Deuteronomy 9 & 10
Self-Righteousness, ‘The Shack’ & Cosmic Over-Reactions
Righteousness versus Self-Righteousness
In today’s reading, God, through Moses, emphasized that He would bless the Israelites, not because of their righteousness, not because they deserved it, but because of His mercy.
C.J. Mahaney says in his book, The Cross Centered Life:
“Everything in the Old Testament points toward Jesus Christ and enriches our understanding of the cross (see Luke 24.27). The drama of redemption begins in the Garden in Genesis 3 and continues to unfold throughout the Old Testament until it reaches its climax at the cross. All along the way the Divine Author prepares us for Calvary. The symbolism of the sacrificial system, the strictness of the law, the repeated failures of man, the steadfast faithfulness of God—all this and more deepens our amazement at the cross.”
Thankfully, like the Israelites, our position with God does not depend upon our own righteousness. As Paul Tripp says, in his book Instruments in the Redeemer’s Hands, we cannot boast in our righteousness because we don’t have any (Phil. 3.9)! We are all sinners saved by grace alone (Eph. 2.8-9) and have been made the righteousness of God in Christ Jesus (Rom. 3.21-23). His righteousness was imputed to us on the basis of His sacrificial death on the cross on our behalf.
But like the Israelites we need to remind ourselves of that fact, because in our pride and self-sufficiency, we see ourselves as basically good (Prov. 20.6). If we are basically good, perhaps with some minor character flaws, then, as someone has said, the cross was “a cosmic over-reaction for a people who only had a case of spiritual sniffles.” That kind of thinking is not only wrong, but it keeps many from seeing their need for Christ.
Many people expect to spend eternity in heaven because they don’t believe they’re all that bad. They have some vague idea that God will weigh their misdeeds against all the good things they’ve done and they’ll manage to “get in.”
A friend told me last night about a quote he’d read. The writer said that Adam and Eve’s sin was basically “petty theft.” Of course, we know they weren’t condemned because they stole fruit. They were condemned because of their disobedience. They broke God’s law, His direct command. But the Apostle John said, “Whoever commits sin also commits lawlessness, and sin is lawlessness (1 Jn. 3.4).
I grew up believing that pretty much everyone went to heaven. We believed “in” God, but sadly, a god of our own creation, like those in the popular book and movie The Shack, who loves everyone and who wouldn’t let anyone go to hell.
Perhaps you say, come on, Donna, it’s just a movie! That’s true. But how many of us who grew up watching the movie The 10 Commandments would admit that our conception of those events has been colored by images from the movie or that watching The Passion of the Christ impacted our understanding of the events of the crucifixion.
Books and movies can leave a lasting impression.
The Prophet Jeremiah said, “The heart is deceitful above all things, and desperately wicked; who can know it?” (Jer. 17.9).
And Mike Wilkerson in his book Redemption says, “What the heart loves, the will chooses, and the mind justifies.”
Our churches and neighborhoods are filled with people who have never truly grasped the gospel. They may believe on an intellectual level that Jesus died for our sins, but have failed to see their desperate need for a Savior. They may come to church, give up their bad habits, and hang out with Christians as if that makes them OK.
21 Not everyone who says to Me, ‘Lord, Lord,’ shall enter the kingdom of heaven, but he who does the will of My Father in heaven. 22 Many will say to Me in that day, ‘Lord, Lord, have we not prophesied in Your name, cast out demons in Your name, and done many wonders in Your name?’ 23 And then I will declare to them, ‘I never knew you; depart from Me, you who practice lawlessness!’ (Matt. 7.21-23).
What would the “many” Jesus talked about in that passage take away from a movie like The Shack? What is it that their heart loves, as Wilkerson put it? Possibly, to think they’re OK, that they’re good enough, that their religious works have earned them a place in heaven.
What is it their will may choose to believe, especially, when it’s presented in such a winsome, logical, feel good way?
I understand that it’s “just a movie.” But for a believer, Christ is life. He doesn’t just want to occupy our Sunday morning, church part of life. For a Christ follower, shouldn’t Christ and His purposes be all of life? So, shouldn’t we be as concerned about the kind of work we do, the way we treat strangers, the kinds of entertainment in which we participate, and a host of other things, as well as, whether or not we go to church or read our Bibles?
Freedom & Stumbling Blocks
There is great freedom in Christ and where God has given freedom, each of us must make our own decisions before God.
And, ultimately, each of us must accept or reject the gospel. But we are warned against being stumbling blocks:
It would be better for him if a millstone were hung around his neck, and he were thrown into the sea, than that he should offend one of these little ones (Lk. 17.2).
Paul said this in 1 Corinthians 8:
8 But food does not commend us to God; for neither if we eat are we the better, nor if we do not eat are we the worse.
We could say the same about movies and other things.
9 But beware lest somehow this liberty of yours become a stumbling block to those who are weak. 10 For if anyone sees you who have knowledge eating in an idol’s temple, will not the conscience of him who is weak be emboldened to eat those things offered to idols? 11 And because of your knowledge shall the weak brother perish, for whom Christ died? 12 But when you thus sin against the brethren, and wound their weak conscience, you sin against Christ. 13 Therefore, if food makes my brother stumble, I will never again eat meat, lest I make my brother stumble.
If you’re interested in understanding the controversy over The Shack better, Dr. Albert Mohler has written an excellent article, “The Shack – The Missing Art of Evangelical Discernment.” Dr. Mohler is president of The Southern Baptist Theological Seminary. He does a great job of explaining many of the anti-biblical ideas in the movie. There are too many to discuss here, but one key thought is this:
The most controversial aspects of The Shack‘s message have revolved around questions of universalism, universal redemption, and ultimate reconciliation. Jesus tells Mack: “Those who love me come from every system that exists. They were Buddhists or Mormons, Baptists or Muslims, Democrats, Republicans and many who don’t vote or are not part of any Sunday morning or religious institutions.” Jesus adds, “I have no desire to make them Christian, but I do want to join them in their transformation into sons and daughters of my Papa, into my brothers and sisters, my Beloved.”
Mack then asks the obvious question — do all roads lead to Christ? Jesus responds, “Most roads don’t lead anywhere. What it does mean is that I will travel any road to find you.”
Given the context, it is impossible not to draw essentially universalistic or inclusivistic conclusions about Young’s meaning. “Papa” chides Mack that he is now reconciled to the whole world. Mack retorts, “The whole world? You mean those who believe in you, right?” “Papa” responds, “The whole world, Mack.”
I would encourage you to read all of Dr. Mohler’s article and prayerfully consider it.
TODAY’S OTHER READINGS:
The Arms of the Wicked
Verses 16-17, “A little that a righteous man has is better than the riches of many wicked. For the arms of the wicked shall be broken, but the LORD upholds the righteous.”
The “arms of the wicked” represents their power and strength. If our power and strength come from riches or military might or youth or political influence or anything besides God, they’re subject to fail at any moment. But when we rely on God and His strength, we have an unlimited source!
Fruitfulness or Frivolity
“He who tills his land will be satisfied with bread, but he who follows frivolity is devoid of understanding.”
“Frivolity” is all the worthless things that can eat away our time and cause us to be unproductive.
Ephesians 5.15-17 says, “See then that you walk circumspectly, not as fools but as wise, redeeming the time, because the days are evil. Therefore do not be unwise, but understand what the will of the Lord is.”
Let’s spend our days on things that have eternal value. Amen?
Our Need for a Savior
Just as the Old Testament pointed to Jesus Christ, so did Zacharias’ prophesy. And so did the ministry of his son, John. His preaching and baptism of repentance was to prepare the hearts of the people to receive their Messiah. As they saw their sin, they would more readily “see” their need for a Savior.
May we be willing to point others to Christ, not only by sharing the gospel, but with our words and actions, as well. May each of us be good discerners of truth and willing to give up our freedoms for our weaker brothers and sisters and those who have not yet come to know Christ.
Some books that focus on the cross-centered life:
Remember Jesus Christ? Although it seems almost too obvious, the center of our faith is surprisingly easy to forget. Dynamic pastor C.J. Mahaney shows how to overcome our tendency to move on from the gospel of grace. Finding joy in the gospel — whose promises allow us to escape condemnation whenever it attacks — helps us avoid the prevalent trap of legalism. With practical suggestions, Mahaney demonstrates the difference between knowing the gospel… and making it the main thing in daily decisions and daily living.
Christians need to rehearse the gospel after conversion, and this book will help you do that. In this little primer you will find short passages of biblical truth to help you savor the glories of God’s love and experience the life-transforming power of the gospel in all areas of life. Use this book to preach the gospel to yourself daily and be amazed at the difference it can make in your life.
How are parents to raise children so they don’t become Pharisees (legalists) or prodigals (rebels)? It’s all about grace-filled, gospel-driven parenting, says the mother/daughter team of Elyse Fitzpatrick and Jessica Thompson. Christian parents, in their desire to raise godly children, can drift toward rule-centered discipline. There is, however, a far more effective method—a grace-motivated approach that begins with the glorious truth of God’s love for sinners.
In Give Them Grace, parents will learn how to connect the benefits of the cross—especially regeneration, adoption, and justification—to their children’s daily lives. Chapters address topics such as our inability to follow the law perfectly, God’s forgiveness and love displayed at the cross, and what true heart obedience looks like. Fitzpatrick and Thompson also discuss discipline, dealing with popular culture, and evangelism as a way of life. Parents will find this book a great resource for raising grace-filled, Jesus-loving kids.
Daily comforts from the gospel of Christ provide busy Christian women with brief but deep reminders of how his truths powerfully connect to their daily lives.
Nothing comforts a woman’s soul more than a fully understood and embraced gospel. But many women aren’t finding solace in their relationship with Christ because they don’t see how his life, death, and resurrection connect with soccer practices and swim lessons. Besides, they just don’t have time to sit down and read a theology book, no matter how much they might hunger for God’s truths.
That’s where Elyse Fitzpatrick’s latest book comes in. Comforts from the Cross provides those well-intentioned women with bite-sized readings to remind them of their place in Christ and of his love and ministry in their busy lives. It also dusts off the facts of the gospel to show how ancient truths such as justification, sanctification, and redemption can free and enliven their souls every day. Even more, these five-minute celebrations of the gospel relieve readers of legalistic condemnation and empower them for joyful obedience by engendering fresh love for the Savior.
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