- Pastor Matt LaMaster -
In the epic film Inception, a complex relationship between Ariadne (Ellen Page) and Cob (Leonardo DiCaprio) unfolds. Throughout, Ariadne tries to unlock Cob’s past, but throughout the film Cob draws a line and bids Ariadne, “Come no further.” What is this palpable boundary? In a word, shame. In seminary, I took a class on missions which called me to really investigate the sense of shame in child prostitutes. What is shame? These are some of my thoughts.
As those happily agnostic to shame’s more subversive influence, we, Westerners, struggle to define it, and to often ignore its presence.
But we should be careful about ignoring shame, for it is a universal fact. Though some of you will deny it, there is a deep and profound shame in each of us, the sense that all is not right. That downward look of children at having done wrong, that overwhelming need you have to defend yourself, that pain when someone stabs you in the back, these are all instances of shame. Ignoring shame is like ignoring cancer, you can deny its reality, but it will eat you away.
Shame is a flexible. Your shame touches your marriage, your children, your job, your parents, your church. Shame is subtle. You do not ever need to actively think, "I feel so ashamed" to feel shame. Shame is deceptive. We can notice our shame, but think, "It's no big deal." Yet if we would leave it alone, it would dismantle our souls.
Escaping shame is a long journey. Do not expect to be rid of it soon. It is a long, cold, winding and precipitous trail. Escaping seems to be impossible, as it will suck the life into its frigid vacuum.
The story of our first parents is instructive. Upon unbelieving God’s word and eating the forbidden fruit, our progenitors were illuminated to their nakedness (Gen 3:7). Thus, we see shame is at least semi-conscious: eyes are opened; attention is garnished. The first humans are instantly aware that evil is present and that they have entered in. This moment of realization begets shame. Notice, someone does not have to think, "I am ashamed" to feel shame, but merely to feel, "I am not right." Insecurity, hurt, pain, guilt, all shame.
Scripture tells of more: Judah himself enters in when his daughter-in-law Tamar reveals his unrighteousness with an incestuous verdict (Gen 38). While Judah enters in, shame overtakes the daughter of David, Tamar. Tamar sees the shame approaching like a storm on the horizon, and weeps when it has done its damage (2 Sam 13:1-19). Shame comes from both wrong we've done, and wrongs done to us.
Shame realizes all is not right, neither out there nor in here.
Shame is a spiritual “eye-sore.” It is nakedness. Nothing is dignified about it. It is embarrassment and humiliation. Shame needs to covered; it needs to be hidden. Adam and Eve sought to forget it through the use of fig leaves (Gen 3:7). We have become manufacturers of such things. The episode of Tamar embarrasses David’s whole family, but each finds a different “fig leaf.” Amnon banishes his sister, hiding her from her presence behind locked doors (2 Sam 13:18). Tamar hides herself in her brother’s house (13:20). David rages, but through inaction internalizes his anger (13:21). Absalom surges with revenge (13:29). Variegated taxonomies they may be, but they are fig leaves nonetheless. Shame is the desire to disappear.
We have our own fig leaves. We vigorously deny wrong doing. We avoid people attached to painful memories. We focus our mind on the nostalgic. We select that which is worth remembering, and discard the rest. We get angry when it is implied we have done wrong. How dare someone brings to mind our shame?
However, there is a hope.
God hates shame more than we, and goes to great extent to give us a permanent cover. Just as God provided a covering for Adam and Eve (Gen 3:21), he does so for the shame of the world. Christ so despises shame, that he embodied it and put it to death (Heb 12:2). Christ is the Father’s covering for us, laid on by the Holy Spirit. Fixing ourselves on him, we are covered. Rather than the dysfunction of the cosmos, we share in the honor of the Son of God. This is the hope that we need, the way out of shame, the escape from pain.
“Truly God is our glory and the lifter of our heads (Psalm 3:3).”*
*Diane Langberg, Suffering and the Heart of God, 137.
- Pastor Matt LaMaster-
When was the last time that someone opened up to you and shared their trials with you? What did you say in response, what was the pattern of the conversation?
If you are like me, you have probably made the mistake of cutting someone off and explaining why they don’t actually understand their own pain. Often, people don’t open up because they want you to fix it. Sometimes people speak because they just want someone to hear. Yet, for competitive people like myself, it is much easier to listen to find something to reply to. I am a competitive person. So when I converse, I am usually ready with a reply faster than the fastest draw in the West (even if I don’t know what I am talking about!).
The reality is that often you and I engage in conversation to be heard, not to hear.
What does this have to do with the Christian faith?
Christians believe that Jesus Christ has humbly given up himself considering equality (which was his) nothing to be grasped, and instead emptied himself (Phil 2:5-8). “Have this mind among yourselves,” (2:5) Paul commands the Philippians. Paul’s desire is that they likewise consider their own value nothing for the sake of one another. That though they are indeed equals, they intentionally consider themselves beneath their peers. And indeed, through our union with our Lord, this mind already is ours, it is now a matter of using it. This is humility.
Humility enters our conversations when we listen well. Humility asks more questions than it answers. Humility does not wait for the other person to say their piece so we can blow their minds with something insightful in reply, to drop a knowledge bomb. It means being the novice and letting them be the teacher. Humility means pondering what the other person has said; it means giving them the benefit of the doubt.
Humility patiently taught me to ask, “Do you want me to fix it, or do you just want me to hear?” Do you want me to speak or not to speak?
And when they say, “I just want you to listen,” humility teaches me to accept that.
What is it that you are suffering? This world is full of toil and trouble. We live in a world where evil presses us on every side and in a body where sin fights all restraint. We live in a world where terrorists bomb innocents, where earthquakes shake cities, where fire and drought and hurricanes and tornadoes all have their way unchecked. We live in a place and a space where evil is institutionalized, where sin is tolerated, and where hatred is cultivated. We live in a families whose systems are dysfunction, whose relationships are estranged, and whose stability is groundless.
Hatred, rife, gossip, sin, quarreling, licentiousness, untruth, bitterness, murder, coveting, idolatry, greed, gluttony, lust, adultery, abortion, and death.
This is the world East of Eden, the world of the Fall. How are we Christians to light up the world, when it seems that our flickering flames are about to be snuffed out? James tells us in his letter: Be Patient (5:7).
Be patient in the pain.
Be patient in the hurt.
Be patient in the evil.
Wait. Wait for the coming of the Lord. Wait for Christ to come and claim his people as His own. Wait for the one who purchased you by his blood and rose you with him Christ. Wait for the one who will wipe every tear from your eye. Wait for the one who will put all this death to death. Wait like the prophets of old, who endured the sufferings of this world. Wait like Job who sat scraping himself with pottery until his boils popped and oozed with puss. Wait because like them, we know the Lord will end this.
What kind of God would allow his children to suffer such ill?
He is a "very compassionate" God. In James 5:11 Scripture tells us that God is "very compassionate." But the English does not do this justice. This is actually a compound word in the Greek: πολυσπλαγχνος (polusplagknos) taken from the words πολυς (polus) meaning "much" and σπλαγχνος (splagknos). Σπλαγχνος (splagknos) is an interesting word. It's base meaning is what we might call "guts." It is the entrails, the intestines, the digestive system. It is our gut. In the Greek it also came to be used when the normal word for "heart" might not do justice. It came to mean the visceralness of love. It is the kind of love someone feels when they love so bad it hurts. It is empathy, compassion, sympathy, tenderness. It is a love which is taken from the abstract and embodied before you; it is a love you can touch. What that is, God is plentiful in it. We are told that God is "very splagknos". He is very visceral in his love, his compassion, his sympathy and tenderness for you. He loves us so bad it hurts.
We can be patient in the pain, patient in the toil, patient in the trouble because God is "very compassionate." He has not abandoned his people, but he feels for them with an extra share of affection. He is visceral in his love for us, even while we go into the valley of the shadow of death. He feels what we feel, and at the perfect time, he will return to release us from the pangs of death. So be patient.
Right now our church is going through a sermon series on the book of Psalms called "Training the Soul to Breathe." This wonderful book was the hymnal of the ancient Israelites which teaches us how to love God with all our hearts. Through it we return to where God has called us to as his image. Here are some great resources on the Psalms!
Some of us understand better through music than through books. The Psalms Project has done a fantastic job putting several Psalms to music. Check them out on Amazon here!
Dietrich Bonhoeffer simply says this: “Jesus is the only significance. Beside Jesus nothing has any significance. He alone matters.”
Augustus Strong the American writer of the last century says this, “Our baptism into Christ is the outward picture of an inward immersion of the soul not only into his love and fellowship, but into his very life, so that in him we become new creatures (2 Cor. 5:17).”
Martin Luther that fiery Reformer says this: “for this cause he is made the law of the law, the sin of sin, the death of death, that he might redeem from the curse of the law, justify me and quicken me. So then, while Christ is the law, he is also liberty, while he is sin, he is righteousness, and while he is death, he is life.”
John Calvin the the Reformer says, “as long as Christ remains outside of us, and we are separated from him, all that he has suffered and done for the salvation of the human race remains useless and of no value for us. Therefore, to share with us what he has received from the Father, he had to become ours and to dwell within us.”
Jacobus Arminius, The Dutch Thinker, wrote, “The foundation is Christ, who possesses all things, and stands in need of nothing; the term, or boundary, is the believer in want of all things. The remote end is the external salvation of believers, and the glory of God and Christ.”
Ireneaus, the Church Father, writing about 100 years after the Apostles’ deaths, says: “By no other means could we have attained to incorruptibility and immortality, unless we had been united to incorruptibility and immortality.”
This advent, our church has been travelling through the three roles of Jesus Christ from Hebrews 1:1-4. These are some extra verses to help us understand the magnificent priesthood of our Great Savior, Jesus Christ.
What is a Priest?
1 On the third new moon after the people of Israel had gone out of the land of Egypt, on that day they came into the wilderness of Sinai. 2 They set out from Rephidim and came into the wilderness of Sinai, and they encamped in the wilderness. There Israel encamped before the mountain, 3 while Moses went up to God. The Lord called to him out of the mountain, saying, “Thus you shall say to the house of Jacob, and tell the people of Israel: 4 ‘You yourselves have seen what I did to the Egyptians, and how I bore you on eagles’ wings and brought you to myself. 5 Now therefore, if you will indeed obey my voice and keep my covenant, you shall be my treasured possession among all peoples, for all the earth is mine; 6 and you shall be to me a kingdom of priests and a holy nation.’ CThese are the words that you shall speak to the people of Israel.”
See Leviticus 16 in addition.
1 Samuel 7:8–9
8 And the people of Israel said to Samuel, “Do not cease to cry out to the Lord our God for us, that he may save us from the hand of the Philistines.” 9 So Samuel took a nursing lamb and offered it as a whole burnt offering to the Lord. And Samuel cried out to the Lord for Israel, and the Lord answered him.
Are there still priests today?
“Blessed are the peacemakers, for they shall be called sons of God.
But seek the welfare of the city where I have sent you into exile, and pray to the Lord on its behalf, for in its welfare you will find your welfare.
2 Corinthians 5:18
All this is from God, who through Christ reconciled us to himself and gave us the ministry of reconciliation;
How is Christ the Great Priest?
He is the radiance of the glory of God and the exact imprint of his nature, and he upholds the universe by the word of his power. After making purification for sins, he sat down at the right hand of the Majesty on high,
17 Therefore he had to be made like his brothers in every respect, so that he might become a merciful and faithful high priest in the service of God, to make propitiation for the sins of the people. 18 For because he himself has suffered when tempted, he is able to help those who are being tempted.
15 For we do not have a high priest who is unable to sympathize with our weaknesses, but one who in every respect has been tempted as we are, yet without sin. 16 Let us then with confidence draw near to the throne of grace, that we may receive mercy and find grace to help in time of need.
23 The former priests were many in number, because they were prevented by death from continuing in office, 24 but he holds his priesthood permanently, because he continues forever. 25 Consequently, he is able to save to the uttermost those who draw near to God through him, since he always lives to make intercession for them. 26 For it was indeed fitting that we should have such a high priest, holy, innocent, unstained, separated from sinners, and exalted above the heavens. 27 He has no need, like those high priests, to offer sacrifices daily, first for his own sins and then for those of the people, since he did this once for all when he offered up himself. 28 For the law appoints men in their weakness as high priests, but the word of the oath, which came later than the law, appoints a Son who has been made perfect forever.
1 Now the point in what we are saying is this: we have such a high priest, one who is seated at the right hand of the throne of the Majesty in heaven, 2 a minister in the holy places, in the true tent that the Lord set up, not man.
11 But when Christ appeared as a high priest of the good things that have come, then through the greater and more perfect tent (not made with hands, that is, not of this creation) 12 he entered once for all into the holy places, not by means of the blood of goats and calves but by means of his own blood, thus securing an eternal redemption. 13 For if the blood of goats and bulls, and the sprinkling of defiled persons with the ashes of a heifer, sanctify for the purification of the flesh, 14 how much more will the blood of Christ, who through the eternal Spirit offered himself without blemish to God, purify our conscience from dead works to serve the living God.
24 For Christ has entered, not into holy places made with hands, which are copies of the true things, but into heaven itself, now to appear in the presence of God on our behalf. 25 Nor was it to offer himself repeatedly, as the high priest enters the holy places every year with blood not his own, 26 for then he would have had to suffer repeatedly since the foundation of the world. But as it is, he has appeared once for all at the end of the ages to put away sin by the sacrifice of himself. 27 And just as it is appointed for man to die once, and after that comes judgment, 28 so Christ, having been offered once to bear the sins of many, will appear a second time, not to deal with sin but to save those who are eagerly waiting for him.
The next day he saw Jesus coming toward him, and said, “Behold, the Lamb of God, who takes away the sin of the world!
What does this have to do with Christmas?
22 And when the time came for their purification according to the Law of Moses, they brought him up to Jerusalem to present him to the Lord 23 (as it is written in the Law of the Lord, “Every male who first opens the womb shall be called holy to the Lord”) 24 and to offer a sacrifice according to what is said in the Law of the Lord, “a pair of turtledoves, or two young pigeons.” 25 Now there was a man in Jerusalem, whose name was Simeon, and this man was righteous and devout, waiting for the consolation of Israel, and the Holy Spirit was upon him. 26 And it had been revealed to him by the Holy Spirit that he would not see death before he had seen the Lord’s Christ. 27 And he came in the Spirit into the temple, and when the parents brought in the child Jesus, to do for him according to the custom of the Law, 28 he took him up in his arms and blessed God and said, 29 “Lord, now you are letting your servant depart in peace, according to your word; 30 for my eyes have seen your salvation 31 that you have prepared in the presence of all peoples, 32 a light for revelation to the Gentiles, and for glory to your people Israel.” 33 And his father and his mother marveled at what was said about him. 34 And Simeon blessed them and said to Mary his mother, “Behold, this child is appointed for the fall and rising of many in Israel, and for a sign that is opposed 35 (and a sword will pierce through your own soul also), so that thoughts from many hearts may be revealed.” 36 And there was a prophetess, Anna, the daughter of Phanuel, of the tribe of Asher. She was advanced in years, having lived with her husband seven years from when she was a virgin, 37 and then as a widow until she was eighty-four. She did not depart from the temple, worshiping with fasting and prayer night and day. 38 And coming up at that very hour she began to give thanks to God and to speak of him to all who were waiting for the redemption of Jerusalem.
This weekend at church we talked about the first of Christ's three offices: Christ's prophetic ministry. Below we have the Scriptures which have been were referenced in this sermon. Which Scripture touches you the most?
What is a prophet and what does he do?
18 Now when all the people saw the thunder and the flashes of lightning and the sound of the trumpet and the mountain smoking, the people were afraid and trembled, and they stood far off 19 and said to Moses, “You speak to us, and we will listen; but do not let God speak to us, lest we die.” 20 Moses said to the people, “Do not fear, for God has come to test you, that the fear of him may be before you, that you may not sin.” 21 The people stood far off, while Moses drew near to the thick darkness where God was.
6 And he said, “Hear my words: If there is a prophet among you, I the Lord make myself known to him in a vision; I speak with him in a dream. 7 Not so with my servant Moses. He is faithful in all my house. 8 With him I speak mouth to mouth, clearly, and not in riddles, and he beholds the form of the Lord. Why then were you not afraid to speak against my servant Moses?”
1 Corinthians 14:31-32
31 For you can all prophesy one by one, so that all may learn and all be encouraged, 32 and the spirits of prophets are subject to prophets
1 “For behold, the day is coming, burning like an oven, when all the arrogant and all evildoers will be stubble. The day that is coming shall set them ablaze, says the Lord of hosts, so that it will leave them neither root nor branch. 2 But for you who fear my name, the sun of righteousness shall rise with healing in its wings. You shall go out leaping like calves from the stall.
How is Christ the Great Prophet?
“Outside Christ there is nothing worth knowing.” - John Calvin
“It is not only impossible but useless to know God without Jesus Christ.” - Blaise Pascal
All things have been handed over to me by my Father, and no one knows the Son except the Father, and no one knows the Father except the Son and anyone to whom the Son chooses to reveal him.
1 In the beginning was the Word, and the Word was with God, and the Word was God. 2 He was in the beginning with God. 3 All things were made through him, and without him was not any thing made that was made. 4 In him was life, and the life was the light of men. 5 The light shines in the darkness, and the darkness has not overcome it.
And the Word became flesh and dwelt among us, and we have seen his glory, glory as of the only Son from the Father, full of grace and truth.
1 He went away from there and came to his hometown, and his disciples followed him. 2 And on the Sabbath he began to teach in the synagogue, and many who heard him were astonished, saying, “Where did this man get these things? What is the wisdom given to him? How are such mighty works done by his hands? 3 Is not this the carpenter, the son of Mary and brother of James and Joses and Judas and Simon? And are not his sisters here with us?” And they took offense at him. 4 And Jesus said to them, “A prophet is not without honor, except in his hometown and among his relatives and in his own household.”
2 Corinthians 1:20
For all the promises of God find their Yes in him. That is why it is through him that we utter our Amen to God for his glory.
“The unveiling of God in our human flesh, his stunning self-disclosure in our creaturely existence, was simultaneously scandalous and saving. In other words, the kind of knowledge Jesus of Nazareth claimed to have of God was both a stumbling block and the offer of eternal life at the same time.” - Marcus Johnson and John Clark
What does this have to do with Christmas
1 Now after Jesus was born in Bethlehem of Judea in the days of Herod the king, behold, wise men from the east came to Jerusalem, 2 saying, “Where is he who has been born king of the Jews? For we saw his star when it rose and have come to worship him.” 3 When Herod the king heard this, he was troubled, and all Jerusalem with him; 4 and assembling all the chief priests and scribes of the people, he inquired of them where the Christ was to be born.
14 And he rose and took the child and his mother by night and departed to Egypt 15 and remained there until the death of Herod. This was to fulfill what the Lord had spoken by the prophet, “Out of Egypt I called my son.”
A lot of people think that reading, understanding, and applying the Bible is something for leaders (pastors, professors, elders, small group leaders) but not for me. This is a pretty common attitude, and sometimes, unfortunately, it's perpetuated by well intentioned leaders or some with an inflated sense of their own importance. But God has made his Word available to all his people, not just the leaders of the church.
Howard Hendricks sets out 3 simple steps for good Bible study that everyone can do in his book Living by the Book. It's helpful to think of these as 3 "buckets" to put your questions about the Bible into. Here they are:
Observation: Make as many observations about a passage as you possible can. Ask questions like these:
Interpretation: Try to understand the meaning of this passage that is behind all the details of the passage:
Application: Try to find specific ways to apply this passage to your life.
In our service this past Sunday we introduced the idea of Moral Therapeutic Deism. The term was coined by sociologists Christian Smith and Melinda Denton to describe what most Americans believe in 2005. You can read more about their findings in their book Soul Searching or with Al Mohler's analysis. Moral Therapeutic Deism is basically legalism or moralism. Here are the five core beliefs:
The fundamental problem with Moral Therapeutic Deism is essentially this: mankind is good enough to find its way to God, we don't need God's saving grace. They think that being moral or good law-keepers is the key to salvation.
The problem with this is that it is subtle, and often goes by the name "Christian," even though, underneath it is anything but.
So what do moral therapeutic deists look like? How do you spot them?
Here are three possible examples of Moral Therapeutic Deists:
Churchgoers: Sometimes they are really moral people. People mistake things that Christians do: reading the Bible, going to church, praying, etc. for good things to earn their way to heaven. They think that if they are really religious people, that God will accept them. They need to hear the gospel of grace, that these things will never be enough for them to get to God, but that God provides them a free way.
"Good People": Sometimes these moralists don't think church is necessary. They think that if they vote Republican, don't lie, don't cheat, send their kids to get baptized, then they will be good. They mistake being a good Christian with being a good human being. They think that being a good member of society is enough for God. They are those people you say, "Well they're good at heart." They need to know that they can't be good enough husbands or wives, good enough workers, good enough fathers or mothers to get to heaven.
Ashamed: These are the people who have tried to be a good Christian or tried to be a good husband and they have just not measured up. These are the people who are afraid to enter a church because they feel so ashamed. They carry around the weight of guilt. They are the prodigal sipping pig food out of the trough. These are the people who need to hear, "God has provided his son to save you." They need to hear the words of Jesus that all who are burdened by sin can feel at peace because his yoke is light.
Do you know anyone like this? Will you share the good news of the gospel with them?
Southern Heights Christian Church
Come here for thoughts on how to follow Jesus in our every day life!