Proof does not Produce Biblical-Quality Faith 1

“Which none of the princes of this world knew: for had they known it, they would not have crucified the Lord of Glory.”                (1 Cor. 6:8)

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 is not the same thing as being willing 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.”

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 will continue to do religion the way we have set it up…to mix tradition with going our own way to suit ourselves” (Isa. 53:6).

For some unscrupulous and dishonest merchants selling their wares in the town marketplace…two-plus-two does not equal four…but equals either three or five depending upon the benefit to the merchant…a practice of “deceitful weights” denounced in the Old Testament in Proverbs and by the prophet Micah (Prov. 20:23; Mic. 6:11).

Having a system of standard, empirical weights does not prevent the willful and determined abandonment of integrity through the misuse of deceitful weights…a successful yet dishonest practice designed to work around…to circumvent…to ignore the real facts (standard weights) in business transactions.

Absolute knowledge by visual, empirical observation does not address the basic problem…does not displace, remove, or shift the mindset of self-sovereignty…of autonomous individualism…over into God-sovereignty.

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 their 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…as ancient in Jewish history as the calling of Abraham to leave Haran and go to Canaan…as basic to Judaism as it gets…and fundamental to the Christian concept of picking up our cross to follow Jesus.

Like our free-will choice to love someone…choosing to follow God…by purposeful, intentional, divinely creative design…will always be a free-will, take-it-or-leave-it open option…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, non-robots that God created humans to be…with or without absolute, visual, empirically foolproof evidence of God’s existence (Jn. 20:29).

The spiritual mystery of 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.

From A Popular Defense of the Bible and Christianity

The Cross Message 3

It isn’t that Jesus didn’t clearly tell people publicly who He was.

Jesus said that He is the source of eternal life (Jn. 5:24), the resurrection (Jn. 5:25-29, 11:25), that He is the one the scriptures testify of (Jn. 5:39), the bread of life (Jn. 6:32-33, 48), the light of the world (Jn. 8:12, 12:46), the liberator from sin (Jn. 8:36), the divine “I am” (Jn. 8:58), the good shepherd (Jn. 10:11), Lord and Master (Jn. 13:13), and “the way, the truth, and the life” (Jn. 14:6).

Yet the religious and political elites in Jerusalem rejected Jesus of Nazareth in part on the basis of His low social status.  They rejected Jesus based upon their own biased prejudice for wealth and power according to the norms of worldly conventional thinking…thus condemning this very mindset in not being able to come down to the lower level of humility…as brilliantly and intentionally expressed in Jesus the Son of God and Messiah …presenting Himself to the world in the unexpected low estate of a common carpenter.

Respect is the foundation for every positive human relationship.  In pinning the already beaten and battered body of Jesus Christ to a wooden cross using 7-inch long metal spikes…the religious and political elites in Jerusalem demonstrated the most disrespectful and de-valuing rejection of Jesus imaginable.

This exposed the true violent character of the worldview of “the lust of the flesh, and the lust of the eyes, and the pride of life” (1 Jn. 2:16) at the extreme margin of self-sovereignty living apart from God and “going about to establish their own righteousness” (Rom. 10:3) according to our own thinking and standards (Isa. 53:6).

In one brilliant stroke God simultaneously judged the rebellion aspect of going our own way…against His rightful rulership… expressed violently at the cross…demonstrated through self-sovereign self-autonomy…and unexpectedly in the same cross at Calvary enabling and providing eternal salvation to all those who will put their faith and trust in Him…who will voluntarily come to God in faith.

Spirit-born Christians look upward in admiration to Jesus on the cross…and the blood He shed…for our salvation…and not to our own good works (Eph. 2:8-9).  Christian discipleship is about surrendering and yielding our misguided claim to self-autonomy…to instead follow God’s higher ways for our lives…in faith and in trust in God…going forward from the moment of our salvation conversion.

The injunction of 1Thessalonians 5:18…”In everything give thanks: for this is the will of God in Christ Jesus concerning you” is a vital part of a living and vibrant faith that trusts God for everything that comes our way in the Christian life…whether up on the mountaintop, down in the valley, or in-between…and like the apostle Paul…places our trust in God to lead us into all truth and into a personal knowledge of Him…come what may (Phil. 4:11-13).

This is the epitome…the pinnacle…of respect for Jesus Christ and for God the Father (2 Thes. 1:10).

But this actualization of Hebrews 11:1 biblical-quality faith can only become reality within a God-composed journey of faith life-script as patterned for us in the biblical narrative stories of faith…creating the context for personal relationships with God as prophesied in Jeremiah 31:31-34 for Christian believers…in the new covenant age…from the least to the greatest.

As argued in this book, this reality is simply outside of any conceivable motivation originating from within the worldly conventional normalcy and thinking of self-sovereign self-rulership…the default worldview that produced the crucifixion of Jesus Christ on Calvary Hill in Jerusalem nearly two-thousand years ago…and is still the prevalent worldview of modern mankind today.

            Ask anyone on the street today to articulate the difference between self-sovereignty and God-sovereignty…and they will say they have no idea what we are talking about.

The innovative novelty of the living God displacing our ways with His higher ways as described in the life-scripts of Abraham, Joseph, Moses, Gideon, Ruth, David, Esther and Mordecai, Elijah, Jeremiah, Daniel, Peter, John, James, and Paul…to name but a few…is an important part of the gospel message of hope…of the liberation from our own life of sin…lost in our own foibles and shortcomings…now with a God who can bring new, real, positive change into our lives.

If this displacement element is a powerful argument for the divine origin and inspiration of the Bible…then an Abraham-style adventure of faith should be a normal and expected function of our Christian discipleship being lived and preached throughout Christendom.

But oddly and sadly it is not.  The all-important displacement part is left out.

In a church growth, seeker-friendly approach toward bringing in the un-churched, God’s “plans” are reduced to over-simplified 3-point or 5-point plans that often only manage to confirm our own hopes and dreams in conformity to worldly conventional aspirations and expectations…rather than picking up our cross to follow Jesus Christ into a whole new world of faith and trust…following God-scripts unique to the Bible alone.

A Popular Defense of the Bible and Christianity

The Cross Message 2

One of the compelling arguments for the divine origin of this cross element in the biblical narrative stories of faith…the displacement of our own plans by the plans of God in a tightly scripted, God-composed journey of faith…is this absence of any wiggle-room for alternative self-sovereignty and our own self-ruled contrivance to change the details of the script.

This element of God’s plans…that removes us off the thrones of our lives in the key critical area of the course and direction of our lives…is as contrary to humanistic thinking and the pride-fueled, worldly expectation of entitlement to conventional normality…as is imaginable.

This is the originally novel concept that is seamlessly integrated into the narrative stories of faith in the Bible…starting with Abraham…that precludes any rational pretense that these stories are human-generated or the product of inventive mythological fiction writing.

The cross element of displacing our ways with God’s higher ways is the most offensive and infuriating part of the biblical gospel message…to worldly conventional thinking…and produces the most agitated and violent pushback from people committed to self-autonomy and worldly self-validation.

As discussed in the previous sections…the entire life-script of Jesus the Son of God and the eternal Word (Jn. 1:1-2) was designed in such a way as to expose the huge gap between self-sovereign self-interest…and God-sovereign unselfish service.

This gap is differentiated using the universally recognizable currency of human-esteemed high social status…as a measurement of worth and value…on the one hand…versus the contrast of a God-engineered, radically self-effacing humility at a divine level on the other hand (1 Jn. 2:15-17)…which was below the resolution level and comprehension as a valued character trait…by worldly standards.

The Pharisees, Sadducees, lawyers, and scribes were never going to follow the preaching of John the Baptist at the river Jordan (Mt. 23:25), never going to follow Jesus the lowly carpenter from Nazareth (Jn. 7:27), and never going to join themselves to the new Christian church in Jerusalem.

The low social status of Jesus Christ was so off-putting to these ruling elites in Jerusalem…so low on the respectability scale regarding their concept of who and what the Messiah should be like…so below the cut-off line of their expectations according to worldly conventional thinking…they did not even bother to ask Jesus…or His mother Mary…the preliminary starting messianic question of the city of His birthplace…Bethlehem…not Nazareth.

The life-script for Jesus the Son of God was brilliantly crafted to create the greatest reaction of violent offense to self-sovereign self-autonomy…to facilitate the appointed place and date of destiny for Jesus the Messiah to be the Passover Lamb of God sacrifice for sin…through His utter and total rejection (Ps. 22; Isa. 53).

Jesus failed to satisfy the requirements for the long-awaited Messiah according to worldly conventional normalcy and thinking.

The people who instigated the crucifixion of Jesus Christ…by doing so demonstrated a complete lack of respect for Jesus…the placing of zero value upon His person and His life in the most emphatic and clear-cut way imaginable.

The worldly disgrace and de-valuing of a human life by execution through Roman crucifixion…actually exposes and condemns as unrighteous, unloving, and devastatingly counter-intuitive…the rebellion component in its worst rendition…in this example of misdirected human self-sovereignty  (Jn. 5:23).

From A Popular Defense of the Bible and Christianity

The Cross Message 1

“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.”                                                                    (Mk. 8:34-35)

If the Abraham reality is the starting definition for biblical faith…that places the cross of Christ element into the biblical narrative stories of faith…which is completely outside the realm of humanistic literary conception and inventive creativity….and this concept proves to be a powerful apologetic argument for the divine origin and inspiration of the Bible…this then indicts a large part of the program of contemporary Christianity in economically developed countries around the world.

If too much emphasis is placed in seeker-friendly approaches aimed at expanding church growth by becoming more attractive to the un-churched…rather than preaching a biblical-quality cross message of discipleship that runs contrary to the mass-appeal required to produce mega-church sized congregations…then we have two programs today that have conflicting purposes.

As Abraham initially travels from the city of Haran to the Promised Land of Canaan, with each step he takes God is displacing Abraham’s worldly conventional, normative plans with a divinely conceived plan that is outside of the contemplation and contrivance of Abraham.

This creates a narrative story…a storyline script…that cannot be deviated from and still maintain its full force and effect.

In other words…if remaining in Haran…and faced with the seeming dilemma of producing no child heirs through Sarah his wife…Abraham would then have the available option of easily finding additional wives among the population of Haran…and producing children through his own means according to acceptable contemporary conventions.

But as Abraham walks towards Canaan…his new storyline contains no wiggle-room for a self-sovereign contrivance of his own making in this all-important regard of producing an heir…because Abraham is now walking in a new script inserted into his life by God.

Abraham is not going to accidently “bump” into a chance meeting with beautifully attractive female candidates like Sarah from his hometown of “Ur of the Chaldees”…for a second or third wife in addition to Sarah…because the promise to Abraham is to have children as numerous as the dust of the earth…through Sarah.

Abraham is now locked into the storyline script of biblical faith for the highest and best of reasons…being the first to walk in a God-composed adventure of faith life-script.

This will make Abraham the “father of faith” of multitudes as the number of stars of the night sky…of people having similarly patterned walks of faith…walking in the opposite direction away from the conventional normalcy of “Haran”…and into their own God-composed life-scripts in the spiritual equivalent Promised Land of Canaan (Jn. 8:36).

Likewise, Joseph cannot procure his premature release from Pharaoh’s prison through the help of his fellow-prisoners the butler and baker.

Moses cannot persuade God at the burning bush to find someone else to go to Egypt to deliver the Israelites.

David will not become king prematurely through Saul fatally falling off his horse or being killed by a stray arrow or an unlucky sword blow in battle.

Peter may incorrectly think it is his absolute duty to courageously make his stand alongside Jesus at the night trial…in one impetuous show of bravery…but occupying a fourth cross on Calvary Hill the next day is not the detailed and finely calibrated life-script destiny for the full future life of Peter…that fateful night in the courtyard of Caiaphas.

From A Popular Defense of the Bible and Christianity

The Real Prince and the Pauper 2

The life of Jesus Christ is the perfect example of the called-out person…the called-out life.

As we read through the Sermon on the Mount…any elevated worldly status…as a military liberator or political leader…would seem totally out-of-place and out of character for the Son of God Jesus making the fundamental case for people then and now to exchange self-sovereignty for God-sovereignty in their lives.

If we are called-out to be missionaries in the rainforests of the Amazon or in New Guinea…to be evangelists and church-planters in Africa or Western China…or to be the first-century disciples of the early Christian church sent out into the world to spread the good news of salvation through Jesus Christ…like Peter, Paul, and the other apostles and disciples…we will experience hardship in this life in service to the gospel message (Acts 14:22).

But in the Bible, God also raises people up to worldly prominence and status…according to God’s unselfish purposes for the benefit of mankind.

Abraham is a wealthy man to the point of being able to respond quickly and assemble a small army to go and successfully fight another small army in rescue of his nephew Lot (Gen. 14:14).

Within God’s callings, plans, and guidance…Joseph becomes governor of Egypt, Moses is an equal match to Pharaoh in delivering the Israelites, and David becomes a king.

God raises-up mighty and powerful prophets that deliver the people from oppressors…and to oppose and denounce wayward kings.

Other notable names in the Bible that come to mind are Boaz, Abigail, Daniel, Esther and Mordecai, Solomon, Joseph of Arimathaea, and the “chief of Asia”…friends of Paul (Acts 19:31)…people who all experienced some elevated measure of worldly prominence and status…in service to God and other people.

So whether we are called-out to be pastors or foreign missionaries…or called-out to be federal court judges, state senators, college presidents, Bible college professors, concert pianists, professional athletes, stay-at-home moms, or successful business people…we have no one ultimately to answer to in regard to our individual callings except God our Creator…in the leading and course of our lives (2 Tim. 4:7).

In leaving behind His outwardly appearing heavenly glory…and rejecting all claims to elevated worldly status and acclaim…Jesus Christ the Son of God creates a platform of credibility from which to offer a radically different lifestyle alternative that only the Passover Lamb of God sacrifice-for-sin could plausibly and justifiably make.

What is inexplicable in terms of humanistic literary invention…because it runs so contrary to our notion of self-sovereignty…is that Jesus is offering Himself as the leader of this alternative lifestyle expedition…dethroning us…taking our place.

When Jesus says in John 14:6…”I am the way, the truth, and the life: no man cometh unto the Father, but by me”…He is exemplifying and articulating the second and only other major worldview possible in all of existence.

The radical insertion of a Prince and the Pauper lifestyle journey into the discovery of the knowledge of good and evil…of leaving the palace to go out into the risk and adventure of the outside rough-and-tumble world (Mt. 9:10-13)…can only be actualized into real, empirical human experience by the one Person who invented and literally embodied this concept…Jesus Christ the Son of God.

From A Popular Defense of the Bible and Christianity

The Real Prince and the Pauper 1

“That at the name of Jesus every knee should bow, of things in heaven, and things in earth, and things under the earth.”                  (Phil. 2:10)

Jesus Christ cannot live-out and fulfill His unique mission in a human body…and still at the same time retain some portion of His divine, outward appearing glory.

Jesus is now in an “earthen vessel” (2 Cor. 4:7).  Even though Jesus is at all times fully God and fully man…Jesus cannot walk around Israel in the first-century having a low-level exterior glow of light surrounding His body in a sort of low-calorie, sugar-free, “God-Light” aura…and fulfill the destiny that awaits Him at Calvary.

God cannot split the difference halfway between the unremarkable outward appearance of a normal human being…and the unmistakably divine glory that Jesus enjoyed as the Son of God…the Second Person of the Trinity in heaven.

In terms of outward appearances the incarnation is an all or nothing enterprise.  It is a binary choice of the digits of either zero or one…a yes or no enterprise…not both.  It is a “go or no-go” decision for missile launch.  No fractions are allowed.

Any amount of visible, supernaturally divine light emanating around the exterior person of Jesus the son of Mary and step-son of Joseph the carpenter, growing up in Nazareth, and during His subsequent public ministry…would have tipped the salvation scale completely away from the free-will exercise of commendable faith in Christ as Savior…for all of the good and right reasons…instead of tipping the scale towards the morally bland, unexceptional, merely factual observation of the recognition of the physical phenomenon of a visually glorified Jesus Christ.

Faith in a slightly glowing Jesus Christ would be a physical senses observation only…in the first-century…rather than a selective moral choice…two things that are entirely different in character and substance.

What this tells us about the character of God is that He has the breadth and depth of moral capacity to empty Himself fully of all of the advantages of the outward appearances of His glory…a necessary strategy for our sakes in meeting us where we are at…that enables the ignominious outcome of the cross on Calvary Hill.

God’s love for us is so strong, so purely motivated, so free of the excess baggage of pride and arrogance… that He can enter into the unvarnished status of a normal appearing human being as Jesus Christ from the small and unremarkable town of Nazareth (Phil. 2:5-8; Isa 9:6, 53:5)…to become the Passover Lamb of God sacrifice for our sins.

The humility component of the stepping down of the Son of God from heaven into a human body is an essential factor in the eventual rejection of Jesus Christ foretold in Isaiah 53…which leads directly to the cross, the resurrection, and our eternal salvation.

This element of the cross in the life-script of Jesus Christ…and as also applied to our own Christian lives…is at a level of complexity and novelty beyond anything that human creative imagination could invent…barely touched upon in modern literary fiction.

Additionally, it can be said that it would also have been easy for Jesus the Son of God to obtain the outward appearance of worldly success and wealth as an international merchant in the first-century, for example.

And judging by the verbal exchange between the 12-year old Jesus and the rabbis in Jerusalem recorded in Luke 2:41-50, Jesus could also have stayed within the rabbinical tradition and become a world-renowned Jewish scholar.

Any and all such pursuits, however, seem beneath the unique life-script of the divine Son of God entering into a human life on earth.

From A Popular Defense of the Bible and Christianity

The Elevated Quality of Divine Humility 3

The element of divine humility is an inseparable part…and the concept of the divine Son of God on the cross as the perfect sacrifice to enable us to be able to get to know God…meeting us precisely where we are in taking our place on the cross…becoming sin for our sakes who Himself had no sin…is simply above and outside of human literary invention in the first-century, and beyond the scope and reach of the humanistic genius of Mark Twain’s imaginative modern novel.

Stated another way…the prince in his regal clothing, royal carriage, and honor guard of armed soldiers…would never be crucified…but a lowly pauper…a humble carpenter-prophet from Nazareth…could be crucified without a second thought.

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

This fundamental biblical truth of salvation by grace through faith…and not self-works…which separates it from all other worldviews…is based four-square on the perfect sacrifice of the blood of the divine Jesus Christ on the cross.

But without the singular brilliance of the divine humility element in the mission and ministry of Jesus Christ…Jesus would never have made it to the cross.

The low road of worldly humility is the narrow gate of Matthew 7:13-14…leading to the cross of Calvary…that Jesus Himself must walk through in order to fulfill His unique life-script as the Passover Lamb of God sacrifice for sin…to the precise exclusion of all other worldly concerns and expectations.

To borrow the language from the intelligent design debate…the “body-plan” architecture of the life-script of Jesus Christ hones-in on and focuses upon the brilliant outcome of the cross and the resurrection…displaying foresight in its composition and masterful engineering in accomplishing its goal…that is breathtaking in its imaginative creativity.

Philippians 2:5-8 reads: “Let this mind be in you, which was also in Christ Jesus.  Who, being in the form of God, thought it not robbery to be equal with God:  But made himself of no reputation, and took upon him the form of a servant, and was made in the likeness of men:  And being found in fashion as a man, he humbled himself, and became obedient unto death, even the death of the cross.”

The life, message, death, and resurrection of Jesus Christ are a divine revelation at the top-most peak of the most complex, sublime, creatively innovative information…inserted into the contemplative reality of human thinking and actual lived-experience.

The cross of Jesus Christ (Lk. 22:42)…God displacing our way with His way…can be found ingeniously embedded within every narrative story of faith in the Bible.

This brings the extraordinarily unconventional Prince and the Pauper journey of divine humility into actuality…in some measure…in our own lives through what I call in this book “God-composed journey of faith life-scripts”…totally outside of the realm of worldly conventional normalcy and thinking.

In the fallen context of this world (Lk. 4:5-6)…divine humility is the one character trait that is perfectly immune and resistant to the temptations of the corruption of worldly power, wealth, and glory…and at the same time the one character trait in the perfect person Jesus Christ that will take Him…surprisingly (1 Cor. 2:8)…and us as well (Phil. 2:5)…all the way to and through the cross.

It is inconceivable that human literary insight would or could invent these two very subtle and sublime concepts within the life-script for Jesus Christ…considering that Mark Twain only went as far as the secular story of a prince exchanging places with a pauper as a lesson in worldly political leadership training…with neither the prince or the pauper in this story immune or resistant to worldly power, wealth, and glory…and neither one crucified for the sins of the world as the Passover Lamb of God.

From A Popular Defense of the Bible and Christianity