C.S. Lewis observed in his Reflections on the Psalms that a Christian can’t always be defending the truth, sometimes he needs to feed on it. This is very appropriate for the people of God on this Lord’s Day. This is the day to receive the blessings of God in word and sacrament. This is a day to feed on the One who gave himself for us. This is a day to be renewed and encouraged to assume our roles in this world.
We cannot defend something unless we have been transformed and fed by it. The first step to being fed by the Word is to allow the Word to cut through us and exorcise our sinful habits and thoughts. We cannot be truly fed by the Word if our hearts do not desire the Word.
As we prepare to confess our sins, let us receive and respond to this pure Word spoken by our Creator and Redeemer, the Beloved of God, Jesus Christ.
Sin affects us in several ways, but the two primary ways are through guilt and shame. Now both ideas may appear very similar, but there is a fundamental difference. Guilt comes when we become aware of particular sins. David says, “Wash me thoroughly from my iniquity and cleanse from my sin.” These are two ways of saying the same thing. “God, I am guilty before you.” David could point to his adultery with Bathsheba and make a direct correlation with his guilt.
Shame, on the other hand, is not as easy to detect as guilt. With shame, we can’t always identify what the wrong was, or we can think of many wrongs, though struggle to find which wrong leads us to shame.
As we come to worship this morning, it is likely that we are under the effect of both concepts: guilt and shame. The good news is that the many faces of shame and guilt take a blow when together we come to confess our manifold sins and wickednesses. We come this morning to seek God’s face where there is abundant life. God in His mercy is ready to cleanse you and wash you and rewrite your narrative of guilt and shame with the narrative of His love. Come and worship before Him.
In Genesis 1, God offers a broad view of creation. In Genesis 2, the writer zooms into particular elements of creation, especially the creation of man and woman. Beginning in verse 18,
Then the Lord God said, “It is not good that the man should be alone; I will make him a helper fit for him.”
We have typically looked at this passage and assumed that Adam saw the animals pass by frustrated that he couldn’t find a partner; someone who could take away Adam’s loneliness. But the garden is actually a proto-temple. It would be the model used when many years later God would build a place for his people to dwell and worship. The garden was a place of worship. We know this for many reasons, but we especially see this in the warnings God gives in Genesis 2. God commands his son, Adam, to eat of almost all trees, but not to eat of the tree of the knowledge of good and evil. (Gen. 2:17).
If Eden is a proto-temple, and if God tells Adam that there are certain things in this proto-temple not to touch, then we have the elements of a worship service. Throughout the Bible, God says there are things we can do and other things that are forbidden. This is what the second commandment teaches when it says, “You shall have no other gods but me.”
Since this is a context of worship to God, Adam was looking for a worship partner. And this is why God says that the animals were not fit for Adam. Adam needed someone to sing, to praise, to share, and to eat together. And because he found no one to do these things, he was alone.
Beloved, you are not alone this morning. From the body of Christ at his death, God formed his bride. God has found a suitable helper for the second Adam. We are his worshipers and together we are here to worship the God/Man, Jesus Christ.
There is a great app called Couch to 5K. It’s designed for people who have become comfortable with the couch and have an allergy to the treadmill. It’s an incremental approach to working out. As the weeks go by we become more accustomed to the patterns established and we long to achieve the final level when we run an entire 5K. It’s hard work. My proposition is very simple: Worship is hard. We cannot remain comfortable in our pews. We need to start running the race. We may not be ready to run a 5K, but we need to be headed in that direction. And like running, worship requires habits and consistency. I am calling you to burn your calories in worship not because I am a controversialist or a tyrannical trainer but because I want you to be a healthy sacrifice to God. In fact, the formal synonym for worship is liturgy. Liturgy comes from two words: “Work” and “people.” Therefore, worship or liturgy can be accurately defined as the work of the people.
Our Lord was so righteously angry by the easy business transactions (easy worship) of the Temple that he turned upside down the world when he overturned the tables of the money-changers (John 2:13-16). Such audacity should be imitated by God’s people, but cautiously exercised in light of our sinfulness. So here is my attempt to cautiously turn a few tables upside down with the hope that some will decide to keep it that way rather than try to put it back up or mend the broken pieces.
Worship has become perfunctory in our day. a The seeker-sensitive movement of the 90’s has morphed into a thousand strategic models for church growth. Some of these recommendations can be helpful, but the vast majority succumb to a moralistic therapeutic deismb that would be best spread in a meal for Baal than the God who made the heavens and earth.c Easy worship produces light Christians. Light Christians produce weak men and weak men produce feeble societies.
The Hard Work of Worship
These eight reasons are introductory in nature. Most certainly they can be edited or better stated, but in light of ecclesiastical trends and the high significance God puts in the worship of his name, these examples should be taken with great care.
First, worship must be hard work because God demands those who worship him to do so in “spirit and truth (John 4:24).” I take “Spirit” to mean in “Spirit-led” form. Worship must take a Spirit-shaped liturgy. It must be guided by the inspired words of the Spirit and a bathed dependence on the Trinity. Jesus demands that we take up the cross and follow him which is hard work lived out by the power of the Spirit.
Worshiping in truth also demands much from the worshiper. John the Baptist had borne witness to the truth (John 5:33) and that witness cost him his life. Thus, worshiping in truth is no easy task. Our gathered assembly must be prepared to fight hard to/in worship. If worship demands little or nothing from us, it fails the John 4:24 test.
Second, worship must be hard because God’s commandments require perseverance (Ephesians 6:18). Grace is not a synonym for a lackadaisical posture. Grace, rather, calls us to serve the Lord with our heart, mind, soul, and strength. The people of God are called to worship God by loving him and neighbor and both demand a high alertness to God’s principles for worship. Worship is a picture of our own spiritual walk. Passivity in worship may lead to passivity in our Christian walk.
Third, worship demands most work on the Lord’s appointed day. Many say that they can worship anywhere as a way to avoid worshiping in the consecrated time of worship on the Lord’s Day (Rev. 1:10). It is true that worship can take place anywhere, but the particular worship God commands is the worship of his gathered assembly (Heb. 10:25). Worship is hard because there are competing temptations that draw us away from the gathered assembly. Everything done in the name of God can be worship, but if it is used to substitute a clear call to worship him, it becomes less than worship and a violation of the principle of worship. God places a higher priority on gathered worship than on earthly tasks which are why we ought to apply ourselves with a greater fervency to Sunday worship than to other worshipful activities.
Fourth, worship demands postures. The Bible offers many postures for the Christian in worshipd) Worship has bodily demands for those who are able. It is hard work and requires a proactive response from the Christian. Passivity is not in the vocabulary of worship.
Fifth, worship teaches us patterns. The beauty of patterns is that it requires repetition. The angels in heaven maintain a glory pattern of worship day and night (Rev. 7:15). They are not discontent with the patterns or repetitions. They worship again and again. Similarly, earthly saints must repeat without fear, but with hunger to see such repetition become fervent and acceptable in God’s sight. Every stage of human life demand patterns whether kisses, hugs, sex, greetings, discipline in the home, waking, sleeping, eating, etc. Repetition is part of life. The thirst for the new and change in worship reflects a concern for human desires rather than God’s demands.
Sixth, hard work in worship stresses the mighty nature of God. It’s been many years since Christian Smith coined the phrase “moralistic therapeutic deism.” The phrase expressed a Freudian ecclesiology where the parishioner only sits and allows the clergy to do their thing. I once attended a church where one of the deacons faithfully recorded the member’s tithes and offerings during the service. He used the passivity of that worship service to “catch up” with work rather than working hard to participate and engage in the work of worship.
Seventh, hard work in worship teaches consistency in life. Someone who attended a congregation where hard work was expected from the people asked sarcastically: “Why do you all have to make things so complicated?” The question was addressed to a congregation that took worship seriously and demanded participation from its people. Ironically this individual cherished a hard work ethic and decried the lack of real men in our culture. “Work hard in school. Work hard to save money. Work hard to change a liberal culture,” he’d say. But be prepared to do little work when you come into worship was the implication. This inconsistency is consistent with the easy worship practices of many churches in our day. Let the experts do their thing, and our role is to simply sit and watch while we let others do the work for us. In economic terms, this is ecclesiastical socialism.
Finally, I offer four ways pastors and parishioners can train themselves to work hard on Sunday morning at the great assembly:
a) Disciple your children in worship. Fathers and mothers must be committed to keeping their children in worship with them. We don’t train children outside of worship so they can one day come into worship. Children are not distractions to be put aside during worship, they are disciples to be trained during worship. They have a fundamental role when we gather together (Psalm 8).e Children will generally become like their parents in worship. They will either work hard and sit passively while others do the hard work of worship.
b) Use hymnals instead of other means if possible. Hymnals demand musical knowledge.f You may not read music. You may not be musical. But using hymnals will require you to get out of your comfort zone and learn intricate and theologically rich melodies. I recently told my congregation that an Advent hymn we had just sung covered about ten essential theological doctrines in its seven verses. Hymns–and the Psalms–are sung religious education.
c) We are made to respond. Therefore, responsorial elements in worship are necessary (I Chronicles 16). Even in the easiest and relaxed worship environments, there are responses. If a pastor or a leader says, “Good morning,” the people will naturally respond similarly; the same with “Merry Christmas.” Theological greetings and responses should be an engaging part of the service (Ruth 2:4) that calls people to be attentive and prepared to answer with loud shouts of praise (Ps. 98:4). Worship is hard work and responses from the people serve to keep the people always aware and attentive.
d) Lastlyg, every service should have a bulletin; an order of worship. Worship becomes easy and flippant when the leader and the people go from one thing to the other without purpose or meaning or flow. I recall attending an evangelical church many years ago where the music leader chose our next song the moment he was called by the pastor. Quickly he flipped the pages and found a familiar tune to sing. Worship demands preparation. It’s hard work. And hard work leads to fruitful, engaging, and life-changing worship.
Offering Him Our Reasonable Sacrifice
These actions can be quickly taken by pastors and can be implemented without causing much consternation or division. Worship is discipleship training. We do the work again and again so we may become competent and equipped for it. Contrary to popular opinion, hard work in worship is not the invention of cranky Presbyterians who wish to take away our joy. In fact, the joy of the Lord is our strength. And the Lord takes joy when we are strengthened by worshiping Him. Working hard in worship has nothing to do with earning God’s favor; working hard in worship means God is deserving of our praise. We don’t come and offer Him the least we can give, we offer Him our spiritual sacrifice. Indeed we offer Him our entire self.
Worship is warfare. Warfare is hard. Worship prepares us for the race ahead. By the end of the hour, we should feel the exhaustion of having worshiped a great God who demands and is worthy of praise, confession, singing, adoration, kneeling, standing, and lifting holy hands. No one should come from such worship feeling lethargic. The liturgy–the work of the people–trains us for the hard work of perseverance through life. Let’s work hard with God’s people until our final rest when our work will be perfected by the God who calls us into His presence.
This example serves only as an illustration of the kinds of things that are permissible in our day and highly encouraged. (back)
See Terry Johnson’s Worshiping with Calvin for multiple examples of this: https://www.amazon.com/Worshipping-Calvin-Terry-Johnson/dp/085234936X/ref=pd_sbs_14_img_2?_encoding=UTF8&psc=1&refRID=HRHPCNKJTWAT4RVM91VX (back)
Oh come, let us worship and bow down; Let us kneel before the LORD, our Maker! (Psalm 95:6); Lift up your hands to the holy place And bless the LORD! (Psalm 134:2); Give praise, O servants of the LORD, Who stand in the house of the LORD. (Psalm 135:2 (back)
I understand there is need for cry rooms and perhaps age-appropriate Sunday School, but these do not hinder the centrality for young and old to be together for worship (Joel 2:16). (back)
Here is a great piece advocating the use of hymnals: http://www.patheos.com/blogs/ponderanew/2014/07/22/reasons-why-we-should-still-be-using-hymnals/ (back)
and this is only introductory; more could be added (back)
This example serves only as an illustration of the kinds of things that are permissible in our day and highly encouraged.
Language coined by Christian Smith
See Terry Johnson’s Worshiping with Calvin for multiple examples of this: https://www.amazon.com/Worshipping-Calvin-Terry-Johnson/dp/085234936X/ref=pd_sbs_14_img_2?_encoding=UTF8&psc=1&refRID=HRHPCNKJTWAT4RVM91VX
Oh come, let us worship and bow down; Let us kneel before the LORD, our Maker! (Psalm 95:6); Lift up your hands to the holy place And bless the LORD! (Psalm 134:2); Give praise, O servants of the LORD, Who stand in the house of the LORD. (Psalm 135:2
I understand there is need for cry rooms and perhaps age-appropriate Sunday School, but these do not hinder the centrality for young and old to be together for worship (Joel 2:16).
Here is a great piece advocating the use of hymnals: http://www.patheos.com/blogs/ponderanew/2014/07/22/reasons-why-we-should-still-be-using-hymnals/
and this is only introductory; more could be added
Advent! The arrival of a notable person! The coming of a life changing event! In theology, we speak of the Advent of Jesus to refer to two events: first, the coming of Jesus in his birth and second, the coming of Jesus at the end of history. Either way, we retell the story of the coming Messiah to change the pages of history.
Advent is the start of the new year which means we are walking through those dark days of expectation as Israel awaited the promise of the prophetic writings the arrival of a new king. And one of the great Advental hymns in the last 700 years is the famous “Veni Emmanuel” translated “O Come Emmanuel.”
We will close with that great hymn today, but I want to stress two promises this song alerts us as we sing:
First, “free thy own from Satan’s tyranny.” Advent reminds us that when Jesus arrives he destroys the devil’s work among the nations. We sometimes sing this hymn without understanding its central message that Jesus takes back what rightly belongs to him. And what rightly belongs to him? The nations. Satan’s tyranny is ended and Jesus’ birth initiates a new era in history.
But second, another promise fulfilled in the birth of Jesus is found in the last verse of this great hymn: “Make safe the way that leads on high, and close the path to misery.” The language indicates that Jesus burst open the gates of heaven for all the saints. In other words, he came to set the captives free; those in exile, imprisoned by Satan’s tyranny. The coming of Jesus ended the misery of expectation. Imagine if we only expected but never saw the fruition of our expectations? But Jesus’ arrival ends our waiting and opens heaven for all nations. And for these reasons and many others, we rejoice today for Emmanuel has come to Israel and indeed the whole world.
We are nearing the 4th of July. It is a time of joy and celebration. And we hope to satiate our hunger tomorrow with good drinks, good food, and good friends. But beyond all the fireworks, parades, and the good and healthy national festivities, we will also remember that in 1776, the Declaration of Independence was approved by the Continental Congress, setting the 13 colonies on the road to freedom as a sovereign nation. Sovereignty is good. It is right. And I believe there was much wisdom in that threefold pursuit of Life, Liberty and Happiness. Undoubtedly we have not followed those principles too well in this nation. We have despised life by disposing of unborn infants, we have forgotten that God has set us free from ourselves and from the tyranny of sin, but we have also forsaken the liberty given to any nation whose God is the Lord. Therefore, we receive the just punishment we deserve, and that means the majority of our politicians and their policies. Washington has become a place of secret handshakes, unwarranted transactions, political elitism, sophist rhetoric, and cowardice. And finally, the happiness that we should certainly pursue is largely devoid of any form of Trinitarian rationale. Happiness–which is the pursuit of righteousness– without Nature’s God is temporary and unsatisfying.
We are first and foremost heavenly citizens. Our pursuit of life, liberty, and happiness are not granted by this nation, but by a heavenly nation that this country has largely ignored. But this should not be the case. We are not pessimists. We know that even in the darkest moment of this country’s history, God is still on the throne, and He did not hit the pause button on his kingdom advance.
Be good citizens of this nation. Sing Psalms so loudly that the enemies will think there is an army of giants coming at them. Speak truth so firmly that Washington will be unable to shut her ears. Stand strong that nothing will deter you from marching on. Love so convincingly that godly marriage would be honored. Obey the Lord your God and petition his mercy that God would spare. True patriotism rejoices when our country does right, and weeps when she chases after false gods.
The Passion Week provides diverse theological emotions for the people of God. Palm Sunday commences with the entrance of a divine King riding on a donkey. He comes in ancient royal transportation. The royal procession illicit shouts of benediction, but concludes only a few days later with shouts of crucifixion as the king is hung on a tree.
The Church also celebrates Maundy Thursday as our Messiah provides a new commandment to love one another just as He loved us. The newness of the commandments is not an indication that love was not revealed prior (Lev. 19), but that love is now incarnate in the person of love, Jesus Christ. We then proceed to sing of the anguish of that Good Friday as our blessed Lord is humiliated by soldiers and scolded by the offensive words of the religious leaders of the day. As he walks to the Mount, his pain testifies to Paul’s words that he suffered even to the point of death (Phil. 2). But hidden in this glaringly distasteful mixture of blood, vinegar, and bruised flesh is the calmness of the day after our Lord’s crucifixion.
The Church calls this day Blessed Sabbath or more commonly, Holy Saturday. On this day, our Lord reposed (rested) from his accomplishments. Many throughout history also believe that Holy Saturday is a fulfillment of Moses’ words:
God blessed the seventh day. This is the blessed Sabbath. This is the day of rest, on which the only-begotten Son of God rested from all His works . . .(Gen. 2:2)
The Church links this day with the creation account. On day seven Yahweh rested and enjoyed the fruit of his creation. Jesus Christ also rested in the rest given to him by the Father and enjoyed the fruits of the New Creation he began to establish and would be brought to light on the next day.
As Alexander Schmemann observed:
Now Christ, the Son of God through whom all things were created, has come to restore man to communion with God. He thereby completes creation. All things are again as they should be. His mission is consummated. On the Blessed Sabbath He rests from all His works.
Holy Saturday is a day of rest for God’s people; a foretaste of the true Rest that comes in the Risen Christ. The calmness of Holy Saturday makes room for the explosion of Easter Sunday. On this day, we remember that the darkness of the grave and the resting of the Son were only temporary for when a New Creation bursts into the scene the risen Lord of glory cannot contain his joy, and so he gives it to us.
Bob Jones University has been in the spot-light in these past several months. After hiring and firing and hiring again G.R.A.C.E, Bob Jones found itself in the middle of a firestorm. The multitude of responses came immediately from local pastors in Greenville, SC to well-known figures in the media. BJU finally offered the green light, so that GRACE would finish its report.
The report released on December 11, 2014, offered 300 pages of meticulous accounts and recommendations for the well-known fundamentalist university. The recommendations were specific. The university asked for 90 days to respond to the report. The response came recently through BJU’s president, Steve Pettit. You can read the entire transcript here.a
Though some were pleased with the university’s response, those who were directly affected by the poor and irresponsible counsel given to victims of sexual abuse and those who understand that abused victims need more than theological propositions to heal from the profound belittling of one’s humanity that occurs in sexual abuse, found President Pettit’s response to be a disgraceful attempt to rescue the reputation of BJU. Rather than reaching out compassionately to those who were damaged by the university’s dangerous counsel, BJU’s response proved that there is no inherent interest in following GRACE’s detailed recommendations. There was no attempt to offer a systemic undoing of the university’s overarching counseling narrative.
What follows are the testimonies of three such people who felt betrayed by BJU’s response and understood the response to be nothing more than beautifying the dead:
Almost two years ago, BJU asked people like me to take an online survey. They told us that they wished to learn about the experiences of those whom, during their time at BJU, received counseling for sexual abuse. BJU told us that they wanted hear our stories to assist them in evaluating their counseling program. And almost two years ago, I went online and took that survey. Then I was asked to travel and meet with some people who wanted to discuss my experiences in greater depth. So I went and met a team of 4 people. Four strangers. And I told those four strangers my very darkest secrets; memories that I had tried very hard to forget. It shredded my soul to revisit those parts of my life. But I believed I was doing something helpful. I was helping BJU to evaluate and improve their counseling program. The counseling that misapplied scripture and shamed me. The counseling that sent me back to my abuser to make sure he knew he needed God’s forgiveness. Interviewing with GRACE was a painful experience from start to finish. But I had no regrets. I felt that what I was doing was important.
I read the GRACE report, and was proud of the work they had done. They compiled our stories. Many voices, from different generations. Yet our voices echoed each other. Our stories were similar. Some so similar, that I wasn’t sure if I was reading my own words or someone else’s. And those stories clearly showed that BJU did need to make changes. And I believed that the University would listen to us. When many others didn’t, and when cynicism abounded, I still believed.
Then, the apology. An apology from a person who was not guilty of anything other than being the president of BJU on March 10, 2015. He, personally, had no reason to apologize. He read his scripted statement. Told me that they had listened; that they were sorry that we had been hurt. That we didn’t receive adequate “comfort and guidance.” Please forgive them. And I continued to believe that the cynics were wrong. But as I continued to listen, I slowly began to grasp that I was the one who had been fooled. According to him, BJU had already put in place changes. They were already doing things the right way. They had their lawyers go over everything; all of their files and papers and notes, and everything was ship-shape.
BUT, they want to meet with me. They want to hear my story personally. They want me to call them and share my experience. Why would I do this? They asked me to meet with GRACE and share my experience. And I did. At a very great price, I did what they asked. And they have said that they did everything according to Biblical standards, and in compliance with all laws. What would be the point of meeting with them? I’ve told my story already.
Now I sit and watch from the sidelines – the armchair commentary. Every kind of opinion. Some, upholding that the University can do no wrong. An attitude of complete and total idolatry. Others, that the University can do no right. An attitude of anger and revenge. And I feel lost in the middle of it all. On the one side, I feel scorn. On the other I feel pity. It’s said I must be a tool of Satan to destroy God’s school. It’s insinuated that I must be a needy desperate soul whose entire life has been derailed by the trauma I suffered. I’ve been called brave. I’ve been called bitter. I’ve been accused of being in such poor spiritual condition that I have no right to instruct BJU on any spiritual matters. Some nod along, some shake their heads. The cynics still tell me I should have known; they knew how it would turn out and I’m foolish for not seeing it too. It’s easy to try to “paint me by numbers;” to determine what kind of person I must be. Because I’m faceless. I’m nameless. My story, detailed in the GRACE report, is easily torn apart and dissected. Each side for their own purposes and motives. My story, pieced together with the stories of others; resulting in opinions, and more opinions, and even more opinions.
And today, one day after BJU’s response, I can only think of one word to describe my current feelings. Regretful. I wish I had never taken the survey. I am told that “they” are sorry, but not by the ones who have something for which they should be sorry. I’m patted on the hand and assured that they are doing better. Which I suppose should please me, except that I’m told they were already working their way there long ago. They were already getting it right. Without me. My voice, just one among many, wasn’t needed after all. And both the scorn and the pity, they have tugged at me. Scorn coming from ones who don’t realize that they know me. From critics who don’t realize, while they look down on me, that they sat at dinner with me many years ago. They were my friends. And now they assume the worst of me. Pity coming from people who mean nothing to me, who assume I need it because it benefits them. I am a useful tool in a vendetta that has nothing to do with me.
I can’t say, exactly, what Dr. Pettit could have said yesterday that would make me feel satisfied. I’ve struggled to come up with the “right answer.” I’m not writing this to figure all of those answers out. I’m weary of trying to figure it out. I’m writing this to say – I wish I had never taken the survey. I wish I had never interviewed. My voice has been heard, but not valued. If they didn’t truly want to hear it, why did they ask for it in the first place? I’m quite certain I would have been better off had I never been involved. But I wanted it to mean something. And, ultimately, it didn’t. An extravagant waste.
I believe that Steve Pettit’s apology was basically a non-apology because only external things have been changed. The heart of the problem is the way they SEE people and how they SEE themselves, and that has not changed. I don’t know how they can say with a straight face that they want victims to come to talk to them and that they want the university to be a place of solace when they continue to offend by holding onto their pride and refusing to submit to deep change at the level of the heart.
I am heartbroken over their stance, but I still have hope. My hope is in Christ, not an institution of flawed people. I think the GRACE report has exposed their condition, so the report was not in vain from that standpoint.
“Over the years, we have had a number of students come to BJU who had experienced sexual abuse prior to their association with BJU. Many of these victims reached out to our faculty and staff for help and were lovingly served and comforted. However, there were some who came to us and did not experience the loving and comforting environment they deserved in their time of need.”b
But he doesn’t mention what we received instead. In my case I received blame from Jim Berg for my problems of flashbacks and dissociation. I was told the reason I had the problems I did was because I wasn’t thinking on things that are lovely. I was at fault for not appropriately applying Phillipians 4:8. He told me I was choosing to dwell on the past and think about those things and that’s why I was there like I was in a TV show that was playing. I didn’t have the word for flashback and Jim Berg never told me there was a word for what I was describing to him about what was happening to me. At the time he was counseling me I also described to him my experiences in leaving his office after counseling and “waking up” somewhere way on the back side of campus. There is a word for that too, “dissociation”.
I really want to write out a well reasoned response to how BJU has responded to the GRACE report. I don’t know that I can. I am still reeling from their claim that their counseling is not the problem and they don’t intend to change it. How in the world can they have read the GRACE report and come to that conclusion?
I filled out the questionnaire and later interviewed with GRACE. It took me almost two years to get back to a place of stability. Right now I am reeling and am still basically in shock, even though I expected them to do nothing substantial or to truly own up to the damage their counseling causes. Maybe way down deep I did have hope for change. Maybe that’s why this hurts so much.
When Steve Pettit said, “I know many of you are saying to yourselves that what I’ve said about our discipline culture and counseling response isn’t a fair reflection of BJU as a whole. I know it’s not. But we have to own this problem, and we have to have the courage to deal with it in the right way for God’s glory.” They aren’t owning the problem. The counseling at BJU is woven throughout the entire school. The things said to me in private counseling by Jim Berg were also said in chapel and also appeared in his book Changed Into His Image. This is the same counsel that caused me such incredible harm. And they are keeping it. They aren’t following the recommendations to remove all of Jim Berg’s, Walter Fremont’s and Bob Wood’s counseling material and books.
I’m out of words, I’m left with shaking and sweating hands. Just this attempt to corral my thoughts that are flying a thousand directions, in order to express my reaction, is emotionally exhausting and I’ve even found myself sobbing uncontrollably.
This is the third Sunday in Advent. The pink candle has been lit. Unlike the color purple in our first two candles, which indicate penitence and the royal color to welcome the Advent of the King, the pink candle indicates a nearness to Christmas. It signifies joy. It does not eliminate the need for a deeper meditation on sin, repentance, and preparation, but it does signal that the coming of the King is near.
As we prepare our hearts for the season of joy that awaits us, we need to be reminded that confession comes before joy. We may be tempted to read through our confession this morning and overlook that we have sinned and fallen short this week. Listen to the first line: “Your face is hidden from us because of our sins.” What a dreadful thought! This is a reality that we need to meditate upon as we confess our sins corporately each Lord’s Day: that in our sins we are declaring that we no longer need the face of God. If our call is to be in the presence and face of God, Coram Deo, then in our sin we are running from His presence and His face. Let us come and confess our sins and pray that we would always turn to God in our sins that His face may shine upon us and that we might anticipate with even greater joy the coming of Messiah Jesus, the Savior of the World.
Self-image? How many times have those words assailed our culture? Promises of a better you; promises to improve your self-image. This is all a gigantic, titanic, tsunamic lie.
You cannot become a better you by trying to fix yourself. All the options our culture offers to a better you always end up the same way: by eventually offering you an alternative option to the option of a better you. When you try something man-made long enough to fix your self-image problem, you eventually get tired and try something else.
Don’t misunderstand me: the problem of self-image is a true problem. But the problem is resolved not by promises of self-help, but by the promises of God.
In worship, you become a better self. Why—because you look to God. When looking to God you understand yourself. When looking to God and His Holiness you look to self and realize that the self is in deep need of surgery; and you realize that the only way to develop a healthy view of self and image is to realize that the value of self and image does not come from what you do, but from what God has done in you through His Son Jesus Christ.
Worship is here to fix your self-image problem, because the problem is the self. By the time this covenant renewal service is concluded we pray that your self-image problem will be fixed, because you will have confessed to your God that sin has done damage to your image, and realized that the problem with your self is that you look too much to your own interests and not the interest of others. Your image of self is only healthy when you have a healthy image of your need for God. I know I am not going to make a million dollar with that message, but I guarantee you, that’s the only way to view yourself accurately this morning.
So, come and worship and bow down and let us look to our Triune God to shape us that we might view ourselves more accurately before God and man.