When Self-Glory Is Not Megalomania… but Just and Beautiful

stevens-book

In my last blog post, I stated that “the events that stand inside God’s great redemptive historical narrative are all meant for a very specific purpose: to glorify God. This glorification of God is all for the purpose of Him demonstrating His greatness.”

While I would argue it is intuitively appropriate for an all-powerful being to desire to magnify His own name, I can understand why one might see this as a potentially prideful longing. One might even go so far as to accuse God of megalomania, which is described as a delusion where one thinks that he/she has great or unlimited power or importance.

So what of that? Is God a megalomaniac? Is it inappropriate for Him to make so much of Himself… to center all of His power and might around glorifying Himself? And does this desire mean that God was somehow insufficient of Himself or insecure that He needed to promote Himself?

Appropriate Justice

I read a delightful book last year called “Why God Created the World” by Ben Stevens (it’s actually an adaptation of a work by the great American theologian, Jonathan Edwards) that spectacularly addressed these concerns and taught me well of God’s justified (double-meaning intended) self-glorification.

edwards-paintingIn the book, Stevens well makes the point that if God is just, He must make perfect judgments, including faithfully evaluating and appraising what He sees. In other words, in order to be perfect, God must be wholly just; and to be wholly just, God has to give honor to and glorify that which deserves the most glory. Thus, to be the perfect being we would expect (and want) God to be, God must value Himself more than anything else. Otherwise, He’s not qualified to be God.

The result of this impregnable line of logic is that “Logic demands that we appraise Him as high as possible,” as Stevens states. Thus, “God ought to act, in regard to all events in the universe, with an impossibly high regard for Himself.”

Why This Matters

In case the question of why this is relevant may be entering your mind, let me pause here to quote Mr. Stevens. In the Introduction to the book, he states that the value of the book is as such:

“You see, if the only possible explanation for God’s motives in creating the world is egomania or loneliness, as some might assume, then that shows how incoherent the rest of the story must be. On the other hand, if the story does have a logical and beautiful purpose, that makes sense of the tension Christians see in our rejection of God’s plan. Either way, it’s the place where the coherence of the story rises or falls.”

Rises or Falls

So God is not a megalomaniac. He is not inappropriately prideful. He is not lonely or insufficient. He is just. Thus, He is justified in His self-love and self-glorification.

But the problem is that the same book that proclaims His glory and perfection also proclaims our diametrically opposed natures… that we are all sinners (Romans 3:10-12ff , 3:22b-23).

murray-bookAnd this is where it gets sticky. This sinful nature means that we are against God. We are not proclaiming His glory; we are opposing Him.

Another fabulous book that I am currently reading (Redemption Accomplished and Applied by John Murray) makes the following point:

“The person who is against God cannot be right with God. For if we are against God then God is against us… God cannot be indifferent to or complacent towards that which is the contradiction of himself. His very perfection requires the recoil of righteous indignation. And that is God’s wrath.”

So as we’ve already established, He is just. And when His justice burns against our guilt, God help us.

And I don’t say that flippantly. It’s meant literally. Because that help comes in the form of Jesus.

How does a sinful one find justification in the face of a holy God whose just wrath is required to burn hot against that insurrection? The second half of Romans 3:23 (mentioned above) states that the sinful one is “…justified by his grace as a gift, through the redemption that is in Christ Jesus, whom God put forward as a propitiation by his blood, to be received by faith.”

This literally brings a smile to my face. What a great God we have. How can you not but sing His praises after reading that?

See, He deserves the glory.

He is perfect.

He is just.

He is gracious.

He is love.

I pray for you today that you would see His beauty… His glory… and trust Him to do that work in you, to redeem you by His grace via His saving work on the cross.

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Posted in Glory, God, Gospel, Justification, Pride, Redemption | Tagged , , , , , , | 1 Comment

I Am God: The Point of the Bible

YHWHListening to a seminary lesson years ago, the professor asked what the central theme of Scripture was for the whole Bible.  What would you say?  Well, he entertained several opinions and he eventually offered that it’s hard to settle on one.  I thought at the time, “Seriously? It’s redemption… right? RIGHT?”  But thinking about it now, even the events that stand inside God’s great redemptive historical narrative are all meant for a very specific purpose: to glorify God.  This glorification of God is all for the purpose of Him demonstrating His greatness… more than that, His holiness, which means His “set apart” self.  I.e. He is the only God, the one true God.

His whole point of Scripture is to demonstrate that “I Am God.”

Redemptive History

The Bible, as a whole, is about how God preexisted creation, God spoke into existence that creation of all things (including us and our world), God entered into creation to redeem what we destroyed, and God is making and will ultimately finish making new that creation.

Recall that in the Garden of Eden, He had one rule: do not eat of the tree of the knowledge of good and evil (Genesis 2:16-17)… the basic gist of this command: “You can do anything but be God because I am God.  Do not try to be God!”

So naturally… we tried to be God (Genesis 3).

And then He spent the rest of the Old Testament describing how despite our treason of trying to be God (when only He is God), He would find a way to rescue us…

And then He begins the New Testament revealing how God, at great personal sacrifice, made a way through Jesus Christ to redeem us from our treason.  He continues the New Testament by revealing how God, through the Holy Spirit, picks up the mantle of redemption in the Church Age, and He finishes the New Testament with a glimpse of the close of history and what it looks like when God’s plan has come to fruition.

Scriptural Pronouncements

When Moses first meets God in the burning bush in Exodus 3, God tells him His name is “I AM WHO I AM (written about previously here).”

The intro to the Ten Commandments in Exodus 20 start with “I am the Lord your God,” which pretty clearly states the thesis of this blog.  He goes on to spend the next three commandments basically saying “do not try to be God or make any other gods because I am God.”

In the Gospel of John, we see Jesus make several pronouncements of His divinity, statements of “I Am” followed by supporting clarifications:

I am the bread of life; whoever comes to me shall not hunger, and whoever believes in me shall never thirst (John 6:35).”

I am the light of the world.  Whoever follows me will not walk in darkness, but will have the light of life (John 8:12).”

I am the door.  If anyone enters by me, he will be saved and will go in and out and find pasture (John 10:9).”

I am the good shepherd.  The good shepherd lays down his life for the sheep (John 10:11).”

I am the resurrection and the life.  Whoever believes in me, though he die, yet shall he live, and everyone who lives and believes in me shall never die (John 11:25-26).”

I am the way, and the truth, and the life.  No one comes to the Father except through me (John 14:6).”

I am the true vine, and my Father is the vinedresser.  Every branch in me that does not bear fruit he takes away, and every branch that does bear fruit he prunes, that it may bear more fruit (John 15:1-2).”

And one additional statement that speaks to Christ’s preexistence of Abraham, the patriarch of the Jewish faith (but I would argue is also indicative of His preexistence to all creation as a whole), is John 8:58, “Jesus said to them, ‘Truly, truly, I say to you, before Abraham was, I Am.’ ”

In fact, the beautiful irony is that we could never make ourselves God.  Yet out of love when we least deserved it, He made us one with God through His Son, and gave us the gift of the Holy Spirit to live in us.  We are now one with Him, and at the end of all things, everything will be renewed… including our perspective where we will no longer have a mutinous desire to be God, but will joyously spend the rest of eternity proclaiming the breath-taking glory of He who is the one and only God (Cf: Revelation 4).

A Final Word

One final thought to drive home this thesis: at the beginning of Scripture, He gives us the one rule that basically says, “Don’t be God because I am God.”  And I already spelled out above how the Ten Commandments and the whole of Scripture underline this message that “I Am God.”  So when we come to the consummate kingdom, one may notice that there are no longer any rules… and one might say, “Well why not?  Can’t we break that one rule again like we did before?”  But this time, the difference is that God has come to live in the lives of believers and we are now one with Him.  We are no longer alone in our wretched selves, but, as 2 Peter 1:4 says, we have become partakers in His divine nature.

Thus, so it is that the only thing that will keep us from usurping God… is FROM God.  Left to ourselves, we cannot coexist with Him without trying to usurp Him.  The only answer is for Him to come to us and help us let Him be God… which is what he did through Christ Jesus… the one and only God… the one and only way to God.

He Is God.

 

Lest we think this understanding of God makes Him a megalomaniac, look for my next blog post to address that concern

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Beautiful Symmetry

I love symmetry.  In fact my wife often laughs at how I always default to symmetrical design when decorating.  I think I like symmetry because it has an intrinsic beauty to it… to me, at least.

Conversing with a dear friend last evening, I saw symmetry in the way God communicates to us.  I have written about the Trinity multiple times, but I can’t get enough of how beautiful the symmetry is amongst the Father, the Son, the Holy Spirit, and how They relate to one another (and us) and work in redemptive history.

What Prayer Looks Like

There’s so much I could say about prayer.  I could talk about its purpose, its importance, how to do it, etc. etc. etc.  However, I’m going to stick simply to how it works functionally in order to demonstrate the symmetry that is the subject of this blog.

It started last night when my friend brought up how Jesus is the mediator for our prayers to the Father.  We were in the midst of talking about what prayer looks like, where I was stating that prayer is the response in a personal conversation where God speaks to us through His Word and we respond by speaking back to Him.

That’s when it hit me… what beautiful symmetry it was!

God the Father speaks to us through His Son (the revealed Word) and it is made known to us by the power of the Holy Spirit.

Similarly (or should I say symmetrically?), the Holy Spirit speaks to us what to pray, as we pray through the Son, to the Father.

Father down through Jesus and the Spirit to us (green arrow below)…

Screen Shot 2015-08-28 at 11.45.45 PM…us back up through the Spirit and Jesus to the Father (blue arrow above).

Symmetry.

Short but Sweet

My goal with this blog is to bring glory to God… hence, the title.  In all things, glory.

Christ is all.

And that is my striving in this post as well.  This is one of my simpler, more straight-forward posts… but I believe it achieves my desired goal, all the same.  This picture of symmetry within the Trinity shows God’s glory.  In truth, everything shows His glory.

I have read Dr. Albert Mohler define God’s glory as “The intrinsic reality and the external manifestation of God’s greatness.”

This picture of symmetry shows both… as it displays the intrinsic nature of who God is — Trinitarian community — and it shows one way how His greatness is made manifest… that we see how He communicates to us the way He has designed for us to communicate to him: in a beautiful parallel pattern that is yet another expression of His beautiful design.

Apparently I’m in good company.  It would seem that God loves symmetry too.

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The Unsurpassable Value of the One

I have three children.  They are dear to me beyond what I can describe.  But what if I lost one of them?

sheep shepherdJesus tells a short parable in Luke 15 (cf. Matthew 18):

Now the tax collectors and sinners were all drawing near to hear him. And the Pharisees and the scribes grumbled, saying, “This man receives sinners and eats with them.”

So he told them this parable: “What man of you, having a hundred sheep, if he has lost one of them, does not leave the ninety-nine in the open country, and go after the one that is lost, until he finds it? And when he has found it, he lays it on his shoulders, rejoicing. And when he comes home, he calls together his friends and his neighbors, saying to them, ‘Rejoice with me, for I have found my sheep that was lost.’ Just so, I tell you, there will be more joy in heaven over one sinner who repents than over ninety-nine righteous persons who need no repentance.

I used to read this parable and find it odd.  I would think, “Why would he leave 99 that he already has just to go after one.  After all, it’s just one.”  But I was missing a very key piece of information: the value of the one.

In this parable, Jesus is stressing the prominent value of the one.  It’s not about the 99, but the one.  And while he discounts the 99 to the elevation of the one, the key is the value of the one.

The one sheep belongs to the Shepherd.  He is his.  The 99 can be risked in the moment when the Shepherd has to have that sheep that belongs to him.

And so it is with our Savior, our Good Shepherd.  The one is the child of God who is alluded to here by mention of his repentance of sin.  He belongs to Christ, and the lengths that God will go to in order to get His one… are unparalleled.

A Parent of Many

So back to my question at the onset of this blog.  What if I lost one?  I would absolutely go after that child.  No question.  I think the first crucial step in understanding this parable is understanding what the individual means to Christ.  The way I feel about my children is analogous to how God feels about His… with the exception that His love far surpasses what I could ever feel for another.

A Parent of One

But that’s only half of what we need to understand.  To consider what we mean to God is penultimate to considering what Jesus means to the Father.  Jesus is God’s only begotten Son.  Sure we are His children too, but not like that.  Not the one special Son who has been one with the Father in perfect loving community from eternity past.  Our worth stems from what God did to and for us: He created us in His image and leads us to repentance by His calling and saves us of His own accord by His work.

So really at the end of the day, there is nothing inherent within us that should cause the Father to love us so.  But there is everything within Christ that should cause Him to love Him so.

But what does the Father do?  He sends His Son to die.  For us.  He sends the perfect one… the one whom He loves… the one whom should take precedent… to die for us… the ones whom He shouldn’t love… the ones whom He loves only because He has chosen to love us.

We might leave the many for a particular one.  But He left the perfect One for the flawed many.

I would go to save my child… but would I leave my child to save my enemy?  Never.

What unsurpassable love could do such a thing?

Oh what love.

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“…But God Meant It for Good” :: Forgiveness, Unbelief, and the Sovereignty of God

UntitledMy community group had a lively discussion centered around forgiveness and grace Wednesday evening.  It was based around Sunday’s sermon delivered by our pastor, continuing a great series on the Lord’s Prayer.

The discussion led us deeper into our understanding of God’s forgiveness and living in light of grace.  But meditating this Thursday morning, it became glaringly obvious to me how an inability to forgive meant I was living in a state of unbelief.

When It’s Hard to Forgive

I spent time reflecting on the difficult times in my life where forgiveness had been extremely hard, including the most difficult period of my life, where I was deeply wronged and left broken.  True I am at a point where I have long since forgiven, but feelings of contempt and unforgiveness lingered for many years.  The hurt was so great, which made forgiveness so hard.

But God Redeems

The beauty of time and growth is the opportunity to look back on the past with clarity.  I can now see that if not for those hardest times, I would not have met and fallen in love with my wife… I would not have the three beautiful children that I now have… and most importantly, I would not have my vibrant life with Christ.

As Joseph said to his brothers in Genesis 50:20, “As for you, you meant evil against me, but God meant it for good….”  The verse goes on to expound on the purpose for which God meant the good.

We see this in Romans 8:28 where the Apostle Paul writes that “…we know that for those who love God all things work together for good, for those who are called according to His purpose.”  Again with the purpose.

God, in His sovereignty, always has purpose in mind.  God does not lead us into or cause us to sin, but He does redeem our sin and resultant circumstances, turning them  into something beautiful.  The most difficult and broken experience in my life was awful… but it was meant for a purpose which I cannot begrudge.

Unbelief… and Living in Light of God’s Sovereignty

Thus, if somebody wrongs me, how should I see what transpired?  Should I see the wrong as something sinful and thus destructive?  Absolutely.  Do I have the right to righteous anger toward the sin that occurred?  Yes.  Should I take some time to mourn the sin and the circumstances I’ve been thrust into?  Of course.

But do I dwell on the past which God has meant toward a purpose for future good?  Surely not.  If I understand the truth of God’s sovereignty and His ability to redeem sin and difficult circumstances for good toward His purposes, how can I remain in a state of unforgiveness?  It is imperative to forgive… or else we are dwelling in a state of unbelief.

If we do not forgive, A) we are refusing to believe that God is sovereign over all things and has the ability to redeem our situation, and B) we are refusing to trust that He has a loving purpose toward which the redeemed situation will work for our good.

This is unbelief.

If you are unable to forgive someone, you cannot see God’s power.

If you are unable to forgive someone, you cannot see God’s goodness.

You will be mired in unbelief and your unforgiveness will fester and rot, creating a root of bitterness inside your heart.

Forgive.  And seek forgiveness for your unbelief.

Jesus underlines this following the Lord’s Prayer in Matthew 6:15, “but if you do not forgive others their trespasses, neither will your Father forgive your trespasses.”

Trading Unbelief for Belief

But it’s critical to notice that Paul says in Romans 8:28 that “for those who love God all things work together for good, for those who are called according to His purpose.”  This promise of good is only for those who have been saved by God’s grace… not of any type of work that validates oneself… but as a gift of God.  As it says, those who love God are called by God.

If you find that root of bitterness in your heart, you have either strayed or you were never previously called.  No matter.  The answer is the same in either scenario: Jesus.

Christ is all.  Lay yourselves at the feet of the cross in repentance, where He bled and died for you to be called to Him… according to His purpose… for His glory…

…and your joy.

Posted in Calvinism, Faith, Forgiveness, Gospel, Grace, Redemption, Sovereignty, Unbelief | Tagged , , , , | Leave a comment

Children and the Corruption of Innocence

I had taken my daughter for doughnuts to the local shop one Sunday morning before church.  My little girl is only three but bubbles life incessantly.  As I was picking out our half-dozen little pastries of joy, I heard Jada yelling at one of the elderly workers behind the counter, “Hey lady!  Lady!  HEY LADY!”  Jada was thrusting her Mickey Mouse alarm clock up toward the woman, wanting to show her this new toy her mommy had given her this morning.

FullSizeRenderI quickly grabbed her and tried to quiet her.  But I was struck at how the shop full of people all laughed and considered this rude outburst as only cute.  If I were to yell at one of the workers people would rightfully be appalled.  But not for my little girl… because it was delivered and received with innocence.

Innocence

It struck me today how innocent children are.  My son Hudson is just past six months old, and all he does is smile.  His only goals are to smile at, grab, and eat everything in sight (usually in that order).  He is so innocent.

And I feel this way toward all children, especially the younger ones.  Their innocence serves to highlight their inherent value and beauty.  They are created by their Maker with dignity and love… they are “fearfully and wonderfully made” (Psalm 139:14).

Corruption

Five verses later, the Psalmist (David) tells us “Oh that you would slay the wicked, O God!  O men of blood, depart from me!”  So what happened?  All of a sudden he is talking about wicked men… men of blood.  Weren’t these men children once too?  Weren’t they inherently innocent?  What happened that has led to this point… an exchange of innocence for wickedness?

When I see a child, I want to give them the benefit of the doubt.  I want to love them and help them.  But what do I feel of a wicked man or woman?  Where is my love?  Where is my desire to help?

It’s not there.  I stand in judgment, ready to condemn.

The irony is my hypocritical readiness to condemn flows from the same source that originates this exchange of innocence for wickedness: sin.

See, Genesis 3 tells us how our first parents, Adam and Eve, exchanged innocence for wickedness… righteousness for guilt… the truth for the lie… as they exchanged God for themselves.  And all sin in history flows from this moment.  It is inherited.

And this is what sin looks like.

It looks like a slow disease.

It starts when we are young.  We are born “healthy,” where it’s there but its manifestation is not visible and seems non-existent.  But it’s there.  Then as we grow, it grows more apparent.  By the time we reach adolescence, it has matured.  Excuses still abound in defense of our wickedness, but it cannot be suppressed.  If left unchecked, it grows into what David described in vs. 19, where we see ourselves described as “men (and women) of blood.”

We become so engrossed with ourselves that we will even kill for ourselves.  We kill God in our minds, we kill others with our words and in our hearts, and we even kill men with our hands… even to the point of taking the lives of those most innocent: unborn children.

The Exchange of the Corrupt for the Incorruptible

So where does this leave us?  1 Corinthians 15:50 says that “…flesh and blood cannot inherit the kingdom of God; nor does corruption inherit incorruption (NKJV).”  This corruption leaves us all banished from God.

But that’s not the end.  A few verses later, the Apostle Paul tells us:

“…the dead will be raised incorruptible, and we shall be changed.  For this corruptible must put on incorruption, and this mortal must put on immortality (52-53).”

Thanks to the victory gained in, through, and by Jesus Christ (vs. 57), we can put off our corrupt nature and put on that innocence once again.  It will only be partial in this lifetime… but as stated above, when we are raised in the resurrection with our Lord, we will be incorruptible in full.

Let’s Start Now

Jesus is the medicine to this slow disease.  But as He heals us, let us heal one another.

What if I started looking at every person I met as a child of God… created with inherent worth that was once almost entirely innocent?  This person has simply been corrupted by this slow disease as I was.

God chose to heal me.

Am I not to share the cure with every other person?

Let us be the bearers of this remedy.  Let us remember the innocence that once was… and look to the innocence that will be… and share the truth about His innocence with the world that is.  Let us share Jesus Christ with the world.  Share Him in love with patience and kindness.  May the truth set them free.

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Objective Truth and Loving Your Spouse

As discussed in my last blog post, there is only one source of objective truth: the Word of God. All other truth is personal, contextual, and not absolute.

This idea originated with a blog that my wife discovered and I referenced in my last post. In the post, the writer wrote of how she was projecting her desires toward her husband onto him as expectations… and was, therefore, treating him as failing – sinning against her and not loving her – whenever he did not meet those expectations.

Screen Shot 2015-04-17 at 10.09.26 PMThe example she uses is sending him to the store for meat. He picks up the meat, as requested, and brings it home. His wife is incensed that he bought 70/30 beef when she desires 80/20 beef. He expresses that “it’s not that big of a deal” and she feels that he does not love her.

Reading this blog, my wife and I realized that we do this to each other all the time. When one of us fails the other’s desire, instead of treating it as an unfulfilled desire, she or I will treat it as a wrong that was committed: a sin. But that’s not the case.

Despite her misplaced intentions, I could sympathize with the author, because 80/20 beef was important to her. It was her subjective truth. However, she was treating it as objective truth. And over time, she realized this: she realized that she was behaving toward her husband as if whatever she felt was truth: that she was right and he was wrong.

Considering Truth in Our Lives

But this is not the case at all. What is true to me and what is true to my spouse may be different… but it is still true to each of us. Our desires are part of who we are… and therefore, these desires are still true to us. We just need to simply understand that they are only subjective truths, not absolute. These are not objective truths. Therefore, these desires are subordinate to objective truth.

So what does this look like in marriage or in other relationships? Wanting 80/20 beef is okay… having a specific desire is okay. But treating an unmet desire as a sin is incorrect… and harmful to the relationship. An unmet desire is a discussion point, not an occasion for discipline.

This informs how we should respond to one another. Do not treat one another as if a sin has been committed simply because a personal desire was not fulfilled. If I do not pick up 80/20 beef because I am not aware it’s the desired choice and to me it’s too expensive, she should not treat me as if I have sinned against her; she should disclose her desire and potential frustration. If I tell her I did not pick up the 80/20 beef because I did not care about her desires and I chose instead to hurt her, then a sin has been committed and I need to repent.

The objective truth of loving my wife is written in Scripture. The subjective truth of 80/20 beef’s preference over 70/30 is not. We need to know and respect the difference.

To treat non-biblical requirements as biblical is careless at best and blasphemous at worst.

Grace vs. Law

This distinction may seem like a minor one but the contrast of our responses to the two different perspectives is profound.

If my wife does not meet my desires and I treat these desires as objective truth, and treat her as if she is expected to meet them, I will be treating her as if I have established the law and she has not met it. However, if I see it for what it is – simply a desire, my subjective truth – I do not need to hold it against her as if she has failed, but I can give her grace and love her as if she is already accepted.

To be treated with grace as accepted is essential for the security that allows one to trust and love freely. To be treated as if one has to measure up to a standard to receive love is enslaving and breeds resentment.

This distinction is massive: once the chains have been shaken free and we are accepted in Christ, we are free to love and be fruitful and need to worry no more about measuring up. This is liberating.

Likewise in marriage: if I’m no longer worried about my wife loving me, but I know that I am accepted by her… I will spend my time and focus on loving her instead of trying to get her to love me.

And when both man and wife are loving each other selflessly, marriage never looks better.

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