Man’s Anger & God’s Righteousness

James 1:20—For the anger of man does not achieve the righteousness of God.

That Scripture came to mind this morning as I reflect on the state of our nation and the political developments in recent years.

Proverbs 29Anger over sin is not a sin in itself, but whenever anger becomes the driving force for what one does, we go off the rails spiritually.

There are legitimate reasons for anger:

  • Over 57 million babies aborted since the Roe v. Wade decision in 1973;
  • The ongoing destruction of Biblical morality in the area of sexual relations and marriage;
  • The assault on religious liberty, particularly for conservative Christians;
  • The trend toward the government as the solution for all problems;
  • The arrogance and increasing corruption of political leaders;
  • The overthrowing of the rule of law in general.

Those are the ones that come readily to mind, but there are others.

How has the Christian community responded? Some have taken a bold stand against this cultural and political devolution; others have caved to the spirit of the age and have tailored their “Christianity” to fit the new trends.

Politically, starting in 2009, a movement arose—and many in the movement were Christians—that sought to reverse some of these trends. Anger helped begin that movement, but it also was focused on a return to basics, both spiritually and constitutionally.

DSC00018For that reason, I was pleased to participate in it. It was given a name: the Tea Party. I have spoken to a number of such groups since their inception, and have done my best to help this movement stay on track by pointing to the principles we need to follow.

What I’m about to say is not an indictment of the movement as a whole because I know enough sincere, honest people who are part of it. However, what I’ve witnessed over time is a tendency to allow anger over what is occurring in the nation to overwhelm the more positive aspects of the movement.

Whenever we let anger dictate our responses, we lose. When we drift away from concentrating on the positive message of restoration and humility before God, seeking His mercy, we lose.

Instead, we latch onto a charismatic figure who only fans the flames of the anger we naturally feel. We overlook his character, his past, and even the things he says that are completely inconsistent with what we claim are our principles.

In the heat of our anger, we lose our souls.

I am just sad this morning. I am now a political outsider. I often feel like one of those lonely voices in the wilderness. It’s not a comfortable place to be.

Yet I am willing to be what God has called me to be. I am willing to continue to speak and write what I believe to be true. And because I also believe that God is a God of mercy as well as discipline and judgment, I continue to hope for the best.

LamentationsIn the face of God’s judgment over His people Israel in the Old Testament, the prophet Jeremiah stated this in the book of Lamentations:

This I recall to my mind; therefore I have hope. The Lord’s lovingkindnesses indeed never cease, for His compassions never fail. They are new every morning.

Great is Your faithfulness. “The Lord is my portion,” says my soul. “Therefore I have hope in Him.”

That’s the only safe place for our hope to reside: in Him. There is no political savior. We will survive the results of this coming election only because there is hope in Him.

Lay aside the anger as your primary motivation. Look to Him instead.

James 1:20—For the anger of man does not achieve the righteousness of God.

The Republican Obituary

I toyed with the idea this morning of writing nothing but Scripture passages. I will get to those, but I have to say a few words as well.

The Republican voters (and for the sake of brevity, I’ll just assume most were Republicans) have decided that a man who rejects nearly every line in past Republican platforms will be their nominee for president.

Republican voters have concluded that morality, integrity, the rule of law, and the Constitution must be discarded in their headlong dash into an angry reaction against all politicians, even someone like Ted Cruz who has fought the good fight for Biblical and constitutional principles all his life.

In doing so, they have brought this nation to the brink of near-total collapse. No matter who wins in the fall, Republican or Democrat, Christian values will be subjected to even greater governmental suppression. No matter how Trump fares in the general election, the very fact of his nomination is a dismal indication that whatever honor and principle remained in the Republican party is now in the past.

This photoshop going around this morning may be accurate:

Republican Tombstone

Resurrection of the Republican party depends on whether it comes to its senses once this debacle is over. Until then, while I will vote for good Republicans down the ticket, I will not associate myself with the man at the top of the ticket. I am now publicly declaring my political independence from the Republican party.

I’ve always said to Republican groups when I’ve spoken to them that I am first a Christian, second a constitutionalist, and third a Republican—and that I will remain a Republican only as long as the party remains true to my first two identities.

The voices have already begun: but if you don’t vote for Trump, that’s a vote for Hillary. I reject that argument, but I won’t address it today. There will be plenty of time in the coming days to explain why I cannot, in good conscience, support Donald Trump.

For now, I’ve been directed, I trust this is by God, to certain Scriptures that, to me, describe our current situation. In II Thessalonians, chapter 2, in the context of what will occur in the endtimes, the apostle Paul explains that many will be willingly deceived, and he ends with these words:

For this reason God will send upon them a deluding influence so that they will believe what is false, in order that they all may be judged who did not believe the truth, but took pleasure in wickedness.

I honestly believe that many have been deceived by Trump. I don’t think this verse applies to Trump specifically, so don’t misunderstand my point. But there is a principle here that does apply. When people are so willing to believe a lie, God allows them to follow their own evil hearts into destruction.

The bigger problem, of course, is that the rest of us are dragged down with them into the consequences of their foolishness.

We’re also admonished in the third chapter of II Timothy,

But realize this, that in the last days difficult times will come. For men will be lovers of self, lovers of money, boastful, arrogant, revilers . . . ungrateful, unholy, unloving, irreconcilable, malicious gossips, without self-control, brutal, haters of good, treacherous, reckless, conceited, lovers of pleasure rather than lovers of God, holding to a form of godliness, although they have denied its power. Avoid such men as these.

I look at that list and see the man who is now the presumptive nominee for the Republicans. His lifestyle is pretty much drawn from this description. And you are telling me I am supposed to vote for him? I will instead take the instruction of that final sentence: avoid such men as these.

Finally, I go to Romans, chapter 1, where in a passage the deals directly with the sin of homosexuality (yes, I said sin, so I might expect some societal blowback for that), Paul then goes on to say,

And just as they did not see fit to acknowledge God any longer, God gave them over to a depraved mind, to do those things which are not proper, being filled with all unrighteousness, wickedness, greed, evil; . . . strife, deceit, malice . . . insolent, arrogant, boastful, inventors of evil . . . without understanding, untrustworthy. . . . And although they know the ordinance of God, that those who practice such things are worthy of death, they not only do the same, but also give hearty approval to those who practice them.

Are we really at that point in our society? It’s no cliché to say that we need to pray now more than ever. Our only hope is to cry out for God’s mercy. Consequences will come first, but we hold out for mercy in the end if enough people awaken to the truth and realize we are on the path to destruction.

This hasn’t been a very uplifting post today. There are times for messages of warning and judgment. This is one of those times.

Lewis: Justice & Mercy

C. S. Lewis 11Is it really merciful not to carry out justice? Is the concept of justice too harsh? Should a Christian believe in punishment for crimes?

C. S. Lewis thought through this issue in an essay he published in 1949 called “The Humanitarian Theory of Punishment.” If we go by feelings, we may think we are being humane in forgiving without real punishment. Lewis disagrees.

The essential act of mercy was to pardon; and pardon in its very essence involves the recognition of guilt and ill-desert in the recipient. If crime is only a disease which needs cure, not sin which deserves punishment, it cannot be pardoned. How can you pardon a man for having a gumboil or a club foot?

Lewis begins with the common-sense acknowledgement that a man is accountable for his actions. No one is accountable for a mere physical deformity; that’s not a moral issue. But there is a real right and wrong for which our choices determine our guilt or innocence. Humanitarians instead wish to treat any “bad” choice as merely a disease for which one is unaccountable. Lewis will not have that.

But the Humanitarian theory want simply to abolish Justice and substitute Mercy for it. This means that you start being “kind” to people before you have considered their rights, and then force upon them supposed kindnesses which no one but you will recognize as kindnesses and which the recipient will feel as abominable cruelties. You have overshot the mark.

Justice-MercyThat may seem counterintuitive to some, but what Lewis is saying is that offering “mercy” to people who never have come to grips with the injustice they have committed is no mercy at all; people need to answer for their sinful actions. That’s the only possible path toward redemption. They will only understand genuine mercy if they first feel the hammer of justice. The Law leads to the Gospel.

Mercy, detached from Justice, grows unmerciful. That is the important paradox. As there are plants which will flourish only in mountain soil, so it appears that Mercy will flower only when it grows in the crannies of the rock of Justice: transplanted to the marshlands of mere Humanitarianism, it becomes a man-eating weed, all the more dangerous because it is still called by the same name as the mountain variety.

Humanitarian mercy is a fake mercy, and dangerous because it tries to pass for the real thing. For mercy to have its full impact, justice must come first.

Charleston’s Testimony to the Power of the Gospel

What has occurred in the aftermath of the unconscionable murders in Charleston is a testament to the power of the Gospel of Jesus Christ. The attitude of forgiveness in the hearts of family members who lost loved ones is a remarkable witness to how God’s love can erase bitterness.

That’s on a personal level, of course. Justice still needs to be meted out to the murderer. One can forgive while simultaneously seeking a just punishment for what he has done. God is a God of both mercy and justice—both need to be seen in this situation.

The other tremendous positive message coming out of Charleston is how the community has bonded together to show that racial harmony is achievable. This is no Ferguson or Baltimore. Again, this is another glowing testimony to how God can bridge any divide.

Charleston Cross

As for the victims of this horrendous act, if they were committed Christians, as their attendance at a midweek Bible study would indicate, they have received exactly what Jesus has promised to all of His followers: eternal life.

Blessed

May none succeed in exploiting this tragedy for political purposes. Instead, let’s rejoice that, even in the midst of such a tragedy, God can be honored.

Lewis: Modern Man & the Sense of Sin

C. S. Lewis 11C. S. Lewis’s “God in the Dock” essay exposes one of the biggest obstacles we face in transmitting the Gospel message: the unwillingness of people to acknowledge they are guilty of anything and are in need of a savior. What Lewis says in this essay has become even more conspicuous in our day.

He writes of what he learned when he spoke to Royal Air Force (R.A.F.) audiences during WWII. One of the first things he learned was that they were skeptical of anything historical. They knew about “the pseudo-scientific picture of the ‘Cave-man'” and had some “picture of ‘the Present.'” But between these, there was nothing. I can affirm that the current generation of students is somewhat similar to this, except they perhaps have no knowledge of the ancient as well. They kind of know what happened during their own lifetimes, and that is all.

Then we come to his discussion of the awareness of sin, or rather the lack of awareness:

The greatest barrier I have met is the almost total absence from the minds of my audience of any sense of sin. . . . The early Christian preachers could assume in their hearers . . . a sense of guilt. . . . Thus the Christian message was in those days unmistakably the Evangelium, the Good News. It promised healing to those who knew they were sick. We have to convince our hearers of the unwelcome diagnosis before we can expect them to welcome the news of the remedy.

HumilityThis is a great deception, of course, and one we actively cultivate. I believe everyone does realize the problem, but we do our best to convince ourselves that we are, nevertheless, acceptable to God regardless of our shortcomings. We love to use words like “shortcomings” and “mistakes” rather than “sin.” They sound much less accusatory.

Even though we are the ones who are to be condemned for our rebellion, we use all manner of twisted logic to make God the one who should be ashamed of Himself. As Lewis notes,

The ancient man approached God (or even the gods) as the accused person approaches his judge. For the modern man the roles are reversed. He is the judge: God is in the dock. He is quite a kindly judge: if God should have a reasonable defence for being the god who permits war, poverty and disease, he is ready to listen to it. The trial may even end in God’s acquittal. But the important thing is that Man in on the Bench and God in the Dock.

What hubris. What obnoxious vanity. What utter illusions we create. What we really need to do is humble ourselves before the Lord of all, devastated by the knowledge of our supreme selfishness, and earnestly plead for His mercy. For some reason, He loves us anyway and pours out that mercy on the most undeserving. He is not a God who should be in the dock, rebuffing our accusations. We should be eternally grateful He is willing to listen to us at all.

A Few Statements about God, Truth, & Life

Nothing fancy today . . . or long. I just want to make a few statements to help provide some understanding for why I am so dedicated to speaking out about righteousness in government and culture. I don’t do so from some position of presumed authority or because I think I’m the fount of all wisdom. In fact, it’s precisely due to the failures in my own life over my 61+ years that I feel called to write and teach.

When I was 25, I knew everything. I wouldn’t have said so at the time—who would be that foolishly bold?—but as I look back now, I see that I thought I had captured most of the truth about God and life. That confidence was shaken, though, when I went through a time of estrangement from the Lord. I walked away from the faith and tried hard to find another way. God’s grace, however, prevailed as He allowed me to follow a path that led to a dead end.

At the end of that path, I had nowhere to turn but back to Him, and for that I’m eternally grateful. He gave me a second chance. He showed me the devastation of sin in one’s life, the cleansing nature of repentance and faith in His atonement, and hope for a new start—a new path. I’ve traveled this new path with Him now for about 25 years. It has not all been easy. I’ve had to live with some consequences from that period when I wandered, and the path has contained some rather large potholes, some of which I navigated successfully, others into which I fell. Yet even in times of near-despair, He has shown me His faithfulness.

I am more attuned to some things now. Sin is uglier than ever to me. A culture awash in sin makes me grieve. The politics of hypocrisy and self-centeredness brings pain to my heart, even as I know it does to God’s heart. Falsehood, whether in theology or political philosophy, brings the response of wanting to correct all such falsehood with declarations of truth. As a teacher, which is God’s calling on my life, I have a natural tendency to discern error and counter it with Biblical principles.

Yet I am also more attuned to God’s mercy. He showed mercy to me when I deserved judgment. Even as I point out error and talk of God’s potential judgments, I must leave room for His mercy, particularly toward those in the culture and government who are deceived and are deceiving others. God’s judgment may fall, but I will continue to pray that it be forestalled and that spiritual renewal may increase.

We are to judge. That is Biblical. We are to evaluate men’s hearts and actions. We need to do so, though, only when we have first taken the beam out of our own eye.

A couple of sentences from a small devotional book that I’m reading stand out to me today. The first deals with sin:

It is no secret that when a man sins he ever so rarely does anything unique or original or new or different. Sin is monotonously the same, generation after generation.

My sins were not unique. God’s forgiveness is not unique. But it was uniquely applied to my life. It gave me a new life.

The devotional also noted this:

There is a perpetual power of renewal in the Christian religion. It is forever producing prophets and saints who keep calling it back to the heart of its message.

I have been the recipient of a renewal. God continually calls me back to the heart of His message. My goal is to spread that message in any way I can. This is why I write.