Well, today is Good Friday and it’s always a good time to pause and reflect on Christ’s sacrifice for us. It’s so easy to forget and move on with our daily routines–especially for those of us who work. Regrettably, the story of Jesus’ death on the cross has been told and retold so many times that we’ve grown calloused to it. In a couple of days, every pastor will be preaching about something Easter-related, so I’m going to take a slightly different approach.
…what if the Shroud of Turin is real?
Yes, THAT shroud—the one that I grew up learning in my History/Civics class was a fake because carbon dating had proved it to be from the Middle Ages. Why am I bringing this up now? Because it’s Easter time and because of this interesting article that presents a lot of interesting scientific (and logical) reasons the shroud could be genuine:
For those of you who are too busy to read it—and I urge you to read it anyway…your life isn’t THAT busy!—here are a few of the salient points:
I’d need to look into it further, but if this is true, it’s an amazing (re-)discovery. Not only would it add to the already hefty evidence of Jesus’ resurrection, but we can take the image to be in his actual likeness. It would be nice to know what he actually looked like.
Now, I normally don’t read the comments in CP articles because that place seems overrun with know-it-all atheists and such (and lately, they just annoy me), but I couldn’t help myself.
Here are some sample comments with my thoughts on them:
One thing all Christian fail to address, is that they have absolutely no evidence that it was their god that did all the creating of the universe. Oh sure, they make this claim, loud and stridently, but they can not offer any evidence to back up their claim that it was Jesus’s father who did the work. And no the Bible can not be used, because of the circular reasoning fallacy that would be involved.
So let’s start with the fact that an infinite universe cannot exist and that nothing pops up from nothing…coupled with the astronomically small (actually, “mathematically impossible”) odds that all of the conditions and constants could support life…the apparent fine-tuning of the universe, which logically points to unimaginable power and intelligence behind it all…
Then there is the Bible, which tells us that our God created everything we see (and don’t see). Compared to any other religion or text out there, we are the only ones that have history, archaeology, and even science/logic backing us up on any significant level. Seems like our God is the best candidate to me, unless you want to just posit infinite universes and other nonsense.
These are all to be ignored? What exactly is “evidence” to skeptics like these? Would a signature blazoned in the sky saying, “I made all of this. Sincerely, God (the Judeo-Christian one)” be the only thing to suffice? What could possibly qualify as “evidence” for the creation of the universe? There is always going to be an element of faith involved. Take the leap for goodness sake. By this logic, how does this commenter ever believe anything or anyone?
Not only does the author fail epically to provide real evidence but he also makes claims that do not point to the reality of Jesus being who he was claimed to be. There are far too many plot holes in this story to be credible. For me, it’s pretty hard to believe what was written down, edited hundreds of years later and pushed by obvious politicians as gospel. Given the Old Testament is utter nonsense and evil and given the only reason people are still yelling about Christianity is owing to the sword and the Totalitarian evil of the Catholic church, I’m going to put my money on the “no way is this true” section.
Ah again, the “E” word. What evidence would you like? I suppose they could take a chunk of the shroud that clearly hasn’t been rewoven—say, directly from the center of the face—to make sure the carbon dating is legitimate. Would that make you happy? And the point of the article was not to talk about who Jesus claimed to be. There are no “plot holes”—articles are supposed to cover specific topics, not take up hundreds of pages to discuss something that could fill the shelves of the largest library.
And what “evidence” (I can use that word, too) do you have that the Bible was “edited hundreds of years later and pushed by obvious politicians as gospel”? From everything I’ve researched, the Bible has stood intact amazingly well through the test of time, though we do find little things here and there to correct (for instance, as our understanding of ancient languages becomes more sophisticated).
The “Old Testament is utter nonsense and evil”? By whose estimation, yours? It’s funny how atheists cry “evidence, evidence” from the top of the mountains, but then they present none of their own. All they do is parrot catchy lines of argument or cite some great and noble SCIENTIST (all together now: ooooooooh) to back up their claims. Never mind that scientists are never fully in agreement and are proved to be incorrect all the time.
One of these days, I think I want to make a laundry list of things skeptics/scientists/historians USED to say was wrong about the Bible, only to be proved wrong later. The Bible holds up—sorry to burst your bubble. It doesn’t matter though, as soon as the Bible proves to be right on some issue, skeptics will just move right along to the next issue. If they run out of things to “poke holes” at, they’ll just come right around in a circle and forget what has already been resolved. Trust me, it happens all the time.
Science this, science that. Let us all bow and worship.
OK, maybe I made that one up, but it’s basically paraphrasing the typical posts of people (e.g., Ben Faeth).
Side note: Is it just me, or do atheists all seem to have the same basic looks on their faces? Something about their eyes and demeanor…maybe I’m just seeing things.
But on a serious note, I will address one of his more specific posts:
In the realm of science, eye witness testimony is the worst kind of evidence, if you can even call it evidence. Humans are terrible record keeping devices are prone to misinterpretations, forgetfulness, and out right delusional behavior. We don’t believe people whom say that they met aliens or seen big foot, because there is no actual evidence to back them up. And to make matters worse, these so called 500 eyewitnesses are never identified or explain themselves in their own words. The 500 eyewitness claims claim from Paul, who admits himself that he wasn’t there. It’s hearsay based on hearsay without any supporting evidence.
In some ways, what Ben is saying is true. Eyewitness testimony can be sketchy at best. The difference with the New Testament, though, is that it was not one or two people caught up in a frantic, life-threatening situation (which can distort our memory for sure). It was hundreds of people seeing something unexpected over a period of 40 days. It wasn’t hectic, it wasn’t sudden, it was prolonged and personal. So this criticism of eyewitness testimony doesn’t apply here.
And why would Paul—or how could he—name all 500 witnesses? Would he just happen to know everyone’s name by heart? What would even be the point of writing this down? If you were writing a letter to a large group of people—say, a church congregation—would you start out by listing every member/recipient by name first?
“Dear church of Ephesus, I am writing to you my dear brothers: Tyrone, Scott, Hector, Julio, James, Lionel, Bob (the short one), Bob (the scruffy bearded one), John, Ulysses…[489 names here]…and who could forget little Timmy? Anyhow, I am writing to tell you…”
Sure, you don’t HAVE to believe Paul when he says 500 witnesses were there. That’s secondary anyway. But believing him sure does help explain the rapid, unprecedented spread of Christianity throughout the world in the face of enormous persecution, martyrdom, and even heavy Jewish theological opposition. They did not spread their religion with military conquest in the early church. Also, why would the other 500 witnesses “explain themselves in their own words”? First of all, most of them probably couldn’t write, and even if they could, why would they? The church already had the writings of Paul, and those 500 witnesses didn’t have apostolic authority. Maybe their families and friends would be interested in reading what they said, but that’s about it. For most people, they were satisfied with what the few chosen by God officially recorded.
To hear atheists’ line of reasoning, you don’t have to believe in anything that scientists don’t proclaim as absolute truth. In fact, let’s just say that nothing before modern science is real since it can’t REALLY be authenticated anyway. Alexander the Great? Never existed. The first historical records of him showed up way too late. Ben Faeth? Fake person. The picture is generated by Photoshop, and the account was made with false information. Hey, until I see him face-to-face and/or scientists publish peer-reviewed scholarly articles about his existence, there’s no real reason for me to believe it’s a real guy typing up these comments, right?
Are you guys starting to understand why I’m pretty much done dealing with skeptics? What’s the point? Sure, a deluge of undeniable evidence could possibly lead them to believe, but where is their heart? At the bottom of things, they don’t want there to be a God who is ultimately sovereign and in control. His glory is the purpose of this world, not ours, which is unsavory to some. So if they had all the proof in the world, that only makes them more accountable for their refusal of Him. Their punishment would be that much greater. Ignorance could no longer be any mitigating factor.
Wow, this post came out a lot more aggressive-sounding than I expected. Oh well haha. It’s my blog, and frankly, I get enough of proper writing these days with all of my seminary papers and even technical writing at my job. Here, I can sometimes just vent or do a brain dump. I hope that’s OK!
A few months ago, September seemed like it was shaping up to be a very important month. Now, it’s October, and not much has changed. What happened? Let’s dig in a little bit…
Israel and Palestine are still a ways off from a peace/sharing agreement.
We all knew that Palestine was going to submit its bid for statehood at the UN, which would end up splitting up Israel’s land (including Jerusalem…a big no-no in God’s eyes). We also heard about a rash of diplomatic efforts leading up to the general assembly, so it seemed possible that both sides could reach some sort of agreement. Both sides had something to lose, something to gain.
Instead, there seems to be a new deadline for a peace agreement between the two peoples: December 2012. Knowing the middle east, even that date might not mean much. Further delays are certainly possible. But that’s the latest information we have so far, and you can bet that they’re not going to rush to get peace talks finished far in advance. They will probably take as long as they can.
Remember that the peace agreement that starts the final seven-year period (Daniel’s “70th week”) must include some provision to share the holy grounds so that Israel can start rebuilding their temple.
Comet Elenin was a dud.
NASA told us that it was small and that it was pretty much fizzled out, but it still seemed possible. “Maybe there was something they didn’t account for.” It seemed that it got destroyed in transit. Whatever the case, there were no major earthquakes or natural disasters that seemed to correlate with the past alignments (Earth-Elenin-Sun). The coincidental timing around Rosh Hashanah ended up being just that: coincidental.
Rosh Hashanah and the “woman in the sky”
Considering that four of God’s redemptive acts matched up with the first four Jewish feasts, it seemed logical that the next major act of God would land at the same time as the fifth feast, Rosh Hashanah or the Feast of Trumpets. In fact, Jesus’ second coming is often described as being accompanied with the sound of a trumpet.
To further add to the number of “coincidences” coming together, people talked about Revelation 12’s sign in the stars (if this is even a correct interpretation of the passage) happening this year during Rosh Hashanah. This doesn’t seem to happen often, so people started wondering if this was also significant.
Looking back, there are two major problems here:
1) I am still convinced that the next major redemptive move by God will happen during Rosh Hashanah (not sure which year, of course). But who’s to say that it has to be pre-Tribulation Rapture? Jesus’ second coming after the Great Tribulation (some people call it “post-trib rapture”) seems more probable as I study scripture and prophecy.
With a pre-trib view, the Rapture would probably fall during Rosh Hashanah (the fifth feast). The sixth feast, Yom Kippur, could represent the Tribulation, while the seventh and final feast could be either the millenial kingdom or the new heaven and new earth.
With a post-trib view, the second coming of Jesus Christ—which happens at the end of the Great Tribulation—could happen during Rosh Hashanah. Then, the millenial kingdom would be established, after which there is one final uprising from Satan and people on earth. This could be on Yom Kippur. Finally, when Satan is forever defeated and the new heaven/earth is established forever, that could be the seventh and final feast.
2) If you take Revelation to be chronological overall, which I do, the “woman clothed with the sun” sign this year didn’t really make sense. Why would something that appears in chapter 12 take place now? As I understand it, chapter 11 or so is the halfway point of the seven years, so the woman sign should be approximately 3.5 years after the peace agreement.
Here’s a breakdown of what time period the chapters might represent:
Chapter 1: The past
Chapters 2-3: The present (e.g., American Christianity—and others like it—may be represented by the church of Laodicea)
Chapters 4-5: Some people think the Rapture takes place here, while others think these chapters simply show God and the angels preparing for what’s to come.
Chapter 6-19: The seven-year period, also known as the Tribulation (though really, the “Great” Tribulation is probably only the last 3.5 years).
Chapter 20: After Jesus is victorious, the millenial kingdom is established.
Chapter 21: New heaven and new earth
By the way, the next time this sign in the sky will coincide with Rosh Hashanah? 2017, though it’s not even certain whether this is significant. There’s nothing in the Bible to indicate that this takes place during the Feast of Trumpets.
“This generation will not pass away”
While it’s true that fig trees are sometimes a metaphor for Israel in certain parts of the Bible (e.g., Jeremiah 24), it’s not clear that this applies to the Olivet Discourse, as found in passages like Matthew 24:34. Judging from the structure of the language, it’s not even apparent that Jesus is including the fig tree as part of His end time prophecies. It could simply be an analogy of watching for signs. Therefore, it’s not on solid ground to assume any sort of 70-year window after Israel was established as a nation in 1948.
So when will it happen?
Date setting is probably just a recipe for disappointment (or from the outside, mockery), so it’s imperative that we not get too attached to any particular timeframe. I need to keep myself in check as well! Personally, I’m kind of happy that it didn’t happen already. I want to do so much more for God’s kingdom before I leave, and if it had happened, I wouldn’t have much to show for my life. Perhaps more people can be saved during the wait.
It is important to be spiritually ready at all times and to keep an eye on current events. The only thing we can watch for, really, is the peace agreement. Whether that will indeed take place next year in December (I will refrain from drawing any connections with the whole Mayan calendar/2012 theory) is impossible to determine.
What is clear, however, is that things seem to be accelerating at a rapid rate. Various economies and governments are crumbling before our eyes, and everything seems to be moving toward a world government. Certain nations, like China, have already suggested that we move to one world currency. We have the technology in place to implement a worldwide tracking and commerce system. Peace seems somewhat possible between Israel and Palestine, and groups are ready to rebuild the Jewish temple.
The table is set, we’re just waiting for the steak.
A lot of people are just living their lives as if they have a long, stable, and controllable future ahead of them. They seem to think that their spiritual relationship with God is one of those controllable variables—that they can fit Him neatly into their plans once it’s convenient or “the right time.” Rather than sensing any urgency in getting right with God, they reason, “Oh, I’ll take care of that right after I have kids…right after this promotion…once I send the kids off to college…once my 401(k) is nice and cushy…”
But what does the Bible say?
James 4:13-15: “13Come now, you who say, “Today or tomorrow we will go into such and such a town and spend a year there and trade and make a profit”— 14yet you do not know what tomorrow will bring. What is your life? For you are a mist that appears for a little time and then vanishes. 15Instead you ought to say, “If the Lord wills, we will live and do this or that.”
But of course as Americans, we don’t like the idea that anyone else is in control of our lives other than ourselves.
Well, this is a myth. We are not our own. And financially speaking, our economy and currency are largely in others’ hands as well: namely, China.
http://www.zerohedge.com/print/437859 (thanks bro for the link!)
If at any point China decides to dump the dollar—as some recent signs would indicate—then we could be in for an economic downward spiral. Hyperinflation, to unprecedented levels, could result and it seems imminent.
“If for some reason [China selling off their U.S. investment] the reserves of dollars held overseas by investors and creditors were to come flooding back into the U.S., we would see a hyperinflationary spiral more destructive than any in recorded history. As the supply of dollars around the globe increases exponentially, so too must foreign demand, otherwise, the debt machine short-circuits, and newly impoverished Americans will be using Ben Franklins for sod in their adobe huts. As I will show, demand for dollars is not increasing to match supply, but is indeed stalled, ready to crumble.”
Reminds me of a verse in Revelation, speaking of hyperinflation in the end times in a way that John could understand. I don’t even think they had the concept of hyperinflation in those days, so he had to describe it the best way he knew how…
Revelation 6:5-6 says: “5When he opened the third seal, I heard the third living creature say, “Come!” And I looked, and behold, a black horse! And its rider had a pair of scales in his hand. 6And I heard what seemed to be a voice in the midst of the four living creatures, saying, “A quart of wheat for a denarius, and three quarts of barley for a denarius, and do not harm the oil and wine!”” (A whole day’s wages for a quart of wheat…)
So the practical application, I guess, would be to get right with God immediately. Stop waiting around as if the world works on your timetable and your meticulous planning. Work and money is important, of course, but it’s a distant secondary priority to your walk with God.
In the previous few posts, I’ve talked about how different it is to be a true believer of Christ. For almost all practical purposes, it sounds a lot more difficult than the prevalent “say the prayer” plan, so I can understand how it would be a turn-off to some. Even believers might ask, “Who’s going to be interested in Christianity if it’s this hard?” Of course, how easy or difficult something is has no bearing on this issue. Truth is truth regardless of whether we like it or hate it.
So let’s accept that being a true believer results in drastic changes in that person’s life, and that their life will become much more disciplined and restrictive in some sense. What’s the rush, then? Why not wait until we near the end of our lives so that we can have all the fun we want now?
Right off the bat, we need to establish a simple truth: there IS such a thing as a genuine “death bed conversion.” People can be truly saved as they near death, even if they don’t have any time or opportunity to demonstrate the fruit we’ve mentioned. This is because salvation truly is by the Holy Spirit, and not by works. Of course, we may not be able to tell if all of them are true because there’s no way for examining or demonstrating the faith. Perhaps the best-known last-minute conversion is the thief on the cross, to whom Jesus promises, “Today, you shall be with me in Paradise.” (Luke 23:43b)
Now, let’s examine some reasons for urgency. Why should we want to become a follower of Jesus Christ as soon as possible?
1. We don’t know how much time we have left.
This is something we all know…”yea yea, we could get hit by a truck tomorrow.” But I think it’s a little more complex than we think. Let’s examine it from a number of angles.
First, even though we might know about our mortality in our heads, in our hearts, most of us assume that we are going to live until a ripe old age. Hardly anyone honestly expects to die anytime soon. But what if you really did get into a car accident and died tomorrow (or tonight)? Even if there is less than a 1% chance that on a given day you will pass away, are you really willing to risk your eternal destiny on that chance? If you keep pushing off your search for truth, you’re not getting any closer to being saved. Those small percentages are eventually going to catch up to you, and you may never get the chance to consider matters of faith consciously on a nice hospital bed somewhere.
Second, there is the very real possibility of Rapture during our lifetimes. I know people have been saying that for a long time, and kooks will claim to know the exact dates (and invariably will prove to be false), but what if it does really happen soon? Things really are starting to come together.
There will be many people who won’t be ready in time, and as a result, they will face great hardship and danger during the time of tribulation. It would be far easier to accept Jesus before this all happens and be assured of heaven immediately. Plus, the Bible makes it clear that after some initial surge of interest in faith, most of the world will fall away and be doomed (and possibly subjected to God’s full wrath, not measured justice). No one can be sure that they will be one of the few who makes it through with their souls intact.
Finally, it’s not all about us. If you decide to wait until your death bed before you consider accepting Christ, what about your loved ones? What about your parents and children? You may find salvation, but you won’t have a chance to tell anyone you love about this saving grace. Your parents may be closed-minded to random strangers with smiles on their faces, but they may be willing to consider what you have to say (or see the evidence of change in your life). Same goes for your friends or spouse. Waiting could be the most selfish thing you end up doing in your life, even if you can’t see it yet.
2. Salvation is not purely a decision of our will.
Let’s say that you could somehow know with 100% certainty that you will die at the ripe old age of 90. Fine. So that gives you more than 89 years to live your way, and then before your 90th birthday, you can just accept Christ then, right? Sorry folks, this is usually very wrong. This is a very dangerous and risky road to travel.
If it were completely up to our willpower or a simple spoken decision, this last-minute strategy could partially work. But the problem is, the more we live our own way, fuel our pride, and reject the gospel throughout our lives, the harder it is for us to come to God. You’re basically distancing yourself from Him with every step, thought, and action. You’re putting up a wall between yourself and God brick by brick, and expecting it to be easy to get to the other side on a moment’s notice. Things simply don’t work this way, and God cares enough to warn us directly.
Ephesians 4:17-19 says: “17So this I say, and affirm together with the Lord, that you walk no longer just as the Gentiles also walk, in the futility of their mind, 18being darkened in their understanding, excluded from the life of God because of the ignorance that is in them, because of the hardness of their heart; 19 and they, having become callous, have given themselves over to sensuality for the practice of every kind of impurity with greediness.”
Reversing a lifetime of rejecting the gospel is not an easy process. It’s easier to repair a heart of short-term, mild neglect than it is to fix decades of indulgence and excess. People who live by the flesh are decreasing their chances of ever coming around by hardening their hearts and becoming callous. When the end of the road is coming, they will be unable to see the error in their ways. A dying man with a pragmatic mind who hedges and claims to accept Christ “just in case” has not acquired a saving faith.
Consider the thief on the cross. It’s amazing how much theology is packed into such a short space.
Luke 23:39-43: “39One of the criminals who were hanged there was hurling abuse at Him, saying, “Are You not the Christ? Save Yourself and us!” 40 But the other answered, and rebuking him said, “Do you not even fear God, since you are under the same sentence of condemnation? 41 And we indeed are suffering justly, for we are receiving what we deserve for our deeds; but this man has done nothing wrong.” 42 And he was saying, “Jesus, remember me when You come in Your kingdom!” 43 And He said to him, “Truly I say to you, today you shall be with Me in Paradise.”
Notice what the second criminal displayed to find his way to true salvation. He feared God, realized his own sinfulness, and knew he fully deserved death. Then, hanging on that cross, he knew there was absolutely nothing he could do to earn his own salvation. No good works, no rituals, or even an independent decision of his own. He knew that Jesus was the only way, and it is up to Christ himself to allow us in or not. This was not an act of his own volition! It was a desperate plea with the right understanding, and God’s grace showed favor to this man.
3. True belief in Christ leads to an abundant life.
It’s a flat-out myth that true Christians have lives to be pitied. “Ignorance is bliss,” others suppose. What they don’t know is how much purpose and fulfillment believers can have that makes their earthly lives better immediately. A true believer would never, in a million years, trade his joy in the Lord for that Ferrari or a vibrant sex life with beautiful people. Even persecuted Christians or martyrs consider it joy and an honor to suffer for Christ.
The so-called restrictions or hardships we encounter can become a pleasure. James 1:2-4 says: “2 Consider it all joy, my brethren, when you encounter various trials, 3 knowing that the testing of your faith produces endurance. 4 And let endurance have its perfect result, so that you may be perfect and complete, lacking in nothing.”
Sure, the teachings of the Bible may be painful to follow sometimes, but it produces greater rewards that are both immediately experienced and enjoyed in the long term. With the Holy Spirit’s help, it doesn’t always feel as hard as you might expect anyway.
Since this may sound far-fetched or even masochistic to some, consider these two analogies.
Some people love working out at the gym regularly. Others can’t even begin to comprehend why or how. Those who are active and fit will tell you that even though it’s hard, sweaty, and sometimes painful, they love doing it. The short-term “joy” is the rush of endorphins, filling them with relief or even a slight euphoria. The long-term pleasure comes from the clean and healthy way your body feels. No pain, no gain. Life is just better overall, and it’s worth the price of gym membership and sacrifice to achieve that kind of fulfillment. That hour on the couch or the chocolate cake, while appealing, are worth giving up.
Another analogy for our relationship with Christ is a healthy, happy marriage. There may be swinging bachelors out there who urge you not to get married, not to take on that ball and chain. “Say goodbye to your freedom,” they might say. Why would you give up your ability to do whatever you want? Stay up as late as you want, play video games all night, or sleep around with whomever you want? To some people, it’s impossible to see the appeal of a “restrictive,” monogamous, and committed relationship.
People who are happily married know all too well the cost they paid, but the reward is great enough to justify it all. Giving up “freedom” and a “fun” lifestyle is rewarded with a different level of happiness. What once seemed so appealing as a single person becomes dull or even repulsive to your eyes.
The same is true of entering into a relationship with Jesus Christ. Sometimes it seems to make no sense to give up the appealing world around us. The cost of entry may seem unattractively high, but the longer you wait, the more you miss out on what true satisfaction is on this earth.
4. The kingdom could always use more workers, and it’s our privilege to take part.
God is doing work in this world, and He chooses to use us to do some of it. Wouldn’t you want to contribute and be a part of the movement?
Imagine if everyone had this last-minute mentality. Who would be spreading the message of the gospel to people? Who would be the one coming to your hospital bed to instruct you and pray with you? I, for one, don’t want to be a leech that benefits from the work of others. I want to do my part, and I think deep down, most of us feel this way also. The good news is, God always has room for more workers, more soldiers.
5. God promises eternal rewards for the faithful.
OK, so the last one wasn’t really a “what’s in it for me?” reason, per se, but this one is.
God promises rewards for those who do his work and are faithful. Sometimes, the reward can manifest during our lives here on earth, but every time, we are assured to receive eternal rewards in heaven. (By the time you enter into a relationship with God, you may not need much extra motivation anyway.)
Matthew 5:11-12 says: “11Blessed are you when people insult you and persecute you, and falsely say all kinds of evil against you because of Me. 12 Rejoice and be glad, for your reward in heaven is great; for in the same way they persecuted the prophets who were before you.
Matthew 6:20: “But store up for yourselves treasures in heaven, where neither moth nor rust destroys, and where thieves do not break in or steal;”
What are these rewards that God promises? The Bible doesn’t say specifically, but my guess is that if God is the one rewarding us, it’s something we would enjoy. Granted, we’re not going to be lacking or covetous when we’re in heaven, but again, if God is giving it out, I want it. It’s eternity we’re talking about here. It’d be wise for us to plan ahead and make the ultimate investment while we still can. Like any good investment, the end result will be better the earlier we get started.
This post was just the tip of the iceberg, but I hope it’ll get some people thinking about treating their salvation with more urgency. There is literally nothing to gain by waiting, and there is everything in store for those who take the plunge. Finding Christ can sometimes happen overnight, but it may also take months (or even years). It’s safer to get started NOW, don’t you think? Don’t be like the virgins in the parable who aren’t prepared and are locked out from the feast. Don’t prepare too late.
If there are things you are afraid of losing or giving up, let me assure you that no true believer regrets the trade after it happens. No one ends up saying, “I’ve found Jesus, but I sure wish I could go back to my old ways again.” Besides, depending on what you’re holding onto, there’s no guarantee that God will ask you to give it up completely anyway. Perhaps He will refine it for his glory, or just push it down on the priority ladder. Maybe you will have to give it up. Either way, you won’t be sorry.
Before I begin, I’d like to point to the more theologically-minded to this article by John Piper: http://www.desiringgod.org/resource-library/conference-messages/is-jesus-an-egomaniac. What I’m about to write comes more from my own ideas and what helps me as I’ve thought about this issue. I’m sure others have come to similar conclusions.
Atheists and even Christians alike have sometimes wondered why God seems to into himself, or why he’s so concerned about his glory. When a person seeks fame and honor, we might stick up our noses and refer to that person as “full of himself,” arrogant, or even needy for attention. But when God demands our worship and wants us to love him even more than FAMILY, we need to get a good grasp on what’s going on.
First of all, let’s consider why it bothers us when people are like this.
Why does cockiness bother us so much?
Imagine an athlete who has just had a game of career highs, and during the interview, he boasts: “I’m not surprised at my excellence. I am on a different level from all the other players in the league, and everyone knows it.”
Don’t you think he would immediately become every other player’s new favorite target? Public enemy #1 in a sense? If it were basketball, you can bet defensive players guarding him would use every ounce of energy to keep him in check. They might bang bodies with him, knocking him to the floor (even if they pick up technical fouls). Anytime this arrogant athlete had a subpar game, you can bet he’d be hearing an earful from the opposing players all night. The others would rejoice in his failures.
The worldly explanation of why arrogance or self-promotion angers us might go like this: if a human being exalts herself, it goes against our belief that men and women are created equal. That boasting person is now claiming to be a cut above us. We are lowered in status, and equality goes out the window. Our uniqueness and special-ness are undermined. In the words of some wise person, which I’ve adopted on numerous occasions, we think: “Doesn’t that person wipe their butts just like we do?” Didn’t they cry and poop as babies just as we did?
This all points to the issue of pride, which we all intuitively know deep within us is sinful and an abomination. Just think how you feel when someone belittles your intelligence, your beauty, your worth. It feels wrong because God has instilled in us a sense that all human life is valuable. Anyone devaluing others sets off our moral alarms that something is terribly amiss.
Now imagine if that boastful athlete above was Michael Jordan. Would it seem quite as ridiculous or offensive? Public opinion might be torn. Some would defend him saying, “He’s just saying the truth. It’s not cocky if you can back it up.” Others would begrudgingly mutter, “Yea he’s the best, I just don’t like that attitude.”
As Bruce Lee once said, “If I tell you I’m good, you would probably think I’m boasting. If I tell you I’m no good, you know I’m lying.”
I’m sure you see where this is going.
God “isn’t cocky, just confident”
Let’s take it up a few…an infinite number of notches. If God Almighty proclaims his greatness, is it being cocky? Is it being an egomaniac? No, not at all. What he would be stating is pure objective fact. It’s a factual teaching for us to learn, that the creator of the entire universe is out there and worthy of praise.
When humans are boastful to each other, it offends us because we operate with the proper assumption that we are all valuable. We are supposed to be equals. An objectively equal person is claiming subjectively to be superior. But imagine how much God is offended when we boast to him or in spite of him. We aren’t even close to being equal with God. We are his creation, immeasurably inferior objectively, and yet we are still claiming to be equal or even superior.
Instead of feeling grateful for life and his sacrificial love, we elevate ourselves above him with our defiance, lifestyles, or idolatry—which can include love of money, the exaltation of science and human intelligence, or even loving another person more than God. We have guys like Sam Harris stating that any random book in Barnes and Noble would be superior to the very Word of God. Ouch.
Is it so surprising that God needs to teach us and remind us in clear terms what’s REALLY important? He is the one who is actually deserving of being elevated in our thoughts, words, and actions.
It’s easy to see why God needs to demand it so much. Even though he makes it crystal clear what we should be doing, we fail to do it anyway. If even “religious” people fail to honor him properly or sufficiently, how much more would we all fall short if God had never mentioned it? The Bible spells things out clearly sometimes, and we still fail to see it.
So what’s in it for us?
Theoretically, I could say “nothing” here and we would still be compelled to worship and exalt God. Even an earthly dictator could demand adulation from his people, and there’s not much they could do about it. That dictator probably couldn’t care less whether his subjects derive any benefit from it. The all-powerful God of the universe would be all the more entitled to endless praise, and the threat of his power would be enough to make us think twice.
But God happens to be a much bigger person than that, and there are actually positive benefits to praising him. Not only does he promise us rewards in the afterlife, but here on earth, worshiping God can become life’s greatest joy and privilege. This is a fact that is lost on those who scoff at God and his followers, but those on the inside know that there is nothing better. We were designed this way, so it shouldn’t be a surprise that it’s the only thing that truly fulfills us in this world (cue the old “God-shaped hole in our hearts” cliche).
Even nonbelievers can get a glimpse of this. I’ve seen people joyously collect posters and other Michael Jordan memorabilia. They “worship” him and get a taste of what it’s like to praise another and be lifted in spirit themselves. Spouses can honor each other (perhaps after demands for more love) and derive satisfaction from that, despite the hard work and sacrifice it may entail.
But Jordan can disappoint (and retire). Spouses will hurt us and let us down. So will friends and family, even when times are relatively good. These are all fleeting and pale imitations. They are candy, filling us up with a false sense of satisfaction, but our bodies and spirits long for the real thing.
Like a child is entitled to love and nurturing because of his or her inherent value, God is objectively worthy of worship. It’s to the point where we are morally compelled to do it. He doesn’t need an ego boost; he already knows the truth that it is right and good to worship him. There simply is no earthly comparison. Not only that, but when we exalt him, we ourselves are satisfied when we do it. He wants us to experience the joy of knowing him.
So no, He is not an egomaniac. That is a gross anthropomorphic oversimplification.