Monday, April 27, 2009

All My Good Works Are Crap!

More than that, I now regard all things as liabilities compared to the far greater value of knowing Christ Jesus my Lord, for whom I have suffered the loss of all things – indeed, I regard them as dung! – that I may gain Christ, and be found in him, not because I have my own righteousness derived from the law, but because I have the righteousness that comes by way of Christ’s faithfulness – a righteousness from God that is in fact based on Christ’s faithfulness. (Philippians 3:8-9, NET)

Last year, Al Mohler had a radio program entitled Bad Language in the Pulpit? In it, he discussed linguistics, and whether there are bad sounds (letters) vs. bad words. Lots of helpful discussion here. He affirmed something many Christians might have a problem with: that it is OK to use strong language where the Bible uses strong language. The example he cited was when Paul says that all of his good works are "dung," it is acceptable for us to do the same.

Dr. Mohler's exact wording is: "I will say that if the Apostle Paul is our model here, then we can talk about our efforts at self-righteousness in some of the strongest, most scatalogical terms." He goes on to say that the Apostle Paul doesn't use that kind of language "casually, carelessly, or strategically just to shock, or about, for instance, other human beings."

The Greek word referenced, σκύβαλον, is defined by BDAG, the standard reference work for Koine Greek, as "useless or undesirable material that is subject to disposal, refuse, garbage (in var. senses,'excrement, manure, garbage, kitchen scraps')" (emphasis in the original). Toward the bottom of the entry is a note that says "to convey the crudity of the Greek...: 'It's all crap'," presumably referring to the Scripture passage I referenced above.

The NET Bible, which I quoted, translates the word "dung," and the footnote reads: The word here translated "dung" was often used in Greek as a vulgar term for fecal matter. As such it would most likely have had a certain shock value for the readers. This may well be Paul’s meaning here, especially since the context is about what the flesh produces. (An extended argument from Dan Wallace about why "dung" or its like is a better translation of σκύβαλον that "rubbish" or "garbage" is available here.)

I agree with both Mohler and Wallace, though not out of any desire to exercise a perverse potty-mouth; quite the opposite. I agree with them because when I look at my own life that's what I see.

The good works that I bring to Christ aren't just garbage. They aren't only a "loss," or a writeoff. To God, they are offensive. They are like that smell I remember when it was my turn to pick up dog stuff in the back yard on a 100+ degree summer day in Phoenix - a wretched stench so overpowering that it induces the gag reflex almost immediately. That's what my good works were before I became a follower of Jesus.

The bad part about all this is that, years down the road, many of my works still seem like this. I lead family worship because it's the right thing to do, and not because of my overwhelming love for God and desire to see my family become fully devoted followers of Him; I find my Bible where I left it the previous Sunday because I haven't looked at it the entire week; all too often I find myself arrogant when I'm in the right, and defensive when I'm in the wrong. It feels like so much of what I do even as a believer is still just dirty rags and smelly garbage.

God doesn't describe our works after Christ in that way. Instead He gives us a picture of gold, silver, precious stones, wood, hay, or stubble. Some of it endures, and some of it burns up. But manure burns, too...and it stinks.

So I find myself looking once again at "the great exchange" - where Christ is made sin for me, and his true, pure righteousness is credited to me, and I'm humbled once again to rely on him to do anything that is worthy of his name.

Which I guess is OK, since Paul himself doesn't stop at simply acknowledging that all his works were dung. Instead, he goes on and affirms that this was "in order that I may gain Christ and be found in him, not having a righteousness of my own, based on law, but that which is through faith in Christ, the righteousness from God that depends on faith."

Praise God for that.

Scripture quoted by permission. Scripture quotation was taken from the NET Bible®, and footnote was taken from the NET Bible® footnotes, both copyright ©1996-2006 by Biblical Studies Press, L.L.C. All rights reserved. The NET Bible® is freely available at .

Wednesday, April 15, 2009

"Windows - R" - The Magic Windows shortcut I don't know how I lived without

Don't know how I managed to miss this before. You can drop shortcuts into your C:/Windows file, and then run them from the "run" box, using the Windows - R combination. You're only limited by your imagination.

I had been using QTray for this sort of thing, but it is limited on the number of shortcuts, and some shortcuts are mnemonically similar. The bigger problem is that it starts the programs in the QTray folder group in the Programs file, which renders some programs, including some text editors, virtually worthless. I also recently discovered that it is no longer available as a free download (unless you do a ton of searching on Internet Archive). It has re-emerged with other freeware programs from the same author as a set of shareware power tools. I'll probably keep the free version, but slowly transition my shortcuts to Win-R.

Less mouse = oh, happy day!

Friday, April 10, 2009

Behold, The Lamb That Was Slain

The next day John saw Jesus coming toward him, and said, "Here is the Lamb of God, who takes away the sin of the world! (John 1:29)

But in the sacrifices there is a reminder of sins every year. For it is impossible for the blood of bulls and goats to take away sins. ...Now every priest stands day after day ministering and offering time after time the same sacrifices, which can never take away sins. But this man, after offering one sacrifice for sins forever, sat down at the right hand of God. He is now waiting until His enemies are made His footstool. For by one offering He has perfected forever those who are sanctified. (Heb. 10:3-4, 11-14)

Today is Good Friday. Last year at this time, Todd Bolen from the blog wrote a post about a video of any animal sacrifice in Jerusalem. He also posted a link to it. It is graphic - the real deal. But the reasoning behind posting it was good.

We read about sacrifice in the Bible but we don't really understand what that means. We read passages that talk about the "life being in the blood," but those are just words that we don't really consider. We "know" that the wages of sin are high, but we don't get the life lesson that the ancient Israelites received every year.

The point of sacrifice was simply this: you deserve to die because of your sin. This animal is dying in your place. Watching the priest slice his throat and watching the blood drain out drove the point home much better than reading a chapter of Leviticus.

Today New Testament believers know that the blood of bulls and goats is not enough to take away sin. But I think that we can often just take for granted Jesus' death in our place. We don't think about his innocent blood draining away because we can't conceptualize it. We don't always appropriate the idea of substitute because we've never seen a living object die in our place. But our loss can be this: sin is easy because forgiveness (we think) is cheap.

Christ's blood, not the blood of bulls and goats, took away our sin. Perhaps this little reminder will help all of us, myself included, count the cost...of discipleship, and of sin.

Todd's final warning is a good one: Don't watch this video while eating, and if you're thinking about showing your children, watch it yourself first.

Update: I wasn't the only one who thought of linking to the video today. Justin Taylor linked to it, and Dan Phillips from Pyromaniacs links to Justin and makes some observations of his own.

Scripture quotations are taken from the Holman Christian Standard Bible® Copyright © 1999, 2000, 2002, 2003 by Holman Bible Publishers. Used by permission.

Wednesday, April 01, 2009

In Honor of April Fool's Day

For spiritual fools

For those who say in their heart that there is no God, and those who reach out to them, here's a link to a series Fred Butler did last year entitled 20 Ways to Answer a Fool. It's a series answering 20 of the most common questions from atheists, and definitely worth a read.

For the rest of us fools

April Fool's Day has always had a special place in our heart because each year my grandfather, when he was alive, would call us and try to put one over on us. The word is that this started with my aunt and something about a pony. I'll have to verify the details and put them down one day.

I'm committing to the public record that my mother is taking up Grandpa's mantle of April Foolery, and got us rather well this morning.