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The Sin of Din

restaurant-TV.jpgAfter worship this past Sunday, I stopped at one of my favorite Mexican restaurants for lunch. I went to church alone, so I took a book along with me as my dining companion. (I’m currently reading Respectable Sins by Jerry Bridges.) There were only a handful of tables occupied when I entered, and I chose a booth in a quiet corner underneath a television that had the sound turned off. In the opposite corner of the restaurant, in the bar, the Cleveland Browns game was on and the volume was up. After ordering my lunch, I started reading chapter three, The Malignancy of Sin.

About three bites into my lunch, I heard a man in the booth behind me ask the waiter to turn on the Browns game and turn up the sound. He did, and I could no longer concentrate on my reading with the game blaring right in my ear. I closed my book.

This was not the first time that my reading has been interrupted by a noisy neighbor in a restaurant.

About a month ago, I was having breakfast on a Saturday morning and reading Desiring the Kingdom by James K.A. Smith. A couple of older ladies were seated at a booth behind me when one took out her phone and showed her companion a video of Whitney Houston belting out some song at the top of her lungs. It was loud enough for the people at the other side of the restaurant to cease their conversations and look around for the source of the noise. These women were completely oblivious to the fact that they were disturbing most of the patrons of the restaurant. I just closed my book, hastily finished my breakfast, paid and left.

I’m growing weary of enduring the sin of din in places that have always been free from such annoyances.

So this past Sunday, I closed my book and picked it up along with my plate and walked to the adjacent corner of the restaurant. There were a few empty tables tucked away in a corner where the service staff was sitting. “Can I sit back here where it’s a little quieter?” I asked my waitress. She said “Sure.” And returned to my old table with me to retrieve my drink and the rest of my lunch.

Still, I was unable to concentrate on my reading because the man who had requested the racket was cheering so loudly. He actually jumped up out of his seat and shouted “YES!” when the Browns intercepted a pass from Jacksonville. Again, I hastily finished my meal, paid and left.

Not a New Problem

Nearly thirty years ago, Neil Postman addressed this issue in his landmark book, Amusing Ourselves to Death. His book was first published in 1985, at a time when the United States had 1.83 televisions per household. Twenty-five years later, according to Nielsen, there were 2.93 televisions per household, more than the number of people (2.55) per household!  Having a television is only part of the picture, though; the amount of time we spend watching it is appalling. In 2012, Americans spent 46 hours per week watching television. That’s more time than most Americans work in a week! And this is only a part of the problem.

Today more than two-thirds of all Americans have a smartphone. It’s like having an interactive television with you all day long. Americans spend just over one hour per day on their smartphones and just under one hour per day on the Internet. This is in addition to the time spent watching television.  The worst of it is that teens are spending practically all of their waking hours (even while studying, eating, etc.) with a screen in front of their faces. According to a Pew Research project, school teachers agree that the attention spans of their students are diminishing drastically and students are becoming unable to grasp complex concepts as students in the past.

Adults are not immune to this saturation either. Sports fans like the guy at the Mexican restaurant are considered normal. A man who cannot sit at a table and share a meal and a conversation with his wife and children for thirty minutes isn’t a man. He’s a grown-up baby; immature and narcissistic. What do you think his reaction would have been if I had asked to have a teaching video from R.C. Sproul put on the television and turned up? Or if I had simply asked the manager to leave the television alone and suggest that the man to go into the bar if he wanted to watch the game.

A Middle-Aged Curmudgeon

curmudgeon.jpgI’m still in my 40s, but already well on my way to becoming an old curmudgeon.

Every year, it becomes more difficult to find a reasonably priced restaurant that doesn’t have multiple screens in the dining area. They used to be relegated to the bar area, but many restaurants are now putting them in every room. I understand that as social problems go, this is low on the list of priorities, but it is a symptom of a larger, more pressing societal problem that is being all but ignored. Americans are constantly under attack by distractions from omnipresent technology. To borrow a term from Neil Postman, American society has been “narcotized by technological diversions.” As the ladies at the restaurant at breakfast time confirmed, even if you find a restaurant without TV screens you will still be subjected to unwanted audio/visual intrusions. The majority of our society is addicted to continual entertainment, and the residue of their addiction impacts everyone within earshot. Like second-hand smoke, it is inescapable.

The passive-aggressive in me wants to invest in one of these devices: http://www.amazon.com/TV-B-Gone-Universal-Remote-Control-Keychain/dp/B0006GD9CE.

The old curmudgeon in me wants to start telling people to shut up, sit down and let me enjoy my meal in peace!

 


And now, some short quotations from Neil Postman for your artificially shortened attention span:

“We do not measure a culture by its output of undisguised trivialities but by what it claims as significant.”

“Americans no longer talk to each other, they entertain each other. They do not exchange ideas, they exchange images. They do not argue with propositions; they argue with good looks, celebrities and commercials.”

“But it is much later in the game now, and ignorance of the score is inexcusable. To be unaware that a technology comes equipped with a program for social change, to maintain that technology is neutral, to make the assumption that technology is always a friend to culture is, at this late hour, stupidity plain and simple.”

If you feel like challenging yourself, the following paragraph is well worth the 30 seconds it will take you to read it.

“What Huxley teaches is that in the age of advanced technology, spiritual devastation is more likely to come from an enemy with a smiling face than from one whose countenance exudes suspicion and hate. In the Huxleyan prophecy, Big Brother does not watch us, by his choice. We watch him, by ours. There is no need for wardens or gates or Ministries of Truth. When a population becomes distracted by trivia, when cultural life is redefined as a perpetual round of entertainments, when serious public conversation becomes a form of baby-talk, when, in short, a people become an audience and their public business a vaudeville act, then a nation finds itself at risk; a culture-death is a clear possibility.”

 

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Sources: http://www.nielsen.com/us/en/insights/news/2010/u-s-homes-add-even-more-tv-sets-in-2010.html,

http://usatoday30.usatoday.com/life/television/news/2006-09-21-homes-tv_x.htm,

http://www.nielsen.com/content/corporate/us/en/insights/news/2014/how-smartphones-are-changing-consumers-daily-routines-around-the-globe.html

Just Tell Them About Jesus

I’ve been burdened lately to talk to some of my extended family members about faith in Christ and the apparent lack of it in their lives. But there are so many obstacles to having such a conversation with family.

Talk

History: My family knows me and that’s a big problem. I’ve hurt some of them. Many of them also remember me when I was younger and wilder and they can throw back in my face all the sinful things I used to do. If they’re paying attention at all, they can even bring up some of the sinful things I still do. They probably have enough evidence to prove that I’m a… a… <cringe> hypocrite!

Age: Many of the family members I want to talk to are older than me. I can hardly imagine trying to convince them of their need for a savior. That will mean talking about God’s law and sin and… it’s just too hard. A lot of these people used to spank my butt when I misbehaved as a child. How can I tell them that they have offended a holy God? They’ll think I’m trying to spank them!

Rejection: In the past, when speaking to a family member who considered himself A Good Person, I was met with the hostile statement, “I guess we can’t all be perfect… like you!” I’ve also been told to mind my own business, and that it’s wrong to try and push religion on people when all I was trying to do was have a conversation.

Fear: This might be the biggest obstacle for me. Mostly, I’m afraid that I’ll mess up the Gospel message and my family member will be lost forever because of me. Sometimes I fear that bringing up the necessity of saving faith in Christ will strain or ruin our relationship. With others I’m afraid to be “that guy” who only wants to talk about Jesus all the time.

This article, published last week by Erik Raymond, cut through all of these obstacles with a very simple suggestion: Just look at it from a childlike perspective.

“Daddy, You Should Tell Her About Jesus”It's All About Jesus

Christianity Is A Crutch

To those who say that Christianity is a crutch: I say, “No it isn’t! What good is a crutch to a dead man?”

Ephesians 2:4-6 – But God, being rich in mercy, because of the great love with which he loved us, even when we were dead in our trespasses, made us alive together with Christ—by grace you have been saved— and raised us up with him and seated us with him in the heavenly places in Christ Jesus.

This article by Matt Chandler is a very good, and more in depth answer to this common challenge.

Crutch

http://www.thevillagechurch.net/the-village-blog/christianity-is-a-crutch-for-the-weak/

 

Lenten Donuts

The president of the company I work for brought in donuts to the office today. Many of my co-workers were enjoying them, a few were abstaining and one was grumbling about him bringing in donuts on Ash Wednesday when many Roman Catholics (and a few Protestants) deny themselves goodies such as these.

donut_half.jpgI told the grumbler and another woman standing nearby that Christians are free to enjoy, with thanksgiving, any kind of food that God provides. The other woman said that we’re all supposed to give up something for Lent even if we’re not Catholic. I told her, “No. God doesn’t love us more because we stop eating a type of food for a period of time.”

“There is nothing I can do to make God love me more, and there is nothing I can do to make Him love me less.” I said. “And the same goes for you,” I told the grumbler as I put my hand on her shoulder. “And for you.” I told the other woman as she cut a large donut in half. “Isn’t that great?”

They both just looked away and didn’t say anything.

So I said to the grumbler, “God isn’t going to hate you if you eat a donut on Ash Wednesday. You might hate yourself, but if you’re a Christian nothing you do can change God’s opinion of you.”

Again, silence.

Finally, the grumbler asked me if I had ever had a Paczki, a Polish donut that is traditionally made and eaten on Fat Tuesday. She told me about how her grandmother would make them to get rid of all the butter, sugar and eggs before Lent started. I’ve never had one, but they sound pretty good.

I grabbed the other half of the large donut the other woman had cut and went back to my desk.

Thank you, Jesus, for a hot cup of coffee and half a chocolate donut. May the understanding of your free and amazing grace penetrate the hearts of my co-workers and lead them to love you for what You have done: Earning, for those who are Yours, complete acceptance by the Father, not by our works but through Yours, for all who repent and believe. Increase our faith, Dear Lord. Amen.

Please! I’m Begging You!

It is a terrifying thing to fall into the hands of the living God. Hebrews 10:31

One of my favorite bible verses is 2 Corinthians 5:21. And I love the way the NASB renders the translation because it is so straightforward.  “He made Him who knew no sin to be sin on our behalf, so that we might become the righteousness of God in Him.”

This is the entire gospel summed up in one verse. Jesus became sin for our sake so that his people would have the righteousness of God. Another way of saying it is that Jesus was the righteousness of God and we were in sin. When we are moved from being “in sin” to being “in Him” Jesus takes our sin and gives us His righteousness.

This is the good news of the gospel: Jesus saves sinners. Even sinners like you and me.

But the verse right before this one is the impetus for this short article. “Therefore, we are ambassadors for Christ, as though God were making an appeal through us; we beg you on behalf of Christ, be reconciled to God.” – 2 Corinthians 5:20

The last half of that verse is laden with emotion and is the appeal that Christians are to share with the entire world:

Man on his kneesPlease! Please! I’m begging you! If Jesus were standing here right now, He would be telling you the same thing. I am simply speaking on his behalf. Please! You who are estranged and separated from God; settle your differences. I implore you with tears in my eyes to get re-connected to Him. For Christ’s sake, don’t continue another minute in your sin. Repent and believe! Please!

Even though I am on my knees begging you for something, don’t think for a moment that that my master is in the same position. I am pleading with you out of love and concern for you, my friend and fellow traveler in this life. Like a hungry homeless man might beg his fellow vagrants to seek shelter because a storm is coming, so also I beg you to come with me to receive food, drink and rest. You and I were created exactly the same, sinners in need of redemption; but I have found something that you need if you want to live. Please come and accept the free grace by which true life is given, you need only to repent and believe!

Therefore, since we have been justified by faith, we have peace with God through our Lord Jesus Christ. Romans 5:1

 

Temptation, Sin and Birds

You cannot keep birds from flying over your head, but you can keep them from building nests in your hair.  – Attributed to Martin Luther

bird-head.jpgThe analogy above came to my attention last week while reading the book Opie Doesn’t Live Here Anymore, by Walt Mueller, and it struck me as an excellent parallel. The quotation is probably not original to Luther and it’s not perfectly clear to what the writer was referring, but Mueller used it in reference to temptations and sin.

Temptations, like birds, are everywhere. In Ohio, there are far fewer birds around now (in early February) than there will be in three months. Likewise, there are seasons in our lives when we are more tempted to certain sins than others. In February, birds named laziness and gluttony always seem to be flying over my head and even landing on me! In May, there will probably be different birds buzzing my noggin.

When I was about 15 years old, my grandfather and I were walking through the backyard talking; I think it was late spring or early summer. We stopped for a moment and suddenly a little sparrow alit on the brim of Grandpa’s hat. I could hardly believe what I was seeing, but I kept my composure and whispered, “There’s a bird on your hat, Grandpa.” Grandpa loved birds and wasn’t jumpy, so he just kept talking and said, “That’s okay. He probably just needs to take a little rest.” My grandpa stood very still and I watched in amazement as the tiny bird stood on its perch and looked around. Eventually, it hopped up onto the crown of Grandpa’s hat. At this, my grandpa reached up and touched the brim of his hat which frightened the bird and it flew off to a nearby maple tree.

My grandpa took off his hat, checked to be sure the bird hadn’t left anything behind, replaced it and resumed walking – like nothing had happened. I couldn’t stop laughing. I had never seen such a thing, and I haven’t since.

The point of Luther’s metaphor is that temptations are inevitable for everyone, but if a Christian responds to them properly, temptations will not automatically yield sin. Scripture substantiates his point:

“No temptation has overtaken you that is not common to man. God is faithful, and he will not let you be tempted beyond your ability, but with the temptation he will also provide the way of escape, that you may be able to endure it.” 1 Corinthians 10:13

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“Resist him [the devil], firm in your faith, knowing that the same kinds of suffering are being experienced by your brotherhood throughout the world.” 1 Peter 5:9

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“Submit yourselves therefore to God. Resist the devil, and he will flee from you.” James 4:7

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Hebrews 2:18 says, referring to Jesus, “For because he himself has suffered when tempted, he is able to help those who are being tempted.”

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“For we do not have a high priest who is unable to sympathize with our weaknesses, but one who in every respect has been tempted as we are, yet without sin.” Hebrews 12:4

It should be encouraging for the Christian to know that God does not equate temptation with sin. Birds are going to fly over our heads; there’s nothing we can do about that. Likewise, opportunities to sin will come; there’s nothing we can do about that either. In this life we will see things and hear things that will tempt us to do things counter to the will of God.

FlappyBird.jpg

For my grandfather, just touching the brim of his hat made the sparrow fly away. I often wish that resisting temptation were so easy. Though difficult, resisting sin isn’t impossible. Here are some tactics that I have found useful and effective for keeping sin at bay.

  • Recognize the danger zones:  Places, times, situations, people, surroundings, etc.
  • Avoid situations in which you know you have sinned in the past.
  • If you find yourself in a sin situation – look for a way to escape.
  • A great way to escape from a sin situation is to start praying. Ask God to deliver you from evil.
  • In an unavoidable situation, replace a part of it with something faith-related.
  • Get an accountability partner – call them when you feel yourself slipping.
  • Recite memorized scripture to yourself. Remember the promises of God in 1 Cor. 10:13

In this life, it is impossible to completely keep from sinning and though we will inevitably fail some of the time, God does not want us to despair over these failings; He gives us the gift of repentance. And “if we confess our sins, he is faithful and just to forgive us our sins and to cleanse us from all unrighteousness” 1 John 1:9.

To paraphrase Augustine: God had one Son on earth without sin; but never one without temptation.

beard_nest.jpg

We All Need A Savior

Simple truth.

WeAllNeed.jpg

 

Source: Facebook

I Like Christ, but not Christians

Gandhi_Tweet.jpg

Regardless of whether or not Gandhi ever said this, it is a sentiment shared by both non-Christians and Christians still today. I’ve heard it restated, “I like Jesus, it’s his followers I can’t stand.” So how do you respond to such a statement, dear believer?

Begin by remembering what God told you to do when you’re attacked. “A soft answer turns away wrath, but a harsh word stirs up anger.” Proverbs 15:1. He reiterated this when he came to Earth as a man, “…love your enemies and pray for those who persecute you,” Matthew 5:44.

So say a quick prayer on the spot and ask God to give you a soft answer that you can share in love so that God might be glorified.


Look at the statement again, can you agree with any of it? I certainly can. So take that portion of the statement, embrace it and make it the main point of your counterargument.

Here is how I would like to respond to someone who makes such a statement.

Simul Justus Et Peccator by John Dearstyne

Simul Justus Et Peccator by John Dearstyne

I agree with the second half of the statement, Christians are very much unlike Christ. The main reason is that every single person who calls himself a Christian is a sinner – me included. I’m not just saying that glibly either. The truth is: no matter how hard I try to be Christ-like, I fail; I fall way short of the goal – all the time.

What it means to be a Christian is not that I live a perfect life like Jesus did, that’s impossible. What it means is that Christ has changed my heart to one that is learning not to fear admitting my shortcomings. I am learning to recognize my failures, repenting of them to God, apologizing for them to others and trying to do better. The person I am is not made up of the sum of my actions, God forbid! The person I am is one whose identity is found primarily in Christ, not because of what I do, but because of what He did!

What He did was to live a sinless life. Have you ever really thought about that? What it means? It means he never sassed his mom. He never stole a grape at the market. He never told a lie, not even a “little white” one. He never had impure thoughts when he looked at a woman. And these were just the things He did in his human nature.

Jesus also performed miraculous signs that proved He was more than a mere man. There were thousands of eye-witnesses to these events and they are recorded in the most reliable ancient book ever written. He healed people who were diseased, crippled and blind. He fed thousands of hungry people. He voluntarily laid down his life and had the power to take it back up again. He came back to life and still lives today!

So, yes, Christians are nothing like Christ.


Now let’s look at the first sentence in the statement, “I like your Christ.” It’s just not true. Here’s why. The Christ that you think you like is a fabrication; he is not the Jesus described in the Bible. Your Jesus might refrain from doing bad things and even do a lot of good things too. But the real Jesus also said many things that were recorded and can still be found today. He taught things like:

“…unless one is born again he cannot see the kingdom of God.” John 3:3

“I and the father are one.” John 10:30

“I am the way the truth and the life. No one comes to the father except through me.” John 14:6

“…everyone who looks at a woman with lustful intent has already committed adultery with her in his heart.” Matthew 5:28

“…whoever marries a divorced woman commits adultery.” Matthew 5:32

“Not everyone who says to me, ‘Lord, Lord,’ will enter the kingdom of heaven…” Matthew 7:21-23

“Depart from me, you cursed, into the eternal fire prepared for the devil and his angels.” Matthew 25:41

Do you really like this Christ, Mr. Gandhi? Really? I don’t think you do, because this Christ says that people like you deserve to go to hell when they die. Why would you say you like this Christ?

You have not been born again; you don’t believe that He is the only way to heaven and you don’t believe that hell exists.

  • Jesus said all these things, but you don’t believe them. Is it because you think he was lying? Why would you like someone who lies?
  • Jesus said all these things, but maybe he was wrong; maybe he was a little crazy. Why would you like someone who is basically a lunatic?
  • Jesus said all these things. He was not lying, neither was He crazy; He was telling the truth! You say you like Him, but you deny all these things that He said. If you really liked Him, you would affirm what He said and repent of your sins and be saved!

That is what I want for you. I want you to take another look at the things that Jesus did, listen to the things that Jesus said. Assume that he’s not a liar or a lunatic – you have only one other choice – He is Lord.

If you really like Him, you will obey Him (John 14:15), you will repent and believe Him (Mark 1:15), and He will give you eternal life in his eternal kingdom. But if you don’t like him, if you don’t believe Him or obey Him, then the wrath of God still rests upon you. (John 3:36)


You may not like Christians. That’s okay. Jesus said that His followers would be hated because He was hated. But please don’t pretend that the reason you dislike Christ is because of the way Christians act. They don’t really act any differently than you do. And please don’t say that you like Christ if you don’t believe he did the things he did and don’t agree with the things He said. That’s hypocrisy – the very thing that you accuse Christians of all the time.

Looking back on 3013

Another year is almost done; soon we’ll have to start writing ’14 instead of ’13. Here is my list of the six most important events of the year just passed.

 

February

meteor.jpgChelyabinsk – An L2C2 (Lunar Landing Catapult Container) on final approach exploded over Eurasia, injuring 1,492 people and damaging more than 4,400 buildings. No deaths were reported. It was the latest and largest of a string of L2C2 strikes since the final implementation of the Monogamist Relocation Act of 2930. The incident, still under investigation by Solar Alliance officials, prompts intercontinental concern regarding the vulnerability of the planet to strikes by the monogamist majority on the moon. Solliance Minister Mycro Garcia has pledged to redouble the guard on the catapult mounts of Luna. “Sanctions against the Monoloonies will continue to escalate until they capitulate or die out,” said Garcia, “Polyamory is the law of the system and no terrorist clinging to archaic superstition is going to change that.”

 

April

brain.jpgColumbus – Researchers from The North American Truth & Science University released a study on the .Pub.Net. (Public Network) describing the formation of the first fully functioning and self-sustaining synthuman brain. Eugenics Researcher Charles F. Potter described the ‘brain’ as “primarily organic with neo-synthetic organization, along with full-spectrum reciprocal bio-electrical reactions, allowing replication of unlimited neurons and synapses.” He added that “NATSU is now within five years of performing the first successful sapien brain upload. We are on the cusp of achieving conscious immortality consuming fewer than 500 offspring. This is a revolutionary advance!” Potter also thanked each of the 490 couples who provided infants for cephalectomies that made this development possible.

 

July

mosque.jpgCairo – Violence overshadowed the celebration of the 2,000th anniversary of the completion of the Al-Hakim Mosque which is now an al fresco market. World Alliance troops were called in when Egyptian Supression Squads were unable to control upstart Religists. 95 Christians and 39 Yawehians were discorporated by Alliance troops when they encircled the Mosque and refused to disperse while a group of Allahians went inside to worship.  Rioters in Cairo and Alexandria responding to the event were quickly incapacitated by Supression Squads with ultrasonic cannons. All Religists involved in the demonstrations in both cities were peacefully captured and humanely euthanized.

 

August

Digital-Bible.jpgCopenhagen – The World Alliance marked the 300th anniversary of the P2R2 Act (Public Practice of Religious Rituals), but noted that some stubborn pockets of Religists in the Con2 (Confederated Continents) still refuse to conform. Religists insist they have a right to share their unapproved propaganda on the .Pub.Net. As a test, and a sign of good faith, Con2 Premier Bella Murray graciously allowed P2R2 opponents unfiltered admittance to the .Pub.Net. on the 22nd, but had to rescind access after a few hours when unencrypted DigiBibs (Digital Bibles) were directed to the six leaders of the Con2. The Religists responsible were identified, apprehended and eradicated.

 

October

Cedar Rapids – A radical cell of D2 (Didactic Domicile) practitioners was discovered hiding beneath the floorboards of a home on Ellis Road near the Cedar River. Colonel John Landa of the E3 (Education Enforcement Entity) said that an arsenal of subversive material was recovered at the site and destroyed. The group is suspected of being linked to a larger cadre of rebels in the central continent who presume to teach children without the approval of the E3. “This deviant practice has been outlawed for centuries, but there always seems to be people who think they are above the law,” said Landa. He added that the rebels provided names and locations of other D2 cells during their flaying.

 

December

circles.jpgCanberra – Most recently, the citizens of the Solar Alliance observed a moment of silence to recognize the death of Michael Calliskova, inventor of the P2D2 (portable personal discorporation device), he was 156. The P2D2 was the first highly accurate portable apparatus capable of completely atomizing a human being without causing proximate organic damage. Few people remember the days before the P2D2 when a sanctioned discorporation would destroy flora and fauna in a 6 meter radius. Conservationists hailed Calliskova for his breakthrough design that allowed officials to eliminate deviant sapiens without damaging the surrounding environment.

 

3014 is right around the corner. Hold onto your hats, folks!

Christmas Cheer from Psalm 22

Most people think of the death of Jesus when they read Psalm 22. This is only natural as it begins with the words, “My God, my God, why hast thou forsaken me?” which are also found in Matthew 27:46 and Mark 15:34.

Matthew Henry writes about this Psalm, “The Spirit of Christ, which was in the prophets, testifies in this psalm, as clearly and fully as anywhere in all the Old Testament,”

who-will-save-you.pngThis psalm is not unique among Davidic Psalms, it couples human lament with the triumph of God throughout. Toward the end of the Psalm, it focuses upon the victory that God will have at the end.

Verse 23-28 tells about who God will save and how He will save them. (Spoiler Alert: It isn’t limited to the Jews!) Verses 27 and 28 say that the reach of Christ will be to the ends of the earth, and every nation and people group will know God, turn to the Lord (Jesus) and, as brothers and sisters in Him, shall feast. All of this rests upon the truth that only God can save the soul.

He made it, He sustained it and only He can save it.

Toward the end of the Psalm, these words may be found in verse 29: “All they that be fat upon earth shall eat and worship: all they that go down to the dust shall bow before him: and none can keep alive his own soul.” [Psalm 22:29 KJV]

What does this have to do with Christmas?

“…all they that go down to the dust shall bow before him…” This bit of imagery calls to mind a couple of other scriptures, most obviously, Genesis 3:19 “…for you are dust, and to dust you shall return.” This portion of the verse is clearly saying that every human being on earth will bow down before Jesus. This is the same thing that is written in Philippians 2:10-11 (echoing Isaiah 45:23) that “that at the name of Jesus every knee should bow, in heaven and on earth and under the earth, and every tongue acknowledge that Jesus Christ is Lord, to the glory of God the Father.”

The verse ends with these words, “and none can keep alive his own soul.” Here is the truth of this entire Psalm, indeed, the truth of the entire Bible and the “punch line” of all human existence: We are finite and corruptible and incapable of life outside the purview of God.

This truth is reasserted at the end of verse 31 in the words, “He has done this.” meaning that Jesus has accomplished His purpose to save His church, His bride.

  • He has done this for His own reasons.
  • He has done this for His own glory
  • He has done this in His own timing.
  • He has done this because we cannot do it ourselves.
  • He has done this because it was His plan all along.
  • He has done this because He promised to do so.
  • He has done this to demonstrate His mercy.
  • He has done this to demonstrate His wrath.
  • He has done this to demonstrate His grace.
  • He has done this to demonstrate His hatred of evil.
  • He has done this to demonstrate His patience.
  • He has done this to demonstrate His sovereignty
  • He has done this to demonstrate His love.
  • He has done this to demonstrate His Holiness
But what does this have to do with Christmas?

But when he came to himself, he said, ‘How many of my father’s hired servants have more than enough bread, but I perish here with hunger! I will arise and go to my father, and I will say to him, ‘Father, I have sinned against heaven and before you.” – Luke 15:17-18

 Matthew Henry points out the obvious thing that isn’t so obvious to many (like me): “The prodigal came first to himself, and then to his father”

Like the prodigal, we must first come to our senses, “come to ourselves” to paraphrase Jesus. We must first realize our position in the eyes of God (a sinner – Romans 3:23) and then with that realization, recognize that we are powerless to change or save ourselves (John 15:5). Then, like the prodigal, say, “I will arise and go to my Father.”

Arise, all you citizens of Earth; arise and go to your Father.

My wish for you this Christmas, dear unbeliever, is that you would realize that you cannot save your own soul.

My wish for you this Christmas, dear believer, is that you would realize that you cannot save your own soul.

My wish for myself and my own family this year is that we would realize that we cannot save our own soul.

Only God can save your soul – and He has provided a way (One Way!) to salvation. That is the good news of Christmas! That God condescended to be with his creation and make a way to return to communion with Him.

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Merry Christmas.

[When you…] return to the Lord your God, you and your children, and obey his voice in all that I command you today, with all your heart and with all your soul, then the Lord your God will restore your fortunes and have mercy on you, and he will gather you again from all the peoples where the Lord your God has scattered you. – Deuteronomy 30:2-3

All the ends of the earth shall remember and turn to the LORD, and all the families of the nations shall worship before you. – Psalm 22:27

Yes, to this day whenever Moses is read a veil lies over their hearts. But when one turns to the Lord, the veil is removed. – 1 Corinthians 3:15-16