Adapting


seven_of_nine_speaks_for_the_borgI write fantasy and love the imaginative. It should come as no surprise, then, that when H&I started airing reruns of all the Star Trek programs, I eagerly began watching (except for the original—I’m less of a fan of those). Seeing them one after the other has been enlightening on many levels. One thing I’ve noticed is that the theme of adapting or even assimilation arises over and over.

Assimilation is a result of one species, The Borg, taking over the bodies of those they defeat by turning them into cyber-humans with only a collective conscience, not a sense of individuality. As the various Star Trek crews encounter The Borg, their major goal is to avoid assimilation.

But with considerable frequency a parallel theme surfaces—these space explorers from Earth had to adapt.

There’s a lot of talk in our day about adapting. We need to adapt to the changing technology, to the twenty-first century, to postmodern thought, to a global economy, to the realities of science.

The church in America seems to have bought into the idea that we need to adapt to the greater culture in which we live. So we need to find a way to make peace with feminism, we need to become relevant for the next generation, we need to tap into the way people today consume information.

Some changes are subtle, some innocuous. Some correct error from an earlier generation. For instance, I grew up in churches that looked down on drinking and smoking and dancing. In fact, the Christian college I attended required us to sign a pledge saying that we would not engage in such activities. They apparently overlooked premarital sex, however.

I say that tongue in cheek, but the truth is, while we were trying to hold the line against dancing, there were major breaches of a much more serious nature. Breaches in matters that the Bible stands against.

Change needed to be made so that we were no longer concerned with law-keeping while overlooking the point and purpose of God’s righteous demand for holiness. Legalism is not holy living, and my early church experience didn’t do a good job of differentiating.

The course corrective was not to adapt to the culture, though. The course corrective was to return to what the authoritative word of God says.

Of course, in order to do that we first need to know what God’s word says.

Oddly—I say “oddly” but it’s not really odd because I believe Satan, who hates God and wants to undermine His plans and purposes, is behind it—oddly we are not, as a western Christian culture, working hard to learn what God has to say in His word.

I’m fortunate that my church has once again instituted a Scripture reading program for us. As a body, we read a passage of Scripture together and one member of the congregation writes a meditation on the text. We also have preachers (still no senior teaching pastor, but that’s OK—I’d rather we find someone by prayer and supplication, with thanksgiving, who God wants for us) who instruct us from God’s word.

Currently we have Dr. Gene Getz preaching, and while he was teaching on Sunday, it hit me that I hardly know the Bible, so much greater was his knowledge and scholarship than my own. I’ve long thought the Bible is an inexhaustible source of wisdom and knowledge, but that idea was strongly re-enforced Sunday.

But I’m getting away from the subject of adapting.

It dawned on me this week that adapting is really a voluntary form of assimilation. It’s slower, though. We decide what we wish to change, and accordingly we move a little left or right. Sometimes there’s a bit of a pendulum movement that swings us from one extreme back to the other. But often, each new swing leaves us a little closer to the ideas and patterns to which we’re adapting.

I’m not talking about the issues of the 60s—boys’ long hair and girls’ short skirts—though things that seem so trivial undoubtedly did have an affect on culture. I’m not even talking about things like accepting abortion or moving homosexuality from the abnormal psych part of our text books to redefining marriage so that gays can be part of “normal society.”

The real adaptations we’re making have to do with our relationship to God.

Israel faced the exact same issue. God gave them His covenant and then His Law. They agreed to both. They would be God’s people and they would keep His Law. But once they settled in to their promised land, once they had some stability and security and prosperity, they started looking around at the nations surrounding them.

Look at their gods, at their religious activity, at their power structure. We want to be like them!

King Manasseh was probably the worst. He ruled for over a half century, and under his rule Judah adapted quite well to the nations around them. They started worshiping their gods, erected idols like theirs, practiced witchcraft like they did, instituted child sacrifice like they did. All the things the Canaanites had done which caused God to kick them out of the land, the people of Judah copied.

They adapted.

After all, worshiping one god was passé. Following His law, observing His feast days, making sacrifice to Him because of their sins was just so yesterday.

In the same we, we adapt today.

Is the Bible really authoritative? Might it not be simply a collection of myths, some infused with good, moral teaching? The rest, of course, is thoroughly forgettable because it is so passé. One God? One way to Him? Certainly all ways are equal. After all, we believe in egalitarianism. How could one way be better than the others.

And so it goes as we listen to “higher criticism” and progressives and univeralists and a host of other false teachers who show us how we can slice and dice the Bible until it says what the rest of the culture says. So of course abortion is OK, and homosexuality, and women preachers, and people ignoring their contractual commitments—in business or in personal relationships. Of course a little pandering to the wealthy is acceptable, a little bribery, a little lying. After all, it’s just business.

What’s more, what matters most is not God and His righteousness. What matters most is that we are not offensive to anyone, even as we push our way to the top. We must love, at the expense of truth if necessary, so that people will like us and accept us and support us.

That’s a snapshot of Christians adapting.

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Easter Isn’t A One Day Event


The_Resurrection014I know stating that Easter isn’t a one day event will be self-evident to some and nonsense to others. I guess it goes back to what a person believes Easter commemorates. There are some, of course, who think it marks the cycle of life and the coming of spring after the cold winter. Others think it’s about candy and the Easter bunny. Some think it’s a call to attend church for the year, to get a spiritual boost.

A smaller number of people think Easter celebrates the day Jesus rose from the dead. Those people might have some question, along with the others, about this idea of Easter being something other than one day that marks a notable happening.

But Easter is much more. True, there was a moment in time when a group of mourning ladies made their way to a Judean tomb with the intention of adding spices to the body of the man they had hoped was the Messiah of God. What they discovered was an empty tomb and a angel saying they shouldn’t be looking for the living among the dead.

And there it is. Easter marks the fact that Jesus lives. He didn’t just come out of the tomb on that first day of the week, then die again. He, in fact, conquered the grave—defeated it, gained total victory over it. Death could not, would never, touch Jesus again.

What He accomplished as a sinless sacrifice for the world God loves, was not a one-day exploit. He didn’t die as the Passover lambs did. His sacrifice was complete—the once-for-all kind, the just for the unjust. And His resurrection was the first fruits of God’s harvest. Just as Jesus came out of the grave with a new body that will not die—a new body that was remarkably familiar because it bore the scares of His crucifixion and allowed Him to eat at will, but also one that was remarkably different because He could pass through doors and disappear in a blink—so too, those who believe on His name will one day receive our glorified bodies.

So that first Easter was the start of Jesus’s life after death. While we are to remember Jesus’s sacrifice by taking communion—the bread to remember His body, broken for sinners; the wine to remember His blood shed to cleanse us from all sin—Jesus most definitely did not stay dead.

There’s an old church tradition among Christians on Easter. When someone says, He is risen, the congregation, or even individuals, respond, He is risen indeed. I like that affirmation, but I think a more accurate response would be, You got that right! He is alive and lives inside me!

Because, that’s the capper. Not only did Jesus get that new, glorified body, He has put His Spirit inside each one of His followers. That’s why one of the irrefutable evidences of the resurrection is the host of believers who have new life because Jesus Himself imparted His life to us.

It really is a thought TOO BIG. How can one man’s sacrifice cover the sins of all who believe? How can He live in me here in SoCal and also live in the lives of precious fellow believers living in Sri Lanka? Or Ukraine. Or Morocco? Or Tanzania. Or Peru. Or Alaska. Or South Korea.

Jesus lives and lives in the hearts of believers because . . . God. It’s really that simple. God can do the impossible. He is smarter, more capable, wiser, more powerful, unstoppable, irrepressible, more noble, truthful, good than we can ever imagine. What CAN’T He do?

So it was His good pleasure to find an answer to the problem of sin by taking on the sin of the world, paying the penalty for that sin, and then declaring from the cross, It is finished. The sacrifice was done, His new life, however, was days away from beginning.

And that’s what Easter is. Not a one day event but the celebration of Jesus alive—present as friend of sinners, as Living Water infusing His people, as the soon and coming King we await.

Published in: on March 28, 2016 at 7:19 pm  Comments (3)  
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Accused, Betrayed, Denied, Forsaken


The_Crucifixion011During Passion Week, we Christians commemorate the great sacrifice Jesus made for us, giving His own life in order that we might experience newness of life, freedom from sin, reconciliation with God. But our focus often centers on Christ’s physical suffering. In looking at the events surrounding His crucifixion, however, it becomes apparent that He suffered in every way humanly possible.

First, His suffering had a social component. One of His twelve chosen followers in whom He poured His life, betrayed Him to His enemies. One of His inner circle, who knew Him to be the Messiah, the Son of God, who saw Him transfigured, denied Him. All His followers abandoned Him, literally leaving Him for dead. Jesus could not have been more alone.

His suffering was also intellectual. Jesus identified Himself as the Truth, yet He endured false accusations. People twisted His words, claiming He said things He didn’t say. His very purpose for coming to earth was misrepresented and misunderstood. He was also subject to an illegal trial which unfolded in six phases. He was questioned and denounced by Herod when He gave no answer, condemned by the High Priest when He did answer, and ignored by Pilate when He offered him the Truth.

Jesus suffered emotionally, too. The Roman soldiers made fun of His position as King of the Jews. As Pastor Swindoll taught, those godless men who hated the Jews presented Him with three things that marked a king: a robe, a scepter, and a crown. The crown was made of thorns, the scepter was a reed, and the robe, identified in Matthew as a chlamys, was a short robe covering the shoulders and ending at the elbows such as military men wore. He was naked from the waist down.

In addition, as He hung on the cross, onlookers and even for a time both thieves dying with Him, taunted Him. Somewhere nearby soldiers gambled for the few possessions He owned–His clothes. And ultimately, He had to put His mother into the care of someone else.

I believe the worst suffering of all, however, was what He went through spiritually. Jesus Himself gave voice to what He was experiencing:

About the ninth hour Jesus cried out with a loud voice, saying, “ELI, ELI, LAMA SABACHTHANI?” that is, “MY GOD, MY GOD, WHY HAVE YOU FORSAKEN ME?” (Matt. 27:46)

Jesus, with God and also God, somehow experienced forsakenness by God. He was, after all, becoming sin for us. And Holy God has no part with sin.

Yes, the pain and suffering Jesus went through, being whipped and nailed to a beam, hung above the earth for hours until He died of His wounds—this was physical torture few of us can imagine, and yet His sacrifice extended beyond one part of who Jesus was. It encompassed His total person. He give Himself completely to be consumed by the Consuming Fire of God’s wrath.

And as He died, He said the most wonderful words possible: It is finished. The burden of sin paid for, the certificate of debt canceled.

How can we not love a Savior such as Jesus!

This post first appeared here in March 2013.

Published in: on March 24, 2016 at 6:00 pm  Comments Off on Accused, Betrayed, Denied, Forsaken  
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God’s Great Grace


God's Great GraceApparently one of my favorite topics is God’s grace. I know this because I have twenty-four posts archived under that category title. I credit my former pastor Dale Burke for putting God’s grace front and center Sunday after Sunday, until I began to understand its significance.

I can’t say that I have any new insights, but I have thought about grace since I joined a Facebook group last week called Faith vs. Reason: The Friendly Debate. I was invited to join the closed group by a Christian writer friend. There are upwards of two hundred people—some atheists and some theists—who have agreed to discuss things that divide us in a friendly manner rather than in the usual name-calling, snarky, dismissive way that so often dominates discussions elsewhere.

One thing that came up on the first day I was in the group was the bad religious experiences some of the atheists reported. They’d been in a church, usually in childhood, but their experience left them confused and questioning until they chucked the whole thing.

My first thought when I read their account was, they’d been in a “earn your own way” religion that didn’t teach or show God’s grace. So these now embittered or indifferent atheists came to believe there was not anything of substance in the ritual and mechanical adherence to traditions they’d been taught.

But here’s the fatal error: they concluded that since the religion they were in was empty, God was a sham. The point is, they didn’t know Him if they didn’t know about His grace. And they weren’t going to find His grace by working harder at religion.

Grace truly is the dividing line. Not just between Christians and atheists but between false religion and true. And the fact is that NO OTHER RELIGIOUS TRADITION even pretends to be built upon grace.

It’s just too impossible to fathom or achieve. A free gift? Total forgiveness and no retribution or reprisal or debt? Who would come up with an idea like that?

It runs counter to what we humans expect. We get payback. The revenge motif is ingrained in our DNA. We never have to ask, why would Mr. Bates in the Downton Abby story want revenge against Mr. Green who raped his wife. A non-Christian writer can create story tension knowing that all the viewers understand the rationale behind a husband acting against someone who hurt his loved one. There’s no religious underpinning when it comes to revenge. It’s human nature.

But grace? Just the opposite. Who would understand someone struck on the cheek offering the other side as well? Or rescuing an enemy from muggers, then paying the medical bill?

Human acts of grace aren’t something Christians do because of our goodness but because of the example Jesus Christ gives. He came to save and to serve. The King of all creation! He came! He emptied Himself, leaving the glories of heaven. He offered Himself up. He died. And thanks be to God, He rose again!

It’s that single act of sacrifice that turns the world upside down. God dies that Mankind might live. If only we believe. We, the sinners, deserving of death. He the Righteous One, in whom the Father is well pleased.

How can such a thing be apart from grace. It’s the One True God’s unique identifier. The pretenders have rules and rituals, prophets and power. They have followers, some willing to lay down their lives for what they believe. But where’s the grace?

Belief system after belief system comes up with things to do to be better, to earn favor, to reach a higher plane. None of them acknowledges our inevitable failure, no matter our good intentions. That’s why the 2015 New Year’s resolutions are already a thing of the past. The Bible says the spirit is willing but the flesh is weak. And at some point, we all know this to be true. No matter what we wish we’d said or done or not said or not done, it’s too late. All we can do is say we’ll try harder next time, and try to make amends for our failings.

Grace is not like that.

Behold the Author of our salvation
Behold the wonder of grace so free
Behold the blessing of true forgiveness
At Calvary (from “Come And See,” Your Grace Finds Me, Matt Redman,Jason Ingram, Matt Maher, Chris Tomlin)

Published in: on February 2, 2015 at 6:33 pm  Comments (6)  
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The Way Of Salvation: An Addendum


Abraham005This morning I once again thought about inclusivism and salvation, Jesus and the unreached peoples, Abraham and faith–many of the same topics I covered in yesterday’s post “The Way Of Salvation.”

Why Abraham? Because a number of those in the Facebook discussion I was a part of mentioned Old Testament figures such as Noah and Job and Abraham as examples of people who, like the unreached peoples today, did not know Christ but who had faith in God.

I remember some time ago thinking about Abraham’s faith. Scripture says, “And Abraham believed God and it was reckoned to him as righteousness” (James 2:23b). What, I had to ask, did Abraham believe? It had to be more than that God exists–James makes the point earlier in the same chapter that the demons believe God is.

So what precisely did Abraham put his faith in?

I concluded by reading the account we have of his life in Genesis that Abraham believed what God told him, whether it was command or promise.

So when God told him to leave his home and go into a land he didn’t know and keep going until God told him to stop, Abraham said OK. When God said He would give him a son, Abraham said OK. When God told him to circumcise his household, Abraham said OK. When God told him to send Hagar and Ishmael away, Abraham said OK. When God told him to sacrifice Isaac, Abraham said OK.

At every turn, Abraham listened to what God said and did what God asked.

As I thought about Abraham today, I realized that he had this direct, special revelation from God and his faith was based on believing what God told him.

So if Abraham were a parallel with today’s “unreached people,” God presumably would give them the same kind of special revelation. He would communicate to them personally and specifically as He did with Abraham. Would their faith, then, be consistent with what Scripture says about salvation?

The question doesn’t go far enough. If God communicated with the “unreached people” today, giving them personal and specific revelation, wouldn’t He tell them about His Son Jesus? He wouldn’t have to tell them about circumcision or sacrifice. He could tell them specifically about His Son who came to be a blessing to the nations.

This kind of special revelation is absolutely within the power and possibility of an omnipotent, unlimited God. I have no trouble believing that God can reach down through miraculous means and save “unreached people” by preaching to them the gospel which they would believe.

I think God’s Word is clear that there is only one way for people to come to Him–through the Door, by the Way, by means of the one Mediator, the man Christ Jesus.

As I see it, those who believe in inclusivism have flipped God’s message on its head. They believe that God will bring them to Jesus so they can have salvation through His shed blood, but Scripture teaches that Jesus will bring us to God so that we can be reconciled to Him.

The inclusivism view seems to ignore the problem of sin. Scripture teaches throughout that sin is the problem humankind cannot overcome:

Behold, the Lord’s hand is not so short
That it cannot save,
Nor is His ear so dull
That it cannot hear,
But your iniquities have made a separation between you and your God,
And your sins have hid His face from you so that He does not hear. (Isaiah 59:1-2)

Praise God that He sent His Son Jesus to conquer sin once for all.

Published in: on April 8, 2014 at 7:01 pm  Comments (2)  
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Accused, Betrayed, Denied, Forsaken


The_Crucifixion011During Passion Week, we Christians commemorate the great sacrifice Jesus made for us, giving His own life in order that we might experience newness of life, freedom from sin, reconciliation with God. But our focus often centers on Christ’s physical suffering. In looking at the events surrounding His crucifixion, however, it becomes apparent that He suffered in every way humanly possible.

First, His suffering had a social component. One of His twelve chosen followers in whom He poured His life, betrayed Him to His enemies. One of His inner circle, who knew Him to be the Messiah, the Son of God, who saw Him transfigured, denied Him. All His followers abandoned Him, literally leaving Him for dead. Jesus could not have been more alone.

His suffering was also intellectual. Jesus identified Himself as the Truth, yet He endured false accusations. People twisted His words, claiming He said things He didn’t say. His very purpose for coming to earth was misrepresented and misunderstood. He was also subject to an illegal trial which unfolded in six phases. He was questioned and denounced by Herod when He gave no answer, condemned by the High Priest when He did answer, and ignored by Pilate when He offered him the Truth.

Jesus suffered emotionally, too. The Roman soldiers made fun of His position as King of the Jews. As Pastor Swindoll taught, those godless men who hated the Jews presented Him with three things that marked a king: a robe, a scepter, and a crown. The crown was made of thorns, the scepter was a reed, and the robe, identified in Matthew as a chlamys, was a short robe covering the shoulders and ending at the elbows such as military men wore. He was naked from the waist down.

In addition, as He hung on the cross, onlookers and even for a time both thieves dying with Him, taunted Him. Somewhere nearby soldiers gambled for the few possessions He owned–His clothes. And ultimately, He had to put His mother into the care of someone else.

I believe the worst suffering of all, however, was what He went through spiritually. Jesus Himself gave voice to what He was experiencing:

About the ninth hour Jesus cried out with a loud voice, saying, “ELI, ELI, LAMA SABACHTHANI?” that is, “MY GOD, MY GOD, WHY HAVE YOU FORSAKEN ME?” (Matt. 27:46)

Jesus, with God and also God, somehow experienced forsakenness by God. He was, after all, becoming sin for us. And Holy God has no part with sin.

Yes, the pain and suffering Jesus went through, being whipped and nailed to a beam, hung above the earth for hours until He died of His wounds–this was physical torture few of us can imagine, and yet His sacrifice extended beyond one part of who Jesus was. It encompassed His total person. He give Himself completely to be consumed by the Consuming Fire of God’s wrath.

And as He died, He said the most wonderful words possible: It is finished. The burden of sin paid for, the certificate of debt canceled.

How can we not love a Savior such as Jesus!

Published in: on March 28, 2013 at 7:40 pm  Comments Off on Accused, Betrayed, Denied, Forsaken  
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My Take On Cloth And Wineskins


Have you every been bugged by a portion of Scripture? It just doesn’t seem to fit or make sense in light of what you know or in light of the context.

I’ve struggled in this way with a passage in the book of Matthew. Let me give you the context. Jesus began his public ministry and quickly incurred the ire of the Jewish religious leaders because more than once He healed people on the Sabbath. After calling Matthew to be His disciple, He went home with him for dinner. The Pharisees complained about Him eating and drinking with tax-collectors (corrupt government officials) and sinners (those who didn’t keep the Jewish law). Jesus told them to “go and learn what this means: ‘I DESIRE COMPASSION, AND NOT SACRIFICE’…”

Soon after John’s disciples and those of the Pharisees observed a religious fast. John’s disciples asked Jesus why His disciples didn’t fast, too.

Now His answer.

And Jesus said to them, “The attendants of the bridegroom cannot mourn as long as the bridegroom is with them, can they? But the days will come when the bridegroom is taken away from them, and then they will fast.

I get that. So far so good. But He continued:

16 “But no one puts a patch of unshrunk cloth on an old garment; for the patch pulls away from the garment, and a worse tear results. 17 Nor do people put new wine into old wineskins; otherwise the wineskins burst, and the wine pours out and the wineskins are ruined; but they put new wine into fresh wineskins, and both are preserved.”

Huh?

How did we get from eating with sinners and not keeping a fast to cloth and wineskins?

Well, obviously, as with the previous part of His answer about the bridegroom, Jesus is making an analogy, but what equals what?

I’ve heard sermons on this before–the old is the Law, the new, the New Covenant. Set aside for the moment that those to whom Jesus was talking would not have understood that analogy at all. The idea of the New Covenant was still just that–an idea. Most people had no clue why the Messiah had actually come.

But the real problem I have here is that the new on old in Jesus’s analogies destroys the old. Yet Jesus clearly said in the Sermon on the Mount that He did not come to destroy the Law but to fulfill it.

17 “Do not think that I came to abolish the Law or the Prophets; I did not come to abolish but to fulfill. 18 For truly I say to you, until heaven and earth pass away, not the smallest letter or stroke shall pass from the Law until all is accomplished.

Of course, Jesus seems to be advocating new wine into new skins. So with what are these two analogous? The wine is Christ’s blood? The skins are the Church?

Maybe that’s too detailed. After all, parables didn’t have one on one correlations, so maybe analogies didn’t either. Except, isn’t that the point of an analogy?

So here’s my new thought, really spurred by a passage in Mark where Jesus elaborates on the problem He had with the Pharisees.

Take a look:

3 (For the Pharisees and all the Jews do not eat unless they carefully wash their hands, thus observing the traditions of the elders; 4 and when they come from the market place, they do not eat unless they cleanse themselves; and there are many other things which they have received in order to observe, such as the washing of cups and pitchers and copper pots.) 5 The Pharisees and the scribes asked Him, “Why do Your disciples not walk according to the tradition of the elders, but eat their bread with impure hands?” 6 And He said to them, “Rightly did Isaiah prophesy of you hypocrites, as it is written:

    ‘This people honors Me with their lips,
    But their heart is far away from Me.
    7 ‘ But in vain do they worship Me,
    Teaching as doctrines the precepts of men.’

8 Neglecting the commandment of God, you hold to the tradition of men.” (Mark 7:3-9 – emphasis mine)

So here’s what I’m thinking. What if the old cloth, the old wineskins, stand for God’s true Law? In the verses just prior to these analogies, remember, Jesus told the Pharisees to figure out what Scripture meant when it said God desired compassion rather than sacrifice.

The new patch of cloth, the new wine, then, represent the traditions the Pharisees heaped on top of what God had said. Their add-ons were tearing apart the fabric, bursting the skins, of God’s perfect Law.

So what do you think?

I know this way of looking at these verses flies in the face of the traditional interpretation. Traditional … heh-hem. Maybe that’s not a bad thing because I think it fits the context of the passage and is consistent with what Jesus says about fulfilling God’s law and about the Pharisees’ perversion of it through their tradition.

In the end, I come away more mindful of the need to hold loosely things like worship styles and other extra-Biblical practices. Compassion must not be sacrificed on the altar of tradition.

Published in: on May 30, 2012 at 6:02 pm  Comments (3)  
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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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Redemptive Violence


I have to paint the scene. Actor Jim Caviezel is starring in a TV program called Person of Interest. It’s the first thing I’ve seen him in, which means I did not see The Passion of the Christ.

Author and blogger Karen Hancock posted about him today and included a link to an article about how playing Christ in Passion affected Caviezel’s career. Karen mentioned at the end of her post that the comments were eye-opening.

Dutifully I took myself over to the Huffington Post, read the article, and started in on the comments. About ten in I came to the one that sparked the thoughts for this post. An individual identifying as a liberal Christian veered away from the subject of the article to discuss The Passion of the Christ and said in part:

My second objection to this film is I take issue with the doctrine of substitutionary atonement (Jesus dying and shedding blood for our sins). I find it hard to believe that a loving God who me and many others call Father would ever will for the death of an innocent Jesus to serve as a sacrifice for people’s sins. It turns God from the loving Father and savior of all into a bloodthirsty monster who is incapable of forgiving people’s sins or reconciling the creation peacefully. This doctrine teaches that violence is redemptive, and violence inspires faith. This type of thinking was developed in the middle ages to justify hatred against Jews and inspire violence in God and Christ’s names. Finally, I object to this film because it focused on Jesus’s death to the exclusion of his teachings or the events that led to the cross. I vomited during this film and I think it was a snuff film. (emphasis mine)

Well, how about that? Is violence redemptive?

I have to work through this concept from the inception of violence. What brought it about in the first place? The first act of violence recorded in the Bible, by implication, was God killing some animal in order to make skins with which to clothe Adam and Eve.

But before that came God’s clear warning to Adam,

The LORD God commanded the man, saying, “From any tree of the garden you may eat freely; but from the tree of the knowledge of good and evil you shall not eat, for in the day that you eat from it you will surely die.” (Gen 2:16-17 — emphasis mine)

In fact, the man did not die in the day he ate and yet he did die. Was the blood God shed on his behalf the reason Adam did not die at once?

We know because of what happened with Cain and Abel that sacrifice became a part of life and that apparently blood had to be shed.

But as with Abraham and his son Isaac, as with the people of Israel and the angel of death that passed over their homes, this killing of an animal was a means of saving human life.

God institutionalized animal sacrifices in the Mosaic Law, something the Christians of the first century understood.

And according to the Law, one may almost say, all things are cleansed with blood, and without shedding of blood there is no forgiveness. (Heb. 9:22)

With all this background, the commenter seems to be right — redemption is violent.

But that’s only the back end of the issue. Violence came into existence through Adam’s disobedience. Sacrifice is the means by which God stays His hand from meting out the deserved punishment.

In other words, from the beginning, sacrifice was an indication of God’s kindness and His desire for reconciliation despite Man’s waywardness.

In some respects one could say that God redeemed violence. Man brought on death by his disobedience, but like He does so often, God used the very thing that was so horrific, that looked like Defeat, and made it the instrument of Life.

Of course His ultimate act of redemption was taking on death Himself.

The commenter seems unaware that Jesus is God. His idea that our loving Father was doling out punishment to innocent Jesus as if He were a separate entity, a perfect man, an example of what we all can become, perhaps, shows the real problem in his understanding.

Here’s the truth about Jesus from Scripture:

For in Him all the fullness of Deity dwells in bodily form. (Col. 2:9)

God didn’t deliver the punishment to someone else. He took it on Himself. God punished God.

Hard to grasp, I know. Right up there with God praying to God and God seated at the right hand of God. Let’s face it. We cannot understand how our transcendent triune Creator “works.” We can’t take Him apart and see how He fits back together. He is beyond our scrutiny.

Which isn’t to say we can’t know Him and what He did for us — that act of stepping in and accepting the violence we deserve, taking it on Himself that we might be free of guilt and sin and death.

Christ’s act was the preeminent act of redemption because by His death He defeated death so that those who believe in Him now have Life. What was intended to be a crushing blow became a means to victory.

There’s so much more I could say about that one comment. How sad that such a person considers himself a Christian, and yet he doesn’t know or understand the One whose Name he’s chosen to identify with.

He’s missed the point that yes, the crucifixion was horrific — undoubtedly more so than the movie showed — but because of the joy set before Him, Jesus endured the pain and the shame.

The joy? Each of us who accepts His substitutionary work and is redeemed, we are His joy. What an amazing God we have!

Published in: on October 13, 2011 at 5:50 pm  Comments (2)  
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