Monday, November 3, 2014

Big Picture: The Solution to all the Problems of Earth

Genesis 1:1 In the beginning God created the heavens and the earth.

The first verse of the Bible says in the beginning God created.  And the last verse of the Bible says:

Revelation 22:21 The grace of the Lord Jesus be with God’s people. Amen.

From the very beginning of time, space, reality itself in which we exist God the designer, the grand architect of energy and matter foresaw all that would happen.  He knew before his voice called the stars and planets into existence that a redeemer would be needed for a wayward mankind.

Does that mean that God forced man into sin so he would need a redeemer?  Most certainly not.  God paradoxically gave 100% free will, yet could also foreknow every decision that would be made.  Foreknowledge doesn't take away choice, why would it?  Just because my architect knows the choices I'll freely choose to make, doesn't mean that I'm any less free to make them.  

"Sin" is a taboo word, of course.  It conjures pictures of angry religious people condemning homosexuals to the hell fires.  But what is "sin"?  What does it mean?  Sin, the word, in it's simplest form would be a choice that hurts someone or something, instead of helping or being a neutral action.  A father raping his daughter would be a sin.  The girl will be traumatized for the rest of her life.  The "sin" will most likely have long term effects on that girl as she grows up.  She may become a prostitute or stripper, subconsciously concluding that her worth is found only and entirely in her sexual ability.  She may become a shadow of a person, lapse into depression and later commit suicide.  She might become a drug addict and overdose at age 37 in a crack house.  And as the Bible says, the sins of the father are passed on to the son.  People misinterpret that to think that a mean, cruel God punishes children for their parents mistakes.  Of course that's not the case.  What that verse does mean, is that when a father sins, very often his son will pick up on that behavior, start to duplicate it.  Consider the example of cigarette smoking.  Children of smoking parents are extremely likely to smoke later in life.  Thus it's passed on, generation to generation.  In the example of the girl raped by her father, she may in turn pass on that abuse to her children, and her children may then pass it on to their children.  Do you see how destructive "sin" is?

So then, if we're to be frank and honest and let the emotion behind the word "sin" wash away, we can start to see that our planet, our home of 7 billion people or so has a serious problem that can be summed up in one word: sin.  

Sin is doing the wrong thing when we know the right thing to do.  We're all guilty, every single one of us are guilty of adding to the problems of our home rather than helping.  Sometimes we do try to help.  But more often we've hurt people.  We've hurt family, friends, girlfriends, boyfriends, and ourselves.  It's frank, it's bare, it's not a fun truth, but I never said it would be easy.  But it is the truth.  
The media, the companies, foundations, organizations, political parties are always in such a frenzied search: Why is our world so troubled?  How can we solve it?  What's the problem?  Who is the enemy?  How do we deal with this financial crisis?  How do we deal with militants in the middle east?  How do we end such institutional corruption?  What about poverty?  How can we stop AIDS?  Is everything really getting better despite the evidence?

How often do we stop to see not the problems surrounding us, but the problems within us?  Forgive me for so many questions.  But often questions help us open up within our own assumptions.  

In the history of Earth found in Genesis we see the beginning of the problem in the temptation and fall of the first humans.  From there we can look to the historical texts of the Old Testament or to the written history of the world outside the Bible for evidence of the problem.  Oppressive power structures a plenty, wars and genocides.  One might expect these tragedies would become less and less frequent over the years, but as humanity began to gather into larger tribes and nations the wars only became that much more violent and brutal.  

The problem was clear.  Even under God's guidance and laws, the nation of Israel was unable to sustain a healthy love for truth and mercy.  One generation would return to the Lord, another would depart.  One can read through the histories of Chronicles, Kings, Samuel and see the problem very clearly.  One generation follows the laws, another generation does a 180 and worships idols.  Reminds me of 2 Chronicles 34:14-21:

14 While they were bringing out the money that had been taken into the temple of the Lord, Hilkiah the priest found the Book of the Law of the Lord that had been given through Moses. 15 Hilkiah said to Shaphan the secretary, “I have found the Book of the Law in the temple of the Lord.” He gave it to Shaphan.
16 Then Shaphan took the book to the king and reported to him: “Your officials are doing everything that has been committed to them. 17 They have paid out the money that was in the temple of the Lord and have entrusted it to the supervisors and workers.” 18 Then Shaphan the secretary informed the king, “Hilkiah the priest has given me a book.” And Shaphan read from it in the presence of the king.
19 When the king heard the words of the Law, he tore his robes. 20 He gave these orders to Hilkiah, Ahikam son of Shaphan, Abdon son of Micah,[a] Shaphan the secretary and Asaiah the king’s attendant: 21 “Go and inquire of the Lord for me and for the remnant in Israel and Judah about what is written in this book that has been found. Great is the Lord’s anger that is poured out on us because those who have gone before us have not kept the word of the Lord; they have not acted in accordance with all that is written in this book.”

The previous generation had gone so far from God that they had lost even the writings inspired by God!  When Josiah became King his men had to search for it and found it in the rubble!  This was God's nation on Earth, Israel, to be an example to the nations!  Incredible, truly incredible.

To understand the big picture of the Bible, the Book, the multifaceted message of Christianity one must first understand the need for redemption.  

God made man perfect.  Man chose a path of self-deification.  Man wanted to play god.  Today, 2014, is the resulting culmination of that disastrous choice.  The sin pile built up slowly from 6000 years ago, and now it's at it's height.  

The Bible beginning in Genesis describes God introducing man to the problem: trying to live outside of god.  

Early in the book of Job, the story of a man's suffering, Job prophetically spoke these words: "I know that my redeemer lives, and that in the end he will stand on the earth" (Job 19:25). 

During the story, the Old Testament God raised up his nation, Israel among the other nations to be his people.  If they would trust in him, have faith in him, and live by his laws, all would be well.  Israel could not do that however.  God foreknew that as well.  

We see the theme running through every book of the OT, of the need for a savior, a redeemer.  In books like Isaiah and Joel the coming savior was prophesized as coming to redeem Israel.  And he did.

The name of that savior is Jesus Christ.  In the New Testament are the four gospels, the eye witness accounts of the life, death, and resurrection of God himself, Jesus Christ, come to redeem his people.

The cure for sin, for the woes of planet Earth is Jesus Christ.  Why?

John 3:3 Jesus replied, “Very truly I tell you, no one can see the kingdom of God unless they are born again.[a]

On an individual, one on one basis, Jesus Christ redeems man.  Let's say Joe Trouble, our exibit A reads my blog and decides he wants to accept Jesus Christ as savior.  He's lived a normal human life, hurt some people, helped a few, but now he's found himself in a bit of a mess because life seems meaningless.  He welcomes Jesus Christ into his heart, his life, and as a result he is born again.  Assuming this is a legitimate conversion experience, at the moment he truly trusts and believes in Jesus he receives the Holy Spirit within and declared "sinless" in the eyes of God the Father.  He has his ticket in hand.  Regeneration is triggered by the presence of the Spirit and he begins to experience and embrace new motivations.  The Spirit works in his heart to begin the process of sanctification and he begins to be a blessing to the same world he was once a curse to.  

Joe now regularly donates to charity.  Joe helps his neighbor lady take out her garbage and recyclables.  Joe starts encouraging his coworkers.  Joe starts calling his mother once a week to see how shes doing.  

Do you see how one by one, person by person, the world changes through the transforming power of Jesus Christ?  No other religion can offer that.  All the others, Islam, Hinduism, Buddhism are all about pulling yourself up by your own bootstraps "just try harder" mentality.  "You've got to outweigh your bad deeds with good deeds" kind of life.  We've seen how well that works.  It simply doesn't.  

It is solely in Christ that the world is made better.  Of course the world doesn't want to hear that.  They can't hear that.  To be told "you are a sinner" is something no one wants to hear, no one.  Who can love the truth when it is so difficult?  It's a hard question to answer.  But God won't force anyone into his loving embrace.  He loves us too much.  He gives us the choice.  The gift of choice is so profound, so expansive, that there is no way we can understand it, because there is no way to comprehend not having a choice.  Without choice, one might as well be a computer, a calculator, or a bologna sandwich.  Even my dog has choices!  Though sometimes I wish he didn't.  

Do you understand?  Can you comprehend?  

I know I couldn't.  My ears closed at the word "sin" or "Jesus."  I could not face the truth.  I couldn't come to Jesus until I had nowhere else to go.  So be it.  The only thing that matters to me is that I came.  But only to Jesus.  No one other name answered.  

In the word of John Calvin: "We see that our whole salvation and all its parts are comprehended in Christ (Acts 4:12). We should therefore take care not to derive the least portion of it from anywhere else. It we seek salvation, we are taught by the very name of Jesus that it is "of him" (1 Cor. 1:30). If we seek any other gifts of the Spirit, they will be found in his annointing... if purity in his conception; if gentleness, it appears in his birth... if newness of life, in his resurrection... In short, since rich store of every kind of good abounds in him, let us drink our fill from this fountain, and from no other." 

The message of the Bible is first, the need for redemption from an internal brokeness, emptiness, lostness, and yes, sinfulness.  The message of the Bible is second, and most importantly, the free gift of justification, regeneration, sanctification offered in the perfect life, perfect death, and perfect resurrection of Jesus Christ our Lord.  

The answer to sin is not an idea, or a concept, but a person named Jesus Christ.  The key to completion is Jesus Christ.  The key to the endless problems of planet Earth is none other than Jesus Christ himself.  Because the key to solving the problems on Earth is not a problem outside ourselves, but a problem within ourselves.  The problem within is solved by Jesus Christ eternally, and the Holy Spirit presently.  The problem of the physical world, the environment, the political and economic chaos is found in the renewing of the universe itself by God the Father described in the last book of the Bible called Revelation (Rev. 22:1-5).  It is described like this:

Revelation 22:1-5 Then the angel showed me the river of the water of life, as clear as crystal, flowing from the throne of God and of the Lamb down the middle of the great street of the city. On each side of the river stood the tree of life, bearing twelve crops of fruit, yielding its fruit every month. And the leaves of the tree are for the healing of the nations. No longer will there be any curse. The throne of God and of the Lamb will be in the city, and his servants will serve him. They will see his face, and his name will be on their foreheads. There will be no more night. They will not need the light of a lamp or the light of the sun, for the Lord God will give them light. And they will reign for ever and ever.

Now this is not conceptual, or allegorical, but real.  It's actual, and it will physically, actually take place.  That is the great hope.  That is the great reality.  But God will not force anyone to take part in the renewing of our planet.  Those who through their lives choose to ignore and reject God's offer of community with him, will then be disconnected from God.  Admit it, it's the same thing you would do.  If you had a friend living in your house for 90 years, constantly mocking you, ignoring you, telling you that they don't need you or want you, disobeying all your house rules, hurting your kids, your wife, your husband, the other people in the house, that person would be gone way before 90 years was up.  I'd throw that person outside into the dark after about a week, probably less!  It's not so "mean spirited and judgmental" when we think about it from his perspective, is it?

From Genesis to Revelation, the Bible helps us identify the problem with ourselves, the illness, and then provides the free gift of the cure, the cure being Jesus Christ and his work.  If you don't know him, please begin to seek him out.  Pray to him, ask him to reveal himself.  If you do know him, congratulations!  That is a wonderful thing.  Choose happiness, despite the troubles you see around you.  Because you are greatly blessed and awaiting the renewal of all things in Christ Jesus.  Amen.

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Imagine a Perfect Universe: Genesis, Revelation, and the Cross of Jesus Christ
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What is God Like?
Pray for the World 
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