We tend to be very glib with some of our word and expressions without really understanding the depth of their content. One of the movie stars is recently reported to have said, “I’ve been to hell and back” about some difficulties they went through. We say the word without real content, even directing someone to go there. We have various images for hell, lake of fire, etc., but above all it is total and absolute separation from God, and from all relationships. We have no concept of such a horror. A person in this life may not even believe in God, but they are surrounded by Him whether they realize it or not. God’s hand has touched everything we see in the natural world. God has made every person that we meet. All gone. A place totally devoid of grace. It is just from this total blackness that our Lord Jesus Christ has come to redeem us. Our sins require our total separation from God, but in His love He has given us the way of life. If we are not so glib with our words, then we also realize how marvelous a gift we have in our salvation.
There are many practices and systems being advanced today that are supposed to bring inner peace, or a measure of tranquility to the soul. It is certainly true that we need to find peace. Every news source brings another account of a natural or man made disaster. Most of the places people seek for peace provide only a temporary withdrawal from the world, and no lasting strength for life. At one of the most forboding time in the lives of His disciples Jesus said to them, “Peace I leave with you; my peace I give you. I do not give to you as the world gives. Do not let your hearts be troubled and do not be afraid.”(John 14:27) In the following three days God accomplished for us the atonement for our sins, the breaking of the powers of death, and the assurance of our everlasting life through faith in Him. Temporary withdrawals from the trials of life can be helpful, but what we need is the assurance our Lord is strengthening us for this day, and giving us hope for our future. Jesus said, “In this world you will have trouble. But take heart! I have overcome the world.”(16:33) Our peace is not in a technique but in a person, Jesus.
I will start this Good Morning with a confession: I’m an old fogy. I even precede the baby boomer generation. So I grew up in a different era, an era that operated by a whole different set of value than are present today. And yes, I have to defer to my children and grandchildren to teach me the rudiments of modern technology. Yesterday I wrote about parents needing to put a hedge around their children, and coming from an older generation I see this hedge from a different view. I do enjoy the benefits of modern technology. I use the computer for all my writing, correspond by e-mail, and use a cell phone – not yet a smart phone. But I strongly believe that the parental hedge must include putting limits on the electronics our kids use. Limit! That’s a bad word! But all the rest of the kids have them, watch it, play it, are doing it! I never liked those arguments when I heard them from my kids. Parents are not denying kids by monitoring their TV and internet usage, by not buying the smart phone, etc. They are teaching them values, wisdom, and discernment. These are essential lessons for every age.
When God created our first parents they were not perfect in the sense of being complete, being all that God intended them to be. They had much growth ahead of them. They were without sin and they were innocent. When they rebelled from God they lost their innocence. They learned what evil was. Once lost innocence cannot never be regained. This is the tragedy of our modern culture. All of our entertainment media and commercial advertising are robbing our youth of innocence. Even as our first parents, things are presented as attractive, and they learn things that they are not equipped to handle. At times adults will argue that youth need to know these things so they can make the right choices, but they are not mature enough to make those choices. This has had a devastating affect on our young people. Parents have the responsibility to put a shield of protection around their children so they have the proper foundation for making right choices. That foundation must include growing into a relationship with the Lord who made them, and wants the best for them. Only then will then will they see the true beauty of all God has made, and receive it as God intended.
I have mentioned at other times a blogger I like, Kenneth who calls himself Culture Monk. He is a Christian and has some excellent insights into our modern world. Last week he wrote about a real determent to our Christian faith – Christians that don’t act like Christians. He wrote that there is a real problem when we are “surrounded by so many Christians and Christian beliefs that are anything but loving and good.” This is not a new complaint. It has been voiced at times over centuries past. Nor do I think it is unique to Christianity. The same could be said about other faith expressions. The Apostle Paul wrote to the Colossian church, “As God’s chosen people, holy and dearly loved, clothe yourselves with compassion, kindness, humility, gentleness and patience. Bear with each other and forgive one another if any of you has a grievance against someone. Forgive as the Lord forgave you.”(3:12-13) There are many such admonitions in the New Testament. It is also true and none of us lives up to these values all the time, which only means that we are sinful in nature and need to continually turn in humility to our Lord (and others) for forgiveness. But I also think that the complaint about Christians can be an unwillingness to look deeper into the true joy and hope found in Jesus Christ. It is in Jesus, and not just in Christian people, that the real grace of God is found.
There is a real difference between a mirror and a photograph. They both show an image, but a photo can be toughed up to make the subject look good. A mirror shows it like it is. At the Tabernacle, the Old Testament Jewish worship center, there was a bronze basin in which the priests would wash before going into the Holy Place of the sanctuary. To make that basin they collected the highly polished bronze mirrors of the ladies, and shaped them into a large bowl. This basin is symbolic of God’s Word, the Holy Scriptures. When we read the Bible it shows fallen human life as it is with all of its warts and blemishes. It shows us our own life with all of its failures and sins. While the bronze bowl of God’s Word shows us just as we are, it also holds the water for our cleansing. We are washed in the redemptive waters of our baptism, made clean, and able to walk into the presence of God. In Jesus Christ we are made new, not just touched up. God now sees us through the righteousness of Christ. “It is by grace you have been saved, through faith–and this is not from yourselves, it is the gift of God…”(Ephesians 2:8) And we can only bow in humble worship.