What I Was Doing Last Semester

During my recent blog hiatus, I was not doing several things. I was not vacationing; I was not sleeping all day; I was not climbing Mount Everest.

Instead I was working through the heaviest academic semester I’ve been enrolled in. During that semester I wrote a lot – papers, not blog posts. Some of these papers may be useful to you, so I’m posting a list with links.

Advanced New Testament Theology

Biblical Historical Backgrounds

History and Theology of Religions

Theological Research Methods

  • Dissertation: First Chapter and Proposal

All together, that makes 124 pages. At that rate, a dissertation should take me just two semesters, DV… We shall see. 🙂

Absence and Giveaway

It’s been a while and I apologize for the quietness here at the blog. Life has been busy, but I hope to find some time for some extra writing soon. But enough about what I haven’t done…

ESV Study BibleThere’s a great giveaway here at my friend Jon’s blog. There’s a lot of variety in these resources, but I’m sure everyone can find at least something that they wouldn’t mind getting free. 🙂

A couple highlights include:

  • ESV Study Bible
  • Bob Kauflin’s Worship Matters
  • Rolland McCune’s Systematic Theology three volume set

Head over to Jon’s post to find out how to enter for this giveaway.

Instant Gratification

Instant Gratification – a real temptation

Hundreds of advertising messages bombard the average American each day. The pressure to buy (and buy now!) is practically unavoidable. Manufacturers spend billions each year to convince us that we need their newest and greatest products; they want us to believe that our lives will be incomplete until we buy what they are selling. Marketing pushes us to pursue instant gratification.

American Christianity is not immune to this thinking. A quick scan through most local religious TV or radio stations will quickly reveal “preachers” wrongly teaching that present possessions, wealth, and prosperity are the unarguable marks of God’s blessing. Now add the obvious observation that some wicked people prosper far more than many Christians, and you have a very confused theology on your hands!

Instant gratification – an old temptation

Even Bible-believing saints have faced this pressure for generations. In Psalm 73, Asaph makes a striking confession.

But as for me, my feet were almost gone; my steps had well nigh slipped. For I was envious at the foolish, when I saw the prosperity of the wicked (2–3).

He knows well what sins characterize the lives of these prosperous sinners! They boldly wear pride like a necklace; violence enshrouds them like a cloak (v. 6). Further, they are guilty of corruption, wicked words, oppression, and lofty speech (v. 8). Their mouths blaspheme heaven itself (v. 10)!
Yet, despite their thorough sin, they seem to have it all. Asaph notices that the wicked appear to have pain-free deaths (v. 4) and trouble-free lives (v. 5). It looks as though the wicked were successfully achieving instant gratification!

Instant gratification – a selfish temptation

John Bunyan described the same situation in The Pilgrim’s Progress. Christian visits the house of the Interpreter and sees a vision of two children. The older child, Passion, is “much discontented”—he is far from content! Against the patient wishes of his guardian, he demands to be given wealth and treasure immediately; he wants instant gratification.

The other child, Patience, waits until the governor wishes to give the gifts. Interpreter explains Patience’s wisdom to Christian: “The glory of the next world will never wear out; but these are suddenly gone.”

Passion gets his treasure immediately and mocks Patience, only to overspend his treasure quickly and have “nothing left him but rags.” Patience waits and, upon receiving his gifts in the right time, enjoys the “glory” of his treasure.

Eternal treasure – glorious gifts

Interpreter gives the moral of this story: “the glory of the next world will never wear out; but these are suddenly gone.” Why should Christian avoid the trap of instant gratification? Earthly treasure fades and passes; eternal treasure has enduring glory!

The temptation of instant gratification breaks down precisely where it appeals most. Its seduction is based on “now”— having what you want right away. Its failure is in the same “now”—its delights pass immediately. As Moses noticed, its pleasures are only “for a season” (Heb. 11:25).

Eternal treasure – our glorious God

This is the same conclusion that settled Asaph’s heart in Psalm 73. He looked to the future. He realized that the lives of the wicked are not light and fun. Rather, God has “set them in slippery places” and “they [are] brought to desolation, as in a moment” (v. 17–19).

Asaph’s future (and present!) security, however, was God. Just as Patience looked forward “the glory of the next world” in The Pilgrim’s Progress, Asaph confidently prayed about his glorious treasure.

Thou shalt guide me with thy counsel, and afterward receive me to glory.
Whom have I in heaven but thee? and there is none upon earth that I desire beside thee.
My flesh and my heart faileth: but God is the strength of my heart, and my portion for ever.

The end of the wicked is “slippery places” and “destruction.” Asaph’s end was glory. Yet Asaph also knew that the future glory isn’t merely waiting for some heavenly crowns. The glory that helps God’s people fight against instant gratification is God’s presence!

True, eternal treasure is better than the fleeting pleasure of the earthly delights. But there is a true “instant gratification” for the believer; God is with you right now! His presence is the ultimate immediate joy. His guiding counsel, His glory, and His strength are specific things that Asaph rejoiced in in the present.

In fact, the believer’s real “portion” is God Himself. Just as God allotted an appropriate “portion” of land to each tribe, He Himself is the perfect allotment for each believer. His presence is exactly what we need.

Eternal treasure – our glorious confidence

This confidence in future glory is part of our defense against the world’s pressure of instant gratification as well. Like Patience, Asaph, and Paul, we look for “a far more exceeding and eternal weight of glory” (II Cor. 4:17). In the midst of myriad pressures to buy it now, we can base our patience on our confidence in our glorious future with God.

In contrast to the fleeting temptation of earthly pleasures, we must also set our desire and delight on God Himself. With Asaph, we should value the highest good: “It is good for me to draw near to God” (v. 28).

This article is also posted at BJUPress.com.

Does reading the Bible “in context” limit application?

No, it really doesn’t.  But that’s a criticism that comes up occasionally.  If you challenge a slightly careless or assumptive interpretation by pointing out what the verse specifically means in context, you’ll find that some people will defend the poor interpretation based on their belief that it needs to apply to something (usually outside the boundaries of the context).  Phrases like “the appearance of evil,” “the day the Lord has made,” “the nation whose God is the Lord,” “stumbling-blocks,” “a new song,” “owe no man any thing,” and numerous others find themselves often abused by over-broad interpretation.  Are we losing something valuable if we limit those words to what they actually mean in context?

Reading in Context

First of all, if reading a verse in context limits its application, that’s just fine.  We ought to be more concerned about God’s intention in His Word than we are about our creative applications!

Second, sometimes reading a passage carefully actually expands the application!  Take the story of Eli’s sons Hophni and Phinehas, for example (I Sam. 2-3).  If you read quickly, the story looks an awful lot like a lesson in parenting.  Eli failed to discipline his sons, therefore his sons misbehaved badly, therefore God punished both parent and child.  What difference would that make today?  I suppose the application (of a reading on that superficial level) would be “Be sure you discipline your children to obey or else you’ll get punished by God.”  While raising children to serve the Lord is an excellent thing to do, that’s really not a great application to pull from this text.  Here’s why.

Reading Too Quickly

A superficial reading of this passage only applies to a fraction of readers.  I don’t have kids – should I just put this passage in my “save it for later” drawer and apply it when I’m older?  What about parents who are already raising children who love God?  I suppose they should just say, “Good stuff, glad I’m doing well here.  Next chapter, please!”

A worse problem with the superficial reading, however, is that it misses Christ.  Really, where does the Gospel of Christ fit into that application?  I’m not saying it’s impossible to tie the two together; I am saying that the “parenting advice” interpretation makes it really easy to rattle of a moralistic application that doesn’t leave much room for connecting to Christ.

Of course, the biggest problem with reading carelessly is that you may miss what God actually says in His Word.  Whether application is broad or narrow is immaterial if you don’t know what the passage actually says.

A Better Application

We should notice that God gives His view of the situation in I Sam 2 – that should get our attention and focus our application.  God identifies the root problem.  It wasn’t parenting; it wasn’t corporal punishment; it wasn’t even learning self-control.  The root of the issue was idolatry.  Look at I Sam. 2.29: “Why then do you scorn my sacrifices and my offerings that I commanded, and honor your sons above me by fattening yourselves on the choicest parts of every offering of my people Israel?”

Wow.  Do you see what happened there?  No longer can we read this passage as mere parenting advice.  Now we see that the real application strikes at a sin that affects each of us constantly: the sin of idolatry.  Now I can’t skim the passage and say, “Great, I’ll apply that parenting stuff later.”  Now the mirror of the Word reflects my own heart and I pray, “Lord, I don’t have any sons to ‘honor above You,’ but I’ve got gadgets, money, clothing, lust, entertainment, comfort, self, and far too many other thrones before which I bow.  Forgive my sin and turn my heart back to Your worship alone!”

This still applies to parenting, of course.  But now we see that the root issue in a family might not merely be style, technique, or method; now we’re forced to examine our hearts to see if family problems are actually the by-products of our idolatry.  Simply preaching parenting advice from this passage could easily overlook the core issue, allowing hearers to salve the symptoms without treating the causative disease.

And the cross of Christ fits right into the careful interpretation – the Gospel meets idolatry head-on!  The problem with all of us is idolatry: exchanging God’s glory for images of creation, worshiping creature rather than Creator (Rom. 1.18-32).  The solution for all of us is justification by faith: God’s righteousness imputed to those who have fallen short of His glory (Rom. 3.21-31) and enables them to worship Him alone (Rom. 12.1-2).  Do we still struggle with idolatry?  Yes, we do.  But our solution is not “better parenting,” “more discipline,” or “self-control.”  Our sole solution is still the Gospel: it is the message that Christ paid the penalty for our idolatry and that in Him we can rightly worship God.

The Real Issue

Confronting our idolatry is a powerful application – one that hits us right between the eyes.  It’s something that we’d miss if we read too quickly and get sidetracked on the “obvious” point of the passage.  You see, the real question is not whether paying attention to the context limits or widens application.  Paying attention to the whole passage means finding the application that God intended (regardless of how it compares to our assumption about the passage).  And the application that God intends is always more powerful and practical than any application we can invent!

Associations (and why they might not be as important as you’ve been told)

If there were one word I could expunge from Fundamentalism’s vocabulary, it would be the word “association.”  Actually, that might not be at the head of the list, but it would definitely make the top ten. “Association” frequently serves as a smoke screen to cover unnecessary and unbiblical separation.  For the sake of “guarding associations,” Scripturally mandated unity finds itself discarded as the body of Christ suffers great mutilation.  If we are going to demonstrate God’s glory through the Church, we need to make admissions and change our thinking about associations.

Before I say any more, let me clarify something.  I’m writing because I’m concerned about people throwing babies out with bathwater by abusing or overusing.  I don’t want to do the same thing with the topic I’m writing about today.  Paul speaks to the value of associations in his discussion of eating idol meat (I Cor. 8-10).  I’m not out to bash every single decision or opinion that involves associations; I’d just like to bring up some points that will (ideally) help us safeguard against an abuse of association arguments.

First, let’s just admit that even though everyone talks about association, no one knows exactly what it means.  Sure, everyone has a fuzzy idea about about they mean when they use the word “association.”  But give me a uniform, broadly acceptable definition, please.  Some of you just thought about a definition for association for the very first time.  What is association?  Does it necessarily involve face-to-face time with a person?  Is it cooperative or unilateral?  Is it merely reading or listening to resources?  Does it apply to organizations, individuals or both?  How do you handle ignorance of associations?  Those are all good questions and there are good answers (feel free to kick some thoughts around in the comments), but the variety in opinion on those answers demonstrates something essential: when we talk about association, we’re all talking about our own idea of what association means, not about a clearly defined and broadly agreed-upon definition.  To complicate matters further, how do we decide what issues make an association (whatever that may be!) an issue?  And further how big of an issue is an undesirable association – is it sinful, problematic or just confusing?  I’m not arguing that there’s no such thing as a valid associational concern (there are some); I’m just trying to show how far into the realm of individualism, preferences and subjectivity we end up when we try to make association-driven choices.

A second problem with association-driven choices is its implicit negativity.  No one uses “association” as a reason to cooperate in Gospel-centered ministry; it only functions as a reason for rejection or separation.   When dozens of good books, songs, sermons and Christians are denigrated or prohibited because of “their associations,” negative triviality abounds.  An atmosphere of nit-picking, hyper-sensitivity and judgmentalism develops.  The overuse of “association” arguments hinders grace-based relationships: resources, ministries and people are viewed through the lens of “What bad associations do they have?” not “What good is God doing in and through them?”  When “association” is the issue in nearly every choice, the situations where it actually matters end up devalued because of an overused argument.  It’s bad enough using an implicitly negative argument; must we overuse it as well?

Perhaps the worst offense of “associationism” is that it obscures the real issues.  Consider the following scenarios.  (A) A choir director uses a choir song by a theologically liberal or openly homosexual author/composer.  That’s not usually a problem.  The same choir director uses a choir song by a well-known Christian musician whose primary style is something akin to pop or rock.  That’s bad association. (B) A pastor uses commentaries and reference works that are written by unconverted men who treat Scripture as a thing to be dissected and graded according to human reason.  That’s not usually a problem.  That same pastor tries quoting a godly man whose ministry is characterized by careful exposition of Scripture but whose church has “lower standards” for conduct or dress.  That’s bad association.  Do you see what’s happening here?  Trying to run a ministry according to “association” is like trying to cut a straight line with pinking shears.  The subjectivity we saw growing from the undefined nature of associations is the subjectivity that makes it impossible to make objective decisions solely on association factors.

Of course, we don’t want to leave this topic with an entirely negative understanding of the problem.  Let’s think about some practical ways to cut a better path forward.

  • Let’s set the word “association” aside for now.  Really, if we can’t define the “problem” in detail without resorting to “association,” we might not even have a real problem in the first place.  Deliberately avoiding the word might appear pedantic, but it will help by forcing us to think about the actual situation.
  • Let’s keep the important issues in focus.  What does God really want from His people – separation or holiness?  (And no, those are not the same!)  Instead of starting with questions of separation, let’s start with Christlikeness.  Picture a book from a pastor of a church that’s not like your church.  Now, ask yourself some questions.  “Will this book promote Christlikeness in my life?”  “Will this book help me understand the Scripture better?”  “Will this book increase the fervency, love and passion with which I relate to God?”  If the answer is “yes,” read the book!
  • Let’s get move from disclaimer-ism to discernment.  Are we interacting with one another as with growing Christians or are we all treating each other like infants?  Accuracy and discernment are super, but qualifying every recommendation with is a disclaimer is silly.  First, treat the person you’re talking to as a Christian who is capable of biblically discerning right and wrong.  Second, discern others’ recommendations without judging them.  It really isn’t as complicated as we make it out to be!

Any other suggestions on how to move past petty association-ism and teach holy discernment?

C. S. Lewis: Read old books!

While preaching about the early church fathers’ understanding of the Gospel recently, Ligon Duncan opened his message with a lengthy quotation from C. S. Lewis’ introduction to Athanasius’ On the Incarnation.  I realize this is a lengthy quotation, but I found it very challenging: it certainly motivates me to spend more time with older sources, it gives a broader perspective to the mental blinders that every generation wears by default, and encourages the humble teachability that theological studies require.  I’m sure you’ll find it profitable as well!

There is a strange idea abroad that in every subject the ancient books should be read only by the professionals, and that the amateur should content himself with the modern books. Thus I have found as a tutor in English Literature that if the average student wants to find out something about Platonism, the very last thing he thinks of doing is to take a translation of Plato off the library shelf and read the Symposium. He would rather read some dreary modern book ten times as long, all about “isms” and influences and only once in twelve pages telling him what Plato actually said. The error is rather an amiable one, for it springs from humility. The student is half afraid to meet one of the great philosophers face to face. He feels himself inadequate and thinks he will not understand him. But if he only knew, the great man, just because of his greatness, is much more intelligible than his modern commentator. The simplest student will be able to understand, if not all, yet a very great deal of what Plato said; but hardly anyone can understand some modern books on Platonism. It has always therefore been one of my main endeavours as a teacher to persuade the young that firsthand knowledge is not only more worth acquiring than secondhand knowledge, but is usually much easier and more delightful to acquire.

Now this seems to me topsy-turvy. Naturally, since I myself am a writer, I do not wish the ordinary reader to read no modern books. But if he must read only the new or only the old, I would advise him to read the old. And I would give him this advice precisely because he is an amateur and therefore much less protected than the expert against the dangers of an exclusive contemporary diet. A new book is still on its trial and the amateur is not in a position to judge it. It has to be tested against the great body of Christian thought down the ages, and all its hidden implications (often unsuspected by the author himself) have to be brought to light. Often it cannot be fully understood without the knowledge of a good many other modern books. If you join at eleven o’clock a conversation which began at eight you will often not see the real bearing of what is said. Remarks which seem to you very ordinary will produce laughter or irritation and you will not see why – the reason, of course, being that the earlier stages of the conversation have given them a special point. In the same way sentences in a modern book which look quite ordinary may be directed at some other book; in this way you may be led to accept what you would have indignantly rejected if you knew its real significance. The only safety is to have a standard of plain, central Christianity (“mere Christianity” as Baxter called it) which puts the controversies of the moment in their proper perspective. Such a standard can be acquired only from the old books. It is a good rule, after reading a new book, never to allow yourself another new one till you have read an old one in between. If that is too much for you, you should at least read one old one to every three new ones.

Every age has its own outlook. It is specially good at seeing certain truths and specially liable to make certain mistakes. We all, therefore, need the books that will correct the characteristic mistakes of our own period. And that means the old books. All contemporary writers share to some extent the contemporary outlook – even those, like myself, who seem most opposed to it. Nothing strikes me more when I read the controversies of past ages than the fact that both sides were usually assuming without question a good deal which we should now absolutely deny. They thought that they were as completely opposed as two sides could be, but in fact they were all the time secretly united – united with each other and against earlier and later ages – by a great mass of common assumptions. We may be sure that the characteristic blindness of the twentieth century – the blindness about which posterity will ask, “But how could they have thought that?” – lies where we have never suspected it, and concerns something about which there is untroubled agreement between Hitler and President Roosevelt or between Mr. H. G. Wells and Karl Barth. None of us can fully escape this blindness, but we shall certainly increase it, and weaken our guard against it, if we read only modern books. Where they are true they will give us truths which we half knew already. Where they are false they will aggravate the error with which we are already dangerously ill. The only palliative is to keep the clean sea breeze of the centuries blowing through our minds, and this can be done only by reading old books. Not, of course, that there is any magic about the past. People were no cleverer then than they are now; they made as many mistakes as we. But not the same mistakes. They will not flatter us in the errors we are already committing; and their own errors, being now open and palpable, will not endanger us. Two heads are better than one, not because either is infallible, but because they are unlikely to go wrong in the same direction. To be sure, the books of the future would be just as good a corrective as the books of the past, but unfortunately we cannot get at them.

FWIW, the rest of Duncan’s message is worth listening to as well!

Rejoicing in the day that the Lord has made

I’m excited – today we get to quote Ps. 118.24 with its full and real meaning!  It’s worth much more than a mere “don’t complain – God made today” rebuke.

Let me ask this: who knows what the rest of Ps. 118 says?  The context for this verse reveals that it is saying something intensely wonderful – we’re actually cheating ourselves out of a great Scriptural encouragement when we reduce Ps. 118.24 to a quick response to complaint!

The stone that the builders rejected
has become the cornerstone.
This is the Lord’s doing;
it is marvelous in our eyes.
This is the day that the Lord has made;
let us rejoice and be glad in it.
Ps. 118.22-24

The first word of verse 24 should tip us off to the fact that we need context – “this.”  That’s a demonstrative pronoun (sorry for the grammar lesson!) which means that it points to something specific.  What is “this” day that the psalmist is pointing his poetic finger at?

Ps. 118.22-23 tells us about the specific day that caused the writer to rejoice: an actual historical occurrence that is described as the exaltation of a rejected cornerstone.  Peter helps us understand what “this” day is all about:

Then Peter, filled with the Holy Spirit, said to them, “Rulers of the people and elders, if we are being examined today concerning a good deed done to a crippled man, by what means this man has been healed, let it be known to all of you and to all the people of Israel that by the name of Jesus Christ of Nazareth, whom you crucified, whom God raised from the dead—by him this man is standing before you well.  This Jesus is the stone that was rejected by you, the builders, which has become the cornerstone.  And there is salvation in no one else, for there is no other name under heaven given among men by which we must be saved.”
Acts 4.8-12

Christ was rejected – the crucifixion; he became the cornerstone – the resurrection!  It is God’s miracle and it is wonderful in our viewpoint!

Therefore, Easter is the celebration of the real “day that the Lord has made” – the resurrection of Jesus Christ!  That resurrection is our only hope and it guarantees our salvation in the only true source of salvation.  It’s a much bigger deal than “don’t complain at what God’s given you” – it’s a statement of the proof that God has given you the most amazing gift of all – eternal life in his risen Son!

“Don’t spend your time on theological arguments that have no answers.” Or should you?

I don’t condone vain speculation; I seek to guard against intellectualism; I love studying the Word in order to minister to real people!  But I can’t accept this piece of advice: “Don’t spend your time on theological arguments that have no answers.”  That bit of well-meant counsel has the adverse potential to cripple the practice of serious theology.

Imagine a piano teacher who tells her students, “Don’t waste your time on hard music that you can’t master.”  No one of us would have particularly high expectations for those young musicians, I’m afraid.  Producing excellence in students is a matter of leading them to greater and greater ability to exercise the skill being developed.  Producing excellent theologians is only possible when theologians are encouraged and taught to dig more deeply and more carefully into Scripture than they have done before.

The errant exhortation to avoid answerless arguments is flawed advice because it is based on flawed assumptions.  First, it assumes that we actually know which theological questions have answers and which don’t.  Discussing theological controversies (kindly and fairly!) is not arrogant; assuming that you can infallibly label which questions are unanswerable is presumptuous.

Second, this position assumes that Spirit-filled, Word-taught theologians are incapable of making theological progress today.  “These have been controversies for hundreds of years.”  That makes no difference whatsoever.  The early church was working through Christological controversies four hundred years after Christ’s ascension.  The Reformation brought a much clearer formulation of justification and other soteriological issues than the church had seen before.  The nineteenth and twentieth centuries saw an increase in the expression of both ecclesiological and eschatological beliefs with the articulation of dispensationalism and premillennialism (regardless of how we assess the accuracy of those systems).  Claiming that “great theologians of the past couldn’t figure this out and neither will we” demonstrates ignorance of the entire discipline of historical theology.

Third, the assumption that we can identify and should avoid allegedly answerless arguments assumes that theology is entirely unlike any other discipline or field of study.  In its subject, theology is certainly unique – the person and works of God himself are the topics under consideration!  We do not approach theology, however, with methods that are radically different from methods used in other areas of study.  We interpret the words of the Bible with the same normal hermeneutic that we use to understand any literature.  As with science, we approach a subject that is, to our view, infinite.  The universe is currently immeasurable, but no one instructs scientists to “avoid scientific problems that have no answer.”  If that were the scientific mindset, we’d still assume the earth to be the flat center of the universe!  There is an element in which theology is an art as well as a science, and as we noted above, no artist would hold a student back from reaching for that which is currently out of reach.

Why should we shackle theology?  Why should we assume that, at the present day, we have arrived at the apex of correct doctrine and that progress is neither possible nor desirable?  We cannot and must not!  Theologians and students of the Word at any level (hm, that would be … all Christians!), let us press on to know our God better tomorrow than we do today.  Let us stretch our minds and deepen our understanding of the Word and pursue answers to questions that appear unanswerable.  Let us humbly spend time on theological arguments that currently have no answers.

“Not Our Enemies”

Dr. Kevin Bauder posted a very timely and insightful Nick of Time article today.  I’ll give a few selections here to whet your appetite, but I highly recommend that you visit the Central Seminary website and read the post yourself.

American Christianity never has been neatly divided between new evangelicals and Fundamentalists. Other groups have always existed, and one of them is the group that we now designate as conservative evangelicals.

The apostle Paul insisted that he was “set for the defense of the gospel.” Fifty years ago, that phrase appeared on nearly every Fundamentalist ordination certificate. Today, however, Fundamentalists simply allow others to defend the gospel for them. The sad truth is that the most forceful defenders of the gospel are no longer to be found within the Fundamentalist camp.

We Fundamentalists may not wish to identify with everything that conservative evangelicals say and do. To name these men as neo-evangelicals, nonetheless, is entirely unwarranted. To treat them like enemies or even opponents is to demonize the very people who are the foremost defenders of the gospel today.

Conservative evangelicals are not our enemies. They are not our opponents. Conservative evangelicals have proven themselves to be allies and even leaders in the defense of the faith.

The entire article is here.

Tiger Woods and Solomon

Another high-profile American has been shocked to have the hidden details of his personal life public paraded before the nation’s eyes.  Responding to a woman’s accusation that they carried on a two-and-a-half year affair, Tiger Woods apologized for not being “true to my values and the behavior my family deserves.”

Tiger also expressed surprise at the high level of “tabloid scrutiny” that he now faces.  He feels that (apart from the issue of the affair) “there is an important and deep principle at stake which is the right to some simple, human measure of privacy.”

And we all sympathize with that, don’t we?  The moment we are most concerned about our privacy is when we’ve been caught in a secret sin.  But most of us don’t face the “tabloid scrutiny” that athletes, politicians, musician and movie stars face.

Or do we?

Truth be told, every one of us faces a scrutiny that far exceeds any tabloid curiosity.  “The word of God is living and active, … discerning the thoughts and intentions of the heart. And no creature is hidden from his sight, but all are naked and exposed to the eyes of him to whom we must give account” (Heb. 4.12-13).  Tabloids make mistakes, they can’t know everything, and they are only temporary.  God is perfect, he knows everything, and he lasts forever.

The problem is that we can see tabloids, but not God.  It’s like speeding on the lonely open stretch of highway but driving at the limit near that well-known speed trap in town.  When we see the police, we respect them.  When we can’t see them, we drive as though they don’t exist.  Solomon saw this principle at work in the world (Eccl. 9.1-3).

But all this I laid to heart, examining it all, how the righteous and the wise and their deeds are in the hand of God. Whether it is love or hate, man does not know; both are before him. It is the same for all, since the same event happens to the righteous and the wicked, to the good and the evil, to the clean and the unclean, to him who sacrifices and him who does not sacrifice. As the good one is, so is the sinner, and he who swears is as he who shuns an oath. This is an evil in all that is done under the sun, that the same event happens to all. Also, the hearts of the children of man are full of evil, and madness is in their hearts while they live, and after that they go to the dead.

Good men die young; bad men die young.  Good men die old; bad men die old.  Sometimes it doesn’t look like our actions on earth get any heavenly response.  The result of that apparent justicelessness is that people do whatever they want: “the hearts of the children of man are full of evil, and madness is in their hearts.”  And then, when they’re caught and their sins are dragged through the public square, everything seems unfair and the “important and deep principle [of] human privacy” has been terribly endangered!

The ultimate problem is not the media or any celebrity.  The problem is with all of us: we don’t take seriously the reality of God’s righteous standards, constant scrutiny and perfect accountability.  We can’t see God; thus, we don’t respect his authority.

The ultimate solution is Jesus Christ.  All of us have quite a track record of acting like God is not in charge – we can call that sin.  Jesus has a perfect record.  He has always been entirely mindful of the Father’s scrutiny and he has always obeyed.  On the cross, Jesus took our punishment and offered us his righteousness.  Additionally, Jesus provides the only way we can walk rightly before God now.  We live “in Christ,” we have his Spirit dwelling in us and we have access to his grace!  Furthermore, when we still act like God’s authority isn’t real, we have constant grace and forgiveness in Jesus – the Gospel never stops being effective for us.

We don’t need to act surprised when someone (ourselves included) is caught with a hand in the cookie jar.  God’s scrutiny far exceeds any human attention or publicity.  In Jesus Christ, we can heed the conclusion to Solomon’s wisdom: “Fear God and keep his commandments, for this is the whole duty of man.For God will bring every deed into judgment, with every secret thing, whether good or evil” (Eccl. 12.13-14).

Quotes from this article.