Monday, December 21, 2015

"The Fat Man's Gospel"

Zephaniah 1.12 NASB








“And it will come about at that time
That I will search Jerusalem with lamps,

And I will punish the men
Who are stagnant in spirit,

Who say in their hearts,
‘The Lord will not do good or evil!’




What is “stagnant in spirit”? Whatever it is, I don’t want it. “Stagnant” implies apathetic, neutral, stymied, without power, bogged down, dormant, inactive, stale, static, asleep at the helm, without traction. I would choose none of these as descriptors for my life as a Christ-follower. I hope I’m right. The Lord does not “punish” without a reason so it follows that I have a choice. I can be “stagnant” or not. It’s up to me.

The literal translation of the Hebrew word for “stagnant” is ‘thickening on their lees’ which, of course, means little to modern Americans. The imagery comes from the ancient practice of wine making. If the wine was allowed to remain in its sediment too long it would thicken into a syrup. This wine had ‘thickened on its lees (dregs, residue, sediment, wastes)’ and became undrinkable.

According to Brown, Driver, and Briggs Hebrew-English Lexicon, the term used for ‘thickening’ may also be translated condensed, congealed, or curdled. Am I a condensed, congealed, or curdled believer? I hope not. I want to flow in the Spirit like very fluid, low viscosity Christian. I want to be good wine, not syrupy dregs or undrinkable sediment!

The text evokes an image of a soft man whose middle section is thickened by too little activity and too much television, beer, and fattening foods. He is unable to move quickly when decisive action is called for. He became undisciplined in his habits, “stagnant in spirit”, and ineffective in his calling. The man lost touch with the power of a dynamic God whom he has determined will do neither “good or evil”. His god has become like him… soft, impotent, ineffectual.

Jesus made His distaste for easy, soft-in-the-middle, middle-of-the-road Christianity abundantly clear…

“I know you inside and out, and find little to my liking.
You're not cold, you're not hot — far better to be either cold or hot!
You're stale. You're stagnant. You make me want to vomit.”

Jesus Christ, Revelation 3.15-16 “The Message”

Fat, syrupy, thick, “stagnant” Christianity? Jesus will have nothing to do with it. By His grace and power, neither will I.
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The cartoon at the top of this article is entitled "Chris Madden Environment Cartoon #5" by excellent cartoonist Chris Madden whose work you may view at his web site "Grinning Planet ~ Saving the Planet One Joke at a Time" (http://www.grinningplanet.com/2005/05-31/environment-cartoon.htm). The original cartoon says "HOW TO STOP OVER-CONSUMING" on the cover of the book which I changed to "HOLY BIBLE" for the purposes of this post.

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