The Glory And The Shame
The other day I was reading Psalm 4 (I must confess that the older I become the more often I am drawn to the Psalms). In Psalm 4, David writes the following sentence, which has always somewhat puzzled me. He writes, ‘How long, O men, will you turn my glory into shame’? What was David’s glory? Was he speaking about his own kingship which men tried to belittle and overthrow, or was he speaking about his faith in God and his boast in God’s faithfulness? I suppose in the end it matters not, but it got me thinking about the things that we as Christians glory in, and how the world seeks to turn it into shame.
For example we are certainly those who ‘glory’ in the cross of our Lord and Saviour Jesus Christ. We say with the Apostle Paul, ‘May I never boast except in the cross of our Lord Jesus Christ, through which the world has been crucified to me, and I to the world.‘ How precious is the cross of our Lord Jesus Christ to believers! How we sing and rejoice in the cross and seek to win others to the cross! And yet what shame is poured on that old rugged cross even to this very day. Men sneer at the very thought of a blood atonement; mock the very idea of the innocent dying for the guilty, and deny that God’s wrath is assuaged at Calvary’s hill. As one put it, ‘I cannot accept either the hypothesis that the appalling death of Jesus was a sacrifice in the eyes of God for the sins of the world, or that God, in the shape of his Son, tortured himself for our redemption; I can only confess that, in my heart of hearts, I find such religious ideas to be amongst the least attractive in the whole of anthropology’ (Sir Alister Hardy, as quoted by Stott in The Cross of Christ). What we as believers glory in, the world confidently asserts is shame.
There are many other things we as believers glory in that the world dismisses as foolishness and/or violently opposes. The creation of the universe in six days is another example. How many rule out even the possibility of a Creator because so called ‘science’ has ruled out that it could happen that way’? So Oxford zoologist Richard Dawkins confidently asserts while pouring on the shame, ‘It is absolutely safe to say that, if you meet somebody who claims not to believe in evolution, that person is ignorant, stupid or insane (or wicked, but I’d rather not consider that.)’ And so they turn our ‘glory,’ who is the wonderful Creator God, into shame, and seek to shame us in the process.
The list goes on as every doctrine of the Christian faith is mocked, sneered at and belittled. And not only doctrine, but righteous living. So the present Prime Minister of Canada, Paul Martin, actually campaigns on a platform that boasts of ‘same sex marriages’ and pours scorn on any who defend God’s purpose for the well-being of the human family and who advocate only heterosexual marriage. Chastity is mocked even while sexual diseases threaten to decimate the world; truthfulness and faithfulness are sneered at; protection of the unborn scorned; the elderly are now unprotected; and euthanasia masquerades as mercy. The world is surprised that we do not go along with their excesses as Peter warned, ‘They think it strange that you do not plunge with them into the same flood of dissipation, and they heap abuse on you‘ (I Peter 4:4); how true, as the world is more and more crucified to us while we are crucified to the world.
But to whom ultimately is the shame, and who will have the ultimate glory? Are we willing to go outside the city walls and suffer ‘the disgrace he bore’ (Hebrews 13:13)? Are we willing to pour contempt on all our pride or simply sing about it? Are we afraid to preach ‘hard things’ because we want to be loved and liked by the world or be seen as respectable? Can we take the dung, the spittle, the slander that comes with defending Jesus to a surly and ugly modern day, in an increasingly intolerant society? Do we as pastors trample underfoot our pride or preach for applause? Did not our Lord say: ‘If anyone is ashamed of me and my words in this adulterous and sinful generations the Son of Man will be ashamed of him when he comes in his Father’s glory with the holy angels‘ (Mark 8:38). Do we not still live in an adulterous generation?
No wonder David asks, ‘how long, O Lord’?’ I suppose it is until the end of time that men will turn God’s glory into shame; therefore, we ought not to be surprised, or expect the world to welcome either ourselves or the message we preach and live. And we need to be aware how easy it is to try and appease the wolves by throwing a bone or two in their direction. Are we afraid to preach on man’s total inability to repent and come to Christ, an atonement that actually saves, and a calling that cannot be resisted? Does our congregation ever hear the word ‘hell’, or ‘lost’, or ‘sinners’? And have you suffered shame for his name? Then you stand in good company, and you can rejoice for, ‘The apostles left the Sanhedrin, rejoicing because they had been counted worthy of suffering disgrace for the Name.’ May we, by God’s grace, know something of that life and the joy that comes to those who bear his name and suffer for it!
Brian Robinson [firstname.lastname@example.org] is the pastor of Grace Bible Church, Cambridge, Ontario and the editor of the Sovereign Grace Journal from which January issue the above article has been reprinted with permission.www.sgfcanada.com
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