Sunday, March 5, 2017

Things That Abide

Lately I've been going over the Love Chapter again, 1 Corinthians 13, and something new jumped out at me the other day. The chapter is about Love, what it looks like to love, what it is to love and what it isn't. There is something tucked away, about halfway through, that I've been aware of for some time. Namely, this Love proclaimed in the chapter is Perfect Love. It says, "Love never ends. As for prophecies they will pass away, as for tongues they will cease, as for knowledge it will pass away. For we know in part and we prophesy in part but when the perfect comes the partial will pass away." [bold and emphasis added]

What is being said here is that this Love never ending means that it is perfect already. It has arrived in its perfected form. This is Jesus, entering into His own creation, living a perfect life and dying a perfect death in our stead. 1 John 4 says, "Whoever confesses that Jesus is the Son of God, God abides in him, and he in God. So we have come to know and believe the love that God has for us. God is love, and whoever abides in love abides in God, and God abides in him. By this is love perfected with us, so that we may have confidence for the day of judgement, because as he is so also are we in this world."

All of that I knew previously about the Love Chapter. What I didn't see previously but see now is that there are three concepts outlined as having already achieved perfection, not just Love. It comes near the end of the chapter: If partial (non-perfect) things pass away (prophecies, knowledge, tongues, etc) but perfect things abide (IE, never end) so then faith and hope are perfect along with love. "So now  faith, hope, and love abide these three; but the greatest of these is love."

They are perfection injected into imperfection: the Creator bringing light into creation. Jesus brought all three and is all three. He is perfect faith, keeping perfect faith where all others are faithless and is the author and perfecter of our faith; gifting it to us. We, the faithless, called to faithfulness, poured out in abundance through our blessed Creator. He is sure and steadfast and no one can take us from His hand.

He is hope. The perfect hope that will never put anyone to shame. We have a hope that will outlast all else, that will outshine the sun and outlive the earth. We have a hope that will drag us as sure as an anchor-line into Heaven itself and bring us with joy to the judgement seat of God. Hope can get no better than that.

But the greatest of these three is Love. Love in chapter 13 is more than a concept, it is a being. Love embodied is Jesus, the light of the whole world. Jesus loves us, His sheep, and lay down His life for us. He gave imperfect eyes a vision of perfection and on fallen minds dawned a perfect light. May we always glory and wonder in that.

We have been gifted to abide in these three: grafted into perfection. Let us revel in that.

Thursday, March 2, 2017

The Shack: Human Wisdom Rather Than Biblical Truth

The first thing I would like to say is that I have not personally read The Shack, nor have I seen the movie. I do not intend to either. If you think that that automatically disqualifies me to write an article about it feel free to stop reading. I freely admit that I am relying on second hand sources.

What does qualify me to be upset about the message of this popular "Christian" book is that I have suffered loss in a somewhat similar fashion as that presented in the book. Maybe the world doesn't count miscarriages as such, but the pain is very real to those who have experienced it. As someone who would theoretically fall into The Shack's target audience range I take exception to the message trumpeted by the book.

In brief here it is: Human pain and suffering is due to the fact that God wanted to make us beings with free will but in order for us to truly have free will God can't get in the way and stop suffering. IE, for us to have free will God has to allow suffering to take place in the world. In the words of the character Papa (supposedly God the Father), "There was no way to create freedom without a cost."

The book is, I'm sure, full of such warm, touchy-feely sayings. The problem though is that they are based solely on human wisdom, not the Inspired Word of God. What does the Bible say about human "freedom?" Let's glance at a few passages.

Ephesians 2: 1-3 "And you were dead in the trespasses and sins in which you once walked, following the course of this world, following the prince of the power of the air, the spirit that is now at work in the sons of disobedience -- among whom we all once lived in the passions of our flesh, carrying out the desires of the body and the mind, and were by nature children of wrath, like the rest of mankind."

Galatians 4:3,8 "In the same way we also, when we were children, were enslaved to the elementary principles of the world. … Formerly, when you did not know God, you were enslaved to those that by nature are not gods."

Romans 6:6-7 "We know that our old self was crucified with him in order that the body of sin might be brought to nothing, so that we would no longer be enslaved to sin. For one who has died has been set free from sin."

So, human nature apart from the work of Christ is enslaved to sin. Slaves to our sinful nature. It should be fairly clear how diametrically opposed this Biblical concept is to the idea of human "free will."

I realize I am dangerously close to opening a huge can of worms that I do not intend to deal with in this blog post. Suffice it to say that the Bible is clear on the fact that human nature, ever since the fall, has been enslaved to sin and that it is only those whom the Son sets free who are indeed free from their natural inclination to sin. (John 8:31-36).

Why then is human free will lifted up as the highest good in The Shack? In short, human tradition. And, I would venture, that this idolizing of freedom/free will has never been so well received as it has been here in American "Christianity."

The great issue I have with promoting human free will to the highest good is that the truly comforting, Biblical Truth is completely undercut. God's purpose and plan are entirely thrown out in favor of human emotions. We think we will feel better when we hear "Well, God does everything he can but freedom comes with a cost." But that is a human-centered lie.

The Biblical Truth is this: God is Sovereign. He is more than capable of holding all in His Hand, the pain and the joy, the suffering and the triumph. If you're suffering/in pain and need to know where God is in all of it look to the Bible, not The Shack. Look to Job, not to Paul Young (the author of The Shack).

Job puts it in no uncertain terms after his real encounter with God (which didn't, by the way, involve God changing the way He presents Himself in order not to offend Job's sensibilities): "I know that you can do all things, and that no purpose of yours can be thwarted." - Job 42:2

Job finds comfort, after hearing from God, in the fact that God is God and that none of His purposes can be thwarted. He is comforted by the fact that God rules supreme, even over the disasters in his life. This fact is one of the only truly comforting things that a Christian can cling to in the midst of his/her suffering: Their Rock and Redeemer in the middle of a swirling hurricane of pain and sadness.

Human free will is a cheap stand in comparatively. It plays to our natural self-centeredness; that idea that we all like to hide deep down that the world does revolve around us. Let me just point out James 4:13-15 "Come now, you who say, 'today or tomorrow we will go into such and such a town and spend a year there and trade and make a profit' -- yet you do not know what tomorrow will bring. What is your life? For you are a mist that appears for a little time and then vanishes. Instead you ought to say, 'If the Lord wills, we will live and do this or that.'"

God's will is the highest authority. He is in charge. He is sovereign. Not a sparrow falls to the ground apart from Him. Take comfort then in the fact that He is working all things together for His Glory and for the Good of those called according to His purpose. Take comfort in the Bible and the Truth about God and suffering and pain revealed in it. Don't waste your time reading The Shack or pain your eyes by watching the movie. The Truths of the Bible are far deeper and more satisfying than any half-baked platitudes human wisdom can cook up.

My source: Book Summary

Better articles on the issues in The Shack: Desiring God Article
Tim Challies Blog