Pastoral Backstory – February 26, 2015

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February 26th, 2015

"Get Behind Me, Satan," Ilya Repin (1895)

“Get Behind Me, Satan,” Ilya Repin (1895)

We spent a little time in last Sunday’s sermon exploring Jesus’ fairly incendiary accusation in John 8. He declares a virtually satanic alignment in his antagonists’ then brooding interest in His demise. We tried to honor the pointed meaning of His words, while also trying to distinguish them from the kinds of condemnations that ascribe satanic identification to those in pitched disagreement. For the several reasons we enumerated, Jesus was decrying in His increasingly hostile crowed an intention that had common cause with His (and our) foremost adversary, even if they had no consciously evil purpose; they surmised He was the one perpetrating treachery of the highest order in what He was declaring about himself.

Peter Kreeft demonstrates the ability to identify an intention that at its root is as contrary to divine intention as can be, but without letting the argument devolve into mere demonic ad hominem. Here in his distillation of the infamous political theorist, Machiavelli, Kreeft both identifies the darker underpinnings of his philosophy and also traces out the logical and fateful conclusions of where it leads. (HT: Justin Taylor)

Niccolo Machiavelli

Niccolo Machiavelli

The most amazing thing about this brutal philosophy is that it won the modern mind, though only by watering down or covering up its darker aspects. Machiavelli’s successors toned down his attack on morality and religion, but they did not return to the idea of a personal God or objective and absolute morality as the foundation of society. Machiavelli’s narrowing down came to appear as a widening out. He simply lopped off the top story of the building of life; no God, only man; no soul, only body; no spirit, only matter; no ought, only is. Yet this squashed building appeared (through propaganda) as a Tower of Babel, this confinement appeared as a liberation from the “confinements” of traditional morality, like taking your belt out a notch.

Satan is not a fairy tale; he is a brilliant strategist and psychologist and he is utterly real. Machiavelli’s line of argument is one of Satan’s most successful lies to this day. Whenever we are tempted, he is using this lie to make evil appear as good and desirable; to make his slavery appear as freedom and “the glorious freedom of the sons of God” appear as slavery. The “Father of Lies” loves to tell not little lies but The Big Lie, to turn the truth upside down. And he gets away with it—unless we blow the cover of the Enemy’s spies.

 

Kreeft shows that one may advocate a fundamentally fiendish philosophy without being in league with a darker force with analogous logic or purpose.

The question remains though whether there’s any point to labeling an intention as in collaboration with satanic intent. The labeling may not be so critical as the opposition to such designs, and the form that opposition takes. Jesus opposed satanic threats with truth that countered its insinuations (cf. Mk 1:12, 13), but, of course, also by yielding to those designs so as to “conquer” through love and for love.

Two things require noting. One, it’s Jesus who’s the one making the fierce accusations. He, unlike anyone else, has a insight–to say nothing of authority–we do not possess. Which means we have far less basis for following His example. Secondly, (and which is closely related to the first), given our capacity for acting in a way diametrically opposed to Jesus’ intentions, we’re ought be even less inclined to play the satanic “card.” As the 3rd century church father, Origen, put it

Origen (d. 254 AD)

Origen (d. 254 AD)

Within you is the battle you are to fight; the evil structure which must be torn down is within; your enemy comes from your own heart.The enemy would not grow strong against us, nor would the Devil himself be able to do anything in us, unless we gave him strength by our vices. Our enemy would be quite weak against us if we did not make him strong by sinning, and if he did not find through our sins a place to enter and take over. (HT: livingchurch.org)

In other words, we ourselves can fall into the apostle Peter’s steps when His Lord said unto him, “get behind me, satan.” For that reason alone might we concede some of that most strenuous language to Him who rescued us from the one who now stands condemned.


 

tumblr_ljrx3h06Vc1qb7qm3o1_500We ended that sermon realizing that having our selves shaped by His identity centers in large part on coming to terms with what Jesus has said and done. We are to, as F.D. Bruner synthesizes Jesus’ teaching in John 8, “make our home” in His Word. That doesn’t happen with a snap of the fingers, nor is it entirely within our control. But there are simple, concrete ways to make it possible. One way to take his word to heart is by planting it accessibly in our mind. And that comes through memorization.

Can’t memorize anything? Says you. Joe Carter respectfully disagrees. Here’s a little article on how to make anything something you can remember, retain, and recall. By having at mental fingertips you’re able to really grapple with its meaning, all with a view to teasing out its implications.

As Carter put it in an earlier post in this series:

When we speak euphemistically of “devouring a book,” we are following the lead of our medieval ancestors who considered the stomach a metaphor for memory. Books like the Bible were devoured and digested by their readers and regurgitated for recitation. As the Italian poet Petrarch said, “I ate in the morning what I would digest in the evening; I swallowed as a boy what I would ruminate upon as an older man.”

I’d memorized the Sermon on the Mount several years ago, a practice that has reaped benefits in not only seeing its connections to the rest of Jesus’ teaching, but in just thinking through the full logic of His teaching.

But it’s been some time since I made it a practiced habit of memorizing passages. For Lent, that I might not merely give up but instead take up, I’m turning to what some have called the most pivotal chapter in the whole bible: Romans 8. That chapter summarizes the gospel: our need for it, the beauty of it, the surety of it, the challenges to our resting in it, and the eschatological implications that derive from it. If you get Romans 8, you get the whole storyline of the bible. What’s more, if you live Romans 8, you understand what it means to walk worthily of the gospel.

So who’s in? Who’d like to memorize this, too, during Lent? Perhaps we could learn from our soon-to-come Biblical Performance Troupe how to uncover the tenor behind the text? Let us know.


b2ap3_thumbnail_broadchurch_itv_ep4_partial2_03264We’ll partake of the sacrament of the Lord’s Supper this Sunday, as we do on the first Sunday of every month. That’s been CtK’s tradition from its founding, but it could change to a weekly celebration in the future, given its centrality to our hope and our common life together. The Table is the most potent expression of faithful presence in that it dramatizes His unparalleled sympathy and responsiveness to our condition.  It’s also the most pluripotent example of faithful presence–that is, it gives rise to more than one expression–in that it serves to bind us together as those in equal need of His grace and sends us out to manifest His presence wherever we are.

But what does it really mean to feed on Him? The words are as perplexing today as they were uproarious to those who first heard them. I’m not talking about the various ways in which the church has understood and explained the nature of this sacrament. I’m confining my concern to what Jesus meant by feeding on Him, and why the life He offers us is contingent upon this sort of “feeding.”

Whatever He means–which will be the substance of the sermon this Sunday–one thing is clear: we eat to live.

We’re in John 6:25-35, 48-59 this Sunday. Sit with that for a while. Ponder what He might’ve meant. And then let’s compare notes, if you will.


Children’s Sermon this Sunday.

“The Gospel according to Baymax”

According to whom, you might ask?

Here’s a little context.

 

sherlockAnd while we’re on the topic of children, you should’ve received an invitation to serve the elementary aged kids among us. If you didn’t click here. When we ask for help, it’s not for much–but it’s always for a big purpose. Hope you can help us.

 

 

 


 

When you pray, remember to pray for

 


 

If you’re still reading, you’re in for a treat here. (Good things–the best things?–come to those. . . .) We’ve referenced Andy Crouch before. Here he is talking about a uniqueness of humanity (another topic we’ve dabbled in previously) that evokes a sense that pure randomness does not account well for the way things are. While you’re watching this little gem, you might consider the wealth of other well-done testimonies on the site from where this originates: exploreGod.com

Author: Patrick

Pastor of Christ the King Church (PCA)

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3 Comments

  1. This is the first back-story I’ve read since I got tied up with your website. Thank you so much for the wonderful research and the timely messages you do to prepare for worship each week. You are so well read, and it makes a difference in your sermons. Christ the King is blessed to have a shepherd like you for their pastor, for it is obvious that you know THE SHEPHERD of our souls well. I look forward to your message Sunday, if I can find it. Last week, I couldn’t. Perhaps Cathy or Paul could help me with your website. Blessings, Patrick.

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    • The evening Women’s Community Group is taking on the Romans 8 challenge! (with some lack of confidence in memorization skills). All of us, that is, except for Christy K who already has Romans 8 memorized!!! We are in awe of Christy K.

      Thanks for the Lenten direction.

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