See you tonight, regular time, regular place. Bring a verse the Lord has been using on your life to share with the group.
Note: During the Fall of 2020, the Young Adults fellowship is meeting on Monday nights, both in homes and at the church building. We’re in home groups on the first and third Mondays of each month, and at the church building every other Monday. For info on our current Home Group meetings, click here. If you’re out of high school and under 30, we’d love to meet you.
We’ve had blessed times at both our Fall weekends of prayer last October and our Spring Weekends in the Word. This year we’ve got the first weekend in October to head back to the Camp at Old Mill for a couple days of prayer and looking into God’s word together.
The weekend will consist of prayer, times of worship in song, and group study of God’s word. We’ll have time for individual private prayer, prayer in small groups, and corporate prayer with our whole group. We’re going to focus on a passage of scripture together and let it lead us through prayer.
In addition to letting the word of God guide us in our prayers, we’ll have ample time to seek the Lord for the issues in our personal lives, as well as family and our social contexts, the wider world, and whatever else the Spirit leads us to ask for. Come ready for a focused time of actively pursuing God. Please join us to experience the blessing of Christian community centered around God’s presence and word.
You can pick up a registration form in the back of the auditorium on Monday nights or download one here.
See a Google Maps set of direction here.
We live in confusing times. But then, have you ever thought about if every time was a confusing time to live in, just each in it’s own way? Maybe a consequence of living in a fallen world is that we’ll always have to be seeking God’s light to show us a path through the darkness. That sounds about right.
In that vein, I wanted to offer some advice for our time, which seems particularly confusing in the area of representing Christ in terms of our public witness–just speaking about your Christianity can become so muddled, because often we’re being told we don’t represent Jesus, by people who don’t even follow him. Confusing! So here’s four things to remember, whether you’re in a confusing conversation, or you just read a confusing article, or got moved to confusion by a powerful movie or music video, or you stumbled over your own thoughts in a class discussion…etc, ect….
1. Define terms. Check if their definitions match yours. Maybe people are using words like “love” or “truth” or even “Jesus.” But are they actually using them to mean what Scripture means? Words are like containers; they carry whatever you fill them up with. What meanings have these words been filled up with? If it’s not the meaning our words carry, that may be a prime source of the confusion, right there.
2. Sniff out assumptions. What key thoughts are being left unsaid? Sometimes we get confused because we agree with the logic, but not the conclusions the logic leads to. Typically this means the good logic concealed a bad assumption, something that’s left unsaid and unproven. It’s just assumed. When you bring these assumptions out into the light, you can examine them to see if they really stand up. If not, you may solve your problem that fast.
3. Think through the worldview. Does the big picture make sense? A statement may sound powerful when it’s stated as part of an assertion someone’s making, but a little “zooming out” may be helpful here. What worldview does this statement assume, or operate as part of? Does that larger worldview make sense? For instance, a common worldview to operate out of these days is the worldview of materialism (that all that exists is matter). But does materialism really work? Does it explain the world we see? And, just as important, can the person adopting the worldview actually live with the implications of that worldview? More often than not, the confusing statement is a down-the-line type of thing, and what we should really be discussing are worldviews that might not stand up to scrutiny.
4. Get Biblical. Find out what scripture really says about it… One of our greatest sources of confusion is a twofold failure to really know and apply the teachings of scripture in our thinking and conversation. First, we may be confused simply because we aren’t in the habit of applying the wisdom of God in the Bible to the issues we discuss daily. A mind shaped by God’s word will sense how God’s thoughts help us see our way out of mental fog that we encounter. Second, things really get wild when people quote (or misquote) the Bible back to us in order to force us to unbiblical conclusions. (And this happens all the time!) What’s the answer? Know the Word well enough to sense when they are misusing scripture, then open your bible with them and help them see what the words really point to.
Spread the word. Here’s the details again if you need them. Same as the last couple times…
Next Monday, on 8/26 we’re going to not meet at the church building, and instead, you’re all invited to drive, carpool, or ride the train down to Rittenhouse square for an open-air time of worship, bible study, and discussion.
One other thing to remember: if it’s going to rain, we’ll cancel and meet at Calvary like regular.
- 6:00 pm – Meet at Rittenhouse Square if you want to hang out early. You can bring dinner or get food there and we can eat it together as we get ready for the meeting and talk to other people in the park.
- 7:30 pm – Open air worship and bible study in the square.
- 9:00 pm? – After we end our meeting, stay and fellowship with each other or spend time in conversation sharing the gospel with others in the park.
You Should Bring: Your bible, a blanket if you don’t want to be on the grass, bug spray, and food if you want to eat and hang, or money to buy food.
What’s going to happen? Whoever gets there before 7:30 will hang out in the park while we tune guitars and get ready for the evening. We’ll gather on one of the grass areas of the square (probably one of the corners). At 7:30 we’ll have a time of singing together, followed by a short Bible study, maybe some discussion, and maybe some more singing. Then we’ll break up and hang out some more.
Why are we doing this? We’re doing it to mix things up, and to get the great things God’s been doing in our group out into public. We’re hoping that non-believers who pass by will be drawn to listen in on what we’re doing, and start conversations with us which will lead to gospel sharing and invitations to church. We’ve never done it before, and we don’t know exactly what to expect, but come with a flexible mind and some boldness, and let’s see what God might do.
IF IT RAINS: WE’LL BE MEETING AT THE CHURCH BUILDING. CHECK THE HERE AT THE BLOG FOR FINAL UPDATES.
Driving: The park is at 18th and Walnut Street. Google Maps it and get driving directions.
Parking: Find street parking as close as you can. (Bring money for the meters.) Click here for a map. Or try one of these parking areas:
- Parkway Corporation, 1845 Walnut St, Philadelphia, PA ,(215) 275-4000
- Philly Park, 1808 Rittenhouse Square, Philadelphia, PA, (215) 772-3000
- Priority Parking, 1710 Chancellor St, Philadelphia, PA, (215) 735-9100
- Park America, 1712 Chancellor St, Philadelphia, PA, (215) 735-2900
Taking the Train: Get to Suburban Station, walk 2 blocks down JFK to 18th, turn left and walk 3 blocks down 18th to the square. See the Septa Suburban Station Page here: http://www.septa.org/stations/rail/suburban.html
Do you read books other than the bible as part of your personal time in the word and prayer, with the Lord? While I haven’t used a designated “devotional” book for some time, I regularly mix in other books if they’re both deep and “warm” enough. You know, something to stimulate thought that’s also “alive” enough in it’s contemplation of Christ and the life of the Spirit to stir my soul.
In that vein, I wanted to recommend three books that aren’t devotionals in any sense of the word. In fact, they’re commentaries.
Derek Kinder wrote commentaries on several books of the Bible, but his book on Proverbs and the two volumes on the Psalms make particularly helpful reading as part of my morning devotions. As I mull over a proverb, or pray through a psalm, reading Kidner’s insights into the passage help sharpen and deepen my interaction with scripture.
He writes in deep sentences, instead of long paragraphs, so you don’t have to read a lot to get a lot, and the books themselves are decently short.
Let me know if you pick them up, and if they bless you.
Last night we concluded our look at ideas about orientation and human make-up in scripture by reexamining gender, this time from a basic level, to find the Bible’s answer to the question: Why do we even have Gender? Here are the notes:
A Beginning Discussion on Gender: Mulling Over Truths that Should Guide our Thinking
Intro: Getting into the crucial questions.
The Culture says: How I feel inside determines who I am. Not my body.
The Christian says: No, our bodies tell us what we are. We’re men if we have men’s bodies.
And some in the church may say: Maybe we were wrong. Maybe it’s not our bodies, but our feelings that tell us if we are a man or a woman.
When you think about these things, you realize that we can’t determine what our bodies tell us about ourselves until we think through why we even have bodies at all. Why are we part of the material universe, and not bodiless like angels? And then you realize that we can’t understand why we’re part of the material universe until you think through why there’s a material universe at all. Why did God even create this stuff we call “matter”? Then we can have a shot at thinking about what our bodies are for, and then we can begin to think about why our bodies are gendered bodies, that is, why there are two different kinds of humans, and not just one.
Why Did God Create Matter?
To create a home and a theater for us. (Genesis 2:8-9a)
To communicate to us certain Invisible truths. (Romans 1:20; Psalm 19:1)
To provide a way to bring into visible and material expression spiritual truths. (James 2:14-24)
Conclusion: The material creation is God’s design, and He created it for His purposes, on our behalf. Matter is a reality God made for us to both yield to and learn from, as well as to live in and to interact with.
Why Did God Give Us Bodies?
To be the connecting point between God and His material creation. We are both physical and spiritual. (1 Corinthians 6:19-20, Phil 1:20)
To visibly express God’s attributes (Genesis 1:26-27)
Part of our being in the image of God is our body…so, like all material creation, our bodies are God’s way of giving us both a home and theater for our spiritual existence, and a way for us to visibly, materially reflect God’s invisible attributes. This is especially true of us, as being made expressly in the image of God.
Conclusion: Bodies are given by God to be used as visible expressions of his Glory. How they are made expresses His glory, and the way we use them is to “cultivate” them by His direction to complete His image and fulfill our highest end.
Why Gender? Why distinction in human bodies? Why not just human? Why male and female?
Genesis 1:26-28, 2:7-8,18 – To enable them to fulfill their purpose of exercising dominion.
How will they fill and cultivate the earth? By a union of two that differ. God wanted us to need each other in order to fulfill his larger purpose. This is true in many areas, and is highlighted here in the aspect of “multiplying.” Man and woman need each other in order to cultivate the earth. Distinction thus produces a glue that holds us together and causes humility, as we acknowledge that, unlike God, we cannot do things alone.
So here, distinction in our bodies produces a situation where we glorify God by recognizing and submitting to our dependence on each other.
Beyond the physical, we see that distinction creates the need for relationships. We are at our core relational beings, and God designed gender distinction to create the context and the need for relationship. Here we may see glimpses of the fact that God is relational Himself, in the Trinity. We reflect God’s glory to the fullest when we exist in relation to each other. It is God-like to be in relationship.
Thinking about some common objections to this way of seeing things:
- Those who can’t fulfill all these things? This doesn’t mean that if you do not get married (for any reason), or you are not able to reproduce, you are not fulfilling your purpose and are not made in the image of God. Reproducing is not the only way we “fill the earth and subdue it.” This includes many activities (including in the New Testament, preaching the gospel). It also includes many ways of being which have nothing to do with reproducing in marriage. So non-fertile or non-married people carry the image of God in themselves, and may participate in the human family’s purpose on God’s earth by heeding his commands and fulfilling their individual calling according to the ability and gifting he grants them.
- Intersexuality? (including individuals commonly called hermaphrodites) The fact that some people come into the world with genetically or anatomically ambiguous sex characteristics does not negate the larger revelation of scripture, especially as it agrees with the vast majority of human experience. Intersex individuals may need to seek God and rely on him in special ways to help them through a confusing situation. This is a result of living in a fallen world where all kinds of brokenness comes out in our bodies. But God knows who they are and will help them live in ways that fulfill his purpose in their unique situation. (This leads to another question: Is Gender physical or mental/emotional? Inner or outer? I think…It is both. We are both. We are enfleshed spirits, and you don’t have full humanity without both. So we can’t ignore either one and get a full answer to the question. In our day we’re being asked to ignore the body and follow the inner feelings. But we know from scripture inner feelings are not a reliable guide apart from God. So we must include the body in any consideration of these things. His word indicates, even assumes, that we’ll use our body as the primary guide to gender identification.) The question is, does intersexuality mean that there is no such thing as male and female? No more than Siamese twins mean that there’s no such thing as individuals defined by a single body, or that people who are born unable to work means that we can’t know that humans are supposed to be active, or that someone who never knew who their family was means we must redefine our concept of family. We don’t read God’s purpose for us from physical or mental manifestations of brokenness, but from Scripture, which is our sure guide to interpreting the reality we see around us.
- Galatians 3:28: “There is neither Jew nor Greek, there is neither slave nor free, there is neither male nor female, you are all one in Christ Jesus.” Paul’s point here is that everyone can have equal access to God and righteousness in Christ—not that once we come to Christ we cease to be what we were and there are no more distinctions in church life or daily life. His other writings explain how each individual may live in co-equal unity that includes differing relationships within the various spheres of life.
Ephesians 5:22-32 God wants the physical union to take place in a context of covenant. Paul’s quotation of Genesis 2:24 in 5:31 shows us that He sees the original story as referring to marriage, and through marriage, to Christ and the church. (as did Jesus, see Mark 10:2-9)
Which means that the original creation of two distinct sexes (genders) was meant by God to create the reality of covenant marriage so that in creation we’d have a picture of Christ and the church.
In other words, the point of Gender distinction is ultimately to show the distinction between Christ and the church, and between God and man. And it is to show not just distinction, but the way Christ loves the church. It is to preach the gospel.
Since we can’t blur the line between Christ and the church without losing the gospel story, we see that the gender distinctions are part of a larger matrix of distinctions in God’s world.
We must see how radically different the current worldview is, when the Bible upholds distinctions of all kinds as “very good” and leading to our blessing, and our whole culture is embarking on a project to tear down all distinctions in every facet of life.
God created distinction so that there would be unity that consisted in harmony and not monotony, and in diversity, and not uniformity.
Last night we announced that our Young Adults group will be pitching in to the outreach going on this Saturday down at Rock Ministries, and that we’ll do it by joining with Mike Hojnaki (who led worship for us last night) to help run the “Sports Block” with him and Fellowship of Christian Athletes. If you want to go and didn’t sign up last night, here’s a note from Mike about how to get in touch with him and the relevant details:
Basically, you just need to come prayed up and ready to serve by loving on people and helping with the activities.
The day gets going at 9:00 am this Saturday (August 10th) at the Rock. The address is 2755 Kensington Ave, Philadelphia, PA. I would suggest carpooling if you can or taking the train, as parking may be tight.
I will send out a document on Wednesday or Thursday with all of our activities and assignments. Contact me with any questions or concerns!
Last Night we continued our look at scripture’s ideas about human orientation. Here are the notes:
Recapping our study two weeks ago–Our Culture’s Current Idea of Orientation: How you are and feel in the deepest part of you. Things you like. Ways you think and feel. Things inside of you can’t change, or at least can’t easily change, even if you try hard. Probably a way you were born.
“Sexual orientation refers to an enduring pattern of emotional, romantic, and/or sexual attractions to men, women, or both sexes. Sexual orientation also refers to a person’s sense of identity based on those attractions, related behaviors, and membership in a community of others who share those attractions.” – www.apa.org
The Bible’s view of orientation: Our “hearts” are the center of who we are, and everything we do comes from what our hearts are.
Our Culture’s Current view of change: Inconsistent.
For homosexual orientation, the idea is that you can’t change. No matter what you do, you will always want to act out your sexual desires. And trying to suppress them is harmful. The only healthy, positive thing is to live them out. So…since you can’t change it, you shouldn’t try.
But for many other things, the idea in the culture is that you should suppress those desires, regardless of whether you can change them or not…and that it is unhealthy to pursue them. Think Alcoholism, Anger and Violence, Racism, Laziness, and in the realm of sexuality think desires for sexual expression with children, incestual desires, bestiality. And there’s other issues like oppressive sexual expression within relationships, adulterous desires, pornography use. Many people would probably say that you could even change some of these orientations.
(For instance, our culture thinks religious feelings can be changed. They would say those views are a choice, and should be chosen against if they contradict the sentiment of the culture.)
In other words, we as a culture have said that there or some inner desires that should not be suppressed, and some that should be suppressed. Some that should be freely expressed and lived out, and some that should not. The important thing for all of us to see here is that these are moral judgments.
- Who’s standard are we using? How do we know which inner desires are harmful to act out on, and which are healthy? How do we know which orientations society should work to restrict and suppress, and which we should affirm and protect? Where do we have the authority to restrict polygamy, or look down on pedophilia, and affirm homosexuality?
- How do we know what kinds of change are possible for human beings? How do we know what options there are for lives lived against an orientation? (For example, what would we say to someone who had an orientation towards something we all affirmed should not be lived out?)
1. Who’s standard are we using? Christians look to God’s word. Christians have a clear moral standard based on the word of the Creator. We have no other way to know, in a confusing world, what is right and wrong, what is healthy and unhealthy, and what should and should not be affirmed and lived out. We search the scriptures. We pray. We lean on the word of God to tell us his will for us. Without that, the only thing that will establish a moral standard is power. We will live under the dictatorship of human whims enforced by whatever group has the votes, and then whoever has the guns.
So we must see the options: Either the rule of God who is love, through his word, or the rule of the human heart. See Mark 7:20-23. Jesus listed things that defile us. They are sin. They dishonor God. They hurt us. They are unhealthy. They lead to separation from God now and for eternity. We do not have the capacity, outside of God’s word, to know what those things are or are not.
2. How do we know what kinds of change are possible for human beings? We search God’s word to find out about change.
- In some senses, change is not possible for men and women, without God’s help. To get a sense for our predicament before we turn to God, see John 8:31-34 (we’re slaves to sin), Romans 3:10-19 (we’re guilty before God), Ephesians 2:1-3 (we’re under the sway of spiritual darkness), Jeremiah 17:9 (we have incurable hearts)
- So we may be tempted to say with the Israelites, “it is hopeless”(see Jeremiah 18:11-12). And without God, it may be. We may find in ourselves things which are defiling, which we constantly want to act out. We may choose to resist, but eventually lose the will to resist under the intense pressure of the desires. In other words, we may have the physical ability to resist, but we may lack the moral power. God calls this slavery to sin, or having an incurable heart. It creates guilt before him, since we choose to not resist the inner desires which we could physically resist.
- But Jeremiah 18:11 gives God’s plan… “Turn from your evil ways.” Or as Psalm 80:3 says it: “Turn us, and we shall be saved.” There is such a thing as humans turning to God. The bible calls this repentance. The key is this: If God says “Turn” then he will provide a way for us to turn. What God commands or invites us to, He provides the power to perform, if we’ll believe His word and decide to act on it in faith.
- See Acts 3:18-19.
- When we repent and are turned: Freedom from Slavery (John 8:32 & 36), Freedom from Guilt (Romans 3:21-26), Life out of death (Ephesians 2:4-11), Escape from the kingdom of darkness (Colossians 1:13), a new heart (Ezekiel 36:25-28) with God’s law on it (Jeremiah 31:33)
- In other words, in Christ we have a new identity (2 Corinthians 5:17).
- The new identity comes from a whole new birth. (John 3:3)
- This new birth involves a whole new life and power inside of us—God Himself (2 Peter 1:4). This is His Spirit, who brings a new set of desires and a new power to live without acting out of the old defiling desires. (Galatians 5:16-25)
Recap & Sum up:
- We need to realize that everyone makes judgments about what orientations and desires should be acted upon, and which should be suppressed. Christians just say that God’s word is the only standard by which we can know what we need to turn from in order to turn to God.
- Though we don’t have the moral strength to change ourselves, God invites us to turn to him and rely on his power.
- If we repent (if we change our minds and decide to depend on his power to physically resist sin), He supplies Himself, in our hearts, with the power to live in ways that honor him and bless us.
- We find a whole new life and identity in Christ that frees us from being defined by our old orientations.
A thought to lead into our time of worship: We’re free from guilt, free from old definitions, free from destructive patterns, free from narrow views of humanity, free from dead spiritual darkness, and one day we’ll be totally delivered from everything sin has done to us and the whole world—Romans 8:16-21
Today, we swim in a sea of arguments around gender identity, expression, roles, and even biological gender that challenge us to be those who think-as-God-thinks on this topic. After all, God made the universe and assigned the meaning and purpose to each “part.” So, on Monday, we continued our series by looking at the first 3 chapters in Genesis with this question in mind: What is gender as male and female?
Objection: What’s the point of this study? I thought that Jesus did away with the Old Testament gender division?
Galatians 3:28 – There is neither Jew nor Greek, there is neither slave nor free, there is no male and female, for you are all one in Christ Jesus.
It’s true, Galatians 3:28 says what it says but almost any text when taken out of context can seem to mean something other than what the author intended it to mean. For example, “I can do all things through Christ who strengthens me.” Does “all things” mean any and everything, completely unqualified? If you read “all things” in context, the meaning becomes clear:
Philippians 4:12-13 – I know how to be brought low, and I know how to abound. In any and every circumstance, I have learned the secret of facing plenty and hunger, abundance and need. I can do all things through him who strengthens me.
Paul has learned his “secret of contentment” in every circumstance. The meaning of this, and any passage must be understood within the meaning of the immediate context as well as the larger context of the entire Bible. The same is true for Galatians 3:28. As we shall see, the Bible has much to say how our gender goes to the core of our deepest being, purpose, role, and identity as humans.
In the beginning, God created everything and assigned a purpose and role to each part of his physical universe. For example, in Gen 1:14-15 God makes the sun, moon, and stars as lights to mark the seasons, days and years for the people he is going to create on day 6. They weren’t created with the purpose of drawing pictures of big dippers in the sky. Each member of his universe is infused with his meaning and purpose.
In Gen 1:26-30 we find the climax of God’s creation, Man – as male and female. The only creation made in the image and likeness of God with dominion over the entire earth.
Image of God
- In Man, God created the type of being that the Glory of God could dwell in and take the nature of – without losing anything divine. Jesus did this in the incarnation (see John 1).
- Part of what God’s doing in 1:26-27 is showing that his image in man is in the binary Male & Female.
- It doesn’t mean you can’t have the gift of singleness while bearing the full image of God (see 1 Cor 7 or Matt 19). Jesus as a single man is the full image of the invisible God.
- Gen 5:1-4 – This is the book of the genealogy of Adam. In the day that God created man, He made him in the likeness of God. He created them male and female, and blessed them and called them Mankind in the day they were created. And Adam lived one hundred and thirty years, and begot a son in his own likeness, after his image, and named him Seth.
- Because we’re made in the image of God, God requires our life (literally, our lifeblood) for murdering another whom God created in his own image (Gen 9:5-6). It’s also a reason why we talk nice to each other (James 3:8-9).
- Those to whom God gave his image are given the mandate to be fruitful, multiply, and have dominion (rule) over the entire earth.
From the dust of the earth, God forms the frame of Adam but he wasn’t a living being yet. Then, breathes the breath of God into Adam and his eyes open. Adam now has a living soul, receives from God the blessing to eat from any tree except the tree of the Knowledge of Good an Evil but there’s something missing. He needs a helper.
Roles & Authority
Our gender roles have been created by God but corrupted by the fall. The Bible doesn’t know unlimited and unqualified authority since true authority is for the benefit of others without regard for oneself. Our problem is that we have been utterly corrupted by sin and many individuals who have had absolute authority have served themselves rather than God and the benefit of others. Authority didn’t come from the fall, tyranny did.
Here are some observations about our roles as male and female.
- Created to work, keep the garden, as well as to keep the command of God to not eat of the tree of the Knowledge of Good and Evil. Adam doesn’t yet know (before Eve was created) that he lacked anything. God purposefully waits to create woman by parading the animals in front of him to instruct Adam and show Adam God’s purposes for him.
- There’s a certain way to act “like a man” that even the New Testament understands (see 1 Cor 16:13).
- Created as a helper (fit for him)
- She brings a companionship on his level. Before Eve, he could try to hang out with Mr. or Mrs. Hippo but it was on the level of a hippo – rolling around in the mud and eating grass. With woman, it’s perfectly on Adam’s level!
- WOOO-Man! – Adam names her and describes why, for she was taken out of man (his side). There’s obvious excitement from Adam because he now has a spiritual equal (bone of my bones, flesh of my flesh) and names her woman.
- There’s a here regarding the person of Eve, the first woman. She is his equal, yet his helper. She’s made from the man (her equality) and for the man (her inequality). This created order of male first, female second, can’t be reversed into man from woman and man for woman and has meaning in the order of creation (see headship and submission below).
- Eve is Adam’s spiritual equal because she’s:
- Unlike the animals in her soul (personality)
- Made out of Adam’s side (bone of my bone, flesh of my flesh)
- Had the same kind of spirit God gave Adam
Gen 2:24 – Therefore a man shall leave his father and mother and be joined to his wife, and they shall become one flesh.
This single verse points us to the meaning and purpose of marriage. Marriage is the institution, relationship, and re-union of the creation (what was once one flesh) by becoming one flesh again. In Eph 5:28-9, we read: In the same way husbands should love their wives as their own bodies. He who loves his wife loves himself. For no one ever hated his own flesh, but nourishes and cherishes it, just as Christ does the church…“
It’s important to understand that the union between a husband and his wife is becoming one flesh (not spirit). It’s not the inner person that was two, becoming “one heart” or “one mind”. Rather, marriage is the reuniting of the original separation in creation through the physical consummation of marriage. What you unite your physical body with sexually, you make yourself one body with them.
1 Cor 6:15-17 Do you not know that your bodies are members of Christ? Shall I then take the members of Christ and make them members of a prostitute? Never! Or do you not know that he who is joined to a prostitute becomes one body with her? For, as it is written, “The two will become one flesh.”
Headship and Submission
The Christian Life is a life of submission. Scripture is full of verses to submit to masters (bosses), parents, husbands, wives, each other, government, elders/pastors/teachers, and ultimately – God. For wives, submit to your husbands is just one example of an entire life submitted to God.
Also, don’t let the sin of male domination and abuse cause you to react to what’s taught in scripture. Typically, there are 4 sins from male “leaders” that cause an adverse reaction against headship & submission: selfishness, irresponsibility, passivity, and abuse.
Some say that subordination = denigration and equality = indistinguishability. Yet, there is so much great and godly leadership and authority that exists without making everything into oppressive slavery or some non-specific role that’s based on mere aptitude or a cultural norm. We must look to God as our model for headship and submission. Here’s a great passage out of Recovering Biblical Manhood and Womanhood (p.92-93):
Within the Holy Trinity the Father leads, the Son submits to Him, and the Spirit submits to both (the Economic Trinity). But it is also true that the three Persons are fully equal in divinity, power, and glory (the Ontological Trinity). The Son submits, but not because He is God, Jr., an inferior deity. The ranking within the Godhead is a part of the sublime beauty and logic of true deity. And if our Creator exists in this manner, should we be surprised and offended if His creaturely analog on earth exists in paradoxical form?
Here are a few things to note regarding headship and submission as it relates to God as Trinity.
- The Trinity acts with headship and submission.
- In creation, we bear that image and likeness.
- Headship is based in the nature of God:
- 1 Cor 11:3 – But I want you to understand that the head of every man is Christ, the head of a wife is her husband, and the head of Christ is God.
- Headship was given to Adam by God to bear the role of “head” within his marriage.
- 1 Cor 11:8-9 For man was not made from woman, but woman from man. Neither was man created for woman, but woman for man.
Although we can’t exhaust the topic of headship and submission in this study, know that not all men don’t have unqualified authority as heads over women. This is within the limits of marriage between as man and a woman. See 1 Peter 3 for more.
This passage is critical to understanding why our relationships are so horrible and the harmonious and complementary design between man and woman aren’t as we read in Genesis 1 and 2.
In Genesis 3, Eve didn’t know there was a problem (because there wasn’t!) with creation, her role, and her status of perfect-human in the image and likeness of God until the serpent asks her a question in order to contradict God and deceive her into sin. Before the serpent’s question, the Tree of Life was in the center of her reality. After, the forbidden tree of Knowledge of Good and Evil is the only thing she sees and the Tree of Life isn’t even mentioned. This is conjecture but it may be telling.
We don’t have the layout of the garden because it isn’t given to us. Yet, we do know the nature of God and his goodness. Most likely, Adam and Eve didn’t have to swat the branches of forbidden fruit away like overgrown vines on your house, as they walked out their front door every day. It was probably tucked away, maybe even smaller compared to the tree of life, and not something they had to trip over as they lived their life out in the garden. But, as the serpent asks this question, Eve’s focus on the forbidden tree makes the tree seem larger and more prominent than it really is.
Eve’s loyalty turned from God and Adam and turns to herself and the serpent. Here are some of the sins to note and a few observations:
- Eve’s obedience turns to the creation rather than the creator
- Eve’s rebellion against God’s command
- Eve’s usurping headship by leading Adam into sin
- Adam, who was WITH HER, stands by PASSIVELY – allowing her to be deceived without correcting her, rebuking satan, and intervening.
- Adam forsook his responsibility – a gender role reversal
- In Romans 5:12-21, Adam is to blame for the sin of humanity, not Eve, because he is the “federal head” of humanity.
- Lord God called to the man, “Where are you?”
- Responsibility is demanded of Adam with this question. (p.37)
- Adam’s asked first because he is the one to give an account for the moral life of the family in submission to God’s command of obedience.
- Both are relational and correspond to her role in creation to Adam & God.
- Pain in childbearing & delivery
- New desire for her husband [to rule over]
- But he will rule over you
- There is a very striking parallel passage in Genesis 4:7 that uses the same word to mean “dominate” or to “master.”
- Curse is related to his purpose of working (work is not punishment or from the curse, the frustration in work is through thorns, thistles and sweat.)
- Because you listened to your wife and ate…
- Adam abandoned his headship
- This moral failure was part of his ruin
- Cursed is the ground because of you
- Eat only though painful toil all the days of your life (without relief)
- It will produce thorns and thistles (frustration)
- Eat plants of field (not trees of garden that God had originally provided for food)
- Sweat to eat *until* you return to the ground, from which you were taken. (death enters humanity)
What do we do when we face experiences that seem to shake our previously held views about the way life is? Elisabeth Elliot shares some thoughts on how here ideas were tested in her time living among the Huaorani people (whom she refers to by term “Aucas”) in Ecuador, and the kinds of questions she was led to ask as a result:
A missionary friend of mine once said, “Things were simple before I went to Africa. I knew what the African’s problem was, and I knew the answer. When I got there and began to know him as a person, things were no longer simple.”
When, on the first night of our arrival in the “savage” Aucas’ village, they gave us houses to live in, food and water and wood and fire, things were not so simple for me.
My categories began to crumble.
I had thought I knew what a savage was like. I had thought I knew exactly how the gospel would change him. As weeks passed, I began to realize that not only had I been mistaken about these things, but very likely I was just as mistaken about some other categories which had seemed clear before. How readily I had seen Christian virtues in those I called Christians in my own country, and the “works of the flesh” in those who did not bear the Christian label. What was I now to do with the apparent manifestation of virtue – peace, longsuffering, kindness – in those who had never heard of Christ? Things were not what I had thought. What was I to do then? Should I reject facts? Or should I begin to trust God in a new acceptance of my own ignorance and His saving responsibility?
When I have tried to tell people truthfully what I found among the Aucas, I have sometimes been asked (with a hint of hostility), “Well, what are you trying to say?” I am trying to say what is, and it is for us to bring to bear upon these facts, as upon all the facts of our existence, the light of our faith.
If there are inexplicable, if there are ambiguities, they are but new stations in our pilgrimage, and we have a Leader, the Pioneer and Perfecter of our faith, who wants us to follow Him to maturity.
To get the full sense of where she goes with these thought, I recommend you check out the whole book…
What does it really mean to “serve” God? Elisabeth Elliot is among those who moved away from everything and went to live what many would call a “radical” or “extreme” Christian life. When we read of stories like hers, or have friends move towards similar situations, we may be tempted to think that these are the only ways to serve Christ. But is this so?
Elliot addresses some of these things in her reflections from her time with the Huaorani people of Ecuador (whom she refers to as “Aucas”):
There has often been a tendency to think of service to God as necessarily entailing physical hardship and sacrifice.
Although this is not really a Scriptural idea, it has gained wide acceptance. It is easy to recall the saints who climbed the steep ascent of heaven through peril, toil, and pain, but the Bible also makes mention of Dorcas whose service to God was the making of coats. (And who can tell what pain she knew that is not recorded? It is God who keeps tears in His bottle.)
When I lived in the Auca settlement, there were some who, from a long distance and with little idea of the actual situation, commended me for my “wonderful work,” probably because they thought of it as difficult, isolated, dangerous, or even sacrificial. There were others who for the very same reason condemned me, for I had taken a three-year-old child into that setting. Some envied me, some pitied me. Some admired, some criticized.
I could not help asking myself if perhaps I had been mistaken. Was I really obeying God, or had I merely obeyed some misguided impulse, some lust for distinction, some masochistic urge to bury myself in the forsaken place? There was no way of being sure what was in the murky reaches of my subconscious, but I was sure I had committed myself to God for His service, and I knew no other motivation. The opinions of others – whether they commended or condemned – could not alter my duty, but their very diversity caused me to ponder carefully what that duty was.
And then, by contrast, I watched the Indians, doing things they understood, untroubled by questions of “service” to God or fellow-men (although they had served me in countless ways – and I thought of the King saying to them, “Inasmuch as ye have done it unto one of the least of these…ye have done it unto me,” and how surprised they would be when they knew), free of the pressures of competition and comparison. There was for me here a lesson in simplicity and acceptance of one’s place in life, which I, because I was a Christian, could take from the hand of God.
My duty was one thing, theirs another. My responsibility lay here, but the responsibility of some of my correspondents who gazed starry-eyed at my role lay perhaps in an office or a kitchen or the cockpit of an airplane. Who was to say which deserved to sit on God’s right hand?
Tonight for our Bible study we’ll continue the series we began last week.
This week Josh Nelson will take us through a scriptural look at what gender is, and the conclusions we can draw from questions like, “Why would God even make ‘male’ and ‘female’?”
And in case you’re wondering, we’re not in the park tonight…we’re at our regular place.
(This is part two of a series of thoughts from Elisabeth Elliot on the Christian life. For the introduction to the series, see the first post.)
How does a Christian live “above reproach” in a world where there are different ideas about what God requires of us? Elisabeth Elliot’s observations of life among the Huaorani people (whom she refers to by term “Aucas”) of Ecuador give us some stimulating food for thought:
If it is a difficult thing to live above reproach in one’s society where values are judged at least similarly, how much more difficult it is in another culture.
Each society has its own way of expressing itself, and what looks like sin in one context may look like virtue in another. The Aucas were convinced, for reasons they themselves could not give, that outsiders were cannibals. Quite naturally, then, they were prepared to interpret the behavior of any outsider they might meet as characteristic of a cannibal. When five missionary men met the Aucas on a sand strip of the Curaray River, they tried in every way they knew to show the Indians that they were friendly. One of the missionaries put his arm around an Auca man, a gesture which to us cannot be understood in any way other than friendliness.
Years later I learned from the Aucas themselves that they had taken this to be proof of the foreigner’s being a cannibal. It was a gesture that had no meaning for an Auca, and therefore must be a gesture common to cannibals.
What looks like love to us looked like hostility to the Aucas.
Jesus’ love for common men led Him to eat and drink with them, and for this He was called a glutton and a winebibber, a friend of publicans and sinners.
“To the pure, all things are pure.” Clearly, it is not possible to behave in a way which would be understood by all, let alone accepted by all. God alone, who is above all and in us all, judges rightly, and therefore it is before Him that we stand or fall.
A sincere attempt to discover ways in which I might guide the Aucas in making moral choices led me to the realization that I had sometimes called things sinful which the Bible did not call sinful; and if I had imposed these on the Indians, I would have been guilty of the Pharisees’ sin of laying burdens too heavy to be borne.
It may take a new kind of courage for us to believe that God must interpret His Word to His people. We may find ourselves on the wrong side of some man-made fences, but this is part of the risk of following Him without reservation, of doing the truth, and of unconditionally committing our case to God.
In 1958, less than three years after her husband had been killed in an attempt to preach the gospel in the rainforest of Ecuador, Elisabeth Elliot went to live with the Huaorani people (whom her husband was attempting to reach) with her three-year-old daughter.
In 1968 she published a short book of reflections on her couple of years with the Huaorani entitled The Liberty of Obedience. I read through this fascinating book again when I was studying for our recent series on finding the will of God for our lives.
Over the next week I’m going to post a series of thoughts on the Christian life from the book. Her time with the Huaorani (whom she refers to as the Aucas)gave her a unique perspective, especially as it bears on the Christian life we’re all called to live, which was hammered out as a 20-something American among people from a very different context.
To start, here’s a few excerpts from her preface:
Many people, in their late twenties and early thirties, discover that life is getting more and more complicated.
For me it was getting simpler and simpler.
I was living with Indians in the forest of Ecuador, and was trying very hard to get down to the root of things because it seemed to me that that was where Indians lived. This process had of course its own complications for me–‘simple’ cooking over a ‘simple’ wood fire can sometimes be more difficult than fancy cooking on an electric stove–but in matters of importance the direction of my thinking was toward the bare or simple truth. I was for some years almost wholly out of touch with all that had been familiar, and I had therefore a chance to look at it from a long way off, to question and compare.
The tribe that gave me the best chance to do this had been called ‘savage.’ They were the Aucas, who by reputation were also ‘primitive,’ godless,’ ‘Stone Age’ people. They themselves gave me excellent reason to question the accuracy of these terms. They were wonderful people–generous and kind from the very first night of our arrival; capable and intelligent when you saw them in their jungle environment (where white men looked anything but capable and intelligent); amenable (almost touchingly so) to any suggestion from us; eagerly interested in all that we did or said; a people who shared lavishly all they had and were, a people who laughed uproariously most of the time when they were together, and who worked hard when they were apart (for they did their hunting and planting usually alone).
I found them easy to love.
It was these very qualities that nettled me. They simply did not fit my idea of savagery. What, then, did civilization mean? Was it merely an efficient method of complicating things?”…
Of changes among these people which could be directly attributed to the power of the Word of Christ I could not honestly say that I knew very much. It seemed to me that this must be a hidden matter of the heart which God alone could rightly assess. I wondered, of course, what sort of visible change I might look for if the Word were being spoken (as, in the last analysis, it can only be spoken) by the Spirit of God. Jesus had said that men can be known by their fruits. I knew the fruits commonly expected by those who had never tried what I was doing. But I could not be satisfied that the changes I was seeing were true fruits. Oddly enough, they were too ‘simple.’
Then I began to ask if I were making things complicated.
My confusion drove me to the admission that I had not as many answers as I had thought. God kept back some of the ones I wanted, and had other things to say to me. I listened. I studied the Bible, prayed, and thought…Why was I here? To ‘serve the Lord,’ of course. But what a reply! What an awesome task I had assumed. How was I to do it? What did it mean?”…
I saw the Indians live in a harmony which far surpassed anything I had seen among those who call themselves Christians. I found that even their killing had at least as valid reasons as the wars in which my people engaged. ‘By their fruits…’
Could I really offer them a better way? Jesus said, ‘I am the Way.’ He, therefore, was the one responsible to show what it was for them. I was merely His representative, and I had better be very sure I knew what He did actually say about the questions of conduct and service, for it was to Him above all others that I must give account.
In an attempt to find out, and to sort out my own convictions and give clear expression to them, I studied the New Testament and especially the Epistles of Paul. What I found seemed to me to be important not only for me in that unusual place, but for Christians everywhere, so I wrote for The Sunday School Times the series of brief articles which is reprinted here. In the six years since I left that particular thatched house, I have been questioned and sometimes challenged on these matters. Each time my answer has been along the lines written during those days in Tewaenon.
But it was my husband who first taught me to question and examine, and then to act on what one believes. He first showed me what liberty in Christ means. Perhaps now, many years after his death, I am beginning to grasp things he understood. He glimpsed, I think, something of the largeness of God’s heart and wanted to show it to others.
I’ve posted material from Dr. Michael Kruger several times on this blog. (For instance, check out this post for a lot of info.) He’s the author of my favorite book on the formation of the New Testament: Canon Revisited: Establishing the Origins and Authority of the New Testament Books
He recently completed blogging through a series that’s helpful for any of us who want to be able to know and speak about the way our New Testament came together. Each of the post titles below link to the post on Dr. Kruger’s website. Check it out…
- “The New Testament Books are the Earliest Christian Writings We Possess”
- “Apocryphal Writings Are All Written in the Second Century or Later”
- “The New Testament Books Are Unique Because They Are Apostolic Books”
- “Some NT Writers Quote Other NT Writers as Scripture”
- “The Four Gospels are Well Established by the End of the Second Century”
- “At the End of the Second Century, the Muratorian Fragment lists 22 of Our 27 NT Books”
- “Early Christians Often Used Non-Canonical Writings”
- “The NT Canon Was Not Decided at Nicea—Nor Any Other Church Council”
- “Christians Did Disagree about the Canonicity of Some NT Books”
- “Early Christians Believed that Canonical Books Were Self-Authenticating”
Last night we began our discussion on some of the pressing issues in our day by looking at the bible’s concept of orientation, and how the issue of repentance figures into the discussion. Here are the notes:
Orientation and the Scriptures
The Current Idea of Orientation: An attempted definition: Orientation is how you are, and feel, in the deepest part of you. It’s the things you like; it’s the ways you think and feel. Things inside of you can’t change, or at least can’t easily change, even if you try hard. It’s probably a way you were born.
Since, today, this word mostly makes us think of sexual orientation, here’s a definition of that: “Sexual orientation refers to an enduring pattern of emotional, romantic, and/or sexual attractions to men, women, or both sexes. Sexual orientation also refers to a person’s sense of identity based on those attractions, related behaviors, and membership in a community of others who share those attractions.” – www.apa.org
1. Does the Bible agree with this way of seeing things? Yes.
The Bible’s View of Orientation.
The bible has an idea of orientation stretches beyond sexuality in general. It is actually a “big” idea, and is helpful for thinking about who we are in total as human beings, at least with regards to our inner life and our deepest beings.
But in the Bible, instead of using the word we currently use–orientation–the word that is used for this big concept is the word “heart.”
Proverbs 4:23 “Guard your heart with all diligence, for out of it flow the issues of life.”
“This word—“Heart is the most important anthropological term in the Old Testament, but the English language has no equivalent. It occurs…858 times in the OT….No other English word combines the complex interplay of intellect, sensibility and will…The heart feels all modes of desire, from the lowest physical forms, such as hunger and thirst, to the highest, spiritual forms, like reverence and remorse…[The] direction or bent of the heart determines its decisions and thus the person’s actions.” [– Bruce Waltke on Proverbs 4:23]
“‘Heart’ is the term most commonly used in biblical literature for the essential personality. Whereas in English ‘heart’ tends to connote emotion, in both Hebrew and Greek it conveys equally, and perhaps more strongly, the spiritual and intellectual processes, including the will. It refers to what makes people what they really are, their individuality.” [R.T. France on Mark 7:19]
We see the same thing in the New Testament: Mark 7:14-23. It is from the heart that the actions of life flow.
- The bible describes human beings as being characterized by an inward bent of feelings, desires, preferences, and thoughts. It is what we’d call an “orientation.” Sexual orientation, as a description of your sexual feelings, desires, and preferences, is part of your overall orientation.
- This heart, this orientation is something that is innate to us, and starts when we’re small and slowly works its way out as we grow older. (Proverbs 22:15)
- This orientation is responsible for our actions.
2. Question: Does the fact that we are a certain way, or that our hearts are a certain way, mean that God is OK with us? Does God approve or disapprove of our heart, or orientation, as it is?
Our Culture’s view: If you are a certain way, if you have a certain orientation, it is good and right that you live out that orientation, and it is good for you to be freed up to pursue your happiness according to this inner orientation. Since this is the way things are, we must realize that God made things this way, and therefore he does not disapprove of someone acting out of their deepest desires and innermost being. What matters is that we love each other by freeing each other up to find positive ways to live out this orientation in a culture free from oppression.
Taking these things all together, the issue that has raised itself up in our culture is this:
Are we as human beings basically acceptable to God, or does He require some fundamental change before he accepts us?
Scripture’s view: The vast majority of verses (and there are many) which speak of human orientation (the human “heart”) are not positive, or even neutral (like Proverbs 4:23), but negative: See, for instance, Gen 6:5-6, Gen 8:21, Deut 29:14-20, Psalm 81:8-13, Jer 11:8, Jer 18:11-12, Jer 17:9, Eph 2:1-3, Heb 3:10-13, Eph 4:17-19, and especially Romans 3:10-20.
3. Answer: Scripture presents a picture of a humanity who is fundamentally bent away from God, and displeases and dishonors him because they act on their orientation.
This explains a fundamental word for understanding all of the Bible, and a main word in Jesus teaching: “Repent.” See Matthew 4:17, and Luke 13:3, Mark 1:15, Mark 6:12, Acts 17:30, 2 Peter 3:9
For a picture about what the mental and emotional state of repentance looks like, see Psalm 51:1-10.
4. Sum up and Challenge:
A big question: How do we know that any part of our orientation should be encouraged or lived out? The bible says we have the capacity to deceive ourselves, and we often do.
Non-Believers: See 1 John 4:9 God’s love to humanity is extended in finding us helpless as we are, but providing the way for us to be freed and given life eternally. See Luke 24:46-48. Anything or anyone who tells you not to repent keeps you from God’s love, and blocks the door to eternal life. They don’t speak for Christ, and they aren’t on your side. Don’t listen to those who have no weight or authority to their words. Listen to the love of God speaking to you.
Christians: First, be Bereans. (Acts 17:11) Study the scriptures to see what’s true. Second, let’s confess and turn away from our sins as well. We can’t preach repentance and freedom from sin if we are entangled in the very same things.
Another good night in the park last night. Here’s the outline from the study…
Finding God’s Will / Study 5 / Our Wills and God’s Will
Four Perspectives on the Connection
John 8:31-32 If you continue in my word, you’ll be my disciples, and you will know the truth…
Psalm 25:8-12 Fearing God gets you taught by God
Romans 1:9-12 We can pray for what we want as we seek to discern God’s will
God’s will doesn’t cancel out Paul’s will. Paul saw room in God’s will for what he wanted. Or, Paul saw that his will and God’s could work together. Once the destiny was decided, Paul had freedom to be Paul. Paul feels submitted to God’s will, but he doesn’t feel God’s will to be oppressive.
John 7:17 If you will to do God’s will, you will know.
- Jesus is teaching about our ability to know whether he is genuine, or a fake.
- He says the ability to know depends on whether or not someone wants to do God’s will.
- in other words…Our desires can determine our capacity for knowledge
- You can’t figure God out, or study his will, apart from wanting to do what he wants.
- So God is really there, and he is just who he is, apart from us. And he is personal. We must allow him to be himself, and we must want to be connected to him, in order to know things about him.
- …the same goes for knowing his will.
- We must refocus our quest onto knowing God, and what he wants….
“Fun Fact: Did you know that in Croatian culture, you give to others on your birthday?”
That’s how the Spector’s begin their latest blog post, chronicling their life as missionaries in Croatia. They continue:
“For example if you find yourself celebrating in a restaurant or a cafe with friends, you will be fully expected to pay for everyone. Or if someone happens to spontaneously stop by your house on your special day to wish you good tidings, there better be some cake in your fridge to serve them. Of course, you’ll end up receiving a few gifts yourself, such as chocolate, a book, homemade cookies or perhaps even a miniature vintage car, etc. These are just a few of the gifts we’ve accumulated from the two birthdays we’ve celebrated in Čakovec. Notice the amazing cultural emphasis on giving, rather than receiving. But, the purpose of this rather odd introduction is to portray the beauty of the culture in which we live. We dove headlong into studying this way of life, mindset, complex set of unspoken social rules which must be learned and must become a part of us if we desire to be used of the Lord in Croatia, and it doesn’t seem likely that we’ll ever emerge. Language and culture go hand in hand, and the deeper we go with one, the deeper we go with the other. We continue to meet with our language tutor twice a week, which is extremely helpful, but recently, we’ve found that being with people, practicing speaking, and listening to topics of conversation, have provided even greater lessons. Being with people as much as we possibly can and building wonderful, lifelong friendships is the current goal, and not a bad one in the least!”
If you haven’t checked out their work yet, see their blog at http://thespectors.wordpress.com/.
If you’ve never read A.W. Tozer’s book The Knowledge of the Holy, you really should. It’s one of the deepest (about) 100-page books you’ll ever pick up. In 23 short chapters (perfect for morning devotions) Tozer unpacks God’s attributes, to help us “think rightly” about God. I kept thinking about the first chapter when I was preparing for Monday night’s study. So I found it online (you can get it, and the whole book, for free, online here.) Enjoy…
Why We Must Think Rightly About God
What comes into our minds when we think about God is the most important thing about us.
The history of mankind will probably show that no people has ever risen above its religion, and man’s spiritual history will positively demonstrate that no religion has ever been greater than its idea of God. Worship is pure or base as the worshiper entertains high or low thoughts of God.
For this reason the gravest question before the Church is always God Himself, and the most portentous fact about any man is not what he at a given time may say or do, but what he in his deep heart conceives God to be like. We tend by a secret law of the soul to move toward our mental image of God. This is true not only of the individual Christian, but of the company of Christians that composes the Church. Always the most revealing thing about the Church is her idea of God, just as her most significant message is what she says about Him or leaves unsaid, for her silence is often more eloquent than her speech. She can never escape the self-disclosure of her witness concerning God.
Were we able to extract from any man a complete answer to the question, “What comes into your mind when you think about God?” we might predict with certainty the spiritual future of that man. Were we able to know exactly what our most influential religious leaders think of God today, we might be able with some precision to foretell where the Church will stand tomorrow. Without doubt, the mightiest thought the mind can entertain is the thought of God, and the weightiest word in any language is its word for God. Thought and speech are God’s gifts to creatures made in His image; these are intimately associated with Him and impossible apart from Him. It is highly significant that the first word was the Word: “And the Word was with God, and the Word was God.” We may speak because God spoke. In Him word and idea are indivisible.
That our idea of God corresponds as nearly as possible to the true being of God is of immense importance to us. Compared with our actual thoughts about Him, our creedal statements are of little consequence. Our real idea of God may lie buried under the rubbish of conventional religious notions and may require an intelligent and vigorous search before it is finally unearthed and exposed for what it is. Only after an ordeal of painful self-probing are we likely to discover what we actually believe about God. A right conception of God is basic not only to systematic theology but to practical Christian living as well. It is to worship what the foundation is to the temple; where it is inadequate or out of plumb the whole structure must sooner or later collapse. I believe there is scarcely an error in doctrine or a failure in applying Christian ethics that cannot be traced finally to imperfect and ignoble thoughts about God.
It is my opinion that the Christian conception of God current in these middle years of the twentieth century is so decadent as to be utterly beneath the dignity of the Most High God and actually to constitute for professed believers something amounting to a moral calamity.
All the problems of heaven and earth, though they were to confront us together and at once, would be nothing compared with the overwhelming problem of God: That He is; what He is like; and what we as moral beings must do about Him.
The man who comes to a right belief about God is relieved of ten thousand temporal problems, for he sees at once that these have to do with matters which at the most cannot concern him for very long; but even if the multiple burdens of time may be lifted from him, the one mighty single burden of eternity begins to press down upon him with a weight more crushing than all the woes of the world piled one upon another. That mighty burden is his obligation to God. It includes an instant and lifelong duty to love God with every power of mind and soul, to obey Him perfectly, and to worship Him acceptably. And when the man’s laboring conscience tells him that he has done none of these things, but has from childhood been guilty of foul revolt against the Majesty in the heavens, the inner pressure of self-accusation may become too heavy to bear.
The gospel can lift this destroying burden from the mind, give beauty for ashes, and the garment of praise for the spirit of heaviness. But unless the weight of the burden is felt the gospel can mean nothing to the man; and until he sees a vision of God high and lifted up, there will be no woe and no burden. Low views of God destroy the gospel for all who hold them.
Among the sins to which the human heart is prone, hardly any other is more hateful to God than idolatry, for idolatry is at bottom a libel on His character. The idolatrous heart assumes that God is other than He is – in itself a monstrous sin – and substitutes for the true God one made after its own likeness. Always this God will conform to the image of the one who created it and will be base or pure, cruel or kind, according to the moral state of the mind from which it emerges.
A god begotten in the shadows of a fallen heart will quite naturally be no true likeness of the true God. “Thou thoughtest,” said the Lord to the wicked man in the psalm, “that I was altogether such as one as thyself.” Surely this must be a serious affront to the Most High God before whom cherubim and seraphim continually do cry, “Holy, holy, holy, Lord God of Sabaoth.”
Let us beware lest we in our pride accept the erroneous notion that idolatry consists only in kneeling before visible objects of adoration, and that civilized peoples are therefore free from it. The essence of idolatry is the entertainment of thoughts about God that are unworthy of Him. It begins in the mind and may be present where no overt act of worship has taken place.
”When they knew God,” wrote Paul, “they glorified him not as God, neither were thankful; but became vain in their imaginations, and their foolish heart was darkened.” Then followed the worship of idols fashioned after the likeness of men and birds and beasts and creeping things. But this series of degrading acts began in the mind. Wrong ideas about God are not only the fountain from which the polluted waters of idolatry flow; they are themselves idolatrous. The idolater simply imagines things about God and acts as if they were true.
Perverted notions about God soon rot the religion in which they appear. The long career of Israel demonstrates this clearly enough, and the history of the Church confirms it. So necessary to the Church is a lofty concept of God that when that concept in any measure declines, the Church with her worship and her moral standards declines along with it.
The first step down for any church is taken when it surrenders its high opinion of God. Before the Christian Church goes into eclipse anywhere there must first be a corrupting of her simple basic theology. She simply gets a wrong answer to the question, “What is God like?” and goes on from there. Though she may continue to cling to a sound nominal creed, her practical working creed has become false. The masses of her adherents come to believe that God is different from what He actually is; and that is heresy of the most insidious and deadly kind.
The heaviest obligation lying upon the Christian Church today is to purify and elevate her concept of God until it is once more worthy of Him – and of her. In all her prayers and labors this should have first place. We do the greatest service to the next generation of Christians by passing on to them undimmed and undiminished that noble concept of God which we received from our Hebrew and Christian fathers of generations past. This will prove of greater value to them than anything that art or science can devise.
Last night we continued our study in finding God’s will for our lives…
Finding God’s Will / Study 5 / Knowing What God’s Like
Two examples of getting it wrong
1. “He’s just like us.”
- It is totally possible for us as humans to go on living, thinking God’s cool with us because He’s like us, and He’s not.
- Non-believers: this is clearly a major mistake. It’s basing your life on a fantasy.
- Believers: the danger here is that we’d be people who assume things about God, and therefore not be walking in God’s will, and live lives far below what He called us to.
- We must assume that we don’t start out thinking like God. He is different, and way higher than we are.
- Repentance is the first step towards beginning to get on God’s wavelength.
- Our main problem is not even that we aren’t smart enough, it’s that we’re morally bad.
- Non-believers: God calls you back to himself. In Jesus, he’s made a way for repentance.
- Believers: We must always check our thoughts against God’s word. It alone is effective.
2. The Hard Master
v.14-19 This is where we are in history: Jesus has come and gone, we have work to do, He gives us resources
v.20-23 There will be an accounting! Everything we’ve done with what He gives matters.
v.24 The Servant’s wrong view of the master:
- A hard man.” — i.e. “You’re a rough, cold, demanding master.”
- “Reaping where you have not sowed.” – i.e. “ you want to do no work and get things in return…you want us to do everything while you do nothing.”
- “I know” He thought he knew what the Master was like. Why? What evidence did he have?
v.25 Harmful outcomes and wrong decisions based on wrong thinking:
- “I was afraid.” Why? Maybe because he only got one? And he had wrong views of Master… So his feelings about God were based on a wrong picture of God. They weren’t reliable.
- “I hid your talent” His wrong thoughts led to wrong feelings which led to wrong decisions. (which didn’t even make sense in light of what he thought he knew…)
The Point of Parable: God is not hard, but generous. He gives everything and then rewards us. (See Luke 12:29-37 This is who God is…) To think otherwise: is unbelief; will cause your life to be pointless.
How to think rightly about God: Embark on the lifelong journey of letting Him describe Himself to you, by giving yourself to know His word, by living a life of persevering obedience to Him, and by trusting what He says even over your own thoughts. Develop a mental reflex of finding out, understanding, remembering, and believing God’s thoughts. Get to know God. Then we will be able to understand what He wants, because we actually know Him. Make your decisions based on true knowledge of God.