The Sensibility God

God is not who you and I think He is. He is who He says He is. What we think is inconsequential. We do not define Him, He defines Himself for us.

Remember this and stand firm, recall it to mind, you transgressors, remember the former things of old; for I am God, and there is no other; I am God and there is none like me…I have spoken, and I will bring it to pass; I have purposed, and I will do it” (Isa. 46:8-9, 11b).

Perhaps one of the biggest distortions in our view of God flows from our escalated view of humanity. We have such a high view of our ability to reason that we end up subjecting Him to our sensibilities instead of letting our sensibilities be shaped by His self-revelation. Have you ever said or heard somebody else say “I couldn’t believe in a God who ________.” This disease of the Western mind is one huge barrier to a real and impactful relationship with God. As long as we confine Him to our limited scope of understanding, we forego the transformative power which comes from knowing the Living God through Jesus Christ (cf. Isa. 6, 1 Cor. 1:18-25).

There are basically two ways that we redefine God according to our sensibilities. The first is by willful ignorance. The second is by over-dependance on subjective provision. Let me explore each since I am confident that all of us make these mistakes and need to be lovingly redirected.

1. Ignoring God’s Revealed Character Willfully
God has disclosed Himself supremely through His Son, Jesus Christ, who is one with Him and who was sent by Him (Jn. 10:30, Jn. 5:23, 36, 37). Jesus lived a sinless life (Heb. 4:15), died a sinner’s death (2 Cor. 5:21), and rose again conquering death and the grave (Hos. 13:14, Acts 2:31). He embodies God’s love, mercy, grace, justice, patience, might, and wisdom. We know Jesus through the work of God’s Spirit (1 Jn. 5:6) and through the Scriptures (Lk. 24:27) both working in conjunction. If we ignore Jesus Christ and the truths He taught, we willfully ignore God. If we embrace the Messiah, we enjoy forgiveness of our sins and joyful acceptance by God.

Those who do not accept these truths about Christ are certainly ignoring God. But how can those of us who are Christians willfully ignore Jesus? A few ways would be through 1) neglecting to spend time seeking Him through prayer and Bible study, 2) failing to fellowship with other believers, and 3) forgetting the gospel which reminds us of His great love. All of us must be cautious not to fall into these traps and instead we should continually be “looking to Jesus, the founder and perfecter of our faith…” (Heb. 12:2). The positive sides of the three failures I listed above all serve us in “looking to Jesus.” We don’t merely participate in personal devotion, church life, and preaching the gospel to ourselves as some religious exercises, but instead as the means God has given us to know our Savior more deeply and truly.

2. Putting Too Much Stock in Subjective Provision
It is all too easy to want God to do something for us now instead of being satisfied with all that He’s already done. Many of us are discontent because God isn’t coming through in some present circumstance in the manner which we expect. Maybe you’ve been frustrated because He isn’t letting you into the college you want to go to, you’re still single but want to be married, or you have been hunting for a job but still find yourself unemployed. Why is God holding out on you? If that’s the line of thinking you’ve slipped into, beware of idolatry. You don’t really want God, you just want His blessings. And yet, at great personal cost, He has ransomed you from death and granted eternal life. The objective provision that you need has already been freely given to you! What more could you ask for? There is enough joy and satisfaction in knowing the gospel of His grace. Even if He takes all of your relationships and possessions away, you still have Him forever and He is enough.

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Forgive me if my tone has come across as harsh. This has been a bit confrontational but that is not always bad. Sometimes we need a wake-up call though it may be unpleasant. Please know that I’m just as convicted by these things as you are. My prayer is that we would all ditch our sensibilities and look to Jesus to find out who God really is. Rely no more on your own capabilities to know God but instead trust in His revelation through Jesus Christ. May you find rich, gospel blessings as you do.

For His glory and fame,
Dustin

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Jesus is a Liberal Democrat

The provocative title for this post comes from a segment off of the satirical news program The Colbert Report. Take a moment to watch this 4-minute clip.

I delight in the fact that Colbert points out Jesus’ propensity to help the poor while He fails to lobby for a tax cut to the wealthiest 2% of Romans. In that sense He is a “liberal democrat.” He is unquestionably interested in the poor being provided for by the rich (Mt. 19:16-22). In fact, that is precisely why He came to earth: the wealthy King of the Universe gave up His wealth and status for His spiritually impoverished subjects thereby making them rich (2 Cor. 8:9). The error that the Left makes is to then assume that Jesus wants the government to mandate wealth redistribution. The Messiah certainly never advocates for that. He is interested in so affecting people’s hearts that giving their wealth away is natural and joyful. In God’s Kingdom, the government wouldn’t need to force its people to help the poor, the rich would do it anyway as they desire to emulate Christ. But alas! Our sinful condition keeps us from being like our Maker.

As you can probably tell, the disdain for the poor which comes from today’s Conservatives is troubling to me as a Christian. Fortunately there are a number of people, even the likes of Stephen Colbert, pointing out that modern, American conservativism is, in some ways, incongruent with Christ-exalting, Biblical faith. One inconsistency is the oversimplification which asserts that poverty is mainly the result of laziness. Now don’t get me wrong, Biblically speaking laziness is a cause of poverty. Proverbs 10:4 confirms it by saying “A slack hand causes poverty, but the hand of the diligent makes rich.” But, it’s grotesquely incoherent to broadly blame laziness for poverty when there are a host of other factors. For example, the Bible also identifies oppression as a cause of poverty (Prov. 22:16, Mk. 12:40, and Lk. 10:25-37). So God is just as opposed to the “job creators” who exploit their employees as He is to the poor person who’s manipulating the welfare system. As a result, Christians should be supporting legislation that makes manipulation – whether by the rich or by the poor – difficult while promoting aid to the needy and appropriate freedom to the entrepreneur.

Colbert makes a number of exceedingly strong points in this segment such as how Christ is unconditional in His sense of charity. The best one being his devastating and very accurate critique of right-wing Christianity:

Because if this is going to be a Christian nation that doesn’t help the poor either we’ve got to pretend that Jesus was just as selfish as we are or we’ve got to acknowledge that He commanded us to love the poor and serve the needy without condition and then admit that we just don’t want to do it.

That quote is spot on. The bottom line is that Christians need to be deeply compassionate towards the poor. There just isn’t a way to get around our call by God to be advocates for those suffering from lack of basic necessities. The Bible is overwhelmingly instructive for God’s people to be involved with the poor. The nuance comes when you ask the question: So how should we express that call? There are a myriad of ways. But at the very least, as a collective group, we need to make it abundantly clear to our nation that we are totally in favor of alleviating the suffering of the poor.

Let me wrap up by offering a few suggestions for us Christians as we consider how to relate to this particular political issue in our current, cultural setting:

1. Turn off the 24-hour news networks
Condition yourself to restrain exposure to channels like Fox News, MSNBC, CNN, and the like. Whatever your political alignment may be, develop it intelligently. The yahoos that rail on these shows fail to help us in that regard. They exist to push an agenda and to polarize. They’re a waste of our precious time. If we spend more hours in a day listening to voices on these networks than we do in prayer, fellowship, service, and time in God’s Word something is wrong. We will be much more content if we re-work our schedules and, as we grow more in Christ, we’ll become better citizens.

2. Understand that Jesus does not have a political party
Even though the title of this post is Jesus is a Liberal Democrat, I hope you’ve figured out that I don’t actually believe that. There is not one political party, candidate, or policy that embodies the politics of Christ. A huge take away point of the “render unto Caesar” passage, Matt. 22:15-22, is to demonstrate Jesus’ nuanced relationship to human government. Tim Keller, in his sermon Arguing About Politics (which I HIGHLY recommend you listen to), states that Jesus “resists political complacency, political primacy, and political simplicity.” He’s not inactive in political issues, he doesn’t seek political power, and he does not simply land in one political camp. Neither should His followers.

3. Focus on gospel proclamation and service
God does not intend for us to conquer America’s moral depravity through political means. Should you stand up for the truth? Of course. But you stand up against sin by first bending low and serving sinners. Practical service is our avenue into people’s lives which gives us opportunities to tell them the good news. The gospel is the matter “of first importance” and we witness to it through word and deed. When people are touched by God’s grace in your service and proclamation of the gospel then things will change. Hearts will be revived and God will be glorified as the Spirit moves.

May God richly bless our nation through the presence of His Church as we witness to both His holiness and His unfathomable grace.

For His glory and fame,
Dustin

Morality Can’t Save

There are a number of voices today heralding a powerless gospel: the morality gospel. It goes something like, “I don’t really know about Jesus or faith or sin or anything like that. But, I know that God wants us to live a good life by being nice to our neighbors and non-judgmental.” While this sounds appealing on the surface, there is no way to demonstrate that God would be pleased by that kind of lifestyle.

And yet this sounds like such an agreeable way to live. Why won’t God be pleased by such a simple, moralistic lifestyle? Let me answer in three parts.

1. Without Christ’s intervention we are under God’s wrath not His favor
Romans 5:18 states plainly that “one trespass led to condemnation for all men.” Without a shift in our relationship with God, we all start out in danger of being served God’s justice. Things are not okay between us and God until Christ enters the picture and removes God’s wrath. But He only removes it for those who are united with Him in His death and resurrection. We see it later in Romans with the glorious promise of chapter 8 verse 1: “There is therefore now no condemnation for those who are in Christ Jesus.

2. Our good deeds do not please God
The natural passage to turn to is Isa. 64:6 which reads, “We have all become like one who is unclean, and all our righteous deeds are like a polluted garment.” In and of ourselves we cannot be selfless. Our attempts to be charitable are stained by an insatiable desire for recognition. We are incapable to “do good for goodness’ sake” precisely because when we do good our goal is to be worshiped. Since our attempts at sacrificial love are selfish, God cannot be pleased by them.

3. Our self-righteousness robs us of our need for God’s mercy
If we could attain the righteousness which God requires all by ourselves we would not be in need of His charity. What makes God so loving is our desperate need for pardon. If we were not in need of that mercy how would we ever know that He loved us? We are only capable of grasping His love because He had to make such a radical sacrifice for us to be saved. And when we do grasp that, we are finally free to show His love to others.

The bottom line is this: our morality is utterly incapable of saving us from God’s righteous retribution. He is a just judge who must punish wrongdoing. How could He do otherwise? Either Jesus was punished for our sins or we will be punished for them, but payment must be made.

If you have succumbed to the idea that living a “good life” will keep you in God’s good graces, then please hear my plea. He will not see your good deeds because sinful condition has so profoundly tainted them. Know that Christ has lived your “good life” and died your death so that God may be pleased with you. And for those who are in Christ, be assured He is exceedingly pleased with you! As a father delights in his child, as a groom delights in his bride, as a king delights in his people, in all of these ways God richly delights in you. Respond to His jealous love with profound gratitude and supreme devotion.

May you ditch all efforts to save yourself and be wholly satisfied with all that God has done for you in Christ Jesus!

For His glory and fame,
Dustin