Iron sharpens iron, and one man sharpens another. (Proverbs 27:17 ESV)

This verse is, rightly I think, interpreted as a general wisdom that people need the input of each other to hone our hearts and minds in the pursuit of spiritual growth in God. I like the way Matthew Henry wrote it in his commentary:

“One man is nobody; nor will poring upon a book in a corner accomplish a man as the reading and studying of men will. Wise and profitable discourse sharpens men’s wits; and those that have ever so much knowledge may by conference have something added to them.”

Perhaps the writer of Hebrews had this sort of thing in mind when he wrote:

And let us consider how to stir up one another to love and good works, not neglecting to meet together, as is the habit of some, but encouraging one another, and all the more as you see the Day drawing near. (Hebrews 10:24-25 ESV)

The ESV Study Bible comments on this verse:

“The third and final exhortation in vv. 22–25 calls for serious thinking about other Christians with a purpose to stir up (or “provoke”) them in their love and service (good works). Christian perseverance is thus also a community endeavor.”

As Christians, we need other Christians in order to grow in godly wisdom. We need the mental correction of others to keep us from going astray. We need to seek and submit to each other’s correction.

As a Christian, I need interaction with other people. As one with a penchant for thinking outside the box and as one who loves truth above my desire to understand it, and yearn to grow in ministry, I earnestly desire the meaningful interaction of my fellow Christians. My hope has always been to develop the relationships with other Christians necessary for provoking them to grow in their Christian walk as well as receiving the same. I enjoy building others up in Christ as much as anything.

But I need to be built up as well. I blog in order to organize my thoughts. As a non-linear thinker I need to be able to make my thoughts linear in order to communicate them. As one gifted with a certain brand of intelligence, I’m prone to eccentricity. Therefore, it’s necessary to have meaningful feedback if I want to use this gift to edify people.

I’m already aware that few people read my blog articles. It’s extremely rare to receive any feedback from them. I have to consider that there are a few people who may read but never comment. Therefore, I have this request. If you regularly read what I write please leave a comment and let me know how what I write helps you or if I need to pursue some other activity that would be more fruitful. And I want to encourage you that doing so would be exceptionally meaningful. The response I get from this will let me know how important my thought life and spiritual growth is to other people.

To all who respond: thank you in advance.

From the latest article written by Dan Barnes at SBC Voices:

“Have you ever noticed how many ideas in the Christian faith seem more hypothetical than concrete?  Things like “fall into the arms of grace” or “just give it to God”.  What do those look like really?  Are they things that have meat to them, or are they just things we say and have no idea what they really mean?   How do you fall into grace, or give something in-material to a spiritual being?  There are lots of things that we say are hard to define and pin down, but I think it’s symptomatic of a larger issue.  We have tried for two thousand years to define Salvation, but I am not sure we are any closer.  Something so foundational to the Christian doctrine, but we can’t agree on what it looks like, how we get it and how we know we have it.

“I want to pose some questions today, things to think about. I am sure for every question there are hundreds of opinions, so here is a chance to share yours. What is Salvation? Pin it down, are we talking substitution atonement, penal substitution, ransom theory? Is the nature of salvation illumination, restoration, satisfaction, victory, justification, something else entirely or a combination?

“What happens when we are saved? Does it happen in a split second, or does it happen over time? Is it a one time thing, or does it reoccur? Are we saved once and for all time, or does it happen daily? I have heard, seen or read theories off all and more, different ideas. I have seen verses thrown at verses and arguments made for every side, when and how does it happen?”

My Response:

This is one thing I appreciate about Reformed theology. “What happens WHEN we are saved?” It’s a poor question because our life is eternal, not temporal.

Eternally, we are saved from Death: our separation from God. This salvation is accomplished by the incarnation of the Son of God who justifies His people through submission to Death even as He has power over Death.

Things eternal are worked out temporally. Our separation from God is temporally represented in our sin and the death of our bodies. It is just that our sin is paid for by death. It is for justice that Christ came as a man, Jesus of Nazareth, who, being God Himself, had no sin and gave His physical life for all sin. His people, being reconciled to God yet living in a world of sin are blessed with His constant presence in the person of the Holy Spirit. So even as His people are eternally justified by this, His people are also each temporally sanctified by the Holy Spirit to grow in the spiritual knowledge of God. That is, God reveals Himself to us temporally not by mere facts but also by our desire for Him. This makes the revelation of God through His inspired scriptures meaningful to us. As such, at some point all those who are alive by the Holy Spirit will realize at once a belief in the facts of Christ, but also a trust in His temporal work on the cross as He demonstrated His submission to death in the justification of our sins. The progression of our growth in this faith throughout our temporal life is called sanctification.

The language we use is typically not this precise, and it doesn’t need to be. Godly wisdom unto saving faith is not contingent on our ability to understand. A baby understands little, but trusts much. Therefore, it isn’t necessary to always express the gospel in difficult language. It is only necessary to speak enough truth at first for faith to resonate in the lives of people who have the Holy Spirit. After saving faith is identified, then more truth and understanding should be taught over time in agreement with the temporal work of the Holy Spirit in continued sanctification in the lives of each of His people.

As for a Baptist distinction, there really should be none. There is only one way we are saved despite our best opinions. It is our incorrect opinions where Truth is absolute that divide us in soteriology. The good news is that our salvation is worked out in the lives of believers not by any opinion or by our flawed understanding, but our mere and genuine trust in God.

It is a wise brother who knows when to correct a sin and when to cover a weakness.

We are all sinners. That means that we are all losers. We are saved not by our fortitude, intrepidity, strength, honor, or cunning. As sinners, we have no strength. Since God is all-mighty, any strength we have was given by Him.

Moral instruction prior to salvation does nothing but let us know what failures we are. If we are led to believe that we can do good things without God, then the message of salvation is moot because the focus is on what we can do.

Moral instruction after salvation has as its purpose the joy of imitating the holiness of our Father through the sacrificial work of Christ. But until the resurrection, our works are still tainted. It is blessing to be corrected by one so humble as to recognize the difficulties in their own struggle with sin.

Too often Christians confuse correction with condemnation. Sometimes this plays out as someone who condemns a brother out of their own self-righteousness. Sometimes, a brother who sins misinterprets the loving correction of that sin as condemnation. Paul never advocates the condemnation of a brother. Even when church discipline is required for sin, the purpose for putting someone out of fellowship is eventual reconciliation – never outright condemnation.

But sometimes Christians confuse weakness as sin. Sin is no mere weakness, but death. But there is weakness without sin. This weakness is actually a blessing from God. But it takes wisdom to know this. First, let’s investigate strengths and weakness by dispelling some misconceptions foisted on us by our culture.

The common idea is to be strong in ourselves and discount the weaknesses of others. We need to be able to “pull ourselves up by our bootstraps,” “make our own way in life,” “pull our own weight,” etc. We are told not to show any sign of weakness. Men certainly pay attention to this because we all know women are attracted to “strong men” who can “hold their own.” But women like to be strong too, especially to dispel the notion that women are the weaker sex.

“Show no fear.” Don’t be a Loser.” “Come out on top.” “Fight to win.”

Phrases like these sum up the sociological expectations of this world. Winning is everything. Being the one with power is always best. Everyone has an opinion, but whoever can get other people to buy into their opinion or manipulate people to act on their opinion is worthy of leadership. People who are confident in themselves can cause others to have confidence in them as well. These people are the winners in this world.

Parenthetically, there is a trend to water down success by rewarding losers for simply participating. This may be an effort to stifle the greedy complaints of losers for not having anything for themselves since the winners took everything for themselves.
It’s true that we need to be responsible and contribute where we can. Hard work is good. Appropriate rest is also good. But we know that our individual gifts are given by God, and He does not give gifts equally. There’s a reason for this.

As you come to him, a living stone rejected by men but in the sight of God chosen and precious, you yourselves like living stones are being built up as a spiritual house, to be a holy priesthood, to offer spiritual sacrifices acceptable to God through Jesus Christ. (1 Peter 2:4-5 ESV)

Every brick in a wall has at least one weakness: no brick is large enough to be the whole wall. Bricks in a wall are not separated by their strength because determining the strength of a brick requires breaking the brick, which takes its strength from it. So, all bricks are capable of bearing the weight of the wall in the lower courses, not alone but as a team. The bricks in the upper courses are capable of bearing the same weight at the lower courses, but they are not used as such.

Some bricks must indeed be broken in order to be used. They have only half the strength they were created with, but their special purpose is to complete the wall at the edges with a finished line so the house can be properly sealed against the elements.

Bricks are stacked so that they interlock. Interlocking helps to hold the wall up by tying one stack of bricks into adjoining bricks. If the bricks are not interlocked, the mortar will split between columns of bricks and the columns fall independently. Why would one column fall and another one not, or one fall one way and another fall another way? Because bricks are not perfect. A single column of bricks may have a tendency to buckle in the middle or fall from some point at the bottom. The taller the stack, the more evident the imperfections of the bottom-most bricks. Interlocking bricks allow neighboring bricks to cover each other’s weaknesses.

But bricks are not the only things that go into the construction of a wall. There is mortar that joins the bricks together. There is rebar that can be used to strengthen the wall. There are metal plates or wooden frames that can be used to include openings for windows and doors. For large buildings, there is a special sealing substance that is used between wall sections to compensate for expansion and contraction.

And so the brick wall is not called a wall of one brick, but that the brick is Christ. He is the cornerstone on which the construction of the whole building is determined. But we are individual bricks. Alone, we are utterly weak. Together, as Christians, we are strong. We are strong, not because we condemn each other’s weaknesses; not because we stand around and complain about each other’s weaknesses and wait on each other to fix our own weaknesses so that we can get on with the business of being the Body of Christ. We are strong when we first recognize our strengths and weaknesses and as a result use our strengths to cover each other’s weaknesses.

That is the blessing of God in the weaknesses He gives us. Where the world suggests that we be individually strong and take advantage of other people’s weaknesses for self gain, God builds his people up by nominal strengths and weaknesses so that He is glorified in His strength. He rewards us for participating, not for being individually successful. For we participate in the victory that He has already won.

But the message for us is not that we seek to reward each other, but that we seek to understand each other’s strengths and weaknesses so that we can use our strengths to cover the strengths of others. It requires that we are not too proud to accept the help of another to cover the weaknesses we each have with the strengths of others. Likewise, we must recognize the unreasonable expectations we place on others and deal with each other in love and patience rather than anger and frustration – for that is sin.

Matt B. Redmond has written what I consider a significant article by the same title I named this article. I encourage you to go read it.

The reason I say it’s a significant is because of the reason for Christmas. I know we say that Jesus is the reason for the season. This is true. It’s a bit more thoughtful to point to the gospel and recognize that the incarnation of Christ is central to the gospel. But Christ Himself said that “[He] came not to call the righteous but sinners” (Mark 2:7). It is the righteous who seem to know best the meaning of Christmas.

But we all know that the Holiday season is a time of great sorrow for many. They aren’t sorrowful because of the celebration of the coming of Christ. They are sorrowful because particular needs are made poignant by the excess of commercial celebration that fails to assuage the ills of this world. These people have no particular love for the season of Christmas. Yet it is precisely for these people that Christ came.

From Matt Redmond’s article, a list of people for whom Christ came:

Jesus’ first recorded worshipers were not of the beautiful class. They were poor, ugly shepherds, beat down by life and labor. They had been looked down on over many a nose.

  • Jesus came for those who look in the mirror and see ugliness.
  • Jesus came for daughters whose fathers never told them they were beautiful.
  • Christmas is for those who go to “wing night” alone.
  • Christmas is for those whose lives have been wrecked by cancer, and the thought of another Christmas seems like an impossible dream.
  • Christmas is for those who would be nothing but lonely if not for social media.
  • Christmas is for those whose marriages have careened against the retaining wall and are threatening to flip over the edge.
  • Christmas is for the son whose father keeps giving him hunting gear when he wants art materials.
  • Christmas is for smokers who cannot quit even in the face of a death sentence.
  • Christmas is for prostitutes, adulterers, and porn stars who long for love in every wrong place.
  • Christmas is for college students who are sitting in the midst of the family and already cannot wait to get out for another drink.
  • Christmas is for those who traffic in failed dreams.
  • Christmas is for those who have squandered the family name and fortune—they want “home” but cannot imagine a gracious reception.
  • Christmas is for parents watching their children’s marriage fall into disarray.
We celebrate with gifts, and such bear the mark of Christmas in that Christ is the greatest gift. However, Christmas gifts with no message of the coming of Christ are given in vain. Give a gift of hope this season to someone who really needs it – someone who may not be particularly comfortable to be around because of their lowly state. But it is for such as these that Christ came.
…and read the whole article.
HT: Justin Taylor

Giving thanks is a Biblical concept. But what does the Bible tell us about giving thanks? How should we give thanks? Why should we give thanks? To whom should we give thanks? For what reason should we give thanks? What benefit do we receive for giving thanks? What circumstances surround giving thanks?

I wondered precisely what the Bible teaches about giving thanks. It was a bit to look back at the Old Testament for a single blog article, but I looked at all the references in the New Testament. Most of them are here, and most of them are found in Paul’s writings. There are several references to people giving thanks to Jesus or Jesus giving thanks for meals. But one meal in particular was interesting: the Last Supper:

And he took a cup, and when he had given thanks he gave it to them, saying, “Drink of it, all of you, for this is my blood of the covenant, which is poured out for many for the forgiveness of sins. (Matthew 26:27-28 ESV)

And he took bread, and when he had given thanks, he broke it and gave it to them, saying, “This is my body, which is given for you. Do this in remembrance of me.” (Luke 22:19 ESV)

The ordinances (sacraments, to non-Baptists) are the ordained practices that symbolically bridge soteriology and ecclesiology. Paul seems to agree with this as he links thanksgiving with salvation. It’s not that thanksgiving produces salvation but salvation produces thanksgiving.

But thanks be to God, who gives us the victory through our Lord Jesus Christ. (1 Corinthians 15:57 ESV)

May you be strengthened with all power, according to his glorious might, for all endurance and patience with joy, giving thanks to the Father, who has qualified you to share in the inheritance of the saints in light. (Colossians 1:11-12 ESV)

Therefore, as you received Christ Jesus the Lord, so walk in him, rooted and built up in him and established in the faith, just as you were taught, abounding in thanksgiving. (Colossians 2:6-7 ESV)

For it is all for your sake, so that as grace extends to more and more people it may increase thanksgiving, to the glory of God. (2 Corinthians 4:15 ESV)

Paul often gives thanks for people, usually because of What God is doing for them and in them, particularly with regard to the gospel:

But thanks be to God, that you who were once slaves of sin have become obedient from the heart to the standard of teaching to which you were committed, and, having been set free from sin, have become slaves of righteousness. (Romans 6:17-18 ESV)

I give thanks to my God always for you because of the grace of God that was given you in Christ Jesus, that in every way you were enriched in him in all speech and all knowledge— even as the testimony about Christ was confirmed among you— so that you are not lacking in any spiritual gift, as you wait for the revealing of our Lord Jesus Christ, who will sustain you to the end, guiltless in the day of our Lord Jesus Christ. (1 Corinthians 1:4-8 ESV)

But thanks be to God, who put into the heart of Titus the same earnest care I have for you. (2 Corinthians 8:16 ESV)

We give thanks to God always for all of you, constantly mentioning you in our prayers, remembering before our God and Father your work of faith and labor of love and steadfastness of hope in our Lord Jesus Christ. (1 Thessalonians 1:2-3 ESV)

For what thanksgiving can we return to God for you, for all the joy that we feel for your sake before our God, as we pray most earnestly night and day that we may see you face to face and supply what is lacking in your faith? (1 Thessalonians 3:9-10 ESV)

We ought always to give thanks to God for you, brothers, as is right, because your faith is growing abundantly, and the love of every one of you for one another is increasing. (2 Thessalonians 1:3 ESV)

But we ought always to give thanks to God for you, brothers beloved by the Lord, because God chose you as the firstfruits to be saved, through sanctification by the Spirit and belief in the truth. (2 Thessalonians 2:13 ESV)

Paul even once gives thanks publicly to a couple instead of to God, although I imagine that he also gave thanks to God for them.

Greet Prisca and Aquila, my fellow workers in Christ Jesus, who risked their necks for my life, to whom not only I give thanks but all the churches of the Gentiles give thanks as well. (Romans 16:3-4 ESV)

Paul also commands Christians to give thanks typically combining the command with prayer and corporate worship:

You also must help us by prayer, so that many will give thanks on our behalf for the blessing granted us through the prayers of many. (2 Corinthians 1:11 ESV)

And do not get drunk with wine, for that is debauchery, but be filled with the Spirit, addressing one another in psalms and hymns and spiritual songs, singing and making melody to the Lord with your heart, giving thanks always and for everything to God the Father in the name of our Lord Jesus Christ, submitting to one another out of reverence for Christ. (Ephesians 5:18-21 ESV)

And whatever you do, in word or deed, do everything in the name of the Lord Jesus, giving thanks to God the Father through him. (Colossians 3:17 ESV)

Continue steadfastly in prayer, being watchful in it with thanksgiving. (Colossians 4:2 ESV)

First of all, then, I urge that supplications, prayers, intercessions, and thanksgivings be made for all people, for kings and all who are in high positions, that we may lead a peaceful and quiet life, godly and dignified in every way. (1 Timothy 2:1-2 ESV)

And Paul says this is the will of God:

Rejoice always, pray without ceasing, give thanks in all circumstances; for this is the will of God in Christ Jesus for you. (1 Thessalonians 5:16-18 ESV)

What happens when people don’t give thanks? Paul contrasts giving thanksgiving with several things:

If you know who God is and do not give thanks to Him, your thinking becomes futile:

For although they knew God, they did not honor him as God or give thanks to him, but they became futile in their thinking, and their foolish hearts were darkened. (Romans 1:21 ESV)

The answer for an evil tongue is to give thanks to God. The two are not compatible:

Let there be no filthiness nor foolish talk nor crude joking, which are out of place, but instead let there be thanksgiving. (Ephesians 5:4 ESV)

Anxiety should be answered with prayer and thanksgiving, requesting help to assuage your anxieties from God.

do not be anxious about anything, but in everything by prayer and supplication with thanksgiving let your requests be made known to God. (Philippians 4:6 ESV)

There are many instructive passages that don’t fit in these categories:

Thanksgiving to God for our salvation is part of our identification as His children. Although we sin, we can give thanks to God for His grace:

Wretched man that I am! Who will deliver me from this body of death? Thanks be to God through Jesus Christ our Lord! So then, I myself serve the law of God with my mind, but with my flesh I serve the law of sin. (Romans 7:24-25 ESV)

The following passages seem to say that as long as we give thanks to God for something He will bless our use of it. While they certainly speak of Christian freedom, the passages in the previous section should be enough to indicate that simply giving thanks for sin does not justify sin.

The one who observes the day, observes it in honor of the Lord. The one who eats, eats in honor of the Lord, since he gives thanks to God, while the one who abstains, abstains in honor of the Lord and gives thanks to God. (Romans 14:6 ESV)

If I partake with thankfulness, why am I denounced because of that for which I give thanks? (1 Corinthians 10:30 ESV)

For everything created by God is good, and nothing is to be rejected if it is received with thanksgiving, for it is made holy by the word of God and prayer. (1 Timothy 4:4-5 ESV)

Some of the passages that make reference to thanksgiving don’t entirely fit into the categories I’ve mentioned so far. These require some special comment, for each has some special information to add to thanksgiving:

At least in some contexts, giving thanks is encouraged to be public. The reason is that giving thanks to God builds others up.

Otherwise, if you give thanks with your spirit, how can anyone in the position of an outsider say “Amen” to your thanksgiving when he does not know what you are saying? For you may be giving thanks well enough, but the other person is not being built up. (1 Corinthians 14:16-17 ESV)

This passage is interesting in that in our salvation, God has not removed us from this world but leaves us here to fulfill the Great Commission. While this is a world of pain, the task of proclaiming God is a matter for thanksgiving.

But thanks be to God, who in Christ always leads us in triumphal procession, and through us spreads the fragrance of the knowledge of him everywhere. (2 Corinthians 2:14 ESV)

Paul’s second letter to the Corinthians contains a promise that God will supply His people what they need in order to accomplish His purposes in them. First, the provision of the gift of proclaiming God will produce thanksgiving in us. Second, others will glorify God on account of us. Third, others will pray for us. Fourth, this gift results in many thanks because it is so great that it is inexpressible.

He who supplies seed to the sower and bread for food will supply and multiply your seed for sowing and increase the harvest of your righteousness. You will be enriched in every way to be generous in every way, which through us will produce thanksgiving to God. For the ministry of this service is not only supplying the needs of the saints but is also overflowing in many thanksgivings to God. By their approval of this service, they will glorify God because of your submission flowing from your confession of the gospel of Christ, and the generosity of your contribution for them and for all others, while they long for you and pray for you, because of the surpassing grace of God upon you. Thanks be to God for his inexpressible gift! (2 Corinthians 9:10-15 ESV)

While most of the thanksgiving passages are in Paul’s writings, John offers some thanksgiving in Revelation. This is one of two passages I found and contains an expression of praise that calls for thanksgiving to God.

“Amen! Blessing and glory and wisdom and thanksgiving and honor and power and might be to our God forever and ever! Amen.” (Revelation 7:12 ESV)

It’s too common for ministers to become overextended. Too many horror stories of pastor’s families going without their father have been repeated over the years by countless family members. There’s a reason that the term “Preacher’s Kid” has a stigma to it.

Additionally, there’s a reason that there is abundant council to ministers who “burn out”. Some even suffer various emotional a physical breakdowns. How often do you see your pastor obligatorily attending every event in the church or even feeling the need to lead every event in the church? Do you have events so large at your church that some staff members or other ministers stay up to all hours at the church, even for weeks before the event, in preparation?

This pattern doesn’t just go for pastors or other staff members. Most churches can identify perhaps 20% of their congregation who do perhaps 80% of the volunteer work in the church. When someone is identified as an achiever of sorts, they are asked to do the work. It’s easy to seek out those who are known to accomplish a lot of work in order to enlist their efforts in the newest endeavors. These people too often burn out as well. The all-too-common counsel for them is that they need to learn to say “no”.

Some people have trouble saying “no” because they believe that the work won’t get done if they don’t do it themselves. The problem with this is that it indicates a deep-seated distrust of other people. Often this trust is not unfounded. That is, there have been times when they enlisted the help of someone else who failed them. So they gave up trusting other people. These super-ministers have all the experience to best accomplish the task because they have learned from their failures and know how it’s supposed to be done so that there is no failure. The problem is that they don’t see any success beyond anyone else’s failure.

If you do the ministry of ten people, then you have taken the responsibility to minister away from nine other Christians. Is it not a better ministry to disciple others to do the excess minstry you have on your plate?

And in order to do this, you have to allow others the opportunity to fail so that they learn the same way you did.

To commemorate the four hundredth anniversary of the King James Bible next year, Crossway has commissioned artist Makoto Fujimura to illustrate The Four Holy Gospels, what they call an “illuminated book of the four Gospels.” The video below is a good introduction to this.

Fujimura – 4 Holy Gospels from Crossway on Vimeo.

I’m an artist. I’m not a prolific painter although I can do that, but my medium is music. I love to paint the air with textures of tones and colors of harmony and rhythm. This is beyond the pale of simple melody and orchestration, but a bit on the abstract: imagine the sort of improvisation you might find in jazz applied to the Romantic music of Mussorgsky or Dvorak with some Vangelis thrown in.

Everyone loves to express themselves. Most people express themselves best verbally. Some people express themselves best in nonverbal ways. I can speak well if I’m somewhat scripted, but go off-script and I have trouble saying what needs to be said. Many artists are like this.

Traditional art uses images and symbols that exist already in social discourse in order to convey meaning. It’s not unlike verbal idioms. More contemporary art uses common images to establish new symbols. A view from the inside of a crashing wave can be like a tunnel that gives a sense of confinement and anticipation. An overgrown flower in a pot conveys the absurdity of pretense.

Modern art that has no sociological foundation is almost pointless except that it might convey some raw emotion. Reds might indicate fiery things. Greens might indicate serene things. Generally, modern art combines raw aesthetics with communication on this level. The interesting thing about Makoto Fujimura’s art is that it is rooted in a traditional Japanese style. If you aren’t familiar with Japanese art, then you might miss the traditional aspects of his symbolism that lend greater meaning to the blobs and lines of various colors that seem to comprise his art.

I had a discussion with a man last week, I’ll call him Ned, who was upset with a knowledgeable Bible teacher, who I’ll call Jonas. There was some aspect of theology that Ned didn’t get and asked Jonas about it. He said that the Jonas, as good a Bible teacher as he was, danced around the issue claiming to understand it. I asked what the answer was precisely that the Bible teacher gave. Ned obviously couldn’t repeat word for word what was said, but he was able to convey the general gist of Jonas’ comments. Then he asked me why Jonas just couldn’t admit that he didn’t understand.

From what Ned told me I was able to deduce that Jonas actually gave a good answer and truly understood the issue. What Jonas didn’t understand is that Ned was unable to understand the theological concept at all. And what Ned didn’t understand is that Jonas actually understood and knew what he was talking about.

Human beings in general have a problem with thinking that other people should be able to understand what we understand. Many of us even think that others should know what we know even though they haven’t particularly been exposed to the information. My fellow students at the Bible College I attended were aghast that I had never heard of Steve Green, the well-known contemporary Christian musician before.

Different people understand different things better than other people. One person may understand how to manages workers better than someone who understands resource management better than the first person. So they might function well as a team where the second person plans the work and the first person motivates everyone to do the work. They have a problem, however, if one of them thinks that their area of expertise gives them the edge in dismissing the work of the other. Someone who is good at motivating people to do things, for example, might think that they don’t need to heed the warnings of the other who might suggest applying the workload in a more efficient manner. Or the one who is good at planning resources might balk when the other guy tries to tell him that the people just can’t work a certain way.

But for some reason most people too often get upset when others apprehend the world differently than they do. People get angry when others don’t have the wherewithal to accommodate their sensibilities. I pulled up to a stop sign at an intersection in town once where I needed to turn left. The view to observe oncoming traffic from both directions was obscured by the landscape so I inched forward until I could see. Another man turning left onto the road I was coming from was upset at my position because he had to turn more sharply than he otherwise would have to in order to turn onto the road. He stopped in the middle of the intersection blocking my way, got out of his car, and proceeded to cuss me out for being too far forward. He didn’t understand that that was the only position where the traffic could be safely viewed.

So we too often get upset when others don’t understand what we understand. We also get upset when we think others pretend to understand things that we don’t understand where they actually do understand. We like to think that if we don’t understand something, it can’t be understood. So Ned asked me angrily, “Why can’t Jonas just admit that there are just some things we can’t understand?” So I was left to explain to Ned what I explained just now so that he wouldn’t despise his brother over it.

There are some things that are difficult to convey because very few people can understand them. Sometimes art becomes the means for expressing what would otherwise be inexpressible. A few times in the video, the transcendent nature of art is mentioned. As for having any particular meaning, this is artsy gobbledygook. But it speaks of a general sense of this matter of attempting to express the inexpressible. But this is in some way troubling in the description of Crossway’s The Four Holy Gospels as being “illuminated”. Art usually conveys a general sense of some idea but rarely, if ever, conveys any particular concept. If anything, the words of scripture illuminate the art, rather than the art illuminating scripture.

But the biggest danger of art is the focus on self. Look at the video from about the 5:00 mark. The lady narrating expresses what is most troubling about the art community by about 5:11. The purpose for all that Fujimura does, as she lists it, is to reveal himself; to say, “this is who I am.” The problem that most Christians have with art in this sense is that if the Bible reveals anything about us, even as individuals, it’s that we are not worthy to be revealed except as sinners in need of God. As such, the Bible is here to reveal God in His beauty and glory, not man.

Of all artists, the greatest is God. Even in it’s fallen state, this world as created by God is intensely beautiful. For those who have the Holy Spirit all of creation reveals the Creator. The great literary work that He created is upheld by His creation and formed of the history of his people. While all of creation reveals the Creator, it is the words of scripture that illumine Him to us that we might know to Whom all this creation of His points. Therefore, art that glorifies God never illumines, it points.

We worship God with the artistry of music. But music is merely an art. Music never illumines, it points. I’ve never been in a worship service or known a piece of music that fully reveals God. There are some words of worship, encouragement, or instruction in the lyrics, where there are lyrics, but never a complete revelation. I know songs and hymns with the nuts and bolts of the gospel, but that is the closest I have seen to a complete revelation.

So it is that we can worship with art, but only if we seek to point to the revelation of God. One man talked about artists feeling restricted by Christianity. Look at the video again starting at about 2:45. The man talks about a sense of spirituality among artists, but that they felt confined by Christianity. If the goal of the artist is to use art to draw people away from God, then they will feel confined by Christianity. If their goal is to point the way to God, then they will not feel confined; in fact they will feel freer than they would otherwise.

And it is not art that transcends, but God who transcends. Only when art is fixed on the Great Artist, and our minds are fixed on He who is all-knowing and all-wise, can we truly communicate through the many means given to us.