Purposeful Autobiography: For His Honor

Head Stick Pics 006People throughout my life have often urged me to write an autobiographical book. This advice certainly appeals to my already inflated ego, but more serious consideration leads me to doubt that such a book would profit any publishing house brave (or stupid) enough  to underwrite such a project. And as I age (I’m 62 now), typing grows increasingly difficult for me, making the idea pretty unappealing.

Blogging suits my physical limitations at this point in life, though I started this particular blog back in July with the idea  of minimizing autobiographical elements. In my introductory post, I wrote:

Unlike my last blog, this blog won’t showcase my digital art except in the sense that I will use my creations, as well as John’s photos (many of which I’ll manipulate with Paintshop Pro) to illustrate my posts. Accordingly, I will also dispense with accounts of our “Boston Adventures” unless they contribute to Biblical discussion. In other words, I anticipate a greater emphasis on the Lord, with any autobiographical comment serving only as auxiliary material that will direct attention back to Him.

I haven’t changed my desire to use autobiographical material here for the sole purpose of magnifying the Lord Jesus Christ. I know that Christians in the United States most likely have little time left to publicly proclaim the Gospel and offer Biblical truth, so I don’t want to squander that precious time composing a vanity blog.

Yes, I’m physically disabled, yet I’ve done things that some people consider “amazing.” Get over it. I have!

At the moment, however, John and I think I should write a  series of posts about my spiritual progression. In doing so, I don’t want the focus on me. Rather, I propose to show the Lord’s grace and sovereignty as He has patiently brought me through various sinful patterns and questionable doctrinal positions to where I am now. He has worked so gently as He’s corrected me over the years, and His faithfulness to keep  me rooted in His Word both astonishes and delights me.

I pray that these stories from my life (which I’ll share only once or twice a week) will help you avoid the pitfalls that kept me spiritually retarded for so many years. But more than that, I pray that you will learn more about Who Christ is and how He desires us to worship Him. If I must write an account of my life, at least let me do so in a manner that honors Him and helps my readers know Him better. I don’t have time for anything less.

15 Look carefully then how you walk, not as unwise but as wise, 16 making the best use of the time, because the days are evil.   ~~Ephesians 5:15-16 (ESV)

The Lamb Upon His Throne

A long-time member of our church passed into heaven a few days ago. I never met him, but he was on the church’s weekly prayer list,  so I had prayed for him enough to care about him.

At church this morning, our pastor reminded us that, as we worshiped in our sanctuary, so this man now worships in the direct presence of the Lord. His worship, however, no longer struggles against selfish pollution. He now adores the Lord completely, not looking for what Christ  might do for him. I envy this man’s freedom from self and his consequent ability to focus all his attention on Jesus.

Jesus alone deserves the praise, both for what He did in shedding His blood to save us from the wrath we deserve and for the holy God He is. The hymn I’ve selected today highlights His worthiness of our praise and worship by extolling various aspects of His grandeur. We see this grandeur by faith, but the man from our church now experience it directly!

Avoiding The Distractions

Cross of GloryWe definitely need to identify and challenge the false teachings that proliferate among professing Christians, as Michelle Lesley wrote yesterday in her blog post, I Can’t Sit Down, Shut Up, and Play Nice! Interestingly, Erin Benzinger’s This N That column yesterday spoke of her weariness with Discernment Bloggers always talking about who and what to avoid. What a mental tug-of-war!

Of course, both Michelle and Erin really meet in the middle. They both want to help women ground themselves in the Lord Jesus Christ and His Word, so that we won’t be swayed by personalities and doctrines that deviate from the Gospel. I agree! As women, we all too often settle for self-focused theology designed to stroke our egos and make us feel valued when we really need to be studying Scripture to learn Who the Lord is and how we can glorify Him.

It seems to me that evangelical Christianity has slowly shifted, over the past 50 years (perhaps longer) from worshiping and adoring Christ to making Him a means of meeting our “felt needs.” I plead guilty to buying into this attitude. To be brutally honest, I still catch myself wanting my relationship with God to be all about me. Like the majority of evangelicals, I get lost in my concerns over what I want Him to do for me until I forget to ask how I can offer myself to Him (Romans 12:1-2).

Let me give you a glimpse of what I mean. In the book of Revelation, the apostle John gives us a few glimpses of the pure worship that will happen in heaven. Let me give you one example:

11 Then I looked, and I heard around the throne and the living creatures and the elders the voice of many angels, numbering myriads of myriads and thousands of thousands, 12 saying with a loud voice,
“Worthy is the Lamb who was slain,
to receive power and wealth and wisdom and might
and honor and glory and blessing!”
13 And I heard every creature in heaven and on earth and under the earth and in the sea, and all that is in them, saying,
“To him who sits on the throne and to the Lamb
be blessing and honor and glory and might forever and ever!”
14 And the four living creatures said, “Amen!” and the elders fell down and worshiped. ~~Revelation 5:11-14 (ESV)

None of the worshipers makes any mention of self, but rather total attention gravitates to the Lamb (Jesus Christ). He is the entire reason they loudly praise Him. They don’t do it to whip up their emotions so that Christ can enjoy their happiness, although they undoubtedly feel tremendous joy. And they don’t praise Him with the expectation that  their apparent worship obligates Him to bless them in return. Instead, their joy is secondary to the glory that rightly belongs to Him.
If (okay, when) I write about teachings and people that undermine Biblical Christianity, trust that I do so because those teachings and people obscure Christ and distort His Word. I do pray that, instead of producing just another Discernment Blog that rails against false teaching, I can exalt the Lord and encourage you ladies toward a deeper understanding of Him and His Word. If I focus only on hunting down heresies and ignore Him, I completely miss the point.

Why Do We Want Jesus?

Closed Bible and crossThe teachings on romance with Jesus stem from a greater problem within evangelical circles, as yesterday’s post on The Cripplegate reminded me. The Dangers of Man-Centered Theology demonstrates (in quite convicting ways) how easily we make the Gospel all about us. We may give lip-service to the fact that Jesus deserves all the praise, honor and glory, but honesty forces us to admit that most of the time we follow Him with the expectation of receiving goodies.

I can’t help thinking of this passage:

25 When they found him on the other side of the sea, they said to him, “Rabbi, when did you come here?” 26 Jesus answered them, “Truly, truly, I say to you, you are seeking me, not because you saw signs, but because you ate your fill of the loaves. 27 Do not work for the food that perishes, but for the food that endures to eternal life, which the Son of Man will give to you. For on him God the Father has set his seal.” 28 Then they said to him, “What must we do, to be doing the works of God?” 29 Jesus answered them, “This is the work of God, that you believe in him whom he has sent.” 30 So they said to him, “Then what sign do you do, that we may see and believe you? What work do you perform? 31 Our fathers ate the manna in the wilderness; as it is written, ‘He gave them bread from heaven to eat.’” 32 Jesus then said to them, “Truly, truly, I say to you, it was not Moses who gave you the bread from heaven, but my Father gives you the true bread from heaven. 33 For the bread of God is he who comes down from heaven and gives life to the world.” 34 They said to him, “Sir, give us this bread always.”

35 Jesus said to them, “I am the bread of life; whoever comes to me shall not hunger, and whoever believes in me shall never thirst. 36 But I said to you that you have seen me and yet do not believe. 37 All that the Father gives me will come to me, and whoever comes to me I will never cast out. 38 For I have come down from heaven, not to do my own will but the will of him who sent me. 39 And this is the will of him who sent me, that I should lose nothing of all that he has given me, but raise it up on the last day. 40 For this is the will of my Father, that everyone who looks on the Son and believes in him should have eternal life, and I will raise him up on the last day.” ~~John 6:25-40 (ESV)

The crowd wanted Jesus because He met their temporal needs, not because He deserved their adoration. He fed the 5000 to reveal Himself as the Almighty Creator, but the people chose to focus on Him as a cosmic Waiter Who bore the responsibility of satisfying their appetites.

We do pretty much the  same thing now. Maybe most of us have enough delicacy to avoid the blatant Name-It-And-Claim-It teachings of people like Joel Osteen, Joyce Meyer and Benny Hinn, but how many of us fall for Beth Moore, Rick Warren and Sarah Young as they offer a watered-down Jesus that romances us, gives us purpose and whispers in our ear? Instead of physical bread, this man-made Jesus lets  us feel special about ourselves.

Certainly, the Lord loves His people, and He graciously cares for our needs. He does so, not because we deserve His mercy (we don’t), but because He is amazingly kind and generous in the face of our unworthiness. His kindness shouldn’t stimulate our greed, so that we constantly dream up new ways for Him to shower us with blessings. Quite the contrary, those blessings ought to cause us to shower Him with praise and adoration. They should place our attention back on Him.

Does The Allegory Stand?

Robin Olsen PortraitDoes Song of Solomon offer Christian women Scriptural substantiation for regarding the Lord Jesus Christ as a Boyfriend/Lover/Husband? Should we understand it as a literal narration of Solomon’s courtship and marriage, or does it have an allegorical meaning? After consulting a variety of commentaries on the admittedly perplexing book today, I learned that even the most reputable commentators disagree on the interpretation.

Some commentators, like Albert Barnes, favor reading Song of Solomon at face value and then understanding it as a celebration of marriage between Solomon and the Shulamite. He doesn’t consider the possibility of allegory at all, but writes straightforwardly:

The interpretation of the Song of Songs followed in this commentary proceeds on the assumption that the primary subject and occasion of the poem was a real historical event, of which we have here the only record, the marriage union of Solomon with a shepherd-maiden of northern Palestine, by whose beauty and nobility of soul the great king had been captivated. Starting from this historical basis, the Song of Songs is in its essential character an ideal representation of human love in the relation of marriage Sol 8:6-7.

Adam Clarke and John MacArthur share this point of view. And I agree with that approach to understanding Scripture. Generally, the context of a book or passage will offer clear indication when it presents allegory, metaphor or parable, but Solomon makes no such introduction before launching into his poem. His lack of qualification leads me to read the poem simply as an ode to romantic love that he wrote on the occasion of his marriage to one specific girl.

The Old Testament commentators Keil and Delitzch, however, view Song of Solomon in terms of God leading Israel out of Egypt, with commentators Jamieson, Fausett and Brown joining Matthew Henry in extending the metaphor not only to Christ and the Church, but also to Christ and individual believers. Intellectual honesty demands that I acknowledge the fact that some sound Biblical scholars find reason to regard this book as an allegory. I may disagree with their position, but I can’t pretend that said position doesn’t exist among men that hold good theological credentials.

I will, however, remember a basic rule of literary criticism that I learned in college: At some point, every allegory unravels. If we align ourselves with Matthew Henry in stating that Song of Solomon illustrates the love between Christ and a believer, therefore, we need to stop short of perverting that illustration into romantic or erotic fantasy about our relationship with Him.

Taking Song of Solomon too far as an allegory causes us to see the Lord in only that one dimension, creating a familiarity with Him that downplays His holiness. Yes, He invites us to enjoy fellowship with Him (Revelation 3:20), but He also calls us to regard ourselves as His slaves (Romans 6:22). Will we embrace the romantic allegory but reject the slave allegory?

Remember that Biblical commentators disagree on whether or not we can legitimately consider Song of Solomon to be allegorical. That being the case, we might want to avoid using it as a proof-text for conducting a romantic relationship with the Lord. We can love Him and receive His love without reducing the relationship to something out of a romance novel. And actually, we probably should!

The Complications Of Romance With Jesus

Image1The topic of “romance with Jesus” contains many more facets than I expected, and right now I feel my eyes glazing over from the research I’ve been doing. I miss my old blog, at times like this, because I could always back away from demanding topics and simply write for my own pleasure. In so doing, I could avoid the hard work of studying and thinking and wrestling with Scripture. I could gloss over difficult ideas. Or ignore them altogether in favor of writing purely for the sake of weaving words into sentences and sentences into paragraphs.

But this blog, unlike my last one, has a purpose. Rather then showcasing my creative abilities, I want to draw women away from the fads and deceptions of 21st Century evangelicalism and into Biblical Christianity. That purpose requires more energy, concentration and work than my old blog required.

Okay, so yesterday I introduced the “Jesus is my Boyfriend/Lover/Husband” theology that Beth Moore resurrected in her Living Proof Ministries Simulcast 2015 (which I do not endorse). This distortion of Ephesians 5:25-33 resurfaces periodically, offering both single women and unhappily married women promises of romantic, and sometimes sexual fulfillment.

I understand that many other bloggers have addressed various aspects of this disturbing trend, as Elizabeth Prata acknowledged in The Romanticized Jesus movement is turning women into camp followers. Like Elizabeth, I don’t want to write the same things that far more capable people have already written about this subject.

At the same time, the resurgence of the issue demands that it be discussed again. Furthermore, while I wholeheartedly agree with Elizabeth that Christ must not be regarded as the Boyfriend/Lover/Husband of any individual woman, I’m not completely satisfied with her total dismissal of Song of Solomon as being an image of Christ and the Church. That aspect of the conversation needs further investigation.

Additionally, I’ve read little of how the “romance with Jesus” theology places the emphasis on us rather than on Him. Yet that emphasis troubles  me more than anything else about the entire matter.  As with most romances, the woman becomes the central character, therefore taking the glory away from Christ. If this doesn’t disturb you, it really should! Our relationship with Christ, both collectively and individually, must revolve around Him and not around how He can meet our emotional needs.

Consequently, I feel compelled to revisit this rather unsavory topic. It is not fun, and it will take much more work than simply relaying my personal experience at trying to have a romance the Lord. I suppose it would be easier for me to drop the issue, or to write about it in a way that only skims the surface. But I can’t do that. His glory is at stake.