THERE’S A STANDARD, SO STAND.
SUMMARY: We live in a Too Long; Didn’t Read (TL;DR) culture. Here’s a summary of what you’ll see. Read the whole thing. Form a habit of reading. And not just fiction, because that’s another distilled worldview- it’s just not as popular as film and television. Don’t dismiss this because you’re lazy and claim you don’t have time- you do. It’s just not a priority.
It’ll take 18 minutes to read this real slow. If you don’t take anything else away, take these points:
Say it. (Give the truth)
Do it. (Live the truth)
Hold them to it. (Give reproof if needed)
- Everyone’s lost here, and everyone’s right
- Set your declination.
- Say it. Do it. Hold Them to it.
I am sweating and bleeding, my head spins from the libations and the altitude. Time’s running out. My head feels like a boulder rolled through it. I look at my watch. We’ve burned 45 minutes searching for the point. We have to grab the proof that we were there and get back before the other groups do. It is a race after all, and any second, we could be done for. In fact, we might have lost already for all we know. All any group has to do to win is find the point and come back with the bracelet with their whole group. The irony of this wasn’t lost on me, even after consuming a couple leisurely beers and sprinting across the brush, rocks, and rolling valleys laden with viciously concealed barbed wire. Here we were giving legs to the certainty of Truth in a group. May the odds be ever… whatever.
The young guys leading the group are turned around. We need to revisit the map. We’d taken off running in the general direction, the fastest guys take the lead, but somehow the guys up front are turned around after skirting the seventh barbed wire fence and coming across impenetrable briars. I was sure of where we were, even without the map. I’d studied the map in detail, reviewing the contours, and dominant terrain features, slopes, valleys, creek beds, anything I could use as a sign post along the way. The key to victory is great preparation. As we squeezed in around the map, the confident disputations came. Every man is convinced of his position and willing to stake his claim as the one without error. We can’t all be right though. With different answers and a fixed point to find, we have no room or time for relativism. We finally concede to split up to cover more ground. That also means risking guys becoming legitimately lost without a map and starting a slog to the distant road to be recovered. I restate that I am certain of where we are.
This isn’t my first time navigating with a map and compass, aka orienteering. I’ve been in situations like this several times before, I taught orienteering for a long time. I once, many years prior to this, let a friend of mine take us to where he thought we were supposed to go, and in the process we both became hopelessly lost in the Pacific Northwest version of Mirkwood and all the terrors therein. I wasn’t backing down, never again. I related this story, pressing another pair to my cause. Pride is the great destroyer in navigation. I could be wrong and overconfident. So, it’s finally agreed we’ll split off. I point the clear direction, and where we’ll rendezvous in thirty minutes. If there was one thing I was certain of, it was that I wasn’t wrong. After restating my case, we finally went our separate ways in pairs. The sun scorched my lips as I polished off the last of the water in my Nalgene. I was getting fed up.
We ran up the hill. I was sure it was up here. We sprinted as time flew. We need to meet the rest of our group and we’ve got two minutes left before we need to turn around. It had to be here, I was certain! I saw a pole jammed in the ground a little off from where I’d originally pointed. That had to be it. Wrong. It wasn’t the right one. I’d forced something I knew was wrong to fit and wasted precious time. One of my buddies called out, I shout back “this isn’t it.” The heat and the headache set in again.
Was I wrong? I couldn’t be, then I realized my laziness. “You pointed over here!” I’d been lazy and forced the terrain to fit the map in my mind, starting to get desperate. The map is never wrong. “The point should be just over that little hump!” I called. I started making my way up the last bit of the hill when he called back “is this it?” Just over a slight hump was another pole in the exact spot I’d pointed from the bottom of the hill, nested under two trees. My mouth felt like it was full of pennies, but there it was. I’d been right, but the pressing nature of time and frustration had caused my doubts to grow. The map is never wrong.
As we sprinted back to the finish, the gazelles were back out front. They begin dodging fences and thick brush instead of following the way back we discussed. Committees are garbage when the stakes are high and the path is clear. In navigation, the key is to study the map before you leave, have confidence that you know your route well. You also have to look back at the route you came from if you don’t want to get lost on your return. Nothing is a given, except the map. I stopped the guys after a quarter mile. “Guys we’re headed in the opposite direction now!” I shouted follow me and took off. The copper taste was back with a vengeance, my shirt was drenched, my pants ripped and bloodied from the thorns and wire. I silenced my body and focused on the goal. I had to lead. I pushed hard.
Our journey back was shockingly fast. Another group had beaten us. All that for nothing. Then we notice they’re down two people from their group.
I fished out my chapstick and a drink from the cooler. I saw again the importance of confidence in the truth. Doing the hard work. Knowing what’s right, and sticking to it. Even when the group you started with tells you the right way is wrong. We’d won. But not because of me. Because of the map, a compass, and being prepared.
- EVERYONE’S LOST HERE, BUT EVERYONE’S RIGHT.
Everyone is lost. Western culture, by and large, is thoroughly grounded in Post-Modern relativism. Post-Modernism uses groups for identity and individuals as separate sources of inner truth. We’ve already wandered into the philosophical weeds- important, but not the point of this essay. The point is this. Everyone is lost here on Earth without Jesus Christ. They love it, they’ll argue how right they are. They’ll question you, and then propose that you convert to their god, who just so happens to be “inner you.” When that doesn’t work, it’s becoming less likely that the culture will simply dismiss you with a “to each his own.” The common sentiment used to be “whatever floats your boat.” Ironic when one considers Noah. Which brings us to the actual point. Truth exists. Reality Exists. All of us can’t be right, but we want to pretend that there is space for everyone to be right. No one believes that, take a look around. A lot of people suppressing the truth in unrighteousness.
We are descended from dust. Not stardust, but a man formed by God from the dirt. You are an earthen vessel. Yet we are formed in the Imago Dei, the Image of God. This means we have purpose. Our existence has objective meaning. If you don’t know the chief end of man, perhaps consider doing the Westminster standards plan. Available on our website and posted daily on Twitter and Instagram for your convenience.
Everyone is not right. People will go to hell. After all, “it is appointed to man once to die and after that the judgment” (Hebrews 9:27). Yet, we have the insane audacity to pretend that we might be wrong, that God’s Word might be a fable. Huddling over our lust for comfort and convenience. Hoping we can sneak by in creating our own little paradise. Like Satan himself in Paradise Lost. Wagering that if somehow Pascal was wrong on his wager we didn’t miss out on either “possibility.” Let’s all live in harmony and sing about delusion, the fool’s worship song, “Imagine.” Imagine the judgment for the dirty, dusty pots that didn’t want anything but to worship themselves and spite the potter and His gifts. “We had plenty of friends, plenty of fun, but we forgot our faith and fruit. But we did some nice things, like feeding hobos and we said God bless you! Also, we voted our conscience!” John Lennon is no more a hero than Vladimir Lenin, they both believed the same folly (Psalm 14). Imagine what hell is like for John Lennon, he doesn’t have to.
John and Vladimir tried to point us to where they thought the point was and they missed it. They thought they were right. The Greeks thought they were right. The Atheist has found his god in the mirror. Christ offers free grace and they spit in His face. They demand a sign like Satan in the desert or the Pharisees. When you see the sign of the Son of Man you will weep, either melting in lament or rejoicing in His triumph. The point is, stop letting people convince you they’re right. That you should be quiet and we should all wander around like there isn’t a map. They are lost. You know where, and who, the point is. Jesus Christ.
We’re to remember this and rejoice. We’re right, we win at the end. Not because of us, but because of a gracious, personal, Triune God. Christ is King and he is returning. But here we’re confronted with another difficult point.
The Westminster Confession Chapter 1 Paragraph 1 makes it clear that,
We have the map, it’s God’s written, unchanging, inerrant, infallible, inspired word. This is where it gets sticky, we walk with liberty of conscience. We’ll equate this conscience to your compass, as Jiminy Cricket once said, “let your conscience be your guide.” Insofar as you are a Christian this is good advice.
Here is the caveat (from the Latin cavere, “let him beware), you must set your declination first. Declination is a setting on a compass that accounts for the magnetic variance of the Earth in conjunction with grid North on the map. Grid north is North on a map, magnetic North is North on your compass. If you are to navigate with map and compass, it’s imperative that you set your declination. Declination varies year after year, but the map tells you where it differs from the Earth’s magnetic variance. If you don’t set the declination on your compass, you will eventually become lost, the variance is enough to put you off course significantly. The drift will be slight, but eventually, on a long enough route you will drift well beyond where you thought possible.
To be precise, we must keep an eye to our spiritual declination, and not allow ourselves the ease of deviating from what is expressly laid out for us in scripture. God’s Word does not change. His standards have no deviation. We live in a mutable and entropic world, yet we have an immutable God. He sets our declination in a varying world. Our stance, our walk, and our destination remain conformed to the standards He has laid out in His word. His map, for our victorious pilgrimage. We don’t set our personal declination as we see fit, we set it based off of God’s word. Our conscience must be held captive to the word of God, as Martin Luther declared during the Reformation.
In this area you are either Reforming or Deforming. Those are your options. We are commanded to no longer be infants tossed about by every wind and wave of doctrine (Eph 4:14). To carry this manner of speech we are to be shut up in the Ark of Christ steered by the Holy Spirit, weathering the waves on a fixed bearing. Our declination (our conscience) is set by scripture, with the illumination of the Holy Spirit. Remember that declination, if not set right, can be well off. This is a serious issue when we consider the infinite holiness of God, variance is infinitely destructive. We must be cautious in downplaying the stakes here. If your conscience is your guide, you must have the mind of Christ (1 Cor 2:16), be filled with His Spirit, with His Word, with The Way, The Truth, and The Life. Attend to the ordinary means of grace and be cautious of not committing to obeying Christ. If we spend all our time “resting” in Christ and not working in Him we are in grave danger. That being said, works will not save you. Let the reader discern.
- Say it. Do it. Hold Them to it
As Christians we can stand upright spiritually. In fact, in Eph 6:10-17 Paul brings out the armor of God. The striking thing to notice is the use of “stand” three times. The Holy Spirit gives us life, Christ is our righteousness. Nothing we can do of ourselves is sufficient to save us. We’re not to be content to stop there. That’s not the end of the story. We are to rise, stand, and walk. We are to make disciples, we’re to bear fruit. We’re to obey Christ as a thankful duty. We literally owe Him our life, and it’s a debt not even a biblical martyrdom could repay. Christ doesn’t command martyrdom. He simply states we must deny ourselves, take up our Cross and follow Him. Our regeneration, faith, and ability to stand isn’t just a secret inner journey we keep to ourselves. It’s described with action verbs.
Say it. This applies to all believers, but especially husbands, fathers, church members, officers, and Christians. Circling back to the story at the beginning, “say it” is the place where we know our position and communicate about the map (the Word) from there. We stand firm on the Word of God. We now communicate it. The author of Hebrews offers two things that are extremely helpful in setting our declination. We’re to do two things. Stir each other up to good works and gather regularly (Hebrews 10:24-25). The gospel isn’t a solo affair, as Christians we’re to be in community, we’re to communicate, take communion, and take part in the great commission. “Com-“ being the prefix meaning “with.” Notice that “Each other” and “gathering” can only be done alone in a psych ward. Christianity is communal. We must speak. As good reformed Christians we adhere to the priesthood of all believers. This means we need to be bold in proclaiming Christ and holding the line. Stir up. Admonish. Exhort. Spur each other on. This is what an Operator or an Athlete does. They spur each other on, striving and competing to outdo each other, ribbing, challenging and encouraging. All in the name of holding to the Standard. Jesus Christ and His Word.
Do it. This one is simple, but not easy. If we communicate it, we exemplify it. This doesn’t mean achieving moral perfection, but we must strive to be self-correcting as well. Paul makes this clear when he says in that oft-neglected passage 1 Corinthians 11:1 “be imitators of me as I also am of Christ.” What I’m arguing for here is that we make every effort to avoid that vain-profession and hypocrisy that comes with the approval of man. That odious desire to have others know how saintly we are. The moralism and humble brags couched in prayer requests. This means striving, agonizing, and training like an athlete. Hold yourself accountable to God’s Word. Know that it is only but for the Grace of God that you are able to do any of this, and run in that confidence.
Hold Them to it. Accountability. This has Matthew 18 written all over it. This includes for your children, your wife, your friends, and it stems from remembering the standard. Christ. This is not “what would Jesus do” in the sloppy gooey disintegrating intinction version of Build-a-Jesus we see stuffed and cuddled in the emergent church. This is the real and risen King. “He isn’t safe” as C.S. Lewis put it. He is gracious, merciful, loving, and He is also worthy of all worship. Holy. He is the standard. We must run to Him, hide in Him, flee to Him. We need to hold each other accountable, point each other to Christ. Hold the line. Bear the Standard. Believe the Standard. Obey the Standard. Our Standard is Christ. He holds our righteousness. We need reminders of our need to be repentant. Our need to obey Christ. We will never do so perfectly. But we will progressively be more conformed to the image of Christ, and this is done through ordinary means. It is truly loving to hold one another accountable, to do so in a brotherly spirit and give no place to Satan. The one who loves nothing more than deceiving us about our righteousness and our standing with Christ. It’s especially loving to do this to your children. I don’t let mine play on the train tracks. I won’t let my brothers do so either. I’ll warn anyone playing on the train tracks about the coming reckoning. Will you?
Say it. (Give the Truth)
Do it. (Live the Truth)
Hold them to it. (Give Reproof if Needed)