Non-Racial Anti-Tribalism is at the Core of the New Testament

            Virtue from the biblical perspective has nothing to do with race, nationality, or place of origin.

            Ultra-conservatives would like to keep America racially white, to keep white people in the voting majority which implies that only white people can be virtuous citizens.

            Ultra-conservatives are welcome to their opinion, but this viewpoint is as unchristian as is imaginable.

            The Great Commission (Mt. 28:19-20) at the beginning of the new Christian church is race-neutral by divinely timeless foresight and intention (Gen. 12:3; Isa. 42:6; Jn. 3:16, 4:9-10, 8:5, 8:26-29, 10:34-35, 22:21: Rom. 3:29).

            The name given to the believers in the church at Antioch of being first called Christians is a name that is universally race-neutral and nationality-free (Acts 11:26).

            But the small nation of Israel in a rough and unwelcoming neighborhood must remain culturally intact for roughly 1,400 years until the arrival of Jesus Christ the Passover Lamb of God atoning sacrifice for sins in the first-century, which on a practical level requires the Jews to not mix or intermarry with the people of the surrounding countries. 

            The Jews cannot allow their religious and cultural heritage to be diluted by mixing with the surrounding pagan cultures, or the positive context for the cultural explosion of the forerunner John the Baptist (Isa. 40:3-5; Mal. 3:1; Mt. 11:10-14; Lk. 1:17), the ministry of Jesus, the cross and resurrection, and the rapid growth of Christianity coming out of Jerusalem…would not be the extremely fine-tuned environment needed to inaugurate redemptive salvation as it actualizes for new covenant believers around the world to this present day.

            But this was not supposed to morph downward into the self-righteousness of parochial tribalism, of prejudicially looking down our nose at other people…which unfortunately was the social dichotomy between Jews and Gentiles at the start of the new Christian church (Acts 11:1-3, 17, 19-26, 22:21-23).  

“As it is written, There is none righteous, no, not one.” (Rom. 3:10).

“For all have sinned, and come short of the glory of God.” (Rom. 3:23).

            Saul/Paul’s conversion experience on the road to Damascus (Acts 9:1-1-6) is designed to remove the Judaic prejudicial tribalism against the pagan, idol-worshipping, polytheistic Greeks and Romans.  This event is a variation of the miracle that occurred on the Day of Pentecost in Jerusalem when the Holy Spirit is poured-out on the disciples, at the very time that peoples from all over the Mediterranean region were present, listed in Acts 2 as worshippers of God gathered together on that festival day (Acts 2:9-11).

            To successfully carry-out his evangelical mission to the first-century Greco-Roman world, Paul must be free of any self-righteous condescension towards the clearly mistaken Gentiles in worshipping dumb idols.

            Paul must painfully discover his own entirely wrong viewpoint regarding the person of Jesus of Nazareth, along with his mistaken colleagues back in Jerusalem in not only opposing the new Christian church, but in persecuting the church to the extent of arresting Christians and putting some to death.

            In order to be rid of his racial, religious, and cultural prejudice against the Gentiles which was a normal part of his Jewish upbringing and shared by every highly educated Pharisee in Jerusalem at the beginning of the Great Commission outreach to the larger world, the radically extreme turnaround needed for Paul was to discover that as a Pharisee his rejection of Jesus Christ as Messiah was far worse than the misguided idol-worship of false gods practiced by the Gentiles.

            To successfully fulfill his created destiny, the apostle Paul not only needed to broaden his horizon as to the divine nature of Jesus of Nazareth as the Son of God and the Messiah of Israel, but also incredibly to include a new prejudicial and positive bias towards the Gentiles he will soon be called to evangelize.  

            Paul realized in his divine encounter at Damascus that he of all people should have known better…that of course the long-awaited coming Messiah could also be the Passover Lamb of God atoning sacrifice for sin (Ps. 22; Isa. 53), and the unmerited yet instantaneous forgiveness of God towards him by grace through faith could then just as quickly be applied to the Gentiles through belief and acceptance of the gospel message of salvation through the cross and the resurrection of Christ.

            Improved virtue of character is obtainable by anyone regardless of race, nationality, or place of origin…through faith placed in Jesus Christ as Savior (Rom. 1:16-17, 2:10-11, 3:22, 4:16, 4:24, 8:1-4, 10:9-13).

            Racial prejudice in America is unchristian and unscriptural in the most injurious way to Christian evangelism.  It introduces a negative opinion of the worth and value of other people created in the image of God, that as Christians we of all people are not entitled to make.

            Whites, Blacks, Mexican-Americans, Latinos, Asians, and any other races are equally capable of virtuous citizenship in America because all human beings according to scripture are made in the image of God (Gen. 1:27).

            From an evangelical perspective, every person is capable of freely choosing to trust the God of the Bible, listen in the Spirit, and enter into a God-composed journey of faith life-script after the pattern of the biblical narrative stories of faith.

            Other peoples and cultures around the world can certainly engage in promoting and practicing the concept of extending value and worth to all people regardless of race, gender, nationality, and place of origin.

            But Spirit-born Christians have a divine mandate to throw-off racial prejudice and negative bias if we are to successfully fulfill our calling of the Great Commission in the end-times.  

Purpose and the Cross

            No writer in the history of literature has ever attempted to create a fictional character absolutely devoid of purpose.  Like reaching absolute zero temperature, creating an absolute vacuum, or producing the conditions for motion having zero friction…humans cannot conceive of a literary character having absolute zero purpose. 

            A person without purpose is a fiction beyond our imagination.  Every human being on the planet cares about someone or something, to some extent.  This aspect of our world, in which every person has some measure of purpose, whatever its direction or quality, should come as a surprise to us.

            But this is another of the many features of our present reality that we just accept and take totally for granted.

            This reality regarding purpose can be used as an apologetic argument for the existence of God.  Acknowledge even the smallest quantity of purpose in the recipe for meaningful human life…and this then requires a reasonably plausible explanation for where purpose comes from. 

            This is one of the philosophical inconsistencies inherent in skeptical unbelief.

            But purpose and meaning in life go much deeper than this.  The old proverb: “Do as I say, not as I do” reveals an inconsistency in all human behavior. 

            A common notion among many people is that we typically live around 75 or 80 years, then die, are buried, and this covers all there is to reality. 

            But if this were true in a purely absolute sense…if taken to its logical extreme…then people would live in total detachment and disinterest about anyone or anything.  If we are made up solely of atoms, molecules, and quantum energy, then existence should be a cold, empty, emotionless, absolute zero-purpose reality having no caring, no passion, and no meaning. 

            The one thing that is absolutely consistent about the application of purpose in our lives, is that none of us are absolutely consistent. 

            Christians are accurately criticized by the skeptical world of unbelief for not living up to the high standards of Christ.  Admittedly, Christians do not practice what they preach perfectly.  But neither does anyone else. 

            Some people say they do not believe in God, and do not believe in anything transcendent beyond this present life in the here and now. 

            But the inconsistency of their verbally stated belief system is betrayed by their fully engaged and sometimes active passion for social and political reforms, their insistence upon personal integrity in their lives, their solid endorsement of the standards and laws that govern society, and their unabashed enthusiasm for the welfare of their children and grandchildren. 

            This clear and unwavering preference for high standards and commendable outcomes in life has no place in a world having zero purpose or meaning.  Actions here shout louder than words, and in everyday practice these actions self-refute the theoretical foundation for the purely absolute, naturalistic worldview.  

            If all we do is live, die, and are buried, then why care deeply and passionately about anyone or anything?  What would be the point?  Is someone keeping score…and if so, what for? 

            Doing the right thing and caring about others becomes absolutely meaningless.  Making our mark in life and leaving behind us a better world for posterity has no enduring purpose. 

            Things like friendship, loyalty, honor, character, and self-sacrifice not only become meaningless…they do not even exist.  Even caring solely about oneself becomes meaningless in a world having no real purpose beyond atoms and molecules.   

            In my view, some people incorrectly use the argument that evil exists in the world, which greatly disrupts our good order and well-being as evidence that God does not exist. 

            The presumption here is that a wise and caring God would not create such a beautiful and orderly world as this, yet allow evil to mar its existence.  But we have to search in an entirely different area than fundamental purpose, for an explanation for the existence of evil in our world.   

            If a brilliant craftsman God did not create within us this facility for purpose and meaning in life, then no one would care about the issue of the existence of evil in the first place.  We would not possess the capacity to care about anything. 

            The inability to be absolutely detached and disinterested in terms of purpose and meaning in life to the point of not even being able to imagine such an extreme purposeless condition devoid of any appreciation of justice, fairness, and equity…severely undermines a materialistic explanation of reality based solely on atoms, electrons, and the physical elements.

            Every single human being is covered by the broad brush-stroke of hypocritical inconsistency in this area of the gap between what we say verbally…and what we actually do in practice.  Christians and non-Christians alike are merely at different points on the same spectrum graph-line of purpose in life.  No one escapes this issue of hypocritical inconsistency. 

            Christians aspire to moral perfection, but don’t quite get there.  Skeptical unbelievers aspire to a totally rational and intellectual existence consistent with a naturalistic worldview, devoid of any transcendent purpose or meaning…but don’t quite get there.  Although everyone has purpose of one sort or another, everyone falls short of absolute purity in the pure application of their particular worldview.

            One of the themes of this book is that it takes the cross of Jesus Christ applied to our lives, actualized through the spiritual rebirth described in the gospel of John chapter three, and symbolized in believer’s water baptism, to effectively remove the debilitating aspects of our self-in-charge natures. 

            This creates the space for God to insert His higher ways into our lives. 

            When we allow God to displace our plans with His life-script for us, even though our performance may be flawed at times, the game-plan itself is absolutely perfect.  When we willingly submit to the God-inspired destiny for our lives, we embark upon a journey having the tightest specifications…crafted exclusively to match our created abilities, talents, and purpose. 

            A God-composed journey of faith provides structure, direction, and momentum to the element of purpose we already have designed within us.  A biblical quality journey of faith through the cross enlists and connects to purpose at the fundamental core of its meaning.

            The beauty of this is that the cross element in the biblical narrative stories of faith is as orthodox as orthodox can get.  The narrative stories of faith in the Bible are just as authoritative as the Ten Commandments or the Sermon on the Mount. 

            If we can clearly see the cross within the God-composed life-scripts of the great men and women of faith in the Bible, then we are viewing the precise handiwork of God perfectly integrated to the facility for purpose He placed within each of us.     

            For example, when Moses is in the middle of the ten miraculous plagues in Egypt designed to procure the deliverance of the Israelites from bondage as slaves, Moses is walking through the narrowest of circumstances having little or no wiggle-room (Mt. 7:13-14). 

            Each morning that Moses wakes up, he listens to God in the Spirit and desperately seeks God’s new and unique solution for that day to persuade the despotic Pharaoh to release the Israelites.  In the middle of any of the ten plagues, Moses is engaged within the tightest life-and-death scenario of events designed to progress toward a positive outcome that by all outward appearances…in the present moment…borders on the edge of being hopeless.

            As one miraculous plague after another fails to move Pharaoh off of his stubbornly entrenched position, the faith and trust of Moses in the character and ability of God to come through with the next brilliant step…is daily put to the test. 

            Today we miss much of the in-the-moment suspense and drama when looking back in hindsight at the entire story, because we already know the positive ending.

            During the ten plagues in Egypt, Moses is in the center of extreme opposing forces working themselves out within the most horizontal of worldly conventional realities. 

            Moses is in the middle between the earthly ruler Pharaoh intent upon keeping the Israelites within the borders of Egypt as economically and socially valuable slaves, and the supernatural God intent upon physically and spiritually liberating the Israelites entirely out of the country of Egypt to create the new nation of Israel. 

            The lesson here for all Christians is that the plans and purposes of God are located way over at the far extreme, risked-filled, totally committed faith-end of the purpose-spectrum that we cannot possibly reach through our own efforts, or even conceive of in our wildest imagination. 

            Moses does not deliver the Israelites through some exceptional gift for oratorical persuasion or appeal to enlightened reason in the presence of Pharaoh, according to some humanistic construction.  The deliverance of the Israelites is not the result of a win-win compromise based upon mutual benefits to both parties obtained through expert worldly diplomacy.  The successful deliverance of the Israelites occurs in a zone of reality that is not only entirely supernatural…but beyond our capacity to inventively imagine.  

            The capacity of innate purpose in Moses is stretched to its fullest through active faith, bonded with the higher ways and purposes of God to produce this incredibly brilliant outcome of the birth of the nation of Israel.  This in turn produces all of the benefits of the Old Testament events leading up to the eventual redemption through Jesus Christ our Savior at Calvary, which will endure for all eternity. 

            God accomplishes all of this in the middle of the most daunting and discouraging worldly conventional circumstances imaginable.

            Some Christians would like to have the typically modern 3-step or 5-step program to begin to apply a biblical quality journey of faith to our Christian lives.  But the biblical message of the narrative stories of faith tell us that only God Himself has the step-by-step life-plans of carefully designed events and circumstances to connect with the element of purpose He has placed within us. 

            This is part of the journey of faith that authenticates and validates the competence of the one true living God as King and Ruler of the realm.  Only God Himself can be the competent administrator of this life-purpose program. 

            The reason that the experience of Moses…with God…in the midst of the plagues in Egypt…is an interactive joint-venture effort between an ordinary man engaged in a committed adventure of faith, and the Almighty God is that Moses could not possibly self-produce the supernatural ten plagues in Egypt or the parting of the Red Sea. 

            The absolutely perfect plans of God integrate seamlessly with our innate sense of purpose in a way that is unattainable when we are stuck in the humanly limited position of self-in-charge. 

            Moses experienced the high privilege of daily walking within the tightest and narrowest of life-and-death circumstances in Egypt, to discover the absolute perfection of God’s ways and purposes in the miraculous deliverance of the Israelites.

Jesus and Purpose

            The best example to illustrate the perfection of the purposes of God is the life-script of Jesus of Nazareth, the Son of God. 

            What is seamlessly perfect about the divinely composed life-plan of Jesus is that it is absolutely unselfish.  Jesus is not leisurely sailing the Mediterranean Sea with people waiting upon Him to satisfy His every need.  Everything that Jesus does is for us.  Even though the suffering of the cross adds a new perspective to God’s reality that He never experienced before (Heb. 5:7-9), there is no redemptive value for Jesus Christ on the cross…because Jesus does not need redemption from sin.

            Jesus is the perfect Lamb of God sacrifice for the sins of the world.  The sacrifice on the cross is for us.

            What is astounding is that God is so brilliantly creative that He can compose a life-script for the perfect Son of God Jesus Christ, which actually contains an element of challenging difficulty.  God knew that we would have difficulty with the second half of the cross that requires our self-in-charge nature to be set aside so that God can effectively work with us. 

            Jesus says in Luke 12:50 “But I have a baptism to be baptized with; and how I am straightened till it be accomplished!”  Jesus says this not because He is in need of character growth through adversity.  The character of Jesus is already divinely perfect. 

            In Luke 22:44, it is recorded that Jesus in the Garden of Gethsemane went back a second time to “pray more earnestly.” 

            This is beyond our comprehension.  We would normally assume that everything Jesus did, especially prayer, was perfect the first time. 

            In Luke 22:42 Jesus prays “Father, if thou be willing, remove this cup from me; nevertheless, not my will, but thine, be done.” 

            How can God be so brilliantly creative to be able to write into the earthly experience of the divine Son of God Jesus, the element of difficult challenge which is totally foreign to the perfect nature of God, just so He could tell us He personally understands our own difficulty in picking up our cross in order to follow God…our difficulty in making the transition from self-sovereignty to God-sovereignty? 

            Even within the absolute perfection of the ways and purposes of God, the life-script of Jesus manages to contain God-challenging elements of difficulty written-in for our future consolation and encouragement.  This touches me at the capacity of my intellect and the depth of my heart.    

            It is the precise and intricate ways and purposes of God that enlists our own in-built facility for purpose, which can be integrated by God into any set of current life circumstances and events. 

            Whether we are a heart surgeon, congresswoman, appellate court judge, school teacher, auto mechanic, pastor of a small-town church, writer of Christian books, or housewife raising children…God can overlay and integrate His higher ways and purposes into our lives if we will surrender and yield our self-wills to Him in faith and trust. 

            The deliverance and salvation of God within the challenges of life, expressed so beautifully throughout the Psalms, takes place within the plans of God, and not our own. 

            Innate purpose translates into reality at the highest most glorious level when orchestrated and directed within the framework of a God-composed journey of faith.

            Sometimes purpose and worldly conventional normalcy do not mix.  Sometimes we cannot have both the risk-filled pursuit of truth and the security of conventional normalcy…simultaneously within the dynamics of this broken world. 

            Jesus, the Passover Lamb of God sacrifice for the sins of the world can only die and be resurrected if His generation rejects and crucifies Him.  Only God can knit together a meaningful and purposeful tapestry of the commendable aspects of the Protestant work ethic (Lk. 19:13)…with the worldly incomprehensible, biblical journey of faith through the cross of Calvary. 

            All of the people of faith in the Bible gave up some measure of worldly conventional normalcy in following God’s life-script for them.  This separates out and elevates the quality of purpose and meaning into a higher zone that only God can orchestrate. 

            This highlights the wisdom of God in the area of purpose, and like the scriptural example of God composing a life-script for Jesus that contained challenging difficulty for our consolation.  It reveals an imaginative creativity that is at the edge of perfection regarding brilliantly directed purpose. 

            If even our hardships work an eternal glory in us that we cannot fully understand in the present moment…orchestrated, managed, and moderated by a loving and brilliantly wise God at the limits of perfection…this should bolster our faith and confidence when outward appearances seem close to hopeless. 

            The narrative stories of faith in the Bible tell us that God knows precisely what He is doing, dovetailed perfectly with the type and measure of purpose He has placed within us.  Laws, rules, precepts, psalms of praise and encouragement, prophetic warnings, and historical events all occupy their place in the revelation of God to man.  But the biblical narrative stories of faith demonstrate in action the will and ways of God within life-events to reveal His craftsmanship in the management of our journeys of faith and discovery.

            At the advanced Christian end of the spectrum of purpose and meaning in life, God will ask us to place our own personal Isaac on the altar of sacrifice.  Isaac is not just Abraham’s son.  Isaac is the son of promise.  Wrapped up in Isaac are all of Abraham’s commendable hopes, dreams, love, and care.  Isaac does not represent some bad character trait or secret sin that Abraham must surrender to God. 

            If the purpose and meaning of life were just about smooth sailing through calm seas, then Abraham and Sarah could have started a large family upon correctly obeying God to leave Haran and journey to Canaan. 

            But Abraham and Sarah wait for Isaac, and Abraham is maneuvered by God through long-range circumstances to this pivotal moment on Mount Moriah, for a monumental reason

            The lesson for the “father of faith” (and all of us) is that he must completely and totally rely upon God and give up any remaining residue of self-reliance. 

            This is one part of the Bible that cannot be manufactured by man through conventional thinking.  This was the God-manufactured reality in Abraham’s life that qualified him to be called the “father of faith,” initiating a new, higher way of life with God.  As Abraham lifts his knife up to thrust it down into his beloved son Isaac, Hebrews 11:19 reads that Abraham accounted “that God was able to raise him up, even from the dead, from which also he received him in a figure.” 

            No ordinary person conquers death.  Through the incarnation, cross, and resurrection, Jesus conquered death…our last great enemy.  We are raised to new life in Christ because Jesus was raised from the tomb by God the Father. 

            This is the central message of the Bible.  God can and will do for us in a better and much higher way what we cannot possibly even imagine for ourselves. 

            The most painfully difficult, yet liberating, faith-producing events in our lives are when God maneuvers our circumstances to the point where we willingly make the decision to let go of our own plans, schemes, self-efforts, and even our personal hopes and dreams in a particular area. 

            As God shouts to Abraham “Stop!” as he is about to plunge his knife down into Isaac, Abraham has totally let go of all self-generated assistance regarding helping God out toward the fulfillment of God’s promise to Abraham. 

            God would not and never has unjustly asked anyone to take the life of someone else.  The sacrifice on Mount Moriah was a foreglimpse, a “type” of the real sacrifice of Jesus Christ on Calvary Hill two thousand years later that would go forward to full consummation in the death of God’s own beloved Son. 

            The foundational example of a biblical journey of faith, starting with Abraham, begins with Abraham placing his Isaac on the altar of sacrifice…and God taking this unconditional faith and trust and literally turning it around into life from the dead. 

            Like all Christians, I have experienced trials, tragedies, and heartbreaks in my life.  Although excruciatingly painful at the time, I would not trade these experiences for anything.  When shaped, orchestrated, and moderated by God, they make me into a better person. 

            Could one of the things that conventional, worldly thinking chokes on and stumbles over so badly…the presence of suffering and periods of hardship in this life…be an important ingredient that produces the continue-on-at-all-costs, come-what-may, get-up-and-carry-on resiliency of character that can overcome any life-challenge that comes our way? 

            I cannot discover the inspirations to write this book unless I allow God to lead me through a personal guided tour of life’s valleys and mountaintops to demonstrate to me His faithfulness and His management skills. 

            The partially hypocritical “do-as-I-say” moves step-by-step closer to the absolute ideal of “do-as-I-do,” when divinely-guided purpose is actualized within God-composed journeys of faith.   

            Purpose and meaning are inextricably connected with this concept of Jesus walking alongside us through the most challenging of life’s circumstances. 

            The purpose in the cross is all over this encouraging reality of a journey of faith following Jesus Christ through the hills and valleys of life, ironically fulfilling in the most commendable God-scripted way the tempting seduction of Satan in the Garden: “ye shall be as gods, knowing good and evil” (Gen. 3:5).

            As King Saul’s deadly pursuit of David is on several occasions within a hair’s breadth of succeeding, David must think to himself whether God’s promise to him through the prophet Samuel will ever come true. 

            Joseph’s own attempt to get Pharaoh’s butler and baker to speak well of Joseph to Pharaoh and hopefully procure his exoneration and release from prison, falls flat. 

            When the Israelites are trapped against the banks of the Red Sea with the Egyptian chariot army in deadly pursuit, it never entered the minds of the Israelites as a plausible solution that God could open up the Red Sea.  If the Red Sea bordered on a forest, some small number of people might have used driftwood and logs as floatation devices to swim safely on top of the surface of the water to the opposite shore. 

            But this body of water was in the middle of a desert.  There were no trees or driftwood.  Some daring people might have considered attempting to swim across the entire width of the Red Sea. 

            Opening up a dry land passage through the midst of the waters was something that only God could even imagine, much less actually accomplish. 

            Upon first hearing God’s plan to successfully defeat the opposing army, we can imagine Gideon asking God “Did I hear you correctly…you want us to do what?” 

            Esther throws all personal “caution to the wind” in seeking an uninvited audience with the king…in an extremely tight set of deadly circumstances forced upon her by the expediency of the crisis…not at all of her making.

            Even on Resurrection Day, as the two disciples are walking toward Emmaus and speaking with the as-yet unrecognized Jesus, after some of the disciples had already reported discovering the empty tomb, they still did not understand the magnitude of the power of the resurrection.  They say about Jesus that He was “a prophet, mighty in deed and word before God and all the people” (Lk. 24:19), and that “we hoped that it had been he who should have redeemed Israel” (Lk. 24:21). 

            They did not realize that Jesus, a “prophet mighty in deed and word,” had that very day conquered the great final enemy of death and hell for them, through His divinely empowered resurrection from the tomb of Joseph of Arimathaea.

            Most of us did not fully understand the second half of the cross…the surrender of the sovereignty of sitting atop the thrones of our lives as self-autonomous kings…when we experienced believer’s water baptism.  When we were submerged briefly below the surface of the water, and then assisted up into a vertical standing position representing resurrection into new life, we grasped the basic outlines of the cross and the resurrection. 

            Only after some length of time in our journey of faith do we begin to comprehend in some measure the depth of God’s purposes, patterned for us in the narrative examples of faith recorded in the Bible. 

            This concept of placing our personal Isaac on the altar of sacrifice so that God can insert His higher ways into our lives, will crystalize into a major theme for Christians as we enter the last-days to close-out the long redemptive history of mankind. 

            This is another key to our success as the Christian church in the last-days. 

            Just as the cross and the resurrection conquered death in a way that was beyond our capacity to accomplish for ourselves, the second half of the cross is a divine creation beyond human imagination or creative literary invention. 

            The narrative stories of faith in the Bible, and our own personal experience of salvation and a journey of faith following Jesus Christ, will be a calm harbor of refuge and a sturdy anchor of protection through whatever worldwide turbulence lies ahead.

            A journey of faith through the second half of the cross is at the pinnacle of divinely inspired and revealed orthodoxy, as orthodox as orthodox can be. 

            This is the part of the message of the Bible that is designed to illustrate the Spirit-born transformation that takes place within a person, from having merely an impersonal knowledge about God, to a personal, purpose-filled, new covenant adventure of faith following Jesus Christ (Jer. 31:31-34).  

The Thief on the Cross

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

The Angle of Our Vision

“But seek ye first the kingdom of God, and his righteousness, and all these things shall be added unto you.”                                             (Mt. 6:33)

            This blog is not about church organizations or structures.  It is about the people who make up the universal Christian church of Spirit-born believers around the world.  Get people personally connected to Jesus Christ, and He can then capably take it from there to produce the positive results we read about in the lives of the people of faith recorded in the Bible. 

            A genuine reformation in the Christian church begins with repentance, prayer, Bible study, listening in the Spirit, and a heartfelt desire for genuine discipleship. 

            But a fundamental reality in the world is that not many people listen to the words of the true prophet at the moment the message is being delivered.  This is primarily due to the vertical separation between the message of the prophet’s speech in the elevated realm of faith and trust in God, and how well people in-the-moment have the capacity for listening “in the Spirit” (Mt. 11:15; Acts 27:9-11). 

            Most people going about their normal lives have their vision focused horizontally upon day-to-day concerns, and are not contemplating the higher ways of God in their daily affairs (Isa. 55:8-9). 

            But a true prophet of God is always trying to elevate people’s spiritual vision up into the higher realm of daily living combined with “walking in the Spirit.”

            This is the location where faith and trust in God can produce divinely orchestrated outcomes coupled with profound character growth.  This is also the area where resistance to change and the element of risk reside. 

            This is why for many people the sudden introduction of the message of God through a prophet is often a jarring and unwelcome event.  The prophet’s message can be a nettlesome intrusion into our otherwise normative, complacent, worldly sensible plans.    

            Israel historically revered their prophets in hindsight, and went to great efforts to accurately record, maintain, and pass along the sayings and writings of their prophets.  But many of the biblical prophets were persecuted and rejected by their contemporaries at the time they delivered their messages (Jer. 1:19). 

            It is a relatively safe exercise to look backwards in time in nostalgic appreciation for the purely intellectual component of the prophet’s message, conveniently removed into the history of centuries past. 

            It is a relatively safe enterprise to endorse the ancient prophet’s fiery call for personal repentance, a heartfelt change in our lives, and the challenge to step-up into a biblical-style adventure of faith (Mt. 23:20), as long as this message can be interpreted to apply to past generations of our wayward ancestors…and not directly to us. 

            A Spirit-filled prophetic call to surrender all to Jesus today, in full consideration of the costs and benefits involved, can be just as sobering a challenge for us now as it was for the Old Testament Jews listening to Moses, Samuel, Elijah, or Jeremiah. 

            The unique aspect of the final chapter of the Christian church in the last days is that there will not be a future, upcoming, extended period of time in human redemptive history on earth…to nostalgically look back upon the present-day words of prophets calling people to a higher and deeper experience following Jesus Christ…in-the-moment right now. 

            The second coming of Christ brings an end to this current human redemptive period…for all time.  

            This interaction between God and people set within the context of life’s events and circumstances, having mutual faith and trust as the bonding cement of the relationship is not found anywhere else in philosophy, religion, or human experience. 

            The validating element of this arrangement is authenticated by the reality that the living God must actively take up His part of the relationship. 

            Like playing catch with a baseball, someone real has to be on the opposite side to catch the ball and throw it back.  In the case of a biblical journey of faith, the one true God invented the game and openly invites all to participate.

            The entire Bible can be interpreted as God’s attempt to get us to release our faith and elevate our vision up into the realm where God can effectively work with us.  This is actually a key aspect of the Bible that confirms its divine origin. 

            The component of God’s active out-reach toward us is something that cannot be fabricated by human invention.  The callings of God, and the ingenious and varied narrative stories that follow the enlistment of each person of faith recorded in the Bible, are totally outside the imagination and literary invention of man. 

            One classic example of God trying to get people’s vision raised above the horizontal, everyday thinking…is recorded in Mark 12:13-17. 

            The Pharisees and Herodians come to Jesus, and ask Him: “Is it lawful to give tribute to Caesar, or not?”  These opponents of Jesus think they have Him intellectually cornered with this cleverly devised question which appears to offer no positive option within the worldly horizontal realm of practical concerns.  Answering yes or no strictly within the bounds of conventional wisdom…spells trouble either way. 

            Telling the Jews not to pay their taxes offends the Roman government.  Telling Jews to dutifully pay their taxes to the hated foreign occupiers offends the populace in the very sensitive area of Jewish national pride and in the practical area of their pocketbooks. 

            But Jesus brilliantly lifts this issue up a level higher into the elevated realm of the Spirit, above our horizontal vision.  Jesus asks the Pharisees to show Him a coin, asks whose image is engraved on the coin, and then unexpectedly divides the answer to their question into two distinct vertical zones. 

            Part one of the fully correct, responsive answer is to render faithfully to the demands of the everyday practical world that which belongs to the everyday world…render to Caesar the things that are Caesar’s. 

            Part two of the answer is to render to God the living faith and trust that can only occur within the elevated realm of the adventures of faith following God, which up until that time were vividly and clearly portrayed throughout the Hebrew Bible.

            This ingenious answer by Jesus to this otherwise difficult question has intrigued skeptics and admirers of Jesus for almost 2,000 years.  The Pharisees and Herodians shake their heads and walk away in amazement at this answer of Jesus.  In its brevity it fully addressed all sides of the issue of practical godliness in this broken world, having the clear bell-ring of truth that left no further opening for a follow-up question. 

            This succinct answer by Jesus is inarguable and unassailable in its pinpoint accurate truthfulness, because it’s simple depth and scope fully encapsulates God’s program for all humanity in a nutshell. 

            Temporarily improving the political equation in Palestine in the first-century was not the solution to Israel’s current problem of Roman occupation.  God had already provided the solution to this problem to Israel hundreds of years before in the book of Judges.  The solution was to turn to God with all of their hearts.  This was the mission of Jesus (Lk. 4:18-19), not to lead a military revolt against the Romans to remove the burden of taxes paid to Caesar.

            The Pharisees and Herodians attempted a strategy of verbal entrapment with Jesus, trying to publicly catch Him in misspoken words.  What they got instead from Jesus the eternal Word of God was a brilliantly concise response of such universal scope and wisdom that the opponents of Jesus eventually recognized their attempts to outwit Jesus in pubic were embarrassingly counterproductive (Mt. 22:46). 

            But the splitting up of this question by the Pharisees and Herodians, into two distinct parts by Jesus, goes infinitely deeper than being merely a clever, temporary evasion of this thorny issue. 

            Jesus is not talking out of both sides of His mouth like modern-day professional politicians.  Behind the insincerity of the motivation to attempt to trap Jesus there exists a profound question that goes to the heart of our faith and relationship with God in this broken and often confusing world.  The answer of Jesus to render to God the things that are God’s soars far above all practical worldly considerations. 

            In a God-composed and orchestrated adventure of faith, everything in our lives is managed and guided by God’s will and way…even the paying of taxes to support the government of an occupying foreign nation (Mt. 17:27). 

            This attitude of faith and trust in God, within the ups and downs of life in a journey of faith, only successfully works through elevated vision focused on the one true living God. 

            In Matthew 16:21-23, Peter strongly voices his objection to the idea that Jesus might fall into the wrong hands and suffer personal injury.  This would otherwise normally be an admirable and commendable reaction from the worldly horizontal viewpoint.  But in this one singularly unique instance, Peter’s proposed physical protection for Jesus is about as far off-target as is humanly possible. 

            The upcoming event of the crucifixion of Jesus for the redemption of mankind was planned from the foundation of the world (Rev. 13:8).  Peter’s spiritual vision, along with the vision of everyone else at that time, was horizontally flat regarding the impending trial, death, and resurrection of Jesus. 

            Peter goes out and weeps bitterly after failing so miserably in the courtyard of Caiaphas, revealing his total lack of understanding regarding the big-picture direction of events that must occur, culminating in the resurrection that forever defeats death and hell (Rev. 1:18). 

            Likewise, the other disciples scatter for safety at the arrest of Jesus in Gethsemane.  This also reveals a horizontal misunderstanding of the temporary safety of their position as mere disciples.  The security of this position is based in the historic miscalculation by the religious authorities that focusing exclusively upon the removal of the leader Jesus would quickly stamp out His movement. 

            Because of the conventional thinking of the religious leaders, the disciples had little to fear for their safety during the arrest, trial, and crucifixion of Jesus. 

            The horizontally flat vision of not understanding the true situation is also clearly evidenced by Joseph of Arimathaea and Nicodemus by the wrapping of the body of Jesus with linen strips of cloth according to Jewish customs for permanent burial. 

            This is evidenced a second time by the women coming early Sunday morning to the tomb to anoint the body of Jesus with spices, again in anticipation of permanent interment and not at all in expectation of an imminent bodily resurrection. 

            A large enough group of people heard and understood the sayings by Jesus that He would rise the third day, to the point of motivating the chief priests and Pharisees to take the extraordinary step of coming to Pilate the day after the crucifixion saying: “Sir, we remember that that deceiver said, while he was yet alive, After three days I will rise again” (Mt. 27:63).  They then asked permission to place a group of guards and to seal the stone at the tomb of Jesus. 

            It is ironic that the deadly opponents of Jesus are the one group that expresses the possibility of Jesus rising from the tomb. 

            Albeit, in this case, their thinking is not based upon faith in Jesus but on the totally cynical notion that the disciples would attempt to steal the dead body of Jesus, and then falsely claim He rose from the dead.  Their vision is about as worldly horizontal as can be.  This explains their nervous precaution of placing a group of guards at the tomb to prevent the removal of the body. 

            The actions taken by everyone involved in the events surrounding the crucifixion and resurrection betrays their horizontal mindset. 

            Peter, the other disciples, Joseph and Nicodemus, the women at the tomb, and the opponents of Jesus all are stuck in the understandably commonplace notion that people simply do not raise themselves from the dead. 

            It takes the one-time, supernatural intervention of God the Father to raise Jesus the Son of God from these seemingly impossible circumstances, validating and establishing Jesus Christ as Savior.

            That God the Father supernaturally raised Jesus from the dead is the fuel that propels forward the world-changing gospel message and testimony of the early church, and is the foundation for the Christian church to this day.

            In this critical area of biblical lessons demonstrating God’s attempt to raise our vision upward toward Him, one of the highest illustrative examples is the redemptive reach of the cross of Jesus Christ. 

            How could anyone, including the apostles, grasp ahead of time the enormous idea that one person could die on the cross as satisfaction for all of mankind’s sin…actualized by grace through faith?  The atonement for the mass of sin accumulated by every single person from the beginning of human history…redeemed through the sacrifice of one man Jesus Christ…was in-the-moment simply too much to contemplate. 

            Even someone like Jesus, who is restoring sight to the blind, cleansing lepers, healing cripples, casting out demons, multiplying fish and bread to feed thousands, walking on water, instantly calming a raging storm at sea, and raising the dead…still does not bridge the conceptual gap ahead of time that one person could single-handedly as the Passover Lamb of God atoning sacrifice absorb the enormous quantity of mankind’s sins and offences…enabling God to justifiably forgive any person who will come to Him through faith in Christ. 

            People see Jesus raise the widow’s son from the dead in the city of Nain, but they ascribe to this obviously divine miracle the arrival in Israel of a great prophet only.  This is as high as their spiritual vision will allow them to go (Lk. 7:16). 

            Eye-witnessing this miracle did not connect them with the idea of the Passover Lamb of God sacrifice…for the sins of mankind.  One does not necessarily follow the other.  Making atonement for mankind’s sin is a totally different matter. 

            Though Jesus actually told the disciples ahead of time about His impending crucifixion and resurrection (Mk. 8:31), even they did not get it.  It was spiritually above their still worldly horizontal comprehension.  Only after the resurrection did they finally understand. 

            They personally saw and spoke with the resurrected Jesus in His newly restored body, still having the nail-pierced scars on his hands and feet, affirming the divine capacity of the blemish-free Lamb of God Jesus to indeed take away the sins of the world. 

            The perfection of Jesus as the sinless, spotless Lamb of God atonement for mankind’s sin would only make full sense after seeing Jesus visibly risen from the dead. 

            The powerful testimony of Jesus through the words and deeds of His ministry, combined with all of the Old Testament messianic backstory, only comes into clear focus for the disciples after the resurrection. 

            In the glorious new world the disciples awoke to on that fateful Sunday morning, where Jesus is now bodily risen from the dead, the upper boundary line of what was previously possible was completely shattered.  This unanticipated action by God liberated the disciples up above the conventionally horizontal into the realm where all things are possible (Acts 3:6; 4:8). 

            The example of the cross and the resurrection of Jesus Christ stands at the pinnacle of God’s divinely composed outreach to mankind…in a previously unthinkable and unimaginable way…to come upward in our spiritual vision of what God can and will accomplish in our lives if we will place our trust in Him. 

            One man can take upon Himself the sins of the world, if He is the Son of God.

            If absolutely everyone in-the-moment is not comprehending the upcoming resurrection of Jesus Christ prior to and shortly after His crucifixion, and all of the details surrounding their actions and reactions are embarrassing to the apostles of the early church…are we to plausibly believe that these same apostles or someone else subsequently invented this brilliantly imaginative scenario as literary fiction from a detached, mezzanine viewpoint? 

            What would be the origin or frame of reference to explain the unique originality of this creative inspiration if the gospels themselves admit that no one at the time anticipated God the Father raising Jesus from the dead? 

            Why would the gospel writers admit and accurately record this fundamental shortcoming of not grasping the upcoming resurrection, then describe it all with such detail?  And who amongst the followers of Jesus would possess this world-class literary creativity, if it were all pure fiction? 

            Encapsulated within the account itself is the important revelation that the ordinary, naturalistic capacity of our human intellect is not up to the task of anticipating and comprehending ahead of time the higher ways and works of God. 

            God had to arrange the cross and the resurrection in such a heart-breaking and disappointing fashion for the disciples in order to bring everyone to the endpoint of their own self-reliant thinking, plans, and vision. 

            The cross and the resurrection of Jesus forced everyone to squarely face the limited reach of their own horizontal thinking. 

            As the Roman soldiers are hammering the metal spikes through the hands and feet of Jesus, not only is the blood of Jesus cleansing believers from sin, but these metal spikes are going straight through the arrogant pride and hubris of humanism…humanism that was and is blind to what was happening at that moment.

            The cross and the resurrection of Jesus Christ is God’s most powerful, drastic, and love-filled means to get people to raise our vision higher.  The unsurpassed quality and singular originality of the story validates the divinity of its authorship. 

            This is a reality common to all of the positive journeys of faith recorded in the Bible, and a foreglimpse of the upcoming issues for individual Christians and the Christian church on a colossal scale in the end-times. 

            In a biblical journey of faith, God takes people through tightly crafted and divinely guided circumstances beyond the point where they can depend upon their own self-reliance. 

            This is the surest way…maybe the only way…that God can demonstrate His faithfulness and love for us.       

            Why did the world reject Jesus during His first advent as Messiah? 

            One basic answer is that the religious leadership in Jerusalem and a large portion of the populace had their vision focused horizontally.  Some portion of the populace followed Jesus because they wanted a free meal (Jn. 6:26) and to witness the novelty of miracles (Lk. 23:8). 

            The Pharisees, Sadducees, and scribes thought that the removal of Jesus of Nazareth, who showed no signs of leading a successful Jewish military revolt against the Roman occupation of their country according to their expectations, was best achieved through the ignominious death by crucifixion at the hands of the Romans. 

            They had no concept of the mission of the messiah as outlined in Isaiah 61:1-2, and no desire for a new covenant gospel message of hope and peace that would offer genuine freedom to the entire world.  This was above their temporal and worldly comprehension.

            The disciples, on the other hand, are on the opposite end of the horizontally flat, vision spectrum-line.  Their individual hopes and plans are crushed by the trial, death, and burial of the one they believed to be the long-promised Messiah for Israel. 

            They wondered if they had somehow made a mistake in following Jesus.  It is probably not fair to say that the disciples should have known better.  God arranged events with such precision that the hopes and dreams of the disciples were dependent upon the miracle of a resurrection of Jesus…that was not even within their contemplation. 

            The eternal salvation for mankind and the disappointing heartbreak of the disciples were both contained within the exact same cross and resurrection events.  God had to raise their vision above the horizontal, and it took the most sublimely brilliant, imaginative action composed and orchestrated by God that also contained a painful separation of the disciples from their own mindset, their self-will, and the way they expected things to turn out. 

            In short, the divine love that is contained within the cross and the resurrection of Jesus Christ extends into our daily lives through a God-composed journey of faith far above the horizontally conventional. 

            This is a truth of such monumental importance and application that it must not be surrendered, misplaced, set aside, lost, or become partially out of focus for the Christian in the last days.

            Someone may ask at this point, how do the narrative stories and examples in the Bible relate to me, and to the modern-day Christian church?  I get up in the morning, go to work, and come home to my wife and children each day…so how do the inspirational stories of the biblical superstars of the faith relate to me in my desire to obtain vertical vision as a Christian? 

            How can God integrate His higher ways and thoughts (Isa. 55:8-9) into the ordinary conventional routine of my daily life? 

            The answer is found in a personal relationship with Jesus Christ, learning to listen in the Spirit, studying the Bible daily, and a willingness to follow the leadership of Jesus within the events and circumstances of our uniquely individual lives. 

            Like the example of playing catch with a baseball, we get better with practice.  But unless we are throwing the ball straight up and catching it by ourselves when it comes back down, we need a minimum of two people for a game of catch.  

            To enter into a biblical style journey of faith having vertical vision, this requires the unmistakably supernatural participation of the living God.  This is the reality for new covenant, Spirit-born Christians that is promised through the empowerment of the Holy Spirit (Jn. 16:13).    

            The solutions to the challenges facing Christians and the Christian church in the last days are found in raising our vision upward toward Jesus Christ in faith and trust. 

            The answers to the upcoming challenges of the end-times are found in the fully committed approach taken by the three young Hebrews confronted with the fiery furnace (Dan. 3:18), by Daniel in the lion’s den (Dan. 6:22), and by Esther in attempting to be the instrument of God to save her people (Est. 4:16). 

            These are not ancient myths.  This is not man-invented folklore. 

            The opportunity to likewise exercise our faith, to walk in the Spirit, and to be “in Christ” in this broken world in the middle of the unprecedented world-shaking events of the last days, is a privilege, a calling, and an honor beyond reckoning. 

            The theme of this book is to illuminate and clarify this vision of seeing above the horizontal through faith in Christ. 

            An understanding of the role of a collective adventure of faith through the cross…for the entire Christian church as a group…composed and orchestrated by God in a way that is above and beyond human invention is another key truth leading to our success as overcomers in the upcoming end-times events.

The Broad Array of Moral Concepts

“And the Word was made flesh, and dwelt among us, (and we beheld his glory, the glory as of the only begotten of the Father,) full of grace and truth.”                                                (Jn. 1:14)

            If the Bible and Christians contend that Jesus Christ is the blemish-free, Passover Lamb of God sacrifice for mankind’s sins…that He was perfect and without sin during His life and ministry on earth, by what or by whose standard do we judge the existence of this alleged perfect moral character in any person?

            How would we determine that the life of Jesus was at the outer edge of moral perfection, at the peak and the pinnacle of absolute goodness and virtue having no additional room or space at the highest top-most point of the vertical, graduated spectrum-line of virtue and morality, of brilliant pure light and absolute goodness having no room for further improvement?

            What would explain the existence of the diverse categories of moral criteria defining virtue, of the numerous moral concepts broken down into individual words as abstract thoughts accessible to human contemplation that would enable and support a valid determination of the moral credentials of Jesus Christ?

            And finally, where would our highly-advanced capacity to comprehend, to divide, separate-out, and parse these varied conceptual virtues and vices consisting of finely differentiated realities that are true-to-life…come from? 

            Where would this uniquely human capacity originate from, seeing that it does not exist anywhere else in the animal world and therefore cannot plausibly be attributed to a common descent, naturalistic explanation for its origin extending seamlessly from animal instinct to human intellect?

            In short, is this current planet earth the perfect environment to conduct research explorations into the knowledge of good and evil, using the lens of a fallen moral nature that is crucified alongside Jesus Christ on the cross at Calvary…redeemed fully so that believers in Christ can with impunity and without risk to our eternal salvation…enter into journeys of faith by picking-up our own cross to follow Jesus Christ into an adventure beyond our initial imagination?

God-composed journey of faith life-scripts are too deep for a naturalistic explanation for their origin

            Leaving aside the recent modern recognition in philosophy that the human mind…when reduced down to only a material “brain” made up of circuits and neurons…devolves into a nonsensical relativism that undermines confidence in the reliability of all human thought, and thereby destroys rationality, scientific investigation, and even philosophies such as atheism itself.

            Yet by simply asking the question and examining the evidence, this in and of itself declares at the outset that Jesus Christ the person we are investigating…is in fact within the zone of moral perfection and sinless virtue by reason of the question being seriously entertained at all. 

            We would not even open such an investigation into the life of any other exceptional person…past or present…because we already correctly acknowledge that only one person in all of history has made a credible, serious claim to have lived a perfect life, and that one person is Jesus Christ.  

            No sane person in all of recorded history has made a viable and well-substantiated claim to embody and demonstrate the moral attributes of brilliant pure light, absolute goodness, and perfect virtue…of being, speaking, and acting like a Deity…proactively anticipated for centuries in the biblical Old Testament messianic prophecies and documented and fulfilled later in the life, teaching, and ministry of Jesus Christ recorded in the New Testament gospels.

            This raises the probing apologetics question into the divine origin of the composition of the Bible, Old Testament Judaism, and New Testament Christianity…of how…in the first place we would “come by” the capacity to accurately judge whether the life and ministry of Jesus Christ exhausts the extent of the possible outer-limits of moral perfection.

            How would we determine that our current tool-kit of known virtuous characteristics…of well-defined moral attributes…is absolutely exhaustive, adequate, and complete enough for the in-depth moral reasoning needed to evaluate the life of Jesus Christ? 

            How would we know whether there are not some additional, outstanding moral characteristics that we are unaware of…in this current earthly context…above and beyond those demonstrated and exemplified in the life and ministry of Jesus Christ that would raise the bar higher, that would call into question the impeccable qualifications of Jesus to be the blemish-free and sinless atoning sacrifice for our sins?

            The point here is not whether God has some additional, divine characteristics applicable in heaven that would not concern us presently…that are not relevant here on earth…but whether or not Jesus the Son of God in a human body (Isa. 7:14, 9:6-7) exhausts the limits of moral perfection as the God/man in order to qualify as the Passover Lamb of God, one-time atoning sacrifice for sin.

            The question is how this full and varied palette of morals had an origin and came into existence within the reality of human life…to be able to make this assessment.

            The important point in this discussion is the fantastic notion that we would have the moral reasoning tools in terms of human mental capacity, but also in the corresponding complement in the broad array of abstract moral concepts defined in discrete and distinctive words…to be able to make a valid decision for or against salvation faith in Jesus Christ…at this highly advanced level.

            The mere existence of this question removes the key component of naturalistic materialism utilizing the concept of incrementally gradualistic development…because of the easily recognizable wealth of complex and finely differentiated concepts defining moral characteristics within personal relationships…that are a fundamental and established part of the human reasoning capacity from the dawn of human history.

            The critical human invention of writing as one tell-tale indicator of human intellectual progress is dated to as recent a time as 3,200 B.C. in the wedge-shaped cuneiform lettering of Egyptian hieroglyphs, in the cuneiform alphabet in Syria around 2,000 B.C., and in the 22-sign Phoenician alphabet dated around 1,000 B.C.

            The Greeks adopt the Phoenician writing script around 800 B.C.   

            The invention of human writing, of widespread, functional written communication of complex and specified information that locks into time-and-place the human capacity for mature and fully developed moral reasoning…starts only 5,200 years ago.

            We do not have to be a professional anthropologist, sociologist, paleontologist, biologist, or historian to know that there exist no contemporary, eye-witness, written accounts by human authors of the retreat of the Ice-Age glaciers covering the northern continents of America and Europe starting around 12,000 to 10,000 B.C.

            There are no written, eye-witness accounts by the actual participants of humans battling wholly mammoths or saber-toothed tigers during the Pleistocene Ice-Age time-period, prior to the invention of writing, using the letters of an alphabet.

            Are we then to uncritically swallow whole the theoretical paradigm of incrementally gradualistic development as an explanation for the origin of sophisticated and discretely defined moral characteristics…the small step-by-step progressive gradualism proposed by the atheistic philosophy of naturalistic materialism in support of Darwinian macroevolution…still prevalent as a competing worldview narrative today?

            Mindless, undirected, gradualistic development of the capacity for moral reasoning would have left a clearly discernable trail in recorded human history going back for hundreds of thousands of years.

            The great advances in recent history that define the modern Scientific Revolution and the two major Industrial Revolutions are not the product of gradual improvements in the macro-evolution of human mental capacity…broken-up into small steps going back in a linear incline tens or hundreds of thousands of years. 

            These rapid advances of development in modern science and technology are the product of the progressing accumulations of information…an abstract, non-material entity produced by thinking minds and not a discernably progressive material development of the brain.

            Rapid, positive progression over recent time in human intelligence is not a factor as an explanation for the advancements of learning, technology, and the explosive expansion of knowledge over the last three to four decades…called the new Information Age…as this would be called a saltation…a miraculous leap forward as defined in biology.

            Like the sudden appearance of complex life-forms during the Cambrian Explosion 530 million years ago, without the sign of any transitional intermediate precursors found in the Precambrian rock strata, the sudden appearance of human intelligence and the capacity for advanced moral reasoning is extremely brief in relation to the 4.5-billion year age of the earth…and is too sudden in time to be explained by gradualism needing hundreds of thousands of years of development.

            Dr. John Lennox, Oxford mathematician and author suggests in some of his interviews and discussions online on the Internet that the sudden immergence of human intellectual and moral reasoning capacity might be considered another example of being a singularity in the same manner as the Big-Bang creation of the universe, and the sudden immergence of life on earth.

            The mental capacity to technologically problem-solve at the advanced level to take us to the moon in 1969…and the moral reasoning capacity to differentiate and comprehend complex moral concepts…are two realities that define the essence of human beings.

            The point here is that human beings possess a complete and exhaustive array of tools within the broad assortment of moral concepts from which to make an intelligent and reasoned judgment as to the divine quality of the life and ministry of Jesus Christ.

            Just as orderliness and intelligibility are indispensably coordinated with our human capacity to conduct successful scientific investigation of the natural world, it would be pointless to be presented with the decision-making imperative regarding the truth-claims of Jesus Christ regarding His qualifications as Savior, King, and eternal Ruler if humans did not possess the incredible capacity to make an informed decision.

            Is it therefore more plausible to recognize that the origin of the entire array and panoply of moral characteristics, appearing suddenly and fully defined in scope and range…that this recognition represents a sharp, near-instant vertical upward spike on any conceivable graph-line for the time-duration of the human race, and not anything like incrementally gradualistic development?

            In Galatians 5:22-23, Paul lists some of the positive fruits of the Spirit: “love, joy, peace, longsuffering, gentleness, goodness, faith, meekness, temperance: against such there is no law.”

            Earlier in Galatians 5:19-21, Paul lists some of the negative “works of the flesh”: “Adultery, fornication, uncleanness, lasciviousness, idolatry, witchcraft, hatred, variance, emulations, wrath, strife, seditions, heresies, envy, murders, drunkenness, revellings, and such like.”

            To these two lists of moral attributes and characteristics we could add the concepts of truth, honesty, dignity, loyalty, friendliness, honor, humility, dedication, forgiveness, mercy, compassion, humor, flexibility, empathy, forbearance, consideration, self-sacrifice, gratitude, persistence, commitment, discernment, rationality, logical thinking, being organized, being a peace-maker, fairness, generosity, passion…and a number of other distinct and precise words that describe finely differentiated moral characteristics…and that could be expanded further by listing their negative counterparts.

            Why is this important in a book about the biblical narrative in the modern world?

            When anyone who is a born-again Christian, Bible college student, Christian theologian, atheist, skeptic, or curious truth-seeker begins an examination of the perfect and sinless life of Jesus Christ, they are acknowledging the existence of the very tools of the sophisticated and varied concepts available that precisely define moral characteristics that make such an examination possible.

            Such an investigation acknowledges the reality of the broad array of moral concepts that in and of itself argues as compelling evidence for their divine, advanced, and non-material origin (Gen. 1:26-27)…being inconceivable coming from a purely materialistic origin of a human “brain” consisting of circuits and neurons only…a brain manufactured over time according to the accidental, trial-and-error, chance-happenstance process of random and undirected naturalistic materialism.

            Without this complete and exhaustive tool-kit of concepts by which to judge moral characteristics, a personal decision for or against accepting Christ as Savior would fall short of being meaningful…would not have all of the richly differentiated criteria to support a valid decision…one way or the other.

            We could not accurately and realistically produce an oil-painting depiction of a rugged seascape shoreline with waves crashing against rocks…or of forest trees, blue skies, brilliant white clouds, and a peaceful lakeshore…using only three colors. 

            To create a masterpiece landscape painting, we need the full palate…the full array…of oil-paint colors. 

            For a god-less interpretation of reality to be valid…it would require some reasonable explanation for the creative origin of the extremely complex and nuanced definitions of the many words that describe the advanced moral concepts that human beings use and understand every day, that define the essence of what it means to be human, above and beyond the mere yet brilliant hunting skills exhibited through animal instinct.

            The complexity, specificity, and integrated coherence of the life-story of Jesus Christ in support of His being the Passover Lamb of God sacrifice for sin, requiring moral perfection within the context of a human life not only requires a reasonable explanation for the origin of this remarkable concept, but also by necessity raises humans up into the elevated zone of being able to cast their informed votes…for or against…the placing of faith in Jesus Christ as Savior, King, and Tour Guide through this life. 

            The three complimentary categories: the existence of the broad array of moral concepts, our capacity for intellectual and moral reasoning, and the divinely composed life-script for Jesus Christ…must all be mature, fully developed, and functionally in-time for the appearance of Jesus Christ into this world…in the first-half of the first-century A.D.

            This discussion opens the door into a better and fuller understanding of the uniqueness of the cross and the resurrection of Jesus Christ…validating the life of Jesus to be at the top-most point of moral perfection.

            As discussed in the previous essay and repeated here for emphasis…one area therefore where we can clearly and unambiguously authenticate the divine nature of Jesus Christ is in His perfect compliance with the biblical concept of God-sovereignty in His life-script and performance.

            On the cross Jesus is demonstrating God-sovereignty actualized to absolute perfection…in staying within His God-composed life-script calling to become the Savior of the world…in purely consistent, non-rebellious, sinless unity-of-purpose within the Godhead of the Trinity of the Father, Son, and Holy Spirit.

            The divinely brilliant, creative originality of the cross is that Jesus is experiencing the most acute outward display of worldly failure…while at the same time achieving the greatest single accomplishment for mankind in all of history as the Passover Lamb of God atoning sacrifice for sin.

            God combines on the cross two contrasting elements…extreme worldly failure and brilliantly divine success…on the broadest possible range of human experience because the cross at Calvary involves the divine Son of God in a human body (Isa. 7:14, 9:6-7) that no human literary writer could ever imagine or invent.

            Jesus Christ on the cross as the Passover Lamb of God sacrifice for mankind’s sins…in perfect demonstration of God-sovereignty…is such a brilliantly divisive yet subtle issue surgically separating truth from error that many modern Jews even today use this perceived failure of Jesus to be the expected Moses, Joshua, or King David type Messiah ushering-in world peace…as still serving as the main reason for why they reject Jesus Christ as Messiah, disqualifying Him on these grounds alone.

            Many Jews in the first-century and today would say that their Messiah would never suffer the indignity of being crucified by the Romans…of being a curse “hanged on a tree.” (Dt. 21:23; Gal. 3:13).

            As we ourselves stand at the cross looking up at Jesus…we either see the Passover Lamb of God performing His God-composed life-script in perfect God-sovereignty…or we see the worst failure of a person that can be imagined in life, the utter humiliation of first being scourged, then afterwards ending their lives through the shame and defeat of Roman crucifixion.

            As we look up at Jesus hanging on the cross, we either see a life-script that was perfectly written to match the unique capacity of the God/man Jesus Christ to take upon Himself the sins of the world, or we see a life-script that falls so far short of the positive aspects and aspirations of the American Dream ancient or modern…that our best option then is to choose to go our own way in a journey of self, according to the tenets of worldly conventional normalcy and thinking…and reject Jesus Christ altogether.

            The insightfully piercing dichotomy between the perfect God-sovereignty of Jesus Christ…and the self-sovereignty of going our own way of the religious elites and political rulers in Jerusalem…at the cross…is exposed by God alone as no human literary genius could of being as wide apart as the Grand Canyon.

            God alone has the motivation and the ability to highlight on that day atop Calvary Hill…the huge contrast between self-sovereignty versus God-sovereignty…to perfection.

            This is a key element that separates-out for us…amidst the sea of multiple competing narratives…the singularly unique biblical narrative in a modern world.

Why Doesn’t God Reveal Himself Empirically?

            God is the architect of one of the most unlikely of creations…the delicate balance of belief and unbelief in our current environment…a management of dynamic information that is unimaginably fine-tuned and precise.

            Balancing belief and unbelief in our world, so that one does not overpower the other, is one of the great spiritual engineering feats in all of human history, yet one we do not…nor would not…normally recognize or attribute to the real God. 

            The delicate balance of belief and unbelief is surprisingly calibrated, landing midway in the narrow zone of falling just beyond the reach of where human inventive imagination and contrivance ends, but falling just short of the demarcation line of clearly revealing its supernatural origin and nature, along with its carefully hidden requirement for periodic adjustments in response to social and cultural change. 

            The most unlikely of creations, because most of us would assume that the God of the Bible…a personal God we can get to know intimately through a journey of faith (Jer. 31:34)…would take every opportunity to tip-the-scale in favor of belief over unbelief, in terms of concrete, factually persuasive, irrefutable evidence in nature and through divine revelation, in favor of belief in His existence, very early in human history. 

            But this is not the case within the human decision-making zone of belief and unbelief. 

            The delicate balance of belief and unbelief, the ability to freely engage with God in a fully-scripted adventure of dynamic faith having the risk, from our perspective, of possible success or failure in-the-moment…or to freely push God away in skeptical unbelief to entirely go our own way…is a true masterpiece of creative ingenuity precisely because of its balanced neutrality in this area of unforced belief or unbelief.

            On Tuesday or Wednesday of the first week after His crucifixion and resurrection, Jesus Christ could have added to His already busy agenda…to openly walk down Main Street in Jerusalem and right into the Temple sanctuary, in clear view of everyone (Lk. 24:13-32; 36-43; Jn. 20:19-20), validating forever thereafter, without any doubt, His claim to be the divine Son of God.  Like Thomas (Jn. 20:26-28), people could touch his hands and the wound in His side, and believe based on the visual evidence (Jn. 20:29).  

            But then the delicate balance of belief and unbelief would also immediately disappear…forever thereafter. 

            Recognition of Jesus Christ as “the way, the truth, and the life” (Jn. 14:6) would not be an open option that could go in either of the two opposing directions of belief and unbelief…but instead would be a strictly obvious fact…like the daily occurrence of the rising sun, or that two-plus-two equals four. 

            This balance of belief and unbelief offers compelling evidence for the divine origin of the biblical message of redemptive salvation by grace through faith, because the mere existence of the delicate balance between belief and unbelief, that is the prerequisite foundation for the exercise of faith…is so transparently neutralso free of the taint of coercive human bias weighted in favor of one direction or the other…that it could never be mistaken as the imperfect conceptual product of human literary invention. 

            The delicate balance of belief and unbelief in our current environment has a supernatural origin…because a humanistic explanation for its creative ingenuity and its functionally balanced longevity over time…is nonsensical.

            The existence of the delicate balance between belief and unbelief, of willingly entering into a risked-filled adventure of biblical faith wherein God displaces our ways with His higher ways, in contrast to pushing God away and going our own way according to worldly conventional normalcy and thinking, is a transcendent reality that could only come from the divinely imaginative mind of God…having a definite purpose…way beyond the initial set-up capacity of humans to invent, adjust, and sustain over its 4,200 year history, beginning with Abraham the “father of faith.”

            Hard-core biblical skeptics incorrectly want Jesus Christ, as stated above, on Tuesday or Wednesday of the first week following His resurrection on Easter morning…to walk openly down the middle of Main Street in broad daylight and straight into the Temple in Jerusalem…thus initiating a widespread, empirically undeniable proof for His claim to be the Son of God, on the same level that we popularly recognize that one-plus-one equals two, or that the sun rises in the east each morning.

            The fundamental shortcoming of this insistence by skeptics of the Bible is that it creates no context…no milieu or environment of life events and circumstances to begin a personal relationship between God and people, within the otherwise insufficient framework of a mere factual acknowledgment and consensus that Jesus Christ was resurrected from the dead.

            It would substitute the wrong category type of empirical facts, in place of the correct type of empirical facts…the correct type being discovered through the sequentially lived experiences of a journey of faith, rather than experiencing a visual observation, after which we would go back to living our lives unaffected, as before, within the parameters of self-sovereignty governed by worldly conventional normalcy.

            Replacing the delicate balance between belief and unbelief…with hard empirical fact…opens wide the door for the humanism of self-sovereignty to take the facts regarding God and mold Him in our image to suit ourselves…rather than the contrary dynamic of God molding us into His image through a journey of faith.

            The common people visually seeing Jesus walking down Main Street in Jerusalem after the resurrection, disrupts and alters the delicate balance between belief and unbelief…removing the critical element of the tension of suspense spread-out over time regarding future outcomes within our life-stories, that creates the context for faith to actualize into the mature, intimate, and personal relationship of trust between God and people, the same as occurs in human relationships (Heb. 11:1, 6).

            There is no moral component…no merit…to acknowledging the factual existence of the noonday sun, or the truth that two-plus-two equals four, and not three or five, other than the correlation to the truth of the accuracy of our information…because these things are not in dispute.

            Mere acknowledgment that Jesus Christ is the Son of God through empirical, observational fact, that would be commonly undisputed, has no change-of-character impact upon the strength of the attractive pull of the worldly conventional narrative.  It has no course-correction, has no power to induce regret, in our worldly decision to go our own way, as autonomous, self-reliant junior gods sitting atop the thrones of our lives.

            Seeing the resurrected Jesus walking openly down Main Street in Jerusalem, visually with our eyes, does not change our resolve to live our lives our way without “interference” from God…any more than seeing with their own eyes Jesus raise Lazarus to life after being four days dead in a rock covered tomb, changed the thinking of the Pharisees, Sadducees, scribes, and lawyers, and only a few days later in that same week these same men thoroughly and with finality rejecting Jesus…cruelling mocking Him as He hangs dying on the cross (Mt. 27:39-44). 

            The decision to accept Jesus Christ into our lives, to choose to follow Him, is a moral choice involving faith…is a decision of the heart and mind at the center of the reality of personal relationships involving faith and trust…at the center of the delicate balance between belief and unbelief.

            The empirical part comes after we become spiritually born-again, being a supernatural experience that confirms that God actually exists, and as we enter into the Christian discipleship of a journey of faith, that reveals to us what God is like as a person…that builds a personal relationship.

            During the temptation in the Garden of Eden, God could have arrived on the scene, and to empirically refute the serpent and to establish His authority, performed some visual demonstration of His divine powers that the serpent could not duplicate…the serpent being a spiritual manifestation of Satan and not possessing divine powers to match God.

            But God performing a visual demonstration of His power…of a sign that was clearly observable and thus empirical to Adam and Eve, would not and could not in any way establish the personal trustworthiness and integrity of God’s Word…being something entirely in a different category of facts…different from performing a visually observable supernatural act…different from a magician pulling a rabbit out of a hat.  

            Without hitting this nail on the head too many times, the recently resurrected Jesus Christ walking openly down the middle of Main Street in Jerusalem and into the Temple, merely translates the intimate relationship earned through lived-experience between people and God, into the unremarkably commonplace recognition of an observed fact.  It translates the resurrection of Jesus into a category of facts, the possession of which confers no special merit…on our behalf…or even on God’s behalf.

            This is one thing that makes this time in human history unique, in that the recent discoveries in modern science are creating an empirical revelation about the existence and character of God, precisely timed for the “last days”…beginning to approximate the certainty that would have been produced two thousand years ago had Jesus Christ openly walked down the middle of Main Street in Jerusalem and straight into the Temple…a few days after His resurrection…and began to teach on His unique calling and mission as the Son of God to be the Passover Lamb of God atoning sacrifice for sin.

            The lack of empirically undisputed credibility within the written and verbal testimony of the early disciples, who did visually see and engage with the risen Christ after His resurrection (not having the technical means to videotape as “home movies” their interaction with the resurrected Jesus) and the green-light option of skeptical critics to discount the veracity of the supernatural participation of God within the biblical narrative stories of faith, has now turned the corner into the realm of fact-based empirical evidence…identifying and elevating the recognition of the high craftsmanship of the Intelligent Designer God of the material universe, thereby at the same time identifying and recognizing the divine nature of the composition of the biblical narrative stories of faith.

            This is a sea-change…an inflection-point…in the history of mankind.

            If the data from modern science is now telling us through the unbiased, independent secular enterprise of human scientific investigation, that there are a vast number of complex, specified, and coherently integrated systems of information in the natural world…such as the fine-tuned constants of the laws of physics, the periodic table of elements in chemistry, the Big Bang creation of the universe, and the information within DNA, that identify the inarguable need for an Intelligent Designing Agent…this in essence now empirically shifts the delicate balance between belief and unbelief…something that has never occurred before.

            If the human enterprise of scientific research reveals the logically inescapable need for an Intelligent Designing Agent behind the architectural and engineering design of the natural world…purposely foreseen and intended by God in making the natural world both orderly and intelligible…this revelation coming in the end-times produces the empirical conclusion in the exact way God wanted, through the human investigative search for truth, through the innate, created capacity for human beings to exercise their intellectual and moral reasoning…to actualize into reality the fact that we are made in the image of God and not the mere accidental product of a naturalistic universe.

            Modern scientific investigation was always going to reach a point in time when the inescapable recognition of the need for an Intelligent Designing Agent of the natural world…to explain the presence of complex, highly specified, and coherently integrated systems of information…was identifiable everywhere we look in the living and non-living world, now well beyond the rational and plausible reach of purely materialistic causations.

            Because the natural world was always this complex, starting at the Big Bang 13.7-billion years ago for the universe and beginning 4.5-billion years ago for our planet earth, this world-changing epiphany was waiting all this time for human scientific discovery to advance to the point today where intelligent agency is now the only remaining option to explain how all of this came into being.

            As the recognition of the specificity of information increases, the plausibility of random chance decreases as the explanation for the origin of this material universe.

            But equally astounding, the delicate balance between belief and unbelief had to be precisely adjusted and maintained, also all the way up until this time-period in human history, not being categorically decisive for or against either belief or unbelief in the existence of God until modern scientific investigation could weigh-in on the question…to conclude on the basis of fact-based evidence…that the quantity, quality, and upfront timing of the information discovered in the natural world requires a designer.

            The scientific fact-based evidence, obvious to unbiased observers, is that we do not see anything in the living or non-living world that can self-assemble into something that is a complex, specified, and coherently integrated system.

            Information, in the quantity and quality required to produce complex life-forms and their supporting biosphere on earth and in the cosmos, cannot simply come into existence on its own.

            This should also give us a hint…a heads-up…that we are currently living in the end-times.

            The resurrected Jesus on Tuesday or Wednesday of the first week after Easter morning…openly walking down Main Street and into the Temple being a clearly too premature evidence in the first-century…would have toppled the delicate balance between belief and unbelief towards belief.

            By contrast today modern scientific investigation is revealing not only complex systems of information inexplicable by naturalistic origins…but also that modern science actually dissolves the philosophy of atheism as being self-refuting…discussed in the essay “Are God and Science in Conflict?” 

            The shaky ground that atheism now stands upon thanks to the corrosive solvent of philosophical materialism that asserts that our minds/brains are the undependable product of a random and undirected naturalistic process…dissolves the credibility and reliability of all systems of thought, including science and the philosophy of atheism.

            This is an unexpected and unanticipated development accruing out of Darwinism that could only occur in the end-times…otherwise it would affect the delicate balance between belief and unbelief…too early in human history.

            When the indecisive, put-it-off-until-later, fence-sitting of procrastination regarding the question of belief or unbelief in God, begins to lose some its long-standing truce of neutrality and tips in favor of belief in God…then the equal and opposite reaction is an erosion of unbelief as a previously viable worldview option.

            At some point in time, in the rapid accumulation of evidence, which I believe is now, the only two remaining worldview choices left standing will be belief in God…or people resorting to simply saying “I don’t want to believe in God.”

            Without having the credible excuses of naturalism, Darwinism, or scientism to fall back on…or even the now philosophically illogical position of atheism that is undermined by its own adherence to scientific materialism…the only remaining reason left for choosing to go our own way apart from God is exposed as pure and simple unbelief.

            Skeptical unbelievers and people sitting on the fence, by their choices and actions, will someday soon, in truth be limited to saying: “God, and Christianity, and the Bible”…be damned…I want to live life…my way…no matter what the evidence tells us is the truth.

            Not everyone can become PhD scientists, able to navigate through the technical facts spanning several disciplines of research…supporting either atheism or agency in nature.  

            Winning a consensus that favors design in today’s scientific community, and rejecting naturalism would be without question a monumental event in human history.

            But the discovery by modern science of the inescapable presence of design in the natural world, and thus the existence of an intelligent designer God…expands a million-fold when filtered through the biblical narrative stories of faith…of making a compelling argument that a faith-journey following the God of the Bible is credible, accessible, and advisable in our modern popular culture…as the one true worldview narrative…excluding all others (Mt. 7:13-14; Jn. 11:25, 14:6).

            The amazing revelation here is that it is the unexpected product of modern science that has provided the answer to the age-old objection of skeptical unbelief, that the real God should come forward and reveal Himself empirically by writing across the sky for everyone to see… in fiery-red letters…that He exists and who He is.

            The delicate balance between belief and unbelief provides the free-will opportunity to cast a vote in favor of making the God of the Bible our ruling King…or to reject Him altogether in favor of the humanistic worldview of self-sovereignty.

            For God to write across the sky in fiery-red letters that He exists and who He is…and to worship only Him…is an empirical evidence for God that removes the free-will quality of our decision to vote for or against God.

            Jesus on Tuesday or Wednesday of the first week after His resurrection walking openly down Main Street and into the Temple in Jerusalem…likewise removes the freedom of choice and replaces it with factually visible evidence.

            Everyone in heaven will be there because they wanted to be there…because they voted in a “fair and free election” to make Jesus Christ their King and Ruler.

            Those who voted for the skeptical unbelief of self-sovereignty within the free-will choice afforded them through the delicate balance between belief and unbelief…will not be in heaven by their own decision to push God away.  

            Jesus said to the Pharisees in John 8:24…”I said therefore unto you, that ye shall die in your sins: for if ye believe not that I am he, ye shall die in your sins.”

            The Pharisees and scribes also wanted an empirical sign from Jesus to authenticate His qualifications, and Jesus said no (Mt. 12:38-39).

            A personal relationship is based upon mutual faith and trust…and that is one explanation for why God chooses to introduce Himself to the world through the biblical narrative stories of faith…and why He does not reveal Himself universally to everyone through the empiricism of a “sign from heaven.”

            But what is remarkable in our modern world today like never before…is that both the scientific data about the natural world and the narrative stories of faith from the Bible…are telling us who God is and what God is like…in a compelling way that approaching the certainty of being a sign from heaven.

“The just shall live by faith.” (Rom. 1:17)

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

Could the Story of Jesus Christ be Human Literary Invention?

“But these are written, that ye might believe that Jesus is the Christ, the Son of God; and that believing ye might have life through his name.”                                                                                                             (Jn. 20:31)

            In the life and ministry of Jesus Christ, He encounters push-back from the religious elites in Israel generally and in Jerusalem specifically, which exhibits the unmistakable characteristic of self-righteousness.

            This is displayed in the lack of empathy for the common people…the attitude of looking-down-their noses at the less-educated general public…which then stereotyped Jesus into the lower category of being a common, middle-class artisan carpenter coming from the insignificant small-town of Nazareth in Galilee (Jn. 7:15). 

            This lack of empathy for the common people was the exact opposite of what we should expect from religious leaders who are supposed to be in the business of helping other people.

            The self-righteous character of the religious elites, painfully pointed-out by Jesus throughout His ministry…is too numerous in the New Testament gospels to be discussed in detail here (Mt. 3:7-12; Lk. 4:16-30; Mt. 5:20, 9:10-13, 16:11-12, 20:25-28; Lk. 11:39-52; Jn. 5:38, 7:19, 7:49, 8:24, 40, 44, 9:34).

            The attribute of humility that is revealed through the incarnation of Jesus Christ the Son of God…in temporarily leaving His position in heaven as the divine Second Person of the Trinity…to be born into a common family in Nazareth as a human and learning the trade of becoming a carpenter from his stepfather Joseph…exhibits the broadest imaginable range of character in assuming the most worldly humble status in contrast to His true identity.

            The life-script of Jesus Christ is Mark Twain’s The Prince and the Pauper…times ten…combining royalty and humility in the same Person.

            Align this with the worldly practical reality that a perfect moral person could never be crucified as the Passover Lamb of God atoning sacrifice for the sins of the world…because it would be socially and culturally impossible to get such a perfect person all the way to the utter rejection of the cross on Calvary Hill…unless they were for starters the most commonplace of persons according to outward appearances…according to worldly conventional status.

            How do you get a perfectly sinless, blemish-free Lamb of God person all the way to the cross at Calvary?

            The story of the life of Jesus Christ is real…because it cannot be human literary fiction…because it is too worldly unconventional.

            The story of Jesus not only requires targeted script-writing of unimaginably insightful creative invention, but also the wherewithal to actually pull it off…to not merely talk-the-talk on paper…but to walk-the-walk in concrete reality in our modern first-century…within a singular life-script that even manages to challenge God Himself in the divinely exclusive area of perfect God-sovereignty…a concept that no human writer could or would invent.

            The brilliance of God here is seen in the journey of faith life-script for Jesus…based upon perfect trust, perfect integrity, and perfect truth…contrasted with the disastrous end-point product of the self-righteousness of the Pharisees and scribes in first-century Jerusalem, their actions being the direct result of crafting our own individual life-script programs according to the self-performance of good-works, of attempting to earn our way to heaven, the exact opposite of the life-story of Abraham justified by faith (Rom. 4:3).

            On the night before His crucifixion…in the Garden of Gethsemane…Jesus reveals the free-will difficulty of staying perfectly within God-sovereignty when He says: “Father, if thou be willing, remove this cup from me: nevertheless not my will, but thine, be done.” (Lk. 22:42).

            If Jesus deviates even a hair’s breadth from His life-script to be the Passover Lamb of God sacrifice for sin, and says this is too difficult as originally planned and that He is going His own way in search of an easier and less costly salvation method than the cross…then the unity of God-sovereignty within the Trinity of the Godhead would have been broken for the first time in eternity.

            Here God is not only revealing something personal about Himself, but He is telling us one of the most profoundly amazing facts in all of eternity…that He can compose a thrilling and suspense-filled final chapter for the life of Jesus Christ on earth…that manages to challenge Himself in the precise area of God-sovereignty that we will have the most trouble with.

            God is telling us here, that not only is Jesus Christ taking upon Himself the sins of the world…on the cross…but that the life-script for Jesus composed by God the Father, Jesus Christ the Son, and the Holy Spirit before the foundation of the world (Rev. 13:8), intentionally factors-in Gethsemane and Calvary.

            The life-script for Jesus contains the unimaginable feature that God can now personally relate to our understandably human struggle to make the transition from self-sovereignty to God-sovereignty…a new and novel experience set-up for the divine Son of God living as a human person on earth, the perfect and indivisible God-sovereignty that as the Son of God in heaven comes naturally to Him and is otherwise unchallenged and untested in that environment.  

            The enormous range and breadth of character for God to “stoop to conquer” sin displayed in the super-humility of Jesus Christ suffering through the demeaning rejection of Roman crucifixion in Jerusalem…on our behalf…displays the diametric opposite quality of being “petty” according to Richard Dawkins, on a scale of mistaken judgment that is so off-base and misguided as to be beyond adequate description

            The disrespect of the current group of New Atheists towards the life and ministry of Jesus Christ…shows a shallow quality of lazy scholarship…an unwillingness to even attempt to dig deeper, to think through and understand the opposing viewpoint.

            If human sin…imperfection of character…cannot be pushed aside as being the mere product of the partially incomplete development of Darwinian evolution, but instead is so important as to require the death and resurrection of Jesus Christ the Son of God as a human person, this raises the incarnation, life, and ministry of Jesus up into the seriousness of a life-and-death issue…now and for all-time.

            This then requires the most earnestly sober consideration and analysis, worthy of a dignified and proper investigation.

            Some people have called the life of Jesus “the greatest story ever told”…but the worldviews of philosophical materialists like Richard Dawkins relegate human sin…imperfect character…to merely be the work-in-progress actions of matter and energy, according to the tenets of Darwinian evolution…no other viewpoint being open to atheism.

            This worldview enables philosophical materialists to devalue sin as being natural and unimportant, and thereby devalue the cross and the resurrection of Jesus Christ again as being “petty.”

            Self-righteousness is one of the few character traits within the broad array of moral concepts…that is unsolvable…that is unfixable…because it pushes-out the ability to recognize our shortcomings that produces regret, that in turn can produce genuine and actionable humility.

Without humility we cannot exercise empathy towards other people (Mt. 9:10-13; Lk. 16:15; Jn. 5:44).

            At the cross on Calvary Hill…God introduces Himself to us at the most intimate level…telling us something deeply personal not only about Himself, but also about the way to discovering genuine truth.

            The Intelligent Designer of the grandeur of the physical universe is telling us that He is up to the character challenge of playing the role of the lowest level of selfless humility, when it is in the service and cause of goodness, truth, and self-sacrificing love…a character trait I judge as being the least petty thing imaginable.

            Regarding self-righteousness…why was Jesus Christ the eternal Word of God (Jn. 1:1-3) in the New Testament gospels, continually butting heads with the biblical interpretations, rituals, practices, and attitudes of the Pharisees and scribes (Mt. 5:20, 22, 28, 34, 39, 44, 6:5, 16, 7:29, 9:11, 11:16-19, 12:1-8, 9-13, 14, 24, 38, 15:2, 16:12, 17:22-23, 19:3; Lk. 11:42-44, 52, 12:1; Jn. 7:19, 24, 8:19, 39-40)…while as the Creator of everyone and everything (Jn. 1:3) He freely interacted with them in open dialogue throughout His ministry and outreach to the world?

            The Pharisees and scribes crafted their own revised version of the faith of Abraham and the law of Moses, putting in place their own system of rituals and practices, briefly listed above, that were achievable through the alternative program of the self-effort of self-realization rather than faith…a form of self-salvation through the performance of good-works, and thus placing themselves in direct conflict with Jesus Christ, the eternal Word of God and the chief architect of the very Judaic religion they professed to follow. 

            In a genuine biblical-quality journey of faith…starting with the detailed life-script of Abraham…God displaces our ways with His higher ways, in the process automatically removing any pretense on our part to gloat over self-achievement…in the process removing any portion of the God-composed life-script storyline to degenerate into the negative pride of self-righteousness.

            By contrast…in a journey of selfbased upon the performance of good-works, we actually displace God’s ways with our ways, opening wide the gate to invite-in the erroneous, worldly standard for self-evaluation that with some limited measure of “success” easily morphs into pride-filled self-righteousness…of “look at me how good I am.”

            The performance of the many religious rituals and practices the Pharisees and scribes manufactured to afford them a false standard by which to judge themselves…which fell far outside the bounds of the faith of Abraham or the law of Moses…translates today into the secular variation of similarly displacing God’s ways with our ways, this time using the seemingly more sophisticated, human-manufactured worldview of naturalistic materialism that is primarily based upon Darwinian evolution…in place of the good-works program of the Pharisees and scribes. 

            When self-righteousness pushes-out our capacity to recognize that we are all sinners in universal standing before God…are imperfect beings needing the turn-about of regret and repentance in order to purchase the humility that will accept a reconnection back to God, and a heart-felt desire to allow God to introduce Himself to us through the personal relationship of a life-journey of faith, this debilitating character trait of self-righteousness becomes the hallmark…the epitome…of using self-invented worldview programs as the excuse for unbelief, of going our own way apart from God.

            Both Pharisee-ism in the first-century…and Darwinism today…share the same character trait of self-righteousness, inserting their own worldview system, either through the self-salvation performance of good-works, or by the elimination of sin chalked-up to the progressive development of incomplete Darwinian evolution.

            What is sad from the viewpoint of Spirit-born Christians is that the Pharisees and scribes in the first-century, and people like the New Atheists today…were then and are presently now living within a false sense of security.

            False worldviews generate a false sense of security, and God cares enough about us to introduce Himself in person to mankind, and to separate and divide out for us the right way to go in life (Jn. 1:1-14, 11:25, 14:6).

            Staying with this essay a little bit longer…because the issues are so important…the question can be asked: Why didn’t Jesus choose a few of the religious elites in Jerusalem to be among His apostles and disciples, during His ministry?

            The simple answer is that the character trait of self-righteousness is unsolvable, is unfixable, because it takes-up the space exactly where repentance occurs…pushing-out the ability to have an about-face, turn-around change of mind and heart regarding accepting Jesus Christ.

            The Pharisees and scribes from Jerusalem come out to the Jordan River to see what John the Baptist is doing.

            John sees right through them, saying in Matthew 3:7-10:

7 O generation of vipers, who hath warned you to flee from the wrath to come?

8 Bring forth therefore fruits befitting for repentance.

9 And think not to say within yourselves, We have Abraham to our father: for I say unto you, that God is able of these stones to raise up children unto Abraham.

10 And now also the axe is laid unto the root of the trees: therefore every tree which bringeth not forth good fruit is hewn down, and cast into the fire.

            Some of these same hard-core men were still in the Sanhedrin Council decades later when Paul stands before them on his last visit to Jerusalem…men Paul knew well when he was a Pharisee (Acts 22:30; 23:6, 26:5).

            It took no less than a blinding light from heaven to convert Paul (Acts 9:3)…a special calling and a unique variation of the Great Commission coming from Jesus Christ Himself.

            If Paul, a highly educated Pharisee, was going to have the required empathy to take the Christian gospel message to the pagan, polytheistic, and idol-worshipping Greco-Roman world…he was going to need a large dose of humility obtained through the discovery that he was completely wrong about the status of Jesus of Nazareth…thereby displacing the self-righteousness he shared with his colleagues in the Sanhedrin Council, up until that fateful moment on the road to Damascus.

            John the Baptist imprisoned by Herod, has some difficulty with the adverse reception Jesus is receiving from the established leaders in Jerusalem, justifiably assuming that Jesus by then would be in the process of literally fulfilling Isaiah 9:6-7 in this First Advent.

            Mary the mother of Jesus appears to have profound confusion over this same adverse reception Jesus is receiving from the religious leaders…men she would normally admire and respect…regarding the divine status of her son Jesus, which she is acutely and intimately aware of better than anyone, other than Jesus Himself.

            When Jesus begins to tell His disciples about His upcoming arrest, mistreatment, death, and resurrection (Mt. 16:21-22)…Peter emphatically objects, saying: “Be it far from thee, Lord: this shall not be unto thee”…unable to accept the inevitable negative outcome that would occur when radically pride-filled self-righteousness collides with the low worldly status of being considered petty…in the case of Jesus brilliantly camouflaging His true identity.

            In the account of the Messiah’s triumphal entry into Jerusalem (Mt. 21:1-11)…the prophecy of Zechariah 9:9 is fulfilled: “Rejoice greatly, O daughter of Zion; shout, O daughter of Jerusalem: behold, thy King cometh unto thee: he is just, and having salvation; lowly, and riding upon an ass, and upon the foal of an ass.” (Italics and bold mine).

            Jesus moderates the impact of everything He does…because He must maintain a perfectly fine-tuned balance so as to remain within the low worldly status of being able to be rejected and crucified (Ps 22; Isa. 53).

            The life-script of Jesus Christ walks this line perfectly, and is a compelling evidence for it being real.

            The life-script of Jesus Christ aims at the very thing that offends Richard Dawkins and the New Atheists…the divine capacity to be able to “stoop to conquer” sin being beneath the dignity of a supposed creator god of the universe, but therein introducing to us a personal character trait of God that is amazing to contemplate…yet is incomprehensible and inaccessible to Darwinists.

            To get a perfect person Jesus Christ all the way to the cross of Calvary, at this one point in time in human history to qualify as the blemish-free Passover Lamb of God atonement for sin, requires a rare mixture of the easily offended self-righteousness in His critics, and the low worldly status of His outward appearance of being petty (Isa. 53:1-6)…both positioned at the extreme opposite ends of the spectrum graph-line of humility and not moderated toward a compromised and more reasonable center.

            The scenario presented here is light-years beyond any Darwinian program to produce human beings as mere hunters and gatherers…and far beyond the literary imagination of human fictional mythology.

            The life, ministry, death, and resurrection of Jesus Christ inspire the most earnestly sober consideration…and the most dignified and proper analysis…because His story cannot be anything other than genuinely real.

Why Would God Become a Human Person?

“For unto us a child is born, unto us a son is given: and the government shall be upon his shoulder: and his name shall be called Wonderful, Counsellor, The Mighty God, The everlasting Father, The Prince of Peace.”                                                                                                 (Isa. 9:6)

            In the 2009 Oxford debate[1] between the atheist paleontologist Richard Dawkins and the Christian mathematician John Lennox, both PhD scientists and Oxford college professors, entitled Has Science Buried God?…Richard Dawkins makes the statement that in comparison to the exquisite grandeur of the universe, the idea that God would become a human person and then be crucified and resurrected from the dead, is petty, trivial, local, earthbound, small-minded, and unworthy of the universe…combining some other descriptive terms Dawkins used from their earlier 2008 debate in Alabama.

            The biblical account of the virgin birth, turning water into wine, walking on water, the substitutionary atoning sacrifice on the cross for human sin, and being raised three days later from the dead…to the thinking of Richard Dawkins this is not only incredulous as to the facts, but is also beneath the dignity of the creator god of the universe, if it could be shown scientifically that there is one.

            John Lennox gives the brilliant response, in my opinion, that if he could do an MRI scan of the brain of Richard Dawkins, the purely mechanical and materialistic nature of the imaging data generated from a brain scan, would not extend to the point of revealing any information as to who Dawkins is as a person…as a unique personality. 

            The material molecules of the mind/brain of Richard Dawkins will not tell us what he thinks, what he believes, what he loves, his sense of humor, the qualities he admires in other people, and what are the innermost dreams and aspirations that motivate the course of his life. 

            An MRI brain scan will not give us any information about the core values of a person, being limited in the scope of its investigative reach.

            John Lennox then looks directly across at Richard Dawkins and offers the insightful comment: “I can only get to know you if you tell me about yourself”…a truism that every person on the planet can understand and relate to.

            This gives us a definitive start to answering the question of why God would become a human person, why He would enter into human history, and why He would introduce Himself to the world “in the flesh” as a personal someone rather than as an impersonal something…rather thanas a mere abstract concept to follow (Isa. 7:14, 9:6-7, 53:5-6; Jn. 3:14-21, 9:39-41, 15:22-25).

            We can learn through scientific investigation all about the physical aspects of the natural world, that give us a very good and full picture of the technical competence of the Intelligent Designer God as a craftsman…but this cannot reveal to us who God is as an individually unique person…as a personality.

            The theme of this essay is that the biblical narrative stories of faith record God’s signature way of introducing Himself to people like Abraham, Joseph, Moses, Peter, and Paul…and down through the centuries to the world at large…but especially through the life and ministry of the Son of God Jesus Christ.

            God-composed journey of faith life-scripts, for Christian disciples today are the precisely fine-tuned and highly specified  contexts of life events and circumstances in which we can individually get to know God on a personal level (Jn. 14:9)…the divinely authorized method of proper introduction through which God can tell us about Himself.

            We can get to know God, as our experienced, competent, and personal Tour-Guide in life, through the events and circumstances of a journey of faith, because Jesus Christ the Son of God actualized in His own life a journey of faith to perfection…going out ahead of us along this dynamic, living way of faith and trust in God, thereby qualifying Himself for all eternity to be “the way, the truth, and the life” (Jn. 14:6), for all human beings.

            Jesus goes before us in a journey of faith in a human body…exemplifying how perfect God-sovereignty operates in a human life…so that He could justifiably ask us also to “pick up our cross” (Mk. 8:34-35) and follow Him along this same route of committed faith and trust in Him to show us the way in our own life-scripts…to make the difficult transition from self-sovereignty to God-sovereignty that is the unique hallmark of biblical faith.

            Jesus Christ steps into a risked-filled journey of faith, becoming incarnated into a human body (Isa. 9:6; Lk. 1:35), putting everything on-the-line so that He could qualify as the sinless, blemish-free Passover Lamb of God atoning sacrifice through the cross at Calvary, amidst the most adverse and perilous challenges (Isa. 53; Lk. 22:42).

            The life of Jesus leading up to the sacrifice on the cross, of divinely perfect moral character and truth, must be acceptable to God the Father to the degree that Jesus could then justifiably be worthy to be resurrected from the dead…being three days in a rock covered tomb in the city of Jerusalem…death being something never previously experienced by one of the three members of the Godhead of Father, Son, and Holy Spirit.

            Jesus Christ the divinely perfect Son of God offering Himself in our place, for our offences, justifiably enables Jesus to extend to us an unconditional pardon in that He has paid in full the penalty that ultimate justice demands in a Godly universe of truth and right living.

            This is why God became a person through the incarnation of the Son of God Jesus Christ…through the virgin Mary giving birth to her first-born child Jesus in a stable in Bethlehem…accompanied by Joseph her new husband, the inns in the city all being full, beginning an extraordinary story of divine character blended with radical humility throughout the life of Jesus extending all the way to Calvary, that no human literary genius could or would ever invent as fiction.

            What will be repeated a few other places in different essays in this book, is that the blood of Jesus Christ shed on the cross covers the sins past, present, and future for believers.

            When I became a born-again Christian at age 18 in 1970…I was not instantly transformed into a morally perfect person…of being incapable of making mistakes, poor decisions, or exhibiting less than perfect character from that time onward.

            For the Christian disciples after Pentecost recorded in Acts 2, when the Holy Spirit descended upon each of them in the form of tongues of fire, they also were not instantly transformed into morally perfect people.

            The package of salvation through Jesus Christ creates a new life of discipleship that does not include moral perfection.

            But what turns the world upside-down once we see and understand this in the biblical narrative stories of faith and in our journeys of faith today…is that God is able to shape and channel our imperfect nature into the best imaginable vehicle to venture out into this broken world to investigate the knowledge of good and evil…through a journey of faith having the impunity of a full advance pardon upfront, removing the risk of losing our salvation as a result of our poor performances along the way…of falling at times far short of perfection in our thoughts, actions, and exercise of faith.

            God imputes to us through Jesus Christ…by grace through faith…the righteousness that we lack, so that we can embark on a God-guided and sanctioned journey of discovery into the knowledge of good and evil, through a mission-plan that also provides service to others.

            God covering my sins past, present, and future allows me to enter into a risk-filled journey of faith following Jesus Christ…with the confidence that this imperfect nature I inhabit creates the context for me to explore the knowledge of good and evil…in exactly the way God intended two-thousand years ago through the cross and the resurrection of Jesus Christ (Rom. 7:15-8:1-4). 

            This is a brilliant biblical concept that serves as the solid foundation upon which to confidently build an unshakable worldview (Mt. 7:24-27; Rom. 35-39).

            In Matthew 5:6 in the Sermon on the Mount, Jesus did not say blessed are the morally perfect, but blessed are they that hunger and thirst after righteousness.

            A person who has attained moral perfection does not hunger and thirst after righteousness.  They already are righteous. 

            The timeless quality of God’s creative ingenuity is exhibited here in crafting a program of salvation by grace through faith…to anticipate ahead of time the insightful use of imperfect human character, redeemed and forgiven through faith in the cross and the resurrection of Jesus Christ, as the very means to be the remedy and the antidote to the otherwise destructive sin in our lives…to brilliantly flip imperfection into an investigative vehicle of exploration.

            That the cross and the resurrection allows us to step into individualized journeys of faith research programs into the discovery of the knowledge of good and evil…with impunity and without the risk of condemnation (Rom. 8:1)…being justified by faith in Christ…this falls on the opposite end of the spectrum-line of ultimate purpose and meaningful foresight from Richard Dawkins’ characterization of the incarnation, crucifixion, and resurrection of the divine Son of God Jesus Christ…of being “petty” and therefore not worth serious consideration.   

A personal Jesus Christ is accessible

            In the New Testament gospels, Jesus reveals Himself to us in terms we can understand, at a level we can comprehend, because we are persons and Jesus became a person…a human being like us. 

            Jesus becoming a man puts the Son of God in a form we can relate to…and creates the opportunity to get to know Him on a personal, more intimate basis, which on the surface would be something that would and should seem to be out of reach.

            We can read the biographies of Abraham Lincoln, Benjamin Franklin, and George Washington, and we can learn details and facts about them, but we can never get to know them on a first-hand, personal basis from a book.

            Jesus Christ raised from the dead enables us to know God on a personal basis today…and for all eternity…because He is alive and reachable today in the Spirit.

            This is the eternally accessible part of God…that Jesus is telling His disciples about in John 16:7: “Nevertheless I tell you; It is expedient for you that I go away: for if I go not away, the Holy Spirit will not come unto you; but if I depart, I will send him unto you.”

            Jesus here is telling His disciples that the time has come for them to make the transition to getting to know God through His Holy Spirit, which will soon become the universal experience for all New Covenant Christian believers…being guided into all truth (Jn. 16:13) through a journey of faith…building a personal relationship with the living God that is not possible to have with the now dead and buried Abraham Lincoln, Benjamin Franklin, or George Washington.

            A mere biography about an inaccessible and non-relatable God will not produce an intimate personal relationship.

            What is also important here is that the pettiness to Richard Dawkins of Jesus Christ the Son of God becoming an insignificant human person on the same level like the rest of us…in comparison to the vast grandeur of the universe…actually highlights a personal trait about the character of God that could not be demonstrated any other way.

            Through the life of Jesus Christ, God is telling us something that is immensely important about Himself…as to who He is as a person…that is astounding in its sword-edge splitting assessment of empathy contained within humility.

            The current group of New Atheists in this 21st-century who write books critical of God and faith…and debate Christians in public forums over these issues…universally display a form of arrogance that is a product of their atheistic worldview, a worldview possessing the humanistic allowance of built-in self-forgiveness, of having no recognition of sin as a fault, of experiencing no regret leading to repentance before God…in short, of exhibiting self-righteousness, of having an over-inflated self-opinion.

            Of course philosophical materialists would “naturally” prefer atheism as their worldview…but not for the high-minded intellectual reasons they put forward…but instead because this allows them to interpret their imperfection of character as a product of Darwinian progressive evolution, thereby producing no fault on their part, and no introspective cause for regret.

            Interpreted this way, human sin is conveniently cloaked within a naturalistic imperfection of flawed character…to be theoretically remedied in the distant future through the continued Darwinian progression of random mutation and natural selection. 

            This philosophically short-circuits entrance into a God-composed journey of faith life-script designed to utilize our imperfect character as the lens through which to understand good and evil…starting with faith that produces humility that generates empathy, the ingredients needed to unravel the knowledge of good and evil, the very same attributes the humble worldly status of Jesus actualizes into reality in the four New Testament gospels.

            If our brains/minds are merely the product of random and undirected natural processes…how much more ongoing discord, chaos, and warfare do we need to experience before the atheistic version of mutation/selection works its hypothetical magic…to perfect for human beings in the future a more fully developed adaptation to our moral environment?

            The biblical concept of God becoming a human being in the person of Jesus Christ…to be the blemish-free Passover Lamb of God atonement for sin, opening up a new and living way into the discovery of the knowledge of good and evil without the risk of jeopardizing our eternal salvation, while still being morally imperfect but hungering and thirsting after righteousness…is immeasurably superior in terms of truth, hope, and purpose…to the random and undirected, survival-of-the-fittest program of Darwinian evolution.


[1] John Lennox and Richard Dawkins: Has Science Buried God debate at Oxford 2009, hosted by the Fixed Point Foundation, on You Tube.

The Perfect Savior

“For we have not an high priest which cannot be touched with the feeling of our infirmities; but was in all points tempted like as we are, yet without sin.”                                            (Heb. 4:15)

            In all of the accounts of the intense opposition from the religious and political leaders the Pharisees, scribes, Sadducees, and lawyers that Jesus responds to as recorded in the four New Testament gospels, in His miraculous healing of the blind and the lame, of preaching to hundreds and sometimes thousands of people, and in His personal interactions with His disciples and the common people, we see what we would expect to see in the moral attributes and traits of virtue in a person claiming to be the divine Son of God and long-awaited Messiah (Isa. 11:1-5, 35:1-8).

            We see truth, honesty, kindness, tolerance, forgiveness, humility, and uncompromising courage, to name a few positive attributes that give Jesus a grade of A-plus, of perfect 100-percent test scores across-the-board within the broad array of moral concepts we can use as standards for judgment.

            We can agree with Pilate the Roman governor in Jerusalem after examining Jesus: “I find in him no fault at all.” (Jn. 18:38).

            But what we do not clearly see in hindsight in first-century Jerusalem during the time of the ministry of John the Baptist and Jesus of Nazareth…is why the Passover had no connection with the Old Testament Judaic conception of the coming Messiah.

            How is it that nearly everyone in and around A.D. 27 in Israel were looking hopefully and expectantly for a Joshua or King David type warrior/priest as Messiah who would expel the loathsome Romans out of their country as had occurred with numerous other enemy invaders in their past national history, and fulfill Isaiah’s prophecy of 9:6-7 of God setting-up His eternal kingdom in Jerusalem?  

            No one expected the coming Messiah to also be the Passover Lamb of God atoning sacrifice for mankind’s sins, according to the obscure and little understood scriptural passages of Psalm 22 and Isaiah 53.

            This is where God’s ways and our ways sharply divide, differentiating the life-script for Jesus Christ as being above and beyond human literary invention…lifting the biblical narrative above other contemporary worldview narratives in today’s modern marketplace of ideas.

            But the one area where we can with solid confidence through the benefit of hindsight today conclude that Jesus Christ is operating at the cutting-edge of divine perfection, above anything that any other human being has ever been able to achieve, is that Jesus Christ is living-out His God-composed life-script to be the Passover Lamb of God atoning sacrifice for sin to the outer limits of absolute perfection…unbeknownst to the popular expectation of a soon-coming military and political deliverer/messiah in conformity with past Jewish history.

            The life-script mission of Jesus Christ as the Passover Lamb of God would require perfect adherence without any gaps of inconsistency to the uniquely biblical, moral concept of God-sovereignty, Himself being the Second Person of the Trinity, which would be humanly impossible for anyone other than the messianic God/man Jesus Christ to actualize.

            Every positive person of faith in the Old and New Testaments of the Bible, other than Jesus Christ, have God-composed life-scripts that take into account built-in allowances for human error (Rom. 4:6-8).

            All of these positive people of faith are nonetheless morally imperfect and are not perfectly virtuous…are morally imperfect like the rest of us in the many categories of the broad array of moral concepts, but also in their inability to perfectly follow-through within their God-composed life-scripts without stumbling and bumbling at certain points along the way…in pursuit of their divinely created callings and destinies.

            If the biblical narrative stories of faith can be described as God’s attempt to give us something of Himself, to enable us to experience first-hand the expression in-and-through-us of some portion of His divine character as actualized through the events of God-composed life-script storylines…we can also see that this extraordinary program entails our imperfect performance.

            Abraham, Joseph, Moses, Joshua, David, Esther and Mordecai, Ruth, Hannah, Daniel, Peter, and Paul…none of these people are morally perfect and sinless. 

            Their life-scripts are based upon Holy Spirit empowered grace-through-faith, and proceed according to their individually exceptional gifts and abilities, plus the creative imagination of God their Creator as life-script Writer.

            These biblical life-scripts are not based upon the self-realization of autonomous individualism built upon the attempt to save ourselves through the self-performance of good-works…that as entirely human-driven and human-directedwould and must fall far short of moral perfection and sinless virtue.

            But the God-composed life-script for Jesus Christ the Son of God intentionally exploits and utilizes to the fullest His uniquely divine nature to the maximum extent to be able to perfectly succeed in the one area wherein God knows we will have the most difficulty.

            This is the area that is the definition of sin and that the cross on Calvary Hill focuses upon…the area of God-sovereignty versus self-sovereignty…of following God’s leading in our lives compared instead to going our own way in shortsighted self-rulership (Isa. 53:6).

            God singles-out and highlights this key element within the broad array of moral concepts, honestly and candidly revealed in the difficulty that Jesus has in the Garden of Gethsemane the night before His crucifixion.

            Matthew 26:36-46 and Luke 22:39-46 record that in the Garden of Gethsemane the night of His arrest and preliminary trial, that Jesus asked His disciples to “watch and pray”…that His soul was “exceedingly sorrowful”…that He received the assistance from an angel from heaven to strengthen Him…that He went back a second time to “pray more earnestly”…and that He sweat “great drops of blood falling down to the ground.”

            The remarkable words of Jesus spoken that night: “Father, if thou be willing, remove this cup from me: nevertheless not my will, but thine, be done” (Lk. 22:42), tells us that God has brilliantly written a life-script for Himself, for the second Person of the Trinity living in a human body that manages to challenge Himself in the one humanly unreachable zone of moral perfection and sinless virtue, of making perfect choices and doing the right thing every time.

            Yet this humanly unreachable zone is still comprehensible within our capacity for moral reasoning…in the above-this-world, unconventionally divine test-case scenario in the Garden of Gethsemane of God-sovereignty consistent, unified, and indivisible within God Himself…within the Trinity of the Father, the Son, and the Holy Spirit.

            If Jesus does not say in perfect faith without skipping a beat: “nevertheless not my will, but thine, be done”…but instead decides to go in another direction other than the cross the next day, at that precise moment in time God-sovereignty would have been split in two…introducing autonomous individual rebellion into the God-head of the Trinity…Jesus the Son of God going His own way apart from the Father and away from His ancient destiny as the “Lamb slain from the foundation of the world.” (Rev. 13:8).

            This unprecedented development of the testing of divinely sinless unity-of-purpose consistent between God the Father, Jesus the Son of God, and the Holy Spirit, of unerring fidelity to the one right course of action no matter how difficult it is or how high the cost in the Garden of Gethsemane and Calvary the next day…separates-out God-sovereignty as the most important and the highest of issues in all of reality…the top-shelf “queen” of the virtues.

            All of the other moral concepts and virtues are secondarily derivative to the primary concept of God-sovereignty…of following God’s leading in our lives rather than going our own way as autonomous independent agents (Isa. 53:5-6).

            The blood that Jesus Christ shed on the cross is not just to improve our moral performance in the areas of honesty, integrity, tolerance, and the capacity for unselfish love…because the ancient goal, the prime target, the foremost primary reason for the Passover Lamb of God sacrifice is to focus and home-in on the remedy and removal of sin. 

            When I became a Spirit-born Christian at age 18 in 1970, I was not instantly transformed into a morally perfect person, possessing sinless virtue incapable of making any mistakes from that time forward.

            After the resurrection of Jesus Christ and after the Day of Pentecost the early church Christians went out into the Greco-Roman world with the Great Commission gospel message that eventually conquered the world…yet they do so while inhabiting imperfect virtue and fallen yet redeemed natures.

            I have never heard anyone ask the question why this is so…why salvation through Christ does not instantly produce inner perfect virtue and flawless character.

            Why would it be the case throughout the Old and New Testament journeys of faith life-scripts of Abraham (not discounting Enoch and Noah) through Paul…that God works His “magic” of blessing mankind through people having imperfect characters?

            The answer is that God uses His divinely timeless foresight matched with the creative insight of being an ingenious master strategist…to be able to turn mankind’s fall in the Garden of Eden into a positive.

            This is a profoundly unexpected validation of the brilliance of God in keeping with the fine-tuning of the physics in the universe and the nanotechnology of the molecular machinery we now discover in living cells.

            We were simply outwitted in the Garden of Eden…ill-equipped to divide and parse genuine truth from cleverly disguised misinformation (Gen. 3:1-6). 

            I was outwitted by the strong pull of worldly conventional normalcy and thinking…in choosing to go the culturally acceptable wrong way of humanistic self-sovereignty…of trying to self-validate my worth and value through personal achievements, until I was saved by grace through faith in Jesus Christ.      

            The God of the Bible is so brilliant He can take the imperfection of human beings and in an instant of time flip this into a positive asset…into the high-quality of the perfect vehicle of a fallen nature that can take us through an in-depth research program into the knowledge of good and evil…without which we would not only be unable to decipher and understand the subtle nuances of the broad array of moral concepts involved, but which also places believers in the sweet-spot of humility regarding the flawed nature of this human vehicle that precludes self-inflated and pride-filled self-righteousness, the very character trait that kills the ability to take the salvation message of the gospel out to the world-at-large in the spirit of love (Jn. 15:13).

            The blood that Jesus shed on the cross at Calvary covers my sins past, present, and future.

            This enables me to step-into a risk-filled adventure of faith following the God of the Bible…in which I am certain I will make many mistakes along the way, but absent the threat that I can jeopardize my eternal salvation as a result of my imperfect performance.

            The God of the Bible is so brilliant that He has proactively crafted the redemption through the cross and resurrection of Christ so as to provide impunity from the condemnation that should accrue through my blunders and mistakes…for the precise purpose of guaranteeing a safe passage and a safe-conduct through the God-composed journey of faith life-script He has written for me…so that I can experience a first-person exploration of the knowledge of good and evil, within the God-sanctioned and approved vehicle of an imperfect moral nature (Rom. 7:15-8:4).

            Atheists criticize Christians for not being perfect…but we are not supposed to be perfect…just better than we were.

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

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

            The only way we could discover and understand the knowledge of good and evil is for us to take it out for a sanctioned and authorized test-drive…within the vehicle of a redeemed yet fallen imperfect nature.

            The hypothesis that the God of the Bible is trustworthy, truthful, loving, has own best interests at heart, and that we can know Him on a personal basis…is something that can be tested and found to be either true or false.

            A God-composed journey of faith life-script having the upfront impunity of redemptive salvation leads to factual findings that are as empirical as it gets…being in importance far above the findings of modern science into the workings of the natural world.

            God has set-up a program within the context of this life wherein we can for ourselves…with His help…verify the truths and falsehoods contained within a tried and tested knowledge of good and evil, with the additional ingenious feature that we are the ones who are the mouthpieces used to spread these findings about God to other people, rather than this coming from God directly in the form of authoritatively writing this across the sky in fiery red letters.

            This reality could never come from a purely naturalistic universe of matter and energy alone, and it is beyond the literary creative imagination of human invented mythology.

            The idea that God could and would flip our imperfect moral natures into the microscopic and telescopic lens needed to see into the mysteries of the knowledge of good and evil…while engaged within a God-guided journey of faith that also infuses more virtue and goodness into our characters through the indwelling Holy Spirit (Jn. 16:13) through mission-plans designed to help other people entailing some measure of cost and sacrifice to ourselves…answers in large part the fundamental question of the purpose of this life and why we are here.

            Only the real living God could set this all up.

            In The Sermon on the Mount recorded in Matthew 5:6, Jesus does not say blessed are the morally perfect, but “Blessed are they which do hunger and thirst after righteousness: for they shall be filled.” (bold and italics mine).

            By becoming born-again (Jn. 3:5-6, 10), the people of faith in the Old and New Testaments are given new spiritual hearts and minds that can comprehend the knowledge of good and evil, while still inhabiting imperfect characters, through the deliberate preplanning and foreknowledge of God (Prov. 3:5-6; Isa. 55:8-9; Jer. 29:11; Eph. 1:7, 2:8-10; 5:8).

            This is one of the many reasons why the cross and the resurrection of Jesus Christ are the most important events in all of history…far above Jesus as Messiah expelling the Romans from Israel in the first-century.

            If God Himself is not internally consistent in this fundamental moral concept of freely choosing God-sovereignty over self-sovereignty…in Gethsemane and at Calvary…within the Trinity of the Father, the Son, and Holy Spirit…then justifiably God could not ask us to make the difficult, Holy Spirit assisted transition from self-sovereignty toGod-sovereignty in the course of our lives (Jn. 3:14-21).

            This is the fundamental issue under consideration for all human beings, and the God of the Bible is telling us through the life-script of Jesus Christ that He was willing and able to get out in front of us in this regard of the bond of unity…tested within a human life incarnate in Jesus of Nazareth the Son of God…within the personal interrelationships of the Trinity.

            This is why Jesus Christ is the way, the truth, and the life…and why there is no other way to come to the Father except through Him (paraphrased from John 14:6)…because Jesus is the perfect bridge of God-sovereignty that connects us in the right way within a personal walk with God in our own lives.  

            Without freely allowing God to displace our ways with His higher ways and thoughts (Isa. 46:9-10; Jn. 12:24)…to achieve in some measure in our lives this same divine unity-of-purpose (Jn. 17:21), after the pattern of the biblical narrative stories of faith, then God cannot flip our imperfect natures into the fully redeemed, 4-wheel drive vehicles to venture-out into empirical research programs of lessons-learned traversing through the rough terrain of the knowledge of good and evil in a fallen world.

            God identifies for us in the Garden of Gethsemane that Jesus Christ is operating at the apex, at the highest pinnacle of morality and virtue, when God reveals with incredible honesty and candor His own difficulty at the far outer-edge of virtuosity…the unique and singular challenge in all of time past, present, and going forward into eternity of offering Himself as the loving sacrifice for our sins.

            This unbroken fidelity to God-sovereignty restores our severed relationship with Him on the highest terms of true and right justice yet at the greatest cost to Himself…the cost of the unprecedented death of Jesus Christ on the cross and His resurrection three days later.

            Because this entire scenario of truth, challenge, and drama soars far above the capacity of human literary fictional invention, in my opinion this answers the question of how we would know today with certainty that Jesus Christ is the Passover Lamb of God atoning sacrifice for mankind’s sins, being morally perfect and having sinless virtue…and qualify as the Messiah in the first-century and now.

            A popular defense of the Bible and Christianity should start at some point with the biblical uniqueness of the cross and the resurrection of Jesus Christ, paramount in importance and at the very zenith within the broad array of moral concepts.

            Other than being an embarrassment to Jews worldwide today, the crucifixion and resurrection of Jesus Christ as the Passover Lamb of God atonement for sin as a Jew in the first-century…as the Messianic Savior by grace through faith for Jews and Gentiles alike…should be a source of the deepest and most heartfelt commendable pride.

            A book written on the biblical narrative in competition with rival worldviews in the modern marketplace of ideas, can at the outset identify a categorical difference of enormous importance between the traditional Christian doctrine of salvation by grace through faith in the death and resurrection of Jesus Christ…and the entirely contrary view of the other world religions of salvation achieved through the self-performance of good-works, of achieving a “good life” on our own and then putting our faith and trust in a god who will judge this self-effort satisfactory enough to approve our admittance into the after-life.

            This concept of our redeemed fallen nature as the God-sanctioned and authorized vehicle in which to conduct a first-hand exploration of the knowledge of good and evil in a likewise fallen and broken world, is in my opinion, not a new biblical doctrine or interpretation.

            This concept is staring us in the face in the biblical narrative stories of faith, and is integral within the idea of actualized faith placed in the real and living God in the Old and New Testaments of the Bible (Rom. 4:1-8).

            Entering into a God-composed journey of faith life-script within the redeemed vehicle of imperfect moral character adds another key piece to the puzzle of the fundamental questions of why we are here and who is the real God?

            I became a Spirit-born Christian at age 18…but then so what…what comes next?  What is so earth-shattering about that?

            The point is that the vehicle of a fallen nature as the perfect lens to be able to explore a fallen world opens up the entire panoply of the meaning and purpose of human life…no matter what are my individual talents, abilities, or faults…no matter where is my “port of entry” into a journey of faith.

            We see this in the biblical narrative stories of faith having exceptional purpose and directional trajectory…in direct opposition to the competing worldviews of the other world religions to find our own salvation through self-realization, but also in direct opposition to the atheistic worldview of naturalistic materialism that asserts that purpose and meaning do not exist at all in our universe.

            The grandest irony of ironies is that we can only inhabit this God-sanctioned and authorized vehicle of a fully redeemed and forgiven fallen nature, in order to venture-out into the individual destinies of our research programs to discover the real meaning and purposes within the knowledge of good and evil…we can only do this by first admitting that we are in fact fallen and that we are imperfect moral beings.

            In the words of Jesus: “Repent: for the kingdom of heaven is at hand” (Mt. 4:17), shouts-out this message to the world having the highest of intentions imaginable…coming from the one Person capable of making this reality possible.  

            When confronted by the Pharisees who asked the disciples: “Why eateth your Master with tax collectors and sinners?” (Mt. 9:11)…Jesus answers in Matthew 9:12-13:

12 They that be whole need not a physician, but they that are sick.

13 But go ye and learn what that meaneth, I will have mercy, and not sacrifice: for I am not come to call the righteous, but sinners to repentance.

            The massive gulf between “going about to establish their own righteousness” (Rom. 10:3) and the redemptive salvation of grace through faith (Eph. 2:8-9) through the repentance of admitting that we are fallen and in need of saving, is spoken by Jesus Christ in no uncertain terms to the Pharisees: “I said therefore unto you, that ye shall die in your sins: for if ye believe not that I am he, ye shall die in your sins.” (Jn. 8:24).   

            Christianity is the one place in all of human existence where it is okay to be not okay.

            A broken life is the reality to be honestly acknowledged and faced foursquare…not something to whitewash (Mt. 23:27) or sugar-coat.

            The God of the Bible is the only person in the universe who honestly knows about sin and does not sweep it under the table, but does something remarkable about it.

            God is telling us that He has life-scripts for us that actually and counterintuitively factor-in our fallen nature.

            If we currently have broken and ruined lives this is no problem for God to cleanup, redeem, and insert a course-correction that sets us going in the right way.

            This is why Jesus is eating with tax collectors and sinners, because they can readily admit that they are fallen and need God.

            Arrogant pride and self-inflated self-importance will not accept or admit a fallen and imperfect nature, and thereby closes off entrance into the God-sanctioned and authorized vehicle of a redeemed fallen nature to really learn about the knowledge of good and evil…through a similar quality of the unity-of-purpose Jesus exhibited in His own life-script…likewise actualized for us in our God-composed journeys of faith life-scripts patterned for us in the biblical narrative stories of faith.

            One caveat here is that Paul and Peter warn believers not to use this freedom as an excuse or license to willfully sin (Rom. 6:1; Gal. 5:13; 1 Pet. 2:16).

The biblical narrative has purpose, meaning, and hope fueled by God’s divine participation

            God-composed life-scripts for the people of faith in the Old and New Testaments of the Bible…eventually over time lift these people up into the victorious positions of becoming overcomers (1 Pet. 5:10), but not in the worldly conventional sense of self-validation and worldly pride that is centered upon oneself.

            God’s elevation of people into high positions…Abraham the “father of faith,” Joseph the governor of Egypt, Moses the great prophet and deliverer, Joshua the military leader, the Israelites conquering their homeland, Peter the leader of the early Christian church, and Paul the missionary evangelist to the first-century Greco-Roman world, to name a few, are for unselfish service to other people and not for self-validation and personal achievement.

            God-composed life-scripts in the biblical narrative stories of faith are designed to fix things to the most radical extent required, at all costs, at the micro-level in the moment…and at the macro-level over the long-range duration of human redemptive history extending into eternity.

            The biblical narrative stories of faith are about enabling God to set-up and manage a program throughout human redemptive history that allows God to actualize events and circumstances into reality…to fix our world and our lives…from the viewpoint of eternity (1 Jn. 2:17).

            This is an elevated program that will run above and often contrary to the culturally accepted direction of worldly conventional normalcy and thinking (Mt. 5:3-12, 6:25-34).

            This element of elevated unconventionality explains Abraham waiting in faith for the birth of Isaac, Joseph’s unusual MBA preparation in the house of Potiphar and the prison of Pharaoh, the Israelites in bondage in Egypt, and the advance preparation of Moses as a shepherd of sheep in Midian.

            It explains David being pursued for his life by the jealous King Saul, Peter utterly failing in the courtyard of Caiaphas during the night trial of Jesus, and the incredible conversion of Saul/Paul on the road to Damascus creating the radical humility needed for a highly educated Pharisee to take the gospel message that Jesus is the Messiah to the larger Greco-Roman world…without looking down his nose in disdain at the polytheistic, idol-worshipping, pagan Greeks and Romans of his day. 

            These are the scenarios composed by God to fix our world and the problem of sin in our lives from an eternal perspective.

            The brilliantly creative capacity of God to get His arms around the vast stretch of human experience…of Jesus maintaining consistent fidelity to God-sovereignty in the midst of the lowest failure and the highest success… allows every person of faith that accepts Jesus Christ as Savior, King, and Tour Guide through this life…to get to know God personally from the least to the greatest.

            This reality for human life was prophesied roughly 2,600 years ago by the prophet Jeremiah in anticipation of new covenant believers (Jer. 31:31-34) not offended by Jesus on the cross, all energized by God-sovereignty rather than being fueled by the pursuit of individual achievement according to the tenets of worldly conventional normalcy and thinking.

            The cross and the resurrection of Jesus were in service to mankind at the peak and pinnacle of moral perfection, the purest essence of virtue.

            The cross and the resurrection of Jesus were and are radical measures in the extreme designed by God to fix the human problem of sin, fundamentally defined as going our own way in autonomous individualism.

            God-composed journeys of faith life-scripts as patterned for us in the biblical narrative stories of faith, creating similar unity-of-purpose partnerships between God and people, is the antidote to the individual autonomous rebellion of going our own way.

            When this uniquely biblical reality is separated-out and highlighted from amongst the broad array of existing moral concepts, this provides a compelling basis for accepting Jesus Christ into our lives, for accepting a God-composed journey of faith applied and interwoven into the course of events in our lives.

            This humanly inconceivable, acid-test of the consistency of God-sovereignty within the Trinity, faithfully and seamlessly exhibited by Jesus in the Garden of Gethsemane and on Calvary Hill…also actualizes within the biblical narrative stories of faith and actualizes within the God-composed life-scripts for Spirit-born Christians today.

            This validates the Christian argument that the Bible cannot be the creative invention of human literary imagination.

            This also provides us with a huge revelation…a unique and innovative insight…of The Biblical Narrative in a Modern World.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

God created within us this strong drive to succeed.

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

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