This article is Part Three of a series:
The Bulging Left Bicep
Craving the Return of Majesty to Heaven’s Armed Forces
FOOLISHNESS MAKES A COMEBACK
I grew up in Colorado. Being a midwestern state, we don’t really have the classic sandy beaches that our coastal U.S. siblings boast. Instead, we have reservoirs with man-made beaches. But strangely, the man-made beaches in Colorado bring out the same juvenile “beach behavior” as those naturally-formed Southern California ones do. So, when I was in high school I used to stick on the swim trunks, whip off my shirt, slather on the baby oil, and strut along the reservoir beach in hopes that someone would think me cool.
I’m deeply embarrassed looking back upon those days. You see, I had a scheme when I was eighteen. Before I would head out of the house I was sure to do 100 push ups, 50 dips, and 50 pull ups. That way my body would have an exaggerated amount of blood pumping to my upper body muscles, causing the more desperate of females lingering woefully upon the beach to possibly think of me as “a man of amazing muscle” and swoon in my direction.
It’s always been a point of frustration for me, but I have always been of the more slender physique. “Skinny” was always the word of choice to describe me growing up. So, it’s sad to admit, but my 100/50/50 plan didn’t do much to offset my overall lack of natural machismo. Though that was over twenty-seven years ago, I’m still chagrined, but not by the fact that I actually did impress someone, but that I actually tried to impress someone.
The modern Church is similar to this eighteen-year-old rendition of Eric Ludy. I was a “Christian” back then, dutifully attending youth group, reading my daily Proverb, but I had a serious problem with self-absorption. I reasoned everything through the grid of how the circumstance or the decision would or could benefit me, my reputation, my comforts, and/or my agenda. If it didn’t benefit me, then I simply wasn’t interested. And as a result I lived a spiritually defeated life. After all, its a common known spiritual fact that self-absorption is a sure-proof way to empty the Christian life of “The Majesty.” For a man who considers his own reputation above the reputation of His King, Jesus Christ, will never see his left bicep bulge.
Would you humor me for a moment and let my imagination go back twenty-seven years to the shores of the Boulder Reservoir? It’s funny, but an eighteen-year-old Eric Ludy just doesn’t mix with the bravehearted ideas contained in this series of articles. And that’s precisely what I sense is wrong in the modern Church. The powerful Gospel is not welcomed anymore. Old “Eric Ludy” is standing in the way. This “Return of Majesty” notion seems old-fashioned, out-of-place, and a bit too much for the sleek, hip, trendy-minded generation we all find ourselves in.
So, imagine a coalition of Charles Spurgeon, William Booth, and C.T. Studd time traveling together to Boulder, Colorado in the year 1989 with a message personally wrapped and packaged for an eighteen-year-old Eric Ludy. Nowadays I would consider a personal encounter with a coalition like this to be the highlight of my entire life, but I shudder to think how I might have received their package back when I was eighteen and in love with myself.
I can just see it now. The three arrive in a poof of smoke and awkwardly step out onto the fake sandy beach in their wing-tipped shoes. I would likely be strutting along the reservoir’s shoreline seeing if any one had yet taken note of my tricep muscle that I worked extra hard on that morning before hopping into my red ’62 Volvo and heading to “The Rez.” Now suddenly, out of nowhere, I’ve got three thick-bearded men in old-fashioned attire standing in front of me in and amidst my personal patch of coolness. A thousand pimply-faced, barely clothed teenagers sit on their beach towels and look up with equal fascination.
Booth is the first one to speak. He says, “Mr. Ludy, I presume?”
I stop walking and awkwardly acknowledge with a slight head nod that I am in fact Mr. Ludy. But at this acknowledgement Booth looks at Spurgeon inquiringly. Then Spurgeon looks at Studd with the same inquisitive stare. Studd says to Spurgeon, “Look Charles, I handed it to you before we stepped into the time travel thingamajig.” Spurgeon gives an understanding nod and then pats at his suit coat pocket. Sure enough, there it is. He pulls it out and says, “Mr. Ludy, we have come all the way from the 1800s to give you something very special.”
I find myself acutely aware of the staring multitude of greasy-haired humanity. The throng is watching, wondering, attempting to figure out if I’m actually chummy with these three thick-bearded old guys. As the three men stand there in their old-timey suits and talk to me, their voices are uncomfortably loud—and I find myself instinctively wanting to escape from them. Their presence is pure embarrassment. Sure they are time-travelers, and you would think that would be something I would be proud to be connected with, but this blast from the past is a serious threat at present to my good standing amongst the crowd. My cheeks suffuse red, cold sweat breaks out on my forehead, and I find myself awkwardly rubbing my nose (the action I’m known to do in all strained and strange situations).
Spurgeon hands me the small package.
“What’s this?” I stutter.
“It’s a bulging left bicep,” he states matter-of-factly.
“A bulging left bicep?” I mutter in laughing disbelief.
I look at the small package. It has a picture of a pink and orange blow-up floaty arm band on it with the words, “The Power of the Gospel” written in bold letters across the front.
“You’re not serious!” I say with incredulity. “Is this some kind of joke?”
“Put it on!” says Studd.
“I can’t wear this!” I state with a huff.
“Put it on!” says Booth.
“It’s pink and orange!” I reason. “Everyone would think I’m an imbecile if I wore this foolish thing on my arm.”
“They certainly will, Mr. Ludy!” responded Spurgeon. “What looks like foolishness to the world, is anything but foolish in the Kingdom of Heaven.”
“Pink and orange?” I questioned with a furrowed brow. “Those two colors clash!”
“You are seeing this gift,” said Studd, “through the eyes of the world and not through the eyes of Heaven!”
Booth moves in close, stares me in the eyes, and booms his opinion of my cowardice. “Mr. Ludy,” he bellows, “We are giving you the secret to ‘The Majesty’ returning to the stage of time! Wear it. Wear it boldly. Wear it unashamedly.” He then points at the thousand teenagers and says, “You must die to their good opinion, Mr. Ludy! You are being commissioned to live in such a way that they will mock, ridicule, and oppose. If the strength of the Gospel is going to return, it will return in and through humble vessels that have died to the applause of their fellow man!”
Spurgeon, not to be outdone, adds his thunderous comments to the situation:
“Mr. Ludy!” he growls in his famed manly tone, “What on the outside looks like weakness to you, is, in fact, strength. What looks like foolishness to you, is, in fact, wisdom. And what looks like the end of your life, is, in fact, a new beginning.” He points his long finger at the package and shouts, “This is how the ancient Longbow is pulled! You wear this unashamedly, and the world will once again behold the impossible on this earth!”
An eighteen-year-old Eric Ludy is a very unstable entity, vulnerable to the slight winds of public opinion drawing him away from good sound judgment. He is vulnerable to “pulling an Esau” and forsaking this gift of a lifetime. Three of the strongest proponents of “The Majesty” in their generation have all joined together to deliver an eighteen-year-old Eric Ludy a package, and yet I’m not fully confident that the eighteen-year-old rendition of Eric is ready to receive it. And likewise, I’m concerned that the modern Church is inclined to consider the good opinion of the greasy-haired humanity over the golden opportunity they have received to bring back the gusto and grit to the Church of Jesus Christ.
Please prove me wrong.
The Majesty is there for the taking. It’s not hidden. It’s sitting on the surface of the text of Scripture in pink and orange color begging to be slid on and up over the left bicep of the Church once again.
Just as I’m concerned about the eighteen-year-old Eric’s response to such a commission, I’m concerned about your response. A self-absorbed Eric Ludy only sees pink and orange when he hears about the grandeur of the Gospel returning full force. He’s distracted by the ill effects this would all have on his precious reputation. He’s disabled by the idea that he must lay down his cool vibe and bear the rather uncool clothing of his Redeemer. He wants big muscles, but not for the same reason God wants them. He wants his muscles to gleam with baby oil and draw attention to himself—but God wants to build an unusually large mass of strength on his upper left arm and slather it in the oil of the Holy Spirit that the attentions might be drawn to the Person of Jesus Christ.
The Return of Majesty hinges upon the Church choosing God’s good opinion over this world’s good opinion. And to the degree that the Church is willing to start looking odd for the Glory of their King, is the same degree to which it can be a flow through channel of the thunder, the authority, the oomph, and the majesty of the Almighty.
Will the pink and the orange look funny to this world? Of course it will. But the willingness to wear that badge of infamy for the glory of our King and for the sake of this dying and lost world will, in so doing, open up the floodgates of the Almighty River to once again course into this land and redeem the dying people of this earth.
I laugh out loud when I read William Booth’s response to wearing the pink and orange blow-up floaty arm band of his day . . .
If I thought I could win one more soul to the Lord by walking on my head and playing the tambourine with my toes, I’d learn how!
The saints of God have always known that the ways of Heaven are contrary to the ways of this earth. Do you know it?
A contingent of mighty men and women has indeed arrived in our modern day to stand before each of us. I want you to picture the vast array of heroes and heroines encircling you right now. The writer of Hebrews calls this contingent “The Great Cloud of Witnesses”—and they have a package for each one of us. There’s George Müller, and there’s Corrie ten Boom. Over on this side I see Amy Carmichael and William Carey. On this side stands John Hyde and Jim Elliot. Right behind you is David Brainerd and Major Ian Thomas. Oh, and there’s Rees Howells, Gladys Aylward, Edward Payson, and E. M. Bounds. Wow, there is too many to even mention. They are everywhere. Wurmbrand, Spurgeon, Ravenhill, Tozer, Whitefield, Chambers, Moody, Paton, Slessor, Murray, Torrey, Stam, Reidhead, DeShazer, Roberts, Livingstone, and McCheyne. They all stand holding out to you and me a package—the contents of which, if we truly put it on, will forever alter our lives and will force the world around us to make a decision—yay or nay—for Jesus Christ.
Do we dare put such a pink and orange spectacle upon our arm?
Or maybe the question should be posed a different way.
Do we dare NOT put on such a precious treasure? Do we dare ignore this gift? Do we dare pass over the singular most valuable treasure in all the universe in exchange for a little human comfort? This is a package that men and women all throughout the ages past have suffered greatly to pass down to us. These saints of old have endured every indignity that you might receive this package, and that you might wear it just as they did in their generation.
The Majesty of Jesus Christ will return to this earth. But will you be one ushering it forth or one embarrassed by the profound power and beauty of our Risen Conqueror?
I exhort you to receive the gift.
And as Studd and Booth both so eloquently stated to the eighteen-year-old Eric Ludy.
“Put it on!”
It’s high time that foolishness makes its long awaited comeback.
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