My Testimony 4

What happened next is what separates my experiential perspective…from the viewpoint of atheists and skeptical critics of the Bible.

Over the next two weeks I felt a very real release from the weight of my past failings and shortcomings…the uncertainty of the future no longer being a nagging concern…my spirit rejoicing with the angels in heaven that another lost soul…me…had obtained eternal life…had escaped spiritual darkness and entered into light.

I literally became a new person.  The internal reformation was an unmistakably supernatural event.

It was not a personal epiphany…not self-realization…not an intellectual recognition of a system of thought I agreed with…and not some satisfying of a previously unseen internal deficiency I needed to remedy through self-reform or wise outside human council.

This salvation experience had its grounding…its roots…its substance…in meeting the living God on a personal basis…for the first time in my life.

What will infuriate some atheists and skeptics…if they even grant any credibility to my testimony…is that this does not fit within the stereotype of the person raised in the church and partially brainwashed by its teachings.

I was not only an unqualified sinner…lacking any good-works merit to attract the positive attention of God to be singled-out for salvation…but I was not even searching for God.

I didn’t find God…He found me.  I wasn’t searching for God…He called me and I simply responded to His invitation.

When a person discovers that God actually exists…and that He is the God of the Bible…this changes the outlook on everything.

When I started reading the Bible for the first time in my life at my conversion…because I then had been introduced to the living God…had been spiritually born-again…and was living in a new walk of faith following Him…the supernatural in the Bible was not a problem for me.

I knew from that time forward…on independent grounds…that the supernatural was real.

If God could transform me…like He did…then He can raise Jesus from the dead to be the Savior of the world…or perform any number of other miracles recorded in the Bible.

I was not reading the Bible as mere human literature…like we do in university religious studies classes.  The Bible came alive as the Word of God…unlike anything I had known previously or since then.

I have no idea in terms of absolute mathematics, physics, and chemistry how God opened up the Red Sea for the Israelites to safely cross on dry land…or the composition of the manna that fed the Israelites on the exodus to the Promised Land…or how God can make the lips of a donkey move while generating clearly articulated words understood by the prophet Balaam…when donkeys do not possess vocal chords that can produce intelligible speech…or a number of other supernatural events that atheists and skeptics choke on…in the Bible.

I am not sure that these one-time, non-repeating events will ever be understood through the human enterprise of scientific investigation.  The God created reality of the orderliness and intelligibility of our natural world may not extend into the transcendent capacity of God to perform the actions of miracles that fall outside of the normal experiences and observations of everyday phenomenon.

My Christian Life since My Conversion

Space will not allow telling about my clear calling into a career in building construction…how I began writing books on housing construction at age 30…being a C-minus student in the two required English composition classes I took years earlier in junior college…and after 13 years of drawing illustrations and writing the accompanying text…I got the first of four books on building construction accepted for publication by McGraw-Hill (1995-98 under Bart Jahn).

I could tell about the origin of my eight Christian books…and my struggle to accurately listen in the Spirit to what God was telling me through my life experiences and reading of the Bible…as a non-scholar…to articulate into words…sophisticated ideas and concepts that I still feel ill-equipped to tackle.

My goal in this testimony is to offer the contrary rebuttal to the atheistic viewpoint that assumes that God does not exist…critiques the Bible and Christianity in this same shortsighted light…and then assumes that Spirit-born and Spirit-led Christians approach the Bible and their personal journey of faith…in a similarly doubtful and uncertain way.

This has not been my experience…or the experience of the many Christians I know.

I may not be practicing my Christian faith at the high level of the analogy of playing tennis at the professional level as at the U.S. Open.  An outsider critiquing my life may or may not see a “professional” Christian in action.

But my experience is real and genuine…and is based upon a personal relationship following God the Father, Jesus Christ the Son of God, and the Holy Spirit.

I cannot emphasize enough the rebuttal to the false charge that faith in the God of the Bible…is a delusion.  My personal relationship following Jesus Christ within a God-composed adventure of faith…is not a product of group-think or conformity to organized churchianity.

I hope the complex, specified, and coherently integrated information in the topics discussed in this book…is itself plausible and compelling evidence of authenticity as to the genuineness of the existence of God, the divine origin of the Bible, and the truth of Christianity…played out through God-composed life-scripts for imperfect people like myself.

My Testimony 3

My Conversion Story

At age 17, as a junior in high school, I almost made it into the ranks of professional surfing in Southern California.

I got fourth place in a 2A/3A junior-age division surfing contest in the old WSA (Western Surfing Association)…which if I had gotten first-place would have allowed me to have an automatic entrance into the professional contests as 3A regional junior champion.

I was in the Windansea Surf Club in the junior division…ages 15-17… and was a member of the Greg Noll surf team…a legendary big-wave surfer from the 1960’s and a successful surfboard manufacturer.

Every Christian’s life story is different.  Some people have to hit rock-bottom…addicted to alcohol or drugs, ruined marriages, and careers destroyed…before they can reach the point of admitting they need God.

Some people grow-up in a Christian church…and at the age of being able to make a meaningful decision…invite Jesus Christ into the hearts and lives…and begin their life-long journey of faith.

For me…it was a case of starting to achieve success in surfing…yet surprisingly discovering that this beginning of experiencing success in my chosen sport did not bring the satisfaction I thought it would.

At the time I did not recognize that there was a hole in my life…and if I gave any thought to it I would have merely concluded that I needed more success and acclaim…that this would produce fulfillment and happiness.

Christian evangelism calls this the “God-shaped hole”…that only God can fill…that no amount of personal achievement can satisfy…and I unknowingly had a bad case of this God-shaped hole in my life.

By this time I had seen and experienced enough of life…to sense that there was something wrong with the world and with me…but as yet I did not know what it was.

When I was 18, I worked at the Greg Noll surfboard factory part-time while a senior in high school and the summer after graduation…selling surfboard foam blanks, fiberglass, resin, and fins to people making their own homemade surfboards in their garage…which was popular at that time.

Two of the guys on the surf team ran into me at the surfboard factory while I was outside watering the potted plants…in late July of that summer…and began to tell me about their becoming Christians…about the house near the beach where I surfed that was a “house church” long before there was such a thing…and gave me some Christian tracts to read and asked me if I was interested in going.

I listened politely and took their literature…but said I was not interested.  They probably walked away thinking that I was a hopeless case…unreachable in my carefree worldliness.

I am sharing these details to show that my mindset was not anywhere near the stereotype that atheists paint of Christians…inaccurately projecting their own viewpoint of skeptical confusion on to other people.

I was a fairly normal and well-adjusted person focusing on surfing as the main interest in my life…not unlike many other young men at my age living near the ocean.

The personal story I am about to recount has been and is today being repeated for hundreds of millions of Christians around the world…with variations as to their individual backgrounds and how they came to Christ.

After this discussion at the surfboard factory…over a two-week period something unexpectedly new changed inside me.  Even though I had no idea what I was getting myself into…thinking I would be walking into some social clique-ish type gathering with boring people I could not relate to…I surprisingly decided to go…by myself… on a Sunday evening.

I knew where the house was…on a large corner lot across the street from the ocean.  I had walked by this house many times on the way to the “village” for donuts or hamburgers…after surfing just down the beach a short distance away.

This house had a very large living room with a high ceiling…which seated around 125 people sitting on fold-out chairs…with young people sitting on the fireplace hearth and on the stairs, and overflow people in the hallway.

As I walked in the front door…I found a seat in the back where I could navigate a quick and easy exit if I did not like the service.

When I first sat down I immediately noticed something different.  The people already there ahead of me were seated quietly…not up and walking all over the room visiting with friends before the start of the service.

When the music and singing started, I noticed that people were enjoying the experience and genuinely glad to be there…and not looking at their watches with thoughts elsewhere on getting home later to watch the end of a baseball game on television…or their favorite TV show they were missing.

When the message started…I could not tell you now in hindsight what it was about.  All I remember is that God opened up my life before me…and showed me on His score-card how I was doing.  I did not sense condemnation or judgment on His part…but a very real offering of a new life option that I had never before contemplated.

During the preaching of that message…I encountered two new revelations that changed my life…first that God existed…and second that He knew all about me.

God knew all about my flaws as a person.  But I sensed a supportive optimism in His evaluation and intimate knowledge of me…that offered hope in a new future me that was encouraging on a level I had never previously experienced.  God had faith in me…despite my checkered past and numerous shortcomings.

As God opened up my life before me…He separated the two realities regarding me into two parts…that I was not aware of until that moment in time.

God showed me on the one hand what the world thought of me…and what it would continue to think of me going forward…having the worldly conventional acceptance of a blond-haired, blue-eyed California surfer who was well-known and well-liked…enjoying my life on my terms and according to my standards…because that was all I knew about.

Then God showed me His more discerning and insightful assessment…as my Creator…of how I was falling short in so many areas…being self-centered, unthoughtful of others, lazy in school and not using my God-given intelligence, and basically without any plan or direction for my life other than fulfilling the first priority of me, myself, and I…so universally prevalent and socially acceptable in the world…a world ignorant of God’s higher ways and thoughts.

Until that night…and meeting God for the first time…I had no idea there was another option…that there was another way.

Again, I did not sense any condemnation from God…just an honest and insightful appraisal of the direction I was going…from the informed perspective of the one single Person who would have the inside information.

One of my first reactions was: “oh no…I am undone…I am exposed as the imposter I am presenting to the outside world…that I am living my life as if I actually know what life is supposed to be about…when I am really something else not very commendable or admirable.”

At the beginning of the alter call…looking back now…I can remember having the sense that God at this point actually stepped back…and more or less said: “now that you know the truth…you can continue onward in the way that you are going but you will always know from here onward that it is a lie…or you can ask Me into your life and I will make you into a new person and lead you into becoming the person I created you to be.”

While heads were bowed and eyes closed…I sat momentarily on the fence…knowing that a decision for Christ would alter my life forever…and that it would cost something in that I would have to give up some if not all of my past lifestyle.

I remember that I was the fourth out of five people to accept Christ that night by raising my hand…and the procedure which I like the best…is that I did not have to go forward to be singled-out along with the other four new believers…but that all of the people in the room stood and said the sinner’s prayer together as a group.

I believe that God has eternal foreknowledge and foresight…living in a timeless environment (Isa. 46:9-10).  As God stepped back…to enable my free-will to choose Him…He knew beforehand that my response would be yes.

But this is one of the realities that compellingly argues for a divine origin of the God of the Bible…having a complexity and integrated blend of God’s timeless existence…coordinated with human beings living in the four dimensions of space and time…that is the diametric opposite of being simplistic or simple-minded.

God’s foreknowledge and my free-will came together that night so many years ago now…in the mystery of the creation of a new creature in Christ (2 Cor. 5:17) that is beyond human literary imagination to invent.

This is a part of the real truth about God.

This is why I have included this essay in my book.

As previously said above…this is the common salvation experience of tens if not hundreds of millions of born-again Christians across the globe…with slightly different circumstances but the same result…of meeting the living God for the first time and being changed forever.

If atheists and skeptics want to characterize my salvation experience as a delusion…so be it.

My Testimony 2

My Background Growing Up

As I said earlier, I was not raised in a Christian or church-going family.  I cannot think of a single friend of mine in grade school or high school…whose family attended church.  I can honestly say…looking back…that I did not know a single person in my childhood…or teenage years…who openly claimed to be a Christian and a practicing follower of Jesus Christ.

Christianity was simply something that was not a part of my life growing up.

My parents were divorced when I was eight years old.  Before then we did as a family occasionally attend a mainstream denominational church…but after the divorce my mother felt ostracized in that church…so we moved over to a different denominational church nearby.

But throughout my early childhood, my recollection was that our attendance was spotty…was never regular…and had no impact upon me in terms of having any comprehension of the Bible, Christianity, or of God.

When at age eighteen I heard the Christian gospel message for the first time…and was contemplating what to do during the alter call following the message…if someone would have offered me a million dollars to recite one Bible verse from memory…I could not have done it.

At the end of that first service after asking Jesus Christ into my life…I was given a paperback copy of the New Testament as a gift.  It took me about two weeks of reading the gospels in the New Testament for the first time…to figure out who Jesus was and where He figured into all of this.

I was so uninformed on that first night upon hearing the salvation message…I asked God into my life…having as yet no clear idea as to who Jesus was.

I basically came off the street into Christianity…having no previous background of “brainwashing” in any sense whatsoever…either pro or con…to inform or influence my decision for Christ.

At that time…I was also not looking for God…not searching for purpose and meaning in life…and thoroughly disinterested in religion of any sort.

I was simply too self-absorbed as an up-and-coming teenage competitive surfer in Southern California…too focused upon my chosen sport to the exclusion of everything else.

But I am getting ahead of myself.

I was always a good athlete growing up.  I was in the “top ten” each week in batting average and in pitching earned-run average in Little League baseball when I was eleven and twelve…published in the weekly newsletter distributed at the ballpark…and played third base in the All Stars at the end of the regular season (a position I did not like).

I will always remember the sensation as an eleven-year old taking the mound as the starting pitcher on a Saturday morning…looking around at the freshly mowed grass…the outfield fence with all of the local sponsor’s advertising billboards…the parents in the bleachers…picking up the brand new baseball and applying rosin powder from the rosin bag…digging out some of the dirt in front of the pitcher’s rubber with my shoe cleats…throwing several warm-up pitches…seeing the umpire sweeping off home plate with his hand-held broom…the first batter stepping into the batter’s box…winding up and throwing a fastball down the middle…hearing the pop as the ball hits the catcher’s mitt…seeing the umpire throw out his right arm…and yelling steeeeeeee…rike one!

These are some of the fondest memories from my childhood.

In Little League baseball…when I was nine years old…my older brother Brian made it on to the major league Red Sox team.

In those days, one nine-year old was allowed on each major league team of ten-to-twelve year olds…and for the logistics benefit of the mothers and fathers coordinating the taxying of two or more sons to various games and practices…for convenience they would place the nine-year old on the same team as the older brother.

So at age nine I was a major leaguer…one of only two kids in the fourth grade in our elementary school class that year to achieve this lofty designation…thanks solely to having an older brother who was eleven…and who had made the team.

In the next year when I was ten…my brother and I played on this Red Sox team that became the Little League equivalent of the Bronx Bombers. 

We had a left-handed pitcher Glen Thompson with an ERA below one, a catcher Dave “Fudge” Ptak who hit the most home runs in the league that year, and my older brother who batted 590 and was second in the league in batting average that year behind Skip Jarvis who batted 615…who lived down the street from us…was the same age twelve as my older brother…and was part of the local crowd I played sports with at that age. I was the starting second baseman…my favorite position.

I will never forget our baseball coach that year…Ed Grabowski…who taught me and my brother how to play baseball.  Our team had eighteen wins and four losses…and was the best team that year.  At the awards banquet…as a ten-year old…the championship trophy I received seemed half my height.

I grew up in the same area…and went to the same schools with the same kids from grade school through high school…although our high school had 3,000 kids and there were 850 seniors in my graduating class.

I had some cute girlfriends in high school.  I went to the high school dances and proms…and as a freshman went to some of the “away” football games with my girlfriend on the school bus…when I was not out with my drinking buddies.

Because of having a single parent…a full-time working mother…I had a lot more freedom than kids from two-parent homes…but there was a line beyond which I did not cross…out of respect for her.

But I was way ahead of most of my peers in high school in a somewhat moderated, near-the-edge of notoriously scandalous behavior…having a black sheep reputation of exploration into debauchery and worldliness.

When I walked into that home church on a perfect summer evening on Sunday, August 10, 1970…and became a Christian that night…I had already experienced things that many of my age-group would explore and discover in their upcoming college years and beyond.

At age 18, no one would accuse me of being sheltered, naïve, or religiously brainwashed.

Being a “latch-key” kid…I was worldly street-savvy beyond my years.

That is my general background growing up.  I knew a lot of young people from playing baseball and at the beach.  I was relatively popular…had a wide-circle of friends…was relatively normal in a worldly sense in the high school party-scene and the drinking of alcohol…but did not do drugs…even though they were all around me and easily accessible…because of my surfing.

And at the time…I was not looking for God…and could not have cared less about Christianity…or anything to do with Jesus Christ.

This should give the reader a broad outline of what I was and where I was coming from…before I became a Christian.

My story…like millions of Christians around the world…is not the story of a young person “brain-washed” by a religious upbringing.

My Testimony 1

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

Atheists and skeptical critics of Christianity…in their books…often attempt to universally stereotype Christians as being socially and culturally brainwashed through childhoods in which religion was introduced at an early age…which then forms a persistent and lasting belief in a God who does not in fact exist…a conditioned belief in religious precepts, moral rules, and rituals that have no basis in reality.

What is implied and inferred here by atheists is that Spirit-born Christians specifically…because of the doctrine of repentance from sin…and salvation alone through the cross of Christ…thereby admitting our need for God which is abhorrent to humanists…are a factually deluded group of losers in a worldly sense…who were misled as children through no fault of our own…and who must now as adults throw off the crutch of religion that we are leaning upon to get through life…and think our way free from myths and children’s bedtime stories…into the modern, rational, and liberated mindset of atheism.

I would counter by saying that no matter how successful some people are in this life…however we define success…worldly or otherwise…that every person without exception is to some extent a loser…someone who falls short…in that no single person alive today can claim to be morally, ethically, intellectually, athletically…or in any other way…absolutely perfect.

Every sane person on the planet would admit to being an imperfect person.

We all share this universal trait of imperfection…in common in varying degrees…which makes no sense coming from the atheistic philosophy of naturalistic materialism.

Genetic mutation, variant traits chosen by natural selection, geographical isolation, reproductive barriers, the separation of genetic pools, and any other microevolutionary process…could not create the universal recognition and awareness of moral imperfection in human beings alone…according to a higher standard of right and wrong that transcends above the ability of materials particles and energy to create.

But that is a subject for another book.

Atheists and skeptics often tell their personal story of having religion crammed down their throats during their childhood…at home or at school or both…and then being liberated by science or free-thinking philosophy in their middle to late teens…abandoning a faith that was never personally real for them as individuals.

The basic problem here is that atheists and skeptics do not believe that God exists at all.

This program of thinking necessarily downgrades all religions equally into the zone of having man-invented gods and religious precepts…that therefore have no objective authority…no transcendent standard outside of human inventive imagination…upon which to base a reliable worldview…a sustainable game-plan for life.

In the clever, pragmatic, and worldly sensible program of humanism…we make ourselves into autonomous gods.

In this essay, I would like to offer my own alternate experience…which was and still is to this day…supernatural to the core…based not upon adherence to a religion…but instead founded upon the rock-solid certainty of a calling of God…a journey of faith…after the pattern of the biblical narrative stories of faith.

This experience informs my interpretation of the Bible, my acceptance of miracles, my rejection of the philosophy of naturalistic materialism, and the high value I place in biblical journeys of faith.

It forms the basis for the writing of this book…my other seven books on Christianity…and my eight books written…so far…on building construction.

What is really sad…from my perspective…is that people like Richard Dawkins write books saying that belief in the God of the Bible is a delusion…when as atheists they have no idea what they are talking about.

If we scrape the meringue off the top of a lemon meringue pie…we are left with only a lemon pie.  If we scrape the cream off the top of a chocolate cream pie…of course we are left with only a chocolate pie.

If we remove God off the top of the reality of life…out of our worldview…then we are left with the philosophy of naturalism…that our natural world is the sole explanation for the origin and continuance of the phenomenon we observe and experience in this life.

Atheists downgrade the Bible and Christianity into the zone of man-made, make-believe religion…which when critiqued through the equation of naturalism can only spit-out naturalistic answers.

The atheistic program is rigged…is heavily skewed in one direction only… from the outset.  The last people qualified on earth to opine on the divine origin of the Bible, the existence of God, and the transcendent message of Christianity…are atheists.

Atheists and skeptics are welcome to write books critical of the Bible and Christianity.

But their beginning negative bias that God does not exist creates inescapable garbage in/garbage out research programs…an example of confirmation bias applied over the entire database of issues being examined…that cannot rise above the over-arching paradigm of their starting worldview…that invalidates their ultimate conclusions.

            I am not a Christian because I was raised in a Christian home…or attended church growing up…or hung-out with friends who were believing Christians.  I did not attend a Christian elementary school or high school.  I was not convinced of the truth of the Bible and Christianity through apologetic arguments presented to me as a teenager.  I did not have an older Christian man or woman, relative or acquaintance, as an attractive role model to follow.

I am a Christian because I met God…the real God…the creator of the universe…personally.

This obviously lifts the discussion into a zone where atheists and skeptics cannot enter…because at the outset their worldview says that God does not exist at all…and therefore I cannot possibly know God on a personal basis…and am honestly mistaken or deluded.

In this essay, I want to first briefly establish a context for any honest truth-seeker evaluating genuine Christian experience.

If a researcher wants to honestly and reasonably evaluate the game of tennis…for example…the worst approach would be to intentionally visit the local tennis courts at a nearby high school on a windy Saturday or Sunday afternoon.

There the researcher would find novice beginners miss-hitting the tennis ball over the rear chain-link fence…or hitting it sideways into the adjacent courts…shouting “sorry” and “a little help” to adjacent court players being asked to return the errant tennis ball every five minutes.

If a person wants to observe real tennis…the place to go is to professional venues to watch tournaments…in person if possible…such as Wimbledon, the French Open, the U.S. Open, the Australian Open, or tournaments at colleges and universities.

The place to go to evaluate real Christianity…is the Bible.  The gospels, the book of Acts, and the letters to the first-century Christian churches…give the genuine and authentic…God-authorized…examples of the Christian faith, doctrines, and practices when energized by the Holy Spirit.

The biblical narrative stories of faith describe people experiencing a personal relationship with God…which passes unnoticed as non-factual data…far underneath the perceptual radar of atheists analyzing the Bible…because the working hypothesis for the skeptic is that God does not exist.

There are Christians around the world today…that accurately represent and define the pinnacle…the peak…the apex of Christian character, service, and ministry to other people…according to their precise callings of God.

But these select people…like the professional tennis players…are relatively few in number.

We certainly can find high-quality Christians equivalent in our analogy to college and high school team-level tennis players…but the largest number of Christians would be categorized alongside the large number of casual weekend tennis players learning the game…and miss-hitting the ball.

Thoughts on Apologetics and Journeys of Faith 3

The question should be raised here…about the difficulty of anyone other than God inventing and composing a life-script that can get a perfect person to the cross on Calvary Hill in first-century Jerusalem.

How do you get a perfect person Jesus Christ all the way to the outward appearing, utter failure of the cross…traversing through the narrowest and tightest of circumstances…while turning this most catastrophic event into the most positive and productive salvation for mankind?

Everything in the life-script of Jesus Christ the Son of God…imagined and composed eons of time ago by the Father, the Son, and the Holy Spirit…is designed to get Jesus to the cross.

God the Father, Jesus the Son, and the Holy Spirit have known from eternity past that the blood of Jesus Christ shed on the cross…has divine life.

The blood that Jesus Christ shed on the cross has power for redemptive salvation, spiritual re-birth, and moral transformation for believers, but also has thorough and complete justification that enables people of faith to enter into a dynamic journey of faith wherein they can personally know the living God of the Bible…because this justification comes to us signed and sealed through the cross and the resurrection of Jesus Christ.

Here the biblical narrative stories of faith enter squarely into the apologetics debate.

God displacing our ways with His higher ways…His higher thoughts…whether this results in an entirely new, major calling in our lives…like Abraham or the apostle Paul…or staying exactly where we are but becoming changed people with new spiritual hearts and new attitudes for the better…is openly supernatural to the core…and is plainly there in clear print in the pages of the Bible.

            What is the explanation for how this entirely non-natural, non-materialistic concept came into existence within the human marketplace of ideas?

            How can the biblical narrative stories of faith…having the novel element of the displacement of our ways with God’s higher ways…arise out of the void of absolute nothing in previous recorded human history…in a similar manner to the Big Bang creation of the physical universe…out of nothing ex nihilo…in essence out of the creative imagination of God?

Is this pure, absolute truth…as defined by God…divinely initiated through life-scripts that contain scenarios having goals and outcomes outside of worldly conventional normalcy and thinking…which require God’s participation within joint-ventures with the people of faith that lift them up into a higher context where discovering the character and person of God is possible?

If this is the definition of truth actualized within people’s lives…theistic and supernatural to the core…then this is the last thing Satan wants out in the open in public debate as a viable and rational alternative for the leading of our lives…God-sovereignty in place of self-sovereignty…because it has no explanation originating from the conventionality of worldly thinking.

The gradualistic incrementalism of Richard Dawkin’s Mount Improbable would never take mankind to the advanced end-point of biblical faith…where God displaces our ways with His higher ways within a God-composed journey of faith life-script…which at its core is completely contrary to the dreams, goals, and aspirations we see within the zone of worldly conventional normalcy and thinking.

The idea that this concept of biblical faith…as deep and as sophisticated as any concept in existence…would originate as the product of material particles and energy according to the philosophical worldview of naturalism…is inconceivable…thus the question: “Where did it come from?”

I have the greatest admiration for the Christian apologists who debate world-renowned atheists in an open public forum.  I liken this to the steely courage and confidence needed by concert pianists or violinists performing concertos live on the stages of Carnegie Hall or the Hollywood Bowl…or to the confidence that major league baseball shortstops must have upon taking the field to start the game…knowing that the first pitch may be a groundball hit deep in the hole between third base and shortstop…necessitating getting to the ground ball…catching it…and then turning to throw a “bullet” across the infield diamond to get the speedy lead-off hitter out by a step.

The breadth of the preparation and the mastery of the subject matter are to be admired on both sides of the argument regarding the existence of God and the truthfulness of the Bible.

I can sit for hours in front of my computer screen watching on U-tube the discussions, lectures, and debates of my favorite apologists like Ravi Zacharias, William Lane Craig, John C. Lennox, and others…brilliantly articulating with clarity and precision the Christian apologetic responses to some of the most difficult issues encountered in religion, philosophy, science, and practical living.

But I think one of the most important elements is still missing in the debate…an element accessible and discoverable on a popular level (Jn. 16:13; Jer. 31:34) by every Christian today who has picked up their cross and is following Jesus into their God-scripted destiny.

God displacing our ways with His higher ways…integral within every biblical narrative story of faith…in my opinion has not been fully recovered following the hugely positive breakthrough made during the Protestant Reformation…namely…that the common people should be able to directly read for themselves the Bible translated into their own language.

In my opinion, the Protestant Reformation does not deconstruct into the privatization of morality…in which each individual person determines what is right and wrong.

            God-composed journey of faith life-scripts…as illustrated in the biblical narrative stories of faith…place the authority to determine what is right and wrong…with God where it belongs

The outstanding novelty of the divine humility of Jesus that gets Him all the way to the cross…the humanistically unacceptable and offensive component of the gospel message that jettisons worldly conventional normalcy and thinking overboard…and the unthinkably un-worldly process of a biblical-quality journey of faith that introduces God-sovereignty into our lives through the cross of Jesus Christ…uniformly portrayed throughout the narrative stories of faith in the Bible…is in my view almost irrefutable evidence for the existence of God and the truth of the Bible…because their origin cannot plausibly come from human literary invention.

Win the brilliant, ongoing Christian apologetics argument raging within scholarly academia and the popular culture…using evidences from the zone of worldly conventional normalcy and thinking…and Christians have thereby offered a compelling rebuttal to the objections originating from atheistic and skeptical unbelief…opening the way for people to work free from debilitating untruths…towards a personal relationship with God through belief in Jesus Christ as Savior.

But the biblical narrative stories of faith argue compellingly for a divine origin of the Bible itself…based upon the innovative originality of their storylines…taking the debate upward a level or two…above the standard evidences coming from within worldly conventional normalcy and thinking…and thus outside of the reach of traditional, skeptical criticism.

Thoughts on Apologetics and Journeys of Faith 2

Because the atheist does not believe that the real God even exists…in a contemporary Christian apologetics public debate…the tug-of-war on the Christian side is to pull the issues up into the realm of belief where the evidences are valid and amenable to serious evaluation…versus the atheist side attempting to pull the issues down into the zone of human invented religious fiction…where the Christian arguments are by definition thereby downgraded to have no validity or truth-value.

This describes the huge gap between belief and unbelief…a gap which in itself defies an explanation of having an origin deriving from a humanly invented literary fiction…a gap of separation being far too novel and complex for human imagination…and way beyond any motivation for humanistic creative invention.

Some typical examples of issues argued in public debates are: the hypocrisy of institutionalized Christianity in the historical past when it overlaps into “religion” that produces un-Christ like religious intolerance…the seeming difficulty in explaining the presence of evil and suffering in a God-created world…whether or not the multi-verse or many-worlds hypothesis is a plausible, random-chance, substitute explanation for the obvious intelligent design we observe in the fine-tuning of the natural world…the reliability of the Old and New Testament texts as ancient documents…and the historical validity of the gospel records of the crucifixion and resurrection of Jesus Christ.

These and other important issues belong to a group of typical and repetitive topics that…due to change and progress over time…have arisen from within the skeptical and anti-theistic portion of the zone of worldly conventional normalcy and thinking (1 Cor. 2:6-12)…where, by definition, these secularized questions…being ordinary, commonplace, and non-supernatural…occupy the zone of unbelief where atheists, agnostics, and skeptics live and think.

But arguably the centermost human issue at the heart of reality…the displacement of our ways with God’s higher ways…which enables God-sovereignty to become actualized in people’s lives…as portrayed throughout the Bible and as a reality in the lives of tens of millions of Spirit-born Christians today…including this writer…is entirely missed by religious skeptics…and more importantly is avoided at all costs by Satan.

Atheists and skeptics cannot see the displacement element within biblical journeys of faith…first because their starting worldview bias of unbelief so thoroughly blinds them they cannot see the data…and second this concept does not exist anywhere within the wide expanse of worldly conventional normalcy and thinking…to draw meaningful comparisons with.

This is why the concept of biblical faith…of God displacing our ways with His ways according to the cross of Christ that creates the gap described in Hebrews 11:1 of biblical faith to actualize in space and time…falls outside of the field of comparative religious studies.

The starting premise of comparative religious studies is that all religions have a humanistic origin…that all religions are man-made mythology…that gods are humanly created gods…and thus can fall within the zone of worldly conventional normalcy and thinking…and are thereby accessible to study, research, comparison, and critical analysis.

But the key point I want to make here is that Satan does not want to get anywhere near this central biblical concept of the inducement of God-sovereignty into people’s lives by means of the displacement of our ways with God’s higher ways…this uniquely inexplicable transition from worldly conventional self-sovereignty to unconventional God-sovereignty…that is built into every narrative story of faith in the Bible…and every born-again salvation experience today.

Satan will not attack this exclusively biblical concept outright and directly…because he does not want it discussed and debated out in the open. 

This is an element of cunning malice and diabolical deception that has yet to be fully unearthed and articulated within the apologetics arena…because it will not originate from the direction of philosophical atheism to be responded to in the historically “normal” way in the Christian apologetics reactive mode.

This specific argument for the existence of God and the truthfulness of the Bible…must originate from within Christian experience and theology.  It cannot possibly come from within worldly conventional normalcy and thinking…because it does not exist there.

There are basically two halves to the cross.

Salvation by grace through faith…through the blood of Christ shed on the cross…being the first half…is the open door into the second half…a divinely composed journey of faith for new covenant Christians (Jer. 31:31-34; Jn. 14:6).

Ephesians 6:12 tells us that “we wrestle not against flesh and blood, but against principalities, against powers, against the rulers of the darkness of this world, against spiritual wickedness in high places.”

Satan has been working to prevent people from entering into the kingdom of God…for thousands of years…through the use of cunningly deceptive arguments and the most alluring enticements of worldly wealth, power, and fame (Mt. 4:8-9; Mk. 8:36).

But Satan also does not want the second half of the cross…the displacement of our ways with God’s ways…out there in open debate for public consideration.

Satan cannot attack the displacement element that opens up the context for God-sovereignty to actualize in people’s lives…arguably one of the key components in a biblical journey of faith…in open debate coming from the zone of philosophical atheism as has been typical in the past…because this concept does not exist anywhere in worldly conventional normalcy and thinking.

            Acknowledging its existence indirectly validates and highlights its divine origin.

By bringing the displacement element in the biblical narrative stories of faith into the discussion…this focuses upon and elevates this issue into the realm of those topics worthy to be debated.

It cannot be brought lower…reduced down into the horizontal zone of worldly conventional thinking…without giving away the clear inference of its divine origin…because nothing in worldly conventional normalcy and thinking relates to this unique concept.

Thoughts on Apologetics and Journeys of Faith 1

“But the wisdom that is from above is first pure, then peaceable, gentile, and easy to be entreated, full of mercy and good fruits, without partiality, and without hypocrisy.”                                             (Jas. 3:17)

In the contemporary Christian apologetics debate…about the reasonableness of faith and the existence of God…the questions raised and the answers given in response…are both equally brilliant and well-articulated.  They represent the highest and the best of human thinking, knowledge, research, reasoning, and argumentation.

But the program of Christian apologetics…as brilliantly persuasive as it is…is partially the product of responses to criticisms and objections originating out of philosophical atheism over the past four to five-hundred years…coming up to current issues in today’s modern times…as we should expect.

The formulation of the systematic Christian apologetics argument has been partially reactive…ably constructed piece-by-piece in response to criticisms about the existence of God and the truthfulness of the Bible…criticisms originating naturally and historically from the atheist viewpoint out of the Scientific Revolution, the Doctrine of Progress stemming from the two Industrial Revolutions, and the enormous,  thought-provoking, beneficially progressive advances that have been made in the political, economic, social, and cultural structures of modern societies.

Modern Christians actually owe a debt of gratitude to atheists and skeptical critics of the Bible…in a counter-intuitive sort of way…like Joseph might owe a debt of gratitude in the big-picture graciousness of hindsight…toward his half-brothers selling him to slave-traders bound for Egypt…adverse starting circumstances which God then used to turn around the story originally meant for evil…into a brilliant new story shaped and channeled over time by God…into the life of Joseph the ruling governor of Egypt…for the highest good (Gen. 45:3-8).

Atheists and skeptical critics have raised the issues that have forced Christian theologians, Christian scholars, and Christian experts in other fields like science, philosophy, and history…over the past recent centuries…to focus and think hard about the credibility, reliability, and authority of the Bible and its message.

But the subtle problem here is that in the reactive mode…in the defensive position of responding to criticisms and objections raised by atheists and skeptics…the starting point of many of the issues debated within this context…land within what I call in this book the realm of worldly conventional normalcy and thinking…confined within the large zone of normal human experience, inquiry, and investigative research…thereby limited by definition to the normalcy of worldly conventional thinking.

When placed on a vertical, graduated graph-line of goodness and light…these limited topics of inquiry and analysis coming from the zone of worldly conventional normalcy and thinking…position themselves lower in elevation on the vertical graph-line of goodness and light…compared to the goodness and light entailed within the biblical narrative stories of faith.

The biblical narrative stories of faith actualize from God’s perspective the whole point of true religion: a personal, joint-venture relationship with Him…by definition a supernaturally composed and initiated relationshipby divine intention and rational necessity positioned higher-up on the graph-line continuum of goodness and light…above commonplace, everyday experiences of conventionally normal life.  

The biblical narrative stories of faith define the real truth about God.

The biblical narrative stories of faith distinguish and separate themselves from the human invented fertility faiths of ancient religious practices and rituals…named after the “gods” of the forces of nature that ancient people aimed to appease and to placate…in their precarious struggle for survival…in an attempt to understand and to control these mysterious and unpredictable natural forces that affected their material and economic destinies.

This is a fundamental area where the biblical narrative stories of faith differentiate themselves as having a divine origin from God-ward to humans…rather than man-invented from us-ward to God.

Because the biblical narrative stories of faith do not incorporate the materialistic goals and aspirations of the American Dream…ancient or modern…they distance themselves at the outset by the worldly unconventional concept of highly specific and detailed life-scripts that displace our ways with God’s higher ways and thoughts…transcending above the everyday concerns of survival and reproduction (Mt. 6:31-33).

This is the diametric opposite of petitioning and appealing to the deities of wind, rain, storms, and mountains for protection, stability, and fertility in farming, raising herds of cattle and sheep, and producing large families of sons and daughters.

The idea that the Canaanite goddess of fertility Astarte…known to the ancient Jews as Ashtoreth (1 Ki. 11:5), or Baal (Nu. 22:41)…chief of the fertility gods in ancient Canaan, or Marduk…chief god of the ancient Babylonian religion, or Diana of Ephesus (Acts 19:35) in the New Testament first-century…would live perfect moral lives to qualify themselves to be the atoning, substitutional sacrifice for the sins of mankind…and enter into a human body to accomplish this…is outside of human contemplation.

The biblical narrative stories of faith hit the center of the bulls-eye target of purpose and meaning in life…precisely because they radically cut-across-the-grain of the basic human motivation to appease the gods of nature for self-survival…through the control of the natural environment…storms, floods, agricultural crops, marauding beasts, birds, and insects, and invading armies of enemy peoples.

This is a timeless, universal motivation that fuels the attempt to appeal to and to appease the gods of the forces of nature…for our success and well-being.

That this same motivational drive permeates the modern Christian church should come as no great surprise.

Many people attend Christian churches today with the express purpose of petitioning the God of the Bible for His help in the very similar and common pursuit of the ancient religionists…to control their environment and secure stability in their lives.

This is evidenced in the modern phenomenon of the “prosperity gospel” of “name-it and claim-it” regarding materialistic covetousness…that has invaded Christendom in recent years…being a corruption of the commendable Protestant ethic of the virtue of hard-work in our chosen profession (1 Th. 4:11-12).

What this all tells me is that there is an unbridgeable gulf between human-invented fertility religions from us-ward toward God…aimed at securing our goals and aspirations according to self-sovereignty…crafted through ignorance and guesswork…in contrast to the biblical narrative stories of faith…clearly exhibiting the directional origin from God-ward to us…having the inconceivably unconventional trajectory of innovative life-scripts that displace our ways with the transcendent, higher ways and thoughts of God (Isa. 55:8-9).

Public Debates 2

I want to attempt in this essay to articulate what it is about the nature of skeptical unbelief that can boil-down and decompose into the self-interest of autonomous individualism…the life apart from God lived in self-sovereignty…that is the core ideology of worldly conventional normalcy and thinking…and conversely…what is so critically important about the nature of faith and trust in the God of the Bible…that places such a high value in connecting personally with God within the biblical narrative stories of faith…that demonstrate biblical faith in action…which is the fundamental characteristic of the Bible…the underlying issue of the existence of God debated in public forums.

I would like here to build and expand upon what has already been said in the previous essays…on the delicate balance between belief and unbelief.

After Jesus raised Lazarus from the dead…it is succinctly and brilliantly recorded in John 11:45-48:

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

This narrative story of Jesus…leading up to His rejection and crucifixion…tells us that there was no overlapping middle-ground between letting Jesus “thus alone”…or the huge extreme on the other side of the spectrum of accusing Jesus of the capital offences of blasphemy before the Jewish Sanhedrin court and political treason before the Roman authorities…resulting in His execution on the cross.

Were these religious leaders acting for the good of the nation of Israel in removing Jesus from the scene…or were they acting out of the most worldly, self-centered self-interest?

Like the scriptural example of the resurrected Jesus not walking down Main Street and into the Temple…even though Jesus moved freely and openly amongst these religious leaders during His time of public ministry…sharing His message and outreach to them as well as to the general populace…Jesus does not appear to compromise in the slightest regarding the components of faith and trust in Him.

Jesus gives not the slightest hint of surrendering His status and position as the Son of God and eternal King in order to reach a common-ground conciliation regarding self-sovereignty versus God-sovereignty…of giving-in on principle to these religious leaders in the biblically critical point of self-governance as opposed to God-governance (Jn. 5:36-47)…even though…and by God’s deliberate intention…this principled stand leads to the cross of Calvary.

This tells us that the importance of the components of faith and trust within a personal relationship…are non-negotiable elements that reside at the peak…the pinnacle…the apex of moral reasoning and righteous character.

Paul writes about the faith component in a relationship with God…in Hebrews 11:6…”But without faith it is impossible to please him: for he that cometh to God must believe that he is, and that he is a rewarder of them that diligently seek him.”

Skeptical unbelief cannot enter into a biblical-quality journey of faith today, following the leading of Jesus Christ…through communication in the Spirit through the Holy Spirit (Jn. 16:13)…because the atheist does not believe at the outset that God even exists.

The atheist is no more likely to pick up their cross to follow Jesus…than they are to enter into a contractual business agreement with a fictitious and non-existent person.

This explains in part the inability in Christian versus atheist public debates of reaching a common middle-ground of overlapping engagement on the issues…or any semblance of an overwhelming resolution to the specific topic being debated…because the fundamental natures of the worldviews of belief and unbelief are so far apart…they themselves in relation to each other are non-overlapping.

This explains in part why the two people debating the issues in a Christian apologetics public debate…often appear to be talking past one another…each person capably presenting their side but being miles apart in terms of finding common ground.

The contention in this essay is that this reality is by the deliberate and creative intention of God…in order to expose through the dimensions of time and space the un-admirable and non-commendable outcomes of going our own way (Isa. 53:6) both in this current life and in the eternal heavens where God is King and Ruler.

The combination of the delicate balance between belief and unbelief…with the complete absence of a happy center between the two opposing sides of belief and unbelief…having a huge hole between these two worldviews…cannot plausibly be the product of human literary invention.

This cannot be over-stated.

Finally, once a person gets past the huge gulf between unbelief and belief…and enters into faith in Jesus Christ the Son of God as our Savior and the Lord of our lives…the equally important question then arises as to why faith is often so difficult and that it must be “tested” and refined within a God-composed adventure of faith life-script (Jas. 1:2-4; 1 Pet. 1:7)…as previewed for us today in the biblical narrative stories of faith.

Once a person is spiritually born-again (Jn. 3:1-21) and receives salvation and eternal life…the journey is just beginning as the new believer steps into their God-composed journey of faith…designed individually and specifically for them…to create a context of life events and circumstances that will produce a personal relationship with God…based upon mutual faith and trust in each other…God-ward toward us…and us-ward toward God.

The delicate balance between belief and unbelief takes us up to the pinnacle of moral reasoning…because mutual faith and trust are critical components within personal relationships.

Going our own way in autonomous rebellion is at the heart of the temptation of Adam and Eve in the Garden of Eden…Satan in the spiritual form of a talking serpent calling into question the faithfulness and trustworthiness of God’s character in His setting of parameters of do’s and don’ts regarding the fruit of the tree of the knowledge of good and evil…slandering God by inferring that God’s motivations were suspect.

Atheists and skeptical critics can choke on the idea of a past angel of God…Satan… transforming himself into the spiritual/holographic form of a beautiful serpent possessing enticing speech…but the issues at stake in this classic confrontation in the Garden of Eden are simply too profound and way too complex in their spot-on application to human nature…to be the mere product of human literary fiction writing…to be mythology…in the composition of the first book of Genesis in the Hebrew Bible…our modern Old Testament…in ancient times around 1,450 B.C.

This delicate balance between belief and unbelief…makes a subtle case for the divine origin of the Bible and of Christianity…because this issue of faith and trust…that goes both ways between people and God…is the central through-line of the biblical narrative stories of faith…which is inaccessible and incomprehensible to people choosing to be skeptical unbelievers living in self-sovereignty…but which is the priceless gift of God to believers through the blood of Jesus shed on the cross…prophesied in Jeremiah 31:31-34 to occur for new covenant Christians…knowing God personally from the least to the greatest.

Public Debates 1

When a world-renowned atheist comes into a public debate with an equally well-known and respected Christian apologist…to debate topics such as Does God Exist?…or Is God Great?…or Is God a Delusion?…the atheist enters into the debate auditorium thinking they can win…and whether they actually win or lose the debate…they leave still thinking they are right.

The idea that the issues in these public debates cannot arrive at a conclusive ending…cannot be so overwhelmingly convincing one way or the other towards a consensus conclusion…for the audience listening to the debate…as well as for the two antagonists…in an absolute resolution to the specific topic being debated…in my opinion is not only an amazing reality worthy of further thoughtful analysis…but in a subtle and counter-intuitive way is itself a positive evidence for the theistic viewpoint.

This again dives right into the complexity and integrated coherence of information question…regarding its origin and source…being clearly too complicated for material particles and fields of energy to produce…and way too complicated for human literary invention to conceive of…or to set in motion a program of the delicate balance in the area of belief and unbelief…that could stand the test of time for literally thousands of years.

From the Christian perspective…this superbly ingenious reality of the delicate balance between belief and unbelief…has a divine origin at least as ancient as the existence of “the book of life of the Lamb slain from the foundation of the world” (Rev. 13:8)…allowed to actualize into human experience through divine foresight and foreknowledge…and adjusted and fine-tuned over the course of human history…for the highest and best reasons imaginable…at the pinnacle of moral reasoning.

It is not a blundering miscalculation…it is not a glaring oversight by God the Father, Jesus the Son of God, and the Holy Spirit…to not make the most of the resurrection of Jesus by having Him walk openly down the middle of Main Street in Jerusalem and straight into the Temple…on Tuesday or Wednesday of the first week following His resurrection.

This would be a golden opportunity to empirically demonstrate the divine status of Jesus Christ as Messiah and Savior…beyond any debatable doubt in the future.

Yet instead God skillfully moderates and calibrates the extent of the physical appearances of the risen Jesus…so as to leave just enough of a personal witness of His resurrection and Godhood to inaugurate and sustain the exponential growth of the early Christian church…and for His followers to write the New Testament…yet at the same time enables the space for the unbelief of the religious elites and a portion of the populace in Israel…to continue in skeptical unbelief in Jesus Christ…as Messiah…that coalesced and solidified in the Jewish community and in the secular Gentile world in the first-century…and is still debated up to this day.

That this delicate balance between belief and unbelief would continue down the centuries to our current time…with brilliant antagonists squaring off in public debate today over the very question that Jesus posed to His disciples two thousand years ago: “Whom do men say that I the Son of man am?” (Mt. 16:13) coupled with the follow-up question: “But whom say ye that I am?” (Mt. 16:15)…which from the Christian viewpoint are arguably the two most important questions in all of history…still out there and fully in play…and in the opinion of this writer defies humanistic explanation as to the precise longevity of this delicate balance.

Daniel 12:9-10 tells us that this delicate balance of belief and unbelief will continue to the end of time on this earth:

9 And he said, Go thy way, Daniel: for the words are closed up and sealed till the time of the end.

10 Many shall be purified, and made white, and tried; but the wicked shall do wickedly: and none of the wicked shall understand; but the wise shall understand.

In Matthew 24:14 Jesus says: “And this gospel of the kingdom shall be preached in all of the world for a witness unto all nations; and then shall the end come”…by which we can infer that the world at the end of time is still in need of evangelical persuasion…that the world is still on the fence in terms of the delicate balance between belief and unbelief…as to who Jesus Christ is.

Revelation 12:11 gives us a window into the high cost of discipleship in the last days in fulfilling this calling to take the gospel of the kingdom to all of the world…before the end: “And they overcame him by the blood of the Lamb, and by the power of their testimony; and they loved not their lives unto the death.”

The fundamental divide that partially explains skeptical unbelief…is that atheists think that Christianity is a man-made religion.  Skeptical unbelief universally downgrades all religions into the horizontally flat category of fictionally created gods and mythologies.

This overarching mindset creates an impassible gulf…an unreachable chasm to cross from skeptical unbelief to belief…because the starting premise for the atheist is that the Bible is an elaborate fiction concocted out of the religious imagination of men…which then renders all of the tenets of the Bible…even the cross and salvation through the blood of Jesus Christ…as being mute, insignificant, and untrue.

The starting premise of atheism…that there is no God…thereby undermines the credibility of the Bible at the outset…creating this non-overlapping separation between the two worldviews that prevents a “meeting of the minds” between atheists and Christian apologists in debate…because no meaningful dialogue can occur when atheists think the arguments and evidences of the opposing side are universally invalid to begin with.

The Thief on the Cross 2

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…the theme of countless books, 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…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 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…our way…as demonstrated by the religious elites mocking Jesus…leads to placing Jesus on the cross.  These two outcomes could not be more diametrically opposite.

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 sustaining justification for maintaining our salvation.

The story of the thief on the cross…composed and orchestrated by God Himself…totally outside the contemplative imagination of human literary invention…tells us our salvation…that is based upon faith in Jesus Christ…in this divinely illustrated case of the thief on the cross…is eternally secure.