Sunday, September 28, 2008

Attaining a Degree in Me

Lately, I’ve been dwelling on John 5 a lot, in which Jesus delves into His nature & His co-existence with the Father. But my last piece was a departure from this; for it was intended solely as a sermon separate from this line of study. “The Existence of Evil” was written with the intention of informing the mind & stirring the soul to accept “the hard fact that we are not so good”. To me, this is a theologically shallow concept; it is primitive in comparison to understanding the nature of Jesus Christ as taught in places like John 5.

So I would say that I was a little dismayed by the measure of affirmation for the piece among mature Christians. I thought “This is kindergarten Christian teaching.” Nothing is more rudimentary to salvation in Christ than the egregious nature of our personal sin in the face of God’s holiness. I thought “I’ve taught much more profound pieces on this. Why is this so well received?”

As a church body, we recently went to see the movie “Fireproof,” wherein the protagonist is having marital issues. He is told to press on in studying his wife to know her beyond the level he knew her when they were dating. The line went something like “If you had a high school diploma in “Catherine” when you were married, you need to keep going- on to a bachelor’s, master’s, & a Ph.D.”

You don’t stop trying to understand more of the ones you love.

So it is with Christ. We press on to know Him better through His Word, illuminated to our mind through teachers inspired by His Spirit. But in thinking about this movie’s protagonist, in his wider experience of saving his marriage, I realized he needed something more than a degree in “Catherine”. He also needed a fundamental understanding of himself- a degree in “me”. Regardless of how well he understood his wife, the relationship would go nowhere until he perceived & started to come to terms with his own nature- particularly the evils that lurked within & expressed something other than love to his beloved. He knew & carried out all manner of works that should have pleased his wife, but they would in fact would not please her. All that effort was for naught as long as he coldly & unrepentantly persisted in doing the things that offended her.

So I am again made to understand that no matter what measure my understanding of Christ’s nature rises towards, I must continue to pair that understanding with the understanding that I was a sinner worthy of nothing but Hell’s fire before He saved me. What’s more, I continue in sin today. My only prayer is that God would grant me ability towards ever greater repentance- for as Luther said “To do it no more is truest repentance.”

It is a dual major we are studying for; the degree in “Jesus Christ” is but worthless parchment apart from the degree in “me”.

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