The Elevated Quality of Divine Humility 2

Another commonsense apologetic argument I want to make in this post for the divine origin of the Bible and its message…that has parallel inspirational value…is that Jesus Christ in a human body meets us precisely at the point where we are…and that this profound concept creates a clear path for the Passover Lamb of God to make it all the way to the cross at Calvary…to make a successful divine atonement for sin…at our human level.

In the story of The Prince and the Pauper…as a matter of practicality…to meet us at the point where we are…simply cannot happen as long as the young prince goes outside the palace dressed in princely clothes, riding in a royal carriage, and surrounded by a retinue of soldiers.

Only by having an absence of the royal accoutrement of clothing and the dignity of his office…surrounding his personage…can the young prince meet and engage with his unknowing subjects at the same place…on the same level…where they are in their lives.

A critical point I want to make here is that Mark Twain published his remarkably brilliant book The Prince and the Pauper in 1881…based on an incredibly perceptive insight…I would say inspired… into the reality of elevated moral leadership…whether as a king…or as a democratically elected president or prime minister…or as the Almighty God and Creator of the universe.

The life of Jesus Christ in the first-century A.D. is anchored in history…not fiction.  His death by Roman crucifixion in Jerusalem during the administration of Pontius Pilate is an undisputed fact of history.

The rapid growth of the Christian church in the first century testifies to the historicity of the events surrounding the life and death of Jesus Christ…and His resurrection.

Is it plausible to the modern thinker…having now the benefit of historical hindsight…to suggest that Matthew, a tax collector…Mark, a younger friend of Peter…Luke, a Greek physician…John, a fisherman from Galilee…Paul, an educated Pharisee and an actual persecutor of the early Christian church…James, the half-brother of Jesus…and Peter, also a common fisherman…could insightfully as a group effort pre-empt Mark Twain by 1,800 years in inventing as fiction or clever added embellishment…this pinnacle concept of the moral leadership quality of Jesus Christ stepping down from His glory in heaven to be able to meet us at the precise point where we are? 

In writing their gospel accounts, the book of Acts, and the New Testament letters to the early churches…in the moment…as the action in live history is all unfolding and openly observable to the Jewish and the Greco-Roman world…all around them in real time during the explosive growth of the early Christian church…these Christians are writing about the recent life and message of the historical person Jesus Christ…and not a literary fictional storyline of the young prince of Mark Twain’s book.

Is it plausible that these New Testament writers could take this real-life story a large step further in innovative imagination…and creatively invent the concept around the divine Son of God…not some ordinary fictional earthly prince…that in order to be able to show up for the divine appointment on Calvary Hill…Jesus the Prince of Peace and the eternal Word of God…would have to be clothed in the divine humility of an undistinguished outward appearance…the carpenter from Galilee…as the God/man Passover sacrifice for our sins?

In this unique scenario at Calvary…the magnitude of the endpoint goal dictates the brilliantly fine-tuned, extremely narrow means to get there.

The blood that Jesus sheds on the cross provides a perfect and complete atoning sacrifice for our sins.  This enables blood-bought and Spirit-born Christians to be able to venture out into risked-filled adventures of faith after the pattern given to us in the Bible…with the full security and assurance of our salvation…so that we can get to know God on His terms…within His life-scripts written for our benefit.

When viewed in this light, the importance of the mission of Jesus and His appointed destiny at Calvary is incalculable.

From A Popular Defense of the Bible and Christianity

The Elevated Quality of Divine Humility 1

“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)

By entering into a human body through the incarnation…Jesus Christ the Son of God is opening Himself up to the challenging realities of a radical, precipitous downgrading in outward appearances compared to His exalted glory in heaven…which by the most brilliantly fine-tuned calculus in the history of moral reasoning…opens up the one and only narrow pathway leading to the cross at Calvary.

The classic book The Prince and the Pauper by Mark Twain gives us a wonderfully adventurous and compelling story that parallels the situation of Jesus Christ closely in this regard.

The real prince in Mark Twain’s story, outside of the king’s palace and disguised in pauper’s clothes…unprotected by his voluntary loss of royal status out in the rough-and-tumble world at-large…is subject to the same perils and abuses faced every day by the look-alike pauper boy with whom the prince has temporarily and secretly exchanged places with.

One fundamental question asked by probably every person who has ever lived…during a contemplative moment of reflection on the purpose and meaning of life…is…why is human life for most people a challenging, rough-and-tumble, sometimes bruising affair?

Why isn’t the entrance into our world for Jesus Christ the Son of God…at the very least in His special case…a smooth-sailing, carefree, life-of-ease, rolled-out red carpet…seamless transition of welcome from the heavenly world of being the exalted Prince of Peace (Isa. 9:6) to the world of merely being a lowly pauper?

After thousands of years of advancements in knowledge, technological gadgets, medicine, farming, and political and social lessons-learned…why has not humanity gotten our collective act together a long time ago in terms of being able to offer a peaceful, supportive, welcoming environment…for the fulfillment of purpose, meaning, character growth, and personal destiny…as the normal expectation for every person on the planet?

Why does the real-world have the actual disparity between the privileged insides of the palace grounds and the hard conditions of the outside world…that forms the backdrop of reality for Mark Twain to craft his brilliantly insightful fictional story around?

I think that Mark Twain in his classic book The Prince and the Pauper partially answers this question as to why the world-at-large…outside of the palace…is a rough-and-tumble reality for most people…explored from the human analytical and perceptual eye of a literary genius.

The thematic take-away lesson from the story…from a human standpoint…is that the young prince must leave the confines of the preferential unreality of the palace…and experience real life among his subjects in the guise of a regular person like them…in order to be able to return to the palace and someday become a good king who can rule the realm for the benefit of the people in justice and compassionate understanding…and not as a self-centered tyrant merely using his subjects for his own pleasure…merely as means to his own ends.

This moral framework that Mark Twain…a religious skeptic…posits in his book…is at such a high level of sophisticated complexity that it blows the atheistic philosophies of materialism and naturalism…out of the water.  Material particles and energy would never come up with the contemplation of this deeply sophisticated, highly elevated of issues…no matter how much time was given to their development.

Citing the gospel of John chapter one verses 1-5 and verse 10 would be helpful here:

1 In the beginning was the Word, and the Word was with God, and the Word was God.

2 The same was in the beginning with God.

3 All things were made by him; and without him was not anything made that was made.

4 In him was life; and the life was the light of men.

5 And the light shineth in darkness; and the darkness comprehended it not.

10 He was in the world, and the world was made by him, and the world knew him not.

From A Popular Defense of the Bible and Christianity

One Key Point 2

The roots of Christianity come out of deadly adversity…the emphatic rejection of Jesus Christ demonstrated through the cross at Calvary…and not from the broad gate of Matthew 7:13…not from a peace-seeking compromise with worldly conventional normalcy and thinking…not in a coronation of the King of Isaiah 9:6…to be fully actualized in the near future at the second coming of Christ.

When Paul gives his final testimony to his fellow countrymen in Jerusalem…Paul receives a total and complete rejection as the people throw their garments and dust into the air in violent protest against Paul…saying: “Away with such a fellow from the earth: for it is not fit that he should live” (Acts 22:22).

It would unquestionably appear that there is a key element within the biblical narrative stories of faith…of death to self-direction and self-reliance in terms of pursuing the worldly conventional tenets of the American Dream­…a totally unconventional strategy of application to human lives…of a seed that must fall into the ground and die (Jn. 12:24)…before springing up into a new, transformed, and totally different lifestyle from its previous life-form as a seed.

This is a concept that is universal in every God-composed adventure of faith life-script recorded in the Bible.

There are two important takeaways from this observation…central to the argument for the divine origin of the Bible and Christianity.

First, this initial and preliminary time-period of adversity that produces the outward appearance of failure and set-back in terms of worldly conventional norms…that sets aside or removes all-together the pursuit of individual success toward the popularly accepted direction of the American Dream…as will be discussed in multiple variations-on-a-theme throughout this book…would never originate out of humanistic literary fiction.

Second, only God could and would compose life-scripts that contain a specific set of events and circumstances…that correctly rearranges the vertical order of authority in the relationship…of God rightfully being above us…rather than us incorrectly and foolishly above God.

Apparently…as patterned for us in the biblical narrative stories of faith…a large dose of adversity is the remedy to cure the malady of self-sovereignty…that will mar and block our ability to walk with God through a journey of faith.

The biblical narrative stories of faith contain the one element that would never originate out of worldly conventional normalcy and thinking…the correct displacement of our ways with the higher ways and thoughts of God (Isa. 55:8-9)…of God rightfully sitting upon His throne as King…correctly positioning Himself above us…His detailed short-term and long-term plans for specific life-missions taking priority over our plans.

I did not make this up.  This is what we see in the biblical narrative stories of faith.

The concept of a seed falling into the ground to die…before being able to spring up from the ground into a tree, bush, or plant that produces grains, fruits, and vegetables…as applied in unprecedented fashion to real human lives through God-composed life-scripts…having the enormous practical consequences of risk playing out in the events of our lives…is clearly and openly revealed to us in Judges 7:3.

The proper arrangement of God above us as leader and guide in our expedition through a God-composed journey of faith…is brilliantly and succinctly described in God’s instructions to Gideon…in reducing the numerical size of Gideon’s army to go out in battle against the overwhelming force of the Midianite army…producing circumstances that could end in either miraculous success…or utter catastrophe…creating a divine plan of attack that falls far outside of the imagination of Gideon…and far outside of conventional thinking:

“And the Lord said unto Gideon, The people that are with thee are too many for me to give the Midianites into their hands, lest Israel vaunt themselves against me, saying, Mine own hand hath saved me” (Judg. 7:3).

This incredibly innovative and unconventional idea of a seed…falling into the ground to die…then springing up into life…managed entirely within a God-composed journey of faith life-script…has as one of its primary goals to reverse the vertical priority of the personal relationship…with God as leader…and us as followers.

This divine use of the negative ingredient of temporary adversity skillfully puts our worldly dreams and aspirations…conventionally based on our internal perception of our in-built, innate gifts and abilities…into the ground to die…only to spring up into new, better, and different life-missions as patterned for us in the biblical narrative stories of faith…confirming the divine origin of these biblical narrative stories of faith…and validating the truth of the Bible and of Christianity.

No human writers could or would invent a new religion having this unique concept of a seed first needing to die in the ground…in order to rise up out of the ground in the new form of a tree, bush, or plant…bearing edible good fruit or vegetables…as part of the complex, God-composed life-scripts for human beings.

To depict God as the active agent in setting up…in the biblical narrative stories of faith…this previously unheard of and completely exclusive feature of God turning upside-down the autonomous individualism of worldly conventional thinking…placing Himself correctly in the leadership role in our lives…introducing the elements of risk and faith into our life experience…through the vehicle of a journey of faith (Heb. 11:1)…as pure inventive human literary fiction…is entirely nonsensical.

This insight into the depth of the underlying issues…and the creative artistic genius of these biblical stories…well outside of the parameters of human invented literary fiction…put a kibosh on the false assertion that the biblical narrative stories of faith are nothing more than human invented religion.

In the Sermon on the Mount…Jesus says: “But seek ye first the kingdom of God, and his righteousness; and all these things shall be added unto you” (Mt. 6:33).

In Mark 8:36…Jesus says: “For what shall it profit a man, if he shall gain the whole world, and lose his own soul?”

God can craft people like Abraham into the father of faith, like the Hebrew foreigner Joseph into the governor in ancient Egypt, Moses the shepherd in Midian into the great deliverer of the nation of Israel out of bondage as slaves in Egypt, the young man David of lowly background into the King of Israel, Peter the fisherman into the leader of the early Christian church in Jerusalem, and the persecutor Paul into the premier Christian evangelist to the first-century Greco-Roman world…to name only a few from the Bible.

But all of the people of faith in the Bible…achieved their success not by aiming directly at the American Dream…but aiming instead at the specific goals of their God-composed mission-plans…eventually arriving at the top of the heap in terms of human achievement…but achieved by way of the cross of Christ…the Holy Spirit guided tour into the discovery of the all-truth of John 16:13.

I have seen both sides of this in my life.  Most people have.

I have seen people who went straight for the money…in pursuit of wealth and all that it brings in terms of recognition, pride of accomplishment, and worldly esteem.

But these people would do anything to get ahead…cut corners illegally in terms of not following laws and regulations…lie to people…have no care whatsoever about improving operations and doing things right in order to cut costs…and despitefully use other people as means-to-an-end rather than developing healthy relationships built upon respect and the placing of value on the contributions of subordinates.

We can aim directly at obtaining wealth with the goal of actualizing the end-points of the American Dream in our lives…but even if we gain the whole world…we can lose our own soul.

Salvation and eternal life is a gift from God that is of inestimable worth…offered freely to mankind through repentance of sins and faith placed in Jesus Christ (Mt. 4:17)…and is the possession of all Spirit-born Christians past and present.

A God-composed journey of faith life-script for Christians today is also a gift from God…designed to take us through life the right way…focusing on goals and aspirations that are eternally important and of priceless value.

What is incredibly interesting here…is that the standard and traditional morals and ethics of the Christian life…transcending above and being so fundamentally different in their aim and aspirations…from worldly conventional normalcy and thinking…for twenty-plus centuries of human history now…that this would in modern-day hindsight make the sophisticated and rational case…that this deep and complex reality of the direction of where we aim our priorities and aspirations…in journeys of self or in journeys of faith…could not have originated out of worldly conventional thinking…and therefore must have a divine origin coming from the creative mind and heart of God.

From A Popular Defense of the Bible and Christianity

One Key Point 1

Abraham is a wealthy herdsman in Canaan.

But the people in Canaan who know the personal facts about Abraham…despite his worldly wealth and success…might still look down their noses at him for failing in this one culturally all-important area of not producing a male heir.

In the eyes of the people who are totally ignorant of the promises of God to Abraham…who are unaware of the divinely crafted program that Abraham is walking in…that displaces all other consideration in importance…the inhabitants in Canaan might think there is something wrong with Abraham…that he is going about life all wrong…in that he has not been able to contrive the culturally accepted way…of taking-in additional wives to Sarah…to produce a male heir that is suitable to pass along his wealth to…and that will continue his name forward for posterity.

This issue of producing male heirs is important to everyone at that time-period in history…yet Abraham outwardly appears to be curiously inactive in an effort to procure more wives and produce children.

Yet the real truth…behind the scenes…of the storyline of Abraham is that the Creator of the universe…God…ascribes to Abraham righteousness based upon the faith and patience of Abraham in trusting…through adverse appearing outward circumstances unknown to other people…in the truthfulness of God’s promises to him (Gal. 3:6; Heb. 11:19).

The key point here…is that it is God…not Abraham…who is the intentional author of this adventure of faith life-script dilemma for Abraham.  It is God who has purposely set this all up…this twenty-five year detour around worldly conventional expectations…within the dramatic storyline details of the life-script calling of Abraham to become the “father of faith” (Gen. 17:17).

The big question for biblical scholarship…and for practical Christian discipleship today…is why God would do this?

What is so important about a long time-period of waiting for the birth of Isaac…inserted by God as a fundamental element into the life-scripts of Abraham and Sarah?

Completely contrary to popular conventional normalcy and thinking…the narrative story of Abraham does not go in the direction of an ancient version of the American Dream…of Abraham and Sarah in Canaan starting a large family according to conventionally normal expectations.

The God-composed journey of faith life-script for Abraham…goes intentionally against-the-grain of conventional expectations for normal life (Gen. 17:1-8, 17)…against-the-grain of our supposed entitlement to pursue the worldly universal aspirations of the American Dream of success, fame, and fortune…however we culturally and socially define this.

Examining some additional biblical narrative stories of faith will help here.

Joseph possesses the innate capacity to manage the nation of Egypt as governor during a great famine…but he finds himself at the age of 30 in Pharaoh’s prison…as a result of being falsely accused by the wife of Potiphar of sexual assault.

What could be going worse in terms of outward appearances for Joseph…just a few months prior to Pharaoh’s dream and Joseph’s interpretation…just before this supernatural insertion of massive events that changes Joseph’s life…and that miraculously confirmed his two dreams as a teenager in Canaan (Gen. 37:5-11)?

Why this extended time-period of years of adversity in the life-script of Joseph…in his unusual version of graduate management training in leadership and humility…before being elevated up into the position of governor in all of Egypt?

As Moses tends sheep in Midian…he has essentially become a “nobody.”  Moses is no longer a prince in Egypt.  Moses is a colossal failure in worldly conventional terms…as he and Aaron walk towards Egypt to confront Pharaoh and demand the release of the Hebrew slaves…with nothing more than a shepherd’s wooden staff…the strength of God’s word at the burning bush…and the promise of an old and faded reputation.

David is the youngest and therefore the least culturally valued son of Jesse…when the prophet Samuel arrives to find and anoint with oil…the next king for Israel.

But as David is pursued for his life by the current and established King Saul…with several near misses…people looking at David from age 20 to 30…might consider him a disappointment and a failure.

How can this adversity be the case for the man who killed Goliath, is anointed by Samuel the prophet to be the next king…and is the son-in-law of King Saul?

Esther and Mordecai have the best of positive intentions for their current capitol city Shushan…and for their people the Jews…in their deadly struggle against Haman the Agagite…and are locked into a totally unanticipated combination of circumstances in a battle for their lives…that is not anything like pursuing the American Dream…in terms of worldly conventional normalcy.

Again, why is God the author of this challenging life-script for Esther, Mordecai, and the Jews in exile…not as the source of the evil that first propels the storyline…but as the brilliant scriptwriter finding the perfect finale response…for the end of the story?

Is there a good explanation behind this storyline theme of adversity that precedes victory…that is universal in the biblical stories of faith?

The great prophet Elijah bitterly complains to God that he appears to be all alone…in his criticism of the evil king and queen…Ahab and Jezebel…in their apostasy of worshipping the idol-god Baal.

Elijah faces adversity like few others in the Bible.

The prophet Jeremiah is certainly going against-the-grain in denouncing the wayward condition of Israel at that time…a condition so bad that it resulted in the eventual removal of the nation into foreign exile.

Daniel is a faithful, loyal, and exemplary civil servant in exile…yet he finds himself spending a long night in peril in a den of lions…as the result of a deadly scheme of revenge powered by the jealous envy of a small group of men high up in the government…colleagues of Daniel.

Jesus is the Son of God…the Savior…the light of the world.

Yet without the wide separation from worldly conventional thinking that fueled the violent rejection of the person, the teaching, and the ministry of Jesus by the religious and political leadership in Jerusalem…as well as a portion of the populace siding with this leadership group…then there is no cross of Calvary, no Passover Lamb of God sacrifice for lost sinners, no glorious resurrection on Easter morning, and no redemptive salvation for mankind.

From A Popular Defense of the Bible and Christianity