The Third Person

Christians agree—God is a triune person. The problem is, we often act as if He’s two in one, not three.

In some groups claiming the name of Christ, the Holy Spirit is elevated so much that you’d hardly think the Father was part of the Godhead, but in other groups, the very thought that the Holy Spirit has some part in giving the Christian guidance today, has them claiming heresy.

OK, both those sketches are somewhat exaggerated, but not by much. On one hand are those who believe the ecstatic gifts of the Holy Spirit, especially speaking in tongues, are the true evidence that a person is a Christian. On the other are Christians who believe that those particular gifts—speaking and interpreting tongues, prophecy, healing—have ceased. They were existent in the early church, but now that we have the Bible, no more.

I addressed this subject to a degree last March in one of my CSFF Blog Tour posts for Mike Duran’s Resurrection. However, I’ve since learned that there is a segment of Christendom that apparently believes any inner leading of the Holy Spirit that can’t be confirmed by Scripture is evidence of Gnosticism.

In other words, if I pray and ask God for direction regarding a career change or for leading in ministry choices, the leading that I then might claim would be considered as some kind of esoteric knowledge that we can’t actually obtain. What, then, I ask, does the Holy Spirit do?

If we strip Him of His gifts and of His function to guide us, is His work as our Comforter next? Or as the Person who convicts of sin?

Ah, someone may well say, the Spirit does guide us—into Truth. He brings Scripture to mind, but He doesn’t tell us what toothpaste to buy. Fair enough. I believe that too. But I also believe when we pray something akin to the lines Jesus modeled for us—lead us not into temptation, but deliver us from evil—that the Holy Spirit answers quite specifically.

Why wouldn’t He? Jesus demonstrated great concern for the details of people’s lives—if they had enough food or wine, if they had a sick mother-in-law or daughter, if they had money for taxes or gave their last coin as an offering, if they were married or blind, if they had dirty feet, or an inappropriate desire to be first in His kingdom. He cared for the most marginalized members of society—lepers, women, children, the disabled, the demon possessed. He touched, cleansed, raised up, healed, and taught. And He told His disciples it would be better for them after He left.


But I tell you the truth, it is to your advantage that I go away; for if I do not go away, the Helper will not come to you; but if I go, I will send Him to you. (John 16:7 — emphasis mine).

Honestly, I’m really ignorant about the Holy Spirit. But one thing I learned early on in my Christian life—that the presence of the Holy Spirit is one way we can be assured of our salvation: “We know by this that He abides in us, by the Spirit whom He has given us” (1 John 3:24b).

Of equal importance, John went on to say in the next chapter that we need to test the spirits: “Beloved, do not believe every spirit, but test the spirits to see whether they are from God, because many false prophets have gone out into the world” (1 John 4:1).

So there’s the dilemma with which the Christian lives—the Spirit might be guiding us, but what we think is of God might be false. The fact is, we need discernment.

We are told not to quench the Spirit. How do we not quench the Spirit if we don’t recognize His voice? And if we say He only speaks what He’s already spoken in Scripture, isn’t that already a form of quenching Him?

Jesus said something amazing to His disciples: If you want that mountain tossed into the sea, pray believing and it will happen (Mark 11:22-24). Except . . . how do I know if I should pray for the mountain to be tossed into the sea? Isn’t that sort of a Big Deal, one that could affect countless other people? Shouldn’t I be sure that moving the mountain is what God wants? Or do I just willy-nilly pray for whatever I think might be a solution to the things I’m concerned for and then see what sticks—the old spaghetti-against-the-wall trick. (When I was a kid, I did pray for a mountain to be moved, except I knew I didn’t really believe it would, so figured that was a failed experiment since I didn’t meet the condition 🙄 ).

My point here is this. Jesus gave a very specific something to pray, something we can’t know is His will by looking into Scripture. We can find principles that can guide us, but from that point is it up to us to make the decision what specifically we should pray, or ought we not expect the Holy Spirit to guide us, nudge us, disquiet us, urge us, focus us, wake us, stir us? Ultimately, do we not experience the Holy Spirit’s presence in our lives more often because we’ve become so skeptical we aren’t looking for Him to be active?

Published in: on November 15, 2011 at 6:20 pm  Comments (12)  
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If There’s One That’s Worse, Pride Might Be It

Engraving by Pieter Bruegel the Elder

Seven deadly sins. That’s what the Church declared in the Middle Ages, trimmed and altered from their original number developed by Greek monastic theologian Evagrius of Pontus. But from the beginning, pride was on the list and placed in the position of most egregious. I can’t disagree. And yet, there’s a fundamental problem that listing out seven deadly sins and their corresponding Heavenly Virtues and Seven Corporal Works of Mercy misses.

The real sin is rejecting Jesus Christ as the only begotten Son of God, given to us by the Father, because of His love, that we might have everlasting life:

He who believes in Him is not judged; he who does not believe has been judged already, because he has not believed in the name of the only begotten Son of God (John 3:18).

The passage goes on to describe the one who does not believe as loving darkness because his deeds are evil. So we’re back to sins—pride, envy, anger, sloth, covetousness, gluttony, and lust, to name seven of them.

Of course, the Ten Commandments puts idolatry at the head of the list: “You shall have no other gods before Me” (Ex. 20:3). And Paul, writing in Colossians says greed amounts to idolatry (3:5). So why would pride get tagged as chief among sins?

A year ago in an article on this blog, I made the case for Pride as The Fall—the sin which Satan embraced and the one to which both Deceived Eve and Willful Adam succumbed.

As I see it, pride is the act of putting self as a god before the Lord God, and I can’t imagine anything much worse. Pride was the sin of Nebuchadnezzar, crafting a statue of himself and ordering his people to bow before it. Pride was the sin of King Saul, declaring to Samuel that he had indeed obeyed the command of the Lord—all but the part about killing all the animals. After all, Saul had a better plan. He’d use those animals as sacrifices to the Lord. His way was better, infinitely better, because he’d kill the animals, save ones from his own flock and herd, and worship God, all in one. Great idea! Better than God’s. Better than doing what God had told him to do.

Pride, I believe, was the sin of Balaam, the prophet insistent on circumventing God’s blessing of Israel when hired by Barak to curse them. He may have been motivated by greed, but at some level he believed he could do what he wanted, not what God wanted him to do.

And isn’t that true of King David, too? And Samson. Lust may have motivated them, but at some point they believed they were not subject to God’s law, that they could make their own way, that they didn’t have to do what God said.

Moses’s sister Miriam succumbed to pride at one point, wishing to have her brother’s job or power or influence. And I tend to believe Joseph, Godly man that he was, needed to learn the lesson of humility in the Egyptian dungeon before God would elevate him to the position of power over the nation and over his own family.

Of course the great contrast is the Lord Jesus Christ who humbled Himself, taking the form of a bond-servant, obeying the Father, and going to the cross (Phil. 2:7-8).

For the Christian, I suspect pride is still the weevil that would spoil the vine and destroy the fruit God wants us to produce. At least I know that to be true for me.

I find it interesting that Paul commands us believers to take on the humble attitude he described Christ having—regarding others as more important than ourselves, not merely looking out for our own personal interests, but also for the interests of others.

In Colossians 3 he lists humility as one of the traits those “chosen of God, holy and beloved” are to put on—as if it is a piece of clothing we are to don in order to be ready to carry out our mission of loving one another and serving each other and forgiving whoever has a complaint against anyone.

Thanks be to God that He provides the wherewith all to obey Him. It is not up to us to generate humility. Rather our source is Christ. How cool is that—His act of humility is not only our example but the very means by which we can learn to walk humbly before our God.

Published in: on November 14, 2011 at 6:51 pm  Comments (2)  
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Fantasy Friday – Introducing Jill Williamson

What is it about Alaska? Seems like more and more Christian novelists are from Alaska — Sally Apokedak, Sibella Giorello, and Jill Williamson.

Of course Jill doesn’t really need an introduction. After all, she’s won two Christy Awards for the first two books she published — By Darkness Hid and To Darkness Fled (Marcher Lord Press) — and I suspect her third, From Darkness Won, will be up for nomination next year.

Rarely does a novelist enter the publishing world and find such acclaim so quickly. The only other writer I can think of is another fantasy author — Karen Hancock who won four straight Christys with her first four published novels.

That should tell you what kind of writer Jill is. What readers might not know is that she once had aspirations as a fashion designer.

After graduating from her high school and studying at the University of Alaska, she headed off to the lower forty-eight to attend college in Idaho where she ended up meeting her husband, Brad. Together they trundled to New York so that Jill could test the waters of the fashion industry by attending the Fashion Institute of Technology.

A year later, as planned, they moved to Los Angeles, this time so that Brad could explore his interest in the movie industry. As time passed, however, God changed the direction of their hearts, and they both became increasingly interested in ministry, particularly to young people.

Eventually Brad took a job as a full time youth minister. Jill hoped to develop her own speaking ministry too, and started writing articles for periodicals for teens as a means to that goal. In the process, she discovered fiction and began writing novels.

And she loved it! But what about her ministry goals? How did this little “writing hobby” fit in with what God was calling her to do? Thankfully her wise pastor encouraged her to continue with her writing as a way to connect with the teens she wants to reach.

And what, precisely, does she want to get across to her readers? “That God is the desire of our hearts.”

Now she and Brad — and their son — live in Eastern Oregon. Besides being a gifted writer and faithful wife, Jill is a mom and a speaker. Yes, she reached that speaker goal and does talks for schools and libraries and teaches at writing conferences and clinics for children, teens, and adults.

As far as Jill’s writing is concerned, she’s represented by Amanda Luedeke of the MacGregor Literary Agency and is contracted for a new series with Zondervan. In fact the first book Replication: The Jason Experiment is scheduled to release in December! While her Blood of Kings series could best be described as epic fantasy for all ages, Replication is a teen science fiction/suspense novel.

Under miscellaneous, I just have to add, Jill has very good taste in books and television shows — we have a number of the same ones listed in our interests at Facebook, which by the way is a great way to keep up with her. You might also want to follow her on Twitter.

For fans of her fiction, you can subscribe to her Podcast to hear her first novel and soon, a serialization of the second. One way or the other, I suggest you make room for the work of this talented writer. I might even suggest that her books, available at Marcher Lord Press, would make great Christmas presents for that reader in your family.

The Author

I love the fact that the writer of Hebrews refers to Jesus as the author. Not “an author,” mind you, but the author, specifically the author of our salvation and the author and perfecter of our faith:

For it was fitting for Him, for whom are all things, and through whom are all things, in bringing many sons to glory, to perfect the author of their salvation through sufferings. (2:10)

fixing our eyes on Jesus, the author and perfecter of faith, who for the joy set before Him endured the cross, despising the shame, and has sat down at the right hand of the throne of God. (12:2)

Interestingly the word has the connotation of one who takes the lead, who serves as a pioneer. That idea seems appropriate to me for writers. Rather than serving as reporters of the human condition, an author is one who leads the way to truth.

I realize there are varying philosophies about writing, but this use of “author” in the Bible gladdens my heart.

Darkness is in the world and certainly darkness is an appropriate, even necessary, part of stories. But it doesn’t have to be the central element. I know I don’t want it to be the central element in my stories.

As I think about the best of Christian fantasy, I ask, where was darkness? Where was darkness in Lord of the Rings, in Narnia?

In the first, I’d say it was ever lurking on the fringe, even stalking the good and noble and true. As the story progressed and the main character traveled further, darkness grew, but so did the resolve of those opposing it.

In the latter, darkness took a more insidious form — that of deception and betrayal. As such it still wasn’t quite front and center for most of the story. It was always present in the mind of the reader, and ultimately solving the problem of evil drove the story to its final conclusion. But the stories weren’t about darkness, though perhaps The Last Battle came close.

My point is, in these great fantasies, J. R. R. Tolkien and C. S. Lewis led the way to truth without darkness being the predominant element. In each story they painted the picture of a world in need and yet the greatest part was the process of overcoming the dark.

In this day of dark stories, of vampires and werewolves and zombies, I find the idea of leading the way through the dark to truth a refreshing alternative.

Published in: on November 10, 2011 at 5:22 pm  Comments (5)  
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Whose World Is It, Part 5 – In, But Not Of

One last important point for us to understand regarding the issue of who’s ruling the world.

First some linguistic background. The Greek word for world is kosmos (which you may recognize as the source for the English word cosmos). According to Strong’s Concordance with Hebrew and Greek Lexicon, the Biblical meaning of the word can be outlined as follows (excluding several points that seem irrelevant to this discussion):

3) the world, the universe

4) the circle of the earth, the earth

5) the inhabitants of the earth, men, the human family

6) “the ungodly multitude; the whole mass of men alienated from God, and therefore hostile to the cause of Christ

7) world affairs, the aggregate of things earthly

    a) the whole circle of earthly goods, endowments riches, advantages, pleasures, etc, which although hollow and frail and fleeting, stir desire, seduce from God and are obstacles to the cause of Christ

I’ve always assumed that context made it clear which of these meanings applied to a particular verse, but now I see that some people might take a verse like John 3:16 and read into the word world, not “the inhabitants of the earth,” as I do, but “the world, the universe.”

I still think context reveals meaning. For example, John 3:16 follows “For God so loved the world” with “whoever believes in Him,” clarifying that this use of world relates to entities with the capacity to believe — humans.

Perhaps the most telling passage in this discussion is I John 2:15-17 because John clearly uses the world in several of its meanings. In other words, he puts the universe and the aggregate of things earthly together, under the same admonition:

Do not love the world nor the things in the world. If anyone loves the world, the love of the Father is not in him. For all that is in the world, the lust of the flesh and the lust of the eyes and the boastful pride of life, is not from the Father, but is from the world. The world is passing away, and also its lusts; but the one who does the will of God lives forever. [emphasis mine]

James echos a portion of these thoughts when he says, “You adulteresses, do you not know that friendship with the world is hostility toward God? Therefore whoever wishes to be a friend of the world makes himself an enemy of God” (James 4:4).

The Christian, then, is to be distinct. We are to fix our eyes on Jesus, set our minds on things above, reject loving the world and things in the world.

But what about “the ungodly multitude; the whole mass of men alienated from God, and therefore hostile to the cause of Christ”?

I haven’t done an exhaustive study of the word “world” to say categorically that I know this to be absolute, but I have reason to believe that, rather than rejecting love for the world of lost sinners, the Christian is directed to love each.

One passage that leads me in this direction is Philippians 3:18-19 where Paul says, “For many walk, of whom I often told you, and now tell you even weeping, that they are enemies of the cross of Christ, whose end is destruction, whose god is their appetite, and whose glory is in their shame, who set their minds on earthly things” (emphasis mine).

Why would Paul be weeping unless he felt great sorrow at the condition, including the destruction, of these enemies of the cross?

“Enemies” brings me to the second reason. We are instructed in Scripture to love our enemies. In addition, Christ told us that we would be hated in the world.

“If you were of the world, the world would love its own; but because you are not of the world, but I chose you out of the world, because of this the world hates you. (John 15:19; see also John 17:14)

On the strength of this hatred, I conclude “the world,” meaning, “the ungodly multitude; the whole mass of men alienated from God, and therefore hostile to the cause of Christ” encompasses the enemies I am to love.

So here’s this final point: not loving the world but loving those trapped by their own sin nature in the system that hates God and teaches them to do likewise puts the Christian in a tenuous place. We must be close enough to “the ungodly multitude” so we can love them but far enough from “the aggregate of things earthly” that we don’t start loving them. Therein lies the tension of being in the world but not of it.

The significance for writers is this: while there is a place for writing to encourage, instruct, or admonish fellow believers, our call as a group is not limited to that type of writing. We have a responsibility to “the ungodly multitude” too. Who else do we think is going to see the light we are to be, in a crooked and perverse generation? (See Phil. 2:14-15)

As Jesus reminds us, light needs to be displayed prominently, not hidden away. Writers, including bloggers, aren’t exclusive in this opportunity, but working with words makes our light-showing job all the easier.

Published in: on November 9, 2011 at 1:24 pm  Comments (3)  
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Whose World Is It, Part 4 – Writing In Enemy Territory

Clearly, someone writing from the position that this world is Christian will have an entirely different emphasis than someone who thinks this world is in the hands of the enemy.

Let me reiterate, I understand this world is God’s by virtue of the fact that He made it and He holds it all together. Also, “He is the beginning, the first born from the dead so that He Himself will come to have first place in everything” (Col. 1:18b) — meaning that Satan will not successfully pull off his attempt at dethroning Jesus.

Meanwhile, however, we are living in enemy territory. Our citizenship is in heaven, unlike those who set their minds on earthly things. How you perceive enemy territory is very different than how you perceive your home.

If you’re in the hands of the enemy, for instance, you stay alert to deception, you steal yourself against depravity and suffering. You take nothing for granted. The things that appear harmless, you examine closely to see how they might be insidious traps. The outward appearance of a thing, therefore, is utterly untrustworthy. In fact, a disgusting bit of pulp might be medicinal, but a thick cut of meat might bring on death. Everything must be tried and measured and examined to see if it furthers the cause of the king or plays into the hands of the enemy.

So with stories. Some may be bold, assertive, overt declarations for the true king or about his enemy and his coming judgment. Some may be illustrative rather than declarative, but no less concerned with the truth.

Obviously these are broad strokes. Stories might be about individual skirmishes rather than about the entire scope of the war. Some might not show the end, but the successes during the battle.

I can’t help but think of Corrie ten Boom and her sister Betsy thrown into a German concentration camp towards the end of World War II. The world in which they lived was in the grip of the enemy — physically and spiritually. But in them resided the Spirit of the living God, and they had a clear choice whether to live by the evil principles of their environment or the life-giving principles of the Spirit.

Betsy never came out of the concentration camp. And yet she triumphed every day through her generosity and by her refusal to hate. She did not look at the concentration camp as Christian. She saw it for what it was — Satan’s playground. But greater was He who was in her than he who was in the world of that camp.

Christians writing stories have the privilege of showing the way things are, both spiritually and physically. The small aren’t necessarily weak, and the strong aren’t necessarily victorious.

Someone may be a slave but able to bring healing to her master because of her willingness to testify about the Living God. The man who dies young might have more impact on the world than the one who lives into his nineties.

And the Christian writer gets to show this upside down way of seeing the world. We get to make sense of the senseless, to agree with Scripture in the telling of our tales, to serve as the memorial stones that remind readers of the King and His victory — won and to be won.

Published in: on November 8, 2011 at 5:58 pm  Comments (4)  
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Whose World Is It? Part 3

I ended Part 2 of this short series with these questions:

So does God’s sovereignty mean the world is Christian? Or does the fact that Satan rules the world mean it’s not?

By way of review, we know that Satan rules the world because Scripture tells us he does; this point is not arrived at through speculation, inference, or deduction based on observation.

This is a critical issue, I think, and therefore I want to take the time to look at the additional verses I mentioned in the previous post, along with 1 John 5:19 — “We know that we are of God, and that the whole world lies in the power of the evil one” (emphases in all these verses are mine).

John 12:31 – this verse comes in the midst of an amazing account. Jesus is preparing to go to the cross. As He shares His struggle, He cries out for God to glorify His name. The Father answers. The crowd of people standing around are trying to figure out what they heard. Then this:

    Jesus answered and said, “This voice has not come for My sake, but for your sakes. 31 Now judgment is upon this world; now the ruler of this world will be cast out. 32 And I, if I am lifted up from the earth, will draw all men to Myself.”

1 John 4:4 — “3 and every spirit that does not confess Jesus is not from God; this is the spirit of the antichrist, of which you have heard that it is coming, and now it is already in the world. 4 You are from God, little children, and have overcome them; because greater is He who is in you than he who is in the world.”

2 Corinthians 4:4 — “And even if our gospel is veiled, it is veiled to those who are perishing, in whose case the god of this world has blinded the minds of the unbelieving so that they might not see the light of the gospel of the glory of Christ, who is the image of God.”

John 16:11 — “8 And He [the Holy Spirit], when He comes, will convict the world concerning sin and righteousness and judgment; 9 concerning sin, because they do not believe in Me; 10 and concerning righteousness, because I go to the Father and you no longer see Me; 11 and concerning judgment, because the ruler of this world has been judged.”

John 14:30 — “I [Jesus] will not speak much more with you, for the ruler of the world is coming, and he has nothing in Me.”

Fantasy author Karen Hancock wrote an excellent post on this subject as well, and she’s used an even wider range of Scripture in reaching the same conclusion I have: this world is not Christian.

How can we resolve the apparently contradictory facts that God is sovereign and yet Satan has the world in his grip? Part of the answer is that we’re at war. Satan is in rebellion against God, but there is also enmity between Satan and the woman and her seed. Many Bible scholars understand “her seed” to refer to Christ. But that doesn’t leave us out — not if we’re in Christ; not if He is the head of the body, the church, and we are the members.

But let me be clear. Satan is not an equal foe wrestling against God as if he can bring Him down. A poor analogy, but helpful, might be a two-year-old refusing to obey his parents and put away his toys. That act of rebellion isn’t going to bring his parents down, but for a time his room may be in chaos. And his parents might just let the chaos go for a while as they deal with the rebellion.

Now suppose the two-year-old induces the toys to rebel too, so that they refuse to be put away. (Work with me here — use your imagination. I am a fantasy writer, after all. 😉 ) The two-year-old is no closer to bringing down his parents. All he’s done is make the toys guilty of his same rebellion. The parents are still in charge, and the toys will get put away, but for a short time, the two-year-old will be the tyrant of his room and the toys will be out of control.

Right now, for a short time, Satan is the tyrant of this world. But ultimately, nothing has changed — he has already lost his rebellious struggle (see last Tuesday’s post on this subject — “The Defeated Foe”).

One final question regarding this subject: how does this view of the world, in contrast to “the world is Christian” position, affect Christian fiction? I’ll tackle that one next time.

Published in: on November 7, 2011 at 6:54 pm  Comments (3)  
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Whose World Is It? Part 2

In some ways, I think the commenter I quoted from in Part 1 of this short series may have been going for shock value to call our world a Christian world. Or maybe that’s my wishful thinking. I do know that his view has some validity.

After all, Bible-believing Christians agree on one level that this is God’s world, He being sovereign and all. The corruption of the world and its fading glory are not out of His control or outside His plan.

But just as “God gave them over in the lusts of their hearts to impurity” (Rom. 1:24a), I believe He has given this world over to destruction. Jesus said on more than one occasion that heaven and earth would pass away (see Matt. 5:18 and Luke 16:17).

He also told a parable about the world likened to a field of grain.

Jesus presented another parable to them, saying, “The kingdom of heaven may be compared to a man who sowed good seed in his field. But while his men were sleeping, his enemy came and sowed tares among the wheat, and went away. But when the wheat sprouted and bore grain, then the tares became evident also.

The slaves of the landowner came and said to him, ‘Sir, did you not sow good seed in your field? How then does it have tares?’

And he said to them, ‘An enemy has done this!’

The slaves said to him, ‘Do you want us, then, to go and gather them up?’

But he said, ‘No; for while you are gathering up the tares, you may uproot the wheat with them. Allow both to grow together until the harvest; and in the time of the harvest I will say to the reapers, “First gather up the tares and bind them in bundles to burn them up; but gather the wheat into my barn.” ‘ ” (Matt. 13:24-30)

Here’s His interpretation of that story for His disciples:

And He said, “The one who sows the good seed is the Son of Man, and the field is the world; and as for the good seed, these are the sons of the kingdom; and the tares are the sons of the evil one; and the enemy who sowed them is the devil, and the harvest is the end of the age; and the reapers are angels. So just as the tares are gathered up and burned with fire, so shall it be at the end of the age” (Matt. 13:37-40).

The field belongs to God, but He didn’t plant the tares. He did, however, determine that the tares could keep growing side by side with the wheat. In essence, He gave the world over to what the enemy did to spoil His crop.

Isn’t this what we see in our world today? Tares and wheat, so alike you can’t always tell them apart, growing together, the tares at times choking out the wheat. Not the field God planted.

Peter makes it clear what’s to come of this world:

But by His word the present heavens and earth are being reserved for fire, kept for the day of judgment and destruction of ungodly men (2 Peter 3:7).

Clearly, God is not planning to redeem this world, nor has He already done so.

The truth is, as the tares were allowed to grow in the field, so Satan is allowed to rule this world. “We know that we are of God, and that the whole world lies in the power of the evil one” (1 John 5:19 – emphasis mine. See also John 12:31, 1 John 4:4, 2 Corinthians 4:4, John 16:11, John 14:30.)

Because God is sovereign, there’s only one way that the whole world comes under Satan’s power, only one way he becomes the god of this world, or its ruler — God allows it, and in fact turns it over to him as part of the consequence of the Fall.

Hence, God is still very much sovereign and yet this world is not a Christian world. It is a Satan-ruled world.

Does creation still reflect God? It does. As I finish up this post, I’m being treated to the dramatic beauty of storm clouds bunching over the mountains, dropping lower, prematurely graying the fading afternoon. And I’m mindful of God. It’s His handiwork I see, His power in the storm, His mercy in sending the rain and in bringing it to an end.

The field is God’s, and He gave it over to Satan.

So does God’s sovereignty mean the world is Christian? Or does the fact that Satan rules the world mean it’s not?

Published in: on November 4, 2011 at 6:11 pm  Comments (24)  
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Whose World Is It? Part 1

I know I won’t get far in this topic in this post. I’ve been putting off bringing it up because it’s pointy and layered. It isn’t easily dissected and less so, digested.

So what am I talking about exactly?

A little while back on another blog, a commenter said this, in part:

this is an objectively Christian world regardless of what people think and regardless of whether anyone ever points that fact out. The truth of the Trinity blazes forth from the very creation, so much so that people have to forcibly repress it (Romans 1). Since this is the case, simply presenting the world just as it is – as a broken, warped, redeemed place of buzzin’, bloomin’ confusion – we are actually presenting Christ, because we are subversively attacking those repressing instincts.

… We don’t have to choose religious topics, or even include one second of overt Christian theology in our work – if we are presenting the truth about the world. Like the Dutch painters who began to simply paint ordinary houses and people, rather than saints with halos, they could also present truth, even True Truth, without a single word of religiosity. (emphases mine)

Ordinary houses decay

A Christian world, really? A redeemed place? Is that what Scripture says, or does it refer to this world as a place that is decaying because of sin that goes unchecked more and more each day?

I replied, and received this answer, in part:

Christians can relish and depict the world as it is without the agenda of making Biblical truth obvious because the world as it is happens to be a Christian world. We can present truth, even the Truth itself, simply by reveling in this world.

I have a tremendous problem with the idea that an ordinary house does not proclaim Christ. It is true that Romans 1 teaches God is known through what He has made – and this includes His Trinitarian being (Rom. 1:20). Unbelievers repress this. Yet the rocks and trees all proclaim “God made me! I love God! God is Three in One!” Jesus Himself even said that if there was not a single person left to proclaim God, the very rocks would begin to cry out. Even if we lived in a world where no one was a Christian, it would not change the fact that God made it and everybody knows it. It would not change the fact that the world is suffused at every moment with Trinitarian grace. That ordinary house is a Trinitarian house, regardless of what anybody thinks about it. Every molecule in that house is screaming at every second that God made it, and actively upholds it at every moment.

The implication (at least, the one that I hear!) is that if the house itself cannot proclaim Christ just by being, then the Christian cannot present that house as it is and it be a Christian painting of a Christian house. This then also implies that one must tack onto reality some sort of super-nature in order to make the house able to be presented as Christian like the refried gnosticism of a Thomas Kinkade painting (emphasis mine)

Setting aside the idea of gnosticism in a Thomas Kinkade painting, there’s a lot of truth in these comments. Certainly Scripture teaches that God can be known in what He made. Definitely Jesus said, if need be the rocks would cry out to praise Him.

Does that make this a Christian world?

I don’t think so. Rather, I think this world is the marred image of what God intended. Because of sin it is sinking deeper and deeper into the mire, obscuring God’s face more and more. Scripture says our iniquities have made a separation between us and God. That separation is real. It is not perception — as if this world was Christian but most people are blind to that fact.

This world was never Christian. It was good because God made it good, but sin soiled that goodness and it has not been good since. In fact it is less good today than the first day Adam and Eve stepped out of the garden. Scripture makes it clear, we’re in a process in which this world is failing further and further into disrepair.

Is it Trinitarian that the sex trade is flourishing? That abortion is practiced worldwide? That homosexuality is considered by many to be acceptable?

These things are direct results of sin, as Scripture makes clear:

God gave them over to a depraved mind, to do those things which are not proper, being filled with all unrighteousness, wickedness, greed, evil; full of envy, murder, strife, deceit, malice; they are gossips, slanderers, haters of God, insolent, arrogant, boastful, inventors of evil, disobedient to parents, without understanding, untrustworthy, unloving, unmerciful; and although they know the ordinance of God, that those who practice such things are worthy of death, they not only do the same, but also give hearty approval to those who practice them. (Rom. 1:28-32 – emphasis mine)

I have more to say on this subject, but this is more than enough to get the conversation started. What do you think? Who’s world is this?

Published in: on November 3, 2011 at 6:07 pm  Comments (21)  
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Adam Loved His Wife Too Much

A man is supposed to love his wife — to forsake all others and to cling to her — so it may seem odd to say Adam loved his wife too much, but that’s the truth. Mind you, I’d heard this before: Eve was deceived, but Adam willfully disobeyed.

A little study shows this statement to be true. Scripture tells us Eve was deceived: “But I am afraid that, as the serpent deceived Eve by his craftiness, your minds will be led astray from the simplicity and purity of devotion to Christ” (2 Cor. 11:3 — emphases here and in the following verse are mine). And it tells us Adam was not: “And it was not Adam who was deceived, but the woman being deceived, fell into transgression” (1 Tim. 2:14).

Adam, then, walked into sin with his eyes open. He knew the penalty for eating of the tree — death. He knew Eve was guilty and would have to die. So he ate too.

Why did he? The most logical explanation is that he loved her so much he couldn’t imagine life without her. I suppose he could also have thought that she now knew what he did not, and he couldn’t bear losing her that way either.

But here’s the thing. As I was spending time in prayer today, it hit me again that if I were somehow the only sinful person in the world, Christ would still have died. For me. He, the Good Shepherd who goes after the one lost lamb, would come seeking to save me.

That’s precisely the situation Eve was in — the one and only sinner in the world. But Adam, instead of believing that God could display his mercy along with his justice, apparently chose God’s gift instead of God. He had heard and understood and believed God’s clear command. Consequently, on one hand was God, but on the other was his wife, destined to die.

What Adam did, might actually seem noble and endearing. He loved his wife so much he was willing to die with her. But actually it was faithless. He could not see a way God could fix this mess. He therefore saw God as limited in His power or not loving enough to care or good enough to act. He chose Eve because he did not trust God.

In contrast, Abraham years later also heard God’s clear command — sacrifice your son. But previously he’d also heard God’s promise — through Isaac your descendants will become a great nation. On one hand God, on the other, God’s gift, so like the dilemma Adam faced.

Abraham believed God, and came through.

The interesting thing, though, is this: I don’t think Abraham loved his son less than Adam loved his wife. After all, this was the son of his old age. He’d waited eighty years for this boy (assuming he didn’t start wanting a son until he was an adult). And for fifty years, he and Sarah were “the infertile couple.”

Everything was at stake here. Everything. He had believed God, followed Him to the ends of the earth. He had no Bible to turn to for assurance, just a remembered encounter, a promise he trusted.

And it all hinged on this lad, this beloved son, this teenager who was to inherit his wealth and grow a nation. If Abraham took the knife to him, and he died, all he believed would crumble to ash. He’d lose his son, but he’d lose his God, too, for surely he couldn’t continue to worship a faithless deity.

Did Abraham wrestle with such issues? Did Adam? Scripture doesn’t tell us, but we know how the two men acted. Abraham chose God. He believed both the promise and the command. He committed to his son by committing to God.

Adam did the opposite. He chose his wife. He doubted God’s unspoken promise — His provision of Eve to meet Adam’s need — which led him to disdain the command.

If only he had loved God a bit more than he loved his wife!

Published in: on November 2, 2011 at 5:26 pm  Comments (8)  
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