Sorrow and Hatred :: Throwback Thursday

By Thomas Watson (c. 1620 – 1686)

“Repent, for the kingdom of heaven is at hand.” — Matthew 3.2

It is one thing to be a terrified sinner and another to be a repenting sinner. Sense of guilt is enough to breed terror. Infusion of grace breeds repentance. If pain and trouble were sufficient to repentance, then the damned in hell should be most penitent, for they are most in anguish. Repentance depends upon a change of heart.

Repentance is a grace of God’s Spirit whereby a sinner is inwardly humbled and visibly reformed. For a further amplification, know that repentance is a spiritual medicine made up of six special ingredients:

  1. Sight of Sin
  2. Sorrow for Sin
  3. Confession of Sin
  4. Shame for Sin
  5. Hatred for Sin
  6. Turning from Sin

If any one is left out it loses its virtue.

Sorrow for Sin

Godly sorrow is fiducial. It is intermixed with faith: “the father of the child cried out, and said with tears, Lord, I believe” (Mark 9.24). Here was sorrow for sin checkered with faith, as we have seen a bright rainbow appear in a watery cloud.

Spiritual sorrow will sink the heart if the pulley of faith does not raise it. As our sin is ever before us, so God’s promise must be ever before us. As we much feel our sting, so we must look up to Christ our brazen serpent.

Some have faces so swollen with worldly grief that they can hardly look out of their eyes. That weeping is not good which blinds the eye of faith. The Christian has arrived at a sufficient measure of sorrow when the love of sin is purged out.

Confession of sin makes way for pardon. No sooner did the prodigal come with a confession in his mouth, “I have sinned against heaven,” than his father’s heart did melt towards him, and he kissed him

Hatred for Sin

A holy heart detests sin for its intrinsic pollution. Sin leaves a stain upon the soul. A regenerate person abhors sin not only for the curse but for the contagion. He hates this serpent not only for its sting but for its poison. He hates sin not only for hell, but as hell.

True hatred is implacable; it will never be reconciled to sin any more. Anger may be reconciled, but hatred cannot.

Let it not be said that repentance is difficult. Things that are excellent deserve labor.

*Excerpted and languages updated from The Doctrine of Repentance by Thomas Watson.

Today’s Reading
Isaiah 55 (Listen – 2:11)
Matthew 3 (Listen – 2:17)

Jesus, the Refugee

“Rise, take the child and his mother, and flee to Egypt, and remain there until I tell you.” — Matthew 2.13

If Christ were born today he wouldn’t be the scion of an affluent mega-church pastor; his mother wouldn’t have access to social media to share her delight; his skin wouldn’t fit in the majority of any dominant industrialized nation.

Instead he would be another child cradled in the arms of one of millions of nameless refugees risking their lives to flee a murderous dictator.

His parents’ faces would reveal the extraordinary stress of a journey where the natural elements daily threaten their child. They would live under constant pressure from wicked traffickers and the callous governments whose international apathy is matched only by their desire to reroute the vulnerable.

Statistically speaking, if the the Son of God were born today, it would be highly likely that his young corpse would wash up on a shore somewhere.

These are not political statements—it’s tragic that mentioning refugees hurls our discourse into partisanship—as much as observations of the depths that a member of the Godhead was willing to venture in order to enter our suffering and pour out his love to the world.

In another way, possibly the way Scripture intends, these statements are a rebuke to those of us who would likely miss such a man.

He had no form or majesty that we should look at him, and no beauty that we should desire him. He was despised and rejected by men; a man of sorrows, and acquainted with grief; and as one from whom men hide their faces he was despised, and we esteemed him not. — Isaiah 53.2-3

We don’t praise Jesus today because he was the refugee who went from rags to riches. It’s actually the exact opposite. This is the gospel: the Son of the King willingly cast off every comfort, privilege, and glory—laying down his very life—so that we might inherit the righteousness of God.

Christ is near to us today; the only question is whether we’re willing to share our abundance with the world he loves. Jesus says that, when given the option, many still esteem him not:

For I was hungry and you gave me no food, I was thirsty and you gave me no drink, I was a foreigner and you did not welcome me.

Today’s Reading
Isaiah 54 (Listen – 3:14)
Matthew 2 (Listen – 3:18)

The Deeper Problem

“She will bear a son, and you shall call his name Jesus, for he will save his people from their sins.” — Matthew 1.21

“There was much Jewish expectation of a Messiah who would ‘redeem’ Israel from Roman tyranny and even purify his people, whether by fiat or appeal to law,’ observes author Don Carson. “But there was no expectation that the Davidic Messiah would give his own life as a ransom to save his people from their sins.”

In our spiritual longings we search for inner stillness, relief from suffering, global peace, divine blessing long before we look for salvation from sins. Far from being unconcerned with these things, Christ cuts to the root. Carson explains:

The verb ‘save’ can refer to deliverance from physical danger, disease, or even death; in the New Testament it commonly refers to the comprehensive salvation inaugurated by Jesus that will be consummated at his return.

Here it focuses on what is central: salvation from sins—for in the biblical perspective sin is the basic (if not always the immediate) cause of all other calamities.

Because we live in a materialistic world we search for material solutions: are there evil people? There must be something on their genome we can manipulate before they’re born to prevent them from being evil. Is there suffering in the world? There must be an action government or business can take to remediate it.

Scripture presents our pride and brokenness, even our worlds darkest evils, as symptoms—not the disease itself. In his exploration of Jesus and the Old Testament theologian John Goldingay concludes:

Understanding the Old Testament story in the light of the Christ event highlights for us that concern with the spiritual liberation of the spiritually oppressed which is present in the exodus story itself and which becomes more pressing as the Old Testament story unfolds.

Any concern with political and social liberation that does not recognize spiritual liberation as the more fundamental human problem has failed to take account of the development of the Old Testament story after the exodus via the exile to Christ’s coming and his work of atonement.

Far from showing disregard for our physical suffering under present evil, Christ humbles himself to suffer with us, presents himself as the sufficient solution for all evil, and provides himself as the hope that one day all that has been lost in suffering will be returned.

Today’s Reading
Isaiah 53 (Listen – 2:39)
Matthew 1 (Listen – 3:29)

My Brother’s Keeper :: The Weekend Reading List

If we cause a tree to be chopped down in a forest—but the forest is on the other side of the world, so we won’t necessarily hear it—will we care? This is the cultural way to ask the biblical question: “Am I my brother’s keeper?” Another way yet; are we responsible for the pain inflicted on others because of our emotions and desires?

Up until 1979 the city of Shenzhen, which links Hong Kong to mainland China, was home to 15,000 people. Today it has exploded to a population of 15 million—almost twice the size of New York City. The growth has primarily been driven by its designation as a “Special Economic Zone,” allowing corporations to operate outside of Communist business restrictions.

The now-smog-covered metropolis is home to hundreds of electronic manufacturing companies. Chances are, if you use a smartphone, television, camera, copy machine, or computer on a regular basis you carry with you the fingerprints of the citizens of Shenzhen.

The cause and effect of consumerism is rarely as clear as in Joseph Bernstein’s piece for BuzzFeed on the connection between western consumer whims and the quality of life of Chinese assembly workers in Shenzhen.

The story of manufacturing the ever-changing wishes of westerners is the story of eking out a living. “When we see a demand, we change our business direction; it is about survival.” a general manager at a factory in Shenzhen said. A young saleswoman echoed his sentiment: “Last year the selfie stick was very popular… But we need to change with the market or we’ll die.”

Bernstein examines one of the most popular electronic toys this Christmas: the hoverboard—a two-wheel, self-balancing device made popular by celebrities and social media.

The hoverboard industry that has unfurled (in China) hands us the playthings of social-media-driven seasonal diversion. It is the funhouse mirror reflection of the viral internet, the metal-and-cement consequence of our equally flexible commercial hype machine. It happened before with selfie sticks, and before that with drones. It may soon happen with virtual reality headsets and body-worn police cameras. — Joseph Bernstein

The average assembly worker at Foxconn and Pegatron (who manufacture for Apple, Samsung, Amazon, Dell, HP, Blackberry, and many more) works a 60-hour workweek, lives in a dorm with seven other people, and makes $3,800/year.

BBC undercover report of Apple’s iPhone 6 production uncovered 12-hour work days and documented workers regularly falling asleep on the assembly line. The Hong Kong Free Press also reported a major factory closing on Christmas day: over 2,000 workers lost their jobs last week, all of whom are owed back wages.

Memeufacturing is proof that our never-ending digital output, our tweets and Vines and Instagrams and Facebook posts, has the power to shape the lives of people on the other side of the world. — Joseph Bernstein

“Memeufacturing,” a term Bernstein coined, is the production of electronics in response to their success online. On the western side of the equation we consume without regard to consequence. “It is understood that hoverboards come from China in the same way it is understood that Spam comes from pigs: vaguely and glibly,” Bernstein quips.

The role of faith in such a world cannot be understated. If we are people who believe prayer has power we would find ourselves interceding for the millions of people marginalized by unfettered consumerism. If we believe part of Christ’s path is sacrifice we would curtail the desires the social web and advertising arouse in our souls. Most importantly, as faith communities, we would work out how to love our global-neighbors as we love ourselves—we would become our brother’s keeper.

Today’s Reading
Ezra 1 (Listen – 2:03)
Acts1 (Listen – 3:58)

This Weekend’s Readings
Ezra 2 (Listen – 5:25) Acts 2 (Listen – 6:35)
Ezra 3 (Listen – 3:01) Acts 3 (Listen – 3:33)

The Weekend Reading List

The Real Scandal of the Resurrection

Matthew 28.5-6a
The angel said to the women, “Do not be afraid, for I know that you are looking for Jesus, who was crucified. He is not here; he has risen, just as he said.”

The resurrection is Christianity’s ever-present scandal. The first conspiracy theory arises less than a handful of verses after the women find the tomb. “The disciples stole the body.” Centuries of alternative explanations follow. The modern mind, however, is far less likely to cry scandal than it is to declare, nonsense.

“The Christian view of resurrection, absolutely unprecedented in history, sprang up full-blown immediately after the death of Jesus,” observes Timothy Keller. Cultural and material explanations for the resurrection have always lacked sufficient grounding. Perhaps our desire to materially explain the resurrection is less to satisfy the healthy pursuit of thoughtful faith and more to distract our heart from the reality of the gospel. [1]

“We pretend to be unable to understand [the Bible] because we know very well that the minute we understand, we are obliged to act accordingly,” Kierkegaard proclaims. “Dreadful it is to fall into the hands of the living God. Yes it is even dreadful to be left alone with the New Testament.” [2]

The resurrection verifies what Christ held closest on the cross. According to the gospels his friends had abandoned him. His sole earthly possession, the very clothes on his back, had been taken. Union Presbyterian professor Jack Kingsbury observes, “On the cross Jesus held fast to God in trust, even as he relinquished his life. In raising Jesus from the dead, God certifies the truth of Jesus’ words and the efficacy of his trust.” [3]

Evil isn’t the only thing vanquished on the cross. The illusion that we can pull it together and do it ourselves was also destroyed on Golgotha. The idea that Christ would die on our behalf and offer freely what we are helpless to obtain ourselves is scandalous. To this the scriptures call us to abandon our selfish pursuits and look to the one who came to serve. He withheld nothing—even his own life—to show how wide, long, and deep is the love of the Father for us.

Prayer
Lord, we confess that we chase after so much to fulfill our lives. We confess our attempts to find fulfillment through self, career, possessions, and experiences. None are sufficient — for you knit us together with longings for things far greater. Only you can bring fulfillment. Only you can deliver us from the insufficiency of our world. Draw us near, our God.

Justice Through Christ
Part 3 of 5, read more on TheParkForum.org

Today’s Readings
Genesis 29 (Listen – 4:45)
Matthew 28 (Listen – 2:39)

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Footnotes

[1] Timothy Keller, Apologetics (City to City Incubator Session 4), p.26. | [2] Søren KierkegaardProvocations: Spiritual Writings of Kierkegaard. | [3] Jack Dean Kingsbury, Matthew as Story, pp. 90-91.

 

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