Wednesday, January 21, 2015

.... And Another Thing about You and Me

This Sunday, the sermon at Good Shepherd came from Psalm 139.  But even though we covered almost every verse in the psalm, there were a few things I wasn't able to get to because of time.  I'd like to share one of them with you now… since it is a crucial teaching for all people and especially Christians.

In (v. 14), after talking about how God knows David's past, his very conception, David writes these words: "I praise you, for I am fearfully and wonderfully made.  Wonderful are your works; my soul knows it very well."  Here, David is reflecting on God's wonderful creative power in His making of… David.  It may seem a bit arrogant for the sweet Psalmist, but in this passage David is marveling that God could make such an amazing thing as himself!

Every person is a unique creation of God.  Every person is an astounding work of creation: Consider the intricacies of the human body, the human brain.  Doctors have been studying the body in the Western world since 2nd century (at least), and in India perhaps a millennium before that. And yet, with all this study, we have not yet plumbed the depths of God's creation in our own bodies!  On top of that, our own souls and spirits remain a deep mystery to us as well.  If you've ever been impressed with new gadget: a car, a new smartphone or computer, then whenever you see another human being or even when you look in the mirror (no matter how rough you look!) you should explode into songs of praise to God! What an amazing Being could create such beings as ourselves!? Indeed, each human being has in them a reflection of the image of God.  (See Genesis 1:26-27)  What a lesson each of us could learn from David:  to be amazed at how God has made us and who we are, rather than wishing we were more like another one of his creations.  How would the world change if we really believed that every person is a valued creation of God, regardless of race, of age (old or unborn), of lifestyle, of nationality, of open-mindedness or closed-mindedness, of intelligence or lack thereof, or of religion? Where would the abortion industry go?  It would disappear.  Where would wars go?  They might even cease.  Where would violence go?  It would be lessened.  How could extreme poverty still exist if we saw others like this?  

Unfortunately, this enlightened biblical perspective won't be universally realized before Jesus returns… and here's the reason:  There's more to David's view of himself and of humanity than this elevated picture.  David, who is in awe God's handiwork when he looks at himself, is also the guy who said the following words:  "Look, I was guilty of sin from birth, a sinner the moment my mother conceived me." (Psalms 51:5, NET)  The reality is that even though every man, woman, and child was made in God's image and is an amazing unique creation, we are also broken creatures, all of us.  We are all born that way.  There is not a single person who is walking the earth today whose body, mind, and soul are free from the taint of sin.  Sin doesn't just affect our relationship with God, it also affects our bodies, our minds… every aspect of us. (See Romans 1:18-3:19; 8:18-23)  Not only does every human being think thoughts and make choices contrary to God's design for us, but our own minds and bodies have been marred and tainted, even from birth, so that the things that "feel" and "seem" right to us can, in fact, be wrong.  Sin affects our theology, our psychology, and our biology.  No one is exempt from this. 

This is the predicament of humanity.  We are in tension.  On one hand, we have this unparalleled glory amongst all God's creations: we are made in his image and likeness.  But we also have this tragic flaw: our glorious nature is twisted by sin.  Any view of humankind that forgets to hold these two things in tension does not tell the whole truth.   And when a culture loses either side of this truth,  it can dehumanize its citizens.  (As a generalization: Our current day tends to think "everything is awesome" about humanity.  Previous generations had a tendency to deny the dignity of every human being.)   It is a question worth asking: How am I broken?  How has sin warped me?  The only way we can know these things is if God reveals them to us in his Word, and if loving brothers and sisters in the Church help us to see our blindspots.  

But here's the good news:  Through Jesus, every aspect of sin is and will be taken away.  Those who are united to Jesus through faith, repentance, and baptism will get to see the sin that has warped them taken completely away:  On the cross he took away the penalty of sin.  Through his Spirit, he is working in us more and more to take away the power of sin (everything from diseases to sinful habits), and when He returns, he will take away the presence of sin all together.  When that Day comes, we, and all creation with us, will regain the glory and perfection for which we were made!  

"Oh, the depth of the riches and wisdom and knowledge of God! How unsearchable are his judgments and how fathomless his ways! For who has known the mind of the Lord, or who has been his counselor? Or who has first given to God, that God needs to repay him? For from him and through him and to him are all things. To him be glory forever! Amen." (Romans 11:33–36)

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