Bailey Noel Pruch. 6 pounds, 13 ounces and 21 inches long. Praise Jesus, through whom everyone is made, for this beautiful creation.
Bailey Noel Pruch. 6 pounds, 13 ounces and 21 inches long. Praise Jesus, through whom everyone is made, for this beautiful creation.
There is no hope for the person who gives his life to the pleasures of this world. There will be no newness, no creativity in that kind of life. There will only be an “empire of dirt.” Always. Listen to Russell Moore:
Cash’s haunting music video for the song features faded film shots of his youthful glory days—complete with the images of friends and colleagues, once at the height of their fame, who are now dead. As the camera pans Cash’s wizened, wrinkled face, he sings about the awful reality of death and the vanity of fame: “What have I become? My sweetest friend / Everyone I know goes away in the end / You could have it all / My empire of dirt / I will let you down, I will make you hurt.”
Whereas, the Nine Inch Nails delivered “Hurt” as straight nihilism, Cash gives it a twist—ending the video with the scenes of crucifixion, which, for Cash, was (and still is) the only answer to the inevitability of suffering and pain.
The video of “Hurt” communicated exactly what the dying Cash seemed to understand, echoing Solomon of old: wealth, celebrity, fame, all of it is vanity in the maw of the grave. By contrasting images of the young celebrated Cash with images of the old, gasping, arthritic Cash, his “House of Cash” closed down and boarded over, the video turned then to what Cash saw as the only real alternative to his empire of dirt: the cross of Christ Jesus.
For more, listen to Dr. Moore’s latest “The Cross and the Jukebox” podcast.
HT: Justin Taylor
For those of you who are not aware, some severe charges have been leveled against C.J. Mahaney. These charges can be summed up in one word: pride. Tim Challies has written a helpful reflection on the situation and how Christians should respond. Ligon Duncan also pens his reflection and he includes some links that will help you catch up on the story.
My only thought is personal: I am asking the Lord to keep me from any appearance of pride, specifically a resistance in my heart to correction and rebuke. I have been deeply troubled by these sins in my life because they are present and real (as my wife can attest). By grace I am seeking to put them to death.
I cannot do it on my own. Neither can C.J. Great grace is required. Thankfully, in Christ and his gospel, great grace is provided–to me, C.J., and anyone who would believe. Let’s be praying for C.J., Sovereign Grace Ministries, and our own hearts.
HT: Justin Taylor
I attended Willow Creek’s Global Leadership Summit this year at a satellite location here in Omaha. There was a lot to receive, some things to redeem, and others to reject. Today, Erwin McManus, pastor of Mosaic in Los Angeles, closed out the Summit with his talk about Christians being culture creators and creative story tellers.
He exceptionally articulated the fact that because God is a creator, Christians are also called to be creative and enter into the redemption that God is working in the world. He told about the time he led Soledad O’Brien to Christ while describing a documentary he was making about the longings and desires every person has. McManus is clearly an innovator, very intelligent (despite barely graduating high school), and no doubt loves Jesus.
The text that McManus spoke from, and formed his argument around, was Ecclesiastes 1:1-11. Aside from the first ten minutes McManus sounded like a (fairly) orthodox Christian, albeit using post-modern vocabulary. In those first 10 minutes, however, his use and interpretation of the text was irresponsible, troubling and dangerous at best.
After telling the audience that Ecclesiastes is his favorite book in the Bible, he read the first eleven verses and said that he has been convinced for a while that “Solomon is wrong.” Wrong about what? Wrong that “What has been is what will be, and what has been done is what will be done, and there is nothing new under the sun” (v. 9). McManus described a time he spoke with his wife and she humorously said, “You are going to hell…Don’t tell anyone you think that.” McManus said he waited a “long time” to tell anyone. He also said, “I don’t believe the Bible’s wrong…I believe Solomon is wrong!” He stated, “Solomon said that animals and men are the same. Do you think that’s true? I don’t.”
McManus went on to argue, as you can imagine, that there are new things in the world. He mentioned various stories in the Old Testament where God did something new, the fact that every person is made unique, the incarnation, the death and resurrection of Jesus, and countless other “new” things. He’s right. New things happen all the time.
But McManus is also wrong. He’s wrong because Solomon is not wrong. It’s not just dangerous that McManus took Ecclesiastes 1 completely out of context (as scary as that is, especially with Ecclesiastes!). What’s more is that he said, “Solomon is wrong.” He told 180,000 people that a biblical author, inspired and guided by the Holy Spirit, actually got it wrong. Solomon said there’s nothing new. He’s wrong. I don’t believe him. Let me tell you how the world actually is. If McManus is free to do that (and convince people to do likewise), who is to say that he cannot twist any other passage?
What was Solomon’s point in saying that everything is meaningless and there is nothing new in Ecclesiastes 1? Did he literally mean there is no purpose in live and that literally nothing new ever happens? Moreover, has any respected biblical scholar or pastor ever assumed that’s what he meant? No and no.
Ecclesiastes is a book of repentance. Solomon wrote it after a long life wasted on sex, drugs, and rock and roll, B.C. style. He was the richest, wisest, sexiest, strongest, and most famous man in the known world. But he turned from the Lord and so nothing was fulfilling to him. His fall is recorded in 1 Kings 11:1-8. Solomon “did evil in the sight of the LORD” (v. 6) and did not remain faithful to Yahweh. He had “hewed out cisterns…that can hold no water” (see Jer. 2:13). He looked for ultimate satisfaction, just as McManus said every human does, in things other than God himself. Women, money, and fame were never meant to deliver ultimate satisfaction.
Ecclesiastes chronicles Solomon’s journey back to God before his death. The book ends with this: “The end of the matter; all has been heard. Fear God and keep his commandments, for this is the whole duty of man. For God will bring every deed into judgment, with every secret thing, whether good or evil” (12:13-14). That gives us a small peek into how the rest of the book should be interpreted and applied.
When Solomon says, therefore, that “All is vanity,” and that “there is nothing new under the sun,” he does not mean that God does not do miracles or that he cannot “bring into existence the things that do not exist” (Rom. 4:17). Solomon also does not mean that human beings are not creative agents who partner with God in his redemptive work by creating beauty in this world through relationships, culture, and art. Would a man whose father was the most accomplished musician and poet in the history of the world say that humans don’t create new things?
What then does Solomon mean? He means that living a life apart from God’s commands (see 12:13) is a big waste of time! Living far from God only brings emptiness to life that leaves a person attempting to fill their void in life with truly boring things. Things like drink, food, sex, money, power, pornography, video games, sports, gambling, children’s soccer games, internet, cell phones, books, family, diet and exercise, body image, cars, status, power, and a thousand others. A life lived for anything other than God and his glory brings misery and ultimate meaninglessness. That life produces what seems to be purposeless existence. “I lived for women and fame and wisdom and money and everything else you could try,” Solomon says. “It was all vain.”
What is not vain? When does creativity and renewal and beauty and majesty appear? It appears when we “fear God and keep his commandments” (12:13). Any Jewish person hearing this text would think of Deuteronomy 6:5, “You shall love the LORD your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your might.”
Jesus said this was the greatest commandment (Matt. 22:37). Jesus even said that this commandment, and “the second greatest” commandment, sum up “all the Law and the Prophets” (Matt. 22:40). Ultimately, we fear and obey Jesus Christ, who is the exact imprint of God’s nature, the image of the invisible God, and God himself (Heb. 1:3; Col. 1:15; John 1:1), and we love other people because they are made in the image of God. We fear and obey Jesus, not to simply avoid meaninglessness and escape hell, but because he has saved us from our sin, reconciled us to God, given us rest, and rescued us from the wrath to come. This the the gospel: We are accepted by God through Christ, therefore we obey.
Solomon tells us that a life lived apart from fearing God and obeying him will be meaningless, uncreative, and boring. Solomon experienced exactly what C.S. Lewis wrote thousands of years later, “We are half-hearted creatures, fooling about with drink and sex and ambition when infinite joy is offered us, like an ignorant child who wants to go on making mud pies in a slum because he cannot imagine what is meant by the offer of a holiday at the sea. We are far too easily pleased.” Solomon was far to easily pleased. Apart from God’s grace, so are you and me.
McManus was right to say that we are born in the image of God and we are to create beauty in every sphere of life and do it for the glory of God. He had that quite right. At the end of his talk, I was waiting for him to give the real “twist” and say, “Actually, Solomon isn’t wrong. In God’s story, there is true beauty and creativity. When you write your own story, filled with your own pleasures, there is nothing new that will come of that. The final outcome of that will always be misery.” But he did not.
McManus is wrong because Solomon is not wrong. If Solomon is wrong about life, then the Bible itself is wrong. If that is the case, then our faith is null and void and all the beauty we see and create is actually an illusion, a product of random chance, not of God’s sovereign and purposeful design. Therefore, I will go so far to say that no one has been “righter” than Solomon, who experienced firsthand the emptiness and deadness of life outside of God’s loving reign. Thankfully, he repented, which most people do not do.
The Imago Dei has indeed been marred by sin. We are a segmented fraction of our true potential. God is re-creating what is marred, and he will finish his good work (see Rom. 8:29; 1 John 3:2; Rev. 21:5).
All who are being made new–by grace through faith–start now in partnering with God to help, in a small way, to make everything else new, including this world. That will never happen if you are lost in a slum satisfied with mud sandwich. There’s no beauty, no renewal, no art, no creativity there. There’s only meaningless. And that’s where Solomon was. Until he repented.
Let us go and do likewise.
Here is a prayer I wrote that I will start to pray each morning to remind myself of the gospel. It is a prayer that I’m sure will change slightly over time and it is not meant as a “be all, end all” prayer. It is also not meant to produce “religious gibberish” that is merely repeated with the mouth and not meant in the heart. It is meant as a template, if you will, so that my mind and heart get into the daily (hourly?) rhythm of confessing Christ as my sole righteousness.
Please feel free to pass this along or re-post or even continue to add paragraphs in the comment section below.
Father in Heaven,
This new day I come not to ask that my slate would be “wiped clean,” for it was wiped clean when your Son cried, “It is finished.” Today, I acknowledge and rejoice in the fact that my righteousness is solely based on the perfect person and work of Jesus Christ. I am accepted by you because of him. By grace through faith I look outside of myself to Jesus and wholly lay claim of the alien righteousness that he gives as the only ground for my acceptance. Only this active faith in Christ will increase my sanctification today. No amount of good works, kept disciplines, hallelujahs, prayers, sighs, or tears will improve my heart or get you on my side. For in Christ, you are already 100% for me.
I am perfectly loved in the gospel. Your grace has broken into my life through the life, death, and resurrection of Jesus. Only through the Spirit’s application of his redemptive work am I able to experience relationship with you and so become your child, your servant, and your friend, and am no longer a son of disobedience, a slave of sin, and your enemy.
You welcome me this morning not because I rise early to read your word and pray. You welcome me not because I try to love you, my family, and those around me. You welcome me not because I try to live purely and righteously in a broken world. You welcome me because you welcome your Son, with whom you are well pleased. Because your Son, who knew no sin, became sin on my behalf I have become your righteousness. This righteousness is not my own, but it is a righteousness from you that depends on faith. Now when you see me, an unworthy sinner, you see Jesus, for my life is hidden in him.
Thank you for the gospel, O glorious Father. Thank you for Christ, my substitute Savior. Thank you for the Spirit who gave life to my dead heart and is active in me as the guarantee of my inheritance. Thank you for your gracious love for and acceptance of me. Because of your love and acceptance, cause me to walk in a manner worthy of this calling that I might be fully pleasing to you and put Christ on display to show the world how marvelous he is.
In Jesus’ name, I pray. Amen.
Part 5 in a 10 part series. View series intro and index.
If you are anything like me (let’s hope not), your bent is to read the Bible to get information. You want to mine the peaks and valleys of Scripture for intellectual ascent, to out-wit, out-smart, or out-argue someone else in a theological debate. You want information because filling your brain makes you feel enlightened, special, smart, or just plain better than others.
If you aren’t like me, I’m willing to be you are still a bit like me (too bad) in that you read the Bible for information, yet in a different way–it just might not be for theological prowess. Instead, you might have been raised on the American proverb, “Knowledge is power,” and “power” for you is that little nudge to initiate your self-help gears. You bring that perspective to your devotional times, and as long as you find that little piece of history to remember or a short verse to memorize, your conscience will be appeased, at least until tomorrow morning.
If you read the Bible simply for information, you will learn the dance steps of Christianity. Anyone can learn dance steps. Even uncoordinated white men can learn the Macarena or the Electric Slide if a pretty girl invites them to the dance floor. It is much harder (impossible?) to hear the music as the writer and composer would without a complete internal transformation.
Isn’t that what we do when it comes to devotions? We look for dance steps. We simply want to know where our feet go. We search for a rule to follow or a sin to avoid. We want to know when to raise our hands in church, when to say “Amen,” and how to talk like church-folk. Sadly, this doesn’t only happen during devotions. At Sunday services, small groups, or Friday night hang-outs, people in the church are just looking for dance steps. Many Christians (and those who think they are) just want to know where their foot goes next.
Dance steps will get you by for a song or two. If you know the steps, you might even be able to fool your dance partner that you know what you are doing. But sooner or later a song will play that doesn’t have programmed moves. You will need to hear the music to show that you know what you are doing. Unfortunately, there are millions of people in America who can do the dance of Christianity, and reading the Bible for information–which is what you probably learned to do growing up–will only teach you steps. You must hear the music.
The Bible teaches this, just not in the same vocabulary. The author of Hebrews writes, “For the word of God is living and active, sharper than any two-edged sword, piercing to the division of soul and of spirit, of joints and of marrow, and discerning the thoughts and intentions of the heart. And no creature is hidden from his sight, but all are naked and exposed to the eyes of him to whom we must give account” (4:12-13).
That goes way deeper than simple dance steps.
Dance steps are akin to phony, external religion, but God wants us to hear the music. Dance steps make Christianity about me. Hearing the music makes it about God. Dance steps are a short cut that yield no eternal reward. Hearing the music means we enter into the story of God’s redemptive work and relish the fact that he has graciously broken into our lives to save us from the sin and brokenness we would not otherwise be able to overcome.
This is were true joy lies. Thus the Bible is meant for your spiritual transformation, not mere transfer of information.
Obviously no one can “hear the music of the gospel” unless the Spirit causes them to be born again (John 3:1-8). With that said, we still have responsibility for our spiritual lives. As I wrote last time, whether Christian or not, our greatest need is the gospel. Scriptures main point is to be “a speaker amplifying the music of the gospel.” Here are some questions to help us hear the music when reading Scripture.
 I am indebted to Dr. Keith Johnson for the analogy of “hearing the music of the gospel.” Read his article for a much fuller and more helpful version of what I have written.