Prayer of Many Confessions

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By Stephen W. Hiemstra

Eternal God,

We praise you for the beauty of the earth, the freshness of the wind, the crispness of the sea, and the warmth of dry earth. You have created heaven and earth for your glory and our benefit—thank you.

We confess that too often we say one thing and do another.  Save us from our own hypocrisy.

We confess that too often we have overlooked the needs of our neighbors and preached about their shortcomings. Convert our hearts to your truth that we might display your grace. 

We confess that too often we have acted too quickly out of prejudice and veiled your mercy. Grant us gracious hearts and open minds. We confess that too often we have focused on ourselves and sheltered ourselves from others. Teach us hospitality.

We confess that too often we have resisted change out of stubbornness and neglected the needs of our own youth. Give us eyes that see and ears that listen.

We confess that too often we have judged too quickly and judge imprudently. Grant us the mind of Christ.

Forgive us our many sins. Guide us in making recompense. Heal the wounds that separate us from one another and restore us to your kingdom. 

Through the power of the Holy Spirit and in Jesus’ precious name, Amen.

Prayer of Many Confessions

Also see:

Believer’s Prayer

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Oración de Muchas Confesiones

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Por Stephen W. Hiemstra

Dios Eterna,

Te alabamos por la belleza de la tierra, la frescura del viento, la crujiente del mar y el calor de la tierra seca. Has creado el cielo y la tierra por tu gloria y nuestra beneficio—-te agradecemos.

Confesamos que con demasiada frecuencia decimos una cosa y hacemos otra.  Sálvanos de nuestra  propia hipocresía. 

Confesamos que con demasiada frecuencia hemos pasado por alto las necesidades de nuestros vecinos y hemos predicado sobre sus defectos. Convierte nuestros corazones a tu verdad para que podamos mostrar tu gracia.

Confesamos que con demasiada frecuencia hemos actuado demasiado rápido de prejuicios y velado tu misericordia.

Concédenos corazones bondadosos y mentes abiertas. Confesamos que con demasiada frecuencia nos hemos centrado en nosotros mismos y nos hemos protegido de los demás. Enséñanos hospitalidad.

Confesamos que con demasiada frecuencia nos hemos resistido al cambio por terquedad y hemos descuidado las necesidades de nuestra propia juventud. Danos ojos que vean y oídos que escuchen.

Confesamos que demasiado frecuencia hemos juzgado demasiado rápido y juzgado imprudentemente. Concédenos la mente de Cristo.

Perdónanos nuestros muchos pecados. Guíanos para hacer una recompensa. Cura las heridas que nos separan unos de otros y restauranos de tu reino.

A través del poder del Espíritu Santo y en el nombre de Jesús, Amén.

Oración de Muchas Confesiones

Ver también:

Oración del Creyente

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Living Into Our Call

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The earth is the LORD’s and the fullness thereof,

the world and those who dwell therein, 

for he has founded it upon the seas and established it upon the rivers. 

Who shall ascend the hill of the LORD?

And who shall stand in his holy place? 

He who has clean hands and a pure heart,

who does not lift up his soul 

to what is false and does not swear deceitfully. 

(Ps 24:1-4)

By Stephen W. Hiemstra

Sometimes decreasing tension with a holy God means increasing our tension with the world. In David Kinnaman and Gabe Lyons’ recent book, UnChristian, the six most common points of tension between Christians and non-Christians were:

1. Hypocritical. We say one thing and do another.

2. Christians are: “too focused on getting converts.”

3. Homophobic. “Christians are bigoted and show distain for gays and lesbians.”

4. Sheltered. Christians are: “old-fashioned, boring, and out of touch with reality”.

5. Too political. Christians: “promote and represent politically conservative interests and issues.”

6. Judgmental. People doubt that “we really love people as we say we do.” (Kinnaman 2007, 29–30).

Non-Christian doubts about Christian holiness lie behind each of these criticisms. For example, Christians who act like everyone else—especially in matters of sexuality—are rightly seen as hypocritical, not holy. By contrast, Christians who pursue holiness may make some others feel uncomfortably judged, eliciting unfair criticism and well-earned tension.

When holiness issues are raised within the church, discussion is often cut off with a question—where is the grace in your worldview? In view here is the presumed tension between grace and law in the Gospel of John: “For from his fullness we have all received, grace upon grace. For the law was given through Moses; grace and truth came through Jesus Christ.” (John 1:16–17) Grace and law appear to oppose one another, but this interpretation is misleading for two reasons.

The first reason is that grace and truth are divine attributes revealed to Moses immediately after the giving of the law (Exod 34:6). If the law and grace appeared together from the beginning, how could they be in conflict? It is more helpful to interpret law and grace as complementary because the giving of the law was itself act of divine grace in that the law revealed God’s will for daily living. Consequently, Christ’s atoning sacrifice was not God’s first an act of grace.

The second reason is that grace and truth (law is a kind of prescriptive truth) go together in personal transformation. According to Calvin, because the law is concrete, it is useful for educating in righteousness, for law enforcement, and for outlining how to be holy every day (Haas 2006, 100). Everyone loves to receive grace, but not everyone likes to hear the truth because it often requires corrective action.

The commentary nature of law and grace is never more obvious than in the words of Jesus: “Do not think that I have come to abolish the Law or the Prophets; I have not come to abolish them but to fulfill them.” (Matt 5:17) Attempts to abrogate the Law of Moses in favor of grace often arise because the law divides into two parts: the holiness code and ceremonial law. This distinction arose historically because the temple in Jerusalem was destroyed by the Romans in AD 70 making it impossible to perform the ceremonial laws. However, the destruction of the temple had no such effect on the holiness code, whose prohibitions against sexual immorality were never abolished or abrogated, as confirmed in the Council of Jerusalem in AD 50 (Acts 15:19-20).

The holiness code is not obsolete. Consider the cleanup in New York City that occurred in the 1980s. Two criminologists, James O. Wilson and George Kelling, started the clean-up with what they called the broken windows theory. They argued: 

Crime is inevitable result of disorder. If a window is broken and left unrepaired, people walking by will conclude that no one cares and no one is in charge. Soon, more windows will be broken, and a sense of anarchy will spread from the building to the street it faces, sending the signal that anything goes. The idea is that crime is contagious. 

So New York City waged a war on broken windows and graffiti in the neighborhoods and subway. Minor infractions of law were not tolerated. And crime throughout the city began to fall precipitously to everyone’s surprise (White, 2004, 158). 

The broken windows theory is to cities what the holiness code is to individuals. King Solomon famously wrote of the little sins: “Catch the foxes for us, the little foxes that spoil the vineyards, for our vineyards are in blossom.” (Song 2:15) The point is that little things matter—they form and reflect your attitude.

Our conduct matters. Our conduct matters to our families, for whom we model Christ and express our deepest commitments. It matters to our neighbors, for whom we witness and work for peace. It matters to God, who gave Moses the law, in whom we put our faith, and on whom we depend for our salvation. Our conduct matters.

References

Haas, Guenther H. 2004. “Calvin’s Ethics.” In The Cambridge Companion to John Calvin, 93–105. Edited by Donald K. McKim. New York: Cambridge University Press.

Kinnaman, David with Gabe Lyons. 2007. UnChristian: What a New Generation Really Thinks About Christianity…and Why It Matters. Grand Rapids: BakerBooks.

Wallace, Daniel B. 1996. Greek Grammar Beyond the Basics: An Exegetical Syntax of the New Testament. Grand Rapids: Zondervan.

White, James Emery. 2004. Serious Times: Making Your Life Matter in an Urgent Day. Downers Grove: InterVarsity Press.

Living Into Our Call

Also see:

Preface to a Life in Tension

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Author site: http://www.StephenWHiemstra.net

Publisher site: http://www.T2Pneuma.com

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Viviendo en Nuestra Llamada

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Del SEÑOR es la tierra y todo lo que hay en ella,

El mundo y los que en él habitan.

 Porque El la fundó sobre los mares,

Y la asentó sobre los ríos.

¿Quién subirá al monte del SEÑOR?

¿Y quién podrá estar en Su lugar santo?

 El de manos limpias y corazón puro,

El que no ha alzado su alma a la falsedad 

Ni jurado con engaño. (Ps 24:1-4)

Por Stephen W. Hiemstra

Algunas veces reduciendo tension con un santo Dios significa aumentando nuestro tension con el mundo. En  el reciente libro de David Kinnaman y Gabe Lyons, UnChristian, los seis puntos más comunes de tension entre Cristianos y los no cristianos fueron:

  1. Hipócrita. Decimos una cosa y hacemos otra.
  2. Los cristianos son demasiado enfocados en conseguir conversos.
  3. Homofóbico. Los cristianos son intolerantes y muestran desdén por los gays y las lesbianas.
  4. Protegido. Los cristianos son anticuados, aburridos y fuera de contacto con la realidad.
  5. Demasiado político. Cristianos: promueven y representan intereses y problemas políticamente conservadores.
  6. Juicio La gente duda de que realmente amamos a las personas como decimos que lo hacemos (Kinnaman 2007, 29–30).

No cristiano dudas sobre la santidad de cristianos se encuentran detrás de cada uno de estas críticas. Por ejemplo, los cristianos que actúan como todos los demás, especialmente en asuntos de sexualidad, son vistos como hipócritas, no santos. Por el contrario, los cristianos que persiguen la santidad pueden hacer que otros se sientan incómodos juzgados, elicitanda críticas injustas y tensiones bien ganadas.

Cuando se plantean problemas de santidad dentro de la iglesia, la discusión a menudo se corta con una pregunta: ¿dónde está la gracia en su cosmovisión? A la vista aqui esta la presumida tensión entre la gracia y la ley en el evangelio de Juan: ”Pues de Su plenitud todos hemos recibido, y gracia sobre gracia. Porque la Ley fue dada por medio de Moisés; la gracia y la verdad fueron hechas realidad por medio de Jesucristo (Jesús el Mesías).” (John 1:16–17)) La gracia y la ley parecen oponerse entre sí, pero esta interpretación es engañosa por dos razones.

La primera razón es que la gracia y la verdad son atributos divinos revelados a Moises inmediatamente después de la entrega de la ley (Exod 34:6). Si la ley y la gracia aparecieron juntas desde el principio, ¿cómo podrían estar en conflicto? Es más útil interpretar la ley y la gracia como complementarias porque la entrega de la ley fue en sí un acto de gracia divina, ya que la ley reveló la voluntad de Dios para la vida diaria. 

En consecuencia, el sacrificio expiatorio de Cristo no era el primer acto de gracia de Dios.

La segunda razón es que la gracia y la verdad (la ley es un tipo de verdad prescriptiva) van juntos en la transformación personal. Según Calvin, debido a que la ley es concreta, es útil para educar en justicia, para hacer cumplir la ley y para describir cómo ser santo todos los días (Haas 2006, 100). A todos les encanta recibir gracia, pero no a todos les gusta escuchar la verdad porque a menudo requiere una acción correctiva.

La naturaleza del comentario de la ley y la gracia nunca es más obvia que en las palabras de Jesus: “No piensen que he venido para poner fin a la Ley o a los Profetas; no he venido para poner fin, sino para cumplir.” (Matt 5:17)  Los intentos de abrogar la ley de Moisés a favor de la gracia a menudo surgen porque la ley se divide en dos partes: el código de santidad y la ley ceremonial. Esta distinción surgió históricamente porque el templo en Jerusalem fue destruido por los romanos en el año 70 DC, lo que imposibilitó la realización de las leyes ceremoniales. Sin embargo, la destrucción del templo no tuvo tal efecto en la código de santidad, cuyas prohibiciones contra inmoralidad sexual nunca fueron abolidas o abrogadas, como se confirmó en el Concilio de Jerusalén en el año 50 DC (Acts 15:19-20).

La código de santidad no es obsolete. Considere la limpieza en la ciudad de Nueva York que ocurrió en la década de 1980. Dos criminólogos, James O. Wilson y George Kelling, comenzaron la limpieza con lo que llamaron la teoría de las ventanas rotas. Arguyeron:

El crimen es el resultado inevitable del desorden. Si una ventana se rompe y no se repara, la gente que pase por allí concluirá que a nadie le importa y que nadie está a cargo. Pronto, se romperán más ventanas, y una sensación de anarquía se extenderá desde el edificio hasta la calle que enfrenta, enviando la señal de que todo vale. La idea es que la crimen es contagioso.⁠1

Entonces, la ciudad de Nueva York libró una guerra contra ventanas rotas y graffiti en los barrios y el metro.

So New York City waged a war on broken windows and graffiti in the neighborhoods and subway. No se toleraron infracciones menores de la ley. Y el crimen en toda la ciudad comenzó a caer precipitadamente para sorpresa de todos (White, 2004, 158). 

La teoría de las ventanas rotas es para las ciudades lo que la código de santidad es para los individuos. El rey Salomón famosamente escribió sobre los pecados pequeños: “Agarren las zorras, Las zorras pequeñas que arruinan las viñas, Pues nuestras viñas están en flor.“ (Song 2:15) El punto es que las pequeñas cosas importan: forman y reflejan tu actitud.

Nuestra conducta importa. Nuestra conducta importa a nuestras familias, por quien modelamos Cristo y expresamos nuestros compromisos más profundos. Es importante para nuestros vecinos, de quienes somos testigos y trabajamos por la paz. Es importante para Dios, quien le dio a Moisés la ley, en quién ponemos nuestra fe y de quién dependemos para nuestra salvación. Nuestra conducta importa. 

Notas

1 James O. Wilson and George Kelling argued:  Crime is inevitable result of disorder. If a window is broken and left unrepaired, people walking by will conclude that no one cares and no one is in charge. Soon, more windows will be broken, and a sense of anarchy will spread from the building to the street it faces, sending the signal that anything goes. The idea is that crime is contagious.” (White, 2004, 158.

Viviendo en Nuestra Llamada

Ver también:

Gospel as Divine Template

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Sitio del autor: http://www.StephenWHiemstra.net,

Sitio del editor: http://www.T2Pneuma.com.

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Water Cooler Observations, July 22, 2020

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By Stephen W. Hiemstra

Christianity is the only major religion that began in a cemetary. When Jesus rose from the dead, death changed from an endpoint to transition point. This is why Christians grieve less loudly at funerals than nonbelievers for whom death is an endpoint. The Apostle Paul summarized:

 “O death, where is your victory? O death, where is your sting? The sting of death is sin, and the power of sin is the law. But thanks be to God, who gives us the victory through our Lord Jesus Christ.” (1 Cor 15:55-57 ESV)

Those who do not have faith in Christ remain under the law and have a different relationship with salvation and eternal life.

Too many families this year are dealing with end-of-life issues on account of the corona virus. For some, family members have contracted the virus and have found themselves confronting death in isolation. For others corona virus has kept them or their family members from getting regular care and they have found themselves confronting a life-threatening illness that might otherwise have been treatable. For many, these are sad times.

The following prayer from Everyday Prayers for Everyday People (Centreville: T2Pneuma Publishers LLC, 2018) has been especially popular:

******

Almighty Father,

 

We praise you 

for your love in creating us in your image and

confess that we are unworthy of this high honor.

 

Thank you 

for the faith to endure suffering—

knowing that until you return in glory

“suffering produces endurance, and endurance 

produces character, and character produces hope.” (Rom 5:3-4)

 

Knowing also 

that for those whose faith is weak

you are ever-present and 

have granted to us dominion

over every creeping thing. (Gen 1:28)

 

We claim this promise 

in the strong name of Jesus Christ,

who died on the cross and 

was raised from the dead.

 

In Jesus’ name—

we bind every dark shadow,

break the power of every curse, 

every abuse, and every evil thought.

We cast every spirit of self-destruction and 

resignation into the fiery pit.

We raise up the cross and declare: 

no more, be gone.

 

Fill every heart with your Holy Spirit, 

that lives might echo your light and joy. 

 

May every child confess 

that Jesus is Lord until you return in glory.

In his holy name, Amen.

******

In this context, grief is a huge issue this year. Obviously, for those who have lost a family member, they are confronting grief. However, the corona virus has produced many losses that must be grieved. Among these losses are lost jobs, lost freedom to move about, lost peace of mind, lost sense of security. Each loss sets off a grieving process. For my podcast on grief taken from my recent book, Living in Christ, click this link.

 

Water Cooler Observations, July 22, 2020

Also see:

Water Cooler Observations, June 24, 2020

Interview about the Corona Life in English and Spanish with Stephen W. Hiemstra, April 24, 2020

Managing Change 

Believer’s Prayer

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Detweiler: Taming the Electronic Beast

Detweiler_review_20200617Craig Detweiler. 2013.  iGods:  How Technology Shapes Our Spiritual and Social Lives.  Grand Rapids:   Brazos Press.

Review by Stephen W. Hiemstra

Technology has defined my career.  During my career as an economist, I went from adding row and column sums with a manual calculator to programming with computer punch cards to programming personal computers for Windows and super computers in half a dozen languages. Being an early adopter of a variety of technologies allowed me to be the first to make sense of massive amounts of data.  Now, social media is redefining how work gets done and how people think about themselves, the world, and even God.  So when I noticed that Craig Detweiler had taken time to write a book, iGods, that tried to make sense of these changes, I was intrigued and ordered a copy.

Introduction

Detweiler observes:  Jesus was more than a carpenter; he was a techie (23). The Greek word, τέκτων (Mark 6:3 BNT), usually translated as carpenter probably better describes a builder. Think about it. Palestine has a lot of deserts and rocks; it has very few trees—the primary input in carpentry.  Detweiler observes that Jesus does not talk about carpentry; most of his stories are not even about agriculture.  His stories are about winepresses, millstones, olive presses, tombstones, cisterns, and so on—the technologies of his era (24).  He talked about the things that he knew best.  Detweiler prefers the translation, artisan.

Like father like son.  God created the heavens and the earth bringing order to chaos (Genesis 1).  Bringing order to chaos is exactly what technology does.  Creation is marked by both order and by beauty.  Do you suppose creation is “state of the art”? (25)  If we are created in the image of ‘high tech” God, then does our fascination with technology reflect God’s presence among us? [1]

Are you intrigued yet?

Organization

Detweiler focuses on the persons, the technologies, and companies responsible for the social media revolution writing in 8 chapters, proceeded by an introduction and followed by a conclusion.  The 8 chapters are:

  1. Defining technology,
  2. Apple,
  3. A brief history of the internet,
  4. Amazon,
  5. Google,
  6. A brief history of social networking,
  7. Facebook,
  8. You Tube, Twitter, Instagram (v).

These new technologies are intrinsically more complex than even the personal computers that we are all familiar with.  Changing the battery in an iPhone, for example, requires special tools and a detailed list (8 or more steps) of instructions which, ironically, can be found more easily on YTube.com than in any manual. This complexity relegates us to the role of consumers rather than masters of the basic technologies of our age (25).  It is WALL-E (a garbage-compacting robot), not the morbidly obese Captain McCea of the spaceship Axiom, who is the hero of our age [2].

Author

Detweiler is the author of numerous books and director of numerous films (http://bit.ly/1d7lWx8). He has his doctoral degree from Fuller Theological Seminary (www.fuller.edu) and currently is a professor of communications and director of the Center for Entertainment, Media, and Culture at Pepperdine University (http://bit.ly/1ebWAOn) which is located in Malibu, CA.  Because Hollywood has been at the cutting edge of both changing technology and social trends, just the Malibu address suggests that he might have some interesting insights.

Assessment

Detweiler’s iGods is accessible, thoroughly researched, and fascinating to read.  He concludes that social media provide tools that redefines many of the assumptions of how we live, think, and work that are neither intrinsically good or bad.  In terms of the scientific method, Detweiler has moved discussion from focusing on felt needs to defining the scope of the social media problem [3].  In the midst of chaotic social and technological change, the task of problem definition is typically the hardest. Detweiler has done us a great service.  This is a book that smart people will notice.

Footnotes

[1] For years I have described scientific discovers as nothing more than God’s little Easter Eggs hidden in places where he knew his kids would find them.

[2] Pixar Film 2008.  http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/WALL-E.

[3] The steps often employed in the scientific method are:  felt need, problem definition, observation, analysis, decision, and responsibility bearing.   Stephen W. Hiemstra. June 2009. “Can Bad Culture Kill a Firm?” pages 51-54 of Risk Management.  Society of Actuaries.  Accessed: 18 February 2014. Online:  http://bit.ly/1cmnQ00.

Detweiler: Taming the Electronic Beast

Also see:

Books, Films, and Ministry

Other ways to engage online:

Author site: http://www.StephenWHiemstra.net,

Publisher site: http://www.T2Pneuma.com.

Newsletter: https://bit.ly/HangHome_2020

 

 

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Pruning: Monday Monologues (podcast) July 20, 2020

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Stephen W. Hiemstra 2020 (Ken Burtram Photography)

By Stephen W. Hiemstra

This morning I will share a prayer and reflect on pruning. After listening, please click here to take a brief listener survey (10 questions).

To listen, click on this link.

Hear the words; Walk the steps; Experience the joy!

Pruning: Monday Monologues (podcast) July 20, 2020

Also see:

Monday Monologue On March 26, 2018 

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Author site: http://www.StephenWHiemstra.net,

Publisher site: http://www.T2Pneuma.com.

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Soldier’s Prayer

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By Stephen W. Hiemstra

Almighty Father.

Spare us, Lord, from a divided heart, an indecisive mind, and conniving spirit.

Prune the eye that sins, the hand that grasps, and the ears that itch to hear anything other than your word.

Intensify our love of your law and apply that love in gracious hearts and discerning minds.

Instill in us your Holy Spirit, holy affections, and sanctified thoughts that we might be truthful to ourselves, to others, and, most of all, to you.

Grant us your whole armor: the belt of truth, the breastplate of righteousness, helmet of salvation, and sword of your word (Eph 6:13–17).

That we might serve our entire lives as examples of your godliness.

In Jesus’ name, Amen.

Soldier’s Prayer

Also see:

Believer’s Prayer

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Oración del Soldado

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Por Stephen W. Hiemstra

Padre Todopoderoso,

Ahórranos, Señor, de un corazón dividido, una mente indecisa y un espíritu mañoso.

Poda el ojo que peca, la mano que agarra, y los oidas que pican a escuchar otra cosa que no sea tu palabra.

Intensifique nuestro amor de to ley y aplique ese amor en graciosos corazones y discerniendo exigentes.

Infundir en nosotros su Espíritu Santo, afectos santos y pensamientos santificados para que podamos ser sinceros con nosotros mismos, con los demás y, sobre todo, con tú.

Concédenos tu completa armadura: la cinturón de verdad, la coraza de justicia, el casco de la salvación, y la espada de tu palabra (Eph 6:13–17).

Para que podamos servir toda nuestra vida como ejemplos de tu piedad.

En el nombre de Jesús, Amén.

Oración del Soldado

Ver también:

Oración del Creyente

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Prune, Intensify, and Apply

Life_in_Tension_revision_front_20200101You have heard that it was said, You shall not commit adultery. 

But I say to you that everyone who looks at a woman with lustful intent 

has already committed adultery with her in his heart. 

If your right eye causes you to sin, tear it out and throw it away. 

For it is better that you lose one of your members 

than that your whole body be thrown into hell.

 (Matt 5:27-29)

By Stephen W. Hiemstra

The Sixth Beatitude focuses on a clean heart—“Honored are the pure in heart”—but, how can I remove the impurities? Jesus provides three methods: pruning, intensifying, and applying.

Prune

Jesus gives us two metaphors of pruning—cutting away unnecessary or unwanted growth to make a plant stronger and more fruitful (John 15:2). The first metaphor involves eyes: “If your right eye causes you to sin, tear it out and throw it away.” (Matt 5:29) The second metaphor involves hands: “And if your right hand causes you to sin, cut it off and throw it away.” (Matt 5:30) In both metaphors, we remove sin from our lives by pruning.

The eye gouging and hand chopping metaphors could also have been heard by Jesus’ audience as a messianic call to arms. When the Prophet Samuel anointed Saul messianic king of Israel, he said to him: “And you shall reign over the people of the LORD and you will save them from the hand of their surrounding enemies.” (1 Sam 10:1) Notice the hand metaphor in this blessing. Saul’s first act as king was to save the besieged city of Jabesh-gilead from an Amorite king whose condition for surrender was: “On this condition I will make a treaty with you, that I gouge out all your right eyes, and thus bring disgrace on all Israel.” (1 Sam 11:2) Understanding the story of Saul, Jesus’ metaphors might be interpreted as saying: stand on your own two feet.

Jesus’ pruning metaphors imply that sanctification—casting off sin and taking on godliness—is serious business: eyes and hands are parts of the body—parts of us—that are not easily discarded. If the threat of sin were trivial, then a better analogy might have been to trim your nails or cut your hair. But if sin threatens both our physical and spiritual lives, then amputation is an acceptable option and the analogy is not hyperbolic.

Intensify

Jesus widens the scope of commandments under the law by drilling into the motivation for breaking them, intensifying the scrutiny given to sin. For example, when Jesus talks about adultery, he focuses on the lustful look that corrupts the heart, not the sinful act that follows. As evangelist Billy Graham (1955, 78) reminds us:  “What does this word adultery mean? It is derived from the same Latin root from which we get our word adulterate which means corrupt; to make impure or to weaken.” If sin begins in the heart, then sanctification must strive for purity of heart, and not only avoiding sin, but pursuing godliness, as the Apostle Paul writes:

But that is not the way you learned Christ!—assuming that you have heard about him and were taught in him, as the truth is in Jesus, to put off your old self, which belongs to your former manner of life and is corrupt through deceitful desires, and to be renewed in the spirit of your minds, and to put on the new self, created after the likeness of God in true righteousness and holiness. (Eph 4:20-24)

The likeness of God, of course, refers to the divine image in creation, as implied in the word, godliness, used by Paul in admonishing Timothy: “train yourself for godliness” (1 Tim 4:7).

Apply

In the Jewish mindset, it makes no sense to separate heart and mind or faith from action, as we read in James:

But be doers of the word, and not hearers only, deceiving yourselves. For if anyone is a hearer of the word and not a doer, he is like a man who looks intently at his natural face in a mirror. For he looks at himself and goes away and at once forgets what he was like. But the one who looks into the perfect law, the law of liberty, and perseveres, being no hearer who forgets but a doer who acts, he will be blessed in his doing. (Jas 1:22-25)

As a devote Jew, James would almost certainly share Jesus’ conviction that unity of person (heart and mind) implies unity of faith and action (Dyrness 2001, 81). In fact, the gap between what we say and what we do is a good measure of the amount of sin in our lives. After all, Jesus was the first person in scripture to use the word, hypocrite, to mean two-faced—saying one thing and doing another (Matt 23:25). Prior to Jesus, an hypocrite was just an actor on a Greek stage.

Unity of faith and action is, of course, a divine attribute, as we see in the life and work of Jesus Christ. In life, Jesus modeled God’s sinless nature for us (Heb 4:15). In death, Jesus redeemed us from our sin (Gal 3:13). In resurrection, Jesus gave us the hope of salvation (1 Cor 15:20). And, in ascension, intercedes for us before Almighty God (Rev 22:3). Following the ascension at Pentecost, Jesus conferred on the church and on us the Holy Spirit to assist us in overcoming our sinful nature (John 16:7–8).

Because part of our sinful nature is to focus only on ourselves, it is helpful to distinguish self-help efforts from sanctification. Self-help focuses on us while sanctification focuses on modeling Christ.

So when we act in unity of faith and action, we echo the Trinity:

Hear, O Israel: The LORD our God, the LORD is one. You shall love the LORD your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your might. (Deut 6:4-5)

In this manner, we model God’s sinless nature to those around us. Modeling Christ, we must prune, intensify, and apply if we are to be pure in heart and see God.

References

Bridges, Jerry. 1996a. The Practice of Godliness. Colorado Springs: NavPress.

Bridges, Jerry. 1996b. The Pursuit of Holiness. Colorado Springs: NavPress.

Dyrness,William A. 2001. Visual Faith: Art, Theology, and Worship in Dialogue. Grand Rapids: Baker Academic.

Graham, Billy. 1955. The Secret of Happiness. Garden City, NY: Doubleday and Company, Inc.

Prune, Intensify, and Apply

Also see:

Preface to a Life in Tension

Other ways to engage online:

Author site: http://www.StephenWHiemstra.net

Publisher site: http://www.T2Pneuma.com

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