We need a better response to the intense darkening of this age.
A salesman sold a chainsaw to an old logger. “It will greatly increase your volume of cut trees,” he promised. However, two days later, the logger returned the chainsaw, quite annoyed. “This thing was a waste of money,” he said. “I barely cut down one tree with it. I’m sticking to my axe and hand saw.” “What?” the salesman said, surprised. “Let’s see what the problem is.” And with that, he pulled the cord and the chainsaw roared to life. The old logger jumped back, eyes bugged. “What’s that noise?” he asked.
This old joke illustrates the quandary we sometimes find ourselves in with the gospel. We may carry the faith around like a simple folk tale, and use it to cut down the simplest challenges of life—sapling sized problems. But when we encounter a substantial impasse, all too often we return the chainsaw, and look for something that “works.”
Apparently, we haven’t figured out the pull cord.
Our society daily promotes mindsets more outrageous, more satanically reckless than any preceding generation. It’s not that the various behaviors haven’t happened before; they’ve never been declared normal before.
It’s easy to respond to these thick challenges by whipping out “the old old story of Jesus and His love.” And it doesn’t seem to cut it. Although the gospel is purported to be “the power of God” (Rom. 1:16), in this modern wayward environment, it doesn’t seem to slice butter.
That’s when believers resort to creating rules and what-not—additional standards of holiness that guard against social media, YouTube videos, sports television, Netflix binging, sexting, and so forth. We do this because the gospel doesn’t seem to address such issues head-on.
But if there’s a problem, it is with our man made prohibitions. We can’t generate enough of them to cover every fresh new sin that appears in the world.
The answer to the vexing issues of this darkening age, ironically enough, is still “the old old story of Jesus and His love,” but cranked to life for deeper cutting.
Paul for example, took the truth of the gospel to a place where few religious folk ever go.
“In him also you were circumcised with a circumcision made without hands, by putting off the body of the flesh, by the circumcision of Christ, having been buried with him in baptism, in which you were also raised with him through faith in the powerful working of God, who raised him from the dead” (Col. 2:11-12).
The gospel solution is not to lower the standard and promise forgiveness for whatever one does. Nor is it to raise the standard and challenge people to rise to it. Instead, those who believe in Christ are put to death with Him, and raised with Him as something new.
More rules aren’t the answer.
“These have indeed an appearance of wisdom in promoting self-made religion and asceticism and severity to the body, but they are of no value in stopping the indulgence of the flesh” (Col. 2:23).
The extra props we create for ourselves don’t really do anything except give the illusion of progress. By using them, we only suppress symptoms, and never deal with the true cause.
And here is the true cause: I live.
Deal with me, and you’ll deal with every single problem, every weird, sick fantasy, every backward bandwagon, every new form of rebellion.
But if you don’t, and instead you try to address every single thing issuing out of me, it will be like trying to manage each leaf on a tree—clearly impossible. How does God do it in nature? It’s called autumn. “Kill” the whole tree. In spring, bring it back fresh and new. It’s the (limited) seasonal picture of death and resurrection we see every year.
Rather than hunt for middle ground like a nice diplomat would do, or, on the other hand, throw religious regulations at people, what if we told them that we wanted to see them included in the death of Christ, and in His resurrection?
It’s a solution that works today, tomorrow, and forever.