Study # 5
Thesis: Attempting to relate to God on the foundations of merit has two negative consequences: first, it messes up the good theology that has to settle in for fear to turn into love; and, second, it blocks the development of the soul into a healthy, fearless, love-driven guide.
Introduction: Have you ever wondered why believers, even those who try their best to live right, are such emotional wrecks when the surprises of life come along? Has the thought ever crossed your mind that a primary reason for the growth of the present day emotionally loaded religious practices is the poverty of men's souls -- that people are so emotionally impoverished that they are naturally attracted to the things that bring emotion to the surface? Have you ever given any thought to the fact that it is always the thirsty that are the most fixated upon getting a drink of water? One more question: do you think it is a good thing to be thirsty? What is thirst but an indication that we are dying? If thirst is a good thing, why did Jesus promise that the one who drank of the water He would give would never thirst again? And, in the best tradition of lying preachers, let me raise yet another question: What does any of this have to do with Luke's record of the birth of John the Baptizer?
September 28, 2003
There are two huge ambiguities with God as men attempt to relate: one is His justice because it raises the question of whether I have done enough to satisfy Him; and the other is His grace because it, by definition, is sovereignly bestowed blessing and if it is sovereignly bestowed there is nothing a man can do to make sure he gets it! The problem is not the ambiguities; rather, it is man's terror in the face of them! The lack of love that refuses to relax in the presence of the unknown is the problem as it raises the reality of man's self-centered focus.
- I. The Angel's Exhortation and Its Implications.
- A. The prior text's focus on John's level of terror is deliberate.
- B. The present text's focus on the angel's exhortation/explanation is also deliberate.
- 1. The nature and implications of the exhortation: stop being afraid.
- a. Consider, first, the typically vacuous attempt to get someone to cease from fear by telling them to stop being afraid.
- b. Consider, second, that there are two ways to tell someone to stop being afraid.
- 1) When addressing a particular circumstance, one might well say: fear not. [aoristic]
- 2) When addressing a life characteristic, one might well say: stop being afraid. [present continuous]
- c. Consider, third, that Gabriel had no interest in being vacuous or particular.
- 1) What he had to say would, if believed, erase not only the fear, but the very foundations of fear, so that his words were not vacuous.
- 2) What he exhorted Zacharias to do was not to simply settle down in the present circumstance, but to come to a life-style of fearlessness.
- 2. The requirements of the exhortation if it is to be heeded.
- a. First, the root problem has to be identified.
- b. Then, the root has to be uprooted.
- 3. What does the text tell us was the root problem?
- a. Where are the hints?
- 1) The first hint comes from the contradiction of blameless obedience and terror in the face of glory.
- 2) The second hint comes from the implications of the command to name the son John.
- b. What, then, is the root problem?
- 1) On the one hand, the root is the strength of Zacharias' wanting.
- 2) On the other hand, the root is Zacharias' theologically goofy methodology of a merit-based approach to the wanting.
- 4. What does the text tell us is the solution?
- a. Where are the hints?
- 1) The first hint is found in the words, "your petition is heard".
- 2) The second hint is found in the words, "you shall name him John.".
- b. What, then, is the solution?
- 1) On the one hand, the solution is to be found in recognizing that the absence of the fulfillment of the want is not connected to a flaw in you.
- a) We are all flawed beyond remedy in this life.
- b) If fulfillment is tied to flawlessness we are beyond hope.
- 2) On the other hand, the solution is to be found in recognizing that the God Who has saved us is gracious.