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.

Where does your Gospel lead?

Road
I have written much about gospel lately, so much so that someone asked me the other day what I meant by gospel.  Ah yes, gospel. Yet another word from our Christian heritage that hasn't so much lost it's meaning as it's direction.  In other words, gospel is rightly defined as "good news", but there seems to be much confusion as to what IS good news especially on the evangelical landscape.   Evangelicalism as a whole is increasingly more generic everyday.  It's generic in the sense that the things that make Biblical Christianity distinct from the wisdom of our present day culture are absent or at best blurred in understanding.  The gospel has suffered as a casualty of this Christian consumerism.

When I say the gospel has lost it's direction, I believe that it is a failure on the part of mainstream evangelicalism to protect the gospel in it's zeal to disperse it.  I don't question the motives or the passion of many evangelicals in their quest to fulfill the great commission, in fact, I appreciate that the gospel "seed" is not merely cast down on the rocky ground without the passion and careful sowing that God requires of us.  I appreciate that evangelism isn't reduced to "tract planting".  But in our effort to reach the lost, have we been reckless in communicating what God says the the gospel is?  As someone who is in the ministry, and as someone who reads many philosophical viewpoints and attends ministry conferences and has candid conversations with others who have chosen the ministry as their vocation, I find myself asking the tell-tale question, "where does our Gospel lead?". I believe the answer will reveal "what" we believe the gospel to be. 

When asked, I have always defined the gospel with the stock answer that Jesus came to earth, died on the cross, and rose again so that I could be saved.  But I believe this answer is a thumbnail picture of a larger image.  It's not to say that the answer is untrue, but it is not the full view.  Indeed. I could talk about how the gospel is not only about our personal forgiveness or the securing of our eternal destiny.  I could point out that it is also about the "Kingdom at hand" as Jesus preached.  I could mention that it's about all the nations being brought under the ruler ship of Christ.  I could say that it involves world peace and the eradication of evil.  I could say all of these things are gospel, and I wouldn't be wrong.  The question is not only one of what, but where. 

Get God, or something from God?

I think it's safe to say that to many, the gospel leads them to the effects of the gospel as being their ultimate satisfaction.  As an example, the gospel I heard in my baptist church growing up was that the reason to believe in Christ was so that you could escape an eternal lake of fire equipped with gnashing of teeth and maggots crawling on your face.  Sadly, this "gospel" did not lead to Christ, it led to fear.  It led to a pursuit of safety.  Matt Chandler of the Village Church says "Heaven is not for those who want to escape hell, it's for those who love Christ."   As a result of this "gospel", there are many who experience a half dozen conversions hoping the last one will "take" and they won't wake up the next morning in a cold sweat thinking they've been "left behind".  I want to tell you, this is no gospel!  In fact, I feel a tremendous burden for those raised in this environment, because it's akin to a brainwashing that never completely goes away.

There are other examples where the gospel that people hear leads them to making the effects their ultimate satisfaction.  There's the gospel that drives people to dream about heaven.  Now that sounds good on the surface, but there are people who literally shut down in this life so they can get to the next one.  They cease "upkeep" on the little house they live in the suburbs because they're waiting for their "mansion" in the next life.  Instead of the prospect of seeing Christ, they're more excited about seeing their deceased loved ones.  Christ is like a bonus to them.  A Biblical gospel should drive us to a pursuit of Christ where He is valued above everything including our family!  Actually, a reunion with our loved ones in heaven is the bonus!  John Piper asks the tough question, "if you arrived in heaven and found out Jesus wasn't there, would that be okay with you."?

Speaking of our temporal home, often our earthly circumstances become the "where" of the gospel.  This is most prevalent in mainstream evangelicalism and I understand why.  Americans, especially, are chasing the pursuit of happiness, after all, that is one of our great American doctrines isn't it?  So there is a segment of Christianity that equates personal fulfillment/improvement with the Gospel. It doesn't seem a stretch to say that God wants to make you better. Does it?   Biblically speaking, what is a "better you" anyway?  Is it someone who is successful as our culture defines it?  I contend that "a better you" is someone like the Apostle Paul was slowly and methodically becoming every day.  His "improved self" was characterized by the choices of "sharing Christ's sufferings" or martyrdom.  Either way, His gospel, worked out, led directly to Christ.  Paul wasn't concerned with raising his self-esteem, in fact he was concerned with dying to self-esteem.  As nice as it is to have more money, a dependable car, and warm body to lie next to each night, these things don't lead to Christ. They are temporal.  They are but mere foretastes of greater joy and so I thank God for these earthly blessings, but I pray that they do not become ultimate in my life. 

There are many wonderful effects of the gospel.  However, we should never let the effects be where the gospel lead us, nor should we define our natural desires as gospel effects.  So many of us value the gifts of the Creator above the Creator Himself. As Piper puts it "if the Gospel doesn't lead to Christ, then it is no gospel at all."  So when we realize that the true Biblical gospel is one that leads to Christ, our gospel definition is supplied for us.  The Gospel is Christ.  That's why salvation isn't escape from hell and entrance into heaven, although these things are included, but rather a pursuit of Christ as the ultimate treasure of our lives!  This is the Gospel we should be pursuing, the one we should be preaching, and the one we should be living and dying for!