Musing from Middle-Earth

Suppose that you live in Middle Earth and you’re an elf. But you’re not just any elf: you’re an elf with a secret. You know a secret that none of the orcs know:

You know that they can, all of them, be changed back into elves.

So you walk right up to a cannibalistic, cruel, disgusting orc and you say,

“You can be an elf again.”

What do you supposed the response would be?

Well, you could certainly be attacked. Most orcs wouldn’t want to change. And most of them would think you were out of your mind to be coming over to their war camp with such strange news.

But . . not all of them would feel this way. There would be a few who would actually question you to find out what you meant.

Suppose one asked you, “How do you know?”

And suppose you said, “Because I used to be an orc.”

.         .         .         .         .         .

This is what happens when saved sinners share the Gospel.

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Published in: on August 4, 2014 at 2:03 pm  Leave a Comment  
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Startling sin

Sin can startle us into looking at who we really are.  We ask ourselves, Did I really say that?  Did I really do that?  Did I really think that? 

–From Pastor John’s sermon.

Sin can startle us into looking for a Savior.

Only when we know we are wretched do we look for a way out of the mess we’ve made.

As my pastor said on Sunday, the things we never thought we’d say . . the things we never thought we’d do . . the ways we’d never thought we’d think . . can give us a reality check of who we really are.

I think in an analogy from Lord of the Rings.  There are these orcs–ugly, twisted, horrible, cannibalistic creatures who were once elves.  Now it doesn’t do any good to pretend they are still elves.  They aren’t.  They are totally fallen, irredeemable in themselves (they can’t change who they are in essence).  Whatever bad thing it is, they would say that, would do that, would think that.

Of course, in Lord of the Rings, there were never any orcs who turned back to the good side.  But I thought it would be really cool if there were.  If a mighty wizard could change them back into the elves they once were, long ago.

Actually, those orcs are better off than we humans are, in this sense: We are often outrageously out-of-touch with how sinful we are.  We are connoisseurs at covering up what we do.  We are brilliant at denial.  We are justifiers to the max.

We will try to make anything, no matter how atrocious, seem acceptable if we were the ones who did it.  (If somebody else did it, Heaven help them.  But if it was us, well, we had our reasons.)

But often it’s in the really awful things in our lives . . the times we know we have fallen badly and can’t get up . . the times we see how twisted and gruesome we really are . . that we get a glimpse of how we look in the sight of God.

In and of itself, that is one of the most dangerous states of depression around.  But if we look to Christ, then it is really just like the molting state of the caterpillar.

Sin can startle us into covering up what we did, denying what we did, or justifying what we did.

Or, we can look at our sin straight in the face, and find an urgent need to find the Savior.

He is able to change us into new creatures.

Whoever is a believer in Christ is a new creation. The old way of living has disappeared. A new way of living has come into existence. (2 Corinthians 5:17, GW)

Who’s knocking?

If you’ve never followed J.R.R. Tolkien’s book trilogy, The Lord of the Rings, the Urak-Hai are an army of giant monsters, their will bent on causing suffering.  They show no pity to anyone.  They are rotting creatures with glinting, dilated eyes and crooked, gnashing teeth.  All they know is a ravenous, never-satisfied pleasure brought about by the pain of victims.

Suppose you hear a banging on your door one night, and you open the door to find Urak-Hai from your door all the way down the road, as far as you can see.  Or, if you live in an apartment, all the way down the hallway, down the stairs.

You look at the one Urak-Hai in front who knocked and he gives a flesh-eating smile, saying, “Would you mind if I come in?  I have a present for you.”  He sees your shock at the long line of Urak-Hai carrying hacking weapons behind him.

“Oh, don’t worry,” the Urak-Hai assures you.  “They’re not with me.”

You deliberate for a minute.

“Do you promise?” you ask.  “It’s just you?”

“Oh, yes,” the Urak-Hai says.  “On my honor.”

“All right,” you say.  “Come on in.”

Not so much.

I would slam and lock that door, run screaming through my house, and throwing furniture at doors and boarding up windows like a cartoon character.

Isn’t it crazy, then, how we will let in one evil thought, expecting that it will behave itself, give us a gift, and not allow others through the door when we aren’t watching?

[Jesus] continued, “It’s what comes out of a person that makes a person unclean, because it’s from within, from the human heart, that evil thoughts come, as well as sexual immorality, stealing, murder, adultery, greed, wickedness, cheating, shameless lust, envy, slander, arrogance, and foolish­ness. All these things come from inside and make a person unclean.”  (Mark 7:20-23, ISV)

“Evil thoughts” are connected to an army of sins by the words “as well as”.  Evil thoughts do not come in by themselves.  They lead their troops with them, never satisfied to come in alone.

And their presents turn out to be corruption, unbelief, a life that denies God—regardless of what the mouth may say—disobedience, and, ultimately, disqualification (see Titus 1:15-16).

Everything is clean to those who are clean, but nothing is clean to those who are corrupt and unbelieving. Indeed, their very way of thinking and their consciences have been corrupted. They claim to know God, but they deny him by their actions. They are detestable, disobedient, and disqualified to do anything good. (Titus 1:15-16, ISV)

And just like Urak-Hai, evil thoughts are set on nothing other than the destruction of every good thing in our lives, from the smallest moments of happiness to the eternal catastrophe of an existence without the goodness of God.

And they are always knocking.

They are always knocking.

But God be praised, Urak-Hai aren’t the only army out there.  There is a whole army of elves, to continue with Tolkien’s analogy: beautiful, perfect, immortal creatures who live with no desire for evil.

Finally, brothers and sisters, whatever is true, whatever is noble, whatever is right, whatever is pure, whatever is lovely, whatever is admirable—if anything is excellent or praiseworthy—think about such things. (Philippians 4:8, TNIV)

This is the army of Christ’s thoughts, and the first thought brings with the army of God’s truth, honor, fairness, purity, acceptance from God Himself!, commendation from God!, God’s value of excellence, and even praise from the very God who deserves all praise (see Philippians 4:8)!

And these elves bring with them presents not of corruption, unbelief, a life that reveals denial of God, detestability, disobedience, and disqualification (see Titus 1:15-16), but instead they bring the presents of faith, moral character, knowledge, self-control, endurance, godliness, brotherly kindness, and love (see 2 Peter 1:2-8).

May grace and peace be yours in abundance through full knowledge of God and of Jesus our Lord!

His divine power has given us everything we need for life and godliness through the full knowledge of the one who called us by his own glory and excellence. Through these he has given us his precious and wonderful promises, so that through them you may participate in the divine nature, seeing that you have escaped the corruption that is in the world caused by evil desires. For this very reason, you must make every effort to supplement your faith with moral character, your moral character with knowledge, your knowledge with self-control, your self-control with endurance, your endurance with godliness, your godliness with brotherly kindness, and your brotherly kindness with love. For if you possess these qualities, and if they continue to increase among you, they will keep you from being ineffective and unproductive in attaining a full knowledge of our Lord Jesus, the Messiah. (2 Peter 1:2-8, ISV)

But how do we let in the “Elven” army and keep out the “Urak-Hai” army?  In the darkness of our world, how can we even see the difference between them?

There is only one way: through the discerning eyes and incorruptible will of God.  Only Jesus Christ can give us the sight and the backbone we need to deadbolt the door against the slough of knocking evil thoughts and open the door to the beautiful army of Christ’s thoughts.

For although we are walking in the flesh, we do not wage war in a fleshly way, since the weapons of our warfare are not fleshly, but are powerful through God for the demolition of strongholds. We demolish arguments and every high-minded thing that is raised up against the knowledge of God, taking every thought captive to the obedience of Christ.  (2 Corinthians 10:3-5, HCSB)

See Copyright Page for Bible translation information.