Monday, November 26, 2007

We’re not exactly sure what led Moses to visit his people in their slavery. Guilt might very well be what God used to prompt his concern. Despite what your guidance councilor or even boomer church pastor might have told you…guilt is not always a bad thing. Those in Christ need not carry guilt around endlessly because every sin we’ve ever committed and ever will commit is forgiven forever the moment we are saved. But until we’ve dealt with and repented for our sins as they happen, despite our salvation, we ought to feel guilty for bringing shame to the name Christ. Again, we don’t have to carry the load of guilt around forever, but, that does not mean we should not ever carry it at all. We carry it until we’ve repented…then that feeling is released.

I assume Moses was baring a growing burden of guilt upon his shoulders and by the time he was forty years old he could bare it no more.

Guilt is a powerful feeling and emotion. You can’t escape it. It will haunt you every day of our life until it is removed by God. It will eat at you and erode any sense of peace you’ve ever had. Not only does guilt nag you…it will always intensify. If not properly dealt with, only by God, guilt will pervert you, rot you and make you bitter. Have you ever been around an angry person? You know, that man or women who is always wound up and always irritable? They are guilty (or feel guilty) and don’t know what to do with it. Even born again Christians can slip back into the mire of guilt by not living a life of repentance or by not understanding the doctrine of Salvation…or both.

It is very likely that Moses felt guilty for not working to free his people. It seems that according to Josephus, Moses had positioned himself as a possible deliverer of the Hebrews as a way to keep his grandfather (Pharaoh) somewhat cautious of him. If Pharaoh made a bold move to kill Moses…and it failed…then Moses could easily rile up the Hebrews against the Egyptians. It would seem, according to Josephus, that Moses would wink and nod at the Hebrews just enough to keep them strung along, but would not actually do anything to initiate their freedom. He certainly was the only real hope of the Hebrews and so he knew it wouldn’t take much to rally their support later even if they were mad at him now. But it appears that Moses, at the age of forty, was starting to stumble under the weight of guilt. And since he had not yet turned to God for relief, God let him crumble.

Guilt can ruin your heart in many ways. People run wild trying to medicate and pacify this disgusting feeling of guilt. It is an incredible burden to carry. Guilt causes a very intense vacuum in our hearts because it is the acknowledgement of the reality that our good is never out weighed by our bad. Our bad, our sin, our frailty and our insufficiency will always outweigh our strengths, our value or our talents. The suction this vacuum causes is the feeling known as guilt. Bunyan captured this image perfectly with Pilgrim and the great burden he carried out from the City of Destruction. People will consume themselves with anything that “works”, temporarily, to ease the despair unreleased guilt will cause. Literally…you name it…anything that “works” for the individual is what they will employ. It can be a political cause, perverted sexuality, religion, drugs, athletics, anger, parenting or a career. Whatever it is, people will throw themselves into that world usually without realizing they are simply trying to escape the grasp of their guilt and shame.

So apparently guilt ridden was Moses that he lost his temper and murdered an Egyptian who was beating on a Hebrew. His emotions where uncontrollable because of this great burden he carried and he did something horrific. The man known throughout history as the great law giver was a brutal law breaker. Of course his time on Sinai was still decades down the road…but you don’t need a law graven into stone to know that murder is something God hates. You don’t need to send missionaries deep into the rain forest to tell the natives there that murder is wrong. We all know it’s wrong even if we don’t have a Bible or stone tablets to read. It is amazing that instead of driving us to repent and the seeking of forgiveness…apart from grace…guilt drives us deeper into iniquity! So rotten is our heart that there is no naturally longing for righteousness, goodness…or God. Yet the vacuum caused by guilt causes us to react and people only react within the parameters of what their nature gives them…so they sin. They cuss out their boss or punch their brother in law…or they sleep with their neighbor’s wife or husband. They stab a coworker in the back to get ahead or they cheat on tests. They hate anyone who threatens to expose their weakness, flaws, limitations or chinks; they hate competitors. The overwhelming sense of inadequacy (guilt) causes a reaction and unless God chooses to befriend them and His grace intervenes…the reaction is always to take sin and compound it with more sin. That’s what sinners always do unless God changes their heart by grace.

Obviously beating a slave is not small infraction of God’s moral law. But it is not a capital crime and even if it were Moses had no God given authority to execute this unnamed Egyptian. What is interesting is that the Scriptures indicate how crafty Moses was…he looked around and made sure that when he struck it would be done in isolation. Maybe he could ease his terrible guilt by striking one of the real bad guys down he must have thought. Why do we always assume more sin will make us feel better? How twisted can we be?

Of course such a strike against an agent of Pharaoh would be considered the same as a strike against Pharaoh himself…so Moses killed this guy quickly, while no one was looking and buried the body the best he could given the conditions (sand). If the actual scenario was similar to the way Josephus painted it…this was not a good move by Moses. Take away the obvious sin of murder…this was also a very self destructive move. If this were found out Pharaoh would immediately bring charges against him and justly put him to death with little objection from the army Moses led. Guilt not relieved by God will always…ALWAYS…lead to more and more self destructive behavior. Do you understand why Christ is called “Savior” and “Deliverer”? Don’t you know what your life would be like apart from His grace changing your heart? Apart from grace, guilt with drive us to more lust, more anger, more bitterness…and will be the anchor that pulls us forever deeper and deeper into the pit called Hell!

Are you demonstrating more and more self destructive behavior? Are people constantly warning you? If so the problem is that you either don't fear God or don’t understand grace. Period…end of story. You do not understand how you were saved, why you were saved and what you are saved from. As born again Christians we have no business living out of control lives…and we don’t have to keep this crap up because we have been set free…now let us live free.

"Have mercy on me, O God, according to your unfailing love; according to your great compassion blot out my transgressions. Wash away all my iniquity and cleanse me from my sin. For I know my transgressions, and my sin is always before me. Against you, you only, have I sinned and done what is evil in your sight, so that you are proved right when you speak and justified when you judge. Surely I was sinful at birth, sinful from the time my mother conceived me. Surely you desire truth in the inner parts; you teach me wisdom in the inmost place. Cleanse me with hyssop, and I will be clean; wash me, and I will be whiter than snow. Let me hear joy and gladness; let the bones you have crushed rejoice. Hide your face from my sins and blot out all my iniquity. Create in me a pure heart, O God, and renew a steadfast spirit within me. Do not cast me from your presence or take your Holy Spirit from me. Restore to me the joy of your salvation and grant me a willing spirit, to sustain me. Then I will teach transgressors your ways, and sinners will turn back to you. Save me from bloodguilt, O God, the God who saves me, and my tongue will sing of your righteousness. O Lord, open my lips, and my mouth will declare your praise. You do not delight in sacrifice, or I would bring it; you do not take pleasure in burnt offerings. The sacrifices of God are a broken spirit; a broken and contrite heart, O God, you will not despise. In your good pleasure make Zion prosper; build up the walls of Jerusalem. Then there will be righteous sacrifices, whole burnt offerings to delight you; then bulls will be offered on your altar." Psalm 51

11 comments:

Anonymous said...

Wow! What a great teaching on our real sin condition. We all are in need of recognition of our sin and confession that gains us forgiveness and freedom from condemnation. Thanks! CW

irreverend fox said...

Thanks CW!

Zac said...

I love Michelangelo's statue of Moses with horns (which was based upon an inaccurate rendering of a Hebrew word that can mean both "shine" and "horns" translated into Latin by St. Jerome in the 4th Century).

Good stuff on guilt. Orthodox would mostly agree, I think. Guilt is the evidence of a living conscience that knows itself to actually be guilty of impurity, sin, wickedness, etc.

But I would say that people can pretend to get rid of guilt, too. I remember that as a Protestant, most of my "repenting" for my various misdeeds had simply to do with maybe working myself up into tears, or perhaps just praying for awhile and confessing to God it was wrong and promising not to do it again. The only problem with such repentance is that it never actually changed how I lived.

Orthodox have a time-tested way of repentance-- a real turning from sin toward God which actually changes you. For Orthodox, repentance is not so much about somehow assuaging the wrath of an angry God, as though He were surprised by what we did. We have no need to reconcile God to ourselves, only to reconcile ourselves to God.

For Orthodox, it is not enough that God be no longer angry toward us. We want to actually stop sinning, to actually implant in ourselves the purity that Christ died to give us. It does us no good to think that God isn't angry with us if all of our fleshly inclinations are the same.

Maybe I should also mention what Orthodox repentance is not. It is not a means to "earn" forgiveness or reconciliation. Rather, it is only the means by which we enter into Christ's redeeming sacrifice. For us, the working out of repentance is only like the hand that lays hold of the hem of Christ's garment. Of itself, this is nothing; but that which is grasped has the power to cure, heal, and truly deliver.

And what does Orthodox repentance entail? It involves confession, real confession. Not simply muttering my sins into a pillow at midnight and hoping no one will find out. This is not the biblical kind of confession, since we read from the Lord's brother, "Confess your sins to one another that you may be healed" (James 5:16).

It also involves fasting. The fathers and ascetics developed very keen insights into the workings of the soul and the body. One such insight was that the over-consumption of animal foods aroused our animal passions, especially lust. A filled stomach was the gateway to many of the deadlier sins that lead to impurity before God. So one of the things that repentance usually involves is fasting, especially from foods that arouse our flesh and strengthen its say over us.

Another component of repentance is physical exertion. How easy it is to exert oneself in sinfulness and idleness, and yet how resistant our bodies are to God-pleasing labors?

The classic example of an act of physical exertion associated with repentance in the Orthodox tradition is the full prostration down to the ground while praying some short prayer like, "God be merciful to me a sinner." 25 or 50 of those will begin to call to remembrance the sufferings of hell which you deserve, and also the sufferings which Christ endured for our sake to deliver us from such a fate. It will also weaken the body and strengthen the inner man. This physical action is so much associated with repentance that in Greek they are simply called, "metanoias" or "repentances."

This forcing of the body into prayer, the lowering of ones head to the ground before God, etc, dethrone the flesh and communicate to it that it is no longer an idol to be worshipped, but a servant which is also the temple of the Holy Spirit.

So confession, fasting, and physical exertion are important to repentance. More than all these things, however, is prayer. We ask that God will give us genuine repentance, genuine tears to weep for our betrayals. We have certain prayers that we read, such as the 51st Psalm, or the Canon of Repentance. Also much on our lips is the simple prayer, "Lord Jesus Christ, Son of God, have mercy on me a sinner."

So anyway, there's a short synopsis (incomplete though it be) of the Orthodox idea of repentance. It is a realistic view of man. I can remember falling countless times as a protestant and wondering if there were ever a cure or if I was doomed to simply just convince myself that it didn't matter-- that God only saw the blood of Jesus so He wasn't angry. But what about me and my major sins which were still enslaving me and to which I still inclined? Protestantism has no good answer-- self-will them away, I guess. But we cannot self-will ourselves into the virtues, or even into abstinence from the sins that enslave us. Only God's grace can deliver us, and Orthodoxy alone has preserved intact the Way in which man can walk in the Light and no longer serve the darkness.

Orthodoxy offers something different, and it works.

irreverend fox said...
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irreverend fox said...

hey zac!

I'm truly sorry you were so misinformed about the Reformed view of repentance...because we don't believe it is simply about God not being mad anymore...the born again experience is all about that inner man transformation...something actually changes from within when you are born again.

I wish I could explain it better than that...but I can't. You can only experience it...it is a mystery which explanation is drastically limited.

But suffice it to say Reformed Evangelicals certainly believe Jesus when He said, "if you love me, obey my commandments". Again...there is no saving faith apart from Godly works.

Zac said...

I might be misinformed; I can only speak about my 7 years as an evangelical and what I experienced from the inside. I can only speak as one who has been in both camps, and who has found something fundamentally different and unique about Orthodoxy, which was lacking in my evangelical experience. Perhaps you have a different experience, and if so I can only rejoice with you over it.

I'm certainly not claiming to be delivered from all my sinful habits and inclinations, but I am claiming to have found that path which brings such deliverance, and to have walked it and experienced the newness of life that Christ promised.

Please forgive me if you thought that I was belittling your salvation or your own personal experience of victory over sin. Again, I can only speak for myself-- although I really do think that it is not entirely unique in the world of American evangelicalism.

irreverend fox said...

hey zac!

my friend...if you are right then you have an obligation to God and to me as you friend to belittle my anathematized (by Paul himself if this is the case) "experience"! I don't blame you one bit!

to be as honest as I can be...I seriously distinguish and differentiate between Evangelical Religion and the Born Again Experience. they are not the same whatsoever. my heart felt concern is that you've had one and not the other. (saying a prayer down at an alter is not what I'm talking about…I CRINGE when people assume that is “how” you get “saved”!!!). if my fear is real then I would assume this has to do with a lack of Biblical preaching on what being born again is…you’ve told the horror stories of the shallowness you saw presented as “the gospel”. of course I strongly assert that one can not choose to be born again...one can not “choose” to believe something he does not believe (you hear something and believe it or you do not believe it…there is no choice in the equation) but at the same time God ordinarily awakens His elect by means of the preaching of the pure spiritual milk of the Gospel. that is business between you and God and I can not make any judgments about that of course. I still contend that one of of us is in big trouble and that does sober the dialog doesn't it? if nothing else these dialogs are helpful for those who read them in their own spiritual journey...I've had many personal comments about how our kind and yet honest dialog has truly caused second guessing of previous assumptions...which is a great thing I'm! the stakes are severely high when the destiny of everlasting souls are being spoken about.

I will simply continue to proclaim (unless I am convicted by scripture and plain reason) that there is a drastic difference between the dead dry bones of American Evangelicalism and the born again experience Jesus explained to Nicodemus. Religion and the Spirit filled, justified, reconciled and new life are not the same...you can absolutely have one and not the other.

I preach and teach that grave warning every time God affords me the privilege to open His Word...in every church I've ever preached.

irreverend fox said...

btw...

I believe most "Evangelicals" have not been saved and are hellbound.

Zac said...

This might surprise you, but our Orthodox teaching despises dead religion as well, and professes that one must be born again (that is, through "water and the Spirit," baptism) and further that one must preserve this grace of rebirth throughout ones life, that the seed of the Word can take root and grow and bear fruit. Those lives which do not bear fruit are hewn down and cast into the fire.

No man can come to Christ unless the Father draws Him, and yet we do not believe the God and Father of the Lord Jesus to be arbitrary or miserly when it comes to this, for "many are called." And yet, few are those who respond, who "are chosen" by virtue of their decision to follow in the Way of the Cross which is the only path to salvation.

I think our conversation is quite serious and also beneficial, my brother, and while I can point out to you what I believe are errors in your theology, I can't profess to know the state of your soul. Nor do I wish to eclipse the truth of Orthodoxy with my prideful desire to win an argument.

Anonymous said...

Galatians 1:6-10 AV

6. I marvel that ye are so soon removed from him that called you into the grace of Christ unto another gospel:

7. Which is not another; but there be some that trouble you, and would pervert the gospel of Christ.

8. But though we, or an angel from heaven, preach any other gospel unto you than that which we have preached unto you, let him be accursed.

9. As we said before, so say I now again, if any man preach any other gospel unto you than that ye have received, let him be accursed.

10. For do I now persuade men, or God? or do I seek to please men? for if I yet pleased men, I should not be the servant of Christ.

irreverend fox said...

thanks anonymous...do you mind giving some context here?