Perry’s Eclipse

EclipsePerry

As a little boy, I remember visiting my uncle Perry (or more properly, my father’s cousin). We loved to visit him because he had a swimming pool poured right into the foundation of his house! That means that we got to swim in his basement! He was a very successful and forward-thinking man, always full of stories.

There was one story that captured my attention more than all of the others. It was a story that I heard every time that I visited him. It was the story of his plans for his hundredth birthday. He said that there was going to be a solar eclipse on that day and that he was inviting the entire family to come and watch it with him.

He had the party all planned out. All from the family who wanted to come were welcome. He was planning to reserve some rooms for all who showed up. He was also planning to rent an airplane just in case it was overcast on that day. He wanted to take every precaution possible to see the eclipse. He delighted in telling that story. Perhaps that’s why he told it so often.

Perry was born on August 21, 1917. The solar eclipse that he was telling us about all those years will take place this Monday, on August 21, 2017. I have known about this eclipse for more than forty years! To me and my family, this is “Perry’s Eclipse.”

Sadly, Perry’s life came up short. He passed away when he was 93 years-old. So he won’t be able to see his eclipse. But I will remember him on that day. I will also tell the story to my children of how Perry was longing to see what we see on that day.

There is a future event that is far more spectacular than any solar eclipse. It is the longing and hope of all Christians. It is the appearing of Jesus our Lord. Now, unlike the solar eclipses, we don’t know when he will return. But we know that it will be glorious. Jesus told us that his coming would be like lightning across the entire sky (Matthew 24:27). He said that he would come “on the clouds of heaven with power and great glory” (Matthew 24:30).

Those who are his children will see that day and rejoice in that day. The apostle John wrote, “Beloved, we are God’s children now, and what we will be has not yet appeared; but we know that when he appears we shall be like him, because we shall see him as he is” (1 John 3:2). Those who are his children will prepare for that day. “Everyone who thus hopes in him purifies himself as he is pure” (1 John 3:3). What a day that will be!

 

 

Textualism

Scalia

Antonin Scalia passed away in his sleep last Saturday (February 13, 2016). As I have been reading a bit about his life, one thing caught my attention: his view of the Constitution. He was a textualist. That is, he looked intently at the ordinary meaning of the words of the constitution to determine how to apply it. This is in contrast with the view of judicial activism, where a judge’s personal views impacts his (or her) decisions.

Scalia famously said, “If you’re going to be a good and faithful judge, you have to resign yourself to the fact that you’re not always going to like the conclusions you reach. If you like them all the time, you’re probably doing something wrong.”

The issues surrounding the interpretation of the Constitution are similar to the issues surrounding the interpretation of the Bible. The text of the Bible stands as God’s Word to us. Our task is to understand the ordinary meaning of the words of the Bible and act upon them. There will certainly be some things that we don’t like, especially when our well-loved sins are confronted. At these moments we can either accept the authority of the Bible or reject it. We can either be a textualist or a judicial activist.

The Bible clearly understands these two positions. First of all comes the textualist. This one will read the Bible and seek to apply in. Whenever something difficult to believe comes his way, he will cry out, “I believe, help my unbelief” (Mark 9:24). When he fails, he will confess his sin, admitting that his behavior was in error and seeking the forgiveness of our gracious God (1 John 1:9).

On the other side is the judicial activist. He will interpret the Bible in accordance with his own views. So, if there is something he reads that he doesn’t like, he conveniently denies the Bible. Of these people, Paul writes, “Although they know God, they did not honor him as God or give thanks to him, but they became futile in their thinking” (Romans 1:21). If something confronts his lifestyle, he will suppress truth so he can continue to live as he wants. Paul said that these are those who “by their unrighteousness suppress the truth” (Romans 1:18).

When it comes to the Bible, are you a textualist or a political activist?

He Loved Us

One of the most basic elements of the gospel is love.  Not our love for God, but His love for us. John said it well, “This is love, not that we loved God, but that He loved us” (1 John 4:10). God took the initiative and sent His Son to be a sacrifice for us. That’s true love. He gave Himself for sinners. Our love is a love of response. We love a righteous and holy and perfect God.

The Sun is Up!

When we walk outside on a hot summer day, rarely are we concerned with the question, “When did the sun rise?” Unless we listened carefully to the weather report in the morning, we don’t really know exactly when it rose. We know the approximate hour, but not the exact moment. However, we feel its heat. We see its light. We can squint into its surpassing brightness. And we can say, “I’m not quite sure when the sun rose, but I know that it rose, because the sun is up.”

You can apply this to our Christian lives. There are many Christians who are constantly thinking about the day they were converted to Christ. It becomes their consuming focus. They tell others of the day they repented of their sin and trusted in Jesus. It even becomes their assurance. “I know that I’m a Christian because of what happened on such and such a day.”

However, the distinguishing mark of a believer in Christ isn’t a prayer that was prayed on a day that can be recalled with joy. Rather, the distinguishing mark of a believer is that Christ is a reality in their lives. They sorrow over their sin. They feel His heat. They walk in His light. Well might they say, “I can’t tell you the exact day and time that I believed. But, I sure can tell you that Christ is a real presence in my life. The sun is up!”

“If we walk in the Light as He Himself is in the Light, we have fellowship with one another, and the blood of Jesus His Son cleanses us from all sin” (1 John 1:7).

 

 

Propitiation

Propitiation is a great word that’s used in the Bible in a handful of cases. However, because we don’t use it very often in our regular conversation, the glories of its meaning for us who believe in Christ is often lost on us. Thus, an illustration of the meaning of the word might be helpful to you.

Propitiation is the subsiding of wrath. Where once there was anger, propitiation brings peace. For instance, when King Ahasuerus found out that Haman had conspired to destroy all of the Jews in Persia, his anger burned against Haman. “And so they hanged Haman on the gallows, … and the king’s anger subsided” (Esther 7:10). It took the death of Haman to satisfy the anger of the king.

Regarding God’s anger toward us for our sin, it took the death of God’s Son, Jesus, to do satisfy His wrath.  He is now at peace with those who trust in Jesus Christ, who “is the propitiation for our sins” (1 John 2:2).

Like a Snowball

Sin is like a snowball. One sin will often lead to another sin, which will lead to further sin. Those who crave their drugs will steal to get the money to support their habit. Those who are engaged in secret sin will lie to cover it up. The Bible contains many examples of this sort of behavior. I’ll give you two.

Ahab coveted Naboth’s vineyard. When Naboth refused to sell it, Ahab was upset and angry. It lead his wife, Jezebel, to bribe two worthless men to testify lies about Naboth, which led to Natoth’s execution, … all for a vineyard (1 Kings 21). King David is another example. He committed adultery with Bathsheba. In attempting to cover up his sin, David deceived her husband, Uriah, and ordered that he be killed in battle (2 Samuel 11).

What to do? Deal with sin quickly by confessing it to the Lord.  Don’t give it a chance to progress to further sin. “If we confess our sins, He is faithful and righteous to forgive us our sins and to cleanse us from all unrighteousness” (1 John 1:9).

Heaping Burdens

Dealing with the commands in the Bible is a tricky task for any Christian preacher. The easy way to deal with these commands is take them and use them to call people to live holy lives. In this way, Christian preachers become like the Pharisees, who were good at tying up heaven burdens and laying them on the shoulders of men (Matthew 23:4).

But Jesus was different. He said, “Come to Me, all who are weary and heavy-laden and I will give you rest” (Matthew 11:28). Rather than piling burdens on the backs of people, he softened the load. He made it easy. So must Christian preachers.

The only way to do this is to direct people to Jesus, who will take away our burdens and help us keep  the commands given in the Bible. “This is the love of God, that we keep His commandments; and His commandments are not burdensome” (1 John 5:3).