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By David Mathis — 1 year ago
We have surrounded ourselves with screens. On the desk. In the family room. Even in bedrooms and kitchens. Increasingly in automobiles. One for every passenger on the airplane? And most importantly, hitchhiking on our person everywhere we go, the Precious in our own pocketses and handses.
Once upon a time, screens came attached to heavy, unwieldy boxes. Not anymore. Now they’re as thin as picture frames, and thinner. Some of us can count more screens in our homes than wall décor.
We are living in stunningly image-driven and visually-oriented times. We do well, then, to query ourselves regularly, and thoughtfully, about what images we’re allowing to pass before our eyes, and how they are shaping us. Moving pictures are powerful. They can arrest and extract attention we don’t mean to pay them (say, at a restaurant). And our habits related to screens don’t leave us unchanged.
Yet, in such days, it could be easy to be captivated by the screens and overlook the deeply formative and re-formative power of the great invisible medium that accompanies them: words. Words, especially spoken words, are the great unseen power that give meaning to our world of images and shape how we choose to live.
Words for Good, and Ill
Perhaps even more than our other four celebrated senses, our ability to hear makes us deeply human.
“Words are the great unseen power that give meaning to our world of images and shape how we choose to live.”
After touch (at three weeks), hearing is the next sense to develop in the womb, at about twenty weeks, and it is widely considered to be the last sense to go while dying. Which makes sense for us as creatures of the Creator who is (amazingly!) a speaking, self-revealing God. First and foremost, he made us to hear him, to receive and respond to his words. He created the world, through words, saying, “Let there be light.” He speaks new creation into our souls by effecting new birth through his word, the gospel (James 1:18; 2 Corinthians 4:6). And he grows and sustains our souls in the Christian life through his words (1 Corinthians 15:1–2; 1 Thessalonians 2:13).
When the serpent slid into the garden, he didn’t show Eve an Instagram video, or perform a TikTok dance. He spoke. He slid his poison into her heart through her ears. After all, God had spoken to create the world. He had given Adam instructions through words about how to live in the world. So too, when Satan attacked, he came with something more perilous than a sword or boulder. He came with words, leaning on the stunning power of the audible and invisible, seeking to unseat God’s words. “Did God actually say . . . ?” (Genesis 3:1).
Who’s in Your Head?
In our day of striking media saturation and consumption, we will do well to remember the profound shaping, world-changing power of words.
Whether they are the words accompanying television and YouTube, or the written words of articles and tweets, or the purely audible media of podcasts and audiobooks, words form and fill our inner person, penetrate deeply, and quickly shape our desires, decisions, and outer lives — the whole of who we are. It’s not a matter of whether words are shaping us but whose.
Whose voice — whether through audio or written words or video, or old-fashioned face-to-face talk — whose voice is most regularly streaming into your ears, and going down into your soul? Whose voice captures your finite attention, and focuses you, or distracts you? Which voices do you long to hear most? Whose words are you welcoming most to enter into your soul, to sow seeds of life — or death? Whom do you welcome into that intimate space that is your ear?
Do the words you hear and cherish most “follow the course of this world” (Ephesians 2:2)? Are you becoming “conformed to this world” (Romans 12:2) rather than “transformed by the renewal of your mind”? How “highly online” and “Internet-formed” are you? Some have entertained angels unawares (Hebrews 13:2), but are we showing hospitality to demons?
Two lines from a recent Gospel Coalition email stopped me in my tracks:
Internet-formed Christians are increasingly being catechized by partisan politics and secular pop culture. The result? Divided and fragmenting churches, declining church membership, and weary leaders.
It stopped me in my tracks as a spot-on diagnosis. Christian parents, pastors, and disciple-makers were once the most formative catechizers. What happens when the words, and perspectives, of television and the Internet shape Christians more than their churches? We’re already seeing it.
Whose Words Are Changing You?
For many, the fight for faith in this generation — to not only survive but thrive as a Christian — is about not just what we see, but perhaps just as pressing (if not more so), what we hear and to whom we listen.
God made us for the gospel, which is first and foremost a message to hear. “Faith comes from hearing,” says the apostle Paul, “and hearing through the word of Christ” (Romans 10:17). And how did you receive the Spirit? “Hearing with faith” (Galatians 3:2). “He who supplies the Spirit to you and works miracles among you” does so not “by works of the law,” he writes, but “by hearing with faith” (Galatians 3:5). The voices we habitually allow and welcome into our heads have profound shaping power. “In the sensorium of faith,” writes Tony Reinke in his book on today’s countless visual Spectacles, “the ear is chief” (148).
“Whom you hear with delight today will be who you become like tomorrow.”
A new year is as good a time as any to take inventory of the audible voices and written words we encounter daily, especially those we habitually choose. Whose words do you welcome? Whose words do you not only hear, but listen to with rapt attention? Whose words fill your social feeds and podcast queues? What do you listen to on the way to work, or while you walk, exercise, or clean? To whom do you turn for advice? What podcasts, what shows and series, what musicians, what audiobooks? Are your choices governed by the pursuit of entertainment, or the pursuit of God? Instant gratification, or progressive sanctification? Shallow, mindless consumption, or careful, thoughtful growth?
Whom you hear with delight today will be who you become more like tomorrow. As Jesus himself says seven times in the Gospels, and then seven times more in Revelation, “He who has an ear, let him hear.”
New Year’s Defiance
As we continue to sort out the effects of new media and algorithms, and how the Internet shapes Christians and our churches in particular, we do have one clear, simple, ancient, decisive act of defiance.
To those of us willing to hear and heed the cautions, the solution, of course, is not to plug the ears that God has so wonderfully dug, but to open them and eagerly receive words and voices that are true, good, life-giving, balanced, and Christ-magnifying. Even more important than what we keep out of our heads, and hearts, is what we fill them with — and none are more worthy than the words of God himself.
God made us to meditate, not flit endlessly from one message to the next. It is a remarkable design feature of humans, that we can pause and ponder, ruminate and think, that we can stew over truth (and not just lies), and over the good God has done (and not just the evil of others). Perhaps, if you’re honest, you find your mind fragmented. Texts and notifications, tweets and memes, audio and video ads and clips seem to have eroded your capacity for serious, meaningful attention, and you’re not sure where to turn next, but just hit refresh. Make the word of God be where you turn.
Make his voice, in Scripture, the first you hear each day. And his voice, above all, the one that you welcome most, and try to take most deeply into your soul through his words. Let his words be your unhurried meditation, in the morning, and the place you return to regain balance in spare moments. Pray for, and aim to have, his word be “on your heart,” and central in your parenting, and present in conversation, with you “when you walk by the way, and when you lie down, and when you rise” (Deuteronomy 6:6–7).
Let meditation on God’s word be one great new-year’s act of defiance in our media-driven age. Half an hour of such unhurried, even leisurely, lingering over and enjoying God’s words just might fortify your soul for the unavoidable drivel of distant dramas, hot takes, and idle words we seem to encounter at every turn in this world. “Whoever gives thought to the word will discover good, and blessed is he who trusts in the Lord” (Proverbs 16:20).
You will find, over time, that God can indeed restore what the locusts have eaten. He can rebuild your mind, and your capacity for focus and sustained attention, and he can restore your heart, and give you wisdom and stability.
How different might the next year be because of what you resolved to do with your ears?
By John Piper — 5 months ago
http://rss.desiringgod.org/link/10732/15602947/we-live-if-you-stand-in-faithPost Views: 72
By Jon Bloom — 1 year ago
“Who is this Son of Man?” From the moment he first appeared in the world, on a desperate night in a crowded town, Jesus has provoked this question.
The shepherds must have asked it in awe when gazing upon this swaddled newborn “lying in a manger,” whom the holy herald angel said was “Christ the Lord” (Luke 2:8–20).
The magi must have asked it in wonder when the star led them to the Child who was “born king of the Jews,” living in the humble dwelling of a peasant family (Matthew 2:1–12).
The disciples asked it in fear when they witnessed a storm obey Jesus’s command (Luke 8:22–25).
The Jewish leaders asked it in outrage when Jesus claimed authority belonging only to God (John 8:53).
The crowd asked it in confusion when Jesus and his teaching did not match their messianic expectations (John 12:34).
“Who is this Son of Man?” It has become the great question of history regarding the One whose birth became the dividing point of all history.
But this question hasn’t gone unanswered. And of all the Bible’s answers to that question, one of the most glorious and mind-bending comes in the book of Revelation. Here the Father and the Son answer together, in Revelation’s first chapter and last:
First, the Father’s answer: “‘I am the Alpha and the Omega,’ says the Lord God, ‘who is and who was and who is to come, the Almighty’” (Revelation 1:8).
Then the Son’s answer: “Behold, I am coming soon. . . . I am the Alpha and the Omega, the first and the last, the beginning and the end” (Revelation 22:12–13).
Taken together, the Lord God and the Lord Christ provide an awesome single, twofold answer:
Like eternal Father, like eternal Son;Spanning endless ages, two divinely one.Alpha and Omega, both the first and last;Eternally existing, present, future, past.
He Who Is
Like God the Father, God the Son is also one “who is and who was and who is to come.” This is to us a strange chronology — first present, then past, then future. We might wish to correct the divine self-description to say he “who was and who is and who is to come.” But this would be a mistake.
“The greatest, most fundamental reality in existence is that God is.”
The greatest, most fundamental reality in existence is that God is. In fact, the most sacred name God revealed to his first-covenant people, his most holy self-disclosure, is the one he spoke to Moses: “I am who I am” (Exodus 3:14; also 33:19; 34:6). That’s why in the divine chronology, the fact that God is comes first.
Time is a mystery to us, so it is no surprise that how God interacts with time is a mystery to us. But we can safely assume that when God speaks of time in ways we at least partly comprehend, he is graciously condescending. So, when he tells us that he “was” and he “is to come,” it is to help us time-bound creatures understand that “from everlasting to everlasting” he is God (Psalm 90:2). And it is to help us understand that Jesus, like his Father, “is the same yesterday and today and forever” (Hebrews 13:8). He always is.
And yet, mystery of mysteries, the eternal Word of the Father entered the world in space and time, the world he himself had made (John 1:10) “The Word became flesh and dwelt among us, and we have seen his glory, glory as of the only Son from the Father, full of grace and truth” (John 1:14). In appearing among us, God the Son revealed marvelously who he is:
“I am the light of the world” (John 8:12).
“I am from above” (John 8:23).
“I am gentle and lowly in heart” (Matthew 11:29).
“I am in the Father” (John 10:38).
“I am the resurrection and the life” (John 11:25).
“I am the way, and the truth, and the life” (John 14:6).
An even more wonderful and simultaneously damning self-revelation occurred during Jesus’s trial. When asked, “Are you the Christ, the Son of the Blessed?” Jesus’s glorious, lethal answer was, simply, “I am” (Mark 14:61–62).
Who is this Son of Man? Like eternal Father, like eternal Son. He is the “I am.” He is the Son of the Blessed Father. He is the Lord Christ, who, like the Lord God, always is.
He Who Was
That the Son always is implies the Son always was. For some, this is the most difficult concept of God’s existence to comprehend.
“God is not wholly understandable to us because he is holy.”
The difficulty is wholly understandable. We are created beings trying to comprehend an uncreated Being, not to mention a triune uncreated Being. God is not wholly understandable to us because he is holy — nothing else in existence shares his uncreated existence.
But Jesus takes our struggle to a whole new level, when in the incarnation, the Creator becomes creature:
In the beginning was the Word, and the Word was with God, and the Word was God. He was in the beginning with God. All things were made through him, and without him was not any thing made that was made. . . . And the Word became flesh. (John 1:1–3, 14)
Mercifully, much like the way God revealed himself in the Old Testament, Jesus revealed this aspect of his glory progressively.
One of the first to see Jesus’s preexistent glory was John the Baptist, Jesus’s older cousin who nevertheless said, “He who comes after me ranks before me, because he was before me” (John 1:15).
But as the time drew near for Jesus to fulfill the redemptive purpose for which he came, he revealed more of his preexistent, always-existent nature, as he did in this famous discussion with the Jewish leaders:
“Your father Abraham rejoiced that he would see my day. He saw it and was glad.” So the Jews said to him, “You are not yet fifty years old, and have you seen Abraham?” Jesus said to them, “Truly, truly, I say to you, before Abraham was, I am.” (John 8:56–58)
So unique, so holy is God the Son, that his nature breaks the conventions of human grammar. He uses a present-tense verb in a past-tense context to communicate his Christological point. Later, the apostle Paul would do the same thing when he declared that Jesus “is before all things” (Colossians 1:17).
Who is this Son of Man? Like eternal Father, like eternal Son. He is the Alpha. He is the beginning. He is the one who always was.
He Who Is to Come
That Jesus always is also implies that Jesus always will be — he is the one who is to come. This he revealed with unmistakable and glorious clarity.
In describing the end of this age to his disciples, he said,
Then will appear in heaven the sign of the Son of Man, and then all the tribes of the earth will mourn, and they will see the Son of Man coming on the clouds of heaven with power and great glory. And he will send out his angels with a loud trumpet call, and they will gather his elect from the four winds, from one end of heaven to the other. (Matthew 24:30–31)
He declared this same coming to the Jewish leaders during his trial, after proclaiming himself the “I am”: “You will see the Son of Man seated at the right hand of Power, and coming with the clouds of heaven” (Mark 14:62).
These Jewish listeners knew exactly what Jesus meant. He was identifying himself as the “son of man” prophesied by the prophet Daniel, whom “all peoples, nations, and languages [would] serve,” and who would receive from Almighty God “an everlasting dominion, which shall not pass away, and [a] kingdom . . . that shall not be destroyed” (Daniel 7:13–14).
But Jesus wasn’t merely issuing a warning. He was expressing his great longing, the purpose of his incarnation, the culmination of history, and the reward of his suffering.
The kingdom! The time when, at last, God himself will dwell with man; the time when our waiting will be over, and God will “wipe away every tear from [our] eyes, and death shall be no more, neither shall there be mourning, nor crying, nor pain anymore”; the time when “the former things [will] have passed away”; the time when God will make “all things new” (Revelation 21:3–5).
The kingdom! The “blessed hope” of all who have loved “the appearing of the glory of our great God and Savior Jesus Christ” (Titus 2:13; 2 Timothy 4:8). And of the fulfillment of this blessed hope, our great God and Savior, the prophesied Son of Man, has promised, “Behold, I am coming soon” (Revelation 22:12).
Who is this Son of Man?
Like eternal Father, like eternal Son;Spanning endless ages, two divinely one.
Alpha and Omega, both the source and sum;
He who is, he who was, and he who is to come.
And so shall the great question of history receive its climactic answer when the Lord God sends the Lord Christ to bring to a close history as we’ve known it and inaugurates his everlasting kingdom. All we who wait for this blessed hope say, “Amen. Even so come, Lord Jesus.”