The answer to a lie

truth
In “Mere Christianity”, C.S. Lewis takes us to the Garden of Eden and the place in history where mankind fell from God’s grace. It was at this point where, as the Genesis 3 narrative goes, the Serpent (Satan) enters the scene and delivers the great lie. As Lewis explains, “What Satan put into the heads of our remote ancestors was the idea that they could ‘be like gods’ – could set up on their own as if they had created themselves – be their own masters – invent some sort of happiness for themselves outside God, apart from God.” In summary it was a belief that God wasn’t good enough (even though good is derivative of His name), and that God could not be trusted to determine what was good for them. The Hebrew word for God in Genesis 1 is Elohim which describes Him as the Creator and Judge of all things. In fact, this name makes perfect sense as we read the rhythmic words in Genesis 1 at the end of each creation day, “and God saw that it was good”. In other words, God judged His creation to be good. Later, in Genesis 2, God even judges what is “not good” – the fact that man is alone – and this results in the creation of woman. Subsequently, he joins them in holy matrimony and sanctions the first marriage, and in doing so, demonstrates what he judges to be good.

Defamation to Destruction

Essentially, Satan defamed the very name of God – Elohim – the creator and judge of all – and portrayed God as incompetent in determining what is good for his creation. (I believe this is why the Bible puts great emphasis on the name of the Lord.) And “Out of that hopeless attempt (to be god), Lewis continues, “has come nearly all that we call human history- money, poverty, ambition, war, prostitution, classes, empires, slavery -the long terrible story of man trying to find something other than God which will make him happy.”

God had instructed Adam and Eve not to eat of the tree of the knowledge of good and evil and it was this simple command they failed to obey because they believed the lie. When we examine their disobedience, there is a human tendency to become pragmatic here. We might be tempted to think that the tree in the “midst of the garden” was inherently dangerous – that it had some sort of magical powers -and that God was issuing a warning against it. We should resist this temptation in order to see what’s happening here. God had put the first humans to the test by allowing the Serpent to tempt them, but He wasn’t testing their ability to obey, He was testing their belief! They heard the lie, believed it, and disobeyed and this cycle has continued “ad nauseam” throughout human history. Today we still listen to the Serpent’s two-lies-in-one solution for a God who doesn’t know what’s good for his creation, is for us to manufacture our own happiness by enticing us to focus on our inherent goodness. This futile endeavor began as a bite of fruit, but it is far more complex now. This self-help is played out over and over in every aspect. Rather than believe what God said about the goodness of his creation and how he designed it to function, we have believed we are good on our own and we know best about how things should work. James 1:14-15 describes this cycle in this way. “But each person is tempted when he is lured and enticed by his own desire. Then desire when it has conceived gives birth to sin, and sin when it is fully grown brings forth death.” In short, we follow our desires – what appears to us as “good” – instead of believing what God has created and judged to be good. When James wrote this, he might well have been thinking about Genesis 3:6 “So when the woman saw that the tree was good for food, and that it was a delight to the eyes, and that the tree was to be desired to make one wise, she took of its fruit and ate, and she also gave some to her husband who was with her, and he ate.” The Genesis 3 narrative continues on to show how Eve trusted her own desires above God’s Word which in turn led to the sin resulting in death not only for her, but for all of mankind. You can see this played out not only throughout all of scripture, but in any history textbook, newspaper, or news website. We see the sins (attempts at securing our own happiness),and we could never name them all here. In reality, every sin is symptomatic of the sin-disease which is at its root is unbelief in the very Name of God/His goodness. There are many band-aids for the wounds in our society such as self-help, self-esteem, increased education, increased legislation, better ideals, or better politicians. But the cure is not born of our ingenuity. The answer comes from outside of our depraved self-righteous wills. It stands to reason that if our problems began with a lie about God, the only solution is to turn back the lie with the truth.

The Answer

God, our perfect all-knowing, all-powerful, creator and judge of all good things condescended from lofty heights of unfathomable beauty to become one of us. He was born in a barn with dirty animals, lived a sinless life obedient to the Father to the point of death. There is no other image which better refutes the lie of the Serpent than that of a crucified Elohim. When the Christ is seen hanging from a Roman crucifix, blood flowing from his sinless body, and the pure injustice of it all causes the Father to turn his back from the spectacle, it’s the greatest statement of finality and truth the world has ever witnessed. This Answer was here before we dared pose the question. We are here because of it and designed to live by it. Believing anything else will not bring happiness. It can only lead us to ruin. Lewis says, “Now God designed the human machine to run on Himself. He Himself is the fuel our spirits were designed to burn, or the food our spirits were designed to feed on. There is no other. That is why it is just no good asking God to make us happy in our own way. God cannot give us a happiness and peace apart from Himself, because it it not there. There is no such thing.”

That’s an answer we can all live by.

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The answer to a lie

truthIn “Mere Christianity”, C.S. Lewis takes us to the Garden of Eden and the place in history where mankind fell from God’s grace. It was at this point where, as the Genesis 3 narrative goes, the Serpent (Satan) enters the scene and delivers the great lie. As Lewis explains, “What Satan put into the heads of our remote ancestors was the idea that they could ‘be like gods’ – could set up on their own as if they had created themselves – be their own masters – invent some sort of happiness for themselves outside God, apart from God.” In summary it was a belief that God wasn’t good enough (even though good is derivative of His name), and that God could not be trusted to determine what was good for them. The Hebrew word for God in Genesis 1 is Elohim which describes Him as the Creator and Judge of all things. In fact, this name makes perfect sense as we read the rhythmic words in Genesis 1 at the end of each creation day, “and God saw that it was good”. In other words, God judged His creation to be good. Later, in Genesis 2, God even judges what is “not good” – the fact that man is alone – and this results in the creation of woman. Subsequently, he joins them in holy matrimony and sanctions the first marriage, and in doing so, demonstrates what he judges to be good.

Defamation to Destruction

Essentially, Satan defamed the very name of God – Elohim – the creator and judge of all – and portrayed God as incompetent in determining what is good for his creation. (I believe this is why the Bible puts great emphasis on the name of the Lord.) And “Out of that hopeless attempt (to be god), Lewis continues, “has come nearly all that we call human history- money, poverty, ambition, war, prostitution, classes, empires, slavery -the long terrible story of man trying to find something other than God which will make him happy.”

God had instructed Adam and Eve not to eat of the tree of the knowledge of good and evil and it was this simple command they failed to obey because they believed the lie. When we examine their disobedience, there is a human tendency to become pragmatic here. We might be tempted to think that the tree in the “midst of the garden” was inherently dangerous – that it had some sort of magical powers -and that God was issuing a warning against it. We should resist this temptation in order to see what’s happening here. God had put the first humans to the test by allowing the Serpent to tempt them, but He wasn’t testing their ability to obey, He was testing their belief! They heard the lie, believed it, and disobeyed and this cycle has continued “ad nauseam” throughout human history. Today we still listen to the Serpent’s two-lies-in-one solution for a God who doesn’t know what’s good for his creation, is for us to manufacture our own happiness by enticing us to focus on our inherent goodness. This futile endeavor began as a bite of fruit, but it is far more complex now. This self-help is played out over and over in every aspect. Rather than believe what God said about the goodness of his creation and how he designed it to function, we have believed we are good on our own and we know best about how things should work. James 1:14-15 describes this cycle in this way. “But each person is tempted when he is lured and enticed by his own desire. Then desire when it has conceived gives birth to sin, and sin when it is fully grown brings forth death.” In short, we follow our desires – what appears to us as “good” – instead of believing what God has created and judged to be good. When James wrote this, he might well have been thinking about Genesis 3:6 “So when the woman saw that the tree was good for food, and that it was a delight to the eyes, and that the tree was to be desired to make one wise, she took of its fruit and ate, and she also gave some to her husband who was with her, and he ate.” The Genesis 3 narrative continues on to show how Eve trusted her own desires above God’s Word which in turn led to the sin resulting in death not only for her, but for all of mankind. You can see this played out not only throughout all of scripture, but in any history textbook, newspaper, or news website. We see the sins (attempts at securing our own happiness),and we could never name them all here. In reality, every sin is symptomatic of the sin-disease which is at its root is unbelief in the very Name of God/His goodness. There are many band-aids for the wounds in our society such as self-help, self-esteem, increased education, increased legislation, better ideals, or better politicians. But the cure is not born of our ingenuity. The answer comes from outside of our depraved self-righteous wills. It stands to reason that if our problems began with a lie about God, the only solution is to turn back the lie with the truth.

The Answer

God, our perfect all-knowing, all-powerful, creator and judge of all good things condescended from lofty heights of unfathomable beauty to become one of us. He was born in a barn with dirty animals, lived a sinless life obedient to the Father to the point of death. There is no other image which better refutes the lie of the Serpent than that of a crucified Elohim. When the Christ is seen hanging from a Roman crucifix, blood flowing from his sinless body, and the pure injustice of it all causes the Father to turn his back from the spectacle, it’s the greatest statement of finality and truth the world has ever witnessed. This Answer was here before we dared pose the question. We are here because of it and designed to live by it. Believing anything else will not bring happiness. It can only lead us to ruin. Lewis says, “Now God designed the human machine to run on Himself. He Himself is the fuel our spirits were designed to burn, or the food our spirits were designed to feed on. There is no other. That is why it is just no good asking God to make us happy in our own way. God cannot give us a happiness and peace apart from Himself, because it it not there. There is no such thing.”

That’s an answer we can all live by.

Mystery Church Tour p.2

(This blog series is not intended to be a critique of the churches
we visit, but rather an expression of our observances and how they
relate to our quest.  We recognize the fact that each and every church
we visit belong to Christ and His glory is on display to some measure
in each one.  We also realize there are no perfect churches and we all
rely on Jesus to clothe us with His righteousness.)

This morning we attended the 8am service of this week's mystery church.  Easter is the hardest Sunday to visit a prospective church because presumably you will get their best effort and not necessarily their normal effort.  I was already familiar with this particular church today so I knew what to expect.  We were not disappointed.  The parking lot was packed and their  crew did a great job of moving cars through.  We were just a tad late (I had to get gas on the way), but came in during the first song.  We sat near the back right again, but this time we had no choice.  After a celebratory song, there were a couple announcements and then the lights went down for the music worship time.  I like having all of the lights up and a kickoff song followed by announcements to clear the way for non-stop focused worship (I include the sermon as part of the worship as well).  We used to do that when I was leading music and often called it the "throw-away" song because people were still coming in.  I regret using that term because it's only a throw-away for the people who don't get there on time.  For everyone who already have their seat, it's a great way to celebrate Christ! 
Even though the band and worship leaders were excellent musically speaking, they did little to draw attention to themselves.  I love the fact that the only things that command your attention in the room are the lyrics on the screen and a well lit cross on the stage.   The songs were Christ and Cross centered and theologically rich.  My philosophy of church music is that it's not only a vertical experience, but a horizontal one as well.   The early church sang hymns and spiritual songs to each other for the purpose of teaching.  So, there needs to be a balance of prayerful songs sung "to God",  with theologically deep songs "about God."   People fall into two basic personality types, instinctive and intellectual.  So I believe music should engage on both levels especially intellectually.  There's no such thing as mindless worship. 

After the music portion of the service, the preacher came up and went right to work.  He didn't do anything to ruin the mood, in fact, he capitalized on the pervasive ambiance and rightly divided the scripture.  Not surprisingly, he preached from Luke 24 regarding the aftermath of the resurrection.  He explained very clearly how the crucifixion saves us "from" God's wrath, and the resurrection saves us "to" life now.  The main idea of his message was the resurrection and it's implication to life now.

Prior to this, he discussed how as a preacher on Easter Sunday, that he might be expected to take an apologetic approach to the resurrection.  He then went down a list of evidences that refute the modern secular explanations for the empty tomb.  He pointed out how crazy the theories are in light of historical evidence.  For example, if Jesus didn't really die when he was entombed as one prevailing theory suggests, then how did he walk the Emmaus Road 7 miles out of Jerusalem within 48 hours of being nailed and hung to a cross and run through with a lung collapsing spear thrust? 
He also quipped how difficult it would to be an atheist in relation to the deep groaning in our souls regarding the diseases and deaths in our world.  If, according to natural selection, nature is just weeding out the weak links then why dig wells in Darfur?  Why attempt to feed people in Africa if there is no redemptive purpose for humanity? 
Of course, in his attempt to "avoid"  an intellectual defense of the Bible, he masterfully defended the Resurrection in his 5-10 minute discourse as the precursor to his main sermon idea.  He went on to explain what the resurrection means to us and for us.   As usual, this preacher left the listener with self-examining questions and in doing so, clearly drew the line between true gospel preaching and the "therapeutic" nonsense that is prevalent in many evangelical churches today.  In light of the fact that the crowd was diverse on this Easter Sunday, the sermon provided "thinking points" for nearly every possible type of parishioner. 
At the sermon's close, he dismissed us in prayer and asked everyone to leave quietly to enable others to stay behind for counsel or prayer.  Overall, this was an inspiring, convicting, Christ-centered worship service.  It was no-frills in its approach (no latte bars or pageant like production),  but deep in purpose and meaning.