Wednesday, March 21, 2007

Will History Repeat Itself for You?

Lent Midweek 5
Wednesday, March 21, 2007
Acts 7:51

One of my favorite sayings is “those who do not know history are condemned to repeat it”. Not that I’m all that wise in taking it to heart, as I keep doing many of the same dumb things I’ve always done. We learn in God’s Word that those who don’t know His holy history are not condemned to repeat it but condemned forever. That’s why He’s given us His Word. So that we may know. So that we don’t have to repeat the dumb things our forefathers in the faith have done. So that we don’t have to be condemned eternally.

But we’re stiff-necked, aren’t we? We hear the examples of those who have gone before us. How they messed up. How they rebelled against God. Their complaining. Their own refusal to learn. And what do we do? We do the same things they did. We don’t learn from their mistakes, we follow them.

Once again, we’re met with this theme in the Book of Acts, this time with Stephen speaking, of the accusation that the people he was speaking to killed Jesus. And as we’ve seen previously with Peter’s sermons, the accusation sticks to us also.

But is it true that we are like those people Stephen was speaking to? Are we uncircumcised in our heart and ears? Are we always resisting the Holy Spirit? How can we be Christians if this is true?

It is telling how we respond to passages like this. Do we resist the Holy Spirit? Of course not. Are we uncircumcised in our hearts and ears? Of course not, we’re Christians. But why do we respond that way? Why do we think that we escape these sins, when time and time again the people of God fell into them? Why would we think that these sins are beyond us when the Bible gives us example after example of God’s people falling into them?

Because we’re just like them. Because we don’t know history. And therefore we’re condemned to repeat it. Yeah, we know the stories. But somehow, just like they did, we don’t think that the same things will happen to us. Somehow we think we won’t succumb to those kinds of actions like they did.

That’s why we need to hear this proclamation of the Word of God by Stephen as the proclamation of the Word of God to us. Our hearts and ears are uncircumcised. We are hardened and unyielding. We may not think we are because we think we’re not like those people Stephen was preaching to. We wouldn’t stone anybody.

But are our hearts any different from theirs? Don’t we keep slapping God in the face by not obeying Him at all times and not giving Him all glory in everything we do? Just by thinking that we’re not like them or at least not as bad as them we show that we are exactly like them.

That’s why God continues to apply His Word to us. We daily fall short. We’re no better than our forefathers who have gone before us. The good news is that there is one who has gone before us but not in sin. Nor is He bound to sinful nature as we are. Though flesh and blood He is not of sinful flesh as we are.

But He did take on our sin on the cross. As stiff-necked as we are, He was even more resolute in His willingness to go to the cross for our sinfulness. We have seen that the purpose of the proclamation of the Word of God in the Book of Acts is to bring us to repentance. The call to repentance is the call that convicts us of our sin. But it is also the call to resolutely fix our eyes on Jesus who in His death and resurrection has authored faith which the Holy Spirit establishes in us in Baptism.

Will history repeat itself for you? Or will you learn from those who have gone before you? History repeats itself because we’re so lazy and think we won’t fall short. But in Baptism we have been grafted into a new history—it is the very history of the life, suffering, death, and resurrection of our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ. In Him our history culminates in eternal life. Amen.


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