The Pope, according to the Roman Church, is the successor to Peter's apostolic office. As such, he is the supreme head of the church on earth, and is the Vicar of Christ. He can make infallible pronouncements. He is literally an example to millions. He ought to be able to convey the glorious gospel of Jesus Christ better than anyone, you would think. And yet, we find this:
At a news conference Tuesday, Oder defended John Paul's practice of self-mortification, which some faithful use to remind them of the suffering of Jesus on the cross.
"It's an instrument of Christian perfection," Oder said, responding to questions about how such a practice could be condoned considering Catholic teaching holds that the human body is a gift from God.
In the book, Oder wrote that John Paul frequently denied himself food - especially during the holy season of Lent - and "frequently spent the night on the bare floor," messing up his bed in the morning so he wouldn't draw attention to his act of penitence.
"But it wasn't limited to this. As some members of his close entourage in Poland and in the Vatican were able to hear with their own ears, John Paul flagellated himself. In his armoire, amid all the vestments and hanging on a hanger, was a belt which he used as a whip and which he always brought to Castel Gandolfo," the papal retreat where John Paul vacationed each summer.
While there had long been rumours that John Paul practiced self-mortification, the book provides the first confirmation and concludes John Paul did so as an example of his faith. (Go here for the whole story.)
Let me be clear: self-mortification is neccessary. If by that you mean the putting to death of sin that remains in the flesh. However, beating yourself with a belt will not drive sin from your flesh. Nor will sleeping on a hard floor instead of in your bed. Indeed, the reason that we even strive to put the sinful flesh to death is so that people will see the glory of God's grace made manifest in our lives. The Pope's ideal of self-mortification only occassions boasting in the flesh and subtracts from the grace of Christ. Allow me to explain why I say that.
If you'll notice, Oder says that self-mortification is "an instrument of Christian perfection." There is, in fact, only one instrument of Christian perfection: the atonement of Jesus Christ. That is why the Pope's means of self-mortification is off the rails. I believe that his whipping himself is sort of like the opposite of the popular self-help movement. Self-help teaches: You are good. You are awesome. Believe that you are good and you will get even better. The Pope's way teaches: You are bad. You are evil. Punish yourself and you will get better. But this is what the cross teaches us: You are evil. You are sinful. Believe in me, and I will make you better. How does beating yourself with a belt teach anyone that Christ is sufficient? I am glad that the pope saw himself as a sinner. I am sad that he thought a personal whipping would cure it.
I want to say that the Christian way of self-mortification is more mortifying than the pope's, for his self-flagallation was not Christian in any sense. Here is why: the cross makes us utterly dependant upon Christ. That is, if I can come clean by beating myself, I am responsible for helping get myself out of this mess. However, the humiliation of the cross is that I can't do that. And since I can't do that, I can only believe that Jesus can. I would rather take a whipping than admit I am helpless. I would rather take a whipping than to make the Lord Jesus bear my shame. But bear my shame He must.
Peter saw this clearly when he said, "Lord, you will never wash my feet!" (John 13:8). Why? Because it was embarrassing to let the Lord wash off his grimy feet. Peter would rather do it himself than suffer the Lord Jesus to do it. But Jesus said, "If I do not wash you, you have no share with me."
In response to the cross of Jesus, we ought instead to say, "Lord, I hang up my belt. I expose to you my shame. Make me clean. Save me from my sin. Only you can do it." How embarrassing that is. How shameful. How glorious it is of Jesus to wash my feet. How marvelous that He would stoop to clean one so dirty as I and ask nothing in return. Indeed, what would I give to one such as He?
God deliver us from a gospel, which is really no gospel, that would require us to beat out our own sins. Deliver us from a kind of perfection that depends upon our piety or our works. Teach us a gospel that glorifies Christ alone as the only sin-cleanser. For the sake of your own glory, do it!
I have one Apple product: A refurbished iPod. However, I have been eye-balling the new e-readers for sometime, and until yesterday, my money was on the Kindle DX. But now, my wandering eyes have spied out the new Apple Tablet. (Here's a site that compares the iPad and the Kindle DX head to head).
I have books galore, and I covet more. I love books. I have books stacked to the ceiling on shelves at home, I have them in boxes in the garage with no shelf left to sit on, and I have them stored in a friend's shed due to lack of room. But in an e-reader, I can have thousands of books in my hand at once! <----insert mad scientist laughter here Some people are underwhelmed by the iPad. Like uber-blogger Tim Challies. Others, like Joshua Harris, think this may be the greatest thing since, well, the iPhone or iPod. I mean, iBooks, people! iBooks!!! Imagine the possibilities. Most folks who are staying on the Kindle wagon are saying that the Kindle will win out because it does one thing well, and that it has e-ink technology. O.o Okay. Did I mention that there is an Application for the iPad that lets you use Kindle e-books.
iCovet.....heeeey...is that why the logo is a bitten apple?
Okay, I confess. I am a premillenialist. But I swear, if it wasn't for the Bible I wouldn't be. I hate this neighborhood.
I hate bumper stickers that say, "In case of Rapture This Car will be unmanned." I hate the Left Behind series. I hate charts. Well, I don't hate these things, they just make me nervous. I always tell the folks at church that eschatology teachers are like bus drivers and when they start breaking out charts and talking about Russia or China or Middle Eastern leaders, I tell them that this is where I get off. There are a bunch of kooks living in my semi-dispy neighborhood. We have a bunch of weird uncles.
I have my stuff boxed up though. I'm looking for a house in the historic premil district. I just can't find a place to put the final "7 Years" bag that Daniel gives me in chapter 9. Well, at least 6 years of the baggage. It seems that Messiah doesn't get cut off until after the 69 weeks of years, which would put the crucifixion in the 70th week, which means....oh wait, there's the bus stop.
The first hint we have of the gospel in the Bible comes to us in Genesis 3:15. There, God tells that old serpent, the devil, these things, "I will put enmity between you and the woman, and between your seed and her seed; he shall bruise your head, and you shall bruise his heel." If you want to impress people at parties, you can call this passage the proto-evangelium, which means "first gospel." There, the victory of the seed of the woman over Satan is foretold for the first time. From there, we see the promise pass to Abraham (Gen. 12, 15), Judah (Gen. 49), then to David's line (2 Sam. 7).
In short, the entire hope of the prophets of the "Old Testament" is based on the seed of the woman, who will be the Immanuel, who will usher in God's everlasting kingdom, and who will take away the sins of the people. So the ultimate "bruising" of Satan comes at the hands of the Messiah, Jesus Christ.
However, we should not think of the death and resurrection of Jesus as the only bruising of the head of the wicked one. No indeed! In point of fact, the defeat of Satan is constant, daily, and eternal because of the Son of God. Satan has never overthrown a single plan of God. Satan has never ultimately defeated a single one of God's children. Every single day brings fresh defeat of Satan.
Every one of the devil's plans is frustrated daily. The Lord said to Satan, "On your belly you shall go, and dust you shall eat all the days of your life!" (Gen. 3:14) This is a picture of dismal defeat. That great enemy of God and man is seen licking the dust all the days of his life. Even in the restoration of all things, behold the lot of Satan! "The wolf and the lamb shall graze together; the lion shall eat straw like the ox, and dust shall be the serpent's food. They shall not hurt or destroy in all my holy mountain" (Isaiah 65:25). You see that? The wolf and lamb grazing together, not at war with each other. The lion, with his big pointy teeth, is eating straw like an ox. But the serpent? What of him? "Dust shall be the serpent's food." When all things are made new, the devil will still be eating the dirt of defeat. He will never feel victory. The win column will always be set to zero.
God has defeated Satan through the Lord Jesus Christ, and Christ daily defeats Satan through His glorious bride the church. Even still, a day will come where every saint of God will gather before the throne of God and confess the victory over the world of Satan's schemes through Jesus Christ. This is why Paul has written, "The God of peace will soon crush Satan under your feet" (Romans 16:20).
To sum up, the Bible teaches that Satan has been bruised, is being bruised, and will be bruised. He is an utterly pitiful person, full of rage and spite, eager to devour and consume, yet never achieving victory over his enemies. It is a most humiliating thrashing that old Beelzebub is getting. How I love it that he daily licks the dust. Eat your dirt, Satan, the Lord hath decreed it.
Now the salvation and the power and the kingdom of our God and the authority of his Christ have come, for the accuser of our brothers has been thrown down, who accuses them day and night before our God. And they have conquered him by the blood of the Lamb and by the word of their testimony, for a they loved not their lives even unto death. ~Rev. 12:10-11
Okay, there is this little "meme" type thing going on over at 5 Minutes for Books. The point of it is for us to list the books we are reading so others might see them, get interested, and buy them. Or, and I think this is more fun, you kind of find out what sort of people you're dealing with when you see their list.
Anyway, here are some books I am currently reading for this month.
1. The Meaning of the Pentateuch by John H. Sailhamer. This is a deep read, but probably the most worthwhile book you will ever pick up to help you read the Old Testament. I'm serious.
2. The Trellis and the Vine by Colin Marshall and Tony Payne. Fantastic book for pastors/elders regarding the work of the ministry. The elders at our church are going through this together to help us focus on personal discipleship.
3. Calvin by Bruce Gordon. Biographies can help keep you fresh by both warning us of mistakes others have made and, most often in my case, shaming me for laziness. I look forward to gleaning some goodness out of this biography, it's supposed to be one of the best on Calvin's life.
Okay, starting tomorrow, I am going to blog something everyday for the next two weeks. I feel guilty not blogging, which may be some form of psychosis that I am not aware of. However, I feel like it might be some small encouragment to folks I know, and if it isn't, no harm done.
So hopefully I will have a thought worth sharing for our mutual edification tomorrow. If not, I will steal someone else's deep thought.
I am a pastor serving in my hometown of Albertville, Alabama. The greatest evidence of God's grace in my life are my wife, son, and daughter. One look at me and then my wife will tell you that her "yes" was a modern day miracle. Otherwise, I am almost completely mundane.