Dear Children

Letters From A Father's Heart

Archive for the month “May, 2015”

Realities That Must Be Accepted To Live A Life At Peace With Reality*+

Dear children,

There is a popular and simple little prayer you will see framed on people’s walls and in various Hallmark cards and the like.  It’s simple, it’s true, and I think it’s worth considering.  It is called the Serenity Prayer, and it goes something like this:

God grant me the serenity to accept the things I cannot change;

courage to change the things I can;

and wisdom to know the difference.

In this letter I want to talk about the first and last line in this prayer, except that I want to add a caveat.  We can’t “accept” what we can’t change until we “realize” what is, and we can’t realize what is unless we are living in reality.  And we must first live in reality if we are to have any hope of living serenely.  And while you will find that living serenely before others is a fairly easy thing to do, living serenely in the deep-down self is another story altogether.  That indeed is the center of most of our battles.  And to fight the good fight there, we must not waste our time fighting the unchangeable outside realities that govern our existence.  In this way scripture likens our lives to a race, or a boxing match.  (1 Cor 9, Heb, 12)  In 1st Corinthians we read:

Do you not know that those who run in a race all run, but only one receives the prize? Run in such a way that you may win. Everyone who competes in the games exercises self-control in all things. They then do it to receive a perishable wreath, but we an imperishable. Therefore I run in such a way, as not without aim; I box in such a way, as not beating the air; but I discipline my body and make it my slave, so that, after I have preached to others, I myself will not be disqualified. (1 Cor 9:24-27)

If we do not live in reality we are doomed to boxing the air; expending ourselves in our war with God by kicking against His ordained reality.  Yes, you are to fight.  But you are to fight the good fight.  And to fight the good fight you need a place to stand, a foundation, a starting point if you will.  You will need in fact to be living in reality and not a self-created fairy-land.  So here are some numerated realities upon which it is safe to stand so that your stand may be valiant.  They are elementary, yes, but unless they are established first in your heart, the rest fall down:

Reality number 1, God exists 

There is a God.  There is a cause behind your existence, a creator.  There is much about His character that is acceptable to man, but there is also much that is not. Man is, by his nature, a religious being.  Even in a our secular society where the non-existence of God is preached day and night, very few people believe that there actually is no God.  They know deep down inside that there is.  You will notice that the modern outspoken atheist has actually evolved.  He used to be an “a”-theists–with “a” meaning “not”.  But he has become the “anti”-theists.  There is a big difference between the two.  The anti-theist is not content to simply believe that there is no God.  No, he must war against the God that he believes is not, and in so doing has become a good example of “beating against the air”.  The fact is that God does exist.  This must be our starting point.  It is a reality we must accept.  It cannot be changed.

Reality number 2, The God that exists commands

Law is reality.  It can either be loved or hated but it still is.  But law is also misunderstood.  No one, for example, would desire to live in a society in which nothing is against the law.  That would be chaos.  Furthermore, the very existence of good depends on law, as does evil.  If we deny the existence of law we deny the existence of both good and evil.  But the existence of law raises questions that you, my dear children, ought to spend a little time during your short lives contemplating, lest you end up fighting against things that you cannot change.  The first questions you must answer concerns the law’s author.  Is it man, or is it God?  Reality dictates that how a person answers these questions will determine whether or not that person can in fact live in reality.  While man is a religious being, he is also a rebellious being.  His very nature desires to escape God’s sovereignty and seek his own.  He wants to determine for himself what is good and evil.  But if mortal man appoints himself as the author of law, then good and evil would necessarily have to be capricious.  Law would have to be dependent on the whims of man in a given age, which is to say that good and evil would still ultimately be non-existent. History bears this out. The very righteousness you fight for today may well be deemed by future generations to be “evil”.  That, dear children, would be beating against the air.  It is running without aim.  No, the reality is that God commands His creation.  This is a reality we must accept.  It cannot be changed.

Reality number 3, The God that exists is not silent

Suppose that I give you a multiple choice test.  The only catch is that there is nothing written next to  “A”, “B”, “C” and “D”.   You are left to guess the right answers.  As you can see, this would be a test impossible to pass.  It would be absurd.  But if God were silent, such a test would be the reality of your existence.  We, as corruptible man, would be left to ourselves to figure it out with no way of knowing, even when and if we did get it right.  But that is not reality.  God is not this way.  He provides the questions and the answers, and depending on where we put our faith, there is either no way we can pass, or no way we can fail.

The study of the Bible is a fascinating study in and of itself, even if we never opened the book.  It is like no other book in the history of man.  What other book has been so preserved, despised, hated, assaulted, suppressed, fought over, died for, studied, memorized, ridiculed, impugned, or loved for thousands of years?  The Bible is in a class all its own in every way imaginable, as we would expect the very Word of God would be.  If we reject God’s word we must also reject other realities.  We would be left in the dark concerning reality number one, for even if we acknowledged that there is a God and creator, we cannot know Him.  We would also be blind when it comes to reality number two?  We could not know what God commands.  For all practical purposes God might just as well not exist or command.  This is the reason that so many who believe that there is a God have everything in common with atheists and almost nothing in common with Christianity.  They have rejected God’s Word.  They are left with guessing at the right answers to life’s most probing questions, the answers to which are required for a life lived in reality.  To reject God’s word is to run the race without aim; it is boxing the air.  But the reality is that God is not silent.  He has spoken.  This is a reality we must accept.  It cannot be changed.

Reality number 4, Man is not “basically good”

Years ago, while watching the evening news, I saw something that I’ll never forget.  A woman in a courtroom had just received a verdict for something she’d been accused of concerning her children.  I can’t remember what exactly it was, only that is was horrible.  But what struck me was her outburst in response to her conviction.  As they were taking her out of the courtroom she was in tears crying out over and over, as if defending herself against the real charge, “I am not a bad person, I am not a bad person!”  Had she been living in reality it would have already been settled in her heart and mind that not only was she not a good person, the fact that she wasn’t was probably one of the few things that she had in common with every other person in the room.  That word “good”, in her judgement of self, appealed to a standard.  This is true for all of us.  Without first accepting that our judgments demand a basis, it is quite impossible for us to reside in the land of reality.  This is certainly true if we are making moral judgements, and especially true if we are making them about ourselves.

When we are exploring the condition of man, you see, we are not so much attempting to answer the question, “Is man basically good?” as we are attempting to define an all too common word in the English language.  Man is by his nature quick to run to his own defense when his basic goodness is questioned.  He will in general declare it as a self-evident truth in the same way the convicted woman did when she insisted that she was, in spite of and after all the evidence to the contrary, a good person.

When we hear someone assume man’s goodness, or appeal to it in defense of a popular sin, we can know that their definition of “good” was based loosely on a bunch of assumptions that are as common as the word itself.  But don’t you make those assumptions.  Know that the word always necessarily refers to a standard.  So to answer the question concerning our goodness, we must first seek the standard to which the word refers.  The Bible presents us with a standard, the very standard as it turns out that God will measure us by, and so therefore the same standard by which we ought to measure ourselves by while we can.  And that standard is nothing less than perfection. Such a harsh reality ought to drive us right away to the cross of Jesus where we praise and worship Him for taking our place on the cross.

If you will take these four truths to heart as a starting point for your contemplation, they will help you to make peace with the reality you’re certainly facing. They will help you to avoid beating the air, and running without aim. They will get you started in establishing your feet on solid ground.

 

I pray that you would never lose sight of these few of the many realities that you must accept and which you cannot change, that you would grow in righteousness, and be saved, and that your mind would be renewed day by day.  These are starting points; a place to begin.  You need to know that you are living in a society that every day ventures further from reality, so it is of the utmost importance that, as you go out into this evil world,  you would not only have a place to stand, but that you are able to stand, and after you have done all, to stand.

Your father

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There’s No Such Thing As Karma, But You Can Thank God For Grace*+

Dear children,

You will discover, if you are paying much attention, that most people’s morality is based on personal preferences.  If I prefer that this thing I like to do is not immoral, then it is not immoral… for me… or so the thinking goes.   There is a name for this mindset.  It’s called “relativism”.  Good and evil are seen as relative to the individual.  So you will hear it said that what is moral for one person may not be moral for another, and vice versa.  Relativism, therefore, does two things for man.  First, it works to clear his conscience concerning his sin.  Second, it allows him to judge harshly anyone who would dare look at his sin in light of absolutes.  But in order to actually live this way violence must be done to rational thought.  We can’t on the one band say morality is relative to the individual, and then, on the other hand, hold the individual who breaks into our house and steals our TV accountable to our own personal standards. When we are the victims of evil our relativism collapses.  Reality collides with us because morality is not personal, it is absolute.  But few people think that deeply about their worldviews.  I pray that you, dear children, would be more attentive to how you order your lives than that.  There is a law, “do not steal”, and there is a law-giver who commands us not to do it.

I say all of this as a foundation from which to approach the foolishness of a word that has become popular in our modern vernacular: “Karma”.  Karma is a term with its roots in Eastern religions.  It is based on reincarnation. The thinking goes something like this:  Suppose that you are a wealthy Hindu living in India and you notice that across town there are many horribly poor people.  Karma allows you to ignore their plight by telling yourself that they are simply working off “Karma”. They are being punished for the bad deeds in a previous life.  You, even though you have no recollection of your own deeds prior to your birth, now have a good life because of those supposed deeds.  That is the origins of Karma anyway… somewhat.

But when you encounter the word it will be a westernized version of it.  When you hear someone attribute some poor soul’s misfortune to Karma, it will generally be considered payback for something they did in this life.  So if I steal your car, and I am maimed in a bad wreck while driving it to my house, someone might simply utter the word “Karma” to point out that I got what I deserved.  But to attribute a thing to Karma, we need to ask ourselves some questions.  First, who is administering this Karma?  Is it a personal being?  A force?  A deity?  And if we do live under the threat of payback from this entity, then where do we go to learn what is absolutely right and wrong so that we might escape its wrath?

You can see, I hope, the inconsistencies in the assumptions behind this word.  First, it assumes absolutes, which is to say that it assumes that there is ultimate good and evil that apply to all people in all times, and which must be adhered to in order to escape bad things happening to us in return for our evil.  There also must be an assumption of self-righteousness. By attributing a misfortune to Karma a question ought to be raised. Who among the living has lived perfectly enough to not deserve a little Karma?  Can anyone believe, if something bad happens to them, that there is not one person out there somewhere in a position to gloat and attribute that misfortune to “Karma”?  Has anyone lived that righteously?  I sure haven’t.  I shudder to think.  And you can be sure that no one else has either.

But listen to me children.  There is a sense in which our westernized idea of “Karma” has merit.  The Bible says that all men have sinned and fallen short of the glory of God.  This means that we live in a world that is sinful, and with the fall of man in the Garden, it was not only sin that entered the world, bad things entered the world, lots of bad things.  We have sickness, death, violence, destruction and so on, all because of man’s sinful nature.  But we are not left to guess what we must do to escape God’s wrath.  It’s quite simple really.  It’s called the Gospel, the good news.

Karma is a concoction of man who sees himself as righteous and the final arbiter of good and evil.  And know this: man never sees his own sin in the same light that he sees the sins of others.  That is true for you too children, and you need to be aware of it when grace and forgiveness are in order in response to an offense.  But while man tends to give himself a pass for his own evil, he is quick to see Karma as payback for others.  But God is different.  Jesus had this to say about our situation:

For God did not send his Son into the world to condemn the world, but in order that the world might be saved through him. Whoever believes in him is not condemned, but whoever does not believe is condemned already, because he has not believed in the name of the only Son of God. And this is the judgment: the light has come into the world, and people loved the darkness rather than the light because their works were evil.  For everyone who does wicked things hates the light and does not come to the light, lest his works should be exposed. (John 3:18-20)

Jesus says that we are all deserving of “Karma”.  He goes on to say that we can expect something much worse.  He says in fact that we are all condemned.  A good analogy of His point in this passage is that no one goes to a prison to find people to put into prison.  They are already there!  He makes the point that, in the same way, He did not come to condemn.  We are already condemned.  No, He came to set men free from prison, even though we deserve to be there.  That, my children, is grace, not Karma.  Karma is the opposite.  It gloats with a sense of self-righteousness. But those who gloat easily overlook the reasons they themselves deserve Karma, which could, if it were real, justly punish any of us at anytime.

So, in conclusion, let me recap.  The idea of Karma depends on law.  Law depends on a law-giver.  Punishment depends on a punisher.  Your culture rejects both the law and the law-giver, so it embraces disharmony of thought when it says,  A) that there is no law or law-giver and B) Karma is punishment by some entity for breaking law.  But the Bible says that there is both, law and law-giver.  It also says that all deserve punishment for breaking the law, every last one.  But it shows us the way to be saved from the punishment that the law-giver requires.  It shows us grace.  It gives us good news!  And it is Good News indeed!

Dear children, I would that you think about things.  Don’t buy into the silly dissonant notions that this sinful culture throws around thoughtlessly.  I pray that god would give you the blessing of discernment, so that you may be able to distinguish between truth and falsehood, folly and a sound mind.

Your father

Living In Reality*+

Dear children,

Every now and then you will hear someone say that so and so has lost touch with reality, or some such thing. Or you may hear of others yet who even question the existence of reality… whatever that means. So I think the topic of reality is worth thinking about.  It might seem like a dumb question at first, but it isn’t really.  In fact, it’s a question you should be asking yourself regularly.  So, to begin, let’s look at the definition of the word.  It is  “The state of things as they actually exist”.  My own one-word definition is, “truth.”  And as you will learn in this life dear children, truth can, at times, be quite evasive.

As I’ve discussed before in these letters, we are living in two different worlds at the same time.  There is the natural world and the spiritual world.  So granted, if we are defining reality in terms of this material world only, then the question of reality might rightly be judged as a dumb one.  Not many people question the existence of physical things.

However, we should remember that some things are abstract, that is to say that they’re neither physical or spiritual.  A man can be living with his wife, for example, and have no idea that she is secretly planning to divorce him in a year.  He may be making plans for his family’s future, but unfortunately, he’s not living in reality. He is, in fact, ignorant of reality and is on a collision course with it.  So let us first conclude that one does not need to acknowledge the existence of a spiritual world to understand that reality extends beyond physical things.  Knowledge of the actual reality is the first challenge, even for the atheist, for keeping our feet firmly planted.

Another barrier to grasping reality is change.  As time moves along things seem to be in a constant state of flux.  Standards appear to morph over time.  So, since we all experience this change, especially in social mores, you can see how we could base reality on the changes we experience.  It has become normal and acceptable, for example, that it is good for a woman to have her unborn child put to death because she doesn’t want it. That is what we experience, and so it is normal, and so it is reality, and so it is moral.

Increasingly, the understanding reality as a mixed bag of propositions that contradict each other is what defines the culture in which you live. The proposition that it is absolutely true that man can’t know absolute truth is self defeating. Such proclaims a reality while at the same time denying reality. A culture based on this kind of thinking, and yours is, is in the process of losing touch with reality.  So be warned, to buy into the cultural mindset of “normal” is to exit reality.  But we will discover that reality is not simply wished away.  It has a way of imposing itself on those who would deny it.

As older generations die, with them die an old and more realistic way of seeing this world.  As the offspring of every following generation enters society they will not only be the product of 12 to 16 years of the Secular Humanist education, they will also increasingly be the product of parents who are themselves products of Secular Humanist education.  The world you are living in, therefore, is in the midst of a great shift.  The mindset that there is no truth will not only be prevalent in your world, it will become even more prevalent in the world that is coming.  You can expect, therefore, that anyone who holds that absolute truth does exist will be seen as abnormal, and even immoral.  This reality will present you with some challenges that are, perhaps, unique to your time.  You must not only hold fast to the truth that there is truth, you must also hold fast to the truth.

Indeed, the belief that there is truth, is the starting point.  You will discover that there is another question, which is epistemological in its nature, and which must be considered if you will have any hope of living in reality.  That question is, “Can truth be known?”  We can believe all day long that truth exists, but if we are also convinced that truth cannot be known, its existence makes little difference.  So, let me emphatically answer that question for you: Yes! Truth can be known!  There is a higher order.  Reality exists, and you can know it.

It is a stubborn thing, reality.  Man cannot create or rearrange it to suit his preferences or pleasures.  You will either live in reality, or you will be on a collision course with it.  If I believe that I can jump off a cliff and not get hurt, the moment I jump I will have set an appointment with reality, no matter how much I deny its existence on the way down.  In the same way, if I set sail on the sea of life in a ship constructed on the basis that truth can’t be known, I will have also set an appointment with reality.  Unfortunately for me however, since I deny that I can know truth, I won’t even realize that it was my own faulty compass that brought my life smashing against the rocky shores of reality. But you don’t have to live this way.

Jesus told us that He was the way, the truth and the life.  There are reasonable and rational reasons to believe that He was indeed all of these, and much more.  So, with this in mind, let us look to His words:

Everyone then who hears these words of mine and does them will be like a wise man who built his house on the rock. And the rain fell, and the floods came, and the winds blew and beat on that house, but it did not fall, because it had been founded on the rock. And everyone who hears these words of mine and does not do them will be like a foolish man who built his house on the sand. And the rain fell, and the floods came, and the winds blew and beat against that house, and it fell, and great was the fall of it. (Matt 7:24-27)

To be sure, “stuff does happen”.  The storms were a reality for both of these builders.  They will also be the reality in your life. The only real question is, will your house still be standing when it’s over?  Will your “reality” going into the storm be the same as your “reality” coming out?  Are the particulars of  your mindset, your worldview and your reality strong enough to withstand the winds of reality?  I pray that they are.

In closing, let me simply give you a few pointers to help you live in reality.

First, be open to the fact that you will have blind spots.  In the same way that you can see things in the lives of others that they can’t, they can see things in your life that you can’t.  If they love you, they will won’t to help you.  Don’t dismiss their concerns about you when they express them.  Their love for you is trying to move you toward reality.  God made us to be relational, and part of relationship is just this sort of “building each other up”.  So be approachable.  The truth often hurts and so is often difficult to hear from a friend.  Love those who love you you enough to hurt you in order to make you better.

Second, renew your mind.  Paul admonishes us to not conform to this world, which is not according to reality, but to be transformed by the renewing of our minds.  (Rom 12:2)  We renew our mind by programming it to think Biblically, and we program it to think Biblically by reading the Bible and asking God to teach us.  As our minds are renewed reality becomes increasingly clear.  We can discern the rocky shores long before we can see them.

Third, resolve inconsistencies.  Here are four ways to be consistent in your life and thinking.

  1. Live a life that is consistent with scripture.  God speaks to us through His Word.  Ask for God’s help that you may do this.  Remember that you are not earning your salvation, but are simply living it out.
  2. Avoid holding to internal inconsistencies.  We can’t, on the one hand for example, claim that God’s law no longer applies and then, on the other hand, say it’s wrong when someone steals our wallet.  That would be inconsistent and so therefore unrealistic.  Be aware that some internally inconsistent ideas are more difficult to resolve than they may at first appear.  That’s Ok.  Wrestle with them.
  3. Learn history, and especially the history of God’s Church, then think consistently with that history.  Don’t get sucked into “normal”.  God did not change his mind about things according to how they fit with an era or culture.  Still, you will find that consistency with historic views will be inconsistent with contemporary views.  Be aware also that old does not mean true.  Every age and place is impacted by the winds of that particular culture and place, so always start with scripture.  Look for consistencies throughout the history of Christianity, then try to remain consistent with those things.  God leads and directs His Church.  Be careful of “new-found” thinking or revelation.  You, right now, are living in a great falling away from the Church in America, a great apostasy.  The same denominations that are now confused about sins that are popular with culture, were the first ones to embrace other “new ideas” a hundred or so years ago.  Think beyond your own times.
  4. Understand your words.  Think about what they mean when you hear them, or speak them, but more importantly when you think them. Many times inconsistencies are present without our even realizing it simply because of the way we define words.  This is most evident in how we understand the word “love”, as well as what we expect from those who love us, and how we interact with those we love.  We can know that we are not living in reality when the meanings of our words morph, but our use of them does not.

I pray that you would live your lives in the city of reality.  I pray that you would be ever growing in the truth and knowledge of Jesus Christ, as the deceptions of this world grow ever darker.  It will be a battle for you, but it will be a battle that you, and your mother and I,  can fight shoulder to shoulder.

Your father

Legalism, God’s Law, And Confusion**

Dear children,

I do so desire that confusion not plague your lives in Christ.  And one thing that seems to have wrought a fair amount of confusion in this current age is a misunderstanding of legalism.  The confusion revolving around legalism is twofold and  involves both an increasingly doctrine-adverse Church and a culture that is becoming thoroughly intolerant of moral absolutes.  Each seems to feed off the other as God’s law becomes ever increasingly hated in the culture and shunned within church congregations and among their leaders under the guise of avoiding legalism.  And while legalism is a bad thing, the definition of it is being turned on its head with the effect of more and more people in and out of the Church living according to what is right in their own eyes.  To point to God’s Word and suggest that God has a law designed to restrain evil is now met with charges of legalism.  But it’s not legalism.  God has already determined what is right and wrong, so we don’t get to now change that.  Also, appealing to God’s law to determine right from wrong, and legalism are two different things.

So first let us start with my first premise by pointing to a fundamental doctrine.  Good doctrine, by the way, helps us to steer clear of error and confusion so it’s always a good starting point when confronting confusion.  So, in order to work through reconciling “God’s law” with “God’s grace” let us start with the doctrine of “God’s sovereignty” which teaches that there is absolutely nothing that man can do to save himself.  Legalism, on the other hand says that there is not only something that man can do, but there is something he must do, to be saved.  But the Bible does not teach that no more than it teaches that grace is a licence to abandon God’s law.  The doctrine of God’s sovereignty teaches that our salvation is totally God’s doing.   Paul gave us the reason for this.  It was so that “no man may boast”.

So to help us think through this let us ponder a little question.  “Why should God let you into heaven when you die”?  The answer to that question cannot use the word “I”, not even once, because to use the word “I” means that you did something.  And if you did something, even a tiny little itty bitty thing, then you have reason to boast before your fellow man and before God, and God will not have that.  If the evangelist knocks on your door, for example, and presents the Gospel to you, and you understand it and repent, and then he goes to your neighbor’s house and presents him with the same message, and he rejects it, what is the difference between you and your neighbor?  Were you smarter than him?  Wiser?  More open-minded?  If so, you have a reason to boast.  But scripture is clear that no man has reason to boast. This truth is our starting point for everything. Our salvation is a work of God, begun while we were still living in rebellion.

Secondly, it only stands to reason that if there was anything at all, no matter how small, that you could do to receive the Gospel, then there is also something that you could do to lose the Gospel. Again, not possible. It is by God’s will that you are saved, and not by your own will, not even a molecule-sized piece of it.  So if there is nothing you could have done to gain your salvation, then there is no law that you could break once you’re saved to lose your salvation. So three things to consider here: 1) To earn your salvation through your own works is legalism. 2) To keep your salvation through obeying God’s law is also legalism. 3) God’s law still exists.

Here, however, is where it gets missed. Just because our obedience to the law does not save us, that does not mean we are free to not be obedient to the law. Even though we know that no righteousness on our part can earn us salvation, it’s still a good thing to desire to live righteously, and the Bible teaches as much. And to desire to live righteously requires a desire to know what righteousness is. That knowledge comes from God’s law, without which righteousness would become subjective. It would simply mean doing what is right in your own eyes. We are experiencing that all around in this age. Keep in mind also that any righteousness we attain comes from the indwelling Spirit of Christ, which is a free gift from God. It is not you, but Christ in you. We can thank God for that, and indeed thankfulness and praise is the only appropriate response.

You need to make peace with the fact that you will never keep the law. It can no more be done than being the perfect person. But the desire to be good is not thwarted by our failures, nor does it change the fact that living righteously is a good thing.

I love you and I am praying that you will continue to fix your eyes on Jesus, casting off every sin that entangles you, and running with perseverance the race before you.

Your father

Start With God, Work To Man, Not The Other Way Around *

Dear children,

I’m sure you will remember a common question that I’ve asked you, and the answer that I’ve taught you to give in response to it:  “Are you smart/fast/handsome/pretty?”, and so on.  I’ve taught you to answer, “Compared to who?”  There is a reason for this silliness.  Indeed such questions demand a reference point. All of us are better than some in a given field and at the same time worse than others. We tend to use ourselves, therefore, as a reference point to measure others in their abilities. This is all well and good, but the problem is that we also tend to measure our righteousness in the same way. Humans tend to compare themselves with people better off when they’re counting their blessings, and at the same time compare themselves to people who they perceive worse than them when measuring their own righteousness. It is my hope that you would always realize the need of a reference point outside of yourself for making determinations about yourself, especially when it comes to how good of a human being your are.  In other words, I want you to try to think objectively, and not subjectively.

Objective thinking will be an indispensable concept for you to grasp as you form the lense through which you will ultimately see and interpret your world.  If you become subjective you must put yourself at the center of the universe and be the measure of all things.  But to think objectively you must look for a higher standard, a standard outside of yourself, and a standard that has proven itself by withstanding the test of time and assault.  That standard is your very creator, God.  He has given it to us though His Word, the Bible.  So, as we interpret our world, and our place in it, we must begin with God and not Man. So here are two examples of starting with man.  One was written by what appears to be a fine young Christian man.  And the other example is from a God hating atheist.

The first I found in an article that was addressing an often quoted scripture,  Isaiah 64:6., which says: “We all have become like one who is unclean, and all our righteous deeds are like a polluted garment.”  The writer wanted to make the case that not all of our righteous deeds really are as “filthy rags”.  In other words, he is asking a very old question. Did God really mean this? He does a good job of appealing to the context of the passage and to good Bible believing theologians.  Whether or not his claim has merit is not my point in this letter.  What is my point is that he uses one argument that starts with man and then works to God.  Here is an excerpt:

“What father do you know looks to his children and says, “Your works are worthless, and they are nothing but complete trash in my eyes?” Hopefully none. Or maybe some earthly fathers are like that, but our heavenly Father isn’t one of them. “

He is correct.  I do not know of a father who would do such a thing.  And that’s the reason, as it turns out, that this argument has such appeal.  It has a good feeling to it.  But the argument starts with man, and then attempts to work its way to God, and that is a mistake that I hope you will avoid, and here’s why.  While I don’t know a father who would do such a thing, I do know that all fathers are men.  And in being men I know that they have sinned horribly.  If they are true Christians then it is safe to say that their minds are being renewed.  But it is not safe to say that their minds have become renewed.  Their view of perfection and righteousness is still tainted.  The bottom line is that they are in no position to say whether anyone’s righteousness is actually righteous or not.  So do we really want to look at what an earthly father would do and then impose that standard on God? Of course not.  Better to start with God, who is holy, righteous, perfect, and oh, by the way, sinless, then work our way to man, who is corrupt and fallen in his nature. God’s holiness and righteousness is the objective standard, and we have all fallen short of that standard.

The second example is from a video which attempts to challenge the Biblical concept of eternal punishment of mankind for the sins of Adam, as well as Jesus’ payment for those sins on the cross.  It does so in the context of a make-believe family of five.  The story centers around the youngest brother.  He lives in fear of the horrible punishment he’s going to receive because his older sister disobeyed her parents before he was even born.  She had eaten some chocolate that she was forbidden to eat.  The video goes on to talk about a third brother whom the parents punished horribly because of the sister’s disobedience.  In short, the video presents a caricature of the Gospel message, and then it attempts to refute that messagel by appealing to man’s sensibilities.  The narrator asks, “Can you imagine if this story was true?  Wouldn’t the parents be labeled as psychopathic and be locked away somewhere for child abuse?”

Can you see it?  He is appealing to what man would do, and then he is judging God by those standards.  But what if he were to start with God? What if he started with the fact that God is holy, righteous, perfect and just? All of a sudden disobeying God is not a small thing but a very large thing.  Add to this that, because of Adam’s sin, it is the very nature of man to rebel against God, to actually be at war with God, and to hate God.  When we see things the way they really are, the innocence of man sinks into an ocean of sin.

But let’s continue our analysis.  Imagine that God still loves His creation anyway, and wants to save some of those who hate Him, and who are at war with Him.  So He uses a means that allows Himself to remain righteous and just while still foregoing the punishment of those who hate Him and who are at that very moment in rebellion against Him.  So He he pours out His justice on His Son, even while the recipients of God’s grace are still warring against Him so that He can make peace with them.  Can you see how that is starting with God?

Now let us continue as we work our way to man.  We do this by attempting to see things from God’s perspective.  Suppose therefore that you are surrounded by people who hate you with a passion, and who want you dead.   Now suppose that you could kill all of them in a flash, but instead you loved some of them in spite of their hatred of you.  And suppose also that to simply forgive them would be unjust and therefore wrong, and so therefore against your nature.  But suppose that your love was so great that you decided to punish your own son, who had never broken even one of your laws, and who loved you more than any of those people out there could even imagine, so that you could forgive them and call them into your own love and protection.  This is more like the real Gospel.  And think about it, would not those on the outside then also hate those whom you had brought in to be with you?  Would not those on the outside call you insane?  Yes, they would.  But that’s just it, if you are in Christ, God’s love for you is rooted in His love for His Son.  It actually is an insane love.

So, dear children, it is my desire for you that you would pick up on it immediately when man makes appeals to what man would do to determine what God would do.  It is better to understand the attributes of your Father in Heaven, who He is, and what He’s like, and start there, then look at man in light of those realities.  And I pray you would do just that.  I pray that God would give you the discernment to differentiate between man’s vain wisdom and the God’s truth.

Your father

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