Quotes of the Week

 

Apr

05

2014

Trevin Wax|12:10 am CT

The Intoxication of Success

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Dietrich Bonhoeffer:

In a world where success is the measure and justification of all things the figure of Him who was sentenced and crucified remains a stranger and is at best the object of pity. The world will allow itself to be subdued only by success. It is not ideas or opinions which decide, but deeds. Success alone justifies wrongs done….

With a frankness and off-handedness which no other earthly power could permit itself, history appeals in its own cause to the dictum that the end justifies the means…

When a successful figure becomes especially prominent and conspicuous, the majority give way to the idolization of success. They become blind to right and wrong, truth and untruth, fair play and foul play. They have eyes only for the deed, for the successful result. The moral and intellectual critical faculty is blunted. It is dazzled by the brilliance of the successful man and by the longing in some way to share in his success. It is not even seen that success is healing the wounds of guilt, for the guilt itself is no longer recognized. Success is simply identified with good. This attitude is genuine and pardonable only in a state of intoxication. When sobriety returns it can be achieved only at the price of a deep inner untruthfulness and conscious self-deception. This brings with it an inward rottenness from which there is scarcely a possibility of recovery.

The figure of the Crucified invalidates all thought which takes success for its standard.

 
 

Mar

29

2014

Trevin Wax|12:10 am CT

Our Mission in Exile

JFTWFrom Greg Forster’s excellent book, Joy for the World: How Christianity Lost Its Cultural Influence and Can Begin Rebuilding It:

Exile is our permanent state in the New Testament church because we have now been commissioned – sent on a mission – to the nations. Jeremiah sent the Israelites out to a long period of exile in Babylon, but they were always looking forward to the promised return. Jesus sent the church out to permanent exile everywhere.

The church’s new mission reorients the exilic challenge. The New Testament church is not a cultural lifeboat for a specific civilization, as the Israelites in exile were. In Babylon, God’s people were not keeping alive just God’s message and ways, but the remnant of a whole foreign civilization, temporarily sustaining it as best they could until it was time to return and replant it in its native soil. For us, however, there will be no return and no replanting until the world ends. We must keep alive God’s message and ways, but we cannot think of ourselves as a separate civilization. Because the church has a mission within every human civilization, we must build godly lives within our home civilization rather than trying to cultivate a separate one. That means working hard to contribute to the well-being and flourishing of our civilization. Otherwise, we’re not loving our neighbors.

However, because the church is in exile, we cannot simply identify the church with our host civilization. We cannot reduce the church’s work merely to the flourishing of civilization. The church still has to sustain a zone of cultural activity that represents revelation and Holy Spirit transformation. Inevitably, this will mean resisting the dominant culture in some ways. Maintaining balance between mission and exile is one of the central challenges of sustaining the church’s identity.

 

 
 

Mar

22

2014

Trevin Wax|12:10 am CT

The Cost of Being Different (On Marriage)

Gold Wedding RingsN. T. Wright:

It is the fact of a new family that declares to Caesar that he doesn’t run the show any more, because Jesus Christ runs it instead.

It is the fact of a new, single, united family that tells the powers of the world that Israel’s God is God, that Jesus is Lord and Caesar is not.

As long as we continue to collude with things that no Paulinist should ever collude with – fragmentation, petty squabbles, divisions over this or that small point of doctrine – the powers can fold their arms and watch us having our little fun while they still run the show. But when there actually is one body, one spirit, one hope, one Lord, one faith, one baptism (Eph 4), then the powers are called into account, and they will know it.

Something new has happened, and the gates of hell shall not prevail against it.

And there’s a cost, the cost of being different.

That’s why we have the challenge of marriage in Ephesians 5, in which the coming together of male and female – and what a challenge that always has been, and still is – symbolizes once more the coming together of Jew and Gentile, which symbolizes again the coming together of heaven and earth.

That is why it’s so important that in our generation we struggle again for the sanctity and vitality of marriage, not for the sake of maintaining a few outmoded ethical concepts and taboos, but because this is built deep into creation itself, now to be renewed in Christ and the Spirit.

from “Whence and Whither Pauline Studies in the Life of the Church?”

 
 

Mar

15

2014

Trevin Wax|12:10 am CT

Aphrodite’s America

aohrodite_awsomeThe task of the Christian is to identify the prevailing idolatry of society and then deliberately subvert that idol in word and deed.

In Touchstone, W. E. Knickerbocker helps us identify the goddess of Aphrodite and her power in our culture today:

It is here that we begin to see the nature of the new paganism. Like any paganism, it has its pantheon of gods and goddesses. At the top of its pantheon is a modern version of Aphrodite, the Greek goddess of love, who has become here a goddess of sex. She gives her Greek name to the aphrodisiacs so prevalent in our culture, and her Roman name, Venus, to the diseases that are prevalent among her worshipers—or at least she did before venereal afflictions became euphemized as STDs.

She has also succeeded in banishing Hymen, the god of marriage, to the periphery of our culture. She has enlisted Mars, the god of war, in her service, but has tamed him to become simply a god of violence, including emotional violence. The emotional experience of violence can both precede and follow the emotional experience of the sex act, especially when that act is a violation of the natural law indelibly imprinted on the conscience.

This Aphrodite is especially pleased by rape. Any form of the sex act will do, however, as long as it is done out of wedlock, because any such act constitutes worship of her: fornication, adultery, sodomy, lesbianism, bisexualism. Like any god or goddess, she demands her sacrifices, and gets them: babies, especially those not yet born (she encourages abortion and embryonic stem-cell research); the disabled and elderly who can no longer worship her in the way she demands; marriages (she favors “no fault” divorce), families (she likes children to have no father or mother present, or to be shuttled back and forth between divorced parents), physical health (she likes all varieties of STD), and psychological health (she thrives on heartache and is gleeful over drug and alcohol abuse and suicides).

She rejoices over the sacrifice of gender in transgenderism. She tempts people to believe that the order of God can be made to conform to the disorder within them. Her seductiveness permeates television, movies, the print media, billboards, social media, and pornographic sites on the internet. She wants her devotees to mistake love with the desire to be loved, and to embrace erotic love as the only kind of love, separating it fromstorge, philia, andagape(see Lewis’sThe Four Loves), and letting it consume one’s entire life. Her followers continually hear her whisper seductively, “I know I haven’t really delivered what I promised before, but it will be different next time; just try me again.”

 
 

Mar

08

2014

Trevin Wax|12:10 am CT

The Gospel is a Treasure To Be Traded, Not Hoarded

Norwich_Cathedral_interiorLesslie Newbigin on the role of the Church in the world:

The very essence of the Church’s life is that she is pressing forward to the fulfillment of God’s purpose and the final revelation of His glory, pressing forward both to the ends of the earth and to the end of the world, rejoicing in the hope of the glory of God.

The treasure entrusted to her is not for herself, but for the doing of the Lord’s will, not for hoarding but for trading.

Her life is to be forever spent, to be cast into the ground like a corn of wheat, in the ever-new faith and hope of the resurrection harvest. Her life is precisely life under the sign of the Cross, which means that she desires to possess no life, no security, no righteousness of her own, but to live solely by His grace.

When she becomes settled, when she becomes so much at home in this world that she is no longer content to be forever striking her tents and moving forward, above all when she forgets that she lives simply by God’s mercy and begins to think that she has some claim on God’s grace which the rest of the world has not, when in other words she thinks of her election in terms of spiritual privilege rather than missionary responsibility, then she comes under His merciful judgment as Israel did.”

- From The Household of God, 132.

 
 

Mar

01

2014

Trevin Wax|12:10 am CT

Is Your Grandmother More Alive Than You?

g_k_chesterton_17b7Chesterton tells us we shouldn’t be proud of the fact that your grandmother is shocked by something that doesn’t shock us. That’s actually a sign that your grandmother is more alive than you are:

One of the deepest troubles of the day is this fact: that something is being commended as a new taste which is simply the condition which finds everything tasteless. It is sometimes offered almost as if it were a new sense; but it is not really even a new sensibility; it is rather a pride in a new insensibility.

For instance, when some old piece of decorum is abolished, rightly or wrongly, it is always supposed to be completely justified if people become just as dull in accepting the indecency as they were in accepting the decency.

If it can be said that the grandchildren “soon get used” to something that would have made the grandfathers fight duels to the death, it is always assumed that the grandchildren have found a new mode of living, whereas those who fought the duel to the death were already dead. But the psychological fact is exactly the other way. The duelists may have been fastidious or even fantastic, but they were frightfully alive. That is why they died. Their sensibilities were vivid and intense, by the only true test of the finer sensibilities, or even of the five senses. And that is that they could feel the difference between one thing and another…

Do not be proud of the fact that your grandmother was shocked at something which you are accustomed to seeing and hearing without being shocked… It may mean that your grandmother was an extremely lively and vital person, and that you are a paralytic.

To lose the sense of repugnance from one thing, or regard for another, is exactly so far as it goes to relapse into the vegetation or to return to the dust.

- from “The Blunting Of Our Sentiments,” 1933

 
 

Feb

22

2014

Trevin Wax|12:10 am CT

The Difference Between “Near” and “Far” Application in Preaching

near___far_by_sareidia-d70p5c1Helpful counsel from Zack Eswine:

Consider sermon application as near and far.

As a boy I watched the children’s television show Sesame Street. A fuzzy and smiling, Muppet character scampered close to the television camera, as if to look at us viewers, and then says, “Near.” Then the Muppet scampered way back from the camera so as to create distance between itself and the viewer and says, “Far.”

Treating Joseph’s pit as an actual hole in the ground into which an innocent man is betrayed by his family is to promote a near application. Near application asks, “Does physical betrayal, separation from family, and wrongful enslavement happen to God’s people? Near application seeks closer resonance between our world and the features, conditions, and situations found in the biblical text.

Once near application has been addressed, the preacher then holds the rope between near and far. Picture a line of kindergarten children walking down the street for a field trip to the Sesame Street studio. A long rope connects those nearer and farther from the teachers at the head and back of the line. Each child holds on to the rope in order to stay connected with the line and not get lost from the group. Whenever preachers move from near to far application, they must help their listeners hold this rope in order to stay connected to the biblical context and not get lost from the intended meaning of the biblical passage.

One method for helping people hold on to the rope is, after exploring the near application, the preacher can say, “For Joseph and for many believers in the world, the pit from which we require God’s deliverance is physical. For others, there is no physical pit, but deliverance from God is nonetheless required.”

Once the preacher shifts from a physical pit and its resonance in our lives today, he has moved to a far application. Helping people hold the rope is necessary so that they learn to read and apply the Bible.

Far application exposes the dissonance between the original situation in the Bible and ours. Joseph was unique in his role with God; we are unlike him in many ways. For some of us that includes our inexperience with physical injustice.

A steady diet of far application, especially without holding the rope, leaves large regions of reality unmapped for people. It also teaches people to read and apply the Bible in a solely spiritualized way. If a preacher is discussing marriage from a passage such as 1 Timothy 1, we may be blessed by the sermon because true and biblical things are said. But it is still legitimate to ask, “Is Paul talking about marriage in 1 Timothy 1?” The answer is no. So how did the preacher get to the subject of marriage from 1 Timothy 1? To discuss marriage from 1 Timothy 1 is to veil the near application. Paul is talking about something that we are not hearing applied to our lives.

Perhaps a far application to marriage exists if we hold the rope. “Timothy was facing a struggle that he could not overcome by himself. For Timothy that struggle was his call to the ministry in the presence of physical threat and spiritual unbelief. That is what the struggle was for Timothy; what is the struggle for you?”

I tend to believe the near application is more important and the far application less necessary than we tend to think. The more we move toward far application, the more we need the practice of explicitly helping people hold the rope. We also have to account for the primary issue in the text that we are leaving unexplored for our lives.

 
 

Feb

08

2014

Trevin Wax|12:05 am CT

Fruitful vs. Fruitless Failures

A profound quote that can also apply to the Church:

It does not matter (comparatively speaking) how often humanity fails to imitate its ideal; for then all its old failures are fruitful. But it does frightfully matter how often humanity changes its ideal; for then all its old failures are fruitless.

- G. K. Chesterton

 
 

Feb

01

2014

Trevin Wax|12:10 am CT

The World’s Power-Yielding, Powerful Creator

Playing GodAndy Crouch:

The resurrection is the beginning and end of all power worthy of the name, which is why all other powers, according to the great hymn of Philippians 2, will eventually bow before the name of the one who did not grasp power.

Our power will come to its end, one way or another, in protest or praise of the only true power that created, redeemed and sustained the world. It is faith, hope and love that abide, not sex, money and power – all three of these fleeting gifts only exist to draw us toward those lasting realities. All the disciplines that guide and guard our use of power, all our practices of worship, are ways of dying to ourselves and letting Another live in us so that the power at work in us is the power of creation and new creation, not the devil’s petty powers of coercion and death.

What we do with our power is ultimately a sure guide to what we will do with the God who claims the power to raise the dead. Either we will grip ever more tightly to our own power in fear of its disappearance, or we will become bolder and bolder in our use of our power to prepare for its ultimate end: the restoration of the world’s shalom by the world’s power-yielding, powerful Creator.

- from Playing God, 274.

 
 

Jan

25

2014

Trevin Wax|12:10 am CT

Christ Loved His Church; Let Us Do the Same

spurgeon_chair1Charles Spurgeon:

The church is not perfect, but woe to the man who finds pleasure in pointing out her imperfections!

Christ loved his church, and let us do the same.

I have no doubt that the Lord can see more fault in his church than I can; and I have equal confidence that he sees no fault at all. Because he covers her faults with his own love—that love which covers a multitude of sins; and he removes all her defilement with that precious blood which washes away all the transgressions of his people.