The Pastor’s Corner is written by the pastor of Coronado Bible Church.

The Law of Joy

The Law of Joy: Morning’s grey light had just begun to dawn when the sermon started. Every person old enough to understand was there. The scrolls were opened and read and explained … and read and explained. There were no complaints about the hard pews – the people were standing. Standing, attentive, engaged, eager to listen … to what some had never heard. It was high noon when Ezra the priest finally rolled up the scroll containing the law of Moses and by then the people were weeping. It was not because of the length of the sermon … it was because they recognized the depth of their sin. A generation of exiles were back in the promised land, being exposed anew to all that God expected and all that they had not done. Their tears were genuine tears of repentance.
 
What came next might surprise you. The leaders told the people to stop weeping and go have a party. They were to break out “choice foods and sweet drinks” and invite those less fortunate to party with them. Nehemiah, the governor said the most extraordinary thing …
 
Do not grieve, for the joy of the LORD is your strength.
Nehemiah 8:10
 
God, through His prophets, had so often begged his people to repent. Here’s one beautiful example where they did. Then, He told them to dry their eyes and go throw a party. This too, was part of the law. Far from being somber and melancholy, the relationship God sought with His people had built in times of pleasure seeking. Not lawless hedonism, but times of taking pleasure in God’s good gifts in God’s good presence (Deut. 12:7; 14:24–26). As odd as it may sound, joy was commanded.
 
Sorrow over sin is right and good … if it turns us back to God. “Godly sorrow brings repentance that leads to salvation and leaves no regret …” 2 Corinthians 7:10. The sorrow of repentance is not meant to endure but to lead to Joy. That Joy is one of the greatest sources of strength in our relationship with God. Have you sinned? Turn back … and then rejoice! Rejoice in the God who forgives!
 
“Oh, what joy for those whose disobedience is forgiven, whose sins are put out of sight. Yes, what joy for those whose record the Lord has cleared of sin.” Romans 4:7-8
 
 
 


Seeing is becoming.

I’ve always been fascinated with the effects of light. I used to stare at brightly lit scenes, close my eyes and examine the negative images in my head. The detail can be incredible. Later in life when I got into photography, I noticed that a camera flash fired in a totally dark room created a vivid enough image on your retina to allow you to navigate safely through the space … even though you had been plunged back into utter darkness.
 
Last week near the end of the sermon, I said that gazing at the glory of Christ has transformative effects on your life. By gazing … I do not imagine an experience like John’s, but the encounters we have with Jesus as we seek to know Him in His Word. Long concentration on His attributes, or some flash of insight that the Holy Spirit brings; these stay with us even in our darkness. God blesses the reading of His Word and deepens our knowledge (cognitive and experiential) of who Jesus is. As we see Jesus truly, as His image and character are burnt into our hearts … we become more like Him and carry His image into a darkened world.
 
Again, 2 Corinthians 3:18 says, “We all, with unveiled face beholding as in a mirror the glory of the Lord, are being transformed into the same image from glory to glory, just as from the Lord, the Spirit.” Pastor John Piper writes about this verse,
 
We become like what we treasure enough to spend time focusing on. Some say, “Seeing is believing.” This text says, “Seeing is becoming.” You become like what you behold. 1 John 3:2 says, “Beloved, we are God’s children now. It does not yet appear what we shall be. But we know that when He appears we shall be like Him for we shall see Him as He is.” To the degree that we can see Him now, we are changed into His image. When He comes to be seen in His full glory, our transformation will be completed. And it all happens because of seeing Him—gazing steadily at Him.
 
Start gazing!
 
 
 


Time

One-twelfth of 2018 is nearly gone! Just eleven more precious months. Approximately …
  • 345 darting days
  • 8,016 hurried hours
  • 480,960 molten minutes.
The numbers sound large … but they are not. In the impatient years of youth, my parents used to warn, “The years really fly by.” Because of the accompanying smiles and laughter, I thought they were joking. They were not!
 
In the twenty years of ministry at my former church I performed over 150 funerals and about as many weddings. You gain a certain perspective about the speed of life from being immersed in such events. At one wedding I was exclaiming about it making me feel old to perform a ceremony for a girl that I’d taught in Jr. High Bible study. Her mother turned with a comically perturbed expression and exclaimed, “Get over it! How do you think I feel?” She didn’t have to say another word. I could almost see the images flashing by behind her pupils … the natal unit, the first day of school, her daughter’s first crush, prom … all flying too quickly for belief.
 
Once I sat in bemused disbelief listening as family members of a deceased 90-year-old exclaimed, “We just didn’t see this coming.” In a way, I got it. I think that “irony of disbelief” was where my parents’ laughter came from. Our essence stands motionless a few feet from the tracks as years whistle by like an express train. We live in the balance between the feeling of eternal youth and relentless erosion. It is wise to be aware that life has a limited warrantee and that our expiration the date is in God’s hands.
 
All the days ordained for me were written in your book before one of them came to be. Psalm 139:16
 
Teach us to number our days aright, that we may gain a heart of wisdom. Psalm 90:12
 
 
 

 



Ancient Contemporary

There are hundreds of depictions of Cain and Abel online. This one, by artist Reuben David, was unique. Most paintings of the subject depict the moment of the murder and can be quite grotesque. The power of this depiction is in the setting. The horror of the first murder surrounded by the golden, almost heavenly, glory of a sun emblazoned field. Desperate ugliness in the midst of beauty; that has always been the puzzling contrast for me. How could it have happened … not far from Eden?
 
The second thing that gripped me about this painting was the remorseless and determined stride of Cain. His body still taught from the dreadful deed, still clutching the stone. This is the moment after and Cain has carelessly turned from all natural feelings of familial love.
 
Read Genesis 4 and marvel for yourself at the conundrum of Cain. He had direct access to God … even direct counsel from God and yet he became a murderer. Our present world still reverberates with Cain’s cry of rebellion. Like Cain, we are …
  • prone to wanting God’s blessing without following His ways
  • prone to resisting His saving influence and savoring sin
  • prone to letting resentment grow out into tangible harm
  • prone to being mastered by our passions
  • prone to denying our responsibility for our fellow man
  • prone to thinking God’s judgements are too harsh
  • prone to turning God’s mercy into an occasion for greater sin.
 
It’s all there in the story … and it’s all here today in our world. It is ancient and contemporary. God graciously challenged Cain about what was growing in his heart and said, “sin is crouching at your door; it desires to have you, but you must rule over it.” Don’t follow Cain. If God is dealing with you about a seedling sin, don’t let it mature into bitter fruit.
 
No temptation has overtaken you except what is common to mankind. And God is faithful; He will not let you be tempted beyond what you can bear. But when you are tempted, He will also provide a way out so that you can endure it.  1 Corinthians 10:13

 



The Fall

Some dismiss the Bible as ancient and arcane, but for me it is alive and contemporary. This past week’s Bible reading reminded me that all the maladies of modern society are present in the opening chapters of Genesis. When Adam sinned by eating the forbidden fruit, innocence, transparency and personal responsibility were all casualties of his Fall.
 
It was Adam’s sin that derailed humanity. The prohibition about the fruit was given to Adam prior to Eve’s creation. God entrusted Adam with the role of spiritual leader and his was the greater and damning sin. No change is reported until the man ate of the fruit … Then,” the Bible says, “the eyes of both of them were opened and they realized they were naked.” (GENESIS 3:7) When Paul wrote about the coming of sin and then salvation, he did not contrast Christ to Eve. He said, “For as in Adam all die, so in Christ will all be made alive.” (1 CORINTHIANS 15:22) Every human is born into Adam’s sin and so are destined to die. But every human who is, by faith, born into Christ is granted eternal life.
 
Adam’s spiritual fall had an immediate and tangible impact on his relationship with his wife and his God. The two great commands of love for God and love for your fellow human were shattered:
  • Shame replaced innocence … “they … made coverings for themselves.”
  • Hiding replaced transparency … “I was afraid … so I hid.”
  • Blame replaced responsibility … “The woman you put here with me.”
Eons have passed, and these instincts of sin still wreak havoc in our relationships. Praise God for the curse reversing work of Jesus Christ. We still live in a fallen world and struggle against sin, but God has opened the door to restoration.
 
All this is from God, who reconciled us to himself through Christ and gave us the ministry of reconciliation: that God was reconciling the world to himself in Christ, not counting people’s sins against them. And he has committed to us the message of reconciliation. (2 CORINTHIANS 5:18-19)