Visual Proof does not Naturally Translate into a Biblical-Quality Journey of Faith

“But we speak the wisdom of God in a mystery, even the hidden wisdom, which God ordained before the world unto our glory.”                                                                                        (1 Cor. 2:7)

            If Jesus a few days after the resurrection walked down the middle of Main Street and right into the Temple in Jerusalem, then like doubting Thomas, all of the common people along with the Pharisees, Sadducees, lawyers, and scribes could examine His wounds and observe His resurrected new body, and accept as proof that Jesus is the promised Messiah and the Son of God.

            But accepting the visual evidence, producing absolute knowledge like two plus two equals four or the existence of the noonday sun, in accepting the empirical evidence that Jesus is the divine Son of God…this proof is a type of passive acknowledgement that is not the same thing as active faith that will produce a willingness to follow Him

            This is like people saying to the recognized king of the realm: “We know that you are the rightful king, but we will not follow you into battle against a formidable adversary because we do not think you are a qualified military leader.”

            The Pharisees and scribes would have looked at the resurrected Jesus, talked with Him, examined His healed wounds and then said: “Great…good for you…nothing has changed in our minds as a result of this newest miracle of yours.  We still choose not to follow you.  We refuse to enter in at the ‘narrow gate’ (Mt. 7:13-14) you mentioned in your Sermon on the Mount.  We will continue to do religion the way we have set it up, to mix old traditions with going our own way to suit ourselves” (Isa. 53:6). 

            Absolute knowledge by visual, empirical observation does not address the basic problem.  It does not displace, remove, or shift the mindset of self-sovereignty, of autonomous individualism over into the God-sovereignty category of a biblical-quality walk of faith. 

            Jesus walking into the Temple in Jerusalem after His resurrection, offering absolute proof of His divinity in physically rising from the dead surprisingly does not change by force of reason alone…the inner man…and does not equate to everyone freely choosing to make Him Lord and Master of our lives.

            After the resurrection revealing Himself to the Pharisees and scribes would not have produced biblical faith, defined as willingly allowing God to displace our ways with His higher ways.

            This is as ancient in Jewish history as the calling of Abraham to leave Haran and to go by faith to Canaan (Heb. 11:8-10), as basic to Judaism as it gets and fundamental to the Christian concept of picking up our cross to follow Jesus.

            Visual, empirical observation of the resurrected Jesus by the religious elites and the general populace in Jerusalem a few days after Easter morning does not translate into Hebrews 11:1 faith to surrender all, to abandon self-sovereignty.

            To follow Jesus Christ into an adventure of faith to match the examples of Abraham, Joseph, Moses, Joshua, Ruth, Hannah, David, Elijah, Esther and Mordecai, Jeremiah, Daniel, Ezra, and Nehemiah…to name a few from the Old Testament, sets forth the examples of the lives of faith which should have been commonplace, should have been the norm for Jewish living at the time of the ministry of Jesus in first-century Israel.

            Like our free-will choice to love someone, our choosing to follow God, by purposeful, intentional, divinely creative design will always be a free-will, take-it-or-leave-it, open option of the heart and mind in first-century Jerusalem, in the present-day, and for all eternity in heaven. 

            This is the remarkably sublime beauty of the free-will, free-thinking, moral reasoning, risky from God’s standpoint, non-robots that God created humans to be, operating with or without absolute, visual, empirically foolproof evidence of God’s existence (Jn. 20:29).

            The spiritual mystery of the self-autonomous rebellion of pushing God aside and out of our lives is therefore one of the key moral issues under examination in this life and this broken world.

            A person does not have to be a scholar to see in the Bible and to experience first-hand that God initially takes people having hidden potential yet at the start of their calling are broken, lost, and aimless in life (Mt. 9:10-13).  Through the divinely supportive respect and acceptance over time of salvation, redemption, and the life-altering insertion of a God-composed adventure of faith aided and energized by the Holy Spirit…turns people into something vastly better than they could have previously imagined.

            This is one of the main themes of the Bible.  Some people will accept God’s lead and follow Him into their destinies.  Others will push God away and follow their own course.

            This in itself should be a telling argument against the random-chance naturalism of self-sovereign worldly conventional thinking, by virtue of the sheer inexplicability of the origin of the concept of biblical faith, of God displacing our ways with His higher ways and thoughts, and its persistent longevity over thousands of years. 

            Naturalistic materialism if true should produce one homogeneous human mindset, either self-sovereignty or God-sovereignty…one lifestyle habit per creature type…like the rest of the natural living world.

            This option of belief or unbelief should tell us that as human beings we are different (Gen. 1:26-27).

            The complexity of the information content, the innovative originality of the main concepts, and the utter crash and collision with worldly conventional normalcy and thinking makes a compelling commonsense apologetic case for the divine origin of the journeys of faith recorded in the Bible, above, beyond, and outside of humanistic literary invention.

            This is the easier half in answering the question of why Jesus did not walk down Main Street and into the Temple a few days after His resurrection, which would have changed the dynamics of a journey of faith following Jesus Christ instead into the type of absolute, visual, foolproof evidence that atheists and skeptics demand…but which falls short as the means to establish a personal relationship.

            The hard part in analyzing the wisdom behind the delicate balance between belief and unbelief in this current world environment is as follows:

            After Jesus raised Lazarus from the dead…John 11:45-48 reads:

45 Then many of the Jews which came to Mary, and had seen the things which Jesus did, believed on him.

46 But some of them went their ways to the Pharisees, and told them what things Jesus had done.

47 Then gathered the chief priests and the Pharisees a council, and said, What do we? for this man doeth many miracles.

48 If we let him alone, all men will believe on him: and the Romans shall come and take away both our place and nation.

            The religious elites in Jerusalem decided to continue worldly conventional normalcy and thinking…self-autonomous self-rulership…by sacrificing Jesus Christ…by removing Him out of the way.

            This is expressed in John 11:49-50:

49 And one of them, named Caiaphas, being the high priest that same year, said unto them, Ye know nothing at all.

50 Nor consider that it is expedient for us, that one man should die for the people, and that the whole nation perish not.

            Caiaphas said this in order to perpetuate the status quo, to continue worldly conventional normalcy and thinking as it existed at that time and place.  Caiaphas was not interested in the initiating or the maintaining of biblical-quality journeys of faith, which the early church would soon step into and demonstrate to the world shortly (Acts 8:4) ”turning the world upside down” (Acts 17:6).

            Killing Jesus through Roman crucifixion, falsely as a political and religious malefactor simply foretells what would happen if this same attitude of self-sovereignty at its worst extreme version of worldly self-interest as demonstrated that day at the cross on Calvary Hill…was imported into heaven for all eternity.

            One reason why God drove Adam and Eve out of the Garden of Eden was to prevent their access to the Tree of Life (Gen. 3:22-24).

            An eternity of disruptive, self-centered rebellion in heaven is and would be unacceptable.

            This brings us to one of the key questions regarding the real Christian life…of why it is faith and not visual, empirical evidence that is the driving force in Christian discipleship, of why faith is the central element in the God-composed journey of faith life-scripts from Abraham in Genesis all the way through the Bible to Paul in Acts.

            Truth by definition is exclusive.  Multiple competing “truths” cannot all be true at the same time.

            In a sea of lies, deceptions, and cleverly disguised half-truths, the biblical narrative stories of faith inject a narrative of truth into the marketplace of secular worldviews.

            Skeptical unbelief tells people to go their own way as autonomous individuals…to sit atop the thrones of their lives as junior gods…to create their own definition and standards of purpose and meaning in their lives, to operate entirely independent of the input of the God of the Bible

            When there are multiple competing narratives which are difficult to parse and evaluate, then giving someone or some program the benefit-of-the-doubt may be the only reliable way to differentiate truth from error and right from wrong.

            Giving someone or some idea the benefit-of-the-doubt comes into play as the only way to test whether a particular narrative is true or false, and if experientially proven over the course of time to be true by the process of elimination, this then excludes the other multiple competing narratives.

            Thus the entrance into the human history of the marketplace of ideas the uniquely innovative calling of Abraham into a God-composed journey of faith life-script, that displaces whatever normative life Abraham might have otherwise lived in the city of Haran with an entirely new life-script that Abraham could not have dreamed-up in his wildest imagination.

            This new journey of faith in the narrative storyline of Abraham inaugurates the concept of listening in the Spirit to hear the voice of God, and then following the leading of God into life-scripts that produce positive results on a grand scale unprecedented in all of human history.

            The first introduction of a false competing narrative is recorded in Genesis chapter three in the temptation of Adam and Eve, a competing narrative of such deep sophistication that it functionally continues down to this present day:

“And the serpent said unto the woman, Ye shall not surely die: For God doth know that in the day ye eat thereof, then your eyes shall be opened, and ye shall be as gods, knowing good and evil.” (Gen. 3:4-5).

            This is the fundamental, competing false narrative that says that human beings are capable of going our own way apart from God.

            Another competing false narrative prominent today is the alluring appeal of the coveting of materialistic possessions found at the bottom half of the American Dream, that forms a false standard for measuring self-validation and self-worth as determined through worldly conventional normalcy and thinking.

            There is a historically pivotal narrative in first-century Jerusalem in the third year of the ministry of Jesus Christ in which it appears that the competing narrative guiding the religious elites in Jerusalem is stronger than the narrative of following Jesus Christ.

            As discussed in an earlier essay, as Jesus is mocked and taunted by those standing around watching Him die on the cross…it would appear that the Pharisees, Sadducees, lawyers, and scribes have won…and Jesus and His followers have lost.

            But the true narrative unfolds three days later when Jesus is resurrected from the tomb of Joseph of Arimathaea to fulfill His unique destiny to be the Passover Lamb of God atoning sacrifice for sin…”slain from the foundation of the world.” (Rev. 13:8).

            Jesus walking openly down Main Street and into the Temple merely creates a new competing narrative based upon an empirical observation of the risen Jesus as Messiah.

            But this would for many people do nothing to inaugurate the true God-initiated narrative of a God-composed journey of faith life-script in which our ways are displaced by God’s higher ways and thoughts, an imperative necessity in human lives for first-century Jews living in Jerusalem and for Gentiles at that time scattered throughout Asia Minor, and for people today as previewed for us in the biblical narrative stories of faith.

            For the Pharisees, Sadducees, lawyers, and scribes in the Temple interrogating the risen Jesus a few days after the resurrection…the newly revealed, factual knowledge that Jesus rose bodily from the dead would merely be in the minds of the people who are proud, arrogant, self-confident, and self-led simply another tool to add to their tool-kit of self-righteous good works.

            Within the false narrative they choose of self-sovereign self-in-control…the visual evidence of the risen Jesus openly walking down Main Street and into the Temple does not lead to following God in a journey of faith (Mic. 6:8).

            In the Sermon on the Mount…Jesus identifies the one true narrative for right living that excludes all other competing narratives:

“Enter ye in at the narrow gate: for wide is the gate, and broad is the way, that leadeth to destruction, and many there be which go in thereat:

Because narrow is the gate, and hard is the way, which leadeth unto life, and few there be that find it.”                                     (Mt. 7:13-14)

            In Mark 8:34-37…Jesus clarifies further the one true narrative for right living, again which excludes all other competing narratives based upon worldly conventional normalcy and thinking:

“Whosoever will come after me, let him deny himself, and take up his cross, and follow me.

For whosoever will save his life shall lose it; but whosoever shall lose his life for my sake and the gospel’s, the same shall save it.

For what shall it profit a man, if he shall gain the whole world, and lose his own soul?

Or what shall a man give in exchange for his soul?”

            The exclusivity of truth is uncompromisingly and unapologetically stated by Jesus Christ when He says in John 14:6…”I am the way, the truth, and the life: no man cometh unto the Father, but by me.”

            Jesus says to Martha before He raises her brother Lazarus from a rock covered tomb after being dead four days: “I am the resurrection, and the life: he that believeth in me, though he were dead, yet shall he live.  And whosover liveth and believeth in me shall never die.” (Jn. 11:25-26).

            This is the epitome of a worldview narrative that excludes all other competing narratives.

            G. K. Chesterton observed that Christianity has not been “tried and found wanting” but “found difficult and never tried.”[1]

            To actualize God’s true narrative into human life requires a God-composed journey of faith life-script that displaces our ways with His higher ways and thoughts (Isa. 55:8-9).  This requires repentance and a turning away from the narrative of going our own way (Isa. 53:5-6), requires a reformation in our worldview narrative (Mt. 4:17) that the visual proof of Jesus walking down Main Street and into the Temple after His resurrection will not produce.


[1] Patrick Glynn, GOD, The Evidence (New York: Three Rivers Press, 1997, 1999), p. 149.

God Has Our Back

“But God hath revealed them unto us by his Spirit: for the Spirit searcheth all things, yea, the deep things of God.”  (1 Cor. 2:10)

            God has our back in a crisis.  The only way we would know this for sure is by actual experience, by being in the middle of a shooting war.  

            This has to be true, because it cannot be fiction.  It does not hold up as fiction.  Once it rises to the level of becoming recorded in writing, put down on paper, it enters the arena of being universally testable and falsifiable over time. 

            The interaction between the living God and David, memorialized forever in David’s 23rd Psalm, is true because it cannot be otherwise…it cannot be fictional writing.  Once David writes about walking through the valley of the shadow of death with God at his side, then fiction-writing as the source of its inspiration and origin becomes nonsensical. 

            The uniquely biblical concept of the living God participating in our lives to this extent of personal interaction…at the very center of our life-scripts…is too far outside of the default, conventional worldview thinking of sitting atop the thrones of our lives in self-sovereignty to make the huge leap across to the other side of the spectrum in placing our lives on-the-line in sacrificially following, through a journey of faith, the living God.

            According to worldly conventional normalcy and thinking, David should be telling us how great and powerful he is, not about successful faith in God, because self-adulation surrounding his achievements would be the normally expected outer limits, the extent of his possible experience.

            What would be the point, the motivation, the source of inspiration for David making this Psalm 23 up…if the actual boundaries of human experience stop at the edge of self-sovereignty, self-reliance, and autonomous individualism? 

            Following God into an adventure of faith would not hold water, would not stand-up, for any period of time within actual lived experience unless God is real and that we can experience His active participation in our lives.

            Religious “faith” that is still rooted in self-reliance and self-rulership is not biblical faith.  Biblical faith will connect us with the real God who according to the narrative stories of faith recorded in the Bible will displace our ways with a higher life-script that reflects His higher ways and thoughts (Isa. 55:8-9).

            This is the root of what was so threatening to the religious leaders in Jerusalem in the first-century that led to crucifying Jesus Christ, a line of reasoning revisited several times in more detail throughout this book. 

            The religious leaders in Jerusalem were exposed by Jesus as being blind hypocrites, as being fraudulent religionists. 

            They said they were the authorized representatives of God (Jn. 8:33, 39, 41) when in fact they were the deadliest enemies of applied biblical faith. 

            They were firmly committed to the default worldview of self-sovereign self-rulership, of maintaining complete control over their lives to the point of instigating the death of Jesus through Roman crucifixion, in order to remove the threat of having to surrender this self-guided, self-sovereign status quo (Jn. 11:47-48). 

            They knew roughly about biblical faith, had been exposed to it as they studied the Hebrew Bible, but did not want any part of it themselves (Lk. 11:39-54).    

            This is a component of the “mystery” of iniquity, the conflict between self-sovereignty and God-sovereignty in our lives that produced the radical outcomes of the cross, the resurrection, and our salvation, which again is analyzed and discussed throughout this book from many angles and in more detail.

            The risk-factor involved in the novelty of voluntarily and willingly walking through a genuine journey of faith following the living God is on its own powerful and persuasive evidence that supports the divine origin of the Bible.  As human invented literary fiction the concept of God-sovereignty displacing our self-sovereignty…as imaginary fictional invention…cannot and would not exist for any length of time in real practice. 

            Minutes, hours, or days of actual tested experience would quickly expose this concept, if fiction, as empty fantasy and be discarded as functionally worthless.

            If God is in actuality “not home,” then His brilliantly imaginative solutions in the biblical narrative stories of faith, that soar above human creativity and invention would not only be inaccessible as real experience to be recorded as life-history on paper…they would also be beyond the creative imagination of human contemplation altogether. 

            David or some other writer inventing the 23rd Psalm as fiction has no motivational or conceptual legs to stand on.  It does not take us anywhere within worldly conventional normalcy and thinking. 

            A real journey of faith following the living God, as recorded in the Bible is inconceivable and incomprehensible to a person committed to following their own way according to self-rulership.

            This dichotomy of worldviews…two different approaches to life as unmixable as oil and water…should be an obvious red-flag jolt to anyone involved in the debate over the existence of God. 

            The fundamental first question, like the causal explanation of the Big Bang, is what or who is the source of the completely novel and innovative, alternative worldview of a God-composed journey of faith life-script starting with the life of Abraham, continued through all of the biblical narrative stories of faith?

            What explains the origin of this consistent storyline pattern in the Bible of  the cross of Christ (Lk. 22:42) continuing down to contemporary Christian experience in our modern times that is so utterly contrary to the conventionality of the accepted life-approach of going our own way in self-reliance and self-autonomy?  

            In modern speech a biblical-quality adventure of faith, if it is fiction, if it is false, then it would be a “non-starter”…it would have no “there/there.”  It would be without tangible, supportive substance. 

            If there is no active engagement between God and people…then there is nothing extraordinary, unconventional, or supernatural to write about…nothing that could “get-off the ground” and sustain air-born flight. 

            This is why God-composed adventures of faith life-scripts having God displacing our ways with His higher ways are non-existent in other religions, philosophies, and worldviews, outside of the Bible. 

            This is why biblical adventures of faith fall far outside of and above the zone of worldly conventional normalcy and thinking.

            This dichotomy of two distinct worldviews delineated exclusively in the Bible and miles apart in their practical application to human purpose and meaning in life, is a major, commonsense apologetic argument for the divine origin of Old Testament Judaism and New Testament Christianity. 

            It is never raised by atheists and skeptical critics because they cannot even see it as a target to attack in scripture, as a debatable talking point.

            It can only be raised by Spirit-born and Spirit-led Christians who have themselves been in the danger zone of faith in a “shooting war” that has real consequences in life, because people personally led and taught of God are the only people on the planet aware of this reality.

            The idea that God-scripted life-plans fall so far outside of conventional thinking is itself a compelling and persuasive argument for the truth of their divine origin, because this unique genre is inexplicable as humanistically invented, literary fiction.

            If Christians do not see the unconventionality of the cross of Christ skillfully embedded within the script of every biblical narrative story of faith, because they have not experienced God having our back in a crisis, then this positive and compelling apologetic argument for the divine origin of an adventure of faith…completely unknown outside of the Bible…will not be made. 

            It will be missed in the competing marketplace of ideas.

            This is the dual choice we all have as cognitive beings having free-will to follow God down an adventurous path of discovery…or to go our own way in self-lead, conventional normalcy and thinking.

The Thief on the Cross

            The story of the thief on the cross recorded in Luke 23:39-43 is the minimum baseline example given to us in the New Testament gospels that defines faith plus our good-works for salvation…that will pass the test of fire (Jn. 6:28-29; 1 Cor. 3:13; 1 Pet. 1:7).

            This baseline example is illustrated through an actual event in history spread-out over the short interval of a few hours…rather than a doctrinal concept given to us in explanatory, expository words alone.

            This baseline standard for measuring salvation is given to us by no less an authority than Jesus Christ Himself, the Passover Lamb of God atoning sacrifice for sin, at the precise moments of that sacrifice and from the very instrument…the cross on Calvary Hill…that procured our salvation.

            This condemned thief is not coming down off the cross to start a positive, God-composed journey of faith life-script for the remaining years of his life.  His wrists and feet are immovably pinned by long metal spikes to the wooden cross-beams of Roman crucifixion.  He will die there in a few more hours.  There is no time left to do anything good or bad from that moment forward, in any major way.

            The thief on the cross at that moment in time has nothing by way of reformed, future good-works to offer to God on behalf of his salvation to qualify himself before God.  There is no second chance for him to come down off the cross with the promise to live a better life going forward.

            Yet when Jesus says to the thief on the cross…crucified alongside Him and sharing His fate that eventful Friday in history: “Today shalt thou be with me in paradise”…this thief can then confidently take this promise “to the bank.”  He can “bet the farm on it”…in utter and complete assurance.

            This is not just the word of a great prophet declaring a future event.  This promise comes from Jesus Christ the divine Son of God…the very Word of God in the flesh.

            The thief on the cross can rest in the inner peace and assurance of eternal salvation for the remaining few hours he has on this earth, from the extremely privileged position of observing the exemplary character of Jesus Christ the Son of God in action dying next to him as the Passover Lamb of God for the sins of the world.

            I believe this real-life example spelled-out for us through an action event recorded in the Bible, resolves the controversial theological issue of the eternal security of our salvation while we are still in this life and engaged in our journey of faith, by combining in this specific example both ends of a short time-interval defined as biblical faith in Hebrews 11:1…”the substance of things hoped for, the evidence of things not seen”…in this salvation story of the last final hours of the thief on the cross.

            A fundamental problem here with the general biblical interpretation believed by some people today…that we can lose our salvation…is that Jesus at that moment in time is telling the thief that later that same day he will be with Jesus in His kingdom. 

            Jesus as the divine Son of God either possesses Himself…or is perfectly exercising through God the Father…timeless foresight.

            In my opinion, the part that confuses the issue of eternal security is the seemingly incoherent blend of a God who exists in a timeless environment and human beings that live in the four dimensions of time and space. 

            These two things do not appear on the surface, at first glance, to easily mix.  But both these realities…God’s timeless existence and our lives spread-out within the forward march of the God-created dimension of time, are absolutely essential for developing confidence in the wisdom and leadership of God, and our placing trust in a God-composed journey of faith for our lives that have this Hebrews 11:1 risk-element of elongated and stretched-out time.

            Our future actualized promise of salvation…the “evidence of things not seen” regarding eternal life…does not occur yet in this current lifetime.  This culminating event occurs at our resurrection, at the last trumpet sound, at the great Judgment Day and our entrance into heaven. 

            This is what seems to introduce an element of confusion, which in actuality is instead another strong apologetic evidence for the existence of God and the truth of the Bible. 

            The interval of time, the gap in practical, lived experience between where we are now and where we need to get to…this unique feature of biblical faith as defined by Hebrews 11:1…is an inseparable part of the storyline of every positive person in their biblical-quality journey of faith life-scripts, whether we are Moses, David, or the thief on the cross. 

            Whether our destiny-of-faith moment in history spans years, months, or a few short hours on the cross alongside Jesus the Passover Lamb of God of Isaiah 53…like this thief…the surety of our salvation is not dependent upon any specific duration of time or more importantly is not dependent upon our performance over that period of time.

            With a timeless God having divine foreknowledge there is no future earthly span of time that conditionally determines our salvation…whether years, months, or hours.     

            The simplistic yet powerful lesson of the thief on the cross is that he cannot “mess-up” his salvation during his remaining few hours, this short interval of Hebrews 11:1 time remaining for him…the brief entirety of his faith-journey…on his cross of execution alongside Jesus as the sky overhead darkens and the earth rumbles that Friday afternoon.

            This is the case because the promise of the assurance of eternal salvation comes from the mouth of the divine Son of God, Jesus Christ of Nazareth from the cross in the very act of being the Passover sacrifice for sin. 

            Jesus that moment on the cross…either has Himself or is exercising from God the Father…divine timeless foresight.

            This pivotal moment in time and the dramatic circumstances of this historic event could not be more definitive and decisive on the topic of eternal security…because Jesus Christ here cannot misspeak.

            That Jesus Christ our eternal Savior and King and this remarkable human thief on the cross having no merit or achievements to argue on his behalf for salvation should come together in this moment in history…is not an accident (Isa. 53:12).

            The promise of entering shortly into paradise, coming from the timeless foresight of Jesus Christ the Passover Lamb of God sacrifice for the sins of the world, while He is suffering and dying on the cross to the thief also suffering and dying alongside Him…is an iron-clad, irrevocable, unalterable event that cannot change within the span of a few short hours, for both Jesus and the thief on their respective crosses.

            The word of God is sure not only because it is based on the high-quality of His character, but also because it is timeless.

            This is a product of the timeless nature of God (Isa. 46:9-10) and the functional nature of the limitations of time and space that God created for us so that we might experience and discover the knowledge of good and evil…not in split-second, instantaneous flashes of time but spread-out over longer intervals of time…sometimes only hours as in the case of the thief on the cross as expressed in Hebrews 11:1 and as so beautifully told in Luke 23:39-43.

            The scriptural arguments for and against eternal security have already been written and fill entire books.

            But for the purposes of this book, the biblical narrative stories of faith are the God-designed vehicles that actualize the context of events wherein our souls are measured.”

            This is an apologetic argument for the divine origin of the Bible.

            The events and circumstances of the narrative stories of faith recorded in the Bible…unlike any other form or genre of human literature…measure our souls on the basis of our faith and relationship with God. 

            Our souls are not only measured by courage in battle, or the resilience to bounce back from numerous defeats to accomplish greatness, or by an epiphany that changes us from being a crass, self-centered person to becoming a loving person through character growth…being the theme of countless books, theater plays, and movies.

            The quality of life-script events that will measure our souls at the apex…at the zenith…of moral reasoning and decision-making regarding our relationship with God…can only originate from God. 

            The thief on the cross could never have orchestrated the cascade of events that placed him that fateful Friday on a cross of execution alongside Jesus Christ the Son of God…with the opportunity to go along with the crowd in verbally mocking Jesus (Lk. 23:35-39) or amazingly for the first and only time in his life…to discover the power, conviction, courage, and liberated audacity to resist the peer pressure in the moment…and to instead proclaim publicly through the Holy Spirit a faith in the God/man Jesus crucified alongside him.

            The thief on the cross manages to find his destiny at the last possible moment, summoning the Holy Ghost courage to testify of this newfound faith after this brief encounter with Jesus being crucified alongside him…to his fellow thief and to any and all others standing around the crosses and listening, that would pass the test of saving faith for time eternal (Lk. 23:43).

            On that fateful day…and over a few short hours…the soul of the thief on the cross was measured and found brilliantly passing the test for salvation according to God’s terms and standards.

            The point I want to make here is monumental in its importance. 

            We need God-composed journey of faith life-scripts to actualize for us a context of life-events wherein our souls are measured…precisely so that we can succeed on God’s terms and by His standards and not through the futility of good-works and self-realization according to our ways (Isa. 55:8-9).

            This is the record of the biblical narrative stories of faith including this incredibly inspiring story of the thief on the cross.

            Choosing amongst the smorgasbord buffet of the wants and aspirations of worldly conventional normalcy and thinking…a great education, a good job, high salary, good marriage, a big house, luxury automobile, European vacation, a stock portfolio, good health, and sending our kids to Harvard or Oxford…will not measure our souls in the way that the life-scripts of Abraham, Joseph, Moses, David, Peter, Paul, and the thief on the cross were measured.

            The thief on the cross could not have orchestrated the events that led to his salvation that day any more than Abraham could have orchestrated his life-script of faith, any more than Paul could have orchestrated the events that led to him becoming the premier Christian evangelical missionary to the first-century Greco-Roman world.

            The grand irony here that is far beyond the contemplative imagination of human literary invention is that the Pharisees, Sadducees, lawyers, and scribes standing around and mocking Jesus on the cross…who attempted to self-craft “perfect lives” according to their way (Mt. 6:2, 5; 9:12-13; 10:33; 11:16-19; 15:7-9) end-up unknowingly killing Jesus their Passover Lamb of God sacrifice for sin (1 Cor. 2:8).

            The grand irony is that the one person who obtained on that day on Calvary Hill the assurance of the eternal security of salvation, for the short but priceless few hours from sometime around mid-morning to when he died at dusk that late afternoon was the thief on the cross alongside Jesus.

            There are two massive takeaways from this dramatic scene taking place in Jerusalem in the first-century.

            Imagine in our mind’s eye the religious elites standing around the three crosses mocking Jesus, the Roman soldiers who carried out the execution nearby, the women disciples of Jesus including His mother at the base of His cross weeping over what has occurred, and the two thieves crucified on each side of Jesus.

            The first massive takeaway from this scene is the huge gulf between the two opposing outcomes of going our own way in self-sovereignty…in contrast to God-sovereignty.

            Jesus is the perfect, blemish-free Passover Lamb of God sacrifice for sin.  To qualify to be the atonement for sin…Jesus must be perfect.  A flawed sacrifice in terms of substandard moral performance in life would be unacceptable.  Wealth, popularity, and political influence are not qualifiers in this Passover Lamb of God sacrifice for sin.

            The problem of human sin is the precise target homed-in on by the blemish-free moral life of Jesus Christ…perfectly lived according to a life-script composed by God the Father, Jesus Christ the Son of God, and the Holy Spirit.

            The perfect life and the perfect life-script of Jesus…lead to the cross on Calvary Hill. 

            But trying to be perfect according to the worldview of going our own way, as demonstrated by the self-reliant religious elites mocking Jesus…leads to placing Jesus on the cross.  These two outcomes could not be more diametrically opposite…could not be more clearly separated.

            The second massive takeaway from this scene on Calvary Hill two thousand years ago is that the thief on the cross, immovably stuck there and not going anywhere or able to do anything secular or religious in the slightest way…surprisingly and unexpectedly experiences that fateful day in his life the “joy unspeakable and full of glory” assurance of the eternal security of salvation for the otherwise physically agonizing hours he spends being executed by Roman crucifixion…through the sure words of promise spoken to him by Jesus the Son of God being crucified alongside him.   

            If we incorrectly believe that we can lose our salvation, this opens the door ever so slightly for self-achieved good-works and self-realization to creep in as the missing ingredient to fill-in the gap of our imperfect moral nature…missing the point entirely as to the redemptive salvation by grace through faith that provides absolute coverage of our sins past, present, and future…even for the thief on the cross experiencing the “peace that passes all understanding” while dying on his cross.

            The story of the thief on the cross, composed and orchestrated by God Himself, being totally outside the contemplative imagination of human literary invention tells us our salvation based upon faith in Jesus Christ…in this divinely illustrated case of the thief on the cross…is eternally secure (Jn. 8:36; 2 Cor. 4:7).

A God-Composed Journey of Faith Transcends above the American Dream 2

The narrative stories of faith…as recorded in the Bible…are so different from worldly conventional normalcy and thinking…that they invent an entirely new frame-of-reference for human life.

This frame-of-reference has as its goal the establishment of a personal relationship…between people and God…set-up through the creative mind of God…and on His terms…that must be the new reality if our life-stories are to be elevated up and out of worldly conventional, popular normalcy and thinking (Jn. 8:36).

The biblical narrative stories of faith are not for or against the aspirations of ancient and contemporary versions of the American Dream. 

The biblical narrative stories of faith simply transcend above these universally popular goals, dreams, and aspirations in a way that makes them curiously inapplicable, unimportant, and no longer the chief desire of our hearts and minds.

The life events and circumstances…the goals…and the end-point outcomes in the storylines of the biblical people of faith…have nothing to do with making a success of ourselves in terms of worldly conventional standards…according to the American Dream as translated backwards into every century of time and every cultural setting from the ancient books of Genesis through Acts…in the Bible.

In the Bible…the people who become caught-up in a God-composed adventure of faith life-script mission…discover along the way that their personal relationship with the living God becomes more important and more valuable than anything else in life…even the attractiveness of the American Dream of material wealth, the culturally acceptable validation of ourselves, and achieving through our own efforts a sense of personal security.

The acceptance and validation coming from God…in valuing us enough to call us by His Spirit into a unique and individual life-plan…of having faith in us to the point of calling us individually into a specific mission that only we can perform…with His assistance and partnership…is entirely different from the self-satisfaction of achieving the goals, dreams, and aspirations of the American Dream according to the Frank Sinatra song “I did it my way”…of self-autonomous individualism…that is typically found within worldly conventional normalcy and thinking (Phil. 3:4-10).

The parable of the nobleman away on business…and the instruction of Luke 19:13 to “occupy till I come”…is the commendable, baseline guide for all Christians to be about our Father’s business in whatever capacity we may be assigned in the caretaking of the estate…in this parable…of trimming the walkway shrubs, sweeping the exterior walkways, picking the fruits and vegetables from the orchard, caring for the livestock, preparing the meals for the staff, and the general interior and exterior cleaning and up-keep maintenance of the estate buildings and grounds.

Realizing the American Dream…can be achieved entirely through self-effort…through the application and exploitation of our natural, innate abilities…through autonomous individualism.

Experiencing a biblical-quality journey of faith…by intentional design…requires the direct participation of the living God…within a personal relationship.

These two realities for life are not the same…although they can and do overlap…along the way in a journey of faith…in some areas and in some cases.

What this means…in a practical applied sense…for Christians today is that God can guide and channel life-events and circumstances …inserting unique and individualized life-scripts into the lives of plumbing contractors, stay-at-home moms, auto mechanics, high school teachers, lawyers, accountants, engineers, professional athletes, journalists, small town mayors, church pastors, Christian foreign missionaries, Bible college professors, and Christian book writers…after the pattern of the narrative stories of faith recorded in the Bible.

For some people…their individual gifts and talents are either outwardly apparent…or internally revealed to them.

Some people know early in childhood that they want to become a medical nurse, or that they possess the athletic ability to play professional sports, or that they have the gift of exceptional intelligence to be able to earn a PhD in mathematics.

For these people…the addition and inclusion of an actively interested and participating God into the mix…enhances the life experience of pursuing their goals with their very best effort…giving it their all…because these unique gifts and talents derive from their Creator God in the first place.

A personal relationship with God can actualize…can come to life…can translate into any conceivable career path, geographical location, personal circumstances, political environment, and economic situation…having enumerable choices and pathways leading to the optimum successful life…at the pinnacle and peak of our intended destiny.

Jesus famously said that He came to earth…that we might have more abundant life (Jn. 10:10).

This more abundant life is based upon the strength of the foundation of a fulfilling relational walk-of-faith with Jesus Christ, God the Father, and the Holy Spirit…and not on the satisfaction of the self-works of achieving the American Dream on our own…apart from God…and outside of a brilliantly unique, divine calling for our lives (Mk. 8:36).

God created within us this strong drive to succeed.

This actualizes into the optimum life when it is lived within a joint-venture walk of faith…with Jesus Christ…occupying His correct relational position as King and Ruler in our lives…utilizing His qualities of timeless foresight and divinely unselfish love…perfect in His elevated estimation of our value and worth…demonstrated in His self-sacrifice on the cross at Calvary for our sakes.

This is a key element of the real Christian life…as articulated for us throughout the biblical narrative stories of faith (Rom. 15:4).

A God-Composed Journey of Faith Transcends above the American Dream 1

“No man that warreth entangleth himself with the affairs of this life; that he may please him who hath chosen him to be a soldier.”                                                                                               (2 Tim. 2:4)       

The American Dream…in modern terms might be defined by many people to include things like going to the finest college, earning an advanced degree, getting a high-paying job we enjoy working at, having a happy marriage, successfully raising a family, buying a large mansion in a great location, driving a Bentley or Aston Martin convertible automobile, having good friends, enjoying hobbies, playing sports, having good health and a long life, sending our children to Harvard, Yale, Stanford, Oxford, or other prestigious colleges, having a healthy stock portfolio, taking European vacations, enjoying our grandchildren, and having a secure retirement.

What could outwardly appear…on the surface…to be more popularly sensible…more conventionally appealing as goals, dreams, and aspirations in life to aim for…than the list of things described above?

Yet the narrative stories of faith in the Old and New Testaments of the Bible are entirely different…in terms of goals, dreams, and aspirations…from any imaginable ancient version of the American Dream…translated back to a previous period in time.

This observation…however offensive and bewildering to the humanistic philosophy of some people…should at the very least stand-out as a waving red-flag to us within the modern marketplace of ideas…but we miss it…in part because most people concentrate on the worldly essentials of keeping our jobs, paying the bills, fulfilling our personal duties and obligations, and carving-out any remaining space for personal time…to have any space leftover to seriously contemplate entering by faith into a God-composed journey of faith…a personalized calling…written just for us (Mt. 6:33).

This is one of the unique facts about the Bible that argues for its divine origin…because this transcendence above popular conventional thinking…would never originate from popular conventional thinking.

This observation…counter-intuitively…is one of the most positive features of the biblical gospel message of God’s very real and rational offer to us of an alternative choice…into an elevated, purposeful life on a higher moral, ethical, and spiritual plane.

To become a willing enlistee of God into a divinely-composed journey of faith life-script…full of risk and adventure…actualizes into having the most profound meaning, purpose, and fulfillment imaginable for human beings.

Jesus Christ is the way, the truth, and the life (Jn. 14:6)…not only because He is the Savior, Redeemer, and Light of the world…but also and of equal importance…Jesus Christ is the only person in all of existence who can compose divinely-crafted  journey of faith life-scripts for every believer in the Old Testament…in the New Testament…and for Christians today…that are an attractive, alternative option that transcends above popular conventionality…yet may encompass…along the way…some of the goals and outcomes of the otherwise commendable American Dream listed above.

One of the key biblical concepts that is still partially missing today in contemporary orthodox Christianity…that has not yet been fully recovered following the Protestant Reformation…is that the narrative stories of faith recorded in the Bible…have little or nothing at all to do with the American Dream…modern or ancient…as the primary thing to aim for in life.

The genuine reality of human life…the validation of our creation and existence…is not found within the autonomous individualism of a pursuit of the American Dream.

The true purpose of human life is found on the higher plane of God-composed journeys of faith life-scripts in pursuit of our created destinies.

The calling of Abraham…the “father of faith” as long ago in history as 2,200 B.C., recorded as beginning in the 12th chapter of Genesis…the first book in the Hebrew Bible and the Christian Old Testament…as well as the callings of Joseph, Moses, Joshua, David…all the way through the Bible to the calling and ministry of the apostle Paul…are not anything like the America Dream as outlined above.

On the surface, this is a compelling evidence for the divine origin of these unconventional life-scripts.

As Abraham walks from the city of Haran to the Promised Land of Canaan…with each step he takes God is displacing whatever conventionally normal life Abraham might have lived in Haran…with a completely different, elevated life based not upon the American Dream…but upon an entirely unique walk of faith…that opens up the context in which to get to know the real living God on a personal basis.

Instead of becoming the city mayor of Haran, or becoming its international trade ambassador, or serving on the school board, or coaching an ancient version of a youth soccer team…and thereby exiting quietly from history as an unexceptional person living an unexceptional life…Abraham’s calling and life-mission as brilliantly composed by God…was to become the singular “father of faith” example of an elevated life.

This is the through-line theme of every biblical story of faith…repeated in unique variations-on-a-common-theme for the beneficial impact of successive generations…as the divinely created new normal for all relationships between people and the living God…starting with Abraham’s walk of faith…to our present day.

The Real Christian Life 2

This is precisely why God invented time in conjunction with the atomic particles, energy, and the laws of science at the Big Bang…so that we could experience the biblical faith of Hebrews 11:1…spread-out over time…so that we can learn the “hard way”…so that we can experientially learn by our mistakes and failures.

In this uniquely biblical reality, we maintain our free-will choice, but the program of salvation and the journey of faith life-scripts are entirely of God…as logically they must be…if godliness is to come into our lives.

Ephesians 2:8-9 reads: “For by grace are ye saved through faith; and that not of yourselves: it is the gift of God:  Not of works, lest any man should boast.”

That not of yourselves…not of works…because human good-works cannot get us from one end of the spectrum-line…self-sovereignty…all the way over to the other end of the spectrum…God-sovereignty…that is the essential core feature of the real Christian life.

A functionally effective program for salvation that includes a God-composed journey of faith life-script…like that of Abraham, Joseph, Moses, David, Peter, and Paul…to name only a few…must have these components of eternal security, free-will choice, the universal atonement of Christ (in the Old Testament looking forward in time to the coming of the Messiah), the innate capacity of people to be able to exercise faith or to reject God, and the all-important grace of God…to not only forgive our sins through the blood of Jesus shed on the cross…but to make allowances for our flawed performance within our individually scripted journeys of faith…thus removing out-of-the-picture entirely the concept of self-works earning our way to salvation.

Everyone can visualize a young father kneeling on the living room carpet…a few feet away from a chair upon which is standing their two-year old son or daughter…saying unto them: “jump into my arms, and I will catch you.”

After the son or daughter jumps the short distance and is caught into the outstretched arms of their father…laughing and gleefully shouting “do it again, Dad, do it again!”…not only has a fun new game been invented but a bond of trust has been strengthened between father and son or daughter…that Dad will catch me each time in this game when he says “jump” from the chair into his arms.

One important point here is that it is the father who invents this game.  The two-year old does not say: “Dad…I am going to stand at the front edge of this chair and jump…and you are going to catch me.”  All of the logistics and outcomes of this new game…of having fun but also building a relationship of trust…are premeditated within the creative mind of the loving father.

I cannot speak for Abraham as he journeys from Haran to Canaan…or Joseph as he works through his unofficial MBA training in Potiphar’s house and Pharaoh’s prison…or Moses as he walks with his brother Aaron toward Egypt to deliver the Israelites…or David when he approaches Goliath with his sling and stone…or Peter at his personal interview with Jesus on resurrection day…or Paul after he discovers on the road to Damascus that Jesus is the Messiah.

Anyone who has heard the voice of God in the Spirit in their calling…in some way or another senses an authority, a confidence, an assurance of certainty that God is someone I can trust and follow…even more importantly someone I can love…unlike anything else in all of human experience…as we should expect.

This is what see observe in the biblical narrative stories of faith…and it does not make for anything like accurate, human literary fiction.

Good human literary fiction is based upon conventional human experience.

But God inserting life-scripts having His higher ways and thoughts…displacing our ways in the process…is so unconventional it cannot be found anywhere in human literary fiction or anywhere in human experience…outside of the Bible.

The biblical narrative stories of faith are too complex, too sophisticated, too functionally integrated, and too creatively outside of the boundaries of normally conventional thinking to be the product of human literary imagination.

If following God was very similar to everyday normal life…then the God-track would not only be suspect as being a human invention…but it would offer very little benefit in terms of genuine separation, change, and hope for a new, transformed better life…compared to the self-sovereignty track of going our own way.

The more inexplicably implausible the creative origin of the biblical narrative stories of faith might be…by way of humanistic literary invention…in other words the larger the obvious gap between going our own way versus picking up our cross to follow Jesus Christ is…then the more information content, reformation impact, and change-agent value there is in a God-composed journey of faith life-script…designed not only to lead and guide us into all truth (Jn. 16:13) but also to establish a context wherein we can get to know God within a personal relationship…something that is entirely supernatural (Jn. 10:27-28, 11:25-26, 14:8-9).

The concept of split-second, instantaneous revelations and pronouncements by God…spanning the duration of a micro-second within the timeless environment of God (Isa. 46:9-10)…cannot by definition actualize into the first-hand experiences of the biblical faith of Hebrews 11:1…spread-out over the time intervals of “the substance of things hoped for, the evidence of things not seen”…within our dimension of time.

My mother used to say at breakfast on a cold winter morning before we headed off to school that “oatmeal will stick to your ribs.”

This is why God invented time.

This is why God invented journeys of faith life-scripts as the optimum vehicle for the discovery of the knowledge of good and evil…for every believer (Jer. 31:31-34).

The lessons learned first-hand through a journey of faith spread-out over time…will stick to our ribs for all eternity.

This is why a timeless God gives us the assurance of the eternal security of our salvation…before we enter into the risk of an adventure of faith (2 Cor. 1:22; Eph. 1:13-14).

This is why a timeless God has already factored-in our mistakes and shortcomings into our adventure of faith…covered by God’s grace…not just at our initial acceptance of Christ and becoming spiritually born-again (Jn. 3:3-5)…but throughout our journey of faith…come what may (Eph. 2:8-10).

The Real Christian Life 1

“But sanctify the Lord God in your hearts: and be ready always to give an answer to every man that asketh you a reason of the hope that is in you with meekness and fear.”                                    (1 Pet. 3:15)

This book is a series of short-length, stand-alone essays that start with the main theme that the biblical narrative stories of faith could not possibly be the product of human literary invention…but instead have a divine origin, composition, and intentional targeted purpose of the highest importance imaginable.

If this is true…and I think this can be convincingly shown to be true using commonsense logical reasoning…then the implications are enormous.

If God is the scriptwriter behind the detailed, biblical narrative stories of faith…from Abraham in the book of Genesis to Paul in the book of Acts…this gives us God’s perspective of what He thinks today is The Real Christian Life…what is productive, genuine discipleship.

How we best live our Christian lives…is powerfully connected to this one question of whether or not the biblical narrative stories of faith could be merely human literary invention…or instead could only come from the mind and heart of a God possessing divinely timeless foresight, brilliantly creative imagination, and a gift for proactive preplanning at the highest level of coordinated multi-tasking.

But before moving on to make commonsense arguments in more detail for the existence of God, the divine origin of the Bible, and how the biblical narrative stories of faith relate to the real Christian life today…in this Introduction I should disclose my theological biases and presuppositions…that have a direct bearing on the logical consistency and strength of my arguments.

I believe that born-again Christians have the full assurance of the eternal security of their salvation (1 Jn. 5:13; Phil. 1:6; Jn. 10:28-29)…through their free-will choice (Mk. 8:34-38; Jn. 4:14; Rev. 22:17) to accept Christ through faith (Eph. 2:8-9). 

This certainty is based upon their knowing (1 Cor. 3:16; Eph. 1:18) that they have accepted Jesus Christ by faith.

I believe that faith precedes salvation (Rom. 5:1; Acts 16:31; Eph. 1:13)…that upon hearing the gospel message (1 Cor. 15:1-4)…if we believe and accept Christ…then we are saved…and can never lose our salvation (Jn. 3:16).

I believe that the blood that Jesus Christ shed on the cross is the perfect atonement for the sins of mankind (Col. 2:10)…and that this atonement is offered freely to every person for them to either choose to accept or to reject (2 Cor. 5:14; 1 Tim. 2:4; 2 Pet. 3:9; Jn. 1:11).

I believe that the concepts of predestination, election, divinely timeless foreknowledge, free-will choice, the capacity to believe, and the universal outreach of salvation…are all derived directly from scripture…and are brilliantly interwoven, adjudicated, balanced, and resolved…interpreted by God Himself…within the biblical narrative stories of faith.

God is the only person who could blend seemingly contradictory concepts together within the events and circumstances of the numerous biblical life-scripts of journeys of faith…bringing together the unmixable ingredients of God’s will, our free-will choice, God’s timeless foresight, and the intentionally designed benefits of our four dimensions of space and time…slowing events and circumstances down into short-term and long-term experiential lessons that lead the people of faith in the Bible…and modern Christians today…into the “all-truth” of John 16:13.

As I will argue many times in essays throughout this book, this is a compelling apologetic evidence for the existence of God and the truth of the Bible…because the novel and innovative quality of the biblical narrative stories of faith is too worldly unconventional to have originated from a humanistic worldview perspective.

This biblical interpretation has a direct and critical bearing upon the actualizing within our lives of the type and quality of a journey of faith described in the Bible…from Abraham through Paul…due to the high risk-level involved…if our salvation was not secure.

As a practical matter…no one in their right-mind would take the high risk to venture out into a journey of faith following a God-composed life-script…in which we cannot…by divine intention (2 Cor. 5:7)…see around the next bend in the upcoming corner or over the top of the next hill…as to how steep, perilous, or narrow the way may become…if by following this life-script our eternal salvation was placed in jeopardy.

God knows that no one would…or should…accept the risk of a biblical-style walk of faith…if our salvation was in the slightest way dependent upon our often flawed human performance over the course of our lives…if our salvation was dependent upon faith plus some additional measure of our good-works.

No ancient or modern Christian would step into their risk-filled, God-composed life-script…crafted after the biblical pattern of an Abraham, Joseph, Moses, David, Peter, or Paul…without the upfront assurance of the eternal security of their salvation.

This doctrinal issue bears directly upon the real Christian life…because clearly the biblical narrative stories of faith from Noah through Paul entail their assuming the highest imaginable risks upon first entering into their God-composed callings.

This all-important issue also illuminates a commonsense apologetic argument for the divine origin of the Bible…simply…that a God-composed journey of faith life-script is so foreign to worldly conventional thinking…and therefore by nature highly risk-filled in its reliance upon the good faith and character of God…that God is wisely offering us a safe-conduct upfront…through the blood of Jesus Christ…securing our eternal salvation…before we willingly agree to accompany Him out into the newness and novelty of a walk of biblical faith.