“Blessed are the people whose God is the Lᴏʀᴅ!” (Psalm 144:15).
Let’s consider three very different stories as metaphors for our culture today.
One: The University of Texas will allow students to live together regardless of their gender or sexual identity. The university explained, “This helps enhance our residents’ sense of belonging and improve our competitiveness with the Austin market and other institutions. It also allows us to be more responsive to student needs.” The fact that you’re probably not surprised by this news is my point.
Two: on a lighter note, Major League Baseball will allow pitchers and catchers to use technology intended to prevent sign stealing. A catcher uses a pad with buttons on the wrist of his gloved hand to communicate the intended pitch and location to the pitcher through a listening device. This is intended to speed up the game and keep the other side from stealing signs. However, it says something about us that “America’s pastime” has to adopt such unprecedented means to prevent cheating.
Three: in other sports news, Scottie Scheffler won yesterday’s Masters tournament, solidifying his status as the world No. 1 golfer. Before Scheffler could win the tournament, however, he had to do something very important a few months ago: RSVP to his invitation to play. According to the New York Times, Augusta National sends invitations each year to golfers it wishes to invite to the tournament. They must signal their intention to play before they are permitted to compete.
There was a time when I played golf every week and practiced several times a week. However, no matter how much I worked on my game, I would never have received such an invitation. There are some things we cannot do for ourselves, no matter how hard we try.
It’s not a “Holocaust” museum
I returned Saturday after spending fifteen days in the Holy Land. I have led more than thirty study tours of Israel; each time I am deeply impressed by the continued courage and resilience of the Jewish people.
For example, terror attacks escalated in Jerusalem once again as Ramadan began. One of the victims was a former Israeli Olympian and father of three; another victim became engaged to his fiancé last month and was planning his wedding.
And of course, every visit to Israel is a reminder of the Holocaust. It is difficult to meet an Israeli who did not lose a family member to the Nazis and their collaborators.
Last Thursday, our group visited Yad Vashem, the Holocaust museum in Jerusalem. Except it’s not actually a “holocaust” museum. “Holocaust” is a Greek word referring to a “sacrifice by fire” made to God. The Nazis did not sacrifice the Jews to God—they murdered six million of them in cold blood.
For this reason, the Jewish people use the word Shoah, Hebrew for “catastrophe,” to describe what happened to their people.
Inside the museum, I noticed a quotation I had not seen before, this one from a poet and philosopher named Benjamin Fondane who was murdered at Auschwitz in 1944: “Remember only that I was innocent and, just like you, mortal on that day. I, too, had a face marked by rage, by joy and pity, quite simply, a human face!”
“The best friend you have ever known”
From rising anti-Semitism around the world to the tragic death of twenty-four-year-old NFL quarterback Dwayne Haskins to the continuing tragedy in Ukraine to senseless violence against teenagers in the US and an epidemic of mental health challenges for American children, each day’s news proves again that fallen humans are incapable of changing fallen human nature. But what we cannot do, the Spirit of God can.
As Oswald Chambers noted, “It is gloriously and majestically true that the Holy Ghost can work in us the very nature of Jesus if we will obey him.”
Let’s apply his observation personally: identify an aspect of your life that you wish were different—something you are doing that you should stop or something you are not doing that you should begin. What can you do to enable the Spirit to transform that part of your life into the “very nature of Jesus”?
Craig Denison writes: “If you ask for a deeper friendship with the Holy Spirit, you will find he is the best friend you have ever known.” This is because “friendship with the Spirit is like any other friendship in that it develops over time. Like a new friend, you must get to know his character and personality. Spend time just talking with him, listening to him and allowing him to work in your heart and life.”
If we do, Craig assures us, “He is your gateway to experiencing the things of God. Walk in relationship with him, follow his guidance, and make a new best friend in the Holy Spirit.”
“The firstborn among many brothers”
We cannot change our hearts as the Spirit can. However, we can hinder the Spirit from doing his transforming work in our lives. Craig notes that “the Holy Spirit has a personality. He has likes and dislikes. He feels, thinks, enjoys, likes, suffers, and desires.”
As a result, it is vital that we “do not grieve the Holy Spirit of God” (Ephesians 4:30) and that we “do not quench the Spirit” (1 Thessalonians 5:19). To this end, I want to encourage you to make a “spiritual inventory” part of your life each morning: ask God to bring to your mind anything that is hindering the Spirit from making you more like Jesus, then confess whatever comes to your thoughts and claim your Father’s forgiving and cleansing grace (1 John 1:9).
In addition, I encourage you to take time periodically for a deeper inventory. Offer the same prayer but with paper and pen in hand. Write down what comes to mind, giving the Spirit as much time as he needs to answer your prayer. Once again, confess these sins specifically and claim God’s forgiveness and mercy.
As Christians around the world noted yesterday, Jesus rode into Jerusalem triumphantly on Palm Sunday. As we will remember this Holy Week, he died in agony on Good Friday and rose in victory on Easter Sunday. All of it was not only to save humanity but to transform humans until we are “conformed to the image of [God’s] Son, in order that he might be the firstborn among many brothers” (Romans 8:29).
Your Lord will settle for nothing less.
NOTE: It is my honor and pleasure to deliver a Good Friday message this Friday, April 15, at Dallas Baptist University’s Good Friday Service. If you’re near the area, join us at 7 p.m. in Pilgrim Chapel.