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Archive for May, 2011

Beautiful Mess

Last Saturday, I was hanging at Harmon Field, which is THE place in Polk County to be on a Saturday. There was lots of activity and one of the highlights of the day was seeing the new band in our community, Beautiful Mess. You may be asking, “Beautiful Mess? Haven’t heard of them.” Do you remember the first time you saw U2 perform on TV? Here they are in 1980:

And now:

It got me thinking about Beautiful Mess’ first performance at Harmon Field last Saturday. Here it is:

What if Beautiful Mess were the next U2? Am I overreaching? Probably. But, hey, a dude can dream.

Their performance made me think of the first time I saw Glee cover the best song in the whole history of music:

I knew after I saw that the the creators of Glee were on to something.

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What I’ve Done

I am already tinkering with my text for my next sermon, “And lead us not into temptation, but deliver us from evil (Matthew 6:13).” As always, there is plenty to say about these passages in the Sermon on the Mount. As I was surfing the net tonight, this song jumped out to me as a potential sermon illustration for this passage:

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I am a Pharisee and a Tax Collector

Most people are wired one of two ways: either they are a Pharisee or a Tax Collector. A Pharisee is a person who struggles with being good. Their goodness alienates them from God. They are very concerned with their outward performance and they often feel superior to those who do not measure up to their standards. The Pharisee doesn’t have intimacy with God, rather they are intimate with themselves. They live in the tension of arrogance and despair. They are arrogant because they really think they are better than others. They live in despair because when they fail, their whole identity crumbles. In the four gospels, Jesus consistently is hard on the Pharisee. The Pharisee is trapped in the cycle of sin and they need a Savior.

I am a Pharisee.

Others are wired completely different from a Pharisee. The opposite of a Pharisee is the Tax Collector. A Tax Collector doesn’t really care what others think of them. This brings a form of freedom, but the Tax Collector has traded in one form of slavery for another. The Tax Collector is a slave to being really really bad. They give into their indulgences whether that be in the form of food, lust, power, or money. The Tax Collector understands what Americans call “instant gratification”. Tax Collectors inherently know they are sinful, but they think that their sin disqualifies them from the love of God. They say, “Yes, I know that God forgives me, but I can’t forgive myself.” This is a form of idolatry and unbelief because when we say that, we are putting our own selves above God. In the four gospels, Jesus is winsomely loving to the Tax Collectors. The Tax Collector is trapped in the cycle of sin and they need a Savior.

I am a Tax Collector.

The Gospel is for the Pharisee and for the Tax Collector.

In Romans 7 and 8, Paul (who is a recovering Pharisee) says, “15For I do not understand my own actions. For(A) I do not do what I want, but I do the very thing I hate. 16Now if I do what I do not want, I agree with(B) the law, that it is good. 17So now(C) it is no longer I who do it, but sin that dwells within me. 18For I know that nothing good dwells(D) in me, that is, in my flesh. For I have the desire to do what is right, but not the ability to carry it out. 19(E) For I do not do the good I want, but the evil I do not want is what I keep on doing. 20Now if I do what I do not want,(F) it is no longer I who do it, but sin that dwells within me. 21So I find it to be a law that when I want to do right, evil lies close at hand. 22For(G) I delight in the law of God,(H) in my inner being, 23but I see in my members(I) another law waging war against the law of my mind and making me captive to the law of sin that dwells in my members. 24Wretched man that I am! Who will deliver me from(J) this body of death? 25Thanks be to God through Jesus Christ our Lord! So then, I myself serve the law of God with my mind, but with my flesh I serve the law of sin. 1There is therefore now no condemnation for those who are in Christ Jesus.[a] 2For the law of(K) the Spirit of life(L) has set you[b] free in Christ Jesus from the law of sin and death.”

That helps me. I need the gospel as much as a fish needs water. More than a fish needs water. In Christ, I have the eternal smile of the Father. The righteous requirement of the Law has been satisfied in the life of Jesus and the righteous wrath of God has been satisfied in the death of Jesus and the resurrection tells me that “the check cleared”. The gospel says that I am “simul justus et peccator”, which means that I am a sinner and I am declared righteous, at the same time. I live in the tension of being both a Pharisee and a Tax Collector and being declared righteous through faith alone, by grace alone, in Christ alone.

God, thank you for loving a messed up and raggedy person like me.

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