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Danger of the Subjective

Danger of the Subjective

Words of Faith 2-23-18

Dr. Jeffrey D. Hoy © 2018

Jeff.Hoy@faithfellowshipweb.com

Faith Fellowship Church - Melbourne, FL

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Luke 1

   [67] His father Zechariah was filled with the Holy Spirit and prophesied:

   [68] "Praise be to the Lord, the God of Israel,

      because he has come and has redeemed his people.

   [69] He has raised up a horn of salvation for us

       in the house of his servant David

   [70] (as he said through his holy prophets of long ago),

   [71] salvation from our enemies

       and from the hand of all who hate us--

   [72] to show mercy to our fathers

       and to remember his holy covenant,

       [73] the oath he swore to our father Abraham:

   [74] to rescue us from the hand of our enemies,

       and to enable us to serve him without fear

   [75] in holiness and righteousness before him all our days.

   [76] And you, my child, will be called a prophet of the Most High;

       for you will go on before the Lord to prepare the way for him,

   [77] to give his people the knowledge of salvation

       through the forgiveness of their sins,

   [78] because of the tender mercy of our God,

       by which the rising sun will come to us from heaven

   [79] to shine on those living in darkness

       and in the shadow of death,

   to guide our feet into the path of peace."

   [80] And the child grew and became strong in spirit; and he lived in the desert until he appeared publicly to Israel.

 

            When Zechariah suddenly recovered his voice, the first thing he did was to make sure that his son was named correctly. The second thing he did was to exalt God in a Psalm of praise. I am not sure how measured this decision was on the part of Zechariah. I doubt that he contemplated the various possibilities for using his restored voice-- "Shall I greet my neighbor, call the dog, or order take-out?" He was suddenly filled with the Spirit and prophesied.

     This psalm is known by a very religious sounding title, "Benedictus", from the first word of the phrase in Latin. It is richly filled with Old Testament quotations and allusions that focus around praising God, the redemption of God's people, the deliverance by Messiah and the role that John would play in preparing the way of the Lord. So. Ready to move on? After all, isn't this just sort of a religious filler in the story? Hmm. Not too fast.

       One of the things that we notice about this prophetic psalm is that it is not "subjective" at all-- that is, it is not personal or intimate at all in reflecting upon Zechariah's experience of God through all this. Frankly, if I were Zechariah and had been writing a song about my experience, I would have been tempted to make it very personal. I would have written something like this--

       "Praise to the Lord closed up my mouth and then opened it again to sing praises to Him! Glory to the Lord who opened Elizabeth's womb and answered our prayers in our old age! CHORUS: He has loved me, He has loved me, He has loved me! -- (guitar riff) -- He has opened my mouth to praise Him! Glory to the one who entrusted to me the naming of His servant John, for He is trusting and faithful. And I have proved trustworthy and faithful! CHORUS" (CCLI license applied for.)  

       But instead of dwelling on his personal feelings and experience about all this, Zechariah focused entirely on magnifying the Lord, celebrating God's work of redemption, and pointing toward the work of John. Hmm.

         Now, this is not meant to be critical, just an observation. One might observe that there is a significant part of our Christian culture that is very subjective. A good deal of our praise and worship is very subjective. It is about me. Me and God, of course, but still me. Much praise and worship is very intimate with God, which is wonderful, but we should recognize that this sometimes misses the big picture. The big picture is what Zechariah was able to see by the inspiration of the Spirit. Hmm.

         You see, as evangelicals we are fond of saying, "If you were the only one, Jesus would have died just for you." We reason that this must be so because so much of the Gospel is personal. If, there were only one person, the Gospel would still be true. But there is not and was not just one.

         The Gospel is certainly about YOU, but it is not ONLY about you and can never be understood in this way. Many of us have even done a Bible exercise of personalizing a scripture such as John 3:16 this way-- "God so loved (fill in your name), that He gave His only begotten Son, so that if (fill in your name) believes in Him, (fill in your name) will have everlasting life. Personalizing the message is critical. While this is true of John 3:16, it is not the text, and it misses the big picture. God so loved the world. This message is for the world.

         So what is the danger in subjectivity? What is wrong with delighting in the personal love of Jesus for me? The danger is if we never get past that. There is a tendency to make Jesus into a totally personal almost eastern religion. "I love Jesus. He loves me. I don't need anything else. He is just going to love on me." We miss our need for the Body. We miss our need to serve. We miss our need to give. We miss our need to grow through conflict. We miss the call of God to carry the Gospel to all nations, not just to our kitchen table. We miss the big picture.

 

       Praise to the Lord, the God of Israel because He has come to redeem us. He is bringing salvation from our enemies and those who hate us. He has remembered us. He has sent Jesus, the Most High, and knowledge of salvation. He has extended His tender mercy, by which the sun will rise to shine upon those living in darkness and in the shadow of death. He will guide our feet in the path of peace. Amen.