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Monday, September 15, 2014

158. WE ARE CALLED TO BE LIKE GOD, NOT JUST DIFFERENT FROM SOMEONE ELSE

Can we get so caught up in ourselves that we lose sight of Jesus?

The radio was on Sunday morning, and someone was teaching a lesson from Matthew 7. The program may have been going on awhile, but when I began listening, the speaker was on Matt. 7:15-20 .... false prophets. These were said to be those who attracted attention to themselves and spent time at one location until they were discovered, and then they moved on to somewhere else to spread their error. One can tell they are false prophets because of their fruit -- they always cause division in the body.

On to verses 21-23 - "Not everyone who says to me, 'Lord, Lord' shall enter the kingdom of heaven, but only those who do the will of my Father in heaven." These "Lord, Lord" people were those who called on the Lord while doing all these showy things on TV - like supposedly healing people and falling down and all the other sensory overloads getting people excited and just saying, "Lord, Lord" with no substance. No one particular name was mentioned, but the description given just happened to fit a certain TV evangelico-personality pretty well. Let's not refer to a real name, but, just to have a name, we'll call him Henny Benn. So, now, we have Henny going "Lord, Lord" and supposedly driving out demons and working miracles, like the passage says, but he and those of similar ilk will hear "depart from me" from Jesus, also like the passage says.
 

This is a classic application of these scriptures from groups who genuinely want to interpret the scriptures in a respectful, conservative, "literal" manner. I grew up in such an environment and am still part of a group coming from that tradition. But that approach is an example of misdirected applications that come from an immature understanding of the foreordained plan of God. Up until a few years ago, I wouldn't have recognized it as such.

First of all, if we are going to be recognized by our fruit, what might that be? How about the fruit of transformation -- of fulfilling the foreordained plan of God? How about the true righteousness and holiness of God (Eph. 4:24)? How about the growth of the church into the maturity of the full knowledge of Christ (Eph. 4:12-16)? How about the love of God? Jesus said we will be known as His disciples by our love one for another. But how does growing in love and maturity include judging other people's efforts in the name of Jesus and claiming that Jesus is going to tell them to "get lost?" Is that "tough love?"

But surely we would not promote the fruit of false judgment of others and division. So, who is crying "Lord, Lord?" Could it be people who compare themselves to other people in such a way that they, themselves, look better? Is that saying, "Lord, Lord, look at me -- isn't it a good thing I am in the good fruit category and not like that Henny Benn person making such a fuss over himself?" Hmmm. Wasn't there a parable about that -- publican, Pharisee, or canusee, or something.

What would the foreordained plan of God have to say about some parts of the body of Christ calling other parts "unclean." Even if they are, that's for God to determine, not us. Even if I think God's word is being clearly applied to "them," that is according to my interpretation, which precludes the possibility that the lesson applies to me even more. I also have my sights on a human fallible standard rather than the righteousness of God. If I can just better than Henny Benn, in the estimation of the wonderfulness of my very own self, then he is saying "Lord, Lord," but I'm not?

What is the approach that we are supposed to take? Let us show the results of following the foreordained plan of God. Let us show what it looks like to have eyes on Jesus and to be running the race toward Him. Show the world what the standard looks like - what it looks like to be devoted to being transformed into Jesus Christ - and the Holy Spirit can convict the world of any differences. Let us testify to the manifold wisdom of God, which is His plan for the church (Eph. 3:10).

"Well, you're just saying that Henny Benn is okay and that God is happy with him and he represents the truth and you're verifying a false prophet and ....." No, we are saying that we need to keep our eyes on Jesus and represent the truth and grow into the maturity of Christ and the righteousness of God or else we will fall away. We need to testify to the wisdom of plan of God and nothing else and let the Holy Spirit do the identifying and convicting, or else we will be crying "Lord, Lord" ourselves. We need to be "doing the will of the Father" according to His foreordained plan, by which He laid out the predestined way we become like Him. It is God's will that we give our attention to being like Him, not different from Henny Benn.

If we claim that we know what the plan of God is about, then why do we take the lesser road that falls so short of the will of God?

It's taken me some years to understand this message, which is a reflection of how our background reinforces our preconceptions. Years ago, I happened onto a TV channel broadcasting the show of the evangelico-performer previously referenced in an oblique manner. I was complaining to God about the outrage before my eyes, asking Him how He could allow such a poor representation of the church. In response, I sensed some words coming into my thoughts that went something like this. "I can handle (Henny Benn), and I can do it without your help, thank you very much! You just give your attention to the things I have told you to do!"

Let's do that.  And by God's help, we will (Heb. 6:3)


Friday, September 5, 2014

157. GOD DESIGNED THE PLAN FOR US, BUT CREATED US FOR THE PLAN

we speak of God’s secret wisdom, a wisdom that has been hidden and that God destined for our glory before time began. (1 Cor. 2:7)

Everything in Creation submits to the foreordained plan of God
Does the foreordained plan of God, made before creation of space, matter, energy, and time, submit itself to our human definition? Do we get to make interpretations of the scripture and say that we understand the mind of God? Do we get to make human doctrines that undermine the spiritual body of Christ - the church? If so, then we create a false god in our own image, because that image is not God. No, that image is the walls of the inside of a box, because that is what we have created for ourselves. It's what we sometimes call ... "the church building." 

No, we are the created. We and the rest of creation were made to fulfill the predestined plan of God, not the other way around. We only understand about the plan of God from the scripture; we understand the nature of the plan more fully when we undertake our part of it - when we as individuals through the mechanism of the church, the united body of Christ, grow to be like God in true righteousness and holiness (Eph. 4:24). This is a mystery -- the plan was designed for us, but we were created for the plan, and God is sovereign over everything.

Revelation and cessationism do not mix

Has revelation ceased? Did revelation stop when the last book of the Bible was written or when it was admitted to the canon? If so, then how is the body going to grow up into the full knowledge of Christ? It is the church's job to grow into perfection and take all members of the body with it in the process - and in so doing proclaim to the world the manifold wisdom of God's plan (Eph. 3:10).

Anyone who says that they or their group understands all of the mind of God are self-deceived and only babble foolishly. Has the Holy Spirit finished His work? If so, then we are in even bigger trouble. The Holy Spirit guides into all truth, but truth is not divided into different human opinions. The truth may have been revealed through Christ, but Jesus poured out the Holy Spirit (Acts 2:33) so that the church could reveal Christ to the world by its unity of mind and purpose (John 17:21-23, Phil. 2:2)
Because you do not know Scripture or the power of God (Matt. 22:29)
Does our story of redemption start in the Garden of Eden? Is our God-story the redemption from sin and its consequence of spiritual death through the blood of Jesus? Is our redemption the same as the predestined plan of God? Is our redemption from the sin introduced by Adam the story of the love that God has for us? Is that why it was predestined that Jesus would come into the world and die for our sins -- so we would not be lost eternally?

What if the response to all of the questions posed above had to be either "Yes" or "No?" What if it were suggested that the best answer was "No?" How many believers would be upset by that? "No" might be the best response to inadequate questions.
One reason why we do not have more answers concerning the nature of God and what we, and the church, are supposed to doing is that we don't ask the correct questions. The answers are there, but in many cases our own human limitations are enhanced by pride keep our questions "within the box" that we ourselves have created. Even worse, is when we think we already have all the answers, or when we think we really shouldn't be so presumptuous as to be asking questions. If this is the case, what does the passage on "Ask, seek, and knock" mean? (Matt. 7:7-12)
The questions in a previous paragraph are an example of inadequate questions - it's more than the answer being "No." They are not valid questions. All the questions ask the wrong thing. Why? Because they are based on the wrong presumption. Why? Because we continue to recycle the incomplete thinking of the past instead of searching for a greater understanding of the revelation of God. Science searches for the revelation of God in the things He has made (Rom. 1:20), although science usually doesn't say it that way. In this respect, science does a more rigorous job than Christians do when they search through the written Word for a greater understanding of the revelation of God.

Paul clearly states that the foreordained plan of God was made before the creation and before time - which means before the Big Bang and the universe and humans and Adam and Eve and sin. Everything in that instant of creation was made to fulfill the plan of God according to His predestined will.
 

A Fall?
So, let's think about that one. Does that mean God planned for mankind to fall on its face and be bound for hell in separation from God? Was mankind rebellious to the plan of God as the Garden story has been interpreted? Did God plan for Man to fail so that God could redeem him, or did God make a mistake and have to bail Himself out of it?

Did God show His love by sending Jesus to die for our sins? Wasn't the love of God displayed in creation? Wasn't the love of God displayed in the predestined plan he had for our perfection - made before the world was created? Jesus existed before creation, and He was the plan before time began. Christ is the same yesterday, today, and tomorrow, so God's love hasn't changed - just our understanding of it. We understand more as we grow in the love of God ourselves.

Have we disrespected God by ascribing human character to Him even in our attempt to relate to and understand better the plan of God. We need to ask the right questions that reveal more of the nature of God instead of imposing our nature upon God. We try to explain things retrospectively from recordings of history made by people who wrote according to their own understanding of the limited revelation God had given up to that time. Our retrospective analysis is, itself, limited to human thinking. Yet, we piece things together, fill in the gaps, and make doctrines out of the results.

Doctrinus fossilacious
I used to be amused at how much imagination could go into a reconstruction of an early hominid evolutionary ancestor, when an entire creature could be shown walking around with facial features and everything -- all from a discovery of some bone fragments and a tooth. A picture of the proposed skull features would show the small actual fossil parts that had been found with the rest of the image being a clay reconstruction. Wow - some artist sure filled in a lot of gaps. How misleading! Bad, bad! Oh, really? How about a log in the eye?

How many times have Christians taken fragments of scripture and filled in the rest with the clay of imagination into the formation of a fossilized doctrine? How many times have such doctrines been represented as gospel truth instead of traditional interpretations. How many churches have brother (sister) Australopithecus afarensis walking through their liturgical corridors? Maybe he (she) wrote the material for the sermon.

We make a human retrospective analysis of incomplete data from the Old Testament (hey! Paul said so!) and come up with interpretations and doctrines that supposedly represent the mind of God - when He prospectively created the universe as it had been predestined according to His foreordained plan. And then Christians dare to form groups that practice squatters rights over the different human traditional interpretations, as if they were in themselves inspired, and competitively defend their territory at the expense of unity in the body of Christ!

Instead of continuing the search for truth as revealed by the Spirit, do we stop searching for the revelation of God's character and of His will for us and start protecting what we think we have because our finite human capacity for understanding God is easily saturated?

In this respect of a continual search for new knowledge, Paul said that the church has the Spirit of God (Eph. 2:22), the Holy Spirit that guides into all truth. Why then is the church falling behind the world in discovering new knowledge by science and technology? Why are so many of these new technological discoveries being used for the advancement evil purposes? Because the church is falling behind in its influence -- in its guidance and example of a moral ethic growing into the character of God. The complexity of the world's need is growing faster than the church's capacity to supply the answer, because the church is too busy dividing - with the fragments protecting themselves from one another.

The church is busy preaching "the gospel," but the gospel it proclaims is basically that Jesus came to free us from the Old Law. This is evidenced by the fact that now we are free, we respond by making up some new rules -- the steps to salvation, how to keep your salvation, the way to avoid hell, do and say this and this every Sunday, now lead a good Christian life and hope you're good enough to get saved (if your good deeds outweigh your bad ones). We give ourselves away by what we do. We need to stop protecting and start furiously searching for God, because the gospel of the foreordained plan of God is much greater than what the church is proclaiming. The preaching of the church is inadequate because our understanding is too human-based and inadequate.
Note also that the questions in the earlier paragraph are directed toward revealing the negative - what is wrong - what is bad - what is "sin," as a straw man for setting up the remedy. Man rebelled; Man sinned; Man was bad. Therefore, God had to redeem what His creation (yes, that creation He called "very good" in Gen. 1:31) had gone and fouled up. We sure did place God in a bad position. So now we have to keep identifying the sin - the Fall - the depravity. But that is what the Old Law did - the Law pointed out sin. Jesus did away with that so we could put all that behind us and be free to become like God. Jesus made a new creation, not just patched up the old one. We are not to be focusing on escaping our past; we are growing into our future. Redeemed from what? From the Old Law of sin and death. Redeemed for what? To become like God. As worthy as it might seem, celebrating our redemption from the past is still squandering time that should be spent becoming like God. Jesus came so that we could be like Him, not that we might just escape the Old Law.

Jesus saved us from sin. Shall we now fall short of the glory of God by spending our time glorifying our escape from the past instead of becoming our future in the glory of God? Falling short of the glory of God is sin (Rom. 3:23). So did Jesus cleanse us from sin so that we could continue in sin of a different type? (Rom. 6:1-2). Most Christian doctrines today define sin as an action of doing something bad, i.e., committing sin. Like, we are okay as long as we are really careful not to mess up too badly? Oh? That's so Old Testament! What is it called if we continuing in immaturity instead of growing into the fullness of Christ - being renewed into the image of the Creator? What is falling short in that area called? It is called "falling away" (Heb. 5:11-6:12). That is the sin of the New Testament. Sometimes infants die because of a condition called "failure to thrive" -- meaning they fail to mature properly. Is the church of today showing signs of "failure to thrive?"

When God's plan is preeminent, things of human origin come into submission

When the foreordained plan of God has its proper preeminence over everything in the universe, including interpretations of scripture and the resulting doctrines, many discussions of human importance take a position of submission to the perspective of being with God, in unity with the character of God, and in fellowship with God for eternity - all according to the predestined will of God. The following subjects are examples:

The Fall, the Fall of Man, the Fall of Adam, the Sin of Adam, the Fallen Nature, Human Depravity, the Fallen World.

A preoccupation with discussions about the nature of Hell, particularly in the American churches - eternal torment, conditional, redemptive, annihilation, other.

Physical manifestations of the Spirit - spiritual gifts, speaking in tongues, "strange fire" or not, "miracles."
Justification - a la John Piper and N.T. Wright; redemption as salvation; preaching justification as the basis for the gospel.
The interpretation of Genesis 1-3, the creation account. The Young Earth Creationist vs.evolution. Is Darwinism correct? Let's worry about the public school science textbooks.
What is a "literal" interpretation of the scripture? Is this interpretation approach applied consistently to all passages?

Doctrines of predestination, once saved always saved, if saved always saved; depravity, election, falling from grace; Calvinism vs. Arminianism; TULIP or one-lip?

Current issues of elevated social importance and media attention - women's roles in the church, gay marriage, divorce and remarriage, abortion, "rights" of the individual.

Human tradition, protocol, liturgy, procedure, pomp and circumstance; feigning an acceptance by God by using physical, human symbols of authority.

Competition over limited resources; ownership of physical materials, square footage, real estate; preservation for self-perpetuation; crowd-count, group hysteria, sensory auditory and visual overload in the name of worship.

Anything that separates or divides the body of Christ, church organization or hierarchy or offices or names or labels, all from works of the flesh - pride, selfish ambition, greed. Understanding what "maintaining the unity of the Spirit in the bond of peace" means. (Eph. 4:3)

Present views of a "historical Jesus" in worship services, the Lord's Supper, devotionals, sermons, and holidays.

Celebrity preachers elevated to the status of published idolatry; non-celebrity preachers elevated to the same status, but with a more local sphere of attention.

An immature understanding of the work of the church in the world; recycling human immaturity instead of growing into the fullness of Christ (Heb. 6:1-3).

Identifying the real definitions of "evangelical" and "missional."

An understanding of the times -- if the church does not recognize, repent, and change, the discipline of God is rapidly approaching. When the signs are such that even the folks into self-protection and self- perpetuation recognize them, it will be too late. Then, those responsible will blame everybody else, just like they do now.

Concerns, discussions, debates, and divisions over topics such as the above, and many more, take on a very different perspective when placed within the context of why God created the universe and what we are supposed to be doing with all of our power and energy supplied by the Holy Spirit.

Some of these topics fade into unimportance. Others we might discuss while we help one another travel toward the fullness of Christ at the fastest possible rate. That is, if we have enough time left over to spend on that.

Making issues out of the above subjects necessitates a retrospective view of the Old Covenant - either dragging physical requirements of function necessary to satisfy doctrine, protocol, dress, liturgy, or entrance into membership or making the entire point of the sacrifice of Jesus doing away with the Old Law's requirements. Most of the time, it is a combination of the two - emphasizing our escape from condemnation of the Law, but, at the same time, carrying along some of the legalistic trappings for the ride to the church services.

Everything in creation, from the first instant of the Big Bang until now, was predestined to point toward God, and by the predetermined purpose of God it is still pointing, and it will continue to point to God until Jesus comes to claim His own. God did not set up the Old Law only to declare it inadequate. The Old Law was adequate for a period and for the social and religious maturity of the people of that day. It was inadequate compared to the covenant under Christ. God has a designed purpose for the Old Law to fulfill. God's purpose in the death and resurrection of Jesus was greater than redemption from the condemnation under the Law. Jesus poured out the Holy Spirit on all people according to the Promise of the Father for a reason. This reason was predestined and foreordained and pointed to God -- that we should be transformed into the likeness of God in true righteousness and holiness as the church is being perfected into the fullness of Christ.

What if we continue to fall short of the plan of God for our glory?

therefore I do not run like someone running aimlessly; I do not fight like a boxer beating the air. (1 Cor. 9:26)

So, what happens when we cannot see the perfect plan of God? In politics it might be called a "backlash"; in weather it might be an "inversion"; in the stock market it is a "correction" (if that doesn't do it, then a recession, a depression, or a crash); in sports it might be a "slump" or a "losing streak"; in nature it is called "entropy" (maybe extinction); in scripture it might be called "reaping the corruption from sowing to the flesh"; in the church it is called "the discipline of God." There are consequences to falling short of the glory of God. Not just missing the bulls-eye -- but not even making it to the target.

Headed for a target is not necessarily the same as heading for the target - there is only one plan of God - no substitutes. Heading for a target that is substandard might generate some spiritual power, but it is much less than the promise of the Spirit associated with pursuing the real target - the truth of the foreordained plan of God for the church. The "system" seems to be designed so that, in order to overcome evil with good, the church has to operate at a higher efficiency doing good than the world doing evil. If the world operates at 70% efficiency, the church will have to operate at >70% to have a net positive effect. If the church has the wrong target in sight, its highest possible efficiency might be reduced to only 50%, in which case the church would be falling behind and coming more and more under the control of the world. And, all the while, the church fragments are thinking they are doing the very best they can - work harder, work longer, try harder to obey the rules - why do we still fall further behind? Well, go figure. Try to look through the Spirit from the eternal mind of God rather than the temporal product of human doctrine and see the foreordained plan of God - out of which the universe was created and predestined. The only way for the church to overcome evil with good is to get with the perfect plan of God and, in love, peace, and unity, race forward at maximum efficiency into the fulness of the Lord Jesus Christ. It's either overcome or be overtaken.

The signs of what is coming are already on the horizon (Matt. 24:33). How long can they be blissfully ignored?

Are we forgiven for missing the target? Does God still love us? Does God love and forgive the church for seeking its own human opinions over unity in the Spirit? Of course! But God disciplines as sons those whom he loves so that they will not be brought along with the world into judgment by God's righteousness, but that instead they may share in His holiness (Heb. 12:4-11). We do not escape God's discipline now so that we will escape God's wrath later. What then, is the price to pay for our falling short (sin)? The church fails to grow into perfection and we as members fail to grow into the image of the Creator. Because our rate of maturation is slower than the rate of development of evil in the world, evil is not being overtaken with good (Rom. 12:21), but the opposite is occurring - with predictable consequences just like the children of Israel (1 Cor. 10:1-13).

Does being included with "the elect" give anyone a sense of entitlement - so that if we just maintain the doctrine the church has at this point everything will be okay? The exhortations in scripture to the First Century Christians to "hang in there" and to "remain faithful to the end" and to "persevere with patience" (found especially in epistles of Hebrews, John, Peter, Jude, Revelation) were written as encouragement to people undergoing acute physical and social persecution. These messages were not written to Christians who lived in protected social affluence and who drove their new chariots to a large physical edifice every Sunday. Some of those early Christians had been geographically scattered because of persecution. Today, it might be more like encouraging those Christians who are fleeing ISIS by leaving their homes and going to hide on a mountain (Matt. 24:16-18).

To what extent do Christians act as though their salvation rested on a specially tailored list of their very own accomplishments? Can we develop a complacency of self-assurance that comes from meeting our own self-defined standards that are based more on human doctrine from private interpretations of scripture than on the true righteousness of God? This would be like developing a standardized test to supposedly validate a weak educational curriculum that is developed to be biased toward a group of people or some esoteric goal. People pass the test and get course-certified, but they are unprepared to function in the world, because neither the course nor the test pointed to the genuine truth.

To what extent does the Western church live in a world of wonderland where the church exists comfortably only by fragmentation into little parts housed inside a box of self-deception clothed with pious liturgical robes?

That sounds somewhat cynical, harsh, and iconoclastic, Jeremiah! If only it were! One has to believe a delusion to think that God's discipline for the church will not soon happen. In fact, the discipline should be expected to be even harder on the prideful and self-righteous to bring them to repentance.












Sunday, August 24, 2014

156.  IS THE CHURCH TODAY “OF NOBLE CHARACTER?”

Now the Bereans were of more noble character than the Thessalonians, for they received the message with great eagerness and examined the Scriptures every day to see if what Paul said was true. Acts 17:11

Hasn’t this passage been held up as an ideal for us to emulate in our study of the Bible?  Don’t we want to be of “noble character?”  Of course!  Once I was prideful because of my faithfulness in exercising the discipline of this passage.  When I heard someone else’s doctrinal views, I received that message with great suspicion, and I re-examined the Scriptures to be sure that my different interpretations was still true.  I would pray, “Lord, give me an open mind.”  And, over and over again, I proved the truth of my geocentric view of God and His revelation through creation and the Word – always confirming to myself the correctness of my preconceived interpretations.  I knew that those sorts of errors in doctrine happened –because that’s what those other stubborn people did. 

The Bereans were receiving new revelation from Paul about the foreordained plan of God, which completed and gave meaning to the Old Testament scriptures and prophecies of things to come.  They did not crouch, growl, and protect their previous doctrines from the Old Covenant, but they received the new message of salvation with great eagerness and anticipation.  It was out of this eagerness that they searched the Scriptures - probably more with a sense of joy and expectation than suspicion and protection of preconceived interpretations.  The Bereans were of more noble character because they did not place themselves in the center of their own thinking.  The Bereans saw an opportunity to get beyond themselves and their established preconceptions handed down from the Old Testament.  The Bereans did not examine the Old Testament to find something wrong with Paul’s message and to protect their institutionalized doctrinal beliefs, so they wouldn’t have to change.

Our situation is a little different from the Bereans. 

In the Western Christian part of the world, we have the completed revelation of God - it has been given, taught, written down, translated, printed, widely published, distributed, and readily available.  We don’t have to hear this revelation for the first time and update our understanding of the Old Law.  We can start with the completed revelation and then see how the Old Testament and everything else in creation fit into that.  But, how noble a character do we display in doing that?   Do we search the Scriptures to see if our preconceived interpretations are true under the scrutiny of discovery, knowledge, and thinking - being led into all truth by the Holy Spirit?  Or, do we form and protect doctrines insulating our traditional teachings of patented methods to get to the truth and be saved? 

Could we have so much doctrinal pride and institutional history at risk that we would never admit that things like the following could fall far short of the mark of the glory of God revealed to us in Christ Jesus? 

How about ....
..condemning those who haven’t been appropriately water baptized according to a specifically approved protocol,
..structuring “God-ordained” higher authority of some humans over others,
..using the doctrine of the Fall of Man to set up salvation by Jesus “or else you fry,”
..setting up the “have’s and have-not’s” by divine predestination and “once in locked in,”
..clinging to an insistence - unsupportable by science or scripture - that God zapped the world into existence over a 6day x 24hr continuous period in 4004 BC, 

..insisting on certain approved external manifestations of the Spirit to prove one's worthiness of salvation,
..or a bizillion other human interpretations?

Can’t Christians see that the plan of God, made before the creation of the world and predestined for our glory, absolutely and totally precludes all of these human constructions?  It is God’s foreordained will that we should be transformed into His likeness in true righteousness and holiness (Eph. 4:24) – into the image of the Creator (Col. 3:10).  Everything must point to that goal; if something does not, then it is a distraction and an idol.

How can we afford to stop, camp, circle the wagons, and protect our doctrinal baggage instead of keeping on the narrow path upward toward God?  The Holy Spirit will guide into all truth (John 16:13), but we have to do the searching and asking for it to be opened to us.  Ask, seek, knock (Matt. 7:7-8).  No need to seek for answers if you don’t have any questions.  If we already have all the answers, let’s just arrogantly inform the Holy Spirit of what the truth is!  How noble of character is that?  Sure, God’s revelation is complete, but that doesn’t mean our understanding of it is complete.

Could the Holy Spirit say that the Bereans of the 1st century were of more noble character than the church of the 21st century, because the Bereans eagerly searched the Scriptures to learn of the revelation of God, whereas the 21st century Christians divided up into competing tribal groups who couldn’t bring themselves to be in unity and fellowship because those other groups didn’t hold to the same human traditional interpretations of Scripture? 

The Bereans made a choice, just like the Thessalonians made a choice, and just like we make a choice.  The Bereans were of noble character because of the Godly choice they made – what type of character does today’s divided church proclaim by the choices it is making?

...that all of them might be one, Father, just as you are in me and I am in you.  May they also be in us so that the world may believe that you have sent me.  John 17:21

Wednesday, May 7, 2014

155.  PEERING INTO THE LOOKING GLASS -- IT'S TIME TO GET REAL

The church must get real and stop seeing a reflection created from what it wants to see instead of what the world sees (and what God sees).

"Mirror, mirror, on the wall, who's the most spiritual of them all?"

"Oh, you already know the answer, church -- it's you, just like always.  Just gaze upon thyself ... property owners, big buildings, multi-campuses, good credit ratings, big debt, no debt; brand names of posted propriety, publicized positions of pompousity, postulated propensity for prosperity, published pundits of grandiosity; the bigot never be, nor the hypocrite in thee; for thou shalt rise to e-e-ter-nit-e-e, in the lofty spires of thy humble abode."

Hmmm.  That's a bit over the top, isn't it?  Maybe, maybe not.  How could we know?  What is the image of Jesus Christ that the church thinks it is proclaiming to the world?  What is the image the church has of itself?  Consider that the church expresses its own self-image in sermons that are preached, in what is written, by what is proclaimed in the media (that Christians control) ... essentially, this painted image represents the confession of the Lord Jesus Christ -- this is what Jesus looks like to the church.  And when the church peers into the looking glass to see the reflection of itself, this image is what is "seen" (or, perceived).  That's another way of saying when the church sees itself, it sees an illusion that has been self-created.
  
How would one describe the reflected image?  Is it an image of a set of moral standards?  What does the church hold as the high standard for Christians to meet?  Is it complete?  Can't require too much -- if the standard is too high, some cafeteria-style Christians may go to a more seeker-friendly establishment to choose their dietary milky doctrine. 

There's the old joke -- He said, "The church is full of hypocrites."  She said, "Yeah, that's right.  So, why don't you join us - you'd fit right in."  While that little cutie comeback may be true, it doesn't address the observation.  Could the church be operating below the glory of God, so that it is falling short of God's purpose, while believing the lie of self-congratulatory denial that comes from the flesh and not the Spirit?  It would seem from the "joke" that the church admits to a certain level of mediocrity.  The church is supposed to be full of people being transformed into the likeness of God and putting hypocrisy and other forms of fleshly conduct behind them.  The church wouldn't have to be concerned with answering name-callers if the church were being renewed and transformed to the max.  Names wouldn't stick because those former ways have been left behind -- out of date, no longer relevant. (1 Pet. 3:16)

Does the church have a transparent ceiling of expectation for itself that limits goals to only those that are incomplete, lacking and just plain wimpy?  What is the picture of Jesus (and of the church's concept of itself) that is painted in Bible study materials? (This is used just as a source of a description of how the church sees itself, not as a format to criticize Bible materials.)  What is the image of Jesus that the church holds up for itself?  It is the same image that the church sees when it looks into the mirror using rose-colored glasses.  This is the Jesus that the body of Christ so graciously allows to be called its "head."  (You heard that right).

The image portrayed is one of a theoretical Jesus, a theological concept of Jesus, an intellectual concept about Jesus, a historical Jesus.

As mentioned above, the church provides its own evidence that it fulfills its missional goals by holding up an intellectual description of a perfect, powerful, historical Jesus -- born into the world, sacrificed for us while perfect and holy, resurrected in power, ascended to God having all authority.  Yes! -- preach it, brother, proclaim it, celebrate it!  That's easy to say.  Now what?  Now, let us stand and be dismissed and go home.  

An example (and, again, for illustrative purposes only):

Sending Bible materials home for family study is a good thing, but does the message conveyed by the materials rise up out of the confines of a box of self-created images of Jesus and the self-view of the church?

The following paragraphs contain actual quotes extracted from one week of a daily study devotional guide published as part of an integrated curriculum.  The source isn't given, because this is not intended as a criticism of this publication or of the writer.  That is not the point -- this material is only used as a representation of current, good conservative Christian thinking. 
"The devotions for this week point us to the truth about Jesus, the Light of the World."  

Monday.  "People have often tried to demand a sign from God."  "God is real and He is all-powerful, but He doesn't usually respond to the demand for a sign."  "God has already given us a sign of absolute proof.  Jesus' resurrection is the ultimate sign that God is real and that He is all-powerful (Matt. 12:40).  How does the resurrection of Jesus give you certainty about who God is and why you should serve him?"
Fact:  Jesus is the ultimate sign from God.
 
Tuesday.  "Christianity unashamedly claims that forgiveness of sin and eternal life are found in Jesus alone; all other religions are imposters, little more than distortions of God's truth."  "Jesus was clear that faith in Him makes all the difference.  What did Jesus say is the result of believing or not believing in Him (John 5:24).  How would you respond to someone who says that all religions are equally true?"
Fact:  Jesus alone gives eternal life.

Wednesday. "Was Jesus just a good man?  No.  Jesus was not just a good man and He didn't leave that as an option for us."  "The only other option is that what He said was true, and everything in His life backs up His claim.  As you pray today, praise Jesus for His greatness."
Fact:  Jesus is Lord!

Thursday.  "How can two people read the same article and come to such different conclusions?  It's because they have radically different worldviews."  "How could you help someone understand why you see the world the way you do?"
Fact:  The Bible is the lens through which we see the world.

Friday.  "When Jesus warned about false teachers, He called them wolves in sheep's clothing (Matt. 7:15).  "Part of their ruse is trying to sound like believers."  "This means that just because someone says he or she is preaching Jesus doesn't mean that person is actually preaching the truth about Jesus.  What truths about the biblical Jesus are found in Col. 1:15-20?"  "What difference does it make what one believes about Jesus?  Do you need to adjust your view of Jesus?"
Fact:  True teachers teach the true Jesus
What's wrong with what is said above?  Basically, nothing.  The message is based on scripture; it is sound teaching; it teaches about Jesus, the Light, the Resurrection, and the Truth.  It is good, conservative, Biblical teaching that is representative of Christians who hold the Bible as the inspired word of God and Jesus as the Son of God and our Lord and Savior.  It is mainstream Christianity; it is core teaching; it is conventionally accepted.  And that is regrettable, because that infinitely amplifies the problem.

The problem is so subtle that it is easy to miss.  It is easy to miss what is not said.  It's easier to analyze something that is "there" than detect what is "not there."

The church today, and Christians within the church, particularly in the Western cultures, maintain an intellectual concept of Jesus instead of an experiential one.  However, if it is not the real and complete Jesus, then it is a partial and incomplete substitute for the real Jesus.  That is an idol.

When the church describes a vision, such as in the above-referenced published devotional,  it is all "about" Jesus -- it is a conceptual framework of a historical Jesus.  "About who God is" and "about Jesus." J.I. Packer made this point decades ago in the book, "Knowing God."  "Knowing God" is not the same as just "knowing about God."  Just going through all the Sunday school materials and memorizing the scriptures and knowing all the facts and being the master of the "Bible Bowl" is still an intellectual "knowing about Jesus" unless a life proclaims that truth.  The world isn't seeking the intellect of the Christian; most non-believers don't hold that in high regard, anyway.  The world needs to experience Jesus. 

"Jesus' resurrection is the ultimate sign that God is real ...."  Ultimate sign to whom?  To a small closed community of people who are for the most part selected because they believe the resurrection in the first place?  Or, is it a sign to the world who the people of this community are supposed to convert to Christ?  Try to convert an unbeliever or atheist about the human recorded evidence of Jesus' resurrection.  Go ahead and wear your pages out turning to all the passages in the Bible about the resurrection.  Remind them that the Bible is inspired -- like they care about that?  This is having a debate about an intellectual concept.  The church is the translator of God's revelation.  The church's job is to live the revelation; it doesn't just preach it from a pulpit or in front of a TV camera.  The non-believer says, "What has Jesus' resurrection done for you?  I don't see any difference, so why should I listen to your intellectual argument about a historical person?"

The "ultimate sign" for the Christian is not the resurrection -- it is what happened because of the resurrection.  Because of Jesus' death and resurrection, we have received the Holy Spirit, the down-payment of our eternal salvation and the final delivery of the promise of God (Eph. 1:13-14).  Faith in the resurrection gives life in the Spirit.  (Romans 8 links the resurrection of Jesus with the Holy Spirit's work in us). The work of the Holy Spirit is the ultimate sign both to the Christian and to the world -- and that includes the resurrection both of Jesus as well as our own (Eph. 1:19-20).  

"What did Jesus say is the result of believing or not believing in Him (John 5:24)."  If we don't show Jesus to the world by the way we live, we then have to resort to preaching condemnation without Jesus - in order to set up Jesus as Redeemer.  If Christians really believed that Jesus was the Redeemer, there wouldn't be any need to preach about condemnation -- there would only be glorification to be seen in the life of the church -- and an welcoming invitation to come be a part of this. 

"Praise Jesus for His goodness."  Okay, and then what?  Go home and watch football?  If we really praised Jesus for His goodness, the world wouldn't have to wonder about what the value is of the church. 
 
"The Bible is the lens through which we see the world."  That's rather "us-centered."  How about, "The church is the lens through which the world sees Jesus."  Sees Jesus, not just hears about Jesus.  How's that one been working for us?  Because of poor exegesis of the epistle to the Romans, the church too often looks at the world through a lens of condemnation, and that is not the job of the church.  There's the church's self-image of a historical Jesus showing again.

"What difference does it make what one believes about Jesus?  Do you need to adjust your view of Jesus?"  Believe "about Jesus?"  Doesn't that give it away?  We need to adjust the communication channels between our intellect (about Jesus) and our heart (becoming Jesus).  How many times can Christians can go through the liturgy and a feel-good message and sing and lift hands to Jesus and leave and go about their real business. "From the heart" means more than sincerely thinking about it really intently for at least 2 minutes.  (Go ahead, check your watch).

The church is too much about a casual representation of an intellectual, historical Jesus that can be kept at arm's length for an hour each week.  Let's talk about resurrection; talk about light; talk about what Jesus did -- that's nice, but the world doesn't speak that language.  The world understands Jesus when lives are being transformed because of Him.  "Seeing is believing?"  Let's practice that. 

This involves much, much more than a responsibility of each Christian on an individual basis.  That is the usual application, when there is any application made.  Showing transformation is the responsibility of the church, the sum of the individuals, or, more accurately, the "product" of the individuals, because the Holy Spirit power is multiplied with unity.

Why do we go the "intellectual route" about Jesus when we know full well that God did not create humans to learn in that manner?  Even human knowledge could tell us that -- be it from human psychology, evolutionary science, human sociology, the neuroscience of brain function -- whatever.  We like to think we are such objective and reasoning and conceptualizing people, but we are primarily driven by emotion and experience.  In making a decision or exercising an opinion or judgment about something or someone, about 90% of the judgment occurs in a split-second based on past experience.  That's the way the brain is designed.  What about the other 10%?  The "intellect part" of the brain is busy figuring out all the reasons why the judgment of the "emotional brain" is correct.  And, at least "in the natural," the intellectual part will go to ridiculous ends to justify the judgment that has already been made (from Jonathan Heidt, "The Righteous Mind.")

We say that we have our minds under the control of the Spirit.  If that's really the case, then why can't the church see itself in a more discerning manner?  We are transformed into a living Jesus -- alive through the continuous power of His resurrection -- not into a doctrinal description of a historical image formed though the eyes of traditional thinking.

Knowing the way the brain works, why do we think presenting an intellectual concept of a historical Jesus convinces anyone of anything?  What are we, ourselves, doing with the historical Jesus?  The world can say, "If this doesn't do anything more for you than what I can see, I don't find much value in your historical Jesus."

The world cannot be convinced that Jesus is the answer unless the world can see Jesus in the church.  Arguments about Jesus and sermons preached to the choir about needing Jesus can be easily ignored by the world, because the world can see how irrevelant all this is in lives of Christians. 

Let's get even more pointed.  Why should the world listen to arguments about a historical resurrection from a church in which division and competition is clearly of greater value?  How can there be one resurrection, yet many bodies?  How could anyone claim that Jesus is Lord unless there is unity in the body of Christ?  Don't give the "it's all their fault" routine.  That immature dribble isn't going to stand up to the discipline of God in the present age or the wrath of God in the age to come.  Just don't even go there.  God has no partiality or discrimination between people on human standards, and if anyone does, then they are not being like God.  If the church is in division through discrimination and elevation of doctrine above Christ, then the church is not being like God.  Anyone who thinks differently can go to John 17:20 and argue with the intellectual, historical recording of the prayer of the same Jesus who lives today, and the same Jesus who will come again to claim His own and to whom we will give an answer about why His body has been fragmented.

A historical conceptual Jesus is easier to divide over than a living Jesus standing beside you looking you in the eye.  If the church really "lived Jesus Christ," the church couldn't bring itself to divide.  The chaos and factions within the body of Christ are enough evidence that Jesus is not Lord of the church.

Talking about Jesus instead of becoming like Jesus only creates problems, because that is coming out of the flesh more than the Spirit.  It's not Jesus who creates disagreement and division, it is the opinions about Jesus -- it is the human interpretations from their hemeneutic that separates.  That is like the human interpretation being the emotional experience part of the church and the hermeneutic being the logical, rational part.  The theological hermeneutic is used as a way to justify those human traditional interpretations that need to be protected like copyrighted brand names.  Hermeneutic is like the 10% to justify the 90% interpretation.  Don't be fooled.

So, if Christians don't divide because of Jesus, what causes the divisions?  It is the different approaches to Jesus.  "You can only get to Jesus our way."  "To get to Jesus, you have to believe this, say that, do this in the exactly right way, or else -- you miss Jesus."  "We have the right aim to Jesus -- they don't."  When the approach to Jesus of different groups is so important that the church divides, then human opinion is being elevated over Jesus.  What is that other than idolatry?  But that sequence is made easier with a historical Jesus.  With a historical Jesus, one has to look through their telescope across two millennia to see Him; but with a Jesus living in a transforming life and church, one doesn't need a telescope.  We are the telescope, and not our exclusionary doctrine.

More evidence of a historical Jesus

There is even more evidence that the church maintains a historical Jesus on the shelf.  What is the significance that virtually all church groups place on the observance of the Lord's Supper?  Does the Lord's Supper mean the same thing today as it did when Paul wrote to the Corinthians to stop mishandling it (1 Cor 11)?  Are we supposed to recreate the Lord's Supper of the Corinthian church 2000 years later during which time the Spirit has guided into all truth?  When we do so, we create a historical Jesus, and the Lord's Supper becomes a sanctimonious liturgical ceremony to remember certain things 2000 years ago.  That's not bad in itself, but most the purpose of the Lord's Supper is thwarted unless Christians portray the death, burial, and resurrection of Jesus in their lives of transformation.  The historical Jesus can be left at the church building along with the trays of unleavened bread and grape juice.  How is that "discerning the body?"

How much easier it is to remember a historical Jesus who finished a work for us that we can read about and be thankful for and go about our lives than it is to submit to the Lordship of a living Jesus into Whom we are becoming  -- actively and purposefully?  Jesus said to "Do this in remembrance of me," but did Jesus ask that we remember Him as a historical figure hanging on the cross?  Or, did He say, "I have washed your feet, now you go and do likewise"?  Or, did He say, "And you will receive power when the Holy Spirit comes upon you"?   "Not everyone who says, 'Lord, Lord,' will enter the kingdom of heaven, but only those who do the will of my Father who is in heaven." 

A historical Jesus is also celebrated at Christmas, or what is left of it after being shredded by commercialism.  What happened to celebrating the coming of Jesus anew in our hearts every day as we are being transformed by taking off the old nature and putting on the new?

A historical Jesus is celebrated at Easter.  "Well at least it gets people to church one of the two times a year.  That's better than nothing."  That rhetoric may have some truth, but it also falls short of the glory of God.  It is easier to detach a historical Jesus from the control of my behavior than it is a Jesus who is Lord of my life.  A historical Jesus imposes control more by guilt.  "Remember what Jesus did for you?  You owe it back to do this...and this....and this...or else shame on you because you don't live Jesus."  We condemn ourselves.  How much better to identify with the Jesus who endured the cross "for the joy set before him"?  Do we not have joy set before us when we can look forward to an eternal fellowship with God?

Who does the church see in the mirror?

So, what does the church see in the looking glass?  If one peers into a glass darkly, they may not see much that deters them from making up their own reflective image.  Like looking at yourself in the mirror and thinking, "Well, I don't look too bad."  Yeah, but then look at a picture of yourself - that will help you get real.   

What does it take?  1 Cor 13:10-12 says that when perfection (maturity) comes, "Now we see but a poor reflection as in a mirror; then we shall see face to face."  We have been declared righteous - the church has been declared righteous - because of the blood of Jesus, but that doesn't mean we actually are.  That declaration is to free us to become like God in true righteousness and holiness (Eph.4:24) and for the body to grow into the full knowledge of Christ (Eph.4:12-16).  Does the church look into the mirror and see a reflection of a perfect historical Jesus -- a view that somehow authenticates whatever doctrine or behavior the church wants to adopt - including that of the world, including the right to divide itself into competing pieces? If so, then the church is kidding itself.  That's not what the world sees -- the world sees the real thing in the now and not the historical real thing (i.e., the description of Jesus in the New Testament).  The world sees a bunch of people in the unreality of denial about themselves.

Can we just describe a historical Jesus, thinking that is what has been assigned to the church by grace -- as if the church has already "arrived" at perfection because Jesus is perfect and the word (the canon) is the "perfect that has come" (1 Cor. 13:10)?  Jesus came and did it for us and gave it to the church, so now what we have to do is to "defend the faith."  Is that what the church is about?  Once the body of Christ ascribes to itself this perfect righteousness, the church can do no wrong.   The body can divide, compete, and war within itself and even embrace and welcome the world's influence.  Just put God's representative in charge, like the Pope, or the President of the 12 Apostles, or the chief TV evangelist who hears from God for everybody else -- and the church places itself on the same pedestal beside the historical Jesus.  Then the responsibility for transformation is just up to individuals -- that's certainly how the sermon applications are made -- "go ye out and do it."  Just about every Christian group does this to some extent.  This is a major self-deception of pride that institutionalized Christianity has bought into.  This doesn't hold spiritual weight.  The cracks in the foundation are becoming visible.

Guess where this behavioral characteristic comes from -- this tendency to define one's group as perfect and to gather around and protect its belief system.  Hint: it doesn't come from studying the Bible.  It is a survival tactic traced back to early ancestors in human evolution (Jonathan Heidt, "The Righteous Mind") -- meaning we can be totally operating out of the flesh while exhibiting this "defense by offense" behavior against one another.

Does the church think that there isn't much difference between itself and the historical, perfect Jesus -- the Jesus whom the church preaches about?  The church seems to define itself at = or >95% perfect and maintaining, so the image in the looking glass is pretty good.  But it's like a 2-way glass, reflective only on one side and transparent on the other.  The church sees a reflection of the perfect Jesus that it preaches, but does not live, whereas the world sees through the glass and see the church for real, and not what it claims to be.  What is just a little 5% miss in the reflection of the church to itself is 100% of the picture the world sees.  No wonder there is a communication problem.

Yes, the world also has a distorted and inaccurate view of the church.  But, to a large extent, that view is a reaction to the church's prideful presentation of itself in the wonderfulness of its own perfection.

The goal of the church should be the same as stated by Paul, "We proclaim him, admonishing and teaching everyone with all wisdom, so that we may present everyone perfect in Christ.  To this end I labor, struggling with all his energy which so powerfully works in me." (Col. 1:28-29).  The goal is transformation into the likeness of God, according to His plan made before the creation of the world.  The church is to show this wisdom of God to the world and to the heavenly realms (Eph. 3:10).  It is not God's energy that works powerfully in the church to create division.  However, using the energy of the prideful flesh, different groups can divide over methods of archeologically excavating a historical image of Jesus, mummified by years of human universal thinking and galvanistic doctrine.  

The evidence is plain - the church likes a historical, statuary Jesus.  This attitude is displayed in the church's own sermons, literature, and traditions, but this display seems transparent to those within the church -- like reading your own paper and continuing to miss the typo's.  Maybe no one wants to see it -- maybe they've invested too much to get where they are in the liturgical halls of theocracy, academia, comfortism, or commercialism.  The world reads the church's papers and hears the messages and gives their editorial feedback, which the church doesn't appreciate.  Therefore, those so-deemed "attacks of Satan" are placed in the condemnation basket when it is passed around.

So, which is it to be -- is it an all out pedal-to-the-metal drive on "the way" to the living Lord and Creator of this universe by the renewal and transformation of the Holy Spirit into the righteousness and holiness of God and the full knowledge of Christ?  Or, is it a protection of a sedentary, stationary image of Jesus, carefully maintained in a case filled with argon, and described in writings explaining the ancient history of what this person once did?  Pick up a booklet in the gift shop ... only $13.99 in paperback or save and buy the $15.99 Kindle version -- and find out what we are about.  Collector's copy, $99.99.  Plus tax.

Transformation requires eyes to be on Jesus, not a dust-him-off-when-you-need-him historical Jesus painted in theoretical conceptual terms, but a Jesus who is the author and perfecter of our faith (Heb. 12:1-2).  A get-real Jesus -- maybe like the Son of Man Stephen saw standing at the right hand of God (Acts 7:56).  

If the institutionalized church can become unified in Christ instead of divided in human doctrine, maybe we can see the glorified Jesus in our transformation process, rather than when we are being martyred. 

So, what is being missed by the church?   Oh, not much, just the unifying field theory, the reason the universe was created, that which is held together by Christ (Col. 3:17), that which the whole creation groans in anticipation to be revealed  (Rom. 8:22-23).  Just the ordained plan of God made before the creation of energy, matter, and time.  Just the reason for our existence and the role of the church (Eph.3:10).  Not much.  Just the most important thing ever in the physical realm - the entire creation. 

If the church understood the plan of God, there wouldn't be time for selfish competition or division -- there would only be transformation into the likeness of God with ever increasing glory, in preparation for eternal fellowship with God.

2 Cor. 5 [16] So from now on we regard no one from a worldly point of view.  Though we once regarded Christ in this way, we do so no longer.  Therefore, if any one is in Christ, he is a new creation; the old has gone, the new has come.  [21] God made him who had no sin to be sin for us, so that in him we might become the righteousness of God.


Let us no longer regard Jesus just historically -- that is a worldly perspective -- like a war hero with a list of sacrificial accomplishments that are celebrated on Memorial Day.  We are grateful for the mercy of God extended through all that which Jesus did historically.  But, Jesus did this so we could be free of sin that the presence, the very spiritual DNA of God, could abide in us, so that we can become like God in true righteousness and holiness.  That is the foreordained plan of God for us.  

"And we, who with unveiled faces all reflect the Lord's glory, are being transformed into his likeness with ever-increasing glory, which comes from the Lord, who is the Spirit." (2 Cor 3:18).

The reflection in the looking glass?  It is the glorified One whom we are becoming.

Monday, April 14, 2014

154. YOUR INNER JESUS

(Contrasted To "Your Inner Fish") 


It's a lot more detailed than searching on Ancestry.com.  Your records are not buried under a granite mountain in Utah.  No, your ancestry is buried everywhere.  You now have an opportunity to explore your ancestry with a PBS special series called "Your Inner Fish."  Yes, paleontologist Neil Shubin would like to introduce you to your family tree -- that's the really big tree that traces ancestry back more than 3 billion years. In this three-part PBS series that began April 9, 2014, the evolutionary history of the composition of our human body is traced on the screen before you.  Indeed, buried in our anatomy, chemistry, embryology, and genetics is the evolutionary history of physical life on earth.  The series will compress billions of years of history into three episodes -- "Your Inner Fish," "Your Inner Reptile," and "Your Inner Monkey."  
A check of the video previews of the episodes will reveal that this presentation is extremely well-done.  "Special effects" in movies were rewarded in the past with Oscars; but, now it seems more like animation graphics are becoming "regular effects."  These episodes work the animation graphics into the story and make the prehistoric creatures seem more real than in Jurassic Park.  The images morph from fossils into creatures that can run around on a desk like a mouse (meaning the real live rodent, not the computer variety).  The parts of our bodies, such as our brains that reflect evolutionary classifications of major types of animals -- fish, reptiles, primates, are visually traced forward with graphics so that evolutionary development seems to occur before your eyes.  It uses teaching methods to a capital "T" in making a clear explanation of evolutionary biology.  It is not the purpose of the series to "teach evolution" -- that's just assumed to be correct as far as the producers are concerned.  The purpose is to explain how humans physically came about -- the origin of homo sapiens

This series is a highly recommended resource to view.

Is this a problem for the Christian? For the Bible? For belief in God? For Young-Earth Creationism (YEC)?

 
It should not be a problem for the first three; but, it will be a problem for YEC -- a problem that will only get worse. When it comes to communicating an idea, high quality broadcast videos of cutting-edge computer graphics will convey the message much more effectively than Ken Ham's static creation amusement park. The story of the evolution of humankind commands probably 99.99% of the published and accepted scientific data, so the likelihood that the earth was created in 6x24 hour days in 4004BC is infinitely small. That's just the way it is - the lopsidedness of the data is only getting greater as research continues, as will the problem for Christian youth who are led to believe that YEC is of faith and evolutionary biology is of the devil -- young students who are going to continue to run into a brick wall. People have to be able to understand the real scientific facts separately from the rhetorical opinions that are published with the data. Truth about the creation does not contradict God, but people do, because God gave them that right, even though they are also part of the creation.

In terms of data presentation, real-appearing holographic images in motion are around the corner. In fact, they are already here, but so expensive that, at this time, they are only used in high income generating environments, like making a holographic image of Amy Winehouse doing a show (which isn't going to happen, not because the technology isn't available, but her dad said "no.") How about when kids will go to a museum of natural history featuring moving holographic images of animals morphing into "higher" species, with a background of information about how it all happened. Instead of a "petting zoo," how about a "pet the prehistoric animals" setting? Move over Star Trek. Compare those images with some motorized stuffed dinosaurs making grinding sounds supposedly representing what occurred in a 24 hour period 6000 years ago. Which one would be more likely to draw a crowd? How about an evolutionary Wii game in which the player has to battle the competitors to be able to survive among the fittest? These inventions could be made to be so visually and interactively intense that surely what they represent must be assumed to be right. That type of technology is already here. It is just waiting for someone to decide there is enough money in producing these types of graphics of evolutionary morphology.

The ideas of creationism are going to fold under the tide of increasing scientific evidence. It would be much better for Christians to figure out beforehand that evolution is more consistent with the whole of scripture than is a 6x24 hour creation mechanism -- especially when one looks from the perspective of the eternal plan of God. Surveys continue to indicate that a substantial number of young people abandon their Biblical teachings when they go to college after being confronted with the overwhelming data supporting natural evolution. This information is not new -- the loss of youth from the church has been going on for generations; but, it is only getting worse, and will continue to worsen, as more and more data accumulate supporting evolutionary science. The prospect for improvement isn't good when only 1% youth pastors/workers have even addressed a science topic in the previous year. Students hear the data supporting evolution, but they also hear a godless interpretation -- and even more, they hear a God-disparaging interpretation which extends beyond the data into personal interpretation. But since it is all new, it is difficult to discern it separately, so evolutionary data and lack of faith run together in the same channel. It's not the fault of the data -- the data testify of God -- the church has difficulty in recognizing that testimony by separating results of natural discovery from expressed opinion filtered through human preconception.

What to do?

So, is this another area where the church needs to change its theology because of the pressures of criticism and ridicule from the world? "First it's this and then it's that and now it's creation itself. When is this going to end?" The answer is -- this human-generated conflict is going to end when the church and Christians begin to do what God designed and predestined to happen before the beginning of the universe. But, that will not happen until Christians stop focusing their attention on preserving some traditional human doctrine against alien contamination and defending their ill-conceived interpretations of the scripture -- such as done with Young Earth Creationism. Christians are supposed to understand that the battle is not in the physical (flesh and blood) realm but in the spiritual realm. The battle is not against error; the battle is for truth.
 

So, go ahead and watch the you-tube videos, like "Our Fishy Brains" and "How Do We Know When Our Ancestors Lost Their Tales?" and "The 500-Million Year History Of The Human Brain."  Learn from where human emotions and habits are derived.  Learn how some people can act more like apes than humans.  Learn where intrinsic human social behavior comes from.  The evolution of the brain is the formation of the natural substrate upon which God eventually placed the responsibility of becoming in His image.   

It's important for history to be discovered, and anything that occurred in the past is history -- fossils, ancient tools and buildings, old forms of manuscript recordings, drawings on a cave wall. The study of evolutionary history is as important as is political and social history. The study of history as recorded in the Old Testament is also important. But history is history and the future is the future. Sounds redundant, but Christians act as though they still haven't figured out the difference between history and future-- when they have to preserve their view of history as though their very salvation in the future depended on it.

In natural history, we may have actions and reactions that can be accounted for by evolutionary changes over many millions of years. That may explain a lot about human behavior, which is helpful in understanding the present, but it helps little in understanding the future. Christians are humans physically, just like Jesus Christ was fully human, but Christians have been given the gift of the Holy Spirit at the spiritual birth of the new creation. This gift is the same DNA of God that Jesus had, and this spiritual DNA gives them a different evolutionary standard -- a different behavior -- a different role model -- a different future. The problem is, too many Christians don't comprehend that, and they set their eyes, and their futures, on other people and on human standards.

Your Inner Jesus

Okay, so, let's say that humans have "Your Inner Fish" in the natural sense; but Christians have "Your Inner Jesus" in their hearts and minds and futures.

So, if anyone wants to only have an "inner fish" for their future, go ahead. But whoever has an "inner Jesus" is being transformed into the ever increasing glory of God in their future. In the natural, we are the product of our past -- from literally our own lifetime or from ancient evolutionary development. In the spiritual, however, we are growing into what will be the product of our future -- the fruit of the Holy Spirit -- because we have been created to be like God in true righteousness and holiness (Eph. 4:24). God has poured His love into our hearts by His Holy Spirit (Rom. 5:5), by which we have the genes of God -- to be expressed into the behavior modeled to perfection by Jesus Christ on Earth. It is by spiritual evolution that we overcome our physically-limited background. Spiritual evolution (sanctification, transformation, renewal) does not compete with physical or social evolution -- spiritual evolution completes the sequence. The human race by itself faces a de-evolutionary process because of the energy drain of entropy.

Transformation has been occurring in one form or another for 16.3 billion years -- ever since God provided the spark of the Big Bang, and energy, matter, and time were formed. All transformation (physical, social, spiritual) has been gradual and progressive and in accordance with the foreordained plan of God -- predestined to be carried out by the will of God. The development of creation before mankind didn't have a choice about whether or not to evolve until humans came into being, as represented by Adam and Eve. Humans were placed in authority over the rest of the earth, but they were given a choice whether or not to subject themselves to the God of their creation. We still have that choice -- we can spiritually evolve by the Holy Spirit expressing the genes of God as we grow beyond our human constraints into the image of God, or we can choose to remain as we are. Just because one has received Jesus as Savior doesn't mean they have chosen to place themselves under the Lordship of Christ so that they will be transformed into the likeness of God. Man was given the responsibility to model for the creation the submission to God and the transformation into His likeness. This was completed in the coming of Christ, who modeled for us exactly how this is to be done as He submitted to the Father. God gave us the model, and God gave us His DNA. The whole creation groans for the sons of God to be revealed (Rom. 8:22-25) -- waiting for us to express our inner Jesus. Are we waiting for something else to happen, or what? We are that something.

The church does what?

So, what is the church's role in all of this? The church's directive is to make known the manifold wisdom of God expressed in the formation of this plan. How does the church to that? By arguing about evolution? By insisting on an indefensible interpretation of Genesis 1-3 as if it were the tenet of faith? By trying to debate atheists? All of this is fish vs. fish. Go ahead and express your inner fish. But God has a better plan. We are to show the world and those in the heavenly realms the wisdom of God by becoming like Him. That's the proof of the plan -- show that the plan works by doing it! Express your inner Jesus.

...the unsearchable riches of Christ, 9 and to make plain to everyone the administration of this mystery, which for ages past was kept hidden in God, who created all things.  10 His intent was that now, through the church, the manifold wisdom of God should be made known to the rulers and authorities in the heavenly realms, 11 according to his eternal purpose which he accomplished in Christ Jesus our Lord. (Eph. 3:9-11)
The PBS series may be able to use computer animation to show the evolution of the "inner fish," but the church is supposed to use real lives in real time in real situations to show the spiritual transformation of the "inner Jesus" into the likeness of God.  Christians who watch "Your Inner Fish" and get upset over their perceptions of a Godless presentation had better be careful, because they could end up expressing their own "inner fish" in their choice of behavior.  And it is a choice, because we choose whether we are going to express the genes of Adam (so to speak) or the genes of God -- to be controlled out of the flesh or controlled out of the Spirit.  Paul said the two gene strands war for control - actually it is a battlefield of war that is staged in our minds; the question is - which side is winning (Rom. 7:7-25)?  Are we going to choose to continue the foreordained plan of God into spiritual evolution - transformation (renewal, sanctification) - or will we choose to reject God's offer and continue with the evolution that is an extension of the natural fish.  Jesus died so that we could put away the control by the natural desires and rise above that into the realm of spiritual transformation. 

PBS does its job by presenting the derivation of the natural physical substrate -- over which God overlaid the social and finally the spiritual evolution phases. It is the church that is supposed to be presenting the final program sequence -- what it looks like when people are together being transformed into the likeness of God. PBS does their thing regarding physical evolution, and Christians should do their thing involving spiritual evolution. We don't waste time being against everything; we spend our time becoming like God. Surely no one specifically intends to grow into the likeness of fish. That is just what happens when we spiritually miss God. We either grow into the likeness of God by the power of the Spirit, or we can revert into the likeness of fish by the default law of entropy. It's our choice, and God made it that way.

So, fellow Christians, God has given us a choice -- do we want to cooperate with God's eternal plan or not? Do we want to accept the genes of God in name only by stopping at the initial phase of salvation, which we call justification, or do we want to functionally express the genes of God in the continual phase of salvation, which is called transformation or sanctification? Do we, as the church, want to fulfill our Prime Directive of showing the wisdom of God as it is evidenced in the lives of believers, or do we want to continue to be conformed to the world by trying to fight worldly issues with worldly methods? What methods? You tell me -- how does arguing about whether creation occurred in 16.3 billion years or in a period of 144 hours 6000 years ago make anyone more like God in true righteousness and holiness?

In the absence of transformation, God has to remind us as He did in the Old Testament

God had to continually remind the people in the Old Testament of who He was and of what He had done for them in the past. "I am the God who brought you out of Egypt; I am the God who saved you from your enemies" ... etc. God was on the outside of the people talking to them; the people were guilty of sin and God could not abide in the presence of sin. So, God talked to them through prophets and priests and other anointed people as representatives. God has to continually remind them over and over, but they still fell away. The Jews fell away from God into the idolatry of the people around them, until they were finally "cured" of that once and for all with the Babylonian captivity. But then they fell into the idolatry of elevating their own pride and selfishness by instituting layer upon layer of human legalistic rules on top of the Law, even as they suffered oppression from their own rebellious nature against the Romans.

What if PBS could show the first century Jews a series of graphical presentations --"Your Inner Fish!" How about "Your Inner Legalism?" -- "Your Inner Rebellious Nature." -- "Your Inner Fleshly Nature." What would those depictions look like? Read descriptions of the behavior coming from the control of the fleshly nature -- the old sinful nature -- the "fishly nature" -- Col. 3:5-9; Eph. 4:17-19, 25-31; Gal. 5:17-21; James 3:14-16; et al.

But, Jesus freed us from the control of the fishly nature. Why? So that we could build church buildings? So that we could make up human doctrines that divide the body? So that we could marry and divorce and marry some more? So that we could be free to be gay and to have gay marriage instead of what God designed? There is one thing that is similar in all of these issues, and that is -- human beings are in charge. Humans have themselves as the object of their future -- they are working out their own plan of God around themselves and their own pride and selfish desires. "Oh, sure, we know what the plan of God is. Yes, we have captured and unpacked it quite adequately in our vision statement." The plan of God is for us, but the plan is for us to submit to God for our spiritual transformation rather than the result of controlling our own destiny in the flesh.

The church is supposed to be a living PBS program of what spiritual transformation looks like. This is the continuation of the plan of God - the final phase of evolution - the highest form - and the church holds the keys to this kingdom. What are we unlocking with the keys?? Are we unlocking the revelation of the nature of God as revealed in creation, the Word, and by the Holy Spirit so that the world can see the love of God through Christ? When the people of the world are asked what the church is doing, what do they say?

So, this plan of God that the church supposedly knows about and is wisely living -- what does this plan look like to outsiders -- does it show Jesus Christ or does it appear more like a fish? Does the Spirit of God live in the spiritual construct of today's church (Eph. 2:21-22) or do the spirits of fish live in the "Church of the Aquarium?"

Do we need to be continually reminded about God's goodness like His people in the Old Testament, or do we grow past that and into the maturity of becoming like Him? Do we recycle immaturities and elementary teachings of Jesus (Heb. 6:1-3) or do we build upon these in the maturity of transformation from glory to increasing glory (1 Cor. 3:18)? It's great to sing praises to God on Sunday, but the question is - will we live praises to God in our lives the rest of the week? The people in the Old Testament needed to be externally reminded about God; God's people in the New Testament have the Holy Spirit living inside of us by the gift of God through Christ to remind us of all truth (John 16:12-16). Are we being transformed into the likeness of God by the Spirit, or do we need to be reminded by an Old Testament style sermon from the priest (pastor) on Sunday morning that we need to obey God's law?

The church of today needs help!

Is there anyone who is frustrated by the church's representation of a conflict between the "Your Inner Fish" of natural evolution and the "Your Inner Jesus" of spiritual evolution? If so, hear this -- there is no conflict. These processes do not preclude one another; each type of transformation helps explain the function of the other. One follows the other. Physical evolution was necessary to set the stage for social evolution to follow and spiritual evolution to begin after that. These evolutionary processes are harmonious because they came from the same creator. The appearance of conflict is a tool of the enemy using the human nature of people in the church. The church needs people who can understand the eternal plan of God and how the church is supposed to be carrying it out. If you can do this, the church needs you. Hey, any people who can understand science and who can see the plan of God in both nature and in the spiritual realm and who may have left organized religion frustrated by all the perception of illiteracy and hypocritical thinking -- this is a note to you: you are desperately needed -- please come back and help. 


The church must get on track with the predestined plan of God as revealed in the Bible, not as filtered through almost 2000 years of human modification. We have had the Holy Spirit guiding into all truth for 2000 years -- after all this time, is the church closer to understanding the wisdom of God as revealed in His plan or is the church drifting away?

Don't give up.

Some people have gotten so frustrated with the church following human wisdom that they have rejected both the church and God. What an abysmal witness to the plan of God to shove people from a belief in God into agnosticism or atheism. If you are one of these people, consider returning to the true God of the universe -- the God revealed in nature, the God revealed in scripture, the God revealed through Jesus Christ, the God who made the plan for our transformation into His likeness before the creation of the world. The church needs your help to get back on track. The church needs people who are willing to cut through the refuse piled up over centuries of accumulated human thinking. What did Jesus do to the money changers in the temple who represented the institutionalized religion of that day? He drove them out. But the evolved religious system still didn't listen, and what happened about 40 years later? That temple was destroyed. Contented Christians are in denial that the same can happen today. The plan of God overcomes entropy; but, if human pride builds its own plan, it opens itself to the natural law of entropy. It is the law of God put into place at creation. Natural law says that created things wind down unless energized by outside source. The energy for transformation comes from God. The divided segments of the institutionalized church of today seem to be choosing the path of entropy.

There are many good things about the church, but doctrine that divides, competition that defeats, and prideful spirits that redirect away from the plan of God are not good things. It will take people of dedication and discernment to correct that. Think of some movies about the old saloons of the West, in which a sign was posted, "Leave your guns at the door." For the church to do its God-directed job, we will all have to "leave our selfish pride at the door." 


So, what about it? We can be working for the redemption of society and of mankind in general, not because mankind is damned like in the "original sin" doctrine of Calvinism, but because we have been predestined to be like God in true righteousness and holiness. 

Let us live up to our God-ordained potential -- our "inner Jesus."