This is another long one. If it’s too much, here’s one possible executive summary: We can’t think covenantally (read correctly) because of sin: We’ve made our covenant with ourselves and the rest of life in Christ is the removal of that lasting, bonded, covenant to self.
One of our great afflictions in this generation is the near extinction of a mindset that is vital to relationships and our correct view of just about everything. We’re missing the concept of commitment. The shadow of this problem has been growing for a long time, in many parts of our western culture for certain.
I’ve read and listened to thousands of words about how world wars have caused such devastation, being the ultimate manifestations of evil in the 20th century. The result that seems to be a common thread in WWI, II, and all the big, destructive conflicts surrounding them is that people have lost their sense of anything being worth it. Sometimes I’ve heard “where is God?” in response to the cataclysms but I think that more, there’s been a doubt that arises from this question that is more deadly. “Why should I commit to the God who isn’t there?”
Also, the increase in ease of life, communication, mobility have all sugar-coated this almost instant liberty from commitment by making us freer to choose (ironically). We can easily vacillate between what we want to do, what we can do and what we should do. We have no need to put down roots and abide somewhere, in something or on something, since picking up and trucking off are as simple as gassing up the infernal combustion machine and throwing a box of clothes in the trunk. We can now delete what we’ve said, obliterate the meaning of what we decide not to delete with an update, or even put meaningful, ambiguous half-speech before the masses that can be read any of a dozen ways none of which commit us to anything.
I’ll list some of the things I see as contributors: Cars, the Web and social media, phones, freeways and airways, free or near-free publishing. All of these are just pieces in the big Lego set of “freedom” that gives us choice. It can go back to the Framers in our American history, who laid the groundwork for protection of our liberties, but strangely enough opened the floodgates just enough that we could begin to define our liberties by greater leaps and bounds every day. Now we see public protests for any reason under the sun, laymen making commentary on anything and everything of which they know less than nothing (yers truly included) and completely unqualified candidates for positions that once required not just qualifications but the wherewithal to commit to the demands of the positions. I speak in generalities because it’s all over – I’m not criticizing just One or promoting an agenda.
Of course, it’s sin. Full rounded freedom to do just what we want is just what we all want. And so, with no commitments, no reason to commit, we define our own fiction, a story that casts us in the center of everything. The very circles in which we run are self-licking ice cream cones that uplift the individual so that each of us in a group can say that the group is us and we uphold the group. We’ve committed to just one thing, ourselves, which is precisely what Adam did in the garden, wanting his own edification and significance. All other bets are off. We’re free to clean out our Facebook friend list at any time, delete our Tweets, rebuild the Lego set as many times as we’d like or drop off the grid just by unplugging the idiot box, starting the car and driving off to a new place. Maybe a season at The Burning Man will do me good.
So we have this intense difficulty looking at the Bible with a frame of mind that truly understands it. We can’t seem to understand the concept of commitment because we’ve been raised free from the mandate of commitment. Billboards claim “your way” or “define yourself” or “rethinking you” while banks, stores, services and forums all call for us to contribute our thoughts and preferences in detail that reaches all the way to the packaging on a jug of milk. And so with the Bible, green, military, woman’s, child’s, MacArthur’s, Reformation, survivor’s, Purpose Driven, College, (enough yet?). Since we are free to choose anything, we cannot come to the Word of God and understand that we cannot choose anything. Funny that by driving ourselves to the point that we can choose all, we’ve bound ourselves in our lives to a litany of choice. Our liturgy is to pause in reflection before any event or action and consider not whether it is profitable or required, but whether it is good for me or worth my while.
So is it truly a wonder that we cannot see the continuity of the Scriptures and God’s work of redemption? Is it surprising that the New Testament is all about me and the Old is all about them? Is it surprising that we’ve created circles of dedication to the Jewish Nation, Theonomic Society, Two Kingdoms, Altar Calls and Bob Jones U. or other cultural identification that we can “identify with” and will have meaningful productivity for ourselves? Distinctives should bring about suspicion in many cases. Are they distinctives that set the Word of God above party preferences, or do they facilitate personal identity and alignment to a movement or other personality? I’m not knocking loving neighbor here, I’m condemning loving self, for that is what these all-about perceptions are all about. Our “destiny” is about telling God what’s what, and joining with our neighbors in a Babel Project that brings us to the heavens or at least frees us from commitment to what we were made for.
Continuity, you say? What does that have to do with commitment? I ran off the track right?
I don’t think so. I see this every day. I have the freedom to choose whatever I want. I can choose to leave or stay, paint or draw or write or read or vegetate. I can do my work or not. I don’t have a sense of duty or higher calling. And I’ve taught my kids the same thing. I watch passively as the schools do the same thing. I think that, other than this work here on Lord and Hearth, the occasional gatherings of our folk from church in various venues and (ultimately) Sunday worship, the concept of commitment is virtually nonexistent in an epistemological way (meaning concretely, it’s more than just a cursory glance or “living” covenantally). My view of things, though growing toward an understanding of covenants, is anti-covenantal. I don’t think in terms of my marriage vows or enlistment contract. Nor do I keep in mind that my kids are my ministry-handed-down-by-God-Himself. I don’t think about how much my beloved brothers and sisters in Church are a truly covenant people. I forget, for days on end, the vows to Church and Congregation, and in suit forget to review these with my family.
But our Lord does not forget. He does not make commitments, covenants, optional – for Himself or for us. So at some point, there will be a reckoning. Fortunately for us, we who are in His church, the bride of His Son, that reckoning is weekly and we are brought to His promises and fed His promises and we hear them, touch and see them. Discipleship and discipline are tutors in covenants. The whole point is to learn that our God is a covenantal being who deals in things like guarantees, places, commitments, promises, tangibles, relationships – all those things that are concrete and inflexible. He does not quibble over current fads and movements. He uses even these to implement reiterations of His promises. And we do well to ponder these things. The ultimate Promise is that He did, in creation, set up our redemption from the very beginning and that every aspect of our redemption is founded on promises, covenants, which He alone maintains. Jesus Christ the actor, the Holy Spirit the Official Seal, God the Judge; survey the titles that are everywhere in Scripture, all promise us His faithfulness.
R. C. Sproul has spent years teaching about many things like the Holiness of God. One thing we should think about, regarding this subject is that God is the guarantee of Sproul’s work. Sproul has explained all about God’s holiness, but God is the one we must believe is going to be holy – it’s based on His Word, His clear declaration that Holy is what He is. So we have a guarantee of this. Where I can flip between personality traits, He will not. He has promised.
Reading the Word for the promises of God, for His faithfulness to make and provide for us a Savior, a satisfaction for our sin, a solution for our hopelessness, is bound to resolve many of the conflicts among us today. It is bound to “liberate” us with the freedom to seriously be committed to a beautiful goal that is depends on God’s promises rather than human frailty and fickleness.
I read an Old Life article today, which dovetails in right here (Even though the author isn’t going where I’m going). It speaks to me of more than just pastoral commitment while at the same time makes me more than a little thankful that my pastor, our pastor, has a commitment to God’s Word and the ministry thereof which takes precedent for our benefit.