Friday, September 26, 2008

Saved from ... ?

The gospel. It's about salvation right? Gospel means good news, and that good news is that there is hope for salvation in Jesus Christ. But, have you ever stopped to wonder exactly what it is that we're saved from?

Some answer: hell! We're saved from that awful place that people don't ever want to think about. That place of torment and torture.

Others answer: Sin! We're saved from that awful thing that separates us from God and truly knowing and enjoying him.

Still others answer: Despair! Without Christ, we are left despairing, without hope, without meaning and without purpose. Christ is our rescue from a life of worthlessness and self-pity.

Actually, these are all partial and incomplete answers. It is not so much that we are saved from a location such as hell. Sure, it's an awful place and we wouldn't want to go there. The fire is hot and the fleshing eating worms never have their fill. But we're not saved from an unpleasant place or experience.

And we're not saved from sin, either. Sin is awful and does separate us from God, but sin is simply the name we give our mistakes, our failure to live up to God's standard of righteousness. Sin is problematic in its effects it brings. We're not saved from sin per se.

And we're not saved from psychological pathology either. Christ did not die to rescue us from a low self-esteem or feelings of lostness and despair. We're not saved to feel good about ourselves.

No. We're saved from God himself. We are being rescued from experiencing the full measure and manifestation of God's wrath against evil and wickedness. At times past he has expressed his deep bitterness against sin in shocking ways that have left us offended, confused and even bitter ourselves. Lest we miss the point of hell by thinking of it as some impersonal location like a holding cell, or as a series of unpleasant sensations, we need to recover what hell truly is: the eternal and complete pouring out of his holy hatred not only against sin, but the sinners who have committed them.

I'm so glad that Jesus already bore that on the cross for me.

Tuesday, September 09, 2008

If I could but from the pod emerge

Inter-faith Dialogue. Is that a game that Christianity can play? While religion and spirituality are in vogue, absolute claims to truth regarding ultimate reality are scorned with utmost intolerance (yes, it is ironic, come to think of it). It may seem obvious to state, but we are living in the age where the most number of people have been killed in the name of religion than ever before. Duh! We're coming to the threshold of capacity, the balloon is about to pop, and all the world is doing everything possible - even tweaking ideologies - so that more blood need be shed anymore. The world is trying as hard as ever to get along. The world is shrinking, cultures mixing, nations trading, people exploring and appreciating one another, while ideas are being exchanged and discussed.

But then there's Christianity, just as exclusive and 'archaic' as ever. He's never willing to budge, to give in, to agree with anything that isn't precisely revealed in Scripture. He doesn't allow any heterodox ideas to mingle with his and he judges other faiths by his own criterion. What a party pooper.

Truth matters. It matters because ultimate reality exists, although it may not seem plain right now. The world we're living in pretends that ultimate reality ends at the boundary of our frontal lobes. All that really exists are synapses firing creating thoughts, feelings, sentiments, and emotions. Even we Christians are living as if Jesus is just a synonym for peace, love and hope, that it's just another worldview that helps to make sense of this world that is meaningless without one. He often becomes another excuse for gathering together for feel-good sessions of song, food and banter.

But is this the way it's supposed to be? Are we living out the implications of the truth that we know. It's one thing to believe, but it's quite another to REALLY believe. I'm not sure I'm there yet, to be honest. I'm still fitting in with the general current of things. Sometimes I wish I could just wake up. Like Neo from the Matrix, or a caterpillar still in the cocoon, just wake up and see the way things really are and begin living that way.

Tuesday, September 02, 2008

The Best and Getting Better

I came to know of a up-coming wedding of a girl I used to know. I didn't know her well, but she was well-known; a respected and accomplished leader, intelligent, charming, kind, godly and beautiful. When you observe such people from a distance, they seem larger than life - too good to be true. Doesn't she have any flaws? Does anyone despise her for any reason other than pure jealousy?

Her love story posted online seemed likewise surreal, the kind of stuff that gets published or seen on the silver screen. Love at first sight with a perfect guy in perfect circumstances; a perfect proposal made with perfect timing. The perfect couple. I'm sure I'm not the first or only person to look upon them with green eyes wondering if I will ever be dealt a hand so 'ideal.'

How easy it is to compare our circumstances with others! And after we calculate the payouts we make our conclusions on the goodness of God to Us vs. Them. Usually, the smoothest ride in the nicest wheels to the most coveted destination with all your friends and family cheering you along the way is what wins the day. It's what we define as a successful, happy life. It's the thing we all long for in our default state when we're looking at the looking glass rather than through it; when we're focused on life in this world rather than the kingdom of God. While it's most natural to consider the value of our lives in terms of happiness, possessions and comfort, it is also most unnatural and unbiblical to actually view and live our lives in this way. It's unnatural because because we have been born of above and are no longer of this world. It's unbiblical because in Christ we have been given all things. Anything that we possess at any given moment is God's very best for us, whether that amounts to much or nothing. While it may not seem so according to the world's economy, we have been given every blessing and can ask for no more. In dying with Christ we have renounced the world and all its cheap temporal benefits. In its place we have opted for treasure of which moth and rust cannot destroy.

At times, we see the kindness of God when we (or others) receive gifts of material, relational or pleasurable worth - things highly desired in our world. But we need not receive these things in order for God to be good. He has already poured out his life unto death in the crucifixion of his beloved Son for our sin. The salvation that we have and the glory that will be revealed in heaven is great indeed, and we will be embarrassed at the intensity with which we sought after other things at the expense of things that truly mattered. What an insulting sin it is to think that marriage, or money, or monuments are anywhere near as precious.

Lord, help me not covet the petty and trivial things of this world which distract me from coveting you alone.