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Confession and the Gospel

That if you shall confess with your mouth Jesus as Lord, and shall believe in your heart that God has raised him from the dead, you shall be saved.  (Romans 10:9)

This is a great verse.  It contains the whole core of the gospel, and a promise that, if you think about it, is stunningly simple.  But there's a question that comes up sometimes when looking at it:

"So if I just say 'Jesus is Lord' out loud and believe in his resurrection, I'm good?"

That, in fact, is pretty nearly how it reads in some English translations.  It was while reading this verse in one of those translations that I noticed something.

"Bonnie, I have a confession to make."

"What's that?"

"Well, um, while I was trying to park, I, um, smashed the right front fender of your truck really bad..."

She hops up from lunch break and runs out to the parking lot to investigate the damage - only to discover there is no damage.  Then she remembers that I walked to work that day.

Did I say that I smashed her truck?  Yes.

Did I confess that I smashed her truck?

No.

Because confession is owning up to what's true.  Just saying something doesn't change the truth.

I had to check this out.  What does our English word "confess" really mean, and what's the original Greek word that got translated to it?

The word in Greek is "homologeo," which means "same words."  We got our word "confess" from Latin, where it means "speak together."

Same words?  Speak together - with what, or whom?  With the facts.  With the truth.

With God the Father, who already said Jesus is Lord - over everything and everyone.  (Philippians 2:9-11)

But if we won't let Jesus be Lord in our lives now, if we aren't willing for him to be in charge and interfere with everything, then saying he is doesn't mean a thing.  It's not speaking together with the truth to call him my Lord when he's not.

It's not a confession.

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It's a New Year - and I'm Back

I did some thinking, back around the turn of the year, about how we make such a big deal about the new year.  People think it's a new start, a fresh slate, a time when "things are lookin' up" (someone told me that on New Year's Day, seeing as 2013 hadn't had enought time yet for everything to go wrong), and I don't blame them.  It's easy, convenient, and it has a nice number to go with it.  In fact, after seven (shameful, right?) months of silence, I'm posting again - and when?  At the new year.

But the counting of the earth's revolutions according to the Gregorian calendar seems like quite an arbitrary basis for a "fresh start."  I'd much sooner use Easter (or Resurrection Day.)  If indeed I've been buried with Christ by baptism in His death, then just as He was raised from the dead by the glory of the Father, I too may walk in a NEW life.  (Romans 6:4)

That seems to tell me that was my real "fresh start."

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Ring

I've been moving a BBC radio drama version of "The Lord of the Rings" from audio cassette to CD for some special friends of mine.

As the tapes are those cheap opaque plastic kind, I'm having to monitor some of them for squeaks.  Because of that, I've become, well, re-acquainted with the story, which I'd read once before.

Now, I'm not a raving fan of LOTR, but I did enjoy it.  I don't like the spells, incantations, and wizardry used for "good," but that's not what I'm writing about here.

No.  Indeed, though I am loth to speak of it, I am writing about the Ring of Doom.

A ringing telephone

No.  Not that.  I mean the one ring of power.  You see, while I was listening to the radio drama, I heard Frodo, Bilbo, Boromir, and (oh, of course) Gollum in the moments when desire for the Ring took control of them.  But what I saw in my head was the way any one of us acts when something comes between us and our idols (or addictions - same thing).

Lemon pie.  Plush sofas.  Designer T-shirts.  That new smartphone from a company that shall go unnamed.  Some hot new video game.  Some man or woman we're in, um, infatuation with.  Cold beer.  Free time.  Right pronunciation of some tricky word.  Being right in an argument.  Being right in church.

How about the fuel economy on a '93 Mercury Villager?

Green '93 Mercury Villager

"Can we have some AC back here as soon as we get going?"

"In a moment!"

"... Did you turn the AC on yet?"

"No, I've got it."

"Here, I'll help you; you're driving."

"NO!  You can't have it!  I'm the driver and that adversely affects performance, precious, so we wants to turn it on ourselves, yes, when we knows precious 19.1 MPG won't be angry!"

18.0 MPG on a '93 Villager

"...Ummmm..."

"...Nasty, wicked traffic-lightses!  We hates it!  We hates it forever!"

"Ash nazg gurgle bubble,
Piston 5 is having trouble..."

"NO!  The driver's seat!  It's mine!  Give it to me!  You'll floor the pedal and RUIN THE FUEL ECONOMYYYYYYY!"

Okay, so I really didn't say any of that.  But I'm ashamed to confess that there was a little of that going on in my mind.

You see?  The One Ring makes for a gripping fantasy story, and we want to leave it there in the fantasy section of the library for the next time we want a good read.  But it doesn't stay there.  It hits home right here, right now, in our lives every day.  And it's scary.  Because there are people who never intended to be controlled by money who've become more evil, more deceitful, than Saruman.  There are people who never intended to be controlled by alcohol who've become more wretched than Gollum.  And those are just a few possibilities.

They may have started out good, moral, law-abiding folks.  They may have started out church-raised, Bible-quoting Christians.  But, just as you know a tree by its fruit, you can know what someone loves by his or her actions.  What we love will control what we do.

In Philippians 3:18 and 19, we learn that those who set their hearts and minds on the things of this world become enemies of God.  The end result of that is nasssty, cruuuel, wicked, preciousssss...  Wait, go back to that verse.  The end result is destruction.  Cracks of Doom, anyone?

What about loving God?  Well, to see the end result of God's kind of love (and to see how He loves you), get your Bible and read 1 Corinthians 13.

That's what He'll do in your heart if you give it to Him.  It's the complete opposite of the One Ring.

So - love God.  Set your heart wholly on Him.  Ask Him for more love to love Him with.

Think about it.  Is there any thing (other than minivan fuel economy) that's been like the One Ring to you?

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Idols

"Why are families divided?  Why can't we all just get along?  We just need to have some love!"

You see, love is exclusive.  You can't love everything and everyone.  If you treasure something, that's where your heart's gonna be, and the desires of your heart will conflict at some point with the desires of a heart that's loving something else.

"You can't love both God and money."

In other words, you can't just have love, as if it's a thing - because it's something you do.  Verbs have an object, so love has an object.

That's where idols come into this mess.

Yes, idols.  An idol doesn't have to be a person, a video game, or football, or pizza.  It can be a doctrine, a moral standard, or a freedom.  It can be something that looks really super Godly.

If it, rather than God, has got your love, it's an idol.  Here's what happens:

Where do wars and fightings among you come from?  Don't they come from your pleasures that war in your members?  You lust, and don't have.  You kill, covet, and can't obtain.  You fight and make war.  (James 4:1-2a)

When the members of a family all have different loves, different idols, they get divided.  The different desires pull them away from each other, and when they try to pull together, it's demolition derby as their cravings crash into each other.

The foundation for family unity is unity of heart - in loving God.  With one love and one heart, one desire pulls us together.

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Same Old New Stuff

I'm somewhat obsessed with reinventing the wheel.

Now, I know "somewhat obsessed" makes no sense, but let's let that slide.

Some people like to take things apart to figure out how they work.  I usually attempt to build something from scratch, without having taken it apart before, just to see if I can develop the workings myself.  If I can come up with a new way of doing things or a new perspective, then bonus points for me.

While this can be quite educational, and sometimes fun, it's slow.  I'm not going to live long enough to rediscover everything that people have refined over the centuries in just one field, let alone in every area of my interest.

So I swallow my pride and learn from the masters.  At least, I do that when I get some wisdom.

Did I say wisdom?  Here's some wisdom:
Is there a thing whereof it may be said, See, this is new? it hath been long ago, in the ages which were before us.  (Ecclesiastes 1:10)

Here's the picture:  I'm reading the Word of God and I realize something new.  I connect something new.  I haven't heard or read this thought before.

Well, for starters, I didn't figure it out.  God showed it to me, because I couldn't have got it without Him:
Now the natural man receiveth not the things of the Spirit of God: for they are foolishness unto him; and he cannot know them, because they are spiritually judged.   (I Corinthians 2:14)

Then I do some reading and talking and find out this "surprising fact":
Nearly every real Christian has been here before.  The peak I just climbed to is covered with footprints!

Why?  Simple:  They were following the same God up the hill as I am.  :)

So, we don't (and we'd better not try to) make new spiritual "content".  But God can:
Behold, the former things are come to pass, and new things do I declare; before they spring forth I tell you of them.   (Isaiah 42:9)

Yet, if He tells us before He makes them happen, He already had them in mind:
...knowing that ye were redeemed ... with ... the blood of Christ: who was foreknown indeed before the foundation of the world, but was manifested at the end of times for your sake.   (from 1 Peter 1:18-20, emphasis mine)

So, there's nothing new to say here.  No bonus points for me on this blog.  I may (and hope I will) give a fresh perspective or shine light on an overlooked, forgotten subject.  But, then again, when we're talking about the things of God, the fresh perspective, the light, must come from the Holy Spirit.

...but as it is written, Things which eye saw not, and ear heard not, And which entered not into the heart of man, Whatsoever things God prepared for them that love him.  But unto us God revealed them through the Spirit: for the Spirit searcheth all things, yea, the deep things of God.  For who among men knoweth the things of a man, save the spirit of the man, which is in him? even so the things of God none knoweth, save the Spirit of God.  But we received, not the spirit of the world, but the spirit which is from God; that we might know the things that were freely given to us of God.   (I Corinthians 2:9-12)

Folks, it's all in Him.  It's all in the Bible.  We've just got to ask Him to show us.  And my Father's got even more new stuff up His sleeve that He'll be showing me well after I'm dead and gone, and raised, and living with Him forever-and-ever-amen-again:
...that in the ages to come he might show the exceeding riches of his grace in kindness toward us in Christ Jesus.   (Ephesians 2:7)

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