Humans are the God-breathed image bearers of God. God created us in the same general class of beings as himself, which is why we can relate to him on many levels.
You may have heard religious ideas about how every person born after the fall of humanity was devoid of the image of God in them, was born “utterly depraved”, “born of the devil”, personally repulsive and deeply abominable to God, etc. That’s not only Scripturally inaccurate (if you go beyond superficial prooftexting), but it’s also very conducive to awakening the worst of our instincts relative to other human beings. Such teachings simply attempt to dehumanize fellow humans, to strip the image of God off of them, since that’s the only rhetorical way of gaining imaginary authority to destroy them through slander and violence.
What happened after “the fall” is that humanity acquired a progressively thicker layer of self-reliance followed by blindness followed by sin followed by death – in that order. They departed from the divinely established order by relying on various systems of right and wrong (self-reliance), their worldviews and perspectives got retrained to perceive the world in the terms of “right vs. wrong” and “with us vs. against us” dichotomies (blindness), their skewed perspectives (think spiritual eyesight) caused them to constantly miss the mark in their interactions with other people and with God (sin in “hamartia” in Greek – literally, “missing the mark”), and in continually operating in sin they progressed in death (or entropy – increasing degrees of disorder, culminating in state of disorder – literal and irreversible death).
I really like the Jedi. To me, they are a very good representation of what I want to mature into with God. Put Jesus Christ and his power in place of Jedi’s concept of force, and we have here a great metaphor for a holistic teaching that captivates the heart, uses the mind, works with great power, guides you on the path of righteousness, preserves you in your holiness, and keeps you away from pride, greed, lust, and just about any other sin.
Here are the reasons why they way of the Jedi captures my heart:
- They are persons of honor. They don’t have a moral code that they adhere to in a slovenly fashion. They have an honor code that they are trained to follow as a matter of heart conviction, no matter the cost.
This past Sunday we witnessed a miracle on gridiron. A nearly 40 years old, relentlessly battered quarterback took his team from a 25-point deficit through a quick series of drives that culminated in earning the team, New England Patriots, their fifth Superbowl trophy.
At half-time, it seemed like it was almost over. At the score mark of 28 : 3 in the third quarter, it looked completely impossible. At that point, many people tuned off their TV sets to avoid witnessing the complete embarrassment. And those who did that missed the most improbable comeback in the history of NFL Superbowls.
As I was looking at the football field when it was all over, with members of opposing teams shaking each others’ hands (a sight sorely missed in today’s politics), and as tri-color confetti began to obscure the view, a sudden realization dawned on me. The next day I checked a few headlines, and my initial hunch was confirmed. The miracle didn’t happen on the football field. The real miracle happened in the locker room at half-time. While Lady Gaga was serving the public her warm, magnanimous, above-the-fracas entertainment magic (I don’t listen much to her music, but I found her half-time performance well-choreographed and tasteful), something very deep and dramatic was happening in Patriot’s locker room. (Let’s reclaim the phrase “locker room talk” for its lofty and legitimate purposes, shall we?)
Making the good news of Jesus Christ part of your life story is very simple. Here’s how I see it:
I was born with sin (original, hereditary condition) into a broken world. Jesus came to set me free from both of these. I agree to lay down my life at the feet of Jesus, ask him for his perfect and sinless life.
I agree to receive all the benefits of his finished work on the cross. I pledge to consider all the claims of divine justice against me satisfied through Jesus, from my birth until forever.
I am now born from above. This means that the old me is now dead and doesn’t exist. It’s gone forever. I now consider Christ as being alive in me and living through me.
My first and foremost goal in life is to be transformed into the image of Jesus Christ in my thoughts and deeds. I can not do it on my own.
So I ask God for the gift of the Holy Spirit. I believe I receive it for the asking. I now pledge to trust and rely on the Holy Spirit of God who now lives in me to empower me for character transformation, and for the works of service to humankind.
My main motive is now to be love. My mission in life is to love others as God has loved me. I choose to see God’s precious creation in every person, no matter how crooked or vile. My goal is to help them see it too.
I now have to power to lay hands on the sick and see them recover. My thoughts and words now have power. I choose to think, speak, and act as a son of the benevolent King of the universe.
I am God’s ambassador to humankind. Through my ambassadorship, I am part of the system of divine governance, whose goal is to see God’s kingdom realized on earth.
So many doctrines have been piled on to the simple Gospel that it’s sometimes hard to see the forest behind the trees. Let’s wipe the slate clean and start from scratch. Here’s the big picture, the way I see it.
Adam and Eve were in the garden, perfect, free of any dysfunction in their fleshly bodies, living in a perfect little world free of lack. “Garden” or “park” in Greek is παράδεισος – paradeisos, or paradise. Their benevolent creator Daddy gave them free reign and roam throughout everything. Being fruitful and multiplying was only a part of it. Their job was to rule the earth, starting from the garden on out, and spread that benevolent reign over all of the earth.
Daddy God warned the first couple that they can live a pure simple life or trust, or they can be the judges of good and evil themselves. The latter came with a huge warning. The warning was this: “the day you eat of the tree, in dying shall you die”. That’s in literal Hebrew. (The exact mechanics that involved eating some fruit has little significance for us now, as we look back in time). In other words, something like a virus (i.e., sin) will grab hold of you, which will cause you to run down, get sick, and eventually die. In dying you shall die – that’s both the progressive and the final aspect of death. That’s the law of sin and death for you.
As the result of the fall, the same thing happened in the world at large. Sin (dysfunction) entered into the world, and so lack and scarcity entered into it, and things have been winding down and wearing out ever since (death). The concept of entropy in physics is a prime testament to that.
All of that was not due to God’s cursing his creation. Those were simply the consequences of wrong actions, and they came with God’s warning (Gen. 2:17). Also, post-transgression, God immediately stated the effects of what had just happened (Gen. 3:17).
Colossians 1:21-23 is another passage (along with 1 John 1:9) that I heard quoted as supporting the idea that as we do or don’t do something, it causes God to do or not do something in response. The “if-then” construction is what throws people off. To be sure, it’s hard to translate properly into English.
However, the “if I am doing something – then God will be doing something in response” (my cause and God’s effect) workflow is not the workflow of grace, and it’s not supported by the grammar of the passage, as I will demonstrate below. Grace is God providing something through the finished work of Christ on the cross, 1900+ years before I was even born; faith is me appropriating whatever was provided by grace, as applicable to a given situation in my life. So it’s not “If I am doing X -> then God will do Y”. It’s rather “God has done Y and made it available -> therefore as I am trusting in it as being applicable to my life, I am thereby realizing Y’s benefits in my life.” Notice how concerning my side of the equation, the focus is on believing / trusting. Concerning my words and actions as related to Y – the correct stance should be “My words / actions X demonstrate that I believe Y”. In other words, “God has done Y -> I trust in and stand on Y (as shown in my words and actions X) -> Y will materialize in my life” That’s the correct workflow.
So the effect portion of the “cause-and-effect” pattern is not about God objectively doing something, but about me subjectively appropriating what’s already been done. The cause doesn’t affect God, it affects me. God did all he needed to do 2000 years ago. The grammar here is similar (not the same, but similar in all main points but one) and follows the same basic logic as 1 John 1:9, which is also largely misunderstood and misapplied.
(continued from part 2)
When people think about the word “sin”, they think about the sin nature acted out, or acted upon. Those are the outworkings of sin, usually called “sins” (plural, since they take several forms, depending on the context in which the sin nature is acted out). The entire book of Romans of Romans mention “sin” (singular, meaning sin as a principle or force) well over 40 times (including derived words like “sinful”), and the word “sins” meaning “acts of sin” only 3 times! If you read the first 8 chapters of Romans through this lense, they will make perfect sense. The issue is the sin force / nature, which generates acts of sin (sins) and which end in death. We can simply refer to the sin force as “malfunction”, and acts or manifestations of it as “breakdowns”, for the sake of simplicity.
If sin is malfunction, righteousness is the original perfect functionality. We can substitute that word with “being made right”, or “rightness”, or “right functionality”.
(continued from part 1)
God was on a quest to restore things to the original perfect condition. Since humans had authority on planet Earth, God sent a human (Jesus) with Earth-authority to reverse the effects of Adam’s gigantic misstep. Part of the greatest achievement of Jesus is that he absorbed all the malfunction into himself, and died with it:
2 Corinthians 5:21
21 For He made Him who knew no sin to be sin for us, that we might become the righteousness of God in Him.
There it is! Jesus didn’t become sinful, he became sin – he became malfunction itself. So naturally, death had to follow.
Now, for the second part of what Jesus has accomplished. When he rose up from the dead, he had no malfunction / sin left – it was gone! Now, Jesus didn’t just get restored to his original condition. Before his death and resurrection, Jesus was sinless (perfect), but he did get “infected”, as it were, with our sin. He did it by choice, but still. After his resurrection, being contaminated with “sin” became a logical impossibility.
In my earlier post on what sin is, I explained that sin is entropy, or disorder, in an ordered system. Since that post, I’ve arrived at even better explanation. That right here ought to tell you that my views are not static, and I progress in understand more things that uncover the beauty of God’s original design, and his plan for restoration of that original design (perfection can only be restored, it cannot be improved upon, by definition). I am amazed at the plan’s coherence, orchestration, and simplicity (it actually is simple if you abstract your thinking above the majestic complexity of its inner workings).
Let’s start with this: imagine a perfect symbiotic system – everything is perfect, the interrelationships are perfect, nothing is wasted. Then at some point malfunction gets introduced into the system. One part of the system is not perfect now, and since everything is interrelated, the malfunction spreads to other parts of the system, sort of like a virus. You see where I am going with this. The system is the “world / universe”, and that systemic malfunction is what the Scriptures call “sin” – a noun in singular. The specific effects or expressions of that malfunction, which would be manifested as specific breakdowns, are “sins” (a noun in plural).
Let’s just put off the mantle and the gavel of a moral arbiter for this exercise, and let’s examine this issue from an engineer perspective.