The Symphony of the Son of God

I have always had a strong draw towards classical music. More than that, I have a powerful appreciation for thematic music. Whether it is a movie soundtrack or a symphony that is composed to follow a certain storyline, I love seeing the recurring themes that highlight the development of the story. The composer will often come up with certain melodies to represent a character or a specific event. This particular theme is used in various forms throughout the work to remind the listener of a central focus. This is done exceptionally well in the Lord of the Rings trilogy with the “Concerning Hobbits” theme in the beginning of the first installment. That refrain is played many times and in various forms to remind the viewer of what is most important in the story. You hear it in the bright, happy beginnings of the adventure, it is used as a glimmer of hope in the midst of the darkest and most somber moments, and finally it sounds out as a triumphant, glorious exultation when the enemy is defeated and the heroes are honored.

Now, I don’t know if this is always a helpful practice, but I often read scripture as if it were a movie playing out. Naturally, there is a soundtrack highlighting moments of importance: despair and defeat, joy and triumph. I am neither a musician nor a composer, but I can definitely hear something that sounds like a hopeful refrain resonating from the pages of scripture, even during the midst of calamitous situations. The very first time I noticed this recurring theme was right after the most disastrous and destructive event that has ever occurred. It was the inception of all pain, loss, and suffering: the Fall of Man. The first instance of human rebellion against their Creator that sent the universe into a nosedive of entropy.

As the creation began to crumble, the hopeful refrain began:

I will put enmity between you (the serpent) and the woman,

                        and between your offspring and her offspring;

            he shall bruise your head,

                        and you shall bruise his heel.”

(Genesis 3:15 ESV)

As scripture unfolds we see failure time and time again. The sins of man just pile up higher and higher. It only takes six chapters of Genesis for God to hit the “refresh button” by sending the flood to annihilate all but eight people. But we see that this theme, this musical refrain if you will, continues to pop up. God says to Abram in Genesis 12:3, “In you all the families of the earth shall be blessed.” As the Old Testament progresses, we see God delivering his wandering people time and time again. We see this profound need for an anchor in the midst of these drifting generations. This future hope is referred to more times than I can list here and each time that I read of this glorious promise, I hear this theme play in my mind.

Then, the realization of this hope occurs. God becomes man, lives a life that none could live, and dies a death that only He would die. Throughout this gospel process, mixed with the horrific music of wrath, there is this simple refrain of hope that rings out clearly. Then silence. Three days of it. But then the central melody picks up in its greatest movement yet. This is the part where the whole orchestra is blasting out the main title theme and the conductor is waving his wand faster than before. The Son of God steps out of the tomb, having defeated death itself!

I don’t know if anyone else looks at the storyline of the Bible like this, or if I sound like some nerd that’s seen way too many movies. What I hope is that when you read the bible (specifically the Old Testament) you are able to clearly perceive how the Gospel is on every page. This understanding has helped me out in two specific ways. First, is that it can transform your quiet times. It is an easy temptation to read the Old Testament and think of it as boring. But when we are looking for Christ, this endeavor has a more immediately noticeable effect on the soul. Our passion is stirred and we can get much more out of the text. Even in Numbers.

Secondly, when we are looking for the theme of Christ and the coming hope of salvation in the Old Testament, it naturally draws our eyes to the glory of our salvation. In the midst of our drifting tendencies, this Christ-centered reading of the Old Testament provides for us yet another anchor to the Gospel.

 

Resources:

 Here is a Gospel Coalition post by Kevin DeYoung that lists out places in the Old Testament where we get hints and foreshadowing of Jesus:

http://thegospelcoalition.org/blogs/kevindeyoung/2012/05/03/jesus-is-what-the-old-testament-promised-him-to-be/

 

The content of that post was actually derived from this sermon by Ben Falconer (one of DeYoung’s co-pastors at University Reformed Church):

http://www.universityreformedchurch.org/teaching/sermons.html?sermon_id=507

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Airplanes and Boat Rides Exclaiming the Glory of God

Recently, I had the opportunity to be in the Florida Keys for a couple of days. It was a fun and relaxing time. I was able to eat a bunch of good food, see some real treasure (in a museum), shake fins with a dolphin and go fishing and actually catch something. Both of those activities are exceptionally rare for me: fishing and catching something when I do fish. Aside from those experiences, the most memorable facets of the trip were being on a boat in the ocean for the first time and flying home. That second memory, flying in an airplane, seems a little lame to be more notable than seeing 300 year old Spanish gold and getting a high five from a dolphin, but when I look back it is more significant to me. The boat ride and flight home carry something in common that really do amaze me. Hugeness. The ocean is huge. Clouds are massive. On the flip side, I notice my own smallness in relationship to these things.

I have noticed that the Bible draws this comparison on multiple occasions. Highlighting the greatness of creation to emphasize God’s glory and, by contrast, man’s smallness.

 When I look at your heavens, the work of your fingers,

                        the moon and the stars, which you have set in place,

            what is man that you are mindful of him,

                        and the son of man that you care for him?

(Psalm 8:3-4 ESV)

 This verse, for example, makes the distinction very clear. It mentions the night sky, which is one of the best and most perplexing views into natural grandeur that we have access to, as an example of God’s handiwork. Immediately, David’s next thought is, essentially, “What am I and why in the world does the God who made all this have any reason to care about me?”

Who has measured the waters in the hollow of his hand

                        and marked off the heavens with a span,

            enclosed the dust of the earth in a measure

                        and weighed the mountains in scales

                        and the hills in a balance?

(Isaiah 40:12 ESV)

Isaiah 40 is another section of scripture that the writer is going on about the greatness of God’s wisdom and creation and ends up drawing the contrast between the greatness of God and the minuteness of man:

 All the nations are as nothing before him,

            they are accounted by him as less than nothing and emptiness.

(Isaiah 40:17 ESV)

God works this same principle in reverse for when Job needs to be reminded of his place before God. For two whole chapters (Job 38 & 39) God begins to read off His resume to Job. Job then says, “Behold, I am of small account; what shall I answer you? I lay my hand on my mouth,” (Job 40:4 ESV). But God is not done yet because for two additional chapters He continues to exclaim His glory by describing the majesty of His creation.

Scripture gives us a new pair of glasses to view the beauty of the natural world with. We can look down at clouds from an airplane or across a sea of rolling, slate gray waves that appears to have no end and give glory to our God. Why? Because He created it and if He created it then that means He is far greater than the barely comprehensible things before our eyes.

Fireworks and Glowsticks

I love fireworks. I am not sure whether its the chest rocking booms, hanging out with a couple thousand people in a field, or the sizzle of luminescent chemicals burning up in the sky: It is probably a combination of several factors. Nevertheless, as June rolls to an end each year, I start getting excited for fireworks. A couple years ago, I remember overhearing a conversation that struck me as kind of odd. It was right in the middle of a fantastic fireworks display. Two people were arguing about a glow stick. Yes. A glow stick. At a firework show. Bombs are blowing up over their heads, issuing out blasts of bright, colorful light that can be seen for miles, but they are preoccupied with a long, thin tube that barely shines any light at all. Utterly ridiculous, right?

I thought so at least. But then I began to draw some comparisons between the underestimation the fireworks’ power, glory, and true awesomeness with a similar ignorance of my own. I do that all the time! I choose to be enthralled by things that are either inherently temporal and empty, not worthy of my attention, and far less glorious than what I was created for and Who I was created by.

The Dark Exchange

Now this is not something that I alone struggle with. It is, in fact, the way that all of humanity experiences every kind of sin. The base root of sin is idolatry. As Romans 1:24-25 says, “Therefore God gave them up in the lusts of their hearts to impurity, to the dishonoring of their bodies among themselves, because they exchanged the truth about God for a lie and worshiped and served the creature rather than the Creator, who is blessed forever! Amen.”.

Reject the Counterfeit

This refusal to honor, worship, and love God as we are designed to do is the basic foundation of evil. We choose to be consumed by something that is a cheap, cheap substitute for the Creator. These things appear to satisfy us in a moment. They bring a quick morphine injection of happiness, but there is simply no competition with God. We are wired for God and anything less will leave us constantly looking for the next figurative or literal narcotic to drown out the pain of living in a fallen world. Hope in God! It is what you were made for!

The faint, weary light that comes from a glowstick versus the utter brilliance and glory of a fireworks display is nothing compared to the horrific exchange that takes place in our own idolatry. My prayer is that I grow in realizing how utterly dissatisfying and pathetic my idols are and that everyday I would run to God and away from counterfeits.

Resources:

Here is a sermon by John Piper that for years has been instrumental in crafting my understanding of the nature of idolatry. So instrumental that I stole his sermon title and made is my first subheading for this post!

The Drift

Describing The Drift

For the sake of clarity, lets take a more detailed look at what I mean by this concept of The Drift. I am specifically looking at how Christians can grow dull and dim to the gospel, forget why they are here on this earth, and easily slip deeper into sinful tendencies.

You don’t need to be a Christian for long to notice this drift at work. It is slow and subtle. It creeps into our lives under the radar and then begins to direct our attention and passion away from Christ. This is evident whenever I experience any sort of conviction. I am initially impacted and I desire to grow in an area, but then I leave the setting where conviction gripped me and the cares of my day subtly slide to the forefront of my mind. Eventually my understanding of what once convicted me so strongly is clouded and murky.

Sadly, that goes on in my soul on a daily basis. Additionally, this pattern is represented in virtually every part of the Bible. Individuals or groups of people lose their sight of the Living God and they forget to do their Father’s will. This happens over and over and over again.

 

The One Who Defied The Drift

 The problem of our propensity to drift is obvious. Human beings have dealt with this for… well, forever. Ever since Adam and Eve fell to their own drifting desires, humanity has not only drifted in seas of unbelief, but swam passionately away from the designs and desires of their creator.

All throughout the Old and New Testament we see people, who God has appointed for righteousness sake, screw up time after time. There is, however, one lone exception: Jesus Christ, God’s own Son. He was the only one who truly followed his Father’s will. He was the only one who never did anything evil or wrong. He was perfect. Every single day, he was, “Tempted as we are, yet without sin,” (Hebrews 4:15). Every breath, every moment was an act of defiance of this drift.

 

Why We Can Defy The Drift

So, what does that have to do with us? Yeah, some guy was righteous, but I am still really messed up! Well, the good news here is that he defied the drift for us because we were and are unable to do it for ourselves. And it doesn’t stop there. He didn’t simply share his good grades with us. He gave them to us and took our failures as his own. “For our sake he made him to be sin who knew no sin, so that in him we might become the righteousness of God,” (2 Corinthians 5:21).

What a trade?! This insane grace demands our attention and affection. We who trust Christ are saved from our past, present, and future track record of evil. This gospel message has everything to do with our struggle with sin. Why? Because we have been set free from our bondage to sin. Allow this verse to sink in. “But thanks be to God, that you who were once slaves of sin have become obedient from the heart to the standard of teaching to which you were committed, and, having been set free from sin, have become slaves of righteousness,” (Romans 6:17-18).

Our bondage to sin is shattered and we carry the perfect record of Jesus Christ. We are now free and able to defy our drift from the gospel by the very power of the gospel itself.

“What? You Started A Blog?”

Yes, I did indeed start a blog. Some of you (assuming that people are actually reading this) may be wondering why I would do this. For a long time I have considered writing in a blog, but I have always been aware of the potential for it transform into an expression of vanity; a medium for me to attempt to impress people (keyword: attempt). As Paul expresses in Romans 7:21, “When I want to do right, evil lies close at hand.” Even my greatest intensions become marred by sinful desires and transform into self-exultation. I so quickly lose my focus on what is right, good, and holy and run to vain and meaningless idols. My propensity to drift from the gospel is tiring and discouraging.

But wait a minute… maybe that is exactly why I should start writing. I so easily forget Christ. I so quickly allow my mind to wander and sow to the field of the flesh. Perhaps a regular exercise of focusing my thoughts on Christ would help me! Maybe it could even be of service to other people!

With that said, the purpose of this blog is to remind myself and others of what we are anchored to. It is my hope that through this reflective publication I would be drawn nearer to my God and grow to have a deeper love for the One who died to save me from The Drift. And if I can encourage even just one other person who is as prone to drifting as I am then I would consider this blog a profoundly worthwhile use of my time.

Prone to wander, Lord, I feel it,

prone to leave the God I love;

here’s my heart, O take and seal it,

seal it for thy courts above.

-Robert Robinson