Socially, nothing dramatic happened in Jamaica last week that really touched my soul. Yes the murder continues - five men invaded a house and killed a female security guard and shot two children. And people were killed in the western part of the island and police killed three men, one of whom was reportedly wanted for stealing a coffin last year, apparently looking for hidden money. Sad but true. Murder most foul, and other socially destructive behaviours have become almost routine in my country. But on the other hand, I listened a radio broadcast of an interview with a young Jamaican girl who was savagely and cynically - apparently it is par for the course in that station - in our sister Caribbean island of St. Lucia. The pain and the terror that this obviously poor but proud Jamaican national - created like me in the very image of God - suffered, was almost palpable, and at one section of the interview it was as if she was about to" go mad" on account of her terrible ordeal. So the madness that is wreaking havoc in my country is spreading across the Caribbean, and if truth be told, across the entire world.
So our God, the God of Abraham and of Isaac and of Jacob, and the Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, who is always ahead of us, warning, encouraging, teaching, judging but yet and always loving, led me to focus on Sin. Not just your every day acts of sinfulness, but the very foundation of the kind of madness which would move a policeman to so terrorise another human being placed in his care.
The first passage on this issue of Sin was found in my continued reading of that much celebrated theologian Oswald Chambers, famous for his " My Utmost for His Highest"
BIBLICAL ETHICS OSWALD CHAMBERS THE COMPLETE WORKS
The Divine and the Human - " But we have this treasure in earthen vessels, that the excellency of the power of may be of God, and not of us. ( 2 Cor. 4:7)
........The Christian doctrine of the Incarnation is not only that " God was manifest in the flesh," but that the same thing will take place in anyone who receives the Holy Spirit; he receives from God a totally new heredity, the life of the Son of God, " until Christ be formed in you". Human nature is the home where the Divine manifests itself. Holiness Movements are apt to ignore the human and bank all on the Divine; they tell us that human nature is sinful, forgetting that Jesus Christ took on Him our human nature, and " in Him is no sin". It was God who made human nature, not the devil; sin came into human nature and cut it off from the Divine, and Jesus Christ brings the pure Divine and the pure human together. Sin is a wrong thing altogether and is not to be allowed or a moment. Human nature is earthly, it is sordid, but it is not bad, the thing that makes it bad is sin. Sin is the outcome of a relationship set up between man and the devil whereby man becomes " boss" over himself, his own god ( see Genesis 3:8).. No man was ever created to become his own master, or the master of other men; there is only one Master of men and that is Jesus Christ.
One of the great tragedies of our times, orchestrated by the devil, is that we place a focus on the
the " branches" of sin, the easily seen, and much vilified, but yet superficial; but not much interest is placed on the "root", the very foundation of sin, from which all socially destructive behaviours flow. This is of paramount importance for two reasons. One, is that for those who do not transgress the superficial nature of sin, and therefore think that they are " decent and good citizens", the gospel of Christ's Incarnation, death and resurrection is of no value to them. Two, and this is related to the first point, unless we are convicted of how badly Sin has marred our souls and separated us from a Holy God, we will never understand how much the God of Abraham loves us, and how much that love is manifest in the death of Christ on the Cross of Calvary seek Salvation in and through Christ. To bring home the point very dramatically our young priest told the story this morning how a pastor, having borrowed his wife's spanking new SUV, had the misfortune to drop the keys in a toilet. he therefore had no choice but to reach down into the " mess" and rescue his wife's car keys. And in the same way God in Christ Jesus, out of love, not of need, reached down and " pulled us, every human being if we would just believe", out of the " mess" of sin and death.
The second passage is like some court cases - just a mention. No big trial, but the very mention sends creeps down spine when we consider the implications.
" Then he showed me Joshua the high priest standing before the angel of the Lord, and Satan standing at his right hand to accuse him. The Lord rebuke you, Satan!" The Lord, who has chosen Jerusalem rebuke you! Is not this man a burning stick snatched from the fire?
Now Joshua was dressed in filthy clothes as he stood before the angel. The angel said to those who were standing before him, " Take off his filthy clothes."
Then he said to Joshua, " See I have taken away your sin, and I will put rich garment so you."
Zechariah 3:1-2 NIV
Satan and evil are real issues in life and somehow for whatever reason God, allows them to exist.Thank God that this and other Old Testament passages, prophecy about the coming of Christ- in whom all sins are taken away. For those who have no protection from a loving God, because they have rejected His Son, Satan rules easily often with devastating consequences.
Finally, even for us who claim Christ, the devil is allowed some freedom to terrorize us, but only with God's permission, and for His express purpose. And He, when His purposes have been accomplished, will rescue us. But in the meanwhile life, because of evil, can be challenging.
CHRIS TIEGEN OCTOBER 2 SIFTED
" Simon, Simon, Satan has asked to sift you like wheat. Luke 22:31
IN WORD We wonder why we have trials sometimes. Jesus gives us a glimpse of one reason right here. Satan has asked it of Simon Peter. It is quite possible that he asks it of us as well. And this is no polite request; some translations of this verse capture it more strongly: " Satan demanded to have you, that he might sift you like wheat". (RSV). The enemy of our souls boldly asserts his right to fight to retain what he has long held. We are targeted for sifting by the one we want to leave behind. And Jesus lets him do it.
The verse is rich implications for us. For example, isn't is interesting that Jesus gives no indication of having put up a fight for us? Certainly he prayed for Peter, but he apparently did not resist the demand in the first place. Jesus does not say that he prayed for Peter to be spared from the sifting. In fact, He seems quite willing to let it happen, as though Satan is actually doing the bidding of the Lord. What the enemy means for evil, God means for good. He lets the evil one behave his way with us -- for a time.
IN WORD Nowhere in the Bible does God promise to spare us from temptation. Our faith will be assaulted in numerous ways, ad while God is not the author of this, He specifically allows it.
The enemy of our souls, the evil one who has held this world in his grip from the early days of creation until now, fights against our trust in God. As he did with Job, he may insist to God that our faith is not genuine because it has not tested. If he can prove that it is not, he can slander the Almighty with his skepticism. God takes him up on the challenge.
Do you ever feel as if all hell is sifting your faith to see what remains? Hang on. You are in a process God has allowed, and that He will also strictly limited. Your sifting will not last. Your faith will, and there be no chaff to it. Trust in God's sovereignty over the enemy.
One of the striking things about the interview with the young lay who has her dignity trampled all over by this " child of the devil" was her assurance that " God naw sleep". Very much akin the the Psalmist's declaration:
" I lift up mine eyes to the hills
where does my help come from?
My help comes from the Lord
the Maker of heaven and earth
He will not let your foot slip --
he who watches over you will not slumber;
indeed he who watches over Israel
will neither slumber nor sleep...."
Evil will be conquered, whether now or at some other time. But until then it is a very real issue and is spreading its tentacles across the Caribbean. Why? In large part because, rather than hold on to the old time religion, tried and proven by our forebears, we have succumbed to the beguiling temptations of modernity and New Age, which are really "old age" manifestations of human rebellion against God "dressed up" in more sophistry. Many ordinary folks, even though not Baptised, still fear God and look to Him for justice in a land where human life and human dignity are of little worth to many. All on account of Sin. The challenge for the children of God, born not of human flesh nor of a husband's will, but born of God, and given that right on account of our belief in Christ, is to accept that we too will be sifted by Satan, in order that our faith may be proved genuine. For those who face Satan the accuser and the tormentor and the tempter, without Christ, it is not enough to pray that God may still have mercy on them, but in addition, we need to become 'broken bread and poured out wine' - allow the Christ within us push us to preach the gospel by word and deed, in love, in the same way Christ pursued us with His extravagant love. Then and only then will policemen, whether in Jamaica or St. Lucia; gunmen whether in Jamaica or in Antigua; kidnappers whether in Jamaica or in Trinidad will turn and repent and seek forgiveness from God in and through Christ. And so allow young and old women and men, to live in peace and with their dignity.
Lord renew thy church beginnning with me: Lord renew the church that the church may renew the nation(s)