No Condemnation

I’m working on a lengthier post that I may have up later today or tomorrow, but right now I feel like there’s something else I should be writing. Lately I’ve been struggling with a lot of things as I’m trying to put my life back together the way it needs to be, and one of the ways that I’ve come under attack is with spurts of crushing guilt and feelings of worthlessness. I get that little voice in my head that’s telling me that God isn’t going to waste his time on me, that I’m a failure, a hypocrite, a betrayer of Christ, so how could he really love me?

And then, this morning, Jon Acuff’s latest post popped up in my Google Reader.

“Therefore, there is now no condemnation for those who are in Christ Jesus, …”

If I’m being honest, sometimes I rewrite that verse in my head. I write it, “There is now some condemnation for those who are in Christ Jesus.” Or “There is now at least a little condemnation for those who are in Christ Jesus.” But that’s not what it says.

There is no condemnation.

There is no condemnation.

There is no condemnation.

Will the Holy Spirit convict you? Certainly. Will God reveal areas of your heart He wants to shine His light into? Without a doubt. Will God condemn you? Will God press play on the failure film of your life? Will He make you mentally relive your worst moments over and over again? No. That’s not God, that’s an attack.

Go read the whole thing.

There is therefore now no condemnation for those who are in Christ Jesus. How blessed we are to serve a God who so fully and completely loves us,  that he was willing to die just to give us the chance to be with him again. How can we ignore that? How can we respond to that in any other way than complete and total devotion?

If you’re under attack today, I hope that these words will help you to see that you’re not in this alone. God is always there, always forgiving, always the gracious and loving father – and where my words fail, his never will.

How great is our God!

More thoughts on Judith

I wrote last night about my thoughts after hearing the APC song Judith in the car on my way to visit my family, and upon further thinking on the songs I mentioned, along with a sermon I listened to this morning by Mark Driscoll, I had a few more thoughts that I would like to share.

I think that the picture of heaven and reward, along with God, that Keenan paints in Wings for Marie is a flawed one, but flawed in such a way that many people would not think of or even realize was flawed. In the climax of 10,000 Days, Keenan writes about his mother:

You’re the only one who can hold your head up high
Shake your fists at the gates saying:
“I’ve come home now!
Fetch me the spirit, the son, and the father
Tell them their pillar of faith has ascended
It’s time now, my time now, give me my wings!”

It’s a common sentiment that heaven is the reward for piety on earth, illustrated here by the wings. He tells his mother to boldly approach the gates of heaven, shake her fists in pride and demand her reward. I think that many people in our culture would think this to be an appropriate, natural action to take. Even the the Apostle Peter asked Jesus, “We have given up everything to follow you! What will we get in return?” And Jesus does respond with promises of eternal rewards and everlasting life. The idea of rewards is Biblical, and Jesus makes it quite clear that Christians can expect a reward in heaven.

There is a subtle flaw here, however, for Keenan’s suggestion to his mother is troubled by a lack of understanding of what it means to truly follow Christ. Can you spot the problem?

While it is true that God has promised us rewards, we are not to shake our fists at the gates and demand our reward. Pride and a sense of entitlement have  no place in heaven. Humility is a key point of Christian living, and if Keenan’s testimony of his mother’s faith is any indication, Judith knew this. She would not have approached the gates of heaven shaking her fists, but dancing and singing praise to her Lord. Even the angels, the sinless beings created specifically to be in the presence of God, cover their eyes and their feet as they cry “Holy, holy, holy is the Lord of Hosts!” Even they know they are not worthy to gaze upon God, much less make demands of him.

No, we are not to approach our Lord with our demands. We are to approach him with open, empty hands, crying “Abba” – for we have nothing to offer but ourselves. Even our most pious works are worthless, tarnished by our sin and failures. But by the grace of God, we have hope. He has offered us not just redemption from our evil ways, but eternal life in paradise with him. We cannot demand this, because we do not deserve this. We don’t deserve anything but the fires of Hell. But the Lord, in his infinite mercy, has given us everything if only we will follow him and accept his free gift of salvation.

I hope Keenan one day accepts this gift. As my friend Scott pointed out to me earlier, Keenan’s passion and talent could be used in mighty ways for God’s kingdom – he is anything but lukewarm.

The influence of Judith

This may seem an oddball post to the few of you who read this, but it’s something that’s been on my mind occasionally for quite some time now, usually whenever I hear one of a few songs written by one Maynard James Keenan, most commonly known as the lead singer of the band Tool. Keenan is a controversial figure, known nearly as much for his odd behavior and political incorrectness as he is for his brilliant musical talent. But here I want to deal with one specific issue he has often addressed: the Church and Jesus Christ, and his mother, Judith Marie, who was a devout Christian.

Continue reading The influence of Judith

233 years and counting

As of tomorrow, this nation has managed to remain (mostly) free of tyranny for 233 years. This is a remarkable feat. Given how fast the world has changed in the last century, it is even more remarkable. What we experience and take for granted now is nothing like what we had even ten years ago, much less fifty or a hundred.

But here we are. And many of us – especially those who consider themselves conservative or libertarian – are worried. In the last six months under President Obama we have seen incredible expansion of government power, spending, and influence in private business. The headlines seem ripped from an Orwellian or Randian novel – government takeovers of big business, closing down political enemies, while the best and brightest withdraw to avoid increasingly harsh taxes and penalties. This too, is nothing like we have seen – in the history of the country. And historically, we see that it is inevitable that every free country will eventually fall to tyranny. So we wonder – will these latest changes be the last straw? How much longer can we hold out?

I say, it doesn’t matter. For as long as there’s a shred of hope, we have to fight on for what we believe and for freedom in this country. Without that attitude being held by our forefathers, these would still be American colonies. And we must realize that though they may take a new form, the challenges we face are really nothing new.  As Solomon said, “there is nothing new under the sun.” And as was recently pointed out to me, the real issues are often masked by politics – what we are struggling against is not (merely) a different set of politics; it is a different set of worldviews. These worldviews are what gave us the mess we’re in now – Obama, Reid, and Pelosi are just symptoms.

Politics flows from the worldview of the culture – not the other way around. And so if you want to change politics, you will be much more assured of victory by changing the culture spawning the politicians than trying to convince the existing politicians to change their stripes. Changing the culture seems to be a daunting task, but it’s not as hard as you might think – every customer you greet, every corporate meeting, every church dinner and game night is a chance to influence those around you. Culture is nothing more than the views and interests of the people who create it – and by influencing those people, one at a time, you influence the culture as a whole. It was not until culture changed that politicians addressed the issues of slavery, of civil rights, of abortion, and most recently gay marriage.

Every shift in culture puts pressure on the government to react in order to hold on to the power that it has – so it is there that we will fight the battles. It is there that the war for this nation will be won or lost – in the hearts and minds of every American.

So now it’s your play. Ball’s in your court. What are you going to do? Who are you going to influence?