Why this psalm? With this passage? The scholars who put together the Book of Common Prayer were fairly evangelical, and wanted people to make connections. And the connection here is fairly obvious. The God who we wait for, in our despair, in our illness, in our grief, is none but Christ.
None but Christ. There is no other way. All others are robbers, frauds and con artists: at best they are deluded, at worst demonic.
So before we go further, an example.
As the relationship that most churches preach of Jesus is shaped by the person involved. Jesus is there to service the person, make them feel good, and justify them in all that they do. Moral relativism is the common belief of today, where there is no absolute truth, nor there is anyone defending it. As Barna writes, 3/4 of both teens and adults reject the notion that there are absolute moral truths, and 4/5 reject the idea that anyone can know for certain what truth is.
In such an environment, it should be no surprise that there is a movement towards the morally relative Personal Jesus, consistent with Gnosticism.
I am not a relativist. I consider there is an objective reality: this world is real, the heavens it reflects are more real. There is no illusion: there is no matrix. I believe, firmly and with conviction, that Christ walked this world, died, was buried and rose again. The resurrection is historical.
Relativism? Weak, insipid. Starbucks flavoured high fructose liquid cinnaboms when I crave something strong, flavourful and black.
Hedonism? Without satisfaction. I crave relationship more than sexual gratification, and I am horny: as I crave good food rather than dunkin’ donuts even when I am hungry.
And the post-modern have blinded and gelded themselves, and call such mutilation good.
“Truly, truly, I say to you, he who does not enter the sheepfold by the door but climbs in by another way, that man is a thief and a robber. But he who enters by the door is the shepherd of the sheep. To him the gatekeeper opens. The sheep hear his voice, and he calls his own sheep by name and leads them out. When he has brought out all his own, he goes before them, and the sheep follow him, for they know his voice. A stranger they will not follow, but they will flee from him, for they do not know the voice of strangers.” This figure of speech Jesus used with them, but they did not understand what he was saying to them.
So Jesus again said to them, “Truly, truly, I say to you, I am the door of the sheep. All who came before me are thieves and robbers, but the sheep did not listen to them. I am the door. If anyone enters by me, he will be saved and will go in and out and find pasture. The thief comes only to steal and kill and destroy. I came that they may have life and have it abundantly. I am the good shepherd. The good shepherd lays down his life for the sheep. He who is a hired hand and not a shepherd, who does not own the sheep, sees the wolf coming and leaves the sheep and flees, and the wolf snatches them and scatters them. He flees because he is a hired hand and cares nothing for the sheep. I am the good shepherd. I know my own and my own know me, just as the Father knows me and I know the Father; and I lay down my life for the sheep. And I have other sheep that are not of this fold. I must bring them also, and they will listen to my voice. So there will be one flock, one shepherd. For this reason the Father loves me, because I lay down my life that I may take it up again. No one takes it from me, but I lay it down of my own accord. I have authority to lay it down, and I have authority to take it up again. This charge I have received from my Father.”
(John 10:1-18 ESV)
I think that we need to rediscover the gospel. I am a fan of preaching hellfire and destruction, for out of godly shame the spirit is able to lead to Christ. But pretending that we can either earn our salvation nor that we can keep ourselves for salvation is a gross error.
For we are not faithful. Christ is.
Here, we are entering into a paradox, where two seemingly mutually exclusive things may exist at the same time, like free will and predestination. In our case, The scriptures seem to indicate that we both can and can’t lose our salvation. In such situations, we must then ask, “Which do we emphasize, and in what proportion?” Should we emphasize our ability and responsibility to keep ourselves, or God’s?
When I was a more Arminian believer, I was part of a charismatic holiness church. There was heavy emphasis on keeping yourself close to God, and being careful not to let sin’s deceitfulness steal you away. But after a while, this became such a huge burden that, as the old song says, I realized that I could NOT be good enough to keep myself:
I have decided
Being good is just a fable
I just can’t, cause I’m not able
I’m gonna leave it to the Lord
~ Amy Grant, “I Have Decided”
That is, if God did not keep me, I was lost. I could not NOT sin, even if my holiness preachers told me that the Holy Spirit had enabled me to not sin. Then, I read Hebrews 3 and 4, and realized that the reason I had no rest was because I did not believe His promises – I had subtly shifted to having faith in myself and my ability, instead of His:
The idea that we can be saints, that we can be righteous in this life, is a fundamental error. It is making ourselves into a little religion. And by thinking that we can make a religion and justify ourselves, we fall into the trap of either gnostic lawlessness or a scrupulosity of practice that sees all others as subhuman.
Have faith in Christ. He died for us, and he keeps his word. Have no faith in others, particularly yourself.