Where do we find true happiness? By rejoicing in God’s truth:
· “True happiness is to rejoice in the truth, for to rejoice in the truth is to rejoice in you, O God, who are the truth… Man’s love of truth is such that when he loves something which is not the truth, he pretends to himself that what he loves is the truth, and because he hates to be proved wrong, he will not allow himself to be convinced that he is deceiving himself. So he hates the real truth for the sake of what he takes to his heart in its place.” (Augustine’s Confessions, Book 10:23)
How do we love God? We can’t cook for Him, clean His house, or launder His cloths.
Some believe that it is strictly about experiencing God by shutting down the mind. For Augustine, a relationship with God is a matter of abiding in His Word, His unalterable truth:
· “Only a master who really teaches us really speaks to us: if he does not teach us, even though he may be speaking, it is not to us that he speaks. But who is our teacher except the Truth that never changes? Even when we learn from created things, which are subject to change, we are led to the Truth that does not change.” (Confessions, Book 11:8)
Is it proper then that we limit such a relationship to feelings and experiences without understanding? According to Augustine, the lack of wisdom is both darkness and a punishment:
· “I am aglow with its fire. It is the light of Wisdom, Wisdom itself, which at times shines upon me, parting my clouds. But when I weakly fall away from its light, those clouds envelop me again in the dense mantle of darkness which I bear for my punishment.” (Confessions, Book 11:9)
Well, what does this have to do with Christmas? A friend called me today to say that he had been reprimanded for speaking out against a visiting pastor. At the end of her sermon, she called the youth of the church to come to the altar to commit themselves to the Babe in the manger, “whatever you might think about Him.”
Well, what we think about Him is all important and shouldn’t be designated as a “whatever.” Paul had insisted:
· I am astonished that you are so quickly deserting the one who called you by the grace of Christ and are turning to a different gospel… But even if we or an angel from heaven should preach a gospel other than the one we preached to you, let him be eternally condemned! As we have already said, so now I say again: If anybody is preaching to you a gospel other than what you accepted, let him be eternally condemned! (Galatians 1:6-9)
Strong words, but these are Gospel words. My friend yelled out that who that Babe is does matter and was later reprimanded!
His conduct hadn’t been “nice,” but perhaps it glorified God. The children of Israel had sinned against God, having been tempted into sin by the Moabite women. Consequently, a plague broke out and was consuming Israel. Nevertheless, the Israelites continued in their sin, even to the point of bringing Moabite women to their tents, even in front of Moses. However, the priest Phinehas drove a spare through a couple in their sinful embrace and the plague ceased. What did the Lord think about such “un-nice” behavior?
· The LORD said to Moses, "Phinehas son of Eleazar, the son of Aaron, the priest, has turned my anger away from the Israelites; for he was as zealous as I am for my honor among them, so that in my zeal I did not put an end to them.” (Numbers 25:10-11)
My friend had also been zealous about the Lord! But Phinehas had been a relic of Old Testament morality, right? Well it seems that confronting anti-Gospel messages is also a part of the NT. Peter had denied the Gospel when he withdrew from Gentile believers when the legalistic Jewish believers arrived from Jerusalem. However, Paul was convinced that his behavior actually denied the Gospel and our oneness in Christ. Therefore, he publicly opposed Peter in the midst of his hypocrisy (Gal. 2:11-14).
Perhaps we have become too “nice,” and perhaps Paul’s example should be a model for us? Perhaps we aren’t loving the Lord as we ought by failing to stand up for His truth? I suspect that Augustine wouldn’t have reprimanded my friend but would have honored him as the Lord had done for Phinehas, by honoring him with an enduring priesthood.