Sydney Simao

About Sydney Simao

Sydney's Blog
Sydney Simao is a Christian writer and speaker, living in beautiful western WA with her parents and seven younger siblings. She has a passion for sharing the joy of Christ with others and is currently pursuing a degree in liberal arts with an emphasis in theology and writing. You can read more of Sydney's articles on her blog.

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How Apologetics Speaks To Your Pain

Two months ago, I had to say goodbye to my ten year old brother before he met Jesus face to face. The pain is real. The grief lies as an almost unbearable weight. Thanksgiving has come and gone. Christmas. New Years. Bereavement trips. The first month anniversary. The second month anniversary. Today.

But in the midst of this pain, I am reminded of a truth which never seemed more real to me as now.

Suffering is the great wake up call. It shows you what your idols are, and what they really look like. It drives you away from all the things of this world you used to cling to, and drives you toward the mercy of the Cross. The truth we know about God becomes truly ultimate, when every other recourse has been tried and found wanting. Your life becomes staked on what is true – it always was, but pain makes you realize it. What you believe is true in easy times must still remain known as true in hard times.

How Apologetics Speaks To Your Pain

That is why apologetics is crucially important in the life of the Christian.

Six times in my life, and twice in the last six months, I have read C.S. Lewis’ A Grief Observed. This was his chronicle of the first several months of grief following the death of his beloved wife, and was not originally meant to be published. His notes are poignant and raw.

The book opens with the haunting sentence: “No one ever told me that grief felt so like fear.”

He continues later: “Meanwhile where is God? When you are happy…and turn to Him with gratitude and praise, you will be – or so it feels – welcomed with open arms. But go to Him when your need is desperate, when all other help is vain, and what do you find? A door slammed in your face, and the sound of bolting on the inside. After that, silence.”

Thus writes a man in the midst of his own Gethsemane. Surely the devil uses pain. But surely God uses it better.

 

Surely the devil uses pain. But surely God uses it better. Click To Tweet

 

One of the reasons we study apologetics is because we, as Christians, need apologetics. One of the things tragedy does, is smash everything you ever thought was solid. It shows you how much of what you believe about something is based on how you feel about something.

When Isaiah died, all of my priorities changed. Things I never fully appreciated became crucially important. Things I had centered my life around no longer seemed to matter. If your faith is one of those things that is built on a feeling – if what you believe about your state of salvation before God is dependent on whether or not you are having a good day that day – then when (not if, but when) tragedy strikes, you will be without hope.

Lewis continued: “Bridge-players tell me that there must be some money on the game ‘or else people won’t take it seriously.’ Apparently, it’s like that. Your bid – for God or no God, for a good God or the Cosmic Sadist, for eternal life or nonentity – will not be serious if nothing much is staked on it. And you will never discover how serious it was until the stakes are raised horribly high until you find that you are playing not for counters or for sixpences but for every penny you have in the world. Nothing less will shake a man – or at any rate a man like me – out of his merely verbal thinking and his merely notional beliefs. He has to be knocked silly before he comes to his senses. Only torture will bring out the truth. Only under torture does he discover it himself.

When tragedy strikes, faith does not make it hurt less. Grief is never easy. It makes us weak. But when you have nothing left in this world, the sovereignty and goodness and all the promises of God must become the rock you fall on by His grace because everything else has been stripped from under your feet. When the walls crumble around you the foundation is all the more precious. When the ice splinters and the water comes up over your head, you must know that He has tread the bottom, and found it good.

 

We study apologetics because this world is hurting and looking for the truth

When you study apologetics, you are not studying some abstract biblical doctrine or stacking up facts to win a debate. You are immersing yourself in your only hope so that you can be effectively used by God to give this hope to a world that is hurting as you are.

The hope we have is true hope in a world of despair. The light we have is true light in a sea of darkness. The salvation we have is a true salvation, in a life of pain. Our good and sovereign Savior does not leave us in sorrow, but He takes our sorrows upon Himself and becomes a man of sorrows.

 

When you study apologetics, remember the Gospel

The Gospel is the good news in a world that has nothing to offer but bad news. It doesn’t matter if you can defend a young earth if you can’t explain that this earth is groaning in sin and will one day be redeemed.

It doesn’t matter if you can talk about dinosaurs on the ark if you can’t talk about Christ, the Ark of our Salvation.

It doesn’t matter if you can win anyone over in a debate on whether Hell is real if you can’t tell them the way to Heaven found in Jesus Christ.

It does not matter if you can defend the historical resurrection of Christ to anyone on the street if you can’t tell them how our salvation depends on it.

It doesn’t matter if you can tell someone in grief that Jesus loves them, or you’re praying for them, if you can’t also tell them what Jesus did because of His love for sinners, or how you, as a sinner, can approach the throne of grace in prayer before a just and holy God.

This world is screaming questions that only Christianity can answer. Apologetics is studying the truth so that you know how to answer. Apologetics is addressing pain in a way that points to the Gospel.

Everyone has a story. Everyone has a fixture of pain. Everyone is broken.

We study apologetics to show people that their story, their pain, their brokenness need not continue forever. Their story need not end here. Christ died to ensure it does not.

If I could have taken my brother’s place, suffered and died instead of him, I would not have hesitated for a single moment – but Isaiah would still have to meet death again one day. I, another sinner just like him, could not take that end from him forever. I could not save him finally or ultimately.

I say I would have done anything so that my little brother did not have to die, but I could not do one-one-thousandth of what Christ did for that very thing. Christ suffered and died in place of Isaiah, and now, there is no more death in Isaiah’s future. Isaiah is saved finally and ultimately. He is filled with a greater joy than I can even comprehend or imagine.

Isaiah’s favorite part of The Last Battle from The Chronicles of Narnia, was the very last page, when they leave Narnia and arrive in Aslan’s Country.

Lewis writes:
But the things that began to happen after that were so great and beautiful that I cannot write them. And for us, this is the end of all the stories, and we can most truly say that they all lived happily ever after. But for them it was only the beginning of the real story. All their life in this world and all their adventures in Narnia had only been the cover and the title page: now at last they were beginning Chapter One of the Great Story which no one on earth has read, which goes on forever, in which every chapter is better than the one before.

When you study and proclaim the doctrines of our faith, you are reading us a part of that story. Until He comes again, read on.

If you wish to read more about Isaiah’s story you may click here to go to his page: Isaiah’s Adventure

 

Recommended Reading

 

By | 2018-02-03T08:06:12+00:00 February 3rd, 2018|

4 Gospel Promises for Self-Hating Christians

I remember the first time I looked in the mirror and hated what I saw.

I was eleven years old, and just entering the world of braces and acne scars. I was so insecure about my appearance I completely changed my diet, cutting out all dairy, gluten, sugar, and processed foods to tame my struggle with my body. I taught myself not to open my mouth when I smiled so no one could see the wires on my teeth. I was constantly thinking about how others might perceive me, which caused me to appear sullen and shy to those I didn’t know.

If someone ignored me, I was sure it was because she hated me. If someone spoke to me, it must be because she felt sorry for me. And no matter how much I tried to appear different, to change myself, or cause others to accept me, the little voice inside always said I would never be enough.

Self-hate is a terrible thing. It is a constant look inward. Shriveling disappointment beneath your own glaring eye. Condemnation brought upon yourself, even if it is not echoed by the lips of others.

This has always been a struggle for me. I hate myself for how I feel, how I look, what I’ve done, what’s been done to me, what I’ve failed to do. I hate myself when I sin, and when I do good without the right motives. I hate myself when I’m angry and bitter, and for the times I am kind and feel “fake”. I hate myself for reasons I can’t even identify.

But what I’ve discovered, is that this isn’t just an issue of “low self-esteem”, from which I must extricate myself by yanking up on my own bootstraps. Nor is this just a “sin thing”, to repent and turn away from. This is a sin, but more so, it is a struggle – an arduous, painful, terrifying struggle – in which I am striving to redeem myself.

THE GOSPEL FOR SELF-HATERS

Perhaps one of the most difficult things for believers to remember, is the Gospel itself.

It seems strange that this is the case. After all, it is by believing the Gospel that we are saved. The Gospel is what sets us apart as chosen by God. It is our core of faith, our foundation of joy, our root of hope, our well of confidence, our rock of assurance. It is the truth for which the Reformers lived and died – by grace alone, through faith alone, in Christ alone.

But deep within, we as believers are still legalists at heart, striving to save ourselves through self-enforced perfection.

Intellectually we know and believe the Gospel, but we are still living as idolatrous Demi-gods, atheistic condemners of ourselves, heaping up our own petty judgment against our heinous sins, and preaching to ourselves a self-help Gospel.

We are looking to a corrupt standard. We are worshipping a false god. We are trusting in the wrong savior. As created beings, we are always worshiping something, and we are always listening to the voice of what or whom we worship.

One of the ways I found this was in my struggle with food. When I changed my diet as a young teenager, it was not because I loved my body and was striving to be as healthy as possible, but because I hated my body and was striving to subject it to a perceived perfection. Food became the “problem”, but food also became the savior. It was the one place I could find temporary comfort, either in indulging inordinately when my cravings became too strong to control, or when I won the battle and forced my appetite beneath my feet, giving myself the false assurance that I was in control of both my flaws and my perfection.

My self-condemnation became a self-fulfilling prophecy. In an ugly mini-cycle of loss and redemption, I was flouting the Gospel of Christ and shirking His promises. I was my Gospel – slowly being crushed beneath another Cross.

THE GOSPEL FOR SELF-SAVERS

Self-condemnation – whether it is for what I eat, or what I look like, or what I wear, or what I feel, or what I do – ultimately comes down to one root: a loathing of my own failure.

My failure to have the perfect body. My failure to attain the highest education. My failure to have a satisfying job. My failure to find and be accepted by the perfect mate. My failure to be a good Christian.

I loathe my wickedness. I am bad; I am condemned; I am hated. I am exposed, exploited, vulnerable, and strange. I despise my unworthiness, my uncleanness, my ugliness. And slowly, bit by bit, with all my self-loathing, and self-hating, and self-helping, I will self-dehumanize. I will degrade myself, invalidate myself, and shrivel myself, until the part I hate becomes all that I am. I am a failure, so all I shall do, is fail.

There was one period so low that I tortured myself, not with the thought that God hadn’t saved me, but that He had. Christ had died for me – I who am nothing, who am worthless, who have failed in every way a human being can fail. I am such a pitiful example of a Christian. Why had He wasted His blood on me? Why can’t I make His death worth it?

But that is why the Gospel is such good news to sinners, for Christ’s death was only for the unworthy. Christ died for sinners, for outcasts, for failures. “For He has not despised or abhorred the affliction of the afflicted, and He has not hidden His face from him, but has heard when he cried to Him” (Psalm 22:24).

We are beloved. We are cared for. We are accepted. We are saved. Not because we are not sinners, but because we are sinners who have been redeemed. Not because we never fail, but because He has taken our failure upon Himself, and clothed us with His own perfection. We must not condemn ourselves, for God Himself has pronounced us justified.

THE GOSPEL FOR SELF-CONDEMNERS

God is the only escape from self-hatred. He is the only Savior of self-haters. But often, though I understand this intellectually, I cannot stop feeling condemned. How can God, who knows my innermost thoughts, my secret sins, my deceptive, wicked heart, not condemn me as I have already condemned myself?

Christian author and theologian, Ed Welch, was recently interviewed on Desiring God in reference to his book on this topic: Shame Interrupted: How God Lifts the Pain of Worthlessness and Rejection.

In the interview, Tony Reinke asked the same question: “What would you say to those who struggle with self-hate, especially outside the Church, who assume the worst thing in the world for a self-hater to ever do is to believe in God, because He would only condemn them and fuel their self-hate further. What would you say to this person?”

Welch replied simply: “Your idea of God is my idea of the devil.”

He explained: “You are viewing God the way that the Scripture portrays Satan: this relentless, accusatory, hard master who means ill for you and is always there to scold you. And that is not the God of the Bible.”

Yes, God is just. Yes, God hates sin. Yes, He hates rebellion against His perfect law. Yes, in His righteousness and holiness, He condemns, He damns, He destroys.

But this is also the God who, by His grace, called you into His created story. This is the God who humbled Himself and came in human flesh. Weak believer, God Himself became weak and sympathizes with our pain. Sinful believer, Christ has been tested in all ways like as we are yet without sin, and through His blood, has brought us before a throne of grace, with a well of forgiveness that runs deeper than our trespasses. Christ has loved us while we were yet unlovable. He has accepted us while we were still unacceptable. He has declared us righteous while we were yet in sin.

THE GOSPEL FOR SELF-DOUBTERS

The self-hater who has been clothed in Christ’s righteousness has been given new eyes with which to see, a new mind with which to think, a new heart with which to believe, a new Savior to whom to cling.

Though this is still a struggle I am facing, one of the major turning points for me in this battle was a sermon by Pastor Ian Hamilton in which he stated: “The best proof that God will never cease to love us lies in that He never began.”

All of a sudden, I understood.

“The best proof that God will never cease to love us lies in that He never began.”

God has loved you with an everlasting love (Jeremiah 31:3). He has redeemed you with an eternal salvation. He has resurrected you to a never-ending hope.

Go to the one who will never stop loving you. Cling to the one who had no need to begin.

By | 2018-01-31T02:30:59+00:00 November 30th, 2017|

Stop Just Having Faith

Stop Just Having Faith by Sydney Simao

Stop Just Having Faith by Sydney Simao

Faith will carry you through the hard times.”

The words lingered on the page for a moment, gleaming full of empty promises like a jewelry box in a pauper’s casket.

“Faith is powerful,” the article continued. “It will sustain you through the conflicts. It will strengthen you in the temptations. When you are burdened by doubts and fears you must just have faith.”

The words dripped with spiritualism, piety, and hope. Surely they were written to inspire holier feelings in my aching heart, to drive me to cling closer to hopeful thoughts and kind deeds, to settle me with feelings of peace in my conflicting soul.

Many of my contemporary Christian friends would smile, nod sympathetically, and give me the same advice. The words resonated with the Christian film I had watched the other day, about a mother watching her child struggle toward the end of a terrible terminal illness. A church website I visited earlier echoed the same pious chords. Certainly this was Christian advice – inspiring faith in a generation of sinful doubters.

The catch? The article was written for Muslims, by Muslims. The faith spoken of was faith in Allah. The conflicts referred to were conflicts with unbelieving, infidel organizations, such as the Christian church. The temptations mentioned were those prohibited in the Koran. The doubts and fears through which faith will strengthen us, were the doubts and fears we, as Christians, pray will come to unbelievers and drive them to the Cross of Christ.

Faith isn’t enough.

Please. Stop just having faith.

 

Definer of Faith

According to recent reports, Prince Charles, upon ascending the British throne, plans to change his title from “Defender of the Faith” to “Defender of Faith.” The loss of the definite article exemplifies the loss taking place in our world – the loss of anything definite at all.

In an effort to revive the spiritual elation of a post-Christian culture, the heir to the European throne is only shifting it further into obscurity. As Pastor and Theologian, Dr. Michael Horton stated on the proposal: “The traditional title refers to the defense of a particular confession, a body of doctrine concerning the Triune God who has rescued up from our sins by the incarnation, life, death and resurrection of the Son, Jesus Christ. With the proposed change, the intention is to encourage the act of faith – regardless of the object. Better by far to drop the title.”

The Christian Faith is not merely faith. It is not a blind reach in the dark to a higher power. It is not a spiritual sentiment compassed by our searching hearts. It is not a quest for something greater than ourselves, a purpose to our lives, or a belief in something that cannot be proven.

Faith is not the end. It’s not the goal. And faith doesn’t save us.

Our faith must be in the God who saves. This means that we must put our trust in the true and sovereign Creator and Judge of the world, against whom we have committed cosmic treason in our state of spiritual deadness in sin. We must trust in His Son who, remaining God, became a man among us, who stepped into actual time and space history, lived a life of perfect obedience to the Father, and took the punishment we deserved through his terrible and wrath-exhausting death on the Cross. His life, death and resurrection were actual, historical events – not with the purpose of exalting a holy example, exciting spiritual elation, or inspiring you to lead a better life, but to save sinners from the wrath of God and bring them to Himself.

Faith is not the object of our salvation. It is Christ who saves and nothing else.

 

Destroyer of Faith

Over a century ago, C.S. Lewis wrote his most famous apologetic work, Mere Christianity. At one point in the book, he asserts that if faith is simply the feelings of our better moments, our very foundation will collapse – not because our foundation was faith, but because it was merely feeling. In so doing, we set our emotions in the place of God, and annihilate the exact beauty of salvation we were striving to revive.

It is a deceptively easy trap to fall into. As Lewis himself wrote of his own struggle in a letter to his friend: “I think the trouble with me is lack of faith. I have no rational ground for going back on the arguments that convinced me of God’s existence: but the irrational deadweight of my old skeptical habits, and the spirit of this age, and the cares of the day, steal away all my lively feeling of the truth, and often when I pray I wonder if I am not posting letters to a non-existent address. Mind you I don’t think so – the whole of my reasonable mind is convinced: but I often feel

Faith must mean more than some sort of spiritual sentiment, or it means no more than glorified heartburn. Feelings come and go. The blissful tears fade. The uplifting music dies away. Then, on Monday morning, when millions of Christians are thrown back into ordinary life with kids, a 9-5, and the monthly payments, they are left with the debilitating fear that their saving faith died with the end of yesterday’s worship service. Their hope of salvation seems as empty as their heart.

If we remove the God who saves from the end of our faith, then we are rejecting the Cross of Christ as the only way of salvation, and shoving humanity into a hallowed mirage of happiness his spiritual state cannot embrace. In so doing, we have not defended faith, we have destroyed it.

 

Deliverer of Faith

So what does this mean? Does this mean the end of good feelings, as we erect the brutal chasm between sentiment and doctrine?

No, it doesn’t. It means the beginning of all joy and hope.

If your hope of salvation is resting in the might of your faith as an end in itself, you will never be able to rest in the knowledge that you are truly saved.

Faith is beautiful. Faith is demanded. Faith is righteous. But not because of its own moral excellence, or because it is compassed by the earnest searchings of our hearts, but because it grasps the righteousness of Jesus Christ, appropriating His goodness to our own account.

This means that our faith is not blind. It begins with knowledge and trusts in certain fact. It does not rest in impractical strivings for an emotion, ever outside our control, but it trusts in the true and finished work of Christ, staking itself on His promises, which will never change. The struggle for us as Christians will always be to look to Christ instead of looking to our looking. We must see Him, leaning our weight upon Him, grasping Him – not by concentrating on the strength of our grasp – but resting in His strength as He grasps us.

This also means that faith is not something we muster in ourselves. We, who are born dead in sin, cannot choose to love God or churn our hearts into a spiritual boil of emotion (Romans 3). But God, though we deserved nothing but His wrath, has taken our sin and put it on His Son, punishing Him in our stead. And He has taken His Son’s righteousness and put it on our account. He calls us to Himself, resurrecting us to glory and instilling in our hearts a belief and trust in Him. “For it is by grace you have been saved, through faith – and this is not from yourselves, it is the gift of God – not by works, so that no one can boast.” (Ephesians 2:8-9)

This also means that faith gives all glory to God. When we realize that our faith does not generate our salvation in itself, but that it is Christ who saves, justifying us by faith in Him, it is absolutely liberating. No longer do we feel the uncertainty of our legal state before God as our religious elation rises and sinks in the storms of life. We know that our salvation is not dependant on our religious elation. It is not subject to our internal mustering of good thoughts. It is dependant on God, for He alone saves. And in our dependence on Him, we find our rest, joy, and certainty, and He is glorified forever.

As Charles Spurgeon wrote beautifully in his book, All of Grace, “Faith is the tongue that begs pardon, the hand which receives it, and the eye which sees it; but it is not the price which buys it…You need not, therefore, despair: that which is necessary to salvation is not continuous thought, but a simple reliance upon Jesus.”

Look to Him as the true object and keeper of your faith. For His hands alone grow mustard seeds.

By | 2018-01-31T02:31:10+00:00 November 19th, 2017|

When Ordinary Hurts

When Ordinary Hurts by Sydney Simao

When Ordinary Hurts by Sydney Simao

When I started working at the hotel, I thought it would be one of the greatest jobs ever.

I imagined a place swarming with interesting people – travelers, vagabonds, those with a past – they would all intersect here, where I was, and where they needed me. Hotels are fascinating places – a train station for people, as my friend calls them – the unassuming crucible where a thousand stories intersect. It would be the perfect job for a writer – a quiet place where I could sit back and observe the behind the scenes of a drama.

I was wrong.

If you’ve ever wondered what a hotel desk clerk does in those mysterious afternoon hours when the lobby stands vacant – especially one in a small town like my own – the answer is this: they do nothing. Their day drags forward at the pace of the people in the room, and so for most of the day, it drags forward at a speed of 0 feet per second.

I’m sure there are very fascinating people at hotels, but apparently, you have to actually meet them to know. Most hotel clerks don’t have that opportunity, unless of course you want the conversation to center on the rooms available, the weekend rates, or the leaking sink in 302.

Many nights, I come home with the exhaustion that accompanies a long and wasted day. My brain has been slowed to the heavy, mindless crawl of a slug on a freeway. My mind and body feels numb from the long periods of empty waiting. The only thing I can feel is my heart – violin-string tight, and one turn away from snapping.

I feel aimless, and struggle to embrace the larger purpose of life.

I didn’t sign up for ordinary.

As young people, we are famous for being dreamers. The quintessential, lazy millennial playing video games in his mother’s basement may still be a reality for some of our age range, but there is a rising popularity of the opposite extreme: the travelers, the business owners, the post-modern gypsies, sucking out the marrow of life with the greediness of a soul’s deprivation.

Life satisfaction has become the measure of success. And life satisfaction can’t be found in the hotel lobby’s of Thailand any more than the ones here. It doesn’t ignite with the engine of a mercedes. It doesn’t comfort you in the next binge meal. It doesn’t roll in with the goal weight on the scale. It doesn’t marry your future when you marry your spouse.

And we chase and chase and chase and still feel like we missed it. And here I am, in a puddle of tears and empty promises, mourning the loss of what I never had.

 

We Were Made For Something Better

I’m sure Adam and Eve didn’t know how good they had it – how much the Fall would change their lives. Sometimes I wonder how they felt with each painful discovery of a sin never before realized, a struggle never known, a fear never felt.

I wonder what it was like when they had the same thirst and longing for God that they had been created with, and suddenly found it not only broken and relinquished, but constantly dissatisfied. Searching, searching, searching. Come back. I’m sure the ones who looked hardest for a second eden were the ones who experienced the blessing of the first.

We were made for more than this. We were made to fill up our satisfaction and our longings in the only One who can truly satisfy. God created us to glorify Him and rest in His promises. He made us to be happy in the happiness only He can provide.

When we fell as a race, and when we fall every day, rebelling against our created order, we rebel against our own joy. Our longings are more than an unquenched thirst for the future; they are memories of the past. We are remembering the original taste of the garden. We are nostalgic for what we have never had, but were created to enjoy. We were made to be satiated with heaven’s bounty, and we’re chained by sin to this earth.

But we serve a gracious Heavenly Father, who gave Himself for us, so that even here, even now, we may “Taste and see that the Lord is good!” And we look forward to a day when that taste will be fully satisfied – and the second garden will be better than the first.

Until then, He gives us His strength every day.

 

He Shall Renew Our Strength…To Walk

Soak in the promises of Isaiah 40:
“He gives power to the faint,
and to him who has no might he increases strength.
30 Even youths shall faint and be weary,
and young men shall fall exhausted;
31 but they who wait for the Lord shall renew their strength;
they shall mount up with wings like eagles;
they shall run and not be weary;
they shall walk and not faint.”
(Isaiah 40).

Do you see the progression here? God enables us to mount up with wings and feel His pleasure. He equips us to run with endurance the race He has set before us. But even more common, and even more difficult, He strengthens us to walk the daily, ordinary life He has given, and invites us to rest in Him.

There is no such thing as living up to a potential where God is absent. There will never be a dream to chase where you can stake your happiness. There will never be a mountain to climb on this earth, that will replace the joy of heaven.

But even here, on this earth – on this train station for people, this unassuming crucible where a billion stories intersect – He does not quietly sit back and observe the unfolding drama. The Great Author has entered His own story, taken our pain, our sorrow, and our sin and bore them on Himself. In Him is our hope, and our salvation, and our future.

His mercies rise new every morning, though the day that follows looks the same.

When you are weary and disappointed, when you feel aimless, when the job God has given you today is so much harder than changing the world, come to Jesus. Roll your despair onto the Cross and take His yoke upon you, for His burden is easy and His yoke is light.

Live in the ordinary. God is here.

 

Recommended Reading

By | 2018-01-31T02:38:19+00:00 September 5th, 2017|

Rejoice in Judgment Day

Rejoice in Judgment Day by Sydney Simao

The trumpet blasts through a self-ripping sky. The earth trembles as the mountains sink into the sea. A trillion galaxies erupt in the last moan of painful labor, giving birth once again to the Son of God. This time, He is not an infant, but rather a Judge, glorious, resurrected, triumphant, and returning. All that is wrong, will be made right. Tremble, O sinners – you and I. For we are what’s wrong with the world.

Here comes the Day of Judgment – that Protestant Purgatory – when the very thoughts of our minds and hearts are laid naked in our own Gethsemane. Here peers the all-seeing eye of God, blazing with holiness. Before His law, what sinner can plea? Beneath His gaze, what wretch can hide?

At the end, for the believer, there is Paradise, for we know we are saved by grace through faith in Christ, and comfort abounds in that thought. But what comfort is there in the thought of judgment? Even the sinful believer shrinks at the thought of giving an account to the holy God of creation. There is no comfort in that thought. There is only the grip of guilt and the terror of conviction.

“Day of wrath,” the Catholic mass for the dead exclaims, “day that will dissolve the world into burning coals.” Then comes the despairing questions: “What am I the wretch then to say? What patron can I beseech when scarcely the just can be secure? King of tremendous majesty, do not lose me on that day. My prayers are not worthy, but do thou good God deal kindly with me lest I burn in perennial fire.”1

“My prayers are not worthy.” All hope of salvation hangs in the confidence of our own stammering prayers. The terror blackens with the lines of the medieval frescoes, where grotesque demons lead the naked dead into the flames. “What patron can I beseech when scarcely the just can be secure?” “Good God deal kindly….lest I burn.”

 

Certain in the Return

We, as Protestant Christians, must surely know better now, 700 years after these dark thoughts haunted medieval minds, but this is sadly not always true. Perhaps intellectually, we rest knowing that our salvation is assured in Christ, that God is gracious, that our hope is secure, that paradise awaits beyond the doors of judgment. But emotionally, there is no comfort in the thought of judgment day. We despair for the unsaved sinner. We tremble for ourselves.

That is why for its first hearers, the Heidelberg Catechism would have sent shock-waves of wonder through burdened souls. Question 52 reads: “What comfort is it to you that Christ will return to judge the living and the dead?”

What comfort, we wonder? What terror, perhaps? Surely terror can be granted. What pain awaits you? What fear torments your soul? But to ask us what comfort, as if we can feel not only triumph but warm and glorious affection in the thought of that coming day, seems both arrogant and naive.

What comfort is it to you that Christ will return to judge the living and the dead?

The answer of the Catechism slaps against Hell’s face with demon piercing beauty: “That in all distress and persecution, with uplifted head, I confidently await the very judge who has already offered himself to the judgment of God in my place and removed the whole curse from me. Christ will cast all his enemies and mine into everlasting condemnation, but will take me and all his chosen ones to himself into the joy and glory of heaven.”

Nothing is certain about the future except for one thing: Christ is coming back again. And in Him, all is certain.

 

Rejoice in the Return

Not only should we find comfort in the expectation of Christ’s return, but we should rejoice in it.
Listen to these words from Psalm 98, which resounds with the same soaring strength of the Catechism:

“Make a joyful noise unto the Lord, all the earth: make a loud noise, and rejoice, and sing praise. Sing unto the Lord with the harp… Let the sea roar, and the fulness thereof; the world, and they that dwell therein. Let the floods clap their hands: let the hills be joyful together, before the Lord; for he cometh to judge the earth: with righteousness shall he judge the world, and the people with equity.”

Rejoice. Sing. Clap your hands. For He cometh – the Judge – and He will judge uprightly.

Why? Verse 3 reminds us: (For) He hath remembered His mercy and His truth toward the house of Israel: all the ends of the earth have seen the salvation of our God.”

One day, the trumpet will fill the earth until the sky rips from the sheer inability to contain its triumph. The sea will rise and burst forth, clapping against sinking mountains of stone. The angels will sing in triumph: Holy! Holy! Holy! Is the Lord God of hosts, and then, for the second time in history, will we know what that repeated word means.

The Slain Lamb will appear as Conquering Lion. He hung once, naked, cloaked in blood. He comes again, glorious, clothed in victory. He came once to suffer; He comes again to conquer. The Son of Man arrives in eternal resurrection. Mortal flesh rips the shroud of time. God of gods, Lord of lords, King of kings, Very God of Very God, enters our broken story once more, but this time the Prince of Peace bears a sword.

 

Comfort in the Return

What comfort is this to you?

Our comfort is that the coming Judge has offered Himself to the Judgment. The Curse of the Law has been laid on the Divine Head and the sinner stands whole and justified. The very Christ who comes in glorious triumph is He who screamed in agony on the Cross: My God! My God! Why have you forsaken Me? And through His blood, we will not be forsaken.

We shall not hide the ugliness of our own sin, for He knows it better than we. He bore it on Himself, and its weight crushed Him, crushed down, down into the justice of the Divine, until He could lift His head above the curse and cry once and for all, with all the force of Heaven’s gavel: It Is Finished.

Here comes the Judge dressed in the robe of the Advocate. He who did not spare His own Son, how shall He not, with Him, freely give us all things? There is, therefore, no condemnation, for He has condemned Himself and risen again. We are more than conquerors through Him who loves us, for He who was slain has won the victory.

Neither the death that was, nor the life that is to come; neither the angels who stand in gaping wonder at the abundance of God’s grace, nor the demons who tremble before the rising dead; neither the power of guilt, nor the weight of the present, nor the torment of the past, nor the judgment to come; neither the height of our sin, nor the depth of our depravity; nor any other created thing – not even ourselves before the Creator – can separate us from the love of God which is in Christ Jesus our Lord.

You are not strong enough to open the gates of Hell, for they have been shut by the Divine Hand and sealed against you by Divine Blood. You are not weak enough to close the gates of Heaven, for they have been opened to you by the Judge Himself, and He has stooped to save you – even you – and has born you up, above a Cross into glory.

1Dies Irae, (Latin: “Day of Wrath”), attributed to Thomas of Celano, 1256.

 

Recommended Reading

By | 2018-01-31T02:38:22+00:00 August 31st, 2017|

The God Who Sees

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The God Who Sees by Sydney Simao

A God who sees is terrifying. Every bitten word, every dark thought festering behind a placid smile, every cruel judgment beneath the pleasant civilities, every spark of bitter frustration and anger, every tinge of doubt and fear, every putrid seed harbored and protected in the mire of our flesh, lies naked before the throne of the all-seeing God. His eye is upon me – me – who struggle so much with my old sin nature, falling to the same temptations over and over again. His eye is upon me, squinting – as Spurgeon said – squinting as if He can see nothing else.

When I was little, it was a great comfort to know that God sees everything. He was there when I was scared at night, when I fell off my bike and scraped my elbow, when those boys teased me afterward for wearing a helmet and arm guards, when I went to the dentist, when I helped my little sister do the dishes. You know, kid stuff. God was there. God saw. Like a benevolent grandfather in the sky, He looked down with a smile and a host of guardian angels and held my hand through the unknown paths of the day.

But as I got older and my knowledge of my own sin increased, I began to look more warily at the God who sees all things. There were corners of myself I hid from everyone else. There were monsters in my heart I was afraid to show others, afraid to be with, afraid to look at alone.

Anger, impatience, bitterness, depression, fears and doubts kept my conscience in constant turmoil, in a heartburn of conviction. Hardened pride would plummet suddenly into valleys of wounded shame. I was almost afraid to pray. And slowly, the God who peered down from the gates of judgment with His all-piercing and all-holy eyes, who saw me better than I see myself, appeared terribly affronted by the rebellious worm at His feet.

A God who sees is terrifying. Only omnipotent love and omnipotent grace can mold salvation beside omniscient holiness.

 

The Son of Promise

I’m not the first one who trembled at the words, “the God who sees”. Her name was Hagar (Genesis 16:13). She had been shamed and abused by her mistress, and abandoned by all she knew. She found only one refuge – that of escape. She would flee from her shame, her anger, her brokenness, her pain. Now, she was alone with only the child within her, and in this barren wilderness, he would most likely never live to see her face.

No one saw her tears. No one felt her pain. One of the heaviest burdens of grief is its loneliness, but the isolation Hagar felt was not only emotional, it was physical and relational as well. It was utterly complete in its oppression. And that oppression screamed for relief. That’s when she found the spring of water.

David and Samson (2 Samuel 23:8-17; Judges 15), after great victories, both cried that they would die but for a cup of water. They knew, even in their greatness, what it is to thirst. But Hagar was defeated. She was empty. And while she drank at the spring, she found that she would need more than water to make her whole again.

And God saw her there.

 

The God Who Sees

God came to Hagar at the spring in the wilderness and gave her something better than water. He gave her hope. He overflowed into promises. He asked her to drink of Him and be satisfied. When her master, her mistress, her kinsman and her household had all abandoned her, God had pursued. God had seen her troubles.

He told her that her life was not in vain. He told her that her son was coming – the son of the bondwoman. He told her another son was coming – the son of the free woman. This son would have a greater Son, who would free the children of the bondwoman and bring them to God (Genesis 16:10-12, 21:17-118; Hebrews 4:21-31).

How could God pursue this slave in her sin, in her shame, in her brokenness, with her ugly heart in her ugly circumstances, when He saw everything? How can God pursue us?

Because He sees our sin in light of His Promise.

He sees our sin in light of His Son.

 

Face to Face

God, in His omniscience and His sovereignty, sees you more scathingly clear than you could ever bear to see yourself. If for one moment, we could see our sin as God sees it, the weight of our transgressions would crush us completely (Exodus 19:21, 23:17-20; Isaiah 6:1-5; Revelation 1:17-18).

When we say we are righteous, He says we are condemned (Romans 3:9-20). When we say we are gods, He says we are sons of the devil (Matthew 13:37-38; John 8:44; 1 John 3:10). When we struggle and writhe and pronounce ourselves free to chase our lusts, He pronounces us dead in our sin (Ephesians 2:1; Colossians 2:13; 1 Timothy 5:6). When we curse God, He knows we are cursed already (Galatians 3:10). And when we try to fill ourselves up in the springs of this world, He knows we need more than this water (Jeremiah 2:13; John 4:13-14).

So the God who sees all things, in His omnipotent love and His omnipotent grace, sent His beloved Son to us in our own flesh (1 Timothy 3:16). Christ felt what we felt, suffered as we suffered, saw as we saw, in every way but the way in which sin blinds us (Hebrews 2:14-18). God looked upon His beloved Son, who kept the whole law perfectly, and said that with Him (and Him alone), He is well pleased (Matthew 3:17, 17:5).

And then the God who sees all things closed His eyes and turned away when His perfect Son was nailed to the Cross for the sin which God had abhorred for eternity, until Christ screamed in anguish: My God! My God! Why have you forsaken Me? (Matthew 27:46).

God saw. He saw our sin on His Son and He nailed it to the Cross (1 Peter 2:24). He saw His Son’s righteousness, and He placed it on His people (2 Corinthians 5:21).

When God sees you – you who are in Christ – He sees His Son.

That is the Gospel.

God, who saw you as you were, as a child of darkness naked before His throne of judgment, pronounced your condition worse than you could bear. But He loved you. He loved you so much that in spite of your sin, He sent His Son to live the perfect life of obedience that we despised. God saw His Son and pronounced Him good. Perfect. More perfect than you could ever hope to be. Because of His grace, and the atoning sacrifice of Christ on the Cross, God now sees you in Him, and pronounces you good. Perfect. The perfect He promises you will be.

When you are in heaven, the old you – the you that you are afraid God sees, that He put on Christ – will be done away with completely. And the new you – the you that Christ has given you – will become complete (2 Corinthians 5:17; 2 Peter 3:13).

This barren wilderness will erupt into the Water of Life. This foreign land will give way to our true home. And you will see with your own eyes, the God who sees.

 

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By | 2018-01-31T02:40:45+00:00 August 8th, 2017|

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