New Life in Christ Weekender
A short reminder of events happening this weekend.
The horrible events at Sandy Hook Elementary in Newtown, CT are almost a week old and our nation continues to wonder how a tragedy like this could ever happen and how we should respond. We never want to see this happen again, so, before we even knew the details of the shooting, the national conversation turned to matters of gun control, protecting schools, and caring for the mentally ill.
There are important decisions that our nation has to make and I pray that knowledgeable Christians will play a key role in the public discourse. While I have my own opinions on these matters (and many are still being formed), I know that the Word of God helps us understand what has happened and gives core conviction that help us for a Christian response. I’ll work us through the broad biblical themes of Creation, Fall, Redemption, and Restoration so we can ensure our understanding and response is biblically considered. This is longer than a normal Weekender, but I think you will find it helpful to read.
Creation – God created this world and he ordered this world.
God designed our world to be ordered and governed by laws. Death was not part of that original creation, much less the casual approach to life that would ever permit a person to think that he had the authority to make decisions of life or death of another person. God was the author of life, the giver of life, and its sustainer. It is evil and wrong for any person ever to think that he has the right to take another person’s life, for all life belongs to God.
Fall – We live in a broken world.
The first murder happened when one of Adam’s sons killed his own brother. Adam and Eve committed cosmic rebellion in eating from the forbidden tree and since that time, man has thought that he has the right to “play God”. The Fall happened in Genesis 3 and we don’t even make it a single chapter before we see the first murder in Genesis 4. The practical effect of thinking that life can be lived free of God’s authority results in a fallen mind that thinks it has the right to decide whether another person should live or die.
Hear the words of Christian recording artist Michael Card in his song, Spirit of the Age,
I thought that I heard crying coming through my door.
Was it Rachel weeping for her sons who were no more?
Could it have been the babies crying for themselves,
Never understanding why they died for someone else?
These children died for someone else, they died so that a man could feel like God for 20 minutes.
More than one commentator has pointed out the connection of the Sandy Hook shootings with the way that a tyrannical Herod killed the baby boys of Bethlehem so he could destroy Jesus (Matthew 2:13-18). As a nation we have felt the power of Matthew 2:18 “A voice was heard in Ramah, weeping and loud lamentation, Rachel weeping for her children; she refused to be comforted, because they are no more.” It is an evil that has been repeated far too many times in the history of our world (see Exodus 1 as well).
Michael Card again,
The voices head of weeping and of wailing,
History speaks of it on every page.
Of innocent and helpless little babies,
Offerings to the spirit of the age.
The brokenness of this world is seen in the darkness of a heart that could do such an act. While the world wants to point to “mental illness” as the cause of it, we must realize that at its root the murderer possessed a sinful desire to be God. Last week’s murderer planned, with great self-discipline, to carry out these attacks. This wasn’t pure insanity. Why did he murder his mother while she slept? One can only guess, but I suspect that not even he could terrorize her with his threats and he didn’t want to bother his conscience that way. Why destroy his computer before the murder? Again, just a guess, but destroying the computer kept his sinful heart from being known and analyzed. Every step of the way, this man wanted control and a clear conscience. He wanted to be God. We see both rationality and irrationality at the same time. It makes sense (because as Christians we know the sinful mind), but it doesn’t (because no one can be God).
No way of understanding this sad and painful sign.
Whenever Satan rears his head there comes a tragic time.
If he could crush the cradle, then that would stop the cross.
He knew that once the Light was born his every hope was lost!
Don’t get me wrong. I don’t want to dismiss the idea that there are physical factors that play a factor. I know they do. We live in a fallen world, and that includes our bodies and all the material that makes them up. Sometimes we need medical and psychiatric help. Still, we must not think that this is primarily a problem of the brain. It is a problem of the soul, and it is the problem that every human soul faces.
There is common thread between the thinking of the murderer and every sinful thought that ever entered the human mind. Each person on this earth has desires that, if left unchecked, would end in the pain and possible destruction of himself and others. By God’s grace, most of these passions have a very limited effect, and very few people will become mass murderers, but the Bible and reality will not ever allow us to say that similar roots are not present inside every human heart. Left unchecked most will end up with estranged relationships, isolation, and a path of broken people behind them. Some give into lust and adultery, others into dishonesty and stealing, others into anger and yelling. Apart from the controlling hand of God, we want what we want when we want it, and will overcome every obstacle to get it (James 4:1-3).
Now every age has heard it, the voice that speaks from hell.
“Sacrifice your children and for you it will be well.”
The subtle serpent’s lying, his dark and ruthless rage.
Behold it is revealed to be the spirit of the age!
Christians must remember the nature of the fall as they contribute to the discussion within our nation. Last week we saw the Fall in its most raw form as a man gave himself over to unspeakable evil and picked up very powerful weapons to attack a school of unprotected children. There is a lot wrapped up in that last sentence that our nation needs to work through, and the Bible has something to say about each part.
As Christians we know more than the problem, we also know about the solution.
Redemption – Jesus Christ came to redeem a people for himself.
We as Christians must speak the message of gospel peace into our world of darkness and anxiety.
We live in a broken world and until God restores it nothing is going to solve the problems we are facing. Even the nation of China, where private possession of guns is outlawed, recently experienced an attack upon elementary school students by a knife-wielding assailant. While we can mitigate against the damage caused by some forms of evil, in this world, we can never entirely free ourselves of its presence.
But we can create a new community of hope. That is the church. Jesus Christ died to forgive his people of their sins (Matt 1:21). As people trust in him their sins are forgiven (1 John 1:9) and they are enabled, by God’s grace, to live a holy life. With an abiding hope in him, with a total and complete willingness to trust and obey him in all things, we will give up our own God-usurping behaviors and put Jesus Christ on the throne as our King.
If the root of our problem is our desire to be God, Jesus makes it possible and attractive to get ourselves off the throne and put God back in control of our lives. First, by his death we are forgiven of our treason. We are welcomed into God’s presence and God’s family. We don’t have to be afraid anymore of God’s just punishment.
Second, through faith in Christ we find what we really want and need. We try to be God because we think it will make us feel like we have control, acceptance, and pleasure. But these desires are destructive when we try to gain them ourselves. We become selfish, destroying ourselves and others in the process of achieving them. All sin leads to destruction (Romans 6:23). The good news is that God has provided these things for his people. God says that in Christ we have all of his riches (Colossians 2:1-3). In Christ we trust God to control all things (because he is sovereign, wise, and good), we experience acceptance from God, and we learn the pleasure of living in God’s pleasure. We have what we want, and we have it a healthy way.
Third, through faith in Christ, we have the power to continue in holiness. Jesus gives his Holy Spirit to help us resist sin and live a holy life.
The darkness of our world will continue until God restores all things. But this does not mean that we do nothing. Our first responsibility as Christians is to build a new community that points to the hope of the world to come. We must invite those living in darkness to find the light of Christ (Isaiah 9:2), whether that darkness is fear, anger, lust, or whatever. In the church, under God’s hand, we are building a new community of hope. We must invite all people into that hope that only Jesus Christ can bring. While politicians will talk about gun control and mental health, Jesus is our answer to the world, and ultimately, he is the only true answer to the darkness of our age and the darkness inside of every fallen human heart.
Restoration – God promises to eradicate evil and recreate our world in perfection.
Our hope for the future is found in God. We know there is something wrong in our world that a man would murder children like he did. Our grief over the way things are points us to the reality of a perfect world that is yet to come. The consummation of all of Jesus’ work will be when he comes to restore the world to what it was created to be. No more mass murders, no more mental illness, no more adultery or divorce, no more abandoned or orphaned children . . . no more tears. He will restore things, and at that time we will see the triumph of all that is good and right. That is our hope . . . and it is the hope we point others toward. Indeed Jesus Christ will win. The devil and evil will lose. It is the promise of the age to come. What a message we have for the world, as well as a challenge. This new world is only entered through faith in Jesus Christ and the turning away from being god over our own lives. That is repentance.
As I complete this Weekender, my mind returns to the premature ending of those 20 children, and as I seek solace from my own sadness, I find hope in the promise of God. Michael Card says it well,
Soon all the ones who seemed to die for nothing
Will stand beside the Ancient of Days,
With joy we’ll see that Infant from a manger
Come and crush the spirit of the age
- Sunday School – 9 AM (click here to see our web page for a list of classes)
- Worship Service – 10 AM – Fourth Sunday in Advent – Pastor Doug Preaching
- Evening Service – 6 PM – Family Christmas. Do you or your family have a musical gift to share with the church? This is a chance for you to minister to the church by using this gift. Speak with Jonathan Allison if you have something to share (firstname.lastname@example.org).
- No Junior and Senior High Youth Group and No Prayer Time this Sunday
- Christmas Eve Candlelight Service (6 PM) – Come and worship the coming of Christ with this special Lessons and Carols service. This is the perfect time to invite a friend.