Tuesday, April 24, 2007

Weights and Measures

Therefore, since we are surrounded by so great a cloud of witnesses, let us also lay aside every weight, and sin which clings so closely, and let us run with endurance the race that is set before us, looking to Jesus, the founder and perfecter of our faith, who for the joy that was set before him endured the cross, despising the shame, and is seated at the right hand of the throne of God. Hebrews 12:1-2 ESV

Notice the distinction between "every weight" and "sin which clings so closely." There are some things we are called to put off which are not, of and by themselves, sinful by nature. An interesting commentary on this passage is found in "Way Into the Holiest" by F.B. Meyer(1847-1929). In Chapter XXVII, Meyer wrote:

WE MUST RUN FREE OF WEIGHTS. This speed can only be maintained when we run unencumbered and free. Now, of course we would all admit the necessity of divesting ourselves of sins; but in all our lives there are weights which are not sins. A sin is that which in its very nature, and always, and by whomsoever perpetrated, is a transgression of God's law, a violation of God's will. But a weight is something which in itself or to another may be harmless, or even legitimate, but in our own case is a hindrance and an impediment.

Every believer must be left to decide what is his own special weight. We may not judge for one another. What is a weight to one is not so to all. But the Holy Spirit, if he be consulted and asked to reveal the hindrance to the earnestness and speed of the soul's progress in divine things, will not fail to indicate it swiftly and infallibly. And this is the excellence of the Holy Spirit's teaching: it is ever definite. If you have a general undefined feeling of discouragement, it is probably the work of the great enemy of souls; but if you are aware of some one hindrance and encumbrance which stays your speed, it is almost certainly the work of the divine Spirit, who is leading you to relinquish something which is slackening your progress in the spiritual life.

No man would think of maintaining a high speed encompassed with weights. The lads who run for a prize litter the course with garments flung away in their eager haste. There would be little difficulty in maintaining an intense and ardent spirit if we were more faithful in dealing with the habits and indulgences which cling around us and impede our steps. Thousands of Christians are like water-logged vessels. They cannot sink; but they are so saturated with inconsistencies and worldliness and permitted evil that they can only be towed with difficulty into the celestial port.

Is there anything in your life which dissipates your energy from holy things, which disinclines you to the practice of prayer and Bible study, which rises before you in your best moments, and produces in you a general sense of uneasiness and disturbance? something which others account harmless, and permit, and in which you once saw no cause for anxiety, but which you now look on with a feeling of self-condemnation? It is likely enough a weight."

I also found a related blog entry here. The blog entry is a commentary on and application to Psalm 101:3 and the topic of "worthless things." How often do our best intentions get derailed when things which have no real enduring value in the scheme of eternity absorb time which could have been used in Bible study, prayer, Christian service to others? This is something which has become more and more evident in my Christian walk. For many years after my coming to Christ in faith back in 1984, I spent a lot of time in doing research to refute certain distinctive doctrines of the church in which I grew upapologetics. I kept telling myself that I was doing this to help family members who were still a part of that church. Only about two years ago did I realize that I have been spending way too much time in this endeavor. It was at that time that I knew I could logically demonstrate my case but without the Holy Spirit opening up hearts and minds, no one would listen. My prayer life suffered and has only really recovered in the last year.

Keep in mind that what I was doing was not only not evil but could definitely glorify God. However, it ended up sucking away irreplacible time and screwing up my prayer life. It was definitely a weight which I needed to throw off (or at least radically reduce) to run the race which Christ is calling me to run.

Pray for the wisdom to know what your weights and worthless things are. Truly this must be done with wisdom. It would be easy for myself or someone else to develop a list of "never do the following...." as a kind of holiness code. However, church history shows us, from the Pharisees of Christ's time to individuals today, when one makes up a list of dos & don'ts, we can easily default our thinking and actions to conform with the list rather than conforming to Christ. We might think that if something is not on the list, it's automatically okay.

One help in this may be found in a resolution written by Jonathan Edwards in the early 1720s. In his 7th Resolution, Edwards wrote:"Resolved, never to do anything, which I should be afraid to do, if it were the last hour of my life. Our time on Earth is short. I realize this more and more with each passing year. I turned 51 last month. Those years have seemed to go by so quickly. Yet, I have been blessed to make it to at least 51. Many others in human history never got this far in their earthly years. This should be a sobering reminder about asking the Lord to teach us to live our lives redeeming the time which we have.

Please don't take this entry as a "let's put on a hairshirt and have no more fun for as long we live" rant. However, this does require wisdom from God. Are we spending excessive time and money in some pursuit, which, in the eternal scheme of things, is of little or no value. My first application comes immediately. Being a hockey fan and relishing the fact that my hometown Detroit Red Wings have made it to the second round of the Stanley Cup Playoffs, I'll need to ask myself if I'm spending too much time in following the Red Wings during this playoff season.

Lastly, while non-useful items to the Christian are considered a weight, there is a weight which we need to involve ourselves in. 2 Corinthians 4:7 tells us: "For this slight momentary affliction is preparing for us an eternal weight of glory beyond all comparison". A verse such as this is a poignant reminder to keep eternity in mind in how we use our time here and now.

Friday, April 6, 2007

The Core of Our Faith

Today is Good Friday. It is during this weekend, during the days of Maundy/Holy Thursday, Good Friday and Easter Sunday that we remember the core events of the Christian faith. It is during this time that we remember the start of the practice of the Lord's Supper which is continued to this day as a remembrance of the Lord Jesus' sacrifice of Himself on the cross for our sins.

We remember the events of Good Friday and the incomprehensible price paid by Christ to free us of our sins. On Sunday, we will remember the raising back to life of Jesus in His body. It is both a continuity and a discontinuity. Scripture is clear that this is the same body in which Christ died. Yet, this body has been more than revived. It has been given a life which will never end. (The implications of this are staggering. From that day of resurrection right up to today and beyond, Jesus Christ has been and IS alive in bodily form, the first human being to do so).

Prayer played a large part in these events which happened in real time and space. On Thursday night, Christ offered up prayers to be spared the suffering of the cross if possible. Yet, His prayers brought Him to the place of accepting God the Father's will for Him. On Friday, Christ speaks few words. He is mostly silent. Yet, in the midst of a physical and spiritual agony that none of us could possibly imagine, He prayed that those who were crucifying Him would be forgiven.

In your prayers this weekend, may I suggest that you thank God for Jesus Christ. What Christ did on the cross cleared the way for us to have the confidence to approach God in prayer. The veil separating God and humanity was ripped in two that day. In Christ, we have access to God and the life which truly is life.

The School of the Solitary Place wishes you a blessed Holy Weekend. (The picture is Rembrandt's "Raising of the Cross" c. 1633)