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Monthly Archives: March 2012

John the Baptist (Self-Denial)

Over the past few weeks, we’ve been exploring the issue of self-denial. We talked about the difference between self-denial and self-sacrifice, in an excerpt from B.B. Warfield’s comments on Philippians 2. This article showed us that self-denial can be it’s own idol, and the more we focus on self-denial, the more we are really just focusing on ourselves. Our examination of the event in history known as the Affair of the Sausages showed us that self-denial done out of obligation or duty, rather than from the heart, becomes a mindless and purposeless gesture.

As I’ve been contemplating these issues, I’m drawn over and over to John the Baptist’s example. Here was a man who from birth was steeped in a tradition of self-denial, since he had been set apart with the Nazirite vows (see Numbers 6). He lived a life of self-denial on par with anyone.

Yet that is not the compelling part of his example to me. Hindus, Buddhists, Muslims–anyone can learn the skills of self-denial. For John, though, his self-denial was wrapped up in one important purpose: the worship of Jesus.

In John 3:29-30, John says of Jesus, “Therefore, I am filled with joy at his success. He must become greater and greater, and I must become less and less.”

For John, self-sacrifice had a clear purpose: to increase the renown of Christ in the world. His wasn’t a self-focused denial, but a mission to which God had called him.

As we meditate on this scripture passage, reflect on this question:

What in your life might need to be sacrificed so that Christ can be exalted?

 
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Posted by on March 19, 2012 in Uncategorized

 

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Mystery

I was watching a movie with my kids this week, and my son is at that age when he is full of questions. The movie had just started when he started in, too:

“Who is that man?”
“Why is he running?”
“Who is that other person?”
“Is he a good guy?”

I finally had to stop the movie and explain to him that sometimes we don’t know what is going on in the movie until later. Those are all good questions, but we don’t have enough information in the first minute of the film to be able to answer them. (I’m not sure that he understood me, because he kept asking questions throughout the movie).

I got to thinking that life is like that, too. All too often in our spiritual journey, we want to know all the answers before we even get started with the story. But that is almost never how God works. We exist forever on a “need to know” basis, and it seems we very rarely need to know what is coming next. God seems content to say to us, “If you know me, you’ll trust me.”

So how do you respond in times like this?

How would you encourage a person who is full of questions and uncertainties, but wants to trust God?

What Scripture passages come to mind to help in these situations?

 
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Posted by on March 12, 2012 in Uncategorized

 

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The Affair of the Sausages

Last week, I posted something I came across related to the difference between self-denial and self-sacrifice. This week we’ll continue to explore themes related to Lent. Although as a church we are not officially celebrating Lent (the 40 days prior to Easter in which liturgical Christians traditionally deny themselves something in an effort to prepare their hearts for Easter), we can still be concerned with issues of self-sacrifice, because that is what Christ modeled for us.

The problem, as last week’s post hinted at, is that “self-denial” often becomes its own idol. Those who can practice self control in a certain area are somehow more holy than others. The reality, of course, is that each of us has equal need for Christ’s righteousness to be imputed to us.

Such rules and regulations–do this, eat this, don’t do that and don’t eat that–really only serve to highlight in us our own sinful attitudes. As Paul says in Galatians 3:24, the purpose of the Law is to show us our need for Christ and his righteousness. Paul goes on in Galatians to state: “It is for freedom that Christ has set us free.”

History provides us with a fascinating case study that gets to these ideas of the freedom we have in Christ. Exactly 500 years ago, during Lent, an event occurred that became known as “The Affair of the Sausages” Ulrich Zwingli, a pastor in Geneva, Switzerland, was at the home of Christoph Froschauer, a printer who was working on a new edition of the epistles of Paul. Froschauer decided to serve sausages to his weary and hungry workers. This was a direct violation of church law, since meat was not to be eaten during Lent.  Froschauer was arrested for the violation, and Zwingli went on to preach a message about freedom in Christ. This event provided a catalyst for the Reformation to really take off in Switzerland, as everyone in town began to think about the role of tradition, forced fasting, and freedom.

So: How would you respond? Were they right to eat and serve meat?

Can you think of some modern examples of this same issue? What traditions do you see people holding to that might be standing in the way of their freedom in Christ?

On the flip side, what about the “weaker brother” principle (see 1 Corinthians 8:9-13) Does this passage change your answer?

 
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Posted by on March 5, 2012 in Uncategorized