Wednesday, August 27, 2008

art for art's sake

Listening to Tim Smith's latest sermon in Jonah, he mentions, almost as an aside, the above phrase.  Not completely clear why it sticks, but it is a interesting statement none-the-less. Phraseology, lately, has struck me as rather important. That right there is a a "oh yeah genius?" moment on the surface, so I'll explain.  Art for art's sake is, on the surface, a correct phrase, even a generally accepted one.  But Tim was referencing something specific in regard to it - that it was an idol, in inherently, sin.  He quickly moved on, but truth be told, the implications are wide ranging.  As part of the last year and a half plus, I have been broken down on how much of my normal life, and accepted standards and thoughts (and words) are so close to or living subtly in sin.  1 Corinthians 10.31 teaches, "Whether, then, you eat or drink or whatever you do, do all to the glory of God".  That means that all things are His - our life, breath, art, music, words - they are all to be focused on the glory of God - in a term, they are to be worship.  

Psalm 2.11 continues that thought  - "Worship the Lord with reverence (fear), and rejoice with trembling".  Think about that for a second in light of the above.  When we do "things", they are not to done lightly, for we are called to be in fear, and to rejoice in trembling.  This is a good God who speaks in anger (Ps 2.4-6), who created us to do good works (Eph 2.10), drinking deeply from the living water of life (Ps 1), that we might glorify Him in all things (1 Peter 4.10-11).  We are so close to sin, and anything that is good can be perverted so quickly.  It is a scary place to be.  But there is hope in Psalm 119.9-16, in the Word of the Lord.  

So, the question is whether my _____ is for ______'s sake (insert your own terms accordingly).  The results will continue to be rather damning, I would guess.

But that seems to be the right place to be - the writer of Psalm 119, just a few verses later, finds himself in the proverbial dust, as follows:
  25My soul cleaves to the dust;
        Revive me according to Your word. 
    26I have told of my ways, and You have answered me;
         Teach me Your statutes. 
    27Make me understand the way of Your precepts,
         So I will meditate on Your wonders. 
    28My soul weeps because of grief;
         Strengthen me according to Your word. 
    29Remove the false way from me,
         And graciously grant me Your law. 
    30I have chosen the faithful way;
         I have placed Your ordinances before me. 
    31I cling to Your testimonies;
         O LORD, do not put me to shame! 
    32I shall run the way of Your commandments,
         For You will enlarge my heart
    33Teach me, O LORD, the way of Your statutes,
         And I shall observe it to the end. 
    34Give me understanding, that I may observe Your law
         And keep it with all my heart. 
    35Make me walk in the path of Your commandments,
         For I delight in it. 
    36Incline my heart to Your testimonies
         And not to dishonest gain. 
    37Turn away my eyes from looking at vanity,
         And revive me in Your ways. 
    38Establish Your word to Your servant,
         As that which produces reverence for You. 
    39Turn away my reproach which I dread,
         For Your ordinances are good. 
    40Behold, I long for Your precepts;
         Revive me through Your righteousness.

Enlarge my heart. 
Make me walk. 
Incline my heart. 
Turn away my eyes. 
Establish Your Word. 
Turn away my reproach. 

There are many things the writer does in this Psalm - he repents (v.26), he weeps (v.28), he chooses a way and places the word before himself (v.30 - but doesn't yet run or walk in them - see v.32 & 35), he clings (v.31),  he delights in the law (v.35 - see Psalm 1), and he longs (v.40).  In the end, his heart is present and desperate, but needs to be enlarged, so that he can run (v.32).  Most of the work in the Psalm is the Lord's, as the writer is mostly offering open hands.  

I know that my heart is desperately evil (Jeremiah 17.9), and it is only in weakness the power is perfected (2 Corinthians 12.9).  Paul is very clear in the latter half of that verse, "...Most gladly, therefore, I will rather boast about my weaknesses, so that the power of Christ may dwell in me."   We are all ok with that - we all admit (at least if we are lucid) that we suck.  But here the writer couples that with purpose -  he repents, he weeps, but he also sets a path before him, and delights in the law of the Lord (the only thing he has of value - and it really isn't even his).  Then he looks back to the Lord, desperate for Him to make something out of nothing.  It is almost as if the Lord is waking a paralyzed man, reviving his very body to do good works.

I guess that's the point - if _______ is for ________'s sake, then if for no other reason than the great Creator's ability to make all things good, right, and new, it should be a default - we purpose, plan, and dedicate all things back to Him.  For He is the only being that can make (or has ever made) something out of nothing.  And if it is an idol, it is nothing (see Isaiah 44.9-10).  There is most likely a lot of idols not in our closet, but right out there in the open - things that owe more to us than to Him, things that own us more than Him.  But, if everything above is true, then if we offer these things up to Him, the hope is clear (Revelation 21.1-7).  

But the difficulty lies in our willingness (as always) to seek out, recognize, and offer them up - for destruction or renewal.  To make them, or us (or both) new again.  Maybe, just maybe, we are still not at the bottom yet.  And though we may complain when we hit it, it often is the only way get us into the desperate, dusty place where no idol seems like anything but the perishing treasure of earth that it is - the very dirt on which we then lay.  And then it can be replaced by the new, the treasure that is only found in the place where we are finally and fully new.


Post a Comment

<< Home