Monthly Archives: January 2013

Riches of Full Assurance

Are you sure you are a Christian? Are your sure the Jesus you worship is the real Jesus? Where does your assurance come from? The Apostle John writes in his first epistle, “I write these things to you who believe in the name of the Son of God that you may know that you have eternal life.” Evidently from Scripture God wants us to know if we are indeed numbered among his people, dare I say elect(?).

Assurance provides us with confidence that we are going to heaven one day, but that is only one (but very important) dimension. The “practical” benefit of assurance in the here-and-now is that it helps us in our sanctification, that life-long growing in holiness in Christ. There are a number of means to growth in Christ, e.g. Scripture reading, praying, corporate worship and fellowship. What Paul lays out for us in Colossians 2 is a crucial part of the ordinary means of grace.

In Colossians 2:1-3, Paul expounds upon the idea of unity as members of the body of Christ (Col 1:18). He writes:

For I want you to know how great a struggle I have for you and for those at Laodicea and for all who have not seen me face to face, that their hearts may be encouraged, being knit together in love, to reach all the riches of full assurance of understanding and the knowledge of God’s mystery, which is Christ, in whom are hidden all the treasures of wisdom and knowledge.(Colossians 2:1-3 ESV)

Experiencing and participating in this unity is an essential way to have “full assurance” (v.2). Paul’s concern for unity for the Colossians and all the church is by no means trivial. It is a central concern for him. He says, “I want you to know how great a struggle I have for you…” (v.1). But why? What is all the fuss? Why the need for unity and peace? Is it to save face in a world that is waiting for us to look like hypocrites? I agree that that is a concern. Our witness to the world ought to reflect an inward reality that has taken place in God’s plan of redemption, but, although probably assumed, that is not the emphasis Paul is making here in this passage. Paul’s concern for the believers in Colossae is that their “hearts may be encouraged, being knit together in love” (v.2). Again, why? To what end? The answer flows in the rest of the verse.

But before I go any further, let’s break down what Paul has said so far. First, his desire is that their hearts were encouraged. Since the fall, we have been filled with fears. We just use more sophisticated fig-leaves to hide them. We need courage.The world is against us; we are often against us; and too often we think God is against us. Our hearts waiver with anxiety. We need them stabilized with encouragement.

The second concern Paul has is their unity. It is very important to remember that when we read Paul’s letter to the churches, he is writing to a body of people, the church, one body, but many members. It is tempting in our age of individualism to read the Bible for our personal edification to the exclusion of the rest of the church. With that word of caution, let us keep moving. Paul desired that their hearts would be encouraged, “being knit together in love.” Our hearts cannot be encouraged if they are not knit together in love. We should not expect to be encouraged if we are not willing to be knit together with the church. This is not easy; this in itself takes courage. This goes for all of us, but especially for the individual who thinks he does not need the church, but I would venture to guess this applies to particular communions who have cut themselves off from the catholic (universal) church.

Back to the question, to what end does Paul want us to be encouraged, knit together in love? Answer: That we may “reach all the riches of full assurance of understanding and the knowledge of God’s mystery, which is Christ.” That is big goal to reach for. We need to understand the mystery God as revealed if we are to know anything about what he has done for us in Christ. “Knowledge is Power” they say, but the knowledge Paul speaks of the not an encyclopedic database of brute facts and theories. This knowledge reveals the unpredictable Person and work of Christ. This is the mystery revealed: Christ, the Son of God, came in the flesh, not only to live and die for the sins of His people, the Jews, but more than that, the Gentiles will be incorporated into His people as well as one body, and He will dwell in them by His Spirit (1:15-23). Wow!

But this knowledge is not just to be read about. In God’s economy of redemption, we are supposed to read about it in his Word, but to fully understand that which is written by the Spirit, we must also be doers of the Word in order to “reach the riches of full assurance.” This is not a matter of personal experience taking precedence over the written Word; this is the written Word instructing us how to have an understanding of the Word. A quick analogy of what I mean: I don’t play piano, but I know how. I have read and seen in a piano instruction book that there is something called a staff, two actually, each assigned with a treble and a bass clef. Each has five lines with something called a key signature positioned on the left of the staff. The key signature is made up of symbols representing flat and sharp notes. Those notes are the little black dots (some are hollow) on, under, above, and between the lines of the staff. Each note corresponds with a white or black key on the piano. At the appointed time, I push one of the keys on the piano that matches the little black dots on the page. There! I know how to play piano. Is anyone convinced yet? My point is that there is something we cannot fully know unless be actually do it. Has anyone ever seen the Brady Bunch episode where Mrs. Brady and Alice attempt to teach baseball to one of the children by reading the rule book? Even they had the wits about them to try to put those rules into practice before they taught them.

God’s Word gives us plenty of written assurance that we are in Christ, but we are called to “make our calling and election sure” (2 Peter 1:10) in our practice. It is by surrendering ourselves to the Holy Spirit’s work in our hearts we experience the realities of what he has written in his Word. If we refuse to be knit together in love with the rest of the body, for whom Christ died, then we should not expect any assurance we are in the body. Union with Christ the Head necessarily involves union with His body.

We need to know that we are in Christ, lest we waiver and stunt our growth in Him. To have that assurance, we need to have assurance of what we know about Christ is indeed what we should know about Christ. When Paul’s letter to the Colossians was written, false teachers were abounding. Today is no different. As Christians, we need to know the real Christ from the counterfeits. That’s what Paul was dealing with in this letter as is revealed in the following verses.

If you are in Christ, remember that you “were once alienated and hostile in mind, doing evil deeds, he has now reconciled in his body of flesh by his death, in order to present you holy and blameless and above reproach before him…” (1:21-23). The Christ that made that happen is the biblical Christ. Be assured of it.

*All Scripture quotations are from the English Standard Version (ESV).

Not out of the Woods Yet… Part 3

Walking Contradiction
Without an intellectual or moral leg to stand on, I began to question my stance as an environmentalist. Lest you think that it was a systematic examination of my inconsistent life views, I can guarantee that that was certainly not the case. My mind was in no condition for that kind of thinking. But somehow I realized that I was a walking contradiction. I actually did love the people I knew whether family, neighbors, and co-workers. I had no desire for them to be eradicated from this beautiful planet. The people I hated were faceless strangers from a distance — people I didn’t know, the other people who are not environmentalists. I realized that everyone else was basically like me with their own dreams and fears. Perhaps they had their own inner struggles looking for a reason to get out of bed every morning. Maybe they saw the hopelessness of this world, too. This does not mean that I was overtaken with selflessness and charity for my fellow man, I was just finding it hard to point the finger at everyone else. I finally was overtaken with guilt. I, just like everyone else, was part of the problem. I was a co-causer of everything bad in this world.

The Ugly Truth
I came to terms with the ugly truth that there was no hope for this world or anyone in it. The natural world is quickly diminishing and injustice will ultimately go unanswered. People, like me, are born into pain and misery, but to what end? Is this all there was? All this beauty in the universe, all to be forgotten when the human race goes extinct, erased by time. All those billions of people to be forever forgotten, swallowed by insignificance. This would have been a fine time for me to read C.S. Lewis’s Mere Christianity, but that was not in the Lord’s providence for me at that time.

Out of the Woods
Through the means of a humble Christian man willing to share the gospel with me, I finally did come to faith in the Lord Jesus Christ. And by coming to faith, my guilt was removed. No longer did I have to justify my existence on this planet; God put me here. This is his world, and I am his son. Now I can rejoice and give him thanks for the beautiful sunsets and autumn moons. No longer do I want people to get off the planet. To the contrary, I want them to see the New Heavens and the New Earth, and more than that, I want them to know the God who made it all.

Now that I know the Creator, Artist, and Redeemer, I can truly appreciate his works that he has marvelously displayed in nature and on the cross. No longer am I lost in the vast wilderness of darkness dazzled by the empty charms of naturalism, losing the forest for the trees. My myopic view of the universe has been cured. I once was lost and blind, but now I see the good, the true, and the beautiful. By the grace of God, I am finally out of the woods and dwell safely in his sanctuary.

Not out of the Woods Yet… Part 2

New Perspectives
Atheist or not, I must admit that Mrs. Mulford was my favorite teacher. I will never forget the day she gave me a pile of old Smithsonian magazines. I cherished them for years. I plowed through them again and again hoping to see something I may have missed in my initial scourings. I saw things I never saw before and read about things I didn’t even care about, but as long as it was in there, I felt compelled to read about it. As by design of the creators of that publication, it served as my window to the world. But not all windows have the best view. Naturalism has its dark side.

Saving the World
By the time I was nineteen years old, I was ripe for the activist phase of life. I had a cause and a passion. What little money I had from my unemployment checks went to saving the world. I bought a small parcel of land and I adopted a manatee. To save the ozone layer, I bought a bike instead of a car. To save the elephants, I handed out leaflets to people who could care less, but hey, I was doing something, right? One mailing list led to another, and WWF and Greenpeace finally found me. Alas, the true priests of the temple who were trying to save the sanctuary solicited my help. I wrote my check, spread the word, and hoped for change. It was now or never to save the world, or so I thought.

But my crusade was short lived. I looked around at a dying world, and I realized that nobody was in control down here. Everyday tens of thousands of acres of rain forests were being destroyed and government beaurocrats and the average Joe on the street didn’t seem to care that the the Earth’s oxygen maker in Brazil was disappearing. I began to see the futility of it all. Angst filled my soul as I began to realize that my vision of green utopia was not going to be realized. There were simply too many people, or at least that is what I kept reading in the endless tide of literature that rolled in. How can you change billions of people’s minds in time before the whole world is paved with asphalt and concrete jungles?

The Real Inconvenient Truth
Population control organizations began to contact me through mailings. Strategies were laid out in fine detail on how to work with local governments all the way up to the UN lobbying for strict ordinances and laws that essentially would keep people from owning land and worse yet, procreating. My favorite bumper sticker of the day was “You! Out of the gene pool!” But now, people were actually organizing and doing what I only fantasized about–diminishing the population.

I soon began to recognize the hypocracy of it all. Each mailing from these “save the world” organizations was made of paper–you know, that stuff made of dead trees. The bike I was riding was made in a bike factory. The steel in the bike frame was most likely forged on a steel foundry. The shoes I wore were made of both man-mad synthetic products and leather (skin from a defenseless bovine living in squalor conditions). As I thought it through, I realized that I was one of those Homo sapiens ignoramuses that I hated so much. I was guilty of existence. My hatred for people began to feel unnatural. But how could this be? Didn’t we all evolve? Are we doing what comes natural?

There were a number of events in my life that challenged my convictions. One unforgettable moment was when I was having lunch with some ladies with whom I worked (by this point the unemployment benefits ran out. I had to get a job). They were all older ladies, married, perhaps some were grandmothers. As we sat at our lunch table, someone mentioned a recent plane crash that killed everyone on board. Taking the opportunity to express my ignorance, I quipped, “Good, there are too many people anyway.” (I was speaking from the pagan notion of Gaia, where the Earth was simply fighting back after all her years of abuse.) But there was one woman who wouldn’t let me get away with such stupidity. She arrested me with her eyes and pleaded, “Oh no, dear, you mustn’t say such things. You are so young. Please, don’t think that way. That is not a good way to be.” Her response was riveting, driven more by pity than anger. Although firm and unrelenting, the lashing my soul received that day was delivered with gentleness and love without condemnation. Within moments, the other ladies chimed in giving their full support to her plea. I was out numbered. I went down swinging, but they were right, and I knew it. There I sat, alone in my shame.

To be continued…

Not out of the Woods Yet… Part 1

I love the woods. I spent much of my childhood exploring them, catching snakes, salamanders, toads, frogs, turtles, and poison ivy. The woods were my sanctuary as a child–an escape from the troubles of home and neighborhood politics. Exploring strange new worlds under rotting logs or in small streams was an endless source of wonder for me. Even the watching of a carcass of a dead skunk or raccoon decay provided a certain level of excitement.

During my teenage years, I was a Discovery Channel junkie. At any given time of the day, I could be found watching some nature documentary by naturalists such as David Attenborough or the original man from Down Under, Harry Butler. But like with any other addiction, there are always side effects. Endless hours of exposure to environmentalism and naturalism created in me a disdain for the human race–a deep angst that only intensified as the years rolled in. The effects were quite predictable, and looking back on it now, I would say calculated.

With every program you were given a steady dose of the beauty of nature’s wonders and the ingenuity of evolution’s marvels. But then came the rest of the story. Along with the awe-inspiring beauty of nature came the hard ugly truth. You were rudely awakened to the reality of the countless animal species that have become endangered, driven to the point of extinction due to poaching, habitat loss, or some other man-made intrusion. Whole forests were relentlessly being slashed and burned to make room for human development. Water supplies were contaminated by human waste of all kinds from raw sewerage, strip-mining run-off, to industrial pollution.

All of this senseless destruction because of one common cause: humans! I hated them. Where did they come from? What is their purpose? So vile, so alien! Whoever did not share my concern for the planet was loathed like a roach. They came in all shapes and sizes. Some were in the shape of the big greedy developers who destroyed precious habitats and ecosystems for mere monetary gain. Some were perverts in the East searching for the ultimate aphrodisiac found in the horn of the rhino. Some were elephant poachers looking for a quick cash from the ivory market. Some were tribesmen cattle-herders encroaching on lion country. In my own little corner of the shrinking world, it was a congregation of Christians who cut down my sanctuary in the woods to build theirs. It was the new Burger King that destroyed two acres of blackberry bushes on the adjacent property leaving me without sustenance during my summertime excursions. From my perspective, whoever or whatever threatened the animals and their environment was an enemy in my universe. There were obviously too many Homo sapiens ignoramuses trampling around this little blue gem called Earth.

Succumbing to the influence of the naturalistic worldview, I denounced my religious affiliation. So when I was fifteen years old, I broke the news to my mother that I was no longer a Catholic. Not understanding the reason for my apostasy, she pleaded with me to simply have faith. I had no idea what that meant (quite literally, I did not even know the most basic definition of the word even in a non-religious sense). She told that I could not be an atheist, of which I assured her that I was not. I believed that God existed; I simply did not believe the Bible and that Jesus was his Son. Ancient religions with all their trappings no longer appealed to me with my newly enlightened mind, albeit devoid of a working definition of the word ‘faith.’

But the real challenge to my faith (or lack of) came from my art teacher that very same year. She asked the class to name our favorite artist and favorite piece of art. As others were celebrating Van Gogh and his Starry Night or Michelangelo’s Sistine Chapel, I was cooking up an answer to top them all. With all sincerity, variegated with a wee bit of self-righteousness and manufactured piety, I publicly declared that “God was the greatest artist and the Earth was his greatest masterpiece.” There, I said it. My first confession of faith: There was One Great God and Artist and I was his prophet.

From the first day of class, our working definition of art was “making something from nothing.” According to that definition, I simply had the best answer. I expected my teacher would be overwhelmed by my profundity and insight–perhaps something akin to A Christmas Story, when young Ralphie’s teacher, Miss Shields, gave him the only A+ in the class for his essay on his much-coveted Red Ryder carbine-action, two hundred shot Range Model air rifle. Like Ralphie, I, too, was awoken to the sad reality that my teacher did not hold my delicate convictions. With all dismissivness, she simply retorted, “Well, that’s if you believe in God.” She moved on to the next student. I had no defense, but I knew I was somehow right. Safe to say that she didn’t get a fruitcake for Christmas from me that year.

To be continued…

Hello Mundum!


Hello friend. I don’t know how you stumbled across this website, but if you are wondering where you are, you are at the beginning. It is a humble beginning, but it is a beginning nonetheless. This is SacraMundum–a blog created to celebrate just about everything found in God’s kingdom and creation to the glory of God for the edification of his people. The God being glorified is the One, True, Triune God who has revealed himself in nature, but especially in his Word, and even more than that, in the Incarnation, the Person of Jesus Christ.

A Word About the Word
SacraMundum is a symbol to express the two spheres in which Christians live. It is basically synonymous with the common expressions of distinction namely ‘the holy and the profane’ or ‘the sacred and the secular.’ Again the name SacraMundum is acting as a symbol here, not to be dissected using the strict rules of Latin grammar and etymology. Poetic license was taken to mash two words together for dramatic effect, sort of a hypostatic union of the Sacra meaning ‘sacred’ or ‘holy’ and Mundum expressing the ‘world.’ You will notice the capital ‘M’ in -Mundum. That is not a typo. We are using two distinct words with two distinct meanings to represent two distinct spheres of life, yet very closely related. The symbol SacraMundum is never to connote a holy world. If the Lord so chooses to use those words to designate the New Heavens and the New Earth, that is his sovereign prerogative, but that is not our objective here. We recognize there is a difference between holy things and common things. SacraMundum expresses the vantage point from which we look at the world. When we look at the world around us, we recognize and proclaim that it is God’s world directly under his providential care. SacraMundum also designates the scope of our interest, things both sacred and mundane, which includes theology, anthropology, philosophy, natural sciences, art, music, literature, and whatever else we can find that is praiseworthy.

One Kingdom or Two?
There are basically two schools of thought among Christians concerning the relationship we have to our world in this age before the Second Advent of Christ. Augustine wrote of the City of God and the City of Man. Scripture clearly speaks of the the Kingdom of God and the world. Both sides proclaim the Lordship of Christ over all His Kingdom and the world. The question we wrestle with is how do we live in this world as citizens of the world and the heavenly kingdom? The debate will continue until the Kingdom of God has fully come in all its fullness and glory. SacraMundum is a place where that debate is free to rage as we all search for truth in love. As Christians we live in the sacred and the secular. Join us as we seek to discover doxology in dominion together!