November 2009

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Two Essentials to Christianity

James 1:27 contains a challenging message for modern day evangelicals with its heavy emphasis on personal piety and corresponding deemphasis on social justice. With an increase in introspection sadly comes a corresponding decrease in extrospection. James 1:27 keeps them in balance:

Religion that is pure and undefiled before God, the Father, is this: to visit orphans and widows in their affliction, and to keep oneself unstained from the world.

This landed on me this past week as I was preparing to preach last Sunday. Both are necessary. Both are essentials to true religion. It seems to me much of modern Christianity affirms the second half of the equation as essential, but makes the first half optional. This is wrong.

One commentary made a reference to a journal article, 'The Emergent Need for James' in reference to this verse (I did not read it, but the title itself is telling). The Emergent Church, in emphasizing that Christians must mingle with the culture to reach it, and must get involved in meeting present needs have likewise turned a blind eye to the issue of holiness. 

James' call to keep these two in balance is a challenge indeed. The importance he gives to caring for the helpless and being a father to the fatherless is challenging in and of itself. The combining of that with personal holiness is a challenge to those who forget about the gospel in their social work, and who forget about holiness in their social work. 

And now a specific application that has been much on my heart the past couple weeks in meditating on this verse: abortion.

I remember reading that William Carey's sister testified she never heard him pray without asking God to end the cruel practice of slavery. Yet while many Christians today are indeed praying for personal purity, to avoid adultery and the immoral practices of the world that flood our minds every day, for growth in love for Christ and for greater obedience--I think surprisingly few Christians pray daily that the cruel practice of abortion would end. 

The orphans and the widows of our day--other than actual orphans and widows, and they don't count as much now as they used to, due to government aid and such--are soon-to-be-aborted babies. They are in the most danger. Each year 42 million babies die at the hands of their mothers, I would guess this is than men have died in all wars combined. If not, 2 or 3 years should do it.

This is a hill to die on. It is an essential to genuine Christianity to care about this and to at least pray for its demise, if not become actively involved at least on a personal level with individuals: offering care to those who have gone through it, and support to those who want to avoid it, and education about it to all so that people will turn away from it in horror.

We must not turn a blind eye any longer.





So I have been pretty anti-Twitter for some time now. It seems rather overkill to me in terms of the sheer amount of information being shared back and forth, most of which, I assume, is not that important. Yet, I realized it is a little strange to be pro-Facebook and yet anti-Twitter at the same time. Twitter is actually a subset of the distractions and busyness that goes along with Facebook--Twitter is simply the status update portion of the Facebook profile. Facebook has many more (mostly) useless things to get distracted by than just status updates.

While not desiring entirely to jump in to the Twitter craze of mass updating while avoiding (gasp!) human contact, I think it need not be so overkill. As I have already been accustomed to updating every now and then on Facebook, I figure it might not hurt to do the updating on Twitter instead and then link those to my Facebook profile.

Not that I am that important or anything, but if this is how people are communicating these days, might as well be a little part of it.

That said, feel free to follow me @hauckmatt




When the Father was against his Son

There are few places in the Bible that speak in such picturesque language as we find in the Book of the Twelve (aka the "minor" prophets). One of the most prominent themes we find in these books is the indictment of sin and the promise of judgment, not forgetting a future restoration for the believing remnant. 

A result of this is that these books contain much graphic language the evokes powerful images about the wrath of God and his coming judgment. Examples:

For behold, the Lord is coming out of his place, and will come down and tread upon the high places of the earth. And the mountains will melt under him, and the valleys will split open, like wax before the fire, like waters poured down a steep place. (Micah 1:3-4)

The Lord is a jealous and avenging God; the Lord is avenging and wrathful; the Lord takes vengeance on his adversaries and keeps wrath for his enemies. The Lord is slow to anger and great in power, and the Lord will by no means clear the guilty. His way is in whirlwind and storm, and the clouds are the dust of his feet. (Nahum 1:2-3)

Nahum, written about the coming destruction of Nineveh (which came about in 612 BC), reaches a sort of climax as God speaks directly to Nineveh with these frightening words:

"B e h o l d ,   I   a m   a g a i n s t   y o u !" (Nah 2:13, 3:5)

Seeing the wrath of God over sin is instructive not only for what it tells us about God's holy character and our wretched sin, but for what tells us about what Jesus Christ endured on the cross. On the cross, God treated Jesus like he had committed all of our sins and punished him for our sins, so that we could be forgiven. Thus, the wrath of God in the minor prophets tells us what Jesus went through on the cross, in graphic, picturesque language.

So weep and mourn for the day when, for your sake, the Father said to his beloved Son, "Behold, I am against you!"




Dual Effect of the Cross

The cross has a dual effect in both condemning the sin of all those who don't believe in him (his death revealing the serious nature of man's sin), and also forgiving the sin of all who do believe in him (his death being the very ransom price for man's sin).

It is the dividing line. By providing salvation at such a high cost, it reveals the cost of sin--yet it doesn't do so without paying that high cost for those who believe! The fact that Jesus is who he said he was (i.e. God in human flesh), which the resurrection proves, and the fact that he came to die for sin is a strong argument for man's wretched sinfulness. 

How good do you think you are? Good enough to put the innocent and pure Son of God on the cross, that's how "good." Will you receive the benefit of the cross through repentance and trust, or will you be condemned by the cross through rejecting it?

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Matt Hauck (郝柏昇)

A once enemy now son, forgiven and freed by Jesus' blood, adopted and called by grace for glory.   (more...)