From Kingston, Jamaica to Gaddafi's Libya, to the struggles in Bahrain and Syria, to the longstanding challenges between Pakistan and India to the unrest in Northern Russia which occasionally spills over into the capital city Moscow, people all over the world are looking for peace. And none more so than us here in Jamaica, as a nation experienced, yet again, the tragedy of a student from a prominent high school being killed because of his cell phone. As despite a welcome drop in the murder rate thus far this year, far too many parents and communities continue to grieve over the sudden loss of a child or an adult.
So, this week the Lord spoke a Word about Sin and repentance , belief and faith. All of which require serious contemplation if we are ever going to have peace in our land. The revival of righteousness and holiness for which many have been, and continue to pray.
This first meditation, was not the the start of the revelation - about revival - but it is certainly a critical part of it. And it needs to be understood within the context that, all good thoughts and desires come from God, and the fact that, according to God's holy Word, the " heart" which is inherited from Adam, is desperately wicked. That's why repentance, an acknowledgment of our wickedness before a Holy God, though humbling, is so vital in repairing the broken relationship between the Creator and mankind. The sadness is not so much that those outside the church do not feel this need to repent, but more so that many within the church have become so spiritually arrogant and lukewarm, and perhaps so much like the Pharisees of old, that David's cry , " Create in me a new heart", is no longer a priority for them.
ANSELM'S CONFESSION ( 1033-109)
Anselm was a former Archbishop of Canterbury
Verse 1 John 1.9
I am frightened of living Lord.
My whole life seems sinful or sterile.
Any fruits I bear are either false or rotten.
Nothing I do seems pleasing to you.
I am a barren tree that deserves
To be chopped down, cut and burnt.
I bear only the sharp and bitter thorns of sin.
If only those thorns could prick me into repentance.
Inside me my conscience burns.
I dare not show myself, yet I have nowhere to hide.
What will happen to me?
Where can I find safety?
Who will protect me from your wrath?
Lord, you are my judge in whose hands I tremble.
Yet you are also the one who can save me.
Though I fear you, i trust you.
Though I want to flee from you, i flee towards you.
Jesus, Jesus, forget the sin by which I have provoked you,
And see only the misery which invokes you.
Most kind Lord,
Confirm in me all that belongs to you,
And cast away all that is alien to you.
So if not just a Bishop, but an Archbishop, could cry out to God, like King David did, how much more should we spend time this Lent, repenting for our presumptuousness before a Holy God.
The second meditation, from CHRIST TIEGEN describes an essential part of the Christian journey, about which we need to be forewarned, but is also a topic about which many don't like to hear. That not only are we in a constant battle with our own sinful nature, but that the evil one, the Devil is also constantly warring for our souls and inflicting harm on the unsuspecting, the spiritually naive and the unprotected.
THE EVIL PERSONALITY
" I know where you live - where Satan has his throne". Rev. 2:13
IN WORD Jesus' words to the Perganum church may have referred to the city as Satan's central power base. Even so, we know that the words also apply to us. Satan is not omnipresent like God, so we don't know exactly where that finite creature is at the moment. But we do know that we live where he has his throne. he runs rampant on this planet. John confirmed it in one of his letters. " The whole world is under the control of the evil one ( 1 John 5:19).
If you have been a child of God for long, if your home has been the body of Christ for any time at all, you know: Evil is not a force to explain; it is far more personal than that. Let the philosophers and the theologians wrestle with the " problem of evil". We wrestle with the evil one. We are not harassed by a concept. " Our struggle is.....against the rulers, against the authorities, against the powers of this dark world and against the spiritual forces of evil in the heavenly realms" ( Ephesians 6:12). We don't engage in a philosophy of evil; we fight against evil personalities.
IN DEED This is a frightening task, but it's our only way to victory. Forsake all though of evil simply as a force in the world. Never depersonalize it. Recognize that there is a relentless, malicious intelligence behind all the pain you see. Some of Satan's minions know you by name. Jesus' ministry made that clear. He never cast out a problem; he cast out spirits. He held conversations with them and called them by name. You can't do that with an abstract principle.
How does that help us in our daily struggles? It brings us face-to-face with reality. When the Bible tells us to overcome evil with good, it is not speaking about abstracts. it means that we are to overcome the evil one with the Good One. We have a Warrior, a Victor, a conquering King. Read revelation and see. And when all hell breaks loose against you, rely completely on Him.
I could be tempted to end the message here, as the above is sufficient. It explains the wickedness abroad in my country. The murders. The rapes. The cause of so much adultery and fornication in the society, both of which are destroying family life - a major social challenge being fought without a clear understanding of the overarching problem. The desire for and the promotion of " bleaching" in my country of mostly negro people. The elevation of some entertainers, talk show hosts and newspaper columnists, out of whose hearts and lips and minds come all kind of outrageous lyrics, comments and conversations, to positions of " authority" and influence in this nation. The elevation of " Dons" who rule with unspeakable cruelty in their communities, to positions of great influence over the body politic, for many years now, and not just in recent times, is no ordinary feat carried out by an evil force, but by the evil one himself. The increasing "marginalization" of the views of the people of God, the church, by the "onward rush" of secular thought, is no common achievement in a country of " Puppa Jesus", and " Massa God" - the God of slave forebears, and on whom they relied in times of ( constant ) trouble. Yes, we could warn our people of the role of the evil one and leave it there. But there is more.
Prompted by the " revelation" of Archbishop Anselm's confession last night, and realizing that my obedience in observing a Holy Lent was faltering, with repentance, I turned away from the excitement of so much sports on television, and opened my Bible. And read the entire book of Hebrews. Which is all about faith and belief in the sufficiency of Christ and His Atonement by His Blood on the Cross of Calvary to lead us into a new relationship, a new covenant with God. Peace with God and a revival of righteousness and holiness and justice. Which then placed this other meditation by CHRIS TIEGEN in context.
FAITH THEN SIGHT
" Did I not tell you that if you believed, you would see the glory of God". John 11:40
IN WORD One of the foundational dynamics of the kingdom of god is this principle of faith, then sight. How often we try to reverse that order! Our natural inclination - and probably that of Martha in this passage, as she n mourns the death of her brother Lazarus - is to say we'll believe when we see the glory of God. But throughout Jesus' ministry, He is emphatic about that we have it backward. We'll see the glory of God when we believe.
It's the way of the flesh that says, " I'll believe it when I see it. " Jesus says, " you'll see it when you believe it. " It's one of the hardest principles for the Christian to grasp. The work of almighty sovereign God, is often actually dependent on the level of our faith. it isn't that we limit Him; it;s that He has limited Himself. His modus operandi in this world is to act in response to our faith. As incredible as it seems, the biblical witness is that our belief prompts His intervention. And without belief, he often does not intervene.
IN DEED Do you find yourself in a difficult situation. Believe God and you will see His glory. That does not mean that we lay out a plan for Him and then complain when He meets our needs another way. Faith does not dictate God's method of intervention. But it certainly invites His act of intervention - in His His way and in His time.
This will mean believing that god has specifically allowed your crisis in the first place. Jesus let Lazarus die - on purpose! He said His friend's sickness was for the glory of God to be revealed ( v.4), and he intentionally stayed where he was for two days after hearing of Lazarus' illness(v.6). When the crisis comes, do we complain that god was not watching over us, or do we watch for His glory? Our inward response might have more impact than we think. Jesus is clear: " if you believed, you would see the glory of God."
So do wish to have peace in our countries? The first step is to acknowledge that we carry with us the Sin of Adam, and thus we need to repent of our many sins which war against our souls. Then we need to understand that the evil one is right there in the midst of all of this fighting against us, the children of God with all kinds of temptations. And inciting those who do not belong to God to engage in all kinds of unspeakable evil. Finally, we need to believe in the sufficiency of the shed Blood of Christ to rescue us from the madness of the flesh, the evil one and the world, all of which are trying to keep us from a renewed relationship with God. Lent is thus a wonderful time to contemplate all these things, and to seek the power of God to bring a revival of righteousness and peace to our souls, our families, our communities, our church and to our respective countries. Amen