Why do I keep harping?

From Bennett

Harping Main Entry: 2harp
Function: intransitive verb
Date: before 12th century
1 : to play on a harp
2 : to dwell on or recur to a subject tiresomely or monotonously —usually used with on

from http://www.merriam-webster.com/dictionary/harping

In my preaching, without trying, I am finding that I tend to dwell on and recur to some subjects to an extent that some may deem tiresome or monotonous. Two of those subjects are truths that I seem to never tire of expounding on. They are:
  1. The Gospel is not the result of our works, our moralism, our righteousness, our fitness or even our doctrinal orthodoxy.
  2. The Gospel is not intended to produce our temporal comfort.
Why do I keep coming back to that? One reason is that these are counter to myths that I myself used to believe. Even though I was taught that those who responded to the Gospel were saved because of God's love, in the back of my mind I really believed that there were stipulations to this agreement. As if the Gospel was this contract that was initiated by God's grace but required constant diligence for me to maintain. Even though I believed that one could not lose their salvation, I still felt "less saved" any time I stumbled, rebelled, backslid, or strayed.

I also had it in my head that the purpose of the Gospel was to make everyone nice. I thought that we needed to get people in church so they would be kinder, gentler people, and everybody would be happy. Do you think that's the purpose of the Gospel??

The blessed problem is that reading scripture doesn't reinforce these myths. Take these excerpts from Philippians:
Christ will even now, as always, be exalted in my body, whether by life or by death.
Php 1:20.

For to you it has been granted for Christ’s sake, not only to believe in Him, but also to suffer for His sake, Php 1:29.

even if I am being poured out as a drink offering upon the sacrifice and service of your faith, I rejoice and share my joy with you all... Php 2:17.

I count all things to be loss in view of the surpassing value of knowing Christ Jesus my Lord, for whom I have suffered the loss of all things, and count them but rubbish... Php 3:8.
And those are from a book that is known for its theme of JOY! There are plenty of other scriptures I could quote to you. Jesus told his followers not to be surprised when they are persecuted. James said to consider trials pure joy. Paul's letters are full of cheery exhortations to take on suffering like Hulk Hogan when he used to get punched in the face and barely flinched. You know what I'm talking about? Hulk Hogan used to go into this crazy zone where punching him in the face only seemed to make him stronger. That's when we knew it was over for the other guy. I digress...

Just reading these scriptures makes me feel like doing a bit of harping. So here goes.

Get that thought out of your head, you adulterous idol factory. Jesus didn't come live a righteous life, get tempted by the devil, teach about God's kingdom, suffer punishment and death, and display his resurrection power/Kingdom authority just so that Billy Bob and Nancy Sue would turn over a new leaf and stop smokin', drinkin', and cursin'. He came to display the glory of our Mighty God, by making the greatest sacrifice, for the least deserving people, in the least expected way. Do we benefit? Absolutely! Does it change the way we act? Of course it should. But as others have said, our works are the fruit of our salvation, not the root.

Furthermore, Jesus didn't come so that you could be healthy, wealthy and wise! I believe in America and free markets, but our wealth and freedom have turned us into selfish, spoiled, discontented children. We live in a society of relative comfort, security, and indulgence. Yet we feel justified in complaining when our fast food is slow, when our cable is fuzzy, when our church doesn't have enough for our kids to do, when our government doesn't give us enough in return for our taxes. I wonder what the ancient people would have thought if their government had provided lit city streets with clearly marked signs, excellent police protection, fire protection, maintained city parks, free libraries, public education, dog catchers, city league sports, and so on. Let's face it, on the surface we've got it good. And yet its not enough, because we still aren't happy. We come to Jesus and we think, "Here is finally something that will make me happy. I mean what can outdo God?" The problem is we trade in smoking, drinking, etc. for God and try to apply him in the same way as we did our material things. "God, help me be financially secure so I don't have to worry." "God, make people like me so I won't feel alone." "God, give me nice neighbors that can babysit my kids." "God, help me find a church where I can always have a great parking spot."

As I read the Old Testament, I see that a lot of people whom God "helped" had some very difficult lives. You would think that the New Testament would be a turn around. As if suddenly in the New Testament God was suddenly less grumpy and generally in a more forgiving mood. But all we see on the surface is more persecution, more suffering, more rejection. Bummer.

Beneath the surface is the beauty of the Gospel. God has not given us a magic spell to cast away pain and discomfort. He has given meaning to the madness. He has shown us that sin hurts all of us, him included. He has shown us that He is not complacent in the face of our suffering and need, He is joined with us. He has explained to us that suffering is a sign of his justice and therefore a reason to trust him. He has demonstrated that in the end this present suffering will be nothing compared to the surpassing glory of what is being revealed.

So beyond the searing pain of the cold blade of our present suffering is the euphoric pleasure of the hope beyond all hope that in the end God is supreme and He cares for us.

Yes, I'll keep harping. Until God leads me to stop. I'll keep harping. I have no choice. I wouldn't want to stop if I could. Do you hear me?


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