My Opinions Won’t Save Me

Today I was reading in Steven Lawson’s book ‘Foundations of Grace‘, the book reads like a Biblical Theology on the Doctrines of Grace. Here I am at Chapter Four, and its as if Lawson never wrote the previous three chapters, such is his energy and enthusiasm for the topic.

This chapter covers some of the early leaders of the Bible ‘Joshua to Job’, and shows how God’s sovereignty in salvation was on full display in their life stories.

Here’s how he opens:

Strong men always proclaim a strong message. They do not read the polls and check the surveys before they give their opinion. In fact, they do not even have opinions – they have convictions. They bleed convictions. They are strong men anchored in the strong Word of God, and, as such, they bring a message with gravitas and punch.

That certainly sounds like the kind of man I want to be. Though I come from dust and will return to it, I want to stand for something during this life. Don’t you?

That phrase, “In fact, the do not even have opinions – they have convictions” is worth pondering. I believe what Lawson is getting at is that men and women who stand on the truth of God do not stand on the strength of their own ideas.

The ideas that a godly man or woman stand on are not always popular – in fact, they can be downright dangerous. But they hold them and speak them nonetheless.

Lawson continues:

When they (“strong men”) stand to speak, they actually have something to say – and they say it, whether anyone listens or not. When they sit to write, they do not skirt the issues – they tackle them. When they address the times in which they live, they do not tickle ears – they box them. They do not have one message for one group and a different message for a different group. Wherever they go and whomever they address, they have only one message – God’s message. This is what makes them strong men. They speak God’s Word, or they do not speak at all.

Indeed, very well said! As a Christian there are some difficult truths which we must embrace. Some are difficult because they are hard to understand, and others are difficult because we are sinners and do not like what they entail. Such is the case with the doctrines of grace, as Lawson states:

There is no stronger message than the truths of God’s sovereignty in the doctrines of grace. No other message is more God-exalting and Christ-glorifying than these truths. And yet, no other announcement is as sin-exposing, pride-crushing, and self-denouncing as these five theological points. No other truths are as sweet and previous to the soul that is humbled and submissive, but no other message is more offensive to the flesh or abrasive to the carnal mind than these doctrines. In fact, this message is unbearable to the natural man – just as it is sometimes intolerable even to those who are saved.

In my short time upon this earth, I’ve spent a lot of time in church. And in sermon after sermon, I have heard good men flee from preaching these truths. In fact, one of the things that seems to govern the phraseology of their sermons is a fear of man. A fear of offending either the sensibilities or intellect of their congregants.

I have heard men that I respect and love, equivocate on these truths with a subtlety that would be better left to politicians. And because I am a politician and communications and messaging expert by trade, I smell this stuff from 1000 yards away! I can tell when someone either doesn’t own up to the truths of God’s Word, or cannot fully come to embrace it intellectually.

I sometimes wonder how many other communications professionals – or just attentive people in the sanctuary – pickup on this kind of equivocation…phrases like “God won’t force himself on you, you have to let him into your heart”, which I heard even this week. These are really poor ways of communicating God’s work and your responsibility. And they are purposefully vague because they are meant not to offend, and to force people toward making some kind of “move toward God.” AS IF WE HAVE TO TAKE THE FIRST STEP!?

The truth is that Lawson is right. Without the sovereign in-breaking of God’s love into our lives we would never seek Him (John 3:19-21). I am personally glad that He “forced” His way into my life, and preached grace to my dead heart (Ephesians 2:1-10).

I wrote this post today because I really don’t have much to stand on for truth outside of Scripture and what it says. So that when I come to a more difficult truth in Scripture, I remember that the One who saved me doesn’t have to explain Himself to me. He doesn’t have to tell me why He does what He does. I know He does all for His own pleasure and glory. It is enough for me to know that He saved me, and that if He had not, I would still be standing on the shakiness of my own opinions. And, in the end, it is not my opinions that will save me.

Oh Holy Night

With each passing Christmas season it seems as though I get more and more excited with its advent (no pun intended), and enjoy each year more than the previous year.  One of my favorite parts of the season are the Christmas songs – not the annoying ones that Congress ought to pass a law against (we can snoop on people’s cell phone conversations but we can’t make “Grandma got run over by a reindeer” go away???), but the ones that move our souls to remember why the season is so special.

To that end, I thought about writing a few few posts about my favorite songs and what makes them so darn good. Hopefully this is the first of several…feel free to comment and tell me what your favorite songs are and why.

Oh Holy Night

I can’t listen to this song without something stirring inside. The song takes us back to that moment of incarnation in Bethlehem better than most musical reproductions of the scene. In the first verse, the scene is set, you hear about the starts, the night, and you are there.

You are also reminded of the plight of man.  Something has gone terribly wrong, and what is about to happen on this night is about to change, well, everything.  The verse says, “Long lay the world in sin and error pining.”  What are we pining for?  A Savior.   A Rescuer. The melody takes on a decidedly morose tone meant to cast some sadness on your heart, and remind you what is at stake…the fate of the world.

Then the second stanza breaks in:

Chains shall He break for the slave is our brother
And in His name all oppression shall cease
Sweet hymns of joy in grateful chorus raise we
Let all within us praise His holy name
Christ is the Lord, let ever, ever praise Thee
 

This is where I lose it!  Haha!  Seriously though, let me explain:

Chains shall He break for the slave is our brother
And in His name all oppression shall cease
 

These chains and the slavery are bound up in one idea, and it comes in a hint from the first stanza – sin.  The whole world is bound up together in one cataclysmic death spiral and we’re spinning out of control toward one not so particularly delightful end.

Jesus, the One whose birth we’re hovering about in our minds eye is the One who is breaking the chains – Jesus is the pronoun “He” here – and He’s breaking both the chains of slavery and oppression (inferring that this slavery isn’t so great, in fact its vile and its destroying us).  But it doesn’t stop there – the writer says that the “slave is our brother”, which could mean so many things, but in the context of the hymn what I think it means is that we are all slaves from the same family now having been redeemed by Christ.  French poet Placide Cappeau who wrote the original lyrics first had a verse which was initially translated, “He sees a brother where there was only a slave, love unites those that iron had chained.”

So the thrust of this sentiment is that we are all in bondage to sin.  It also has overtones that both physically free and physically enslaved all share in the brotherhood of mankind and are all slaves together until Christ redeems those who put their faith in Him.

It always “gets” me to sing that “in His name all oppression shall cease” because the idea here is there is this power – a real power – in the name of the baby being born. Why is that?  Because He is a being born a King!  Kings utter a word and servants obey. They go and do whatever their Lord tells them to do. When Jesus opens His mouth, every syllable necessarily brings forth obedience (think of the wind and waves obeying Him later in His ministry, and the creation coming forth at the beginning of Genesis 1).  It is awful comforting to think that at the word of our King all oppression shall cease.

Finally, the hymn breaks forth into doxology:

Let all within us praise His holy name
Christ is the Lord, let ever, ever praise Thee

 

Paul’s Romans 11 praise echoes in my mind, “Oh, the depth of the riches and wisdom and knowledge of God! How unsearchable are his judgments and how inscrutable his ways! For from him and through him and to him are all things. To him be glory forever” (Rom. 11:33, 36)

When I sing this part of the verse, I realize that “all that is within us” praising “His holy name” is a call to respond to all the truth the writer has just impressed on our minds and hearts.  That truth is that though the world was lost in the mire and bondage of sin, though the oppression of life had seemed to rule the day, though the entire course of life seemed destined toward eternal misery, yet here is One who will snatch us up from death into newness of life!  This is the day, this is the hour, this is the moment when the “Christ” the “Savior” the “King” has come.

What a great song! I hope you can sing this song with gusto this Christmas as you ponder these profound and glorious truths in your heart.