Tuesday, February 24, 2009

Spectacular Sins - Chapter 5

Welcome to this week's edition of the Spectacular Sins Book Club. This was a relatively short chapter, but don't let that fool you: there is much to ponder and wrestle with. Chapter 5 is titled The Pride of Babel and the Praise of Christ: How the Judgment of God Brings Joyful Acclaim to Christ. If you are not familiar with or need to refresh your memory on the story of the Tower of Babel, you can read the account found in Genesis 11:1-9 and then consider Missy's questions and my responses.

1) What were the primary motivations of the people who endeavored to build the Tower of Babel?

As stated in verse 4, they wanted to "make a name for ourselves, lest we be scattered abroad over the face of the whole earth." As Piper explains however, these were "outward expressions of the inward sins," namely, love of praise and love of security (p. 67).

2) Why did God consider it a sin to live in a city?

God had specifically told Noah and his sons when they left the ark to “Be fruitful and multiply, and fill the earth." (Genesis 9:1) And apparently they started out in obedience. Genesis 11:2 says they traveled from the east and settled in a plain in the land of Shinar. But then they decided that they would take matters into their own hands to ensure that they stayed in that spot and were not scattered further across the earth. How quickly the lesson of the flood was forgotten as they turned their back on God and continued down their own path.

3) Of the five ways that Christ's glory is magnified by the spectacular sin of the Tower of Babel (pp 69-72) which one resonates with you the most, and why?

The five ways Piper believes the Tower of Babel & God's resulting judgment magnify God's glory are:
  • Christians Guarded
  • Pride Destroyed
  • Every Group Claimed
  • The Gospel Glorified
  • Jesus Praised

This is a tough question because I could pick any of the 5. But ultimately they all point to the last one, that Jesus is praised as "a great multitude that no one could number, from every nation, from all tribes and peoples and languages, standing before the throne and before the Lamb. . .and crying out with a loud voice, 'Salvation belongs to our God who sits on the throne, and to the Lamb!'" (Rev. 7:9-10)

What an incredible deomonstration of Christ's glory and grace: it was His judgment that dispersed them throughout the world and confused their languages, separating them into many peoples, and yet in His grace and mercy He provided salvation for all and brought them back together as one in praise and worship!

There are few things as frustrating as being unable to communicate with someone who speaks another language (such as in an airport or restaurant). Conversely, nothing is as beautiful as standing among believers of another language and singing a song of praise together, each in your own tongue.

4) Can you provide an example of the way that the Gospel of Christ takes root in literally thousands of different cultures, despite language barriers, social mores, existing religious practices, etc.? What does this say about the "uniqueness" of Christianity?

Although I am certainly not an expert on world religions, I know that most of them remain primarily and overwhelmingly represented by the culture in which they began. For example, Buddhism is generally an Asian religion, Hinduism is found primarily among the peoples of India, Islam is a Middle Eastern religion. Christianity, however, is found in every culture and society. And there are large numbers of Christian believers who have converted from these other religions. From the very beginning, the aim & charge of Christianity as been to "go and make disciples of all nations" and to be witnesses "to the ends of the earth." Just within the last 3 years or so, my own church has had 4 couples/families uproot and move into 6-month or full-time missions efforts in Asia, New Zealand, and North America. And last week a woman in my Sunday morning class led her Buddhist coworker to the Lord. The gospel is "the power of God for the salvation of everyone who believes." Romans 1:16

5) How are you also guilty of sin in the ways the Tower of Babel builders were? Where do you seek comfort apart from the Lord?

Ouch. Missy would make this personal! That sin nature is alive and well in me as well. I, too, like to receive the praise of others. While I don't have visions of being known throughout the earth such as celebrities and others who are seen on TV and in the news, I like people to notice me when I do something well. I like approval from others. I like comments on my blog. LOL And pretty soon, when I get any of that, I decide it's because I am so wonderful and deserving, not because of God's matchless grace.

6) My husband often says that at the root of every sin is pride (and I have yet to be able to prove him wrong). Was this true in the case of these people? How can you confront and rebuke your own pride?

The people of Babel definitely had a problem with pride. They wanted everyone to look at how wonderful they were. The best way to confront and rebuke pride is 1) old-fashiond confession and repentance, and 2) fixing my eyes on Jesus. Some folks think putting themselves down all the time shows their lack of pride, but ANY extreme focus on ourselves is pride. I like the definition that humility is not thinking of others more than yourself, but not thinking of yourself at all. In the Bible, anyone who got even a glimpse of the Lord immediately fell prostrate and recognized their own sin. No justification of why they did what they did, just complete repentance and falling upon the mercy of God. One of the saddest verses in the Bible is Psalm 10:4: "In his pride the wicked does not seek him; in all his thoughts there is no room for God." If I'm filled with me, there won't be room for Him. If I'm filled with Him, I won't care about room for me. Oh, that there would always be room for God in my thoughts, in my heart, in my life!

Be sure to read the other responses at The Preacher's Wife!


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Xandra@Heart-of-Service said...

"old-fashioned confession and repentance"...you hit it right on the head with this comment. Sometimes we over analyze our sin and our behavior to the point where we began to justify it. If we just use some old fashioned confession and repentance, we would save ourselves a great deal of stress.

It would also keep that particular sin that is so dear to our hearts more in the forefront of our awareness, so that we would be less apt to commit it again.

Thanks for the text that got me moving again!


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