Saturday, May 19, 2007

There is life in the Red Letters... Sometimes.

I was recently listening to some music from good ol' DC Talk. I've always loved their music. Even from the freaky hip hop days. :) By the way, are those guys ever gonna get back together? Their greatest hits CD, "Intermission," came out when? 2000??? That's quite an intermission! I know, I know, they've all gone on to other wonderful things, and I could really digress quite terribly here! So on with the point...

The chorus of their song "Red Letters," from the "Supernatural" CD goes like this:

There is love in the red letters
There is truth in the red letters
There is hope for the hopeless
Peace and forgiveness
There is life in the red letters
In the red letters

I want to go on record as saying I'm not trying to judge the writer's heart or intentions. A response to what I'm going to say here could go something like, "Come on, Joel! What are you bickering about now!" And it's true that I didn't even have to use this song to make my point. I actually had another title for this post, but this song popped into my head because I had just listened to it the other day. So it simply provided a starting point for what I'm saying.

The "red letters" in the song refers to the words of Jesus. Certain Bible publishers have published "Red Letter" versions, to highlight the words of Jesus in red.

So, first off... everything that is said in the chorus of this song can indeed be found in the "red letters" (in various words that Jesus spoke): Love, truth, hope, peace, forgiveness and life.

HOWEVER... There are times when the red letters do not speak love, truth, hope, peace, forgiveness and life. If you don't already know where I'm going with this, please stay with me give me a chance to make my point. There are times when the red letters speak death and condemnation. And it's not always at the most obvious times!

Let's back up a minute. In our modern day Bibles, we see a division between "Old Testament" (Genesis to Malachi) and "New Testament" (Matthew to Revelation). The New Testament (Covenant), we therefore perceive, begins with Matthew, Chapter 1. But hold on just a minute. Let's look at something Jesus said that's recorded in Matthew 26 and Luke 14. At the "Last Supper," Jesus takes the cup of wine and says "this cup is My blood of the new covenant, which is shed for many for the remission of sins."

The New Testament (Covenant) did not come into effect until the shedding of Jesus' blood. Before His death on the Cross, Jesus ministered and taught under the Old Covenant. Jesus was "born of a woman, born under the law, to redeem those who were under the law." Many of the red letters were addressed to those who were "under the law." Many of the red letters were spoken to affirm, emphasize, accentuate and show the intensity and true meaning of the... Law!!!

Paul would later remind us that "whatever the law says, it says to those who are under the law, that every mouth may be stopped and the world become guilty before God" (Rom 3:19). While Jesus HIMSELF "did not come into the world to condemn the world, but that the world through Him might be saved" (John 3:17), He knew that the LAW was the means by which the world stood condemned and which silenced their self-justifying mouths, and which ultimately was the schoolmaster that would lead them to Him (Galatians 3:24,25).

Paul called the law "the ministry of death" and "the ministry of condemnation" (2 Cor 3:7, 9). And again, Jesus Himself did not come to bring death or condemnation. But in order to bring Life and Justification, He taught the fullness and the exactness and the definitiveness of the death and condemnation that was through the law. This "tutor" (schoolmaster) of the Law is what leads people to Jesus.

Many of the "red letters" were not actually meant AS life, but rather as the means of demonstrating the death and condemnation of those under the law... with the intention of ultimately leading a person to Life.

So... if I were a big Nashville lyricist (don't I wish!), and if I would have been part of the writing team for this song, perhaps I would have added another line or two to the chorus, or even another chorus!

There is law in the red letters
There is guilt the red letters
There is death and condemnation
End of self justification
Sin abounds... in the red letters
In the red letters

(See Romans 5:20-21 if you think that last line is utter foolishness)!

I realize I may have dropped half of my audience with this post. Either because someone thinks I'm dissing DC Talk or because I'm misrepresenting the Bible.

PLEASE don't think I'm dissing DC Talk! As for the Bible, don't take my word for it anyway!

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