Wecome to Logia, the personal blog of Paul Hartwig. Reflections and resources to enhance understanding of what God has revealed of himself in Scripture.
Each day we are all bombarded by life threatening germs and viruses. Our body is continually under attack and always in danger of physiological degeneration. Yet our bodies save themselves. Its called the immune system. With most people their natural immunity defeats the nasty intruders and huge mortal battles are won without any personal awareness. Only when our immune system is outclassed or malfunctions do we become aware of how important it is. On the whole, it saves us a thousand times a day! Thank God for our immune system.
Now what about saving yourself from all the immorality, infidelity, error and emotional manipulation our hearts and minds are bombarded with daily and weekly ‘world without end’? In the teeth of the fact that any sin has disastrous consequences - consider how Adam’s sin was far from any open defiance against God but committed almost by mistake - how do we save ourselves and keep our spiritual immune system robust? Let us listen to the apostle Paul’s words to his protégé Timothy (1 Timothy 4:26):
“Pay attention to yourself and the doctrine. Continue firmly in them. For doing so you will save both yourself and those who listen to you.”
The latter part of these instructions takes us by surprise. We are not used to seeing the command to save or deliver employed in this reflexive sense. The contiguity of words ‘save yourself’ is startling. Normally the appeal to save is addressed to God and the verbal action of saving has God for the subject and humans for its object. Here Paul seems to put this order on its head. Without getting into the depths of systematic theology, we should hear the Spirit in this text call us to the urgent and indispensable task of keeping our persons clean from our daily contaminations.
So how do we ‘save ourselves’ and those we speak to? We do this by doing two things: (1) by paying continuous attention to ourselves; and (2) by paying continuous attention to the doctrine.
Self-management is put first because ‘like a city that is broken down and without a wall, so is a person who cannot control his spirit’ (Proverbs 25:28). Self government is the draw-bridge that gives or denies access into the citadel of your life. Paul expects Timothy to never rest the reigns of the horse on its neck: ‘Hold the reigns to your own life firmly Timothy, for if you do, and do so contentiously and continuously, you will save yourself’. Or as Solomon again says: “guard your heart with all vigilance, for from it flow the springs of life’ (4:23). Then Paul directs Timothy into Christian doctrine. Yes doctrine! Any self-governance must be for some objective and into some direction. The path Paul wants us to direct our lives is into the teaching of the Lord. This is the truth about God, creation, salvation and all that relates to the Gospel in Christ. This is the ‘lamp of the Lord’ and directs our feet in the Way everlasting. Doctrine is how we can see what is at our feet, what the dangers are around us, and in what direction we are to go. It is ‘the path of the righteous which is like the bright morning light growing brighter and brighter until full day’ (Proverbs 4:18 NET). Outside of the parameters of doctrine we are lost in the dark and ensnared in the devil’s lies.
So, fortify your own spiritual immune system by these two agencies. Do them for dear life. If you do these two things you will keep yourself from destruction. Take your life by the throat, and spend the remnant of your days within the script of Scripture. You will also be of immense help to others. You will be able to keep them from error and direct their feet into the Way everlasting with you. In the ‘way that seems right to a person but its end is the way to death’ (Proverbs 14:12) you will be a beacon of truth and hope. How the churches and communities need such people! May you and I become such for the sake and salvation of ourselves and our hearers. What could be more urgent than this?
The greatest day in human history was the worst day in human history. On this day human nature and all its institutional forms was revealed for what it really is. Good Friday is only good because God in his grace was doing something good as people acted out their worst on the Son of God. It is this divine-human antithesis acting simultaneously and in glorious contradiction In the Cross that defines for us the grace of God. While men were doing their worst toward God, God was doing his best for them.
The Gospels all witness to the fact that Jesus was the focus of every sort of human abuse and rejection. It started with the very personal betrayal of Jesus by Judas. This close unfaithfulness was a shock to the inner circle of the 11. Then Peter’s repeated verbal denial of any acquaintance with Jesus shattered the confidence of many disciples and must have been fuel to the fire of their own doubts and fears. In this we see that even Jesus’ followers share in fallen human nature and are under the power of sin. The national leadership of the Jews had decided to murder Jesus after concluding that his ongoing success would mean their downfall. The Nazarene preacher and healer had divided the nation into two irreconcilable positions: he is the Messiah or he is not. The Torah did not tolerate fake messiahs. Rather, it commanded capital punishment for such blasphemy. The high priest, Caiaphas, a leader in this national opposition to Jesus, knew his Bible and reasonably and fervently advocated for his execution. We see in these facts that theology, reason and religious leadership are also poisoned by sin and become ‘the flesh’ when they do not embrace the weakness of the Christ. The institutions of national governance are also shown to be corrupt in this Holy Week. On Good Friday all the entities of authority we encounter in the Gospel, one and all, reject Christ. Jewish leaders and authorities and Roman leaders and authorities team up against Jesus. They all fail. They all go wrong, terribly. They totally disqualify their right to exist since they used their rights to condemn Jesus rather than affirm him. This is human nature in its individual and corporate will at its worst. The carpet is pulled from under the feet of all that is human on this day. The only One who perfectly loved his neighbor as himself now reaps only hatred and rejection. Friends, enemies, kith and kin, Jews and Gentiles, all give him the Crown of Thorns.
This is unholy week…..yet it is also Holy Week. It will soon be Good Friday… yet it is also evil Friday on the same day. God was doing his greatest work simultaneously to man doing his worst work. This is what GRACE is all about. Grace does not act beneficially toward the good and deserving but toward the bad and undeserving. Grace is defined by this Friday. Every human causality leading up to the nailing of Jesus to the Roman Cross and then pitching it into the hole dug on Golgotha was also matched and mastered at every point by a Divine causality, will and hand working unbelievable grace for the perpetrators. For every human deed that meant evil to Jesus on that day, Jesus meant it for their good. The hand of the brothers who put Joseph into that empty cistern were the hands of God filling up that cistern for those brothers to drink in the future time of drought. This is the power of the Cross, and this is the power of Grace. It is what the Good News is all about. How can we not respond thankfully to such a God a million times a day and let nothing keep us back from Him?