Observations in Community and Culture on a Wintery Saturday Morning

It is amazing how the Lord teaches or reminds us of biblical themes as we observe those with whom we fellowship and the culture in which we live.  Three things have stood out to me this morning that have served to make me mindful of God and the truth of His Word.

Concerning the affections of the new birth for God — my son, Luke, had only just awakened from his morning nap.  This is one of my most favorite times with him because he tends to be quite cuddly when he is still sleepy.  Nothing, however, stirs him to life more quickly than the briefest sight of his mother, even so much as a passing glance.  Upon his beholding of her, toys by the thousands become invisible.  Though they were formerly of great delight and pleasure to his heart, one might now think that they were of a most rotten stench in his little nostrils.  The savor of slight delights found their place in his pecking order as his eyes were set upon the prize, the greatest delight of his life — mommy!  Though he can hardly crawl, yet he would plunge headlong to the floor from my lap in order to detain her but for a moment.  Jenny is the highest object of his love and happiness, and thus all other joys become dull, fleeting, unworthy of his attention any longer.  Is not this illustrative of the transformation of the heart that occurs in regeneration?  The old man delights himself, even toils his days away with fleeting pleasures, little joys, those items which placate his sinful desires.  But, when he is born again and grace has raised him from the dead, when that principle of divine life enters in upon the soul, then God, then Christ Jesus and His ten thousand charms, then His word to the soul becomes the treasure and prize of life, the delight of the new heart.  All else falters, is set in order, is abandoned even as the means of true joy or the object of one’s highest affections.  Instead of a heart of earth, there is the heart of heaven, and all that strove for the attention of the old affections have been revealed as tasteless, unworthy of the best of your time, conversation or community.  Even as Luke has eyes for Jenny alone, so the child of God has a heart for Him alone.  Let us learn from the child’s affections for his mother.

Concerning general revelation, and the implicit (albeit non-saving) knowledge of God, which renders an unbelieving person without excuse for his sin — in Starbucks this morning when I caught hold of a conversation behind me that I could not but give attention unto.  It involved three people, one of which was a defense attorney.  His two companions asked him of his cases, one in particular that involved murder.  As he tried to explain to them what it took in order for something to be a crime, one of his companions responded thus, though I paraphrase, “I don’t care.  If you murder someone, you deserve punishment.”  Immediately I thought, “Though they know God’s decree that those who practice such things deserve to die, they not only do them but give approval to those who practice them” (Rom 1.32).  When it comes to those issues of the heart, people tend to speak and act irrationally because what they posit against others, that they deserve to be punished, is freshly brought to the fore of their own conditions and actions.  Interestingly, when they speak in the abstract, unaware of who is listening, they make a lot of sense, even affirming what God has revealed about them.  They would condemn others readily; by this knowledge, they condemn themselves.

Concerning biblical allusions — Again, quite often amazed at the amount of biblical allusion in our media and culture.  In the sports page this morning there is an article about Lovie Smith, head coach of the Chicago Bears.  The title of the article began, “Out of the fire . . .” and referenced the hot seat that the coach sat squarely upon entering this season.  Now, “da Bears” are in the NFC Championship game against the Packers, and apparently, Smith is “out of the fire.”  The allusion is obviously to the hot seat, but drawn from our understanding of the biblical hell.  Indeed, when a sinner repents of his sin and believes in Christ Jesus, His person and work for them, he is regarded by the Holy Spirit (who authored the Scriptures) as one who has been plucked like a brand “from the fire” (cf. Zech 3.2; Jude 23).  One who, though he lived, yet did so in this life as one who walked amongst the flames of God’s fury, and this justly.  The biblical reality is infinitely more vivid than the allusion to it — being “out of the fire” should not be understood by you, O unbelievers, or you, my brothers and sisters, as the comeback story of a figure from the world of athletics, but as, to the former, the mercy available to them in Christ that would serve all the day to rescue them from the plight and just retribution due their sins, and to the latter, our most necessary business — that we should do all insofar as it agrees with God in order to see sinners saved, because we too once walked in the fire with them.  Let us proclaim “grace, grace, God’s grace; grace that pardons and cleanses within; grace that is greater than all our sin.”  Indeed, grace that draws us out of the fire.

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