We Need Discernment

            In the field of medicine we do not want quacks and charlatans.  The issues of good health are too important.

            There is an established route to becoming a competent medical doctor, and we rightly require all aspiring physicians to adhere to this high standard.

            If we are attending college and majoring in history, we expect our professors to have masters, PhDs, and postdoctoral degrees in history.

            The one and only area in all of human experience where a standardized route to recognized achievement…falls outside of human orchestration and contrivance, is found in the biblical narrative stories of faith.

            This is as we would and should expect in a true interaction with the living God and Creator of the universe, when actualized into human life-scripts.

            The only common, repetitive, and standardized through-line in the biblical narrative stories of faith…is that if we will allow Him…the God of the Bible will wisely displace our ways with His higher ways and thoughts (Isa. 55:8-9) according to God’s eternal plans for our benefit.

            Abraham could not originate and orchestrate his unconventional route to becoming the “father of faith” in his wildest imagination.

            Joseph in Egypt, Moses, or Joshua could not self-compose their unique life-scripts and materialize events to reach their extraordinary outcomes.

            The acclaimed teacher Gamaliel speaking before the Sanhedrin Council differentiates the difficulty of discerning the true activities of God using conventional standards:

35 Ye men of Israel, take heed to yourselves what ye intend to do as touching these men.

36 For before these days rose up Theudas, boasting himself to be somebody; to whom a number of men, about four hundred, joined themselves: who was slain; and all, as many as obeyed him, were scattered, and brought to nothing.

37 After this man rose up Judas of Galilee in the days of the taxing, and drew away much people after him: he also perished; and all, even as many as obeyed him, were dispersed.

38 And now I say unto you, Refrain from these men, and let them alone: for if this counsel or this work be of men, it will come to nothing:

39 But if it be of God, ye cannot overthrow it; lest perhaps ye be found even to fight against God.                                     (Acts 5:35-39)

            During Paul’s last trip to Jerusalem, as the chief captain of the Roman guards in the city went to quell the uproar over the Jews of Asia discovering Paul in the temple…the chief captain asks Paul: “Art not thou that Egyptian, which before these days maddest an uproar, and leddest out into the wilderness four thousand men that were murderers?” (Acts 22:38).

            Jesus asked the question in Mark 8:27-30:

27 And Jesus went out, and his disciples, into the towns of Caesarea Philippi: and by the way he asked his disciples, saying unto them, Whom do men say that I am?

28 And they answered, John the Baptist: but some say, Elias; and others, One of the prophets.

29 And he saith unto them, But whom say ye that I am?  And Peter answereth and saith unto him, Thou art the Christ.

30 And he charged them that they should tell no man of him.

            Discernment, critical-thinking, and right judgment are essential for today’s Christians (Mk. 12:35-37, 13:28-31).

            The uniqueness of the God of the Bible at the fundamental, worldview level is that He can and does prepare people for their mission-plans according to His own original routes…that are difficult to detect and rightly evaluate when we are “in the flesh” (Jn. 8:14-15).

            The same quality of recognized accolades, certifications, and diplomas that identify acquired expertise does not always work when applied to the biblical narrative stories of faith…these life-stories being the sanctioned and authorized examples of how God works.

            When Abraham first arrived in Canaan no one knew who he was or anything about his special calling.

            This is the starting baseline for understanding how clueless the world is regarding the higher ways and thoughts of God.

            The religious elites in Jerusalem during the ministry of Jesus exhibit just how clueless they are when they examine the blind man healed by Jesus recorded in John 9:1-38…”We know that God spake unto Moses: as for this fellow, we know not from whence he is.” (Jn. 9:29).

            They did not understand the true character of Jesus Christ in the deepest sense of spiritual and moral discernment.           

            We need to be walking ourselves in a genuine journey of faith following Jesus Christ…in order to be able to recognize a genuine walk of faith in others…to be able to discern the Holy Spirit in action.

4 But ye, brethren, are not in darkness, that that day should overtake you as a thief.

5 Ye are all children of light, and the children of the day: we are not of the night, nor of darkness.

6 Therefore let us not sleep, as do others; but let us watch and be sober.                                                              (1 Thes. 5:4-6)

“For ye were sometimes darkness, but now are ye light in the Lord: walk as children of light.” (Eph. 5:8).

Ye Shall Be Free Indeed

            When Jesus “ate” with “publicans and sinners” (Mt. 9:10-13), He knew they would never become morally perfect people incapable of making mistakes.

            The “greatest” people in the Bible were never morally perfect people.

            “Blessed are they which do hunger and thirst after righteousness: for they shall be filled.” (Mt. 5:6).

            When Paul says in Romans 6:4 that Christ’s resurrection enables us to “walk in newness of life”…he does not mean moral perfection (Rom. 7:15-8:4).

            There isn’t anything anywhere in the Bible that infers or intimates that walking with God in this life will produce perfect performance on our part…in either good-works or unwavering faith.

            The blood Jesus shed on the cross covers my sins past, present, and future so that I can learn by my mistakes with impunity…without the jeopardy of threatening the eternal security of my salvation through my less-than perfect performance.

            This reality is initiated and sanctioned by the first, last, and only authority that counts…by God Himself.

            If God says that He wants me to acquire the knowledge of good and evil through the first-hand lessons-learned of experience in the rough-and-tumble life on earth, then the redemptive salvation that He has provided by grace through faith in Christ…issues the timeless safe-conduct to go out and with my best effort listen in the Spirit and follow the life-script He has revealed for me.

            That I can fall-on-my-face in failures and shortcomings is the only real and authentic way I am going to be able to win this knowledge of good and evil for myself.

            The biblical narrative stories of faith are the pinnacle of the highest level of good leadership in pushing power downward to create people who can discern the right and the good, and voluntarily choose the good for the right reasons.

            This creates people who are internally motivated, responding positively to the love, confidence, and supportive trust divinely extended to them…that validates their high worth and value in the sight of God.

“But we have this treasure in earthen vessels, that the excellency of the power may be of God, and not of us.” (2 Cor. 4:7).

“If the Son therefore shall make you free, ye shall be free indeed.” (Jn. 8:36).

One Purpose of Redemptive Salvation

            In redemptive salvation by grace through faith in Christ, God the Father sees believers through the rose-colored glasses of optimistic and supportive love, because He is the one who envisioned and instigated the concept of the 4-wheel drive vehicle of this fallen, imperfect yet redeemed human nature.

“But we have this treasure in earthen vessels, that the excellency of the power may be of God, and not of us.” (2 Cor. 4:7).

“For I know the thoughts that I think toward you, saith the Lord, thoughts of peace, and not of evil, to give you an expected end.” (Jer. 29:11).

            We are saved by grace through faith and not by our own self-performed good works…to have the invaluable opportunity to discover the knowledge of good and evil through the “safe-conduct” of a God-sanctioned and authorized journey of faith research program.

            We learn by making mistakes, and if we are hungering and thirsting after righteousness (Mt. 5:6) and waling in the Spirit (Rom. 8:2), God is able to flip our mistakes into guided lesson-plans through His deliberate, positive intentions.

            A fallen yet redeemed nature enables believers to venture out into the rough and tumble, likewise fallen world and using the microscopic and telescopic lens of our imperfect moral nature…inhabiting earthen vessels…be able to comprehend the subtle nuances of the broad array of moral concepts within the knowledge of good and evil…while also having the critical element of the humility of recognizing that the security of our eternal salvation lies in the cross and resurrection of Jesus, and is not dependent upon our perfect moral performance.

            Only God could set all of this up to function within the reality of this broken world.

            Through the divine concept of redemptive salvation by grace through faith, God is able to flip our imperfect fallen nature into the very vehicle we would need to successfully explore the ups and downs within the knowledge of good and evil…exhibiting on God’s part the highest excellence of leadership in wisely pushing power downward for people to learn and grow through first-hand experience, guided within God-composed journey of faith life-scripts as patterned for us through the biblical narrative stories of faith from Enoch through Paul.

            Each of the positive characters in the Bible walked with God through their callings and mission-plans, while still inhabiting imperfect moral natures.

            When I became a Christian at age 18, God forgave my sins past, present, and future…so that I could with confidence enter into a risk-filled adventure of faith, knowing in advance that the many mistakes I would make along the way would not jeopardize the security of my eternal salvation…because this research program designed by God through redemptive salvation has the very intention that I can learn and benefit from my mistakes.

“In whom we have redemption through his blood, the forgiveness of sins, according to the riches of his grace.” (Eph. 1:7).

“Now the God of peace, that brought again from the dead our Lord Jesus, that great shepherd of the sheep, through the blood of the everlasting covenant, Make you perfect in every good work to do his will, working in you that which is well-pleasing in his sight, through Jesus Christ; to whom be glory for ever and ever, Amen.” (Heb. 13:20-21).

Human Beings Progress through Trial-and-Error

            When we watch the men’s final in the 100-meter running event in the Olympics, for example, we know that the runners were not selected at random from the general population and put forward in race gear to sprint for the gold medal.  The ten runners in the men’s Olympics 100-meter race finals are all world-class, elite runners who have each trained for years to be able to run this distance in under 10 seconds.

            The several years of individual training are done behind-the-scenes in advance preparation leading up to the race, and for each runner hopefully ends with the goal of a once-in-a-lifetime, gold-medal performance during this very short but marquee track and field event.

            A documentary film-maker may record the up-and-down training regime of the progression of the would-be sprinter to reach world-class speed, and put this into a short film as part of the color commentary for the televised summer Olympics, but generally we are not privy to the dedication, perseverance, and dogged determination of the elite athlete’s incremental upward progression over time from being merely fast at the collegiate level to becoming world-class fast…to be one of a very select few to make-it into the men’s final in the 100-meter race in the Olympics.

            On the African savanna plains, when we watch the high-speed, life-and-death chase between the cheetah and the Thompson’s gazelle, we know that there has been no behind-the-scenes training preparation leading-up to this exhibition of literally world-class running speed, other than the normal growth to adulthood.  We know that there is no behind-the-scenes training for each of these magnificent animals because the natural living world is open to observation and investigation.  The exquisite running speeds of the cheetah and the Thompson’s gazelle are a product of their instinctual lifestyle habits that match perfectly their unique architectural body-plans…that come fully functional and ready for use right “out of the box” with no tools or assembly instructions required.

            One aspect that makes the defining essence of human beings uniquely discontinuous with the rest of the natural living world is that mankind progresses through the trial-and-error process of lessons-learned by making mistakes.

            Over the course of the modern Scientific Revolution, the two Industrial Revolutions, the American political experiment that people could be self-governing through a representative democracy based upon individual virtue, and the fine-tuning of market systems of economy and trade, we should have known that mankind would eventually reach a point in time when some of the fundamental questions of reality would be within reach of solid answers.

            We have always been headed in the right direction through mistakes and blunders combined with an innate inner drive to discover the purposes behind the workings of the natural world, and to find the reality of our existence…which is entirely different from the automatic program of inherited instinctual lifestyle habits that come fully functional in the examples of the cheetah and the Thompson’s gazelle.

            The idea that a mindless and indifferent-to-outcomes Mother Nature working through matter-and-energy alone could produce this discontinuous dichotomy between the out-of-the-box functionality of instinctual lifestyle habits in the natural living world, in stark contrast to the cognitive reasoning capacity of human beings to progress through trial-and-error mistakes as their uniquely defining essence, should at this modern times be rejected as a “just-so” bed-time story because of its over-simplicity.   

            If we have learned anything over the course of human history, it is that our natural world, the interaction between human beings, and the nature of truth are not simplistic.

            Drilling down deeper into this concept that we progress through the process of lessons-learned by making mistakes, what makes Shakespeare’s Romeo and Juliet a tragedy is not that the principle characters are stupid, but rather that they make errors in judgement and reasoning that coalesce over the course of their short-lived romance into a catastrophic outcome.

            In the backyard garden scene where Juliet on the balcony declares her love for Romeo hiding unbeknownst below until he reveals himself and climbs up a tree to join her, embrace, kiss, and declare his love for her…at that point the right course of action is easy to see.

            Juliet should have said that she would speak to her father privately the next day and tell him that she was in love with Romeo the son of his enemy, and that their union would be the perfect solution to “bury their strife” between the two families.  Romeo should say that he would likewise talk to his father in private, and tell him that he was in love with Juliet the daughter of his enemy, that she loved him, and that their union in marriage would remove the enmity between the families and be heartily welcomed by the Prince of the city of Verona.

            If these two options failed, then Plan B would have Romeo requesting a private meeting with the Prince to explain the benefits of throwing his considerable support and influence behind a marriage between Romeo and Juliet, leading to the bad option of Romeo seeking the guidance of the friar who comes-up with his hair-brain scheme that eventually leads to the deaths of Romeo and Juliet.

            William Shakespeare can create this brilliantly tragic storyline because he is working with the reality of a human environment that is deliberately designed to be a research program of discovery through the trial-and-error process of lessons-learned by making mistakes.  The tragedy in Romeo and Juliet is that the progression of poor judgments and decisions within the context of their family’s relationships snow-balls downhill through a series of “hideous misadventures” to a deadly finale.

            This should tell us something vitally important about the reality of our existence, about the redemptive salvation feature of the Christian gospel message, about the uniquely biblical originality of God displacing our ways with His higher ways through God-composed journey of faith life-scripts, and about the 2 Corinthians 4:7 concept that we inhabit the “earthen vessels” of imperfect moral natures as the perfect 4-wheel drive research vehicles in order to traverse the rough terrain of this equally broken and fallen world…in discovery of the knowledge of good and evil with the God-sanctioned and approved intention for us to learn by our mistakes…all the while redeemed by grace through faith in Christ.

            The structure and organized complexity of the biblical narrative stories of faith, of God inserting His higher ways and thoughts into our life-scripts to be able to add His timeless foresight and brilliant pure light into this research program for us aided by the microscopic and telescopic lens of a fallen imperfect nature…to have the capacity to understand the subtle nuances of the broad array of moral concepts integral within the knowledge of good and evil…overturns the serendipitous tragedy of Romeo and Juliet stumbling through the dark of this same human environment without this participation of God within a God-composed journey of faith life-script that always achieves the optimum outcome of individual destiny.

            Modern science has discovered complex, highly specified, and coherently integrated systems of information everywhere we look in the natural world.  The micro-molecular machinery inside living cells coordinates an unimaginably diverse ensemble of parts to assemble proteins into different cell types that make living creatures from elephants to humans…to highlight just one example.

            Redemptive salvation by grace through faith in Christ to enable research programs into the knowledge of good and evil…through the safe-conduct of the impunity of not having our many mistakes jeopardize the security of our eternal salvation (Mt. 5:6; Rom. 7:15-8:4)…by the deliberate intention of the Creator God of this universe…is so originally brilliant that it could not possibly derive from this same trial-and-error process of lessons-learned by making mistakes…and is thus a self-existent, fundamental concept that could not have arisen through human invented mythology…could not be the product of human literary imaginative fiction.

            Shakespeare takes us a far as he can in Romeo and Juliet.  God takes us much farther into the depths of reality in the biblical narrative stories of faith.  

Only God Can Procure the Validation of Our Self-Worth

            Once a family is broken by divorce, it is thereafter difficult to individually validate the children with a healthy sense of self-worth, because the family is infused with the opposite sense of the failure of separation.

            The family unit has failed.

            This describes the injurious aspect of the separation that occurred within the family of God at the fall in the Garden of Eden.

            A separation occurred.

            God foresaw this coming (Rev. 13:8), but was not the reason for this split.

            Redemptive salvation by grace through faith starting with repentance (Eph. 2:8-9) inaugurates the means by which we are connected back with God…the family reunites.

            The concept that our imperfect natures act as research vehicles into the discovery and comprehension of the knowledge of good and evil (2 Cor. 4:7; Rom. 7:15-8:4; Mt. 5:6; Jn. 8:36) is designed to get at the root cause of the split that originally occurred in the Garden of Eden.

            God is so brilliant that He can take our imperfect fallen natures and flip this into a positive, because He alone understands that a perfect person living in a perfect world would not be able to learn first-hand about the knowledge of good and evil…through the empirical task-master of lessons-learned through making mistakes.

            This is why redemptive salvation is by grace through faith and not self-performed good-works…because we need the vantage point of the lens of a fallen nature to be able to understand the subtle nuances of the broad array of moral concepts within the knowledge of good and evil, but also the humility of occupying “earthen vessels” so that over-inflated self-opinion…self-righteousness…does not block our ability to share the gospel message to other people as lost and broken as we were.

            God…the “head of the household” working with believers who will give Him the benefit-of-the-doubt (Heb. 11:1, 6) re-instigates the healthy validation of His children through God-composed journey of faith life-scripts patterned for us in the biblical narrative stories of faith…functional and operational for every Spirit-born Christian today.

One Size Does Not Fit All in the Complexity of Life

            One size does not fit all in the instinctual lifestyle habits in the natural living world. 

            There are no 3-step or 5-step plans that functionally apply to the lifestyle habits of lions, cheetahs, and leopards in the same cat family…much less to elephants, rhinoceros, hippopotamus, giraffes, and wildebeest on the African savanna plains.

            Cheetahs instinctively know not to chase zebras, which they can easily run after and catch, because zebras are too large in size for a single cheetah to wrestle to the ground.  Lions do not bother to hunt Thompson’s gazelles because lions cannot run fast enough to catch them.  Lions instinctively know that their larger sized body-plans and strength rather than running speed…are not suited to chasing after the swift-footed Thompson’s gazelle. 

            When we consider the ten-million living species on the earth, the diversity of the biological and ecological systems are so complex, highly specified, and coherently integrated that a one size fits all approach to survival is instead brilliantly divided into unique architectural body-plans and lifestyle habits that reveal a creative imagination for innovative thinking that is truly mind-boggling.

            We also see this same high quality of creative imagination for innovative thinking in the biblical narrative stories of faith.

            Because the complexity of the biological and ecological systems in the natural living world support the diversity of life-forms we see on our planet earth, this has a similar parallel to the reality of the events and circumstances of this current fallen world that is likewise too complex for simplistic, one size fits all solutions.

            The life-script for Abraham is different from the life-script for Joseph in Egypt, Moses, Joshua, Gideon, Ruth, Hannah, Samuel, David, Elijah, Daniel, John the Baptist, Joseph and Mary, Peter, James, Paul, and of course for Jesus Christ the Son of God.

            Joseph cannot live Abraham’s life.  David’s calling is not to deliver the Israelites from Egypt and to part the Red Sea.  No one else can perform the unique role of John the Baptist.  Only one person…Mary…can be the mother of Jesus Christ.  Only the blemish-free and morally perfect Jesus Christ can be the Passover Lamb of God atoning sacrifice for sin, walking within a singularly unique life-script divinely composed before the foundation of the earth (Rev. 13:8).   

            There are two important lessons we can draw from this comparison of the diversity we see in the natural living world and the diversity we see in the biblical narrative stories of faith.

            First, the redemptive salvation in the Bible comes by grace through faith and not through a program of self-performed good works…the faith of Abraham actualized in his life-script four hundred years before the introduction of the Law of Moses (Gal. 3:17-18).

            By having a diversity of life-scripts for journeys of faith, not only does the God of the Bible match our unique talents and abilities to very specific callings and mission-plans, but uniquely diverse life-scripts for believers excludes our tendency to co-op a simplistic 3-point or 5-point plan and apply it to our lives using the humanistic self-reliance of self-sovereignty.

            Salvation by grace through faith enables the diversity of uniquely composed journey of faith life-scripts that engender a personal relationship with God (Jer. 31:31-34) that is not attainable through the individual autonomy of self-sovereignty sitting atop the thrones of our lives.

            Second, salvation by grace through faith sets-up the unimaginably counterintuitive reality whereby we can enter into a research program into the discovery of the knowledge of good and evil…inhabiting the 4-wheel drive vehicle of a fallen moral nature (2 Cor. 4:7)…redeemed and sanctified through the cross and resurrection of Christ to be able to traverse over the rough terrain of this equally fallen world.

            The brilliance of this scheme of salvation is the recognition that an understanding of the broad array of moral concepts contained within the knowledge of good and evil can only be achieved through the microscopic and telescopic lens of a fallen yet redeemed nature, possessing the humility of repentance in order to be open and teachable, but also coming at the massive complexity of the knowledge of good and evil while occupying the “earthen vessel” of a fallen nature to be able to comprehend the subtle nuances of the issues involved.

            Human life in reality is every bit as complex as the biological and ecological systems in the natural living world, and therefore required a diversity of life-scripts for human beings in the same way that lions need their own unique instinctual approach to survival and reproduction that is entirely different from the instinctual lifestyle approach for their related cousins the cheetah and leopard, and even more diverse from that of elephants, hippopotamus, and giraffes.

            The modern recognition of the correlation between the two innovative realities of the architectural body-plans and lifestyle habits of the ten-million species in the living world, with the architectural body-plans and lifestyle habits of God-composed journey of faith life-scripts patterned for us in the biblical narrative stories of faith, and experienced by Christians today…lifts these two realities above a causal explanation coming from the atheistic worldview of naturalistic materialism.

            The complex, highly specified, and coherently integrated God-composed journey of faith life-scripts that precisely match the talents and abilities of individually diverse people…is a concept that could not be the product of human literary invented mythology.

            The vast diversity we see in both the natural living world and the events and circumstances of human life, reveals a universe of reality that is at the opposite end of the spectrum-line from one size fits all.

            In my opinion, this reality requires a mature explanation for its origin that far exceeds the hopelessly simplistic explanation that matter/energy alone can produce the organized complexity we see in the natural world and in human life.

            Only intelligent agency could produce the broad diversity of the architectural body-plans and instinctual lifestyle habits in the natural living world, and only an intelligent agent God could compose life-scripts for human beings that enable them to investigate first-hand the nuances of the knowledge of good and evil…made possible by the redemptive salvation of grace by faith that enables me to enter into the risk of an adventure of faith following the leading of Jesus Christ…without jeopardizing my salvation through my own imperfect performance along the way.

            One size does not fit all in the natural living world, and one size does not fit all in the biblical narrative stories of faith from Enoch through Paul.  This argues for the same creative God active in both these spheres of reality.

One Purpose of Redemptive Salvation

            God told Adam and Eve not to eat the fruit from the tree of the knowledge of good and evil in the Garden of Eden, not because He did not want them to have the knowledge of good and evil…but profoundly at the deepest level of brilliant foresight and perfect divine love…God knew that eating a piece of fruit from a special tree could not possibly impart the depth of a genuine knowledge of good and evil.

            A timeless and eternal God in Revelation 13:8 tells us that Jesus Christ is the Lamb of God slain from the foundation of the world, meaning that God anticipated the fall of man and the need for redemptive salvation by grace through faith…rather than self-salvation through a program of reformation by self-performance of good works…far ahead of time.

            Eating the fruit only gave Adam and Eve the recognition and awareness that they were naked. 

            It did not add virtue to their characters.

            The temptation in the Garden of Eden by Satan in the beguiling spiritualized apparition of a beautiful talking serpent was in the form of two subtly destructive lies that are at the low, corrupt bottom of the vertical spectrum-line of goodness and light.

            The first subtle lie was that eating this fruit would make Adam and Eve “as gods knowing good and evil,” which is a classic half-truth lacking the fine-print details. 

            Knowing we are morally imperfect (naked) by itself is only one leg of the three-legged stool required as a minimum to be “as gods”…missing the other two legs of divinely timeless foresight and perfect moral goodness.

            The second subtle lie was that this temptation contained the character assassination of God, questioning the motivation, reliability, and trustworthiness of God’s word.

            We do not understand redemptive salvation rightly.

            Yes, the cross and the resurrection of Jesus Christ eternally redeem believers from our sins by grace through faith.

            This is as orthodox as can be…central to the Christian gospel message.

            But there is an even higher underlying principle that we talk around the edges of but do not fully understand, the power of which is not only overwhelming in revealing the brilliance of the God of the Bible…but also may answer the single fundamental question of this life and why we are here.

            Every Spirit-born Christian understands the basics that Jesus took upon Himself our sins so that the Father can view us through Christ…in our still fallen yet redeemed nature…so that we can experience a relationship with God purchased for us through the cross and the resurrection of Jesus Christ.

            This is the simplicity of the Christian gospel message that can and does launch the new life of faith free from the bondage to sin.

            But in my opinion there are two important connecting dots that have been missing until now.

            The first dot is the recognition that the people of faith in the Bible and modern Christians today…pursue our callings through the vehicle of a fallen nature…the “earthen vessel” described by Paul in 2 Corinthians 4:7).

            This is the God redeemed and sanctioned 4-wheel drive vehicle that transports us over the rough terrain of this life in the one-and-only research program that opens up our understanding of the knowledge of good and evil…enabled by grace through faith and not self-performed good works.

            The second missing dot until now is the recent discovery in the past few decades by modern science of complex, highly specified, and coherently integrated systems of information everywhere we look in the natural world.

            This second dot points towards an intelligent designer God having unimaginably precise architectural and engineering acumen…which then carries over into the biblical narrative stories of faith revealing a composer of life-scripts having equally purposeful direction and creatively brilliant insight.

            These two dots further connect our understanding of the temptation in the Garden of Eden…with the cross and the resurrection…a through-line constructed of pure love and brilliant light, entirely for our benefit in a narrow way that could never have been the product of human literary mythological fiction.

            The difficulties of life are not comeuppance for our rebellion and fall in the Garden of Eden, universally applied to the human race.

            The challenges in this life, the things that continue to knock us down and have the appearance of fighting against our obtaining the “good life of ease” (Gen. 16:2, 43:14; Est. 4:16; Mt. 16:22) are not payback for our shortcomings.

            This is truly and simply the only way we could through empirical first-hand experience obtain a workable knowledge of good and evil…to be able to comprehend the subtle nuances of the broad array of moral concepts using the microscopic and telescopic lens of the humility of an “earthen vessel” to venture out into a research program in this likewise fallen and broken world.

            How is Paul going to be able from Damascus onward to research the real truth that becomes his New Testament letters to the early churches…without being buffeted along the road of a research program that by the divine intention of God has many pitfalls, obstacles, and pot-holes along the way?

            The divine love and brilliant pure light of God uniquely manages to combine the redemptive salvation of grace by faith with God-composed journey of faith life-scripts after the pattern of the biblical narrative stories of faith…so that we can not only experience a personal relationship with God…but also so that we can in the most counterintuitive and divinely created way pursue a real understanding of good and evil that was inaccessible through the rebellious route of going our own way by eating the forbidden fruit in the Garden of Eden.

The Suffering of Paul was not Payback…Part 1

            The statement of Jesus to Ananias in a vision in Damascus that Jesus would show Saul/Paul the suffering that would be a part of the ministry that Paul was being called into to take the gospel message to the Jews and Gentiles in the larger Greco-Roman world…was upfront knowledge for Paul’s sake of what to anticipate in this challenging calling, and not a tit-for-tat payback for the persecution Saul/Paul had waged against the early Christian church (Acts 9:15-16).

            Jesus Christ is the blemish-free and sinless Passover Lamb of God yet suffers the cross for the benefit of others…leading the way into a new and higher reality we humans could never envision or initiate in our lives. 

            This is the true calling and discipleship for all believers…to experience first-hand some measure of the divine love of God expressed through us in benefit to others…to actualize through a God-composed journey of faith life-script the greater love of laying down our lives for our friends (Jn. 15:13).

            The upcoming suffering that Jesus revealed to Paul at the time of his conversion involved the logical mechanics of how to obtain a real and genuine knowledge of good and evil, which Saul/Paul mistakenly thought he possessed when he persecuted the early Christian church, and was not the justice of payback for the harm Paul had caused.

            All of the resistance, pushback, adversity, and suffering that Paul experienced in the coming days of his evangelical outreach ministry to the Greco-Roman world…is simply and truly the reality of the research program investigating the knowledge of good and evil that would inform the inspiration for writing the New Testament letters to the early Christian churches that have helped countless Christians down to our current time.

            Saul/Paul thought he was doing God service by persecuting the aberrant Christian church, and God took this upward into a higher place through a God-composed adventure of faith life-script that eventually produced the divinely inspired truth of Paul’s New Testament letters to the churches, and the loving relationships revealed in Romans 16.

            In this regard, we do not understand sin rightly.

            2 Corinthians 4:7 reads: “But we have this treasure in earthen vessels, that the excellency of the power may be of God, and not of us.” (Bold and italics mine).

            Our imperfect fallen nature is the 4-wheel drive research vehicle divinely enlisted and sanctioned to take us into the real-world exploration of the knowledge of good and evil in an imperfect fallen world. 

            The God of the Bible is so brilliant He can take our fallen sinful nature and instantly flip it into a positive…that no human literary genius could imagine and no counterfeit program of self-salvation through the performance of good works could contemplate.

            Paul’s divinely orchestrated ministry occurs while he is still in his fallen condition (Rom. 7:15-25).  Paul’s frame-of-reference for the challenging journey of faith that can produce the inspiration and wisdom of his New Testament letters to the churches…is not through the vantage point of self-righteous moral perfection achieved through self-realization or supernaturally instilled by God at conversion, but instead through the humble lens of a redeemed fallen nature.

            This is unimaginable creativity…except through the insightful mind of the God of the Bible.

            When I became a Spirit-born Christian at age 18, I was not instantly transformed into a perfect moral person.

            My sins are covered by the blood of Jesus Christ shed on the cross past, present, and future, intentionally so that I can enter into a risk-filled adventure of faith confidently knowing upfront that my eternal salvation is not threatened or jeopardized by the certainty that my own performance will at times fall far short of perfection.

            All of the positive characters of faith in the Bible likewise proceeded through their individual callings and mission-plans while still inhabiting human natures that are imperfect.

            God was not surprised by the fall in the Garden of Eden, forcing Him unexpectedly into a reactive countermove, in response to Adam and Eve uncritically accepting the word of Satan in the spiritualized form of a beguiling talking serpent…taking and eating the fruit from the tree of the knowledge of good and evil that God told them not to eat (Rev. 13:8).

            The timeless God of the Bible had the plan of redemptive salvation in place upfront to supply the real way into obtaining the knowledge of good and evil, that could never have been achieved with any depth or staying power through merely eating a piece of fruit.

            Our imperfect nature is the precise vehicle needed to comprehend the subtle nuances of the broad array of moral concepts in play within the knowledge of good and evil…fully expressed in action in this broken world.

            If we hunger and thirst after righteousness (Mt. 5:6) by way of the assistance of the Holy Spirit as new creations in Christ (Gal. 2:20), then Roman 8:1-4 becomes operative in our lives:

“There is therefore now no condemnation to them which are in Christ Jesus, who walk not after the flesh, but after the Spirit.” (Rom. 8:1).

            Our fallen nature redeemed through the cross of Christ (Jn. 3:14-15) by grace through faith, enables believers to enter into a God-composed journey of faith life-script designed specifically for us after the pattern in the biblical narrative stories of faith.

            This sophisticated research program matching our created capacity to understand the nuances of good and evil through empirical first-hand experience…is on the same high level that we can understand the technical depths of the phenomena in the natural world through analytical scientific investigation.

            The one caveat here is that a research program into the knowledge of good and evil through the lens of a redeemed fallen nature, must have the mind-set and heart attitude that our adventure of faith must be Christ-led and not self-orchestrated…as expressed in the following verses from the Bible:

“If the Son therefore shall make you free, ye shall be free indeed.”  (Jn. 8:36).

“For brethren, ye have been called unto liberty; only use not liberty for an occasion to the flesh, but by love to serve one another.” (Gal. 5:13). 

“As free, and not using you liberty for a cloak of maliciousness, but as servants of God.” 1 Pet. 2:16).

“If ye be risen with Christ, seek those things which are above, where Christ sitteth on the right hand of God.  Set you affection on things above, not on things on the earth.  For ye are dead, and your life is hid with Christ in God.” (Col. 3:1-3).

“For we are his workmanship, created in Christ Jesus unto good works, which God hath before ordained that we should walk in them.” (Eph. 2:10).

            We cannot learn about good and evil any other way.  We need the vehicle of a redeemed fallen nature, as the only possible route, to be able to comprehend and assimilate the knowledge of good and evil…that will last for our benefit for an eternity in the timeless environment of heaven…and bring some measure of “peace, and good will toward men” (Lk. 2:14) through the living-out of God-composed journey of faith life-scripts here and now on earth.  

Repentance and the Vehicle of a Fallen Nature

            The blood that Jesus Christ shed on the cross covers my sins past, present, and future through the uniquely biblical reality of grace through faith.

            But when I became a Spirit-born Christian at age 18, I was not instantly transformed into a perfectly virtuous moral person. 

            After the night I asked Jesus Christ into my life, I did become a noticeably changed and better person now having hope, direction, and a new purpose for living…but in the days, weeks, months, and years ahead I was and still am occupying my fallen, imperfect moral nature.

            This is such a universally commonplace experience for the people of faith in the Bible, and for Christians throughout the past two thousand years, that we take it for granted without much thought.   

            But we can and should ask the probing question of why it is the case that within the biblical narrative stories of faith, without exception other than the life-script for Jesus Christ the Son of God, each God-composed journey of faith life-script combines a divinely crafted mission-plan being experienced and performed by people occupying imperfect moral natures.

            We quickly assign this to the notion that we are simply “human” and leave it there.

            Paul “complains” about this reality in Romans 7:15-25, then supplies the brilliant answer in Romans 8:1 that opens up one of the deepest concepts within the human marketplace of ideas, and validates a walk of faith following Jesus Christ as being a creation of God outside of human literary invention: “There is therefore now no condemnation to them which are in Christ Jesus, who walk not after the flesh, but after the Spirit.”

            A concept that I think has near equal importance with the re-discovery by Martin Luther of salvation by grace through faith that launched the Protestant Reformation is the verse: “But we have this treasure in earthen vessels, that the excellency of the power may be of God, and not of us.” (2 Cor. 4:7).

            The entirely biblical but revolutionary concept here that becomes empirical experience through God-composed journey of faith life-scripts, overlaid and inserted into the events and circumstances of our lives as Christian believers…is that the redemptive salvation through Christ enables me to enter into a risk-filled journey of faith with impunity and without the threat of jeopardizing the eternal security of my salvation through falling short of perfect moral performance.

            The reality of the connection of the verses 2 Corinthians 4:7, Romans 7:15-8:4, John 8:36, and Matthew 5:6 give us a scriptural roadmap that reveals the divine brilliance of God in being able to flip our imperfect fallen nature into the very vehicle needed to venture-out into this fallen world to explore and discover the knowledge of good and evil…to utilize this current environment as the research program to be able to understand the subtle nuances of the broad array of moral concepts within the knowledge of good and evil.

            This has enormous implications for appreciating the moral difference between belief and unbelief, because this uniquely divine set-up of a research program exploring this fallen world through a fallen imperfect nature, is only and exclusively accessible through the repentance of first acknowledging our fallen sinful nature.

            The detailed life-scripts of Abraham through Paul (not excluding Enoch and Noah) cannot be experienced without first allowing God to displace our ways with His higher ways and thoughts (Isa. 55:8-9)…which starts with the honest admission that we have a fallen, imperfect moral nature that needs the redemptive salvation touch of the God of the Bible personally participating in our lives.

            If we stop to think about it, the timeless foresight of God is so brilliant that He can take the negative outcome of the fall in the Garden of Eden and flip it into the four-wheel drive vehicle that can take us through the rough terrain of this world into a first-hand knowledge of good and evil…that merely eating a piece of forbidden fruit could never actualize into an empirical reality…which probably forms most of the reason why God told Adam and Eve to not eat this fruit in the first place.

            The words of God and His motivations that were slandered by the serpent, turns out to have the highest imaginable purpose and meaning in this current universe and for all time into eternity, as seen in the divine capacity of the God of the Bible to take this negative event and craft it into a positive…in flipping my imperfect moral nature into the means and method to understand the knowledge of good and evil…in the only way that will stick to my ribs like warm oatmeal cereal as my mother used to say on cold winter mornings before we went off to school.

            That this research program could only and exclusively be accessible through repentance…of the ability to admit that we can be wrong and the willingness to do an “about-face” and turn around, separates the divine origin of the Bible from worldly conventional normalcy and thinking by a gulf as wide apart as the Grand Canyon.

Not My Will, But Thine, Be Done

            If God tells Paul what great things he must suffer for Jesus and the gospel (Acts 9:16), and this results in one of the great adventures of faith of all time…one that we celebrate today…which culminates in the planting of new Christian churches throughout the Greco-Roman world and the inspired New Testament letters that are part of the foundation of our Christian faith and experience today, what if Jesus says to every Spirit-born, end-times Christian on the earth: “For I will show them how great things they must suffer for my name’s sake” (Acts 9:16)?

Will we view this as a blessed opportunity and a privileged calling?  Is this the final opportunity for the “small” Christian through the Holy Spirit “latter rain” to shine “as the brightness of the firmament” and as “stars for ever and ever” by turning many to righteousness (Dan. 12:3)?

If Paul sacrifices the comforts of a normal retirement in Jerusalem (Acts 23:11), and completes his missionary career in custody as a prisoner, to testify for Christ to those in Rome, to complete his New Testament “pastoral” epistles, and to suffer final martyrdom…what if God calls the last-days Christian church to a similar challenge?

What if the biblical-quality adventure of faith is a drama and a saga that soars far above worldly conventional normalcy into the danger zone of faith in God, which only intensifies within the events and circumstances of the final closing chapter of human redemptive history?

Finally, God-composed life-scripts are so creatively imaginative that God managed to write a life-script for the divine Son of God Jesus, on earth in a human body, which challenged His own divine character capacity.

This is sublime on a divine level that is ingenious.

Although already briefly covered in previous chapters, it merits one last final look in more detail.

In taking upon Himself in the form of the Second Person of the Trinity the mass of sin accumulated by mankind, Jesus the Son of God is pushed to the novel, unprecedented, and at least from our viewpoint the unpredicted limits of His own divine capacity (if this is theoretically possible).

In the Garden of Gethsemane, when Jesus prays saying: “Father, if thou be willing, remove this cup from me; nevertheless not my will, but thine, be done” and returns to pray in agony more earnestly, here the narrative story surely breaks from the creative capacity of human literary imagination.

A perfect God who can compose a life-script for Himself that challenges His own capacity to the limits…precisely at the exact point where we need the most help in picking up our cross in total surrender to God’s higher ways…is incredibly and unimaginably insightful in its pinpoint accuracy and sharp-edged truthfulness at the height of creative, inventive reality.

That God Himself can relate to us at this critical juncture of surrendering our way to a larger plan…a larger cause having eternal benefits to ourselves and to others…is again sublime at the highest level of creativity, thought, and moral reasoning.

If Jesus had difficulty in this area of the way of the cross, then so will we.  That Jesus is an overcomer who triumphed over all of this spiritual opposition, endured the cross, and defeated death by being raised from the dead…qualifies Jesus Christ to be our King, our Ruler, our Savior and Redeemer, and our God.

But if God is this good at leadership and management theory, this good at the top-down insertion of information-rich body plans of the creatures of the Cambrian Explosion, this good in the complex and specified information contained in DNA, RNA, and proteins in the microscopic world of living cells, then we can be confident that our God-composed journeys of faith will be equally well-crafted.

If God is this artistically creative in having built-in instructions in place during embryonic cell division, telling each cell where to go and what function to perform in all living body-plans, and is at this high level of precision in the insertion of all of the required information within the first split-seconds of the Big Bang to enable complex life to emerge billions of years later, then we can with confidence release our faith and trust in Him.

If God is this morally and philosophically creative in the brilliantly crafted life-script journeys of faith found in the narrative stories in the Bible…then Christians today can confidently follow Jesus Christ up into the highest mountaintops and down into the lowest valleys of the upcoming great tribulation, and then out into the secure restfulness of eternal life in heaven…the final, brave new world without end.

This is the picture I believe will come into clearer focus as people begin to understand the privileged and unparalleled value of an adventure-of-faith journey into The Christian Danger Zone of Faith.