Agonizomai: The Diet of Worms

Saturday, October 31, 2009

The Diet of Worms
Today is Reformation Day. In light of this I am posting a reprise of a little devotional I wrote years ago. In celebration I have re-recorded the audio in a higher quality. Enjoy...

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The Diet of Worms


Earthworms have a very exclusive diet. They eat dirt. That’s it. They extract from common soil all that is needed for the nourishment of their darkened little lives below ground. Light is anathema to them and, should one of them be caught in the glare of a flashlight when visiting the surface at night, he will dart for the cover of dirt as fast as his follicles can carry him.

If, from the title of this piece, you were expecting a scholarly work on the life of Martin Luther or the beginnings of the Reformation I apologize for misleading you. We may get around to the Reformation later, but by a circuitous route. For now, let us go back to considering worms.

I am struck by the similarities between these blind, light-phobic, dirt-eating little creatures and the Biblical picture of fallen mankind. Do worms eat dirt? Consider how fallen mankind diets delightedly and determinedly upon the unclean vanities of an existence in rebellion against God. Do worms flee from the light? Hear how fallen men prefer the pitch of darkness and will not come into the light at all. Are worms blind? Consider that the Word of God that uses metaphor to portray the nature of fallen man as blind.

Of course, it is forbidden in this day and age to associate worms with the condition of mankind. It is no longer considered acceptable in a post-modern church, where self-image, self-respect and just about self-everything-else has come to the fore. We are far too enlightened to allow that sort of “dehumanizing” description to distort the new picture of men as lovable, but wrong-headed little scamps who need to have their mistakes fixed up. Consider, for example that great hymn of Isaac Watts from 1707 entitled “At The Cross”. The first verse originally read as follows:
Alas! and did my Savior bleed
And did my Sovereign die?
Would He devote that sacred head
For such a worm as I?
Since then, the old-fashioned “excesses” of diminishing the status of man and of exalting the Name of God have gradually been all but eradicated. Until we have now arrived at the place where we can regard the words of Watts as that sort of over-the-top hyperbole or false humility which was so typical of less enlightened times. God forbid that people today should be offended with such imagery and be encouraged to see themselves as worms!

Yet, when the Bible speaks of men as “worms”, it could just as easily be understood to be comparing them to maggots, which is an even less sympathetic symbol. Job’s friend, Bildad the Shuhite, covered the entire spectrum when he said, “Behold, even the moon is not bright and the stars are not clean in his sight; how much less man, who is a maggot, and the son of man, who is a worm!”

But let us delve a little deeper. That great prophetic Psalm 22 which foretells the agonies and shame of Jesus Christ, the Son of Man, upon the cross puts the very word into our Lord’s own mouth when He says in verses 6-7, “But I am a worm, and no man; scorned by men, and despised by the people. All who see me mock at me, they make mouths at me, they wag their heads…”

Yet it was your shame and mine that He was bearing. It was on our behalf that he was regarded as a “worm” in the place of we, the true worms. The Son of Man became a “worm” for the sons of man who are worms. Of course, this is all figurative. But, in using the term “worm” the Lord, the Psalmist, and the Spirit who inspired him actually meant to portray us as utterly corrupt, rather than simply as “naughty children” in need of a good spanking.

In reality, there is a far too inadequate view of mankind’s depravity pervading much of Christian consciousness in the modern age. And shepherds are doing neither sheep nor comers any favours if they fail to present the picture of their condition properly. Through fear of offending congregants or concern that the unsaved will be turned away if we tell them what God says about them in His Word, we have actually sown the seeds of our own downfall.

By our euphemisms we attract not penitents but patients. And we build not disciples but dependents. We are found not demarcating holiness but diluting it. For there is a godly order that must be followed by all who would strive to enter in at the narrow gate. They may not be brought immediately to the denial of all self, but they must be pointed to it from the very first. They must know the cost and count it. They must be shown what they truly are so that they will flee from it into the everlasting arms of their Saviour, and from there keep leaning upon Him. They must be set upon the road that leads to the utter loss of their own life so that Christ may live His life in them.

God will accomplish all that He purposes in those who are truly His. But woe to those who make their journey slower, who retard their sanctification by withholding and misrepresenting the truth and who, thereby, actually put stumbling blocks before them. In the name of false kindness and sensitivity they actually hinder the production of fruit. We must preach the truth in love, but only if we preach the whole truth is it truly love.

Early in the 16th Century, when Tetzel was making a mockery of salvation and holiness by selling indulgences on behalf of the Roman Church, he was doing no differently than when we, the modern church give people a watered-down gospel that circumvents the cross. We do this by failing to tell, in complete detail and unflinching honesty, what God’s Word says about how our own vile corruption makes the cross necessary.

In those times, it took a Luther, raised by God at just the right moment, to sow the seeds that would reset the course – a course that finally arrived at its own Diet of Worms. And what did this Luther say about our fallen abilities?
“If any man doth ascribe aught of salvation, even the very least, to the free will of man, he knoweth nothing of grace, and he hath not learned Jesus Christ aright.”
When will we once more wake up to the truth of the gospel that makes man a helpless, unlovely, sinful, dreadful, disgraceful, perverse, stiff-necked, rebellious, profligate evildoer who is entirely dependent upon the grace of God to even know that he needs salvation, let alone be able to find it or live it? A proper understanding of this truth will serve to magnify the love and the Name of Christ. Continuing in failure to preach it will result in the further exaltation of God’s creatures, instead of the God in whom we all live and move and have our being.




5 Comments:

Blogger Roxylee said...

Rright on! What a perfect sermon for today, and for every day. It is so easy to exalt ourselves, living in a world where everything around us encourages us to do so. Even in some churches, the ministries are about self-help groups of many kinds.

Yeh, talking with others who have been successful at overcoming some trap can be helpful, but that, in itself, can turn into a trap. When we see how we are (worms) and how merciful God is to become like us (except without sin) it causes great thanksgiving and freedom from being stuck in the place of despair. If God is for us, who can be against us? We are seated with Christ in the heavenly places. Angels don't even have what we worms can have in Jesus. To God be all the glory.

Ahhh... I love hearing you speak this good news in the morning. I go forth in victory!

9:54 am  
Blogger agonizomai said...

This comment has been removed by the author.

12:48 pm  
Blogger agonizomai said...

Roxylee,

Glad you enjoyed this one.

God is unimaginably good and His grace is unfathomable indeed.

Blessings,


Tony

8:58 am  
Blogger Derek Ashton said...

Tony,

From one redeemed worm to another: nice work!

Roxylee said:

"talking with others who have been successful at overcoming some trap can be helpful, but that, in itself, can turn into a trap."

Good paradox.

Blessings,
Derek

9:53 am  
Blogger agonizomai said...

Derek,

Thanks.


Tony

10:23 am  

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