Systemic Rebellion

Systemic Rebellion

Written by: Larry Elliott

Systemic, it is a word that has been used, misused, misapplied, and generally redefined in the news and in our culture in recent months. It is, however, a word that can accurately be applied to man’s (and woman’s) chronic rebellion against God throughout history. We might also add “pervasive” as an accurate descriptor of human rebellion over the multiple millennia since creation.

One of the themes we have observed in The Greatest Story Ever Told is rebellion. It is everywhere. We see an occasional character that portrays some hint of God’s good design but too often we are also confronted with their personal weakness and corruption.
In my reading through the Bible this year I have recently entered the Minor Prophets. I have found them oddly comforting, a strange balm to my soul. Strange because they are rife with judgement, condemnation, rebuke, and discipline, allowing me to see that we are equally as corrupt as the men and women of centuries gone by. Comforting because they are seasoned with unwarranted grace and compassion* as God reassures us of his faithfulness.

Consider Scripture’s perspective on the “goodness” of the human race:
“Then the Lord saw that the wickedness of mankind was great on the earth, and that every intent of the thoughts of their hearts was only evil continually.” Genesis 6:5 (pre-flood)

“The Lord has looked down from heaven upon the sons of mankind to see if there are any who understand, who seek God.
They have all turned aside, together they are corrupt; there is no one who does good, not even one.”
Psalm 14:2-3

“Indeed, there is not a righteous person on earth who always does good and does not ever sin.” Ecclesiastes 7:20

“…for all have sinned and fall short of the glory of God…” Romans 3:23

Pretty ugly picture, is it not? From the initial sin of Adam and Eve we have all been in rebellion, demanding our independence and sowing futility in God’s good creation.

I periodically read from a little book on my shelf entitled The Valley of Vision, A Collection of Puritan Prayers & Devotions. The Puritan Movement was a religious phenomenon of the sixteenth and seventeenth centuries, yet its influence continued at least to the time of Charles Haddon Spurgeon (1834-92) who may be regarded as the last of the great Puritans. These prayers exude a profound devotion and humility not found in modern writing. As we consider our part in Systemic Rebellion, I offer one such prayer for your consideration.

Eternal Father,

Thou art good beyond all thought,
But I am vile, wretched, miserable, and blind;
My lips are ready to confess,
but my heart is slow to feel,
and my ways reluctant to amend.
I bring my soul to thee,
break it, wound it, bend it, mould it.
Unmask to me sin’s deformity,
that I may hate it, abhor it, flee from it.
My faculties have been a weapon of revolt against thee;
as a rebel I have misused my strength,
and served the foul adversary of thy kingdom.
Give me grace to bewail my insensate folly,
Grant me to know that the way of transgressors is hard,
that evil paths are wretched paths,
that to depart from thee is to lose all good.
I have seen the purity and beauty of thy perfect law,
the happiness of those in whose heart it reigns,
the calm dignity of the walk to which it calls,
yet I daily violate and contemn its precepts.
Thy loving Spirit strives within me,
brings me scripture warnings,
speaks in startling providences,
allures by secret whispers,
yet I choose devises and desires to my own hurt, impiously resent, grieve, and provoke
him to abandon me.
All these sins I mourn, lament, and for them cry pardon.
Work in me more profound and abiding repentance;
Give me the fullness of godly grief
that trembles and fears,
yet ever trusts and loves,
which is ever powerful, and ever confident;
Grant that through the tears of repentance
I may see more clearly the brightness
and glories of the cross. Valley of Vision, pgs. 123-124

*We will resume with the grace and compassion part in a future writing.

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