Friday, August 2, 2013

Magnificent Theft

I have the opportunity to preach this Sunday at a mission church with which our home church has some connection, so our family made the 8-hour trip a few days early to spend time together. While in this area, we checked off a destination that’s been on our list for over ten years: the Great Sand Dunes National Park in southern Colorado. It’s truly awe-inspiring, and well worth the long wait to see it (I got to summit the second-largest dune in the park – 650 feet tall...amazing and literally breath-taking!).

While waiting in the Visitor’s Center for a summer storm to pass, I saw this sign out on the overlook and ran outside between lightning flashes to get a pic of it:

The sand dunes exist and are remarkably stable through a confluence of geography and weather...just incredible. But “coincidence”? With the addition of the adjective “magnificent,” what we have here is a worship statement exulting in chaos or chance. It is a sad theft. Unsurprising, but sad. Glory has been stolen from the Son of God: “ these last days has spoken to us in His Son, Whom He appointed heir of all things, through Whom also He made the world. And He is the radiance of His glory and the exact representation of His nature, and upholds all things by the word of His power (Hebrews 1:1-3).

I say “unsurprising” because, of course, this is exactly what the Scriptures say humanity does: “For the wrath of God is revealed from heaven against all ungodliness and unrighteousness of men who suppress the truth in unrighteousness, because that which is known about God is evident within them; for God made it evident to them. For since the creation of the world His invisible attributes, His eternal power and divine nature, have been clearly seen, being understood through what has been made, so that they are without excuse. For even though they knew God, they did not honor Him as God or give thanks, but they became futile in their speculations, and their foolish heart was darkened. Professing to be wise, they became fools, and exchanged the glory of the incorruptible God for an image in the form of corruptible man and of birds and four-footed animals and crawling creatures” (Romans 1:18-23). This sign at the overlook is a nice, clean, modest example of the willful suppression of “the truth in unrighteousness,” a sign of the present and abiding wrath of God against all who, in seeing an astounding display of “His invisible attributes, His eternal power and divine nature,” steal His glory and give it away to randomness.

When truth-suppressors give themselves to “all his thoughts are, ‘there is no God’” (Psalm 10:4), they set themselves up as the highest intelligent, willful organizing agents in the universe. There is no higher intelligence, so all balancing acts in Creation (like the Great Sand Dunes National Park) are the products of happy chance. We can climb, play, “wow,” but miss the whole point. In the video in the Visitor’s Center, there was more than one clip showing someone sitting high atop a sandy ridge looking meditatively off into the distance. In fact, we saw several people doing just that in person. So close...brought to the edge of the contemplation of truth, but for the most part missing it. Admiring the great signpost, but missing where the arrow is pointing.

This is why we must preach the Gospel. General, or natural, revelation is powerful and helpful, but it does not save the truth-suppressing human soul.

“The Holy Scripture is the only sufficient, certain, and infallible rule of all saving knowledge, faith, and obedience. Although the light of nature and the works of creation and providence manifest the goodness, wisdom, and power of God so much that man is left without any excuse, they are not sufficient to provide that knowledge of God and His will which is necessary for salvation. Therefore it pleased the Lord at sundry times and in divers manners to reveal Himself, and to declare His will to His church; and afterward, for the better preserving and propagating of the truth, and for the more sure establishment and comfort of the church, protecting it against the corruption of the flesh and the malice of Satan and the world, it pleased the Lord to commit His revealed Truth wholly to writing. Therefore the Holy Scriptures are most necessary” (1689 Baptist Confession, 1.1).

This is why Paul, in his last will and testament to Timothy, as he passes the baton to the next generation of the Church, adjures him: “You, however, continue in the things you have learned and become convinced of, knowing from whom you have learned them, and that from childhood you have known the sacred writings which are able to give you the wisdom that leads to salvation through faith which is in Christ Jesus. All Scripture is inspired by God and profitable for teaching, for reproof, for correction, for training in righteousness; so that the man of God may be adequate, equipped for every good work. I solemnly charge you in the presence of God and of Christ Jesus, who is to judge the living and the dead, and by His appearing and His kingdom: preach the word; be ready in season and out of season; reprove, rebuke, exhort, with great patience and instruction. For the time will come when they will not endure sound doctrine; but wanting to have their ears tickled, they will accumulate for themselves teachers in accordance to their own desires, and will turn away their ears from the truth and will turn aside to myths. But you, be sober in all things, endure hardship, do the work of an evangelist, fulfill your ministry” (2 Timothy 3:14-4:5).

We must continue in the Word. We must teach, reprove, correct, train, and work out of the Word. We must preach the Word.

And, when standing before and exploring an unbelievably beautiful signpost to His absolutely wonderful “invisible attributes...eternal power and divine nature,” we must praise Him with great praise for His magnificent glory.

“Worthy are You, our Lord and our God, to receive glory and honor and power; for You created all things, and because of Your will they existed, and were created” (Revelation 4:11).

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