Worship Giver

I very briefly touched on Judges 21:25 during last Sunday's message, and the significance of the point being made there has really hit me these last few days. The second half of that verse is often quoted: "everyone did what was right in his own eyes." We see a relativistic, God-rejecting, me-centered culture around us and cite this verse as an apt description of our own world. And it is. But more is going on here.

Narcissism's Cause
The first half of the verse tells us why , and the reason is surprising to modern ears: "In those days there was no King in Israel," This is what explains the statement about everyone being their own boss. The people were not faithful to God because there was no king.

There Is No "I" In "Follower"
But this seems strange! It would make more sense to say something like, the people did what was right in their own eyes because:

  • they were selfish
  • they misunderstood God
  • they suffered from inappropriate pride
  • etc.
But all of these modern-minded explanations have one word in common: "they." The focus of this thinking is on the broken people. But the focus of Scripture is elsewhere - it is on God who promises to fix the brokenness.

The Royal Repairman
The "king" mentioned in Judges is the Messiah - the one whom God said would crush evil, reverse the Curse of Genesis 3, and transform the human heart from rebellion to faithfulness. Humanity's problems began with a "we'll be our own God" mentality, and that mentality can never change itself completely. The solution to the problem isn't inside us. "They" is the wrong place to start looking for a fix.

Enter the King. The Messiah is the one whom the Bible says will repair the "we'll be our own God" mentality. He'll do it for us, from outside of us. He'll give us a "heart of flesh" toward God instead of a "heart of stone," as God puts it in Ezekiel 36:25-27. It is the Messiah who will enable us to follow God rightly, enjoy his benefits, and worship him. He is the Worship Giver.

Not Very Postmodern!
Which brings us back to Judges 21:25. The reason everyone did what was right in his own eyes is because there was not yet a king. Only when The King came could God's people have a new heart that would stay faithful to him. They could not fix this problem themselves. We are completely dependent it seems on God; not only to worship him, but to even want to worship him.

This runs contrary to our current postmodern tendency to think that we are our own best gauges of right and wrong. It also undermines the idea that if I as a Christian detect residual rebellion in my heart, I need to redouble my efforts to eradicate it. As if I could remove the things in myself that impede full worship. Messiah is the Worship Giver.

Arrival Of The Worship Giver
And that makes this forthcoming Christmas season a significant event. As I head toward the holidays this year I find myself reflecting on the bleak picture of Judges 21:25, and knowing that I am in that boat apart from God's promised King. As we approach the celebration of Jesus' birth, I find myself thinking not just about worshiping him for what he's done or even for who he is, but worshiping him for enabling me to worship him.

This year I worship the one who gives me the heart to worship in the first place.

The Siren Song of Status

Charles Dickens' novel Little Dorrit serves as the inspiration for an article I recently wrote, which is about the inner fight we all have with wanting to please and impress people - often more than we want to please God. Drop by the Colson Center for Christian Worldview and see the results of listening to the call of The Siren Song of Status.

I greatly value the feedback I've already received on this article and I invite yours too, either as a comment here or on Facebook.

Book Review - Why You Think The Way You Do by Glenn Sunshine

This book addresses something I think is important to know: how the way we think has changed over the centuries right up to the present day. In fact I once fantasized briefly about writing this book myself, but the thought went away when I realized how much research I'd have to do to lay it all out correctly. Fortunately Dr. Glenn Sunshine, who as a history professor has a better background for this book anyway, had been compiling the research for a few years already and chose to put it in book form. I've gotten to know Glenn over the past couple years, and have learned to appreciate his insights as a historian, a thinker, and a Christian.

In this book Sunshine describes what the dominant worldview in the West has been, starting with the Roman Empire. He explains that the well-known decadence of the Romans, from slavery to sexual license to infanticide and more, was the result of the basic assumptions about life in the Empire. He also shows how the gradual flourishing of Christianity introduced an entirely different view of life - one based on the Bible - and how this Biblical worldview not only counter-acted many of the evils of Roman society, but became the basis for Western societies into the Middle Ages. He provides a good summary of how Naturalism (the belief that there is no God of any kind; the physical world is all that exists) became such a force in the West just in the last couple centuries, as well as explaining the popularity of postmodern thinking today.

The reason I think it's important for Christians to understand this is basically twofold. First, it helps us understand that all ideas come from somewhere: they come from a worldview. For example, the notion that science has dis-proven God's existence is a one popular today, but it's not a brute fact. Rather, it's a philosophical assumption (ie. an opinion) rooted in the Enlightenment. Learning to recognize the worldview roots of such ideas we encounter increases understanding, helping us sort out fact from opinion. Secondly, knowing why certain ideas have gained traction helps us dialogue more effectively with people who hold other, different worldviews than we do.

This book is written for the layman. It describes the flow of thought in the West for the past 2,000 years as a story, making it easier to grasp. In the process, it explains how Christianity is the foundation for virtually all of the good aspects of Western society, from human rights to science & technology, to personal liberty and representative government. And by implication then, it describes what we stand to lose if Christianity is completely dislodged from the Western worldview by Naturalism and/or postmodernism.

Along those lines, Sunshine ends the book with a list of eye-opening parallels between modern America and ancient Rome. He argues that after two millennia we have come full circle, and that the American worldview is now looking increasingly like the Roman worldview during the decline of the Empire. And he suggests several things Christians and churches can and should do about it. Worth the read.

To get a sense of what's in the book, here's an audio interview with the author.

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