable. The pulpit must be used to re-gather God’s people around their purpose for living, enjoying the Creator and His creation.

Perhaps most importantly, in this instance of opening the pulpit to a high-profile guest, where was Jesus?  Not once was Christ mentioned, nor was God name-dropped; neither was there a semblance of biblical teaching, instruction, or leading of attendees into a holistic, godly life following Jesus. [I realize the nature of news reports is to share only succinct soundbites and the most sensational statements, but there has been no shred of Jesus mentioned in any of the broadcasts or transcripts. I would love to be proven incorrect by hearing that Rev. Warnock actually did preach a sermon about Jesus, although it’s hard to argue that the Gospel would not be muddied by including such flagrant speech against a political figure in his same message.] To give a guest speaker, or even a pastor or leader figure, warranted time on the platform to share a message that is void of Jesus and the Gospel, is at best a disjointed, incomplete message, and at worst a disservice and disgrace to the Church for which Jesus died to redeem.

If we contrast how Jesus used the position of the pulpit (although a physical pulpit may not have been the precise location of his teaching), we see Him steward the platform for spiritual authority with great wisdom, boldness, and substance. In the Gospel accounts, for example, we see Jesus preach the Sermon on the Mount and visit synagogues to read Scripture. In preaching a brief message based on the prophet Isaiah’s writings, Jesus’ exegesis of Scripture reveals that He is the fulfillment of it. The redeemer of the oppressed, the giver of sight to the blind; despite the imperfection of the world, He is making all things new. We would do well to rightly divide the word of truth in our stewardship of the pulpit.

Do you see unfitting use of the pulpit? What abuses must be avoided? How can we effectively and faithfully steward places and positions of authority?

John writes more at johnweirick.com and is grateful for the opportunity and friendship provided by Jeremiah.

Paul’s Journey to Jerusarome (OH! Clever title…)*

May 27, 2010 5 comments

I’m lazy.

If you don’t read this, the following will be less clear.

Jesus blessed the Jews by his bodily presence and through bringing the full force of the kingdom of God to the epicenter of Judaism. But this not where he stopped. Because after he ascended into heaven, he came back at Pentecost and infused his spirit into the body of believers. Then, the believers become markedly like Jesus: preaching the same message, performing similar healings, having similar conflict with authorities, casting out demons, and Jesus is seen to be doing in spirit form through the disciples essentially what he was doing in his body.

If you want, compare a few passages from Luke part 1 and Luke part 2 (Acts) to see what I mean. Luke 3:21-23/Acts 2:1-13 ; Luke 7:1-10/Acts 10:1-11:18 ; Luke 7:11-17/Acts 9:36-43 ; Luke 5:17-26/Acts 9:32-35 ; Luke 22:66-71/Acts 6:8-15, 7:56 ; Luke 4:40-41, 6:17-19 ; Acts 5:12-16.** These events are not the same, but they are similar. The vast number of similar-type events between Luke part 1 and part 2 at least demonstrates that something significant is going on here. I submit to you that Luke frequently utilizes events in Luke part 2 that resemble events in part 1 as narrative prompts for readers to recall the meanings and implications of the events in part 1 to help the reader interpret the meaning of events in part 2.

Jesus’ journey to Jerusalem was the climax of Luke part 1. In Luke part 2 (Acts), our deliberate author tells about the journey of another character, who is full of the Spirit of Jesus, and his journey to Jerusalem and then to Rome.
Luke does a very similar thing with Paul’s journey to Jerusalem that he did with Jesus’. He consistently reminds his readers as Paul is journeying from city to city that Paul is going to end up in Jerusalem. Although in the end Paul goes to Rome and dies in Rome and the reader already knows he is going there, Luke typically only mentions Paul’s journey to Jerusalem. I believe this is so the reminders have a dual function, to emphasize the importance of going to Jerusalem and to draw out the likeness of Paul’s journey to Jesus’.

When Luke first mentions Paul’s destiny-driven journey to Rome, he describes it similarly to the start of Jesus’ journey to Jerusalem. Acts 19:21 says, “Paul resolved to go to Jerusalem… He said, ‘ After I have been there, I must also see Rome.'” Luke 9:51 says that Jesus “resolutely set out for Jerusalem.” The words “resolved” and “resolutely” are both used in the translations instead of the Greek idioms that Luke used to describe the resolution and determination with which both men went to Jerusalem. After this Acts passage, Luke reiterates throughout Luke 20 and 21 that Paul is going to Jerusalem.

In Luke part 1, the author reminds his readers of Jesus’ journey to Jerusalem and what that meant for the Jewish people in terms of its fulfillment of Messianic prophecy, blessing the Hebrews by bringing the kingdom of God to the core of Judaism. In Acts (Luke part 2), the author also regularly reminds his readers of Paul’s journey to Jerusalem (and then to Rome). Why is he doing this when he talks about Paul’s Roman Holiday? Excellent question Jeremiah. Paul’s journey to Jerusalem/Rome has a similar theological function as Jesus’ journey to Jerusalem. Woah?

Paul also seems to have similar expectations of the outcome of his trip to Jerusalem. In Acts 20:22-24 Paul says, “And now, compelled by the Spirit, I am going to Jerusalem, not knowing what will happen to me there… in every city… prison and hardships are facing me… However, I consider my life worth nothing to me…” Here Paul is implying that he suspects some terrible things are awaiting in Jerusalem, he even hints at death.

Later, Paul’s friends through the Spirit affirm what is going down in Jerusalem. A prophet tied his own hands and feet together with Paul’s belt to illustrate the Spirit’s message to Paul, “‘In this way the Jews of Jerusalem will bind the owner of this belt and will hand him over to the Gentiles'” (Acts 20:11). Like anyone else who was handed over to the Gentiles? Paul’s response, “I am ready not only to be bound, but also to die in Jerusalem for the name of the Lord Jesus” (Acts 20:13). Jesus and Paul have a strikingly similar readiness for the die for the sake of the good news of Jesus Christ, and both appear to have this idea that going to Jerusalem is movement toward their own death.

Perhaps you recall, Luke frequently utilizes events in Luke part 2 that resemble events in part 1 as narrative prompts for readers to recall the meanings and implications of the events in part 1 to help the reader interpret the events in part 2. Paul enters Jerusalem on a good note (21:7), just as Jesus did, but things heat up from there. Paul is taken out of the temple by a Jewish mob and beaten until the Roman authorities wrest him from the mob (21:30-35), the violence of whom “was so great he had to be carried by the soldiers.” Jesus’ beatings rendered him unable to carry his own cross. Both men ended up with their fate in the hands of the Romans because of the hostility of the Jews. Reminiscent. Similar but different.

How about “almost but not quite”? Paul was, just like Jesus, about to be flogged by the Romans at the directive of Roman authorities, but all of the sudden Paul wasn’t flogged because he was a Roman citizen.*** As a reader we’ve had ourselves set up for this dramatic trip to Jerusalem involving a looming expectation of death and explicit foreshadowing of Paul’s suffering there. We are set up for something much like Jesus’ trip to Jerusalem that we are probably well acquainted with. Just when it looks like it’s about to look like the passion story, it shifts and we’re reminded by this new information of Paul’s Roman citizenship that he told us at the outset his story wasn’t ending in Jerusalem.**** His epic journey to Jerusalem then becomes an epic journey to Rome.

Acts 23:11 is the first time that as a reader we hear God chiming in and making His will crystal clear: “‘Take courage” As you have testified about me in Jerusalem, so you must also testify in Rome.'” Then Paul goes before a smorgasbord of elite Roman rulers to whom he powerfully and insistently presents the story of Jesus Messiah. He gets sent to Rome to bring his testimony before Caesar. Rome. As Jerusalem was the center of Judaism and Hebrew culture, Rome is the center of the world. It is the hub of all of the peoples of the known world. The story of Acts ends with Paul spending years in this historically, narratively, and theologically significant city “boldly and without hindrance” preaching “the kingdom of God and” teaching “about the Lord Jesus Christ” (28:31).

My contention is that our delightful storyteller under the inspiration of the Spirit of God is deliberately comparing Paul’s journey to Jesus’ because of the similar but different theological implications of their respective journeys. One theologically significant aspect of Jesus’ was to bring the Messianic Kingdom and full presence of YHWH to the Hebrew people. Paul’s journey was to bring the Messianic Kingdom and full presence of YHWH to the people of the world. I believe Paul’s journey was, in the context of the story, the fulfillment of the Abrahamic covenant from way back in Genesis that Peter reminds us of in an important speech in the beginning of Acts. “He said to Abraham, ‘Through your offspring all peoples of the world will be blessed'” (4: Jesus blessed the Jewish people by bringing them Immanuel, “God with us,” hearkening back to the first part of the Abrahamic covenant (Genesis 12: 2). Paul, only through the Spirit of Jesus, in the climactic event of the book of Acts, fulfilled the second part of the covenant by bringing Immanuel to “all peoples of the world.”

Sigh.

* Please laugh at my absurd parenthetical comment.
**Portions of list are borrowed.
*** Also, Paul went before the Sanhedrin like Jesus and the high priest commanded he be struck, like Jesus was beat while before the Sanhedrin, but Paul was not struck. Almost, not quite.
**** However, Paul’s journey to Jerusalem did result in him going to Rome where he was imprisoned and died. Ultimately Paul’s journey was also one to his own death.

Some Different Thoughts On The Past: Maybe It’s Not The Problem

February 3, 2010 4 comments

This is provocative. It’s a little bit stronger language than I would typically use because I want it to be a little provocative. A lot of people I know at a lot of the churches I have been at have a strong focus on trying to find a reason for their current behavior, emotion, attitude, perspective, etc in some past event or past relationship. It’s been happening for a few years in a few different communities of believers. Somewhere around 80% of my Jesus loving friends seem to be convinced that the past is a key to spiritual growth. Most of that group would say it is an absolute necessity. It’s not really talked about, it’s merely assumed that one has to deal with their childhood in order to be like Jesus today.

I don’t discuss the topic much with people. I seem to talk with them a lot about their past and how they’ve been affected by it, but I don’t talk about the underlying presupposition that focusing on one’s past is necessary or even helpful for growing in likeness to Jesus. I just listen to them talk. I don’t mind it. I don’t even mind the idea that the past is so central to transformation. I just don’t actually believe it. And it confuses me, because I don’t think it’s a central theme of Scripture. I don’t even think a very strong case can be made for it in Scripture. And its frustrating when people insist that I need to deal with my daddy issues, ask about sexual abuse, and tell me I have some deep seated issues that I need to start looking at to figure out where they come from.

Being soaked in an environment like this and being a pragmatist, I’ve tried to do these things that involve looking back at my past. I’ve tried to humor friends and family by trying to humbly engage in something I didn’t actually have much respect for. It didn’t really do anything. I thought more about some of the influences that have contributed to some of my habitual sins and areas of difficulty in following Jesus. But seeing influences doesn’t change actions. I never thought that my past is why I am the way I am and have struggled with sins I have. My sinfulness is not the fault of things that have happened to me or things that I was missing in my life as a child. It’s mine!

Maybe the lives of some people really are simply products of their pasts. It was inevitable that they would sin in area A or struggle in area C or be impatient in area Z, but not for me. I am not as good as those people. I have had a choice at every point of sin in my life. And I have chosen wrong. I really am that bad. I have absolutely nothing to attribute my mistakes to but my own dirty heart and my own foolish decisions. That’s it. When I sin it is only because I am proud and selfish, even though I wish I could attribute it to something else. However, taking responsibility for our own actions is essential to understanding the immensity of God’s love.

I do believe that thinking about and discussing some of the more formative relationships of the past can help people feel like they have a more cogent view of themselves. Although that’s somewhat useful in gaining a self perspective that feels like it fits, which I think is important. I look at my past, and while I know it has shaped me, I also see myself as a different person than the one that experienced what I experienced, than the one that did what I did. If I truly become a new creation through Jesus, then I am not the same. If Jesus has truly freed me, then my past experiences and my past person has no necessary effect on me. If the presence of the Spirit of God in our lives truly is all Scripture says it is, then figuring out our childhood or discovering reasons for our habitual relational interactions isn’t really necessary. What is necessary is that we humble ourselves, crucifying ourselves with Christ so that we no longer live but the Messiah lives in us. True life is not about getting over what is behind, but Jesus in us now as we strain to humbly live for all there is in front of us… thoughts?

Interplay of Wisdom and Humility

January 11, 2010 Leave a comment

I may have written about this before. I’m not really sure. I know there was a period in which I talked about it a lot. Anyway, I’m thinking about it now. Two verses in totally different parts of Scripture incited my ruminating about this concept and what it looks like in life. Proverbs 11:2 makes the simple statement, “with wisdom comes humility.” And much later in the history of the Scriptures, the ever blunt James talks about “the humility that comes from wisdom.”

I’m intrigued by how when one of these two character traits are present, the other characteristic is inevitably on its way. One cannot be both wise and arrogant. Intelligent and arrogant, sure. Clever and cocky? Absolutely. Insightful and proud, very possible. But wisdom is something different. Wisdom walks hand in hand with humility, and if you get a hold of one, you will find yourself holding the other. I want wisdom. My lack of it lately has been so destructive to my life. It’s been so limiting and I have been constantly held back and have often held others back by my own foolishness.

Years ago, just beginning my Jesus following, I knew I needed to be humble. Not knowing how to do that after being cocky, arrogant, and proud of it my whole life, I decided instead of pursuing humility, I would pursue wisdom and trust that the words of Scripture were true. It worked. The more wise I became, the more clearly my position in the world became. Differences between myself and others became increasingly blurry as I saw more clearly the beauty and glory of the one who created us all. I became humble as I saw the things that truly mattered in life and the things that didn’t. As I discovered the meaning of actions, words, touch, beauty, joy, and the necessities of love, I found humility a necessity to actually be wise – to actually live out a life that is truly life.

I love what the verse in James 3:12 says, Who is wise and understanding among you? Let him show it by his good life, by deeds done in the humility that comes from wisdom. Beautiful idea. Truly living involves a life with an overflowing cup of good deeds. I want this verse to be true for me. But, I am in a different spot now. I don’t have wisdom. I don’t see anything with clarity. I don’t feel like I have the capacity to pursue wisdom. What I have right now, is a whole lot of humility. My lack of wisdom has led to developing pride which led to increasing foolishness and then a shattered pride. Here I am, with nothing but nothing. I’m humbled greatly now. Not that I have “great humility,” that’s a misnomer. But rather I have nothing left to fuel my pride, and so I’m left with humility. That leaves me with humility and hope. Hope for something better. Great. Unimaginably great. But first, I need wisdom. Now I’m approaching it from a different route, but may God make the results even greater. May He give generously to all without finding fault, and may God see it fit to grant me wisdom to go along with my humility. And then, a life that evidences both without saying a word.

BTW, I’m in need of a full body deep tissue massage and I lost my massage therapist, any takers?

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