Well, it’s been quiet around here. And thanks for your patience. Had a great Christmas holiday and then spent the last few days in sunny Florida trying our best to make a holy ruckus at the Founders Conference. It was a real honor and joy, and I think we will have ruffled a few of the right feathers before it’s all over. Keep praying for that kind of fruit.
So just a quick thought for today melding some of the social justice themes of the conference with my recent Thomas Watson reading on the Beatitudes, specifically on the blessing of godly mourning and the sham of worldly sorrow.
Watson rightly points out that the blessing that comes upon those who mourn is first and foremost the mourning of godly sorrow for sin. But because there is real blessing in that sort of mourning the charlatans line up with their cheap knockoffs like flies at a picnic. Not all mourning is holy. Not all mourning is righteous. There is a carnal mourning. There is a diabolical mourning.
Watson: “When a man mourns that he cannot satisfy his impure lust, this is like the devil, whose greatest torture is that he can be no more wicked. Thus Ammon mourned and was sick, till he defiled his sister Tamar (2 Samuel 13:2). Thus Ahab mourned for Naboth’s vineyard: ‘He laid him down upon his bed, and turned away his face, and would eat no bread’ (1 Kings 21:4). This was devilish mourning. Again, when men are sorry for the good which they have done. Pharaoh grieved that ‘he had let the children of Israel go’ (Exodus 14:5)” (P. 59-60).
All of this demonstrates Paul’s point in 2 Corinthians 7:10: “For godly sorrow worketh repentance unto salvation not to be repented of: but the sorrow of the world worketh death.”
It is not merely enough to call people to lament, mourn, or sorrow. It is not enough to point to racism, slavery, abuse, or injustice and call for mourning and sorrow. Christian leaders and pastors in particular must be aware that mourning and sorrow are just as easily commandeered by the devil as useful to the Spirit. It’s entirely possible to point out real evils and invite people into a sorrow that leads to death.
Watson points out that Judas did more than many Christians today: “He confessed his sin. He did not plead necessity or good intentions, but he makes open acknowledgement of his sin. ‘I have sinned.’ Judas made restitution. His conscience told him he came wickedly by the money. It was ‘the price of blood’, and he ‘brought again the thirty pieces of silver to the chief priests’ (Matthew 27:3). But many are those who invade the rights and possessions of others, but not a word of restitution! Judas was more honest than they are. Well, wherein was Judas’ sorrow blame-worthy? It was mourning joined with despair.” (P. 61)
This is what the preachers of so-called social justice must be aware of. This is what the evangelists of intersectionality must fear. You can drum up sorrow. You can preach guilt and shame and blood. And you can even get people to agree to restitution and reparations and all the rest, and when you have done so, if you have not set men free, you have only loaded them with despair and have led them to death.
Is there a fountain filled with blood drawn from Emmanuel’s vein, where those who plunge beneath it’s flood lose all their guilty stains? Or is the guilt of racism and sexism and bigotry and white privilege too grotesque, too insidious, too malignant to ever be free of?
Watson, with a cunning pastoral wisdom, knows where this sort of thing goes: “The heart is very deceitful. It can betray as well by a tear as by a kiss. Saul looks like a mourner, and as he was sometimes ‘among the prophets’ (1 Samuel 10:12) so he seemed to be among the penitents. ‘And Saul said unto Samuel, I have sinned, for I have transgressed the commandment of the Lord’ (1 Samuel 15:24). Saul played the hypocrite in his mourning, for he did not take shame to himself, but he did rather take honor to himself: ‘honor me before the elders of my people’ (verse 30). He pared and minced his sin that it might appear lesser, he laid his sin upon the people, ‘because I feared the people’ (verse 24)… A true mourner labours to draw out sin in its bloody colors, and accent it with all its killing aggravations, that he may be deeply humbled before the Lord… How easy it is for a man to put a cheat upon his own soul, and by hypocrisy to sweep himself into Hell!” (p. 61)
If we are Christians let us deal with sin. Let us face it down like the dragon that it is. Let us name it without ambiguity. Let us name all of the names of the people who committed it. Let us confront it. Let us accent it with all its killing aggravations: every unjust law, every act of racial hatred, every sexual slur, every arrogant taunt — as defined by Scripture alone. But all of this vaguebooking of sin is utterly shameful for ministers of the gospel. All of these vague accusations against nameless persons or institutions or sexes or skin colors is demonic. And all of these calls to mourn, to lament, to sorrow are devilish if they are not linked directly to concrete biblical solutions and gospel absolutions. And lest I seem guilty of the same vagueness I am denouncing, I point my readers to the recent CrossPolitic at the Founders Conference where names were named.
Are you preaching the hope of the gospel or the despair of the devil? If you preach law (and the gospel preacher must preach God’s law), then you must also preach the blood of Christ that satisfies for every sin, every form of lawlessness. But if you preach vague sin, ambiguous guilt, systemic failures and shame without a cross, without atonement, without the Lamb of God, you do not merely fail to preach the gospel, but you are also the warmup act for another gospel. And for many, the alternative, implied savior of American guilt is the Omnipotent State. When we vote for the right guy, when we pass the right law, when we mock the wrong guys and the wrong laws, then we are justified, then we are righteous, then we will be saved.
But last I checked there is only one name under heaven by which men may be saved from every injustice, every form of oppression, every sin.
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