Thursday, August 04, 2005

On the sinfulness of self and The Cross of Christ

Once in a while, it is refreshing to read about other testimonies of Christians in the faith. An example is John Stott's "Why I Am A Christian". In the chapter 4 entitled 'The Paradox of Our Humanness', he wrote that "The essence of evil is self-centeredness". He then goes on to mention the thoughts, words and deeds of which we become guilty when we fail to put God first, neighbours second and ourselves last. He did an interesting exercise by looking up words in the Shorter Oxford Dictionary that has the word 'self-' as a prefix and ended up with words like self-assertion, self-indulgence, self-applause, self-advertisement, self-gratification, self-glorification, self-pity and self-will. He counted more than 50 such words that are used perjoratively. Stott wrote that the essence of evil is self-centeredness. The paradox is that how can a God so holy and pure, care to love man who is sinful, selfish and utterly disgusting? Let me put it hypothetically, that with such a paradox, what has anybody (Christians and non-Christians in general) has got to lose to embrace this God?

It sounds scary at first look, just to think that anything to do with the self is an invitation to doing evil. Logically, when we look more to the self, we look less at others (including God). At Regent chapel, one of the images that humbled me, is always the humble cross. Why did the Christian Church not adopt the dove as a symbol for Christianity? Why not a picture of a glorious victorious kingdom? Why not a big star, or fire, or the baby crib, or a man on a donkey, or the towel to wash feet, or the alabastar vase? Instead, the cross was chosen, seemingly something that has shame attached to it? Thus we see people wearing crosses on their neck, their ears, on Church steeples, Church posters, and on the tombs. The cross is THE representation of the Christian faith!

Stott mentioned that many people thought that the cross represents death and shame arrived, while the resurrection represented the victory. Rather, it is the cross that represented the victory and the resurrection a re-affirmation of that victory! It is insightful indeed and theologically, the death of Christ turned things around for mankind in so significant ways. Indeed, the cross of Christ must not be taken in vain. So the hymn I learnt at Regent goes like this:

I BIND UNTO MYSELF (aka St Patrick's Breastplate
I bind unto myself today
The strong Name of the Trinity,
By invocation of the same
The Three in One and One in Three.

I bind this today to me forever
By power of faith, Christ’s incarnation;
His baptism in Jordan river,
His death on Cross for my salvation;
His bursting from the spic├Ęd tomb,
His riding up the heavenly way,
His coming at the day of doom
I bind unto myself today.

I bind unto myself the power
Of the great love of cherubim;
The sweet ‘Well done’ in judgment hour,
The service of the seraphim,
Confessors’ faith, Apostles’ word,
The Patriarchs’ prayers, the prophets’ scrolls,
All good deeds done unto the Lord
And purity of virgin souls.

I bind unto myself today
The virtues of the star lit heaven,
The glorious sun’s life giving ray,
The whiteness of the moon at even,
The flashing of the lightning free,
The whirling wind’s tempestuous shocks,
The stable earth, the deep salt sea
Around the old eternal rocks.

I bind unto myself today
The power of God to hold and lead,
His eye to watch, His might to stay,
His ear to hearken to my need.
The wisdom of my God to teach,
His hand to guide, His shield to ward;
The word of God to give me speech,
His heavenly host to be my guard.

Against the demon snares of sin,
The vice that gives temptation force,
The natural lusts that war within,
The hostile men that mar my course;
Or few or many, far or nigh,
In every place and in all hours,
Against their fierce hostility
I bind to me these holy powers.

Against all Satan’s spells and wiles,
Against false words of heresy,
Against the knowledge that defiles,
Against the heart’s idolatry,
Against the wizard’s evil craft,
Against the death wound and the burning,
The choking wave, the poisoned shaft,
Protect me, Christ, till Thy returning.

Christ be with me, Christ within me,
Christ behind me, Christ before me,
Christ beside me, Christ to win me,
Christ to comfort and restore me.
Christ beneath me, Christ above me,
Christ in quiet, Christ in danger,
Christ in hearts of all that love me,
Christ in mouth of friend and stranger.

I bind unto myself the Name,
The strong Name of the Trinity,
By invocation of the same,
The Three in One and One in Three.
By Whom all nature hath creation,
Eternal Father, Spirit, Word:
Praise to the Lord of my salvation,
Salvation is of Christ the Lord.

Yes. When I bind unto myself the Holy Trinity, goal I approach that when I look into myself, may I see Christ more and more. If I cannot be 'sinless' in this life, may I then learn to 'sin-less'. God guide me to His path of holiness. Praise be to God.

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