Delight yourself in the LORD, and he will give you the desires of your heart. Psalm 37:4
This is the simple truth that was overshadowed in Genesis 3. God’s goodness and truth were traded for moral autonomy – the chance for man to be his own god. The serpent undermined Eve’s view of God, leading her to question God’s loving boundaries. The cost of moral autonomy was and is great. Banishment from the garden and the Tree of Life, physical and spiritual death, toil and pain continue to this day.
As Americans, we talk a lot about freedom, but we rarely pause to give any definition to the word itself. What do we mean by freedom? Is freedom the just rule of law, or the lack of all rules?
Adam and Eve had freedom in the Garden to eat of every tree except one. They had the freedom of trusting in a loving God who had created them to enjoy His presence. Instead, they chose freedom from God and His rule – both His sovereign rule and His single command. They wrongly saw freedom in moral autonomy. Instead, they subjected themselves to the serpent – an animal over which Adam had been commanded to rule. The power structures of the world were turned upside-down (God>Man>Serpent became Serpent>Man>God).
This is where we find ourselves today. Our hearts (yours and mine) long for moral autonomy – the right to make our own rules. We want to be like gods. We desperately believe that we will only find true joy when we rid ourselves of the rule makers in our lives, especially if they disagree with our moral vision. This is the very heart of sin. It is a rebellion against God’s right as our Creator to rule our lives. We have declared our own sovereignty within His territory, making us His enemies. And for this, He has every right and obligation to punish us as traitors.
We are traitors and fugitives. There is no freedom for traitors and fugitives. Traitors and fugitives live in the shadows. They don’t show their face in public. They fear being exposed, and often strike out violently against those who threaten to blow their cover. Does this sound like your heart? In your search for freedom, have you found hopelessness instead?
This is where the good news comes in, and it’s free. On the cross, Jesus paid the penalty for our rebellion. He stood in our place, so that we could stand before God in his place. God’s justice and wrath were poured out on Jesus in place of all who give up their rebellion and see that he is their only hope. His resurrection guarantees the verdict, and grants freedom to rebel captives. Do you want freedom and true joy? This is the only place you will find it! Confess your rebellion and look to the Savior! Delight yourself in the Lord!
Because* of the steadfast love (hesed) of Yahweh we have not ceased to exist; his mercies never come to an end. (Lam 3:22)
This is one of my favorite verses in the Bible because it is so shocking. I find myself asking, why does Yahweh’s steadfast love run out? If ever there was a time that His love was justified in running out, this was it. The nation of Israel, which Yahweh had redeemed out of Egypt and led into the promised land had rebelled against Him repeatedly for nearly the whole seven centuries they lived in the land. Why does He continue to relent? Why does He continue to pursue them? And what if His love had stopped there?
Have you ever thought about that? What if God’s plan of redemption had been scrapped as the exiles were marched off to captivity? What unspeakable grace and mercy that He did not give up there! Oh how marvelous is His continual pursuit of His wayward people! Behold your God, gracious and compassionate, slow to anger and abounding in steadfast love!
Oh, the depth of the riches and wisdom and knowledge of God! How unsearchable are his judgments and how inscrutable his ways!
“For who has known the mind of the Lord,
or who has been his counselor?”
“Or who has given a gift to him
that he might be repaid?”
For from him and through him and to him are all things. To him be glory forever. Amen.
(Romans 11:33-36 ESV)
*This translation does not follow most English translations, but is probably more faithful to the Hebrew text
Jesus upholds the universe by the word of his power (Heb 1:3). If he stops speaking, you cease existing. The very laws of nature, are his words in action. Have you thought about that lately? God spoke, and the universe came into existence out of nothing. He breathed life into Adam, and did not destroy him when he fell. Are you in awe yet?
I have not read the book or seen the movie and have no intention to do so, but the constant buzz I’ve seen about Blue Like Jazz made me curious. Dr. Mark Coppenger, who was my philosophy professor my first year at Southern gave a review of Blue Like Jazz several years ago at Southern. In it he calls Donald Miller (the author) Schleiermacher with a sol patch (Schleiermacher is widely regarded as the father of modern theological liberalism). Miller’s vision of Christianity, Coppenger argues is no different than the liberalism that infested Southern for years (Coppenger would know-he wears the scars of the battles). So if you’ve read the book or are planning to see the movie, give this critique a listen and careful consideration.
There is a new movement among evangelicals to discount the historicity of Genesis 1-11. It’s really nothing new, as this was a beginning stage of liberalism well over a century ago. But there seems to be a rise in the number of scholars and lay persons who accept these views, with little thought for their consequences.
There are really two questions we should ask:
1) Should we continue to read Genesis 1-11 as history?
2) If we reject the historicity of Genesis 1-11, what else goes with it?
The answer to 1) seems self-evidently ‘yes’ to some and ‘no’ to others. But answering 2) is where we find the real weakness of the rejection of historicity. Here’s a list of doctrines negatively impacted by the rejection of the historicity of Genesis 1-11 (feel free to add to this list).
4) Resurrection/New Creation
6) Deity of Christ
What is Christianity without these doctrines? Is there even anything left? Is what is left even worth keeping? The first generation usually argues yes, while the second generation and beyond generally follow ideas to their conclusions, seeing no need to continue to embrace the things they don’t believe. We see the results of this born out in many mainline American denominations today.
The picture is sobering, and I’m reminded of the life of Crawford Howell Toy, who was the first professor at my own seminary (The Southern Baptist Theological Seminary) to move in this direction. Toy’s story is a tragic case of following the conclusions of his own logic. It is a downward spiral from modernism, historical criticism, and the embrace of Darwinism, to liberalism and Unitarianism as a professor at Harvard, finally to a philosophical Pragmatism (You can find Toy’s story in chapter 3 of Gregory Wills’ book on the history of SBTS).
Denying the historical nature of Genesis 1-11 leads to the denial of real doctrines with real consequences. The historicity of Genesis 1-11 may not fit with the current trends of culture or the understanding of modern science, but we cannot so easily reject it without great consequences to our faith. Does it present us with an extremely difficult position to maintain as Christians? Absolutely! Should we expect any less from a race that has declared its hostility toward God?
Recently, Dr. Jim Hamilton, a professor of mine brought an article to my attention that I would highly recommend you reading. It is called When Gentile Meets Jew by Peter Leithart. Leithart sees Ruth in the grand narrative of Scripture, and weaves together a number of great insights. Check it out.
We heard a sermon this Sunday on Heaven. One book on my reading list is NT Wright’s book Surprised by Hope. I have watched the DVD that goes with the book. Wright points out on the DVD how our understanding of our future hope has shifted over the past few centuries. Here’s a short clip:
There are a couple things I’ve noticed since listening to Wright. The first is how little we talk about heaven in any detail. It plays such a small role in how we think about the world, and is seldom a subject of the songs we sing as a church. We started singing On Jordan’s Stormy Banks as a church a couple years ago. As of now, I think this is the only song explicitly about heaven that we sing (and for that reason, we sing it regularly). The evangelical church in America has done a poor job of thinking about and envisioning heaven in the last century, instead turning over our responsibility to pop culture’s pie in the sky by and by theology (harps and clouds sold separately). We must reclaim this role, and inspire the imaginations of Christians. People need to see hope consistently before their eyes.
The second is how consistently we have divorced heaven and earth. When Isaiah and Revelation speak about heaven, it is regularly tied to earth. The picture given in both books is of heaven and earth being reunited – the earth being restored, the stain of sin and the fall being removed, and God’s presence once more filling the whole earth as His Temple, like a worldwide Garden of Eden. Repeatedly, the Old Testament proclaims that “the glory of Yahweh will fill the earth as the waters cover the sea” (Hab 2:14; cf. Num 14:21; Ps 72:19; Is 11:9; also Ex 40:34-35; Is 6:3). So the heaven we should envision is not an ethereal eternal home in the sky, but the place of God’s presence coming to earth.
We are taught by the Lord Jesus to pray for the Father’s kingdom to come on earth as it is in heaven. When is the last time we really focused on the joining together of the two realms of God’s kingdom? Heaven on earth, resurrection, new creation… these concepts come together in Scripture to present a future hope that inspired the Apostles to preach the gospel throughout the Roman Empire, through persecution and great suffering. It inspired the movement to abolish slavery. It inspired the modern missionary movement. Only when we understand the next life, can we lay this one down. Let’s start a movement in this generation to recapture the vision of the new heavens and the new earth, where God dwells with His people forever!