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Sine Ceres – Without Wax

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Category Articles
Date March 28, 2008

“Unto a mature man, to the measure of the stature which belongs to the fullness of Christ.” (Ephesians 4:13)

Eric Liddell, the Scottish missionary and Olympic gold medal winner, while serving the Lord in China, often told his students to live a sincere life. He pointed out that our word sincere comes from two Latin words, sine ceres – meaning ‘without wax’. Sculptors during the days of the Roman Empire, when making a mistake and causing a crack, fissure, or chip in the sculpture, would often fill the marred surface with wax, thus giving the impression of perfection. No one would notice the imperfection until sun shone on the statue, causing the wax to melt and run. A truthful and honest sculptor would live sine ceres, without wax, willingly admitting his imperfections.

A mature person in Christ, one who grows into the stature of Christ our Lord, is one who lives sine ceres. Your tendency, knowingly or unknowingly, is to give to others a better impression of yourself than you warrant. You have many cracks, fissures, and chips in your heart and soul, and your tendency is to hide them. Paul, in II Corinthians 7:10, says there is a godly sorrow which leads to repentance without regret, bringing salvation; and there is a worldly sorrow which brings death. The Christian, who comprehends the glory of his union with Christ, is one who lives with a godly sorrow. He knows first and foremost he has sinned against God, and to him he must give account. Thus he knows evangelical repentance is essential. That is, he knows that he must freely, readily, and fully confess his sin to God and those whom he has wronged. Tears are not enough.

A promise to do better next time won’t get it done either. Worldly sorrow, on the other hand, evokes tears and promises to do better simply because you were caught. You fear the negative experience or jail time, but you don’t see God as the one to whom you must answer. Your tendency is to project your guilt onto someone else, blaming another for your anger or lascivious lifestyle. Or you excuse your behaviour, saying that God is slow to anger and clearly understands your sexual immorality. Or perhaps you even deny that you have a sin problem altogether.

The recent Mitchell report on American sports implicated a number of Major League baseball players in the use of human growth hormones and steroids. It illustrates the difference between godly and worldly sorrow. Andy Pettitte of the New York Yankees, a professing Christian, confessed his sin to the American public, and presumably to God. He named very specifically what he had done, and called on the grace of God to forgive him. Paul Lo Duca, on the other hand, a catcher for the Los Angeles Dodgers at the time, vaguely spoke of making a mistake. When pressed by a reporter on what he meant, all Lo Duca said was, ‘Come on, Bro. You know what I am talking about.’ Pettitte illustrates godly sorrow leading to repentance and salvation. Lo Duca, on the other hand, exudes worldly sorrow which will lead to death.Proverbs 28:13 says that he who hides his transgressions will not prosper, but he who confesses and forsakes them will find compassion.

Your pastor, presumably possessing the spiritual gift of pastor-teacher (see Ephesians 4:11), is called by God to equip, literally to set a bone like an orthopaedic surgeon, the saints for the work of ministry. There is no comma in this phrase. Pastor-teachers are not called to equip the saints and to do the work of the ministry. Instead they are called to equip you, to strengthen you in the faith, so that you may do the work of serving the body of Christ. The long-range goal of such teaching is to bring unity, experiential knowledge, and maturity – an ability to live without wax in this world.

And how is your pastor-teacher to do this work? His ministry is to be driven by prayer and the ministry of God’s Word. He cannot ‘set your broken bones’, he cannot fill in the cracks of your soul or heart by preaching politics, positive thinking, a prosperity gospel, psychology, or philosophy. It only comes through preaching Christ crucified, I Corinthians 2:2. By this Paul, who was one of the most gifted and learned men who ever lived, intentionally, willfully, consciously resisted the temptation to match wits with the Greek philosophers or Jewish religious leaders. Instead he chose to preach the simple gospel of grace, namely the glory of God, the sinfulness of man, the atonement and resurrection of Christ, and the ministry of the Holy Spirit in regeneration and sanctification. To summarize, Paul preached regeneration (being born again to new life by the power of the Holy Spirit), redemption (bought back from slavery to sin), and reconciliation (no longer enemies of God). He put no confidence in gimmicks. He simply preached the gospel of grace in the power of the Holy Spirit and witnessed him transforming those who embraced the message of grace.

You probably have seen a few of the popular television preachers. Millions of people watch them and their churches are jammed with people every Sunday morning. How do they do it? They have found the secret of what America wants. They know America wants hope, and they consciously and deliberately address this need. There is nothing wrong with offering people hope but they do it devoid of Christ. I am not saying they don’t love Christ, nor am I saying they do not mention him in their sermons. But I am saying they offer hope without repentance and obedience. Only godly sorrow brings repentance without regret, leading to salvation or fullness of life. Only Christ can bring people to confess their sin, to acknowledge they have lived with wax, using various things to hide their guilt, shame, and inadequacies.

Are you living with wax? Are you failing to admit your sin? Are you repenting with a worldly sorrow, simply wanting your spouse off your back, simply confessing because you want a clear conscience or because you want tranquillity in your home? Instead you must admit freely that you sin, that you live with wax, seeking to cover your failures. Will you not daily run to Christ for refuge? And one last thing, though you now have cracks, chips, and fissures in your soul, a day will come when you will receive a perfect, glorified body from the Lord Jesus and you will live forever in joy unspeakable. Until then, will you press on to maturity in Christ? Will you quit projecting, excusing, and denying your sin? Will you daily run afresh and anew to Christ for refuge? Will you live sine ceres?


Rev. Allen M Baker is Pastor of Christ Community Presbyterian Church in West Hartford, Connecticut.

www.christcpc.org

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