Jesus and Politics 4

When we are living in self-sovereignty…we see no need to repent…to ask God’s forgiveness for our shortcomings…because our self-evaluation is conveniently biased toward a lower, more tolerant standard.

The pride of self-righteousness gives us a false standard to go by.  Because we are in charge…sitting atop the decision-making thrones of our lives…we give ourselves a pass on our shortcomings.  Without giving it a second thought we look the other way…make excuses…sweep things under the rug.  We optimistically say to ourselves: “We’re not so bad.”  We subscribe to the idea that “no one is perfect.”  In self-sovereignty we have no one “looking over our shoulder”…evaluating the quality of our lives.

And we genuinely accept this favorably biased self-appraisal as valid and “normal” according to conventional thinking.

When we are living in self-sovereign self-reliance…we unilaterally forgive ourselves…because God is nowhere in the picture.  Absent a God in our lives having an alternative higher standard…we have nothing else to go by other than the standards of worldly conventional normalcy and thinking.

If we step back a moment and take a mezzanine view of life…the blindly presumptive arrogance of human self-autonomy is nonsensical…it doesn’t stack up…it doesn’t hold water.

Self-autonomy is based on the erroneous idea that we are in complete control of our lives.  What untrue and unsupported evidence lies behind this grand notion for our guidance in life?

Every innate human attribute…without exception…has no source or origin within ourselves.  We do not choose the time-period or the location in which we enter this world.  We do not choose our parents or our extended family.  We do not choose…before birth…to be physically beautiful or handsome, or to be intelligent, to have gifted athletic ability, or a savvy business acumen, or the politically social ability to influence and lead other people.  We certainly have no control over how long we live.

Some people show their specific God-given talents at a young age…long before mature cognitive reasoning or the independent ability to make rational choices begins.

The famous concert pianist Van Cliburn…when he was three years old…mimicked at the piano the simple piano piece that he had heard five minutes before…played by a departing student of his piano-teacher mother…Van climbing up to seat himself at the piano while she had gone into the kitchen to start preparing dinner.  Hearing the piano piece being played again, she came out of the kitchen saying: “Johnny you must go home now…your mother will be expecting you” only to find her young son sitting alone at the piano instead…having repeated the musical melody nearly note-for-note played a few moments previously…entirely by ear without ever having touched the piano keys before.

We do not choose our individual abilities and talents…we discover them.  They are innately built into us…and not a matter of our choice at all.

The universally accepted and basically unquestioned principle of worldly conventional normalcy and thinking…that we have a right to the self-autonomous opportunity to prove our self-worth according to the dictum of the Frank Sinatra song “I Did It My Way”…reveals that there is something fundamentally wrong…something oddly amiss…something that does not add up…in this taken-for-granted equation for life that has us sitting atop the thrones of our lives as if we actually knew what we were doing…as if we possessed our individual play-book for our optimum life.

If people entered into life with an accompanying Instructions Manual…an Owner’s Operation & Maintenance Manual…that applied specifically to each of us…then self-autonomy might make sense.  If we possessed foresight into our individual abilities and capacities upfront…early on…that was obvious to everyone and to ourselves…then going it on our own would simply be a matter of autonomously following through on the information…of connecting the dots…of “painting by the numbers.”

The idea that we can “run our own show” without God…is a fatally flawed concept that should be obvious by virtue of the fact that we do not come with an Owner’s Operation Manual.  Some crucially important factor is missing on one or the other side of the “equals sign” in the equation of life.  We act like we are independent, self-sovereign operators…yet we do not have the Instructions Manual as to how each of us works best.

And we are violently offended when anyone even begins to question our “right” according to worldly conventional normalcy and thinking…to live our lives according to the dictum “I did it my way.”

Self-sovereignty versus God-sovereignty should be the number one priority…at the very top of the list of life questions to resolve before anything else…yet curiously it is not.

Self-sovereignty is the unquestioned, presumptive, crowning jewel of worldly conventional normalcy and thinking.  It is the central governing principle.  It is the pride-filled guiding light of the human life lived apart from God.  It is defended to the death by all those radically committed to its cause.

How does this relate to Jesus and politics?

2 Corinthians 10:18 reads: “For not he that commandeth himself is approved, but whom the Lord commandeth.”

John 5:44 reads: “How can ye believe, which receive honor one of another, and seek not the honor that cometh from God only?’

Matthew 23:11-12 reads: “But he that is greatest among you shall be your servant.  And whosoever shall exalt himself shall be abased; and he that shall humble himself shall be exalted.”

Matthew 23:13 goes on to say: “But woe unto you, scribes and Pharisees, hypocrites!  for ye shut up the kingdom of heaven against men: for ye neither go in yourselves, neither suffer ye them that are entering to go in.”

The obvious critical question is: “go in where?”  The answer cannot be scholarship…the scribes and Pharisees were the most highly educated people in Israel (Jn. 5:39, 7:15, 9:34).  The answer cannot be political power…as they were already the ruling elite in Jerusalem (Jn. 9:22).

The answer to the question of where we should enter in order to go in…can only be God-sovereignty.  The answer is to enter into God-composed journeys of faith as patterned for us in the biblical narrative stories of faith…at the time of this statement of Jesus these would be the narrative stories of faith recorded in the Old Testament…Noah through Malachi…the New Testament Book of Acts having not occurred yet.

The one offending thing that gets the perfect Person Jesus Christ all the way to the indignity of the cross is the very thing that worldly conventional normalcy and thinking celebrates…which is self-sufficient self-sovereignty.

What will violently offend a person that is committed to self-reliance quicker than anything is to suggest our need to repent of the direction of our lives…to question our life management skills sitting atop the thrones of our lives as a junior god…to instead submit ourselves to the will and ways of God…thus wounding our pride.

Anyone who has ever been on the tipping-point of repentance…at the point of accepting Jesus Christ into our lives…or rejecting Him…knows that control is the bottom-line issue at stake.  The choice is to reject Christ and continue to maintain sole control over our lives…or to accept Christ and surrender our lives to Him as the new Lord and Master in our lives.

This is fundamental to Christianity…but it is an integral component of every positive adventure of faith recorded in the Bible.

How could this singularly perceptive insight…recorded in the Bible…about entering in at the worldly unconventional point of God-sovereignty…possibly be the product of humanistic literary invention?

When the Pharisees and Sadducees came to John the Baptist at the river Jordan…to check out what all the fuss was about this prophet preaching in the wilderness of Judaea…John said to them as recorded in Matthew chapter three:

7 But when he say many of the Pharisees and Sadducees come to his baptism, he said unto them, O generation of vipers, who hath warned you to flee from the wrath to come?

8 Bring forth therefore fruits befitting for repentance.

9 And think not to say within yourselves, We have Abraham to our father: for I say unto you, that God is able of these stones to raise up children unto Abraham.

10 And now also the axe is laid unto the root of the trees: therefore every tree which bringeth not forth good fruit is hewn down, and cast into the fire.

11 I indeed baptize you with water unto repentance: but he that cometh after me is mightier than I, whose shoes I am not worthy to bear: he shall baptize you with the Holy Ghost, and with fire.

12 Whose fan is in his hand, and he will thoroughly purge his floor, and gather his wheat into the granary; but he will burn up the chaff with unquenchable fire.

In speaking with such courageous boldness and candor to the Pharisees and Sadducees…John the Baptist goes straight to the point.

John the Baptist does not tell the ruling elites in Israel to improve their political, cultural, and social approach…or their personal piety…while remaining within self-sovereign self-rulership.  John the Baptist does not suggest an outside-to-inside approach that will produce godliness in these religious and political leaders.

John the Baptist takes the approach of inside-to-outside…of repentance that leads to God-sovereignty…which will produce fruits befitting repentance actualizing into better leadership, decision-making, and government of the people throughout the nation of Israel in the first century.

This brings us to one of the most important and influential verses in the Bible in terms of human politics and culture:

“For by grace are ye saved through faith; and that not of yourselves: it is the gift of God: Not of works, lest any man should boast” (Eph. 2:8-9).

This is the biblical concept: “The just shall live by faith” (Rom. 1:17; Hab. 2:4) and the verse written by Paul in Ephesians 2:8-9 that Martin Luther re-discovered that led to the Protestant Reformation.

Martin Luther brilliantly realized that works performed within self-sovereignty such as indulgences, pilgrimages, and the veneration of relics…fabrications out of the minds of men having no power to save…have no functional place within God-sovereignty having salvation by grace through faith.

“That not of yourselves” for Luther obviously did not include indulgences, pilgrimages, and relics designed primarily to raise money for the building of St. Peter’s cathedral in Rome…and we are indebted to him for this insight that very nearly cost him his life…when again in human history self-sovereignty violently clashes with God-sovereignty.

The fundamental take-away in this struggle between self-sovereignty and God-sovereignty…is that if we repent and cross-over from self-rulership to surrendering and yielding our lives to Jesus Christ…that from that time forward God is going to do it His way (Isa. 53:6, 55:8-9).

The ruling religious and political elite in Jerusalem at the time of the ministries of John the Baptist and Jesus Christ…put themselves forward through the pride of self-righteousness.

This is the direct opposite of the biblical-quality journey of faith in which people submit themselves to following God’s leading for their lives.

What led to the cross at Calvary was not entirely that Jesus claimed to be divine (Jn. 5:39, 6:40, 6:48, 8:12, 8:36, 10:30, 19:7) or that He inferred or admitted to being a king (Jn. 18:31-37, 19:12-15, 19:19-22)…but primarily the perceived threat to the political leadership of the religious elite in Jerusalem that was based upon the worldview of maintaining and protecting their self-sovereign self-rulership.

Politics and the cross come together with deadly impact at the point in time when the ruling religious elite in Jerusalem realize that Jesus has become a real threat to their self-sovereignty…the control over their own lives…after Jesus raises Lazarus from the dead:

“Then gathered the chief priests and the Pharisees council, and said, What do we?  for this man doeth many miracles.  If we let him thus alone, all men will believe on him: and the Romans shall come and take away both our place and nation” (Jn. 11:47-48).

If we love God with all of our heart and mind…and our neighbor as ourselves (Mk. 12:30-31)…we will not be self-serving…but this can only be actualized living in a God-composed journey of faith…within God-sovereignty.

Jesus and politics are connected at the very root…the essence…of good leadership principles that are universal and eternal in their application and outcomes…in the earthly life of Jesus and in our lives as well.

A perfect life as demonstrated by the perfect Person Jesus Christ…the Son of God…will be in absolute God-sovereignty…perfectly following a God-composed journey of faith life-script…without any shortcomings or missteps.

Living within God-sovereignty is also accessible and attainable by non-perfect, non-divine human beings…saved by graced through faith and not of works.

This is how Jesus is able to say in John 8:36…”If the Son therefore shall make you free, ye shall be free indeed.”  If we cross-over from self-sovereignty to God-sovereignty…and find our footing within our adventure of faith following Jesus Christ as Lord and King in our lives…then we are forever safe from the temptation to become rebels again in the kingdom of God.

If the reader will indulge me further in this already too long opening chapter…I would like to make a few final points to tie together the commonsense apologetic arguments put forward so far…for the divine origin of the Bible and its gospel message.

When Abraham is asked by God to take Isaac to Mount Moriah and sacrifice him as a burnet offering…after the long adventure of faith Abraham had experienced up to this point…the human side of him must have thought: “What do I have to do to bring to closure this called-out journey of faith?  Will I ever reach the end-point victory in what God has scripted for my life?”

As Joseph languishes in the prison of Pharaoh in Egypt…having failed in his attempt to gain release through the butler and baker…prior to the dream given to Pharaoh by God…Joseph must have entertained the thought that the two prophetic dreams he had as a young man back in Canaan will never be realized.  With each day Joseph performs his duties as a prisoner/caretaker in Pharaoh’s prison…with no foreseeable scenario for escape…Joseph is looking failure square in the face.

As Moses travels back to Egypt to confront Pharaoh and demand the release of the Israelites…certainly Moses is entertaining the possibility of utter failure and the sheer magnitude of his called-out assignment to lead the Israelites to the Promised Land of Canaan.

As David is being chased for his life by King Saul…surely David must think to himself at various times that this unanticipated development…and especially at the time of the disaster at Ziklag…that this was not part of the information given to David upfront at the time he was anointed to become king by the prophet Samuel.

On Saturday after the crucifixion of Jesus Christ as he lay dead inside the rock tomb of Joseph of Arimathea…Peter is wondering where and how everything seems to have gone wrong…and how he has fallen short of his potential and calling to be a leader of the presumed future Christian church…with the living Jesus as its head in Jerusalem.

The day after Jesus Christ reveals Himself to Saul/Paul in a brilliant light on the road to Damascus…as Paul sits inside the house of Judas on the street named Straight…temporarily blind…Paul must have contemplated the absurdity of God choosing him to take the message of Jesus Christ as Messiah to the greater Greco-Roman world at-large.

2 Corinthians 12:9 tells us that God’s strength is made perfect in weakness.  1 Corinthians 1:27 tells us that God has chosen the weak to confound the mighty.

The final compelling commonsense argument that ties together the key points in this first chapter…is that Jesus Christ as the Son of God…cannot be weak…but He can be a failure in terms of the appraisal of worldly conventional normalcy and thinking.

Looking back in time upon the first advent of Jesus Christ…He is all of Isaiah 9:6, Psalm 22, and Isaiah 53 combined into an unimaginably complex life-script.

Jesus Christ can exhibit divine humility in order to connect with us where we are…can askew participation in contemporary politics and cultural wars…can preach world-changing new doctrines and work miracles befitting the Son of God…but to make it all the way to the cross of Calvary to shed His blood as the Passover Lamb of God…Jesus must be a failure in life in terms of worldly conventional normalcy and thinking.

This is how you get a perfect Person Jesus Christ to the cross at Calvary.

What is truly remarkable from an apologetic standpoint and an inspirational viewpoint…is that God is capable of composing a life-script for Himself that challenges the divine character of the divine Son of God Jesus in the two major areas in our discipleship that challenge us the most.

In Luke 22:42 it famously reads: “Father, if thou be willing, remove this cup from me: nevertheless not my will, but thine, be done.”

Jesus cannot be outside of God-sovereignty…He is God…the second Person of the Trinity.

Yet the fact that Jesus has difficulty…in the Garden of Gethsemane…with His upcoming ordeal in taking upon Himself the sins of the world the next day…tells us that in making the difficult transition from self-sovereignty to God-sovereignty…that amazingly God has been there Himself and can help us in this regard.

Likewise for those called-out Christians today enlisted to be medical missionaries in the Amazon rainforest, or pastors of small town churches, or Bible college professors on a teacher’s salary, or street evangelists in the poor sections of major cities, or foreign missionaries called to plant new churches around the world…along with a host of other tasks misunderstood, unappreciated, and disdained by worldly conventional expectations…the fact that the perfect Person Jesus Christ was also a failure according to conventional normalcy and thinking…tells us that God has purposely been there Himself and can help us in this regard.

How to get a perfect Person Jesus Christ all the way to the cross…yet maintain perfection in order to quality as the blemish-free Passover Lamb sacrifice for sin…while setting up the context of a life-script that would enable God to experience in a human body humility, self-discipline, and the unimaginable element of failure…all for our benefit…is simply beyond human imaginative creation.

Chapter Two starts with a discussion of another commonsense apologetic argument for the divine origin of the Bible…and the existence of God…which is the delicate balance between belief and unbelief.

Jesus and Politics Two

This is a revised post from 18 days ago…taken from chapter one of my new Christian book:

God Didn’t Create Robots: Commonsense Christian Apologetics.

If Jesus Christ had come in the days just before Noah…it would have been a disappointing disaster (Gen. 6:5-6).

Some of the people at that chaotic time would have listened to His message, visually seen and personally experienced His miracles, and repented of their sinful life…but a Passover-quality sacrifice for the sins of mankind would have no backstory then…no brilliantly fine-tuned past history…leading up to His incarnation that would make perfect sense in a pre-scripted…timely way.

The incarnation of Jesus Christ coming too early would be like introducing mankind into existence during the Jurassic Period of the dinosaur.  Solomon wrote in Ecclesiastes 3:1…”To everything there is a season, and a time to every purpose under the heaven.”

An untimely incarnation of Jesus Christ would be…in military jargon…a “serious misallocation of resources.”

The life-script for Jesus Christ in first-century Israel has an incredibly rich backstory and a perfectly engineered context in which to play itself out to the fullest…in terms of world-changing impact.

This again is commonsense apologetic evidence for the divine origin of the Bible.

No human power of inventive imagination or clever contrivance…could skillfully combine all of the political, social, cultural, and religious factors together…along with the ancient biblical prophecies of Psalm 22 and Isaiah 53…and numerous other scattered, prophetic messianic verses throughout the Hebrew Bible (Old Testament)…and produce the dramatic events of the crucifixion of Jesus Christ as the Passover Lamb of God…and His resurrection from the dead three days later…at any other time in human history.

Try to think of a better time for Jesus Christ to come into this world…there isn’t one.

Satan had worked hard for years to install people as the religious ruling elite in Jerusalem in the first half of the first-century (Jn. 8:44)…ambitious people falling prey to the enticing and seductive temptation to accept the riches and power of this world…utterly self-serving…the exact same temptation that Jesus Christ in divine character judiciously refused in the wilderness (Lk. 4:5-8).

But this seemingly clever chess-board strategy of Satan backfires in his face…because the political, social, cultural, and religious structure in first-century Israel…built around worldly self-interest…unlike the chaotic and unstructured time-period before Noah…actually creates the precise environment…the perfect context for setting up the injustice of the proceedings culminating in the cross of Calvary…openly exposing the true nature of self-serving self-sovereignty at the heart of worldly conventional normalcy and thinking (Jn. 15:25).

It is the structured make-up of the chess-board set of rules in place in early first-century Jerusalem that enables the exposure of the wide gulf between the two worldviews of self-sovereignty and God-sovereignty…self-sovereignty personified in the religious elites violently attacking God-sovereignty personified in Jesus Christ…abandoning any pretext to civility, fair-mindedness, or justice…right in the middle of one of the proudest moments in human civilization…featuring the stability of Roman laws and civil government, the pinnacle of Greek philosophy and thought, the established system of Jewish religious laws and worship, and a receptive backstory of the social and cultural expectation of a soon-coming messiah in Israel (Jn. 11:47-48; Mk. 15:29-32).

What should never have happened during this civilized time period in history…is Calvary.

Yet the timing of God for the incarnation of Jesus Christ the Son of God is impeccable.  Jesus and politics are inseparably linked.

The timing of the incarnation of Jesus Christ into our world tells us that God cares a great deal about the political, social, cultural, and religious structure…and that He is savvy and well-informed on all aspects about good and evil across the political and social spectrum…beyond anything human beings could imagine or contrive.

Without the very-human and universally stereotypical cast of characters…of the Pharisees, Sadducees, lawyers, and scribes (Lk. 11:52; Jn. 11:47-48)…Caiaphas the high priest (Jn. 11:49-50; Mt. 26:57-65)…and Pilate the Roman governor (Mt. 27:18, 24)…revealing the frailty and unreliability of human nature in this critical choice between self-sovereignty and God-sovereignty…the Passover Lamb of God sacrifice for the sins of mankind…on a Roman cross in first-century Jerusalem…would never have happened.

At any other time or place…”cooler heads might prevail”…with Jesus Christ only being exiled out of the country or placed under house arrest…or on the other extreme beaten to death by an unruly mob using clubs…but not crucified in a semi-official, hurried-up process that attempted to have the outward seal of judicial legitimacy…that could not white-wash over or conceal the reality of the truly evil intent behind the murder of Jesus Christ the Son of God.

The incompatible mixture of injustice and divine redemption are blended together by God at Calvary…using divine foresight and perfectly executed performance to have Jesus Christ nailed to a cross on Passover Friday…dying in the late afternoon at the same time of day the Passover lambs are killed.

The main point in all of this is that the blood that Jesus sheds on the cross has divine life…it contains cleansing, transforming, character elevating power.  God the Father, Jesus Christ the Son, and the Holy Spirit knew this from the beginning of time (Rev. 13:8; Jn. 8:36).  They have always known this (Ex. 12:13; Num. 21:8-9).

In carefully choosing the political, social, cultural, and religious time and place for the incarnation of Jesus Christ…the goal always was to get Jesus to the cross.

The extremely narrow path that God the Father, Jesus, and the Holy Spirit navigate in the life-script for the Messiah in first-century Israel…is to get a sinless, blemish-free, perfect Person living at the highest level beyond anything ever encountered in human history…to the lowest imaginable end-point rejection of the cross…to be the Passover Lamb of God…sacrificing His life’s blood for mankind’s sin.

The utter injustice of the civil proceedings of the cross on Calvary Hill that uniquely fateful day in Jerusalem…and the highest level of justice honored, sustained, and upheld by God in taking upon Himself the penalty for our sin…a penalty we are incapable of paying on our own behalf…has a precision of creative engineering and architectural skill that is equal to or surpasses that of the Big Bang, the Cambrian Explosion, the Anthropic Principle, or the complexity of DNA.

To get a perfect Person to the cross is beyond humanistic literary imagination or invention.

Jesus Christ sheds His life-giving blood on a Roman cross of execution…rather than being stoned to death by the Jewish authorities for blasphemy…because it was the unprecedented assertion that Jesus made Himself Christ…a king…in violation of the current political structure (Lk. 23:2; Jn. 19:7, 12, 15, 19).

Before Noah’s time…the people then may have simply said: “Go ahead and make yourself a king of somewhere or something of your choosing…we don’t care one way or the other…there is plenty of open territory to create a new kingdom.”

The insightful forethought and premeditation to connect Jesus to the structured politics of the first-century Greco-Roman world…to get Jesus to the cross…and the blood of the Passover Lamb applied to the header and side-posts of our hearts…so that the angel of death will “pass over” us…is divine.

The cross of Christ set forever on Calvary Hill…is the epitome…the pinnacle…of the concept that God can take evil and turn it around to produce good…in this case good that is of incalculable worth.

This single-minded, end-point goal of the life-script of Jesus to get Him to the cross…and to the resurrection three days later…turns worldly conventional normalcy and thinking upside-down on its head.

The complexity of the information content…the intensity of the end-point purpose that is honed-in on…the premeditated foresight needed…and the sheer beauty and high-quality of the thought process and ideas involved…all argue persuasively against the gradualistic evolutionary development of material particles alone…which is the central contention of naturalistic philosophy.

But this life and power comes to live inside Spirit-born Christians (Jn. 14:17; Gal. 2:20; Rev. 3:20)…not to exercise dominance over the world…not to be masters of the human race…not to be recipients of the very misguided use of self-serving power that Jesus refused in the temptation in the wilderness (Mt. 4:10).

The divine life and power of the blood of Jesus enables Christians to become like God to some extent…to become redeemed, transformed, and called-out people…in close conformity to the examples of the journeys of faith recorded in the Bible…especially the life-script of Jesus (Eph. 3:16-19; Jn. 15:13).

This explains the radical conversion in the lives of the apostle Paul and James the half-brother of Jesus…and the crafting of the men and women of the early Christian church into bold and fearless evangelists who “turned the world upside down” (Acts 8:4, 17:6) in the first-century.

Spirit-born Christians still remain created, non-divine beings…but with the new capacity to be become servant-leaders…giving ourselves willingly to love God with all of our hearts and minds…and our neighbors as ourselves…according to individually crafted, God-composed journey of faith life-scripts (Eph. 2:10)…that glorify God and help other people.

Looking around in the “real” world of conventional normalcy and thinking…could any person who is not engaged in an adventure of faith following God’s lead…who does not personally know the God of the Bible (Jer. 31:31-34)…invent this extraordinarily complex and functionally integrated information?

The mere existence of this concept put down into writing…of God-composed journey of faith life-scripts which displace our ways with God’s higher ways…energized by the life and power of the blood of Jesus shed on the cross and His resurrection three days later…applied to Spirit-born Christians…is a compelling argument for the divine origin of the Bible and its message…based alone on the sheer unconventionality and innovative originality of its information content…as far outside of worldly conventional normalcy and thinking as is imaginable.

Polarization Does Not Work

A basic fundamental question for all Spirit-born Christians to ponder…that relates to political and cultural issues at the deepest level…is why doesn’t Paul…after he is stoned nearly to death in Antioch Pisidia (Acts 14:19-20)…according to worldly conventional normalcy and thinking…according to worldly normal expectations and aspirations as a bona-fide Christian evangelist…become offended at Jesus Christ and the harsh way this missionary trip is starting out…and give-up?

As Paul experiences being beaten along with Silas in the city of Philippi (Acts 16:16-24)…this would be an experience as contrary to our modern expectations within worldly conventional normalcy and thinking for the future writer of divinely inspired New Testament letters to the early churches…a man who today has colleges, cathedrals, and hospitals named after him.

Why didn’t Paul get offended at Jesus Christ…and this unconventionally difficult and challenging God-composed adventure of faith…and quit…at this point?

When Paul goes back to Jerusalem for the last time in his life…and is violently rejected by the populace (Acts 22:22) and then nearly “pulled to pieces” in the Sanhedrin council (Acts 23:10…Jesus once again appears to Paul (Acts 23:11) to assure him that he is still on the correct path in his adventure of faith calling as a missionary evangelist.

Paul then enters into a period of time where he is under Roman arrest and thus protection as a prisoner…to the point that he feels compelled to explain and defend his unconventional position as a Christian leader in prison to the early churches and to friends…who naturally would question such a condition according to worldly conventional normalcy and thinking (Acts 26:31; Eph. 6:20; Phil. 1:7, 12-18; Col. 4:3; 2 Tim. 1:16-17).

Paul cannot write his “prison” and “pastoral” epistles in the New Testament if he is offended…if he is mad at God for how his life is going.

The answer to the question of why Paul is not offended according to worldly conventional thinking and aspiration…and why he does not quit…is a broad answer but is two-fold for this blog post.

First, to simply say that Jesus Christ forewarned Paul ahead of time regarding difficulties and hardships that Paul would face out on the road as a missionary evangelist…is too shallow and too easy of an answer…although it is one factor.

The top-most factor that motivates the apostle Paul to push forward against all obstacles and obstructions in opposition to the gospel message…coming from worldly conventional political, social, cultural, and religious power structures (Eph. 6:12)…is that Paul saw Jesus Christ the Messiah and King in the proverbial light on the road to Damascus.

This reality resets…re-boots…how Paul from that day forward views purpose and meaning in life.  Like the disciples who physically saw the risen Jesus…a new world where Jesus Christ is risen from the dead…changes everything.

For Paul…meeting Jesus as Messiah and Lord on the road to Damascus…forever changes the paradigm and boundaries of reality.  It discards forever the normative rules of worldly conventional normalcy and thinking he was raised and educated in as a young Pharisee taught under Gamaliel in Jerusalem in the strictest Jewish tradition.

As Paul walks through his God-composed journey of faith life-script to be the missionary evangelist to the first-century Greco-Roman world…he keeps his focus on the reality of his first encounter with Jesus as Messiah and King…at Damascus…always balanced against the hardships and challenges he is experiencing.  The future promise of the reality of Jesus as Savior, Son of God, King, and Prince of Peace (Isa. 9:6) far outweighs the current struggles against spiritual opposition, untruth, and our own foibles and fallibility (Rom. 8:18).

The second answer to why Paul does not give-up and quit…which forms one of the most powerful apologetic validations of the Bible…elucidating a concept so foreign to any other worldview and as fundamentally opposed to self-sovereignty and self-rulership as is imaginable…is simply that when God calls us into a challenging life-script…by definition and necessity above and outside of worldly conventional normalcy and thinking (Isa. 53:6, 55:8-9)…He is placing faith in us that we can with His help and Holy Spirit assistance step-up and come through into victory.

This same reality does not exist anywhere even remotely within worldly conventional normalcy and thinking…which is based upon self-reliance and proving oneself using our innate, in-built talents and abilities…all within our own control.

Christian Politics 4

We get things done smoothly at our jobs by cooperation, coordination, communication, and teamwork.  People working together find a common ground approach to achieving efficiency, economy, and quality outcomes.

When this is not the case…when the system is not working…when time and money are factors…then changes are made to the system and/or to the people in leadership.

A variety of viewpoints and polarization of starting opinions may be helpful in some businesses where creativity and problem-solving is inherent in the work description…but some synthesis as a working methodology that focuses towards an end-point goal…is the model for most enterprises.

The reality of human nature is that we are not cookie-cutter, think-alike replications.  This is an observed reality that argues for intelligent design in the deepest and most profound way.  A God who could only create robotic duplicates patterned after the same model…would not demonstrate much creative imagination or technical expertise.

The Bible tells us that we are created in the image of God…and the creative innovation of human imagination parallels the nearly infinite combinations of traits found in the varieties of appearances and thought processes of people.

This blog is called Christian Politics…and it must recognize God as the Creator of this world and the people who inhabit it.  It therefore must be taken as a given that differences of opinion will be part of even the best this-worldly political and cultural system.

That being said…what can we glean from the Bible?

The first thing that should hit us square in the face…is that in the cross and the resurrection of Jesus…both the very worst and the very best are interwoven within the same series of events.  The rejection and crucifixion of Jesus does not happen as a separate, side-event within history.  The Jews were celebrating Passover throughout the nation of Israel…and while they were in exile, since their deliverance from Egypt.

How can Christian politics be viewed in a world where Jesus Christ is raised from the dead…despite the incredibly evil and misguided efforts of the contemporary ruling elites in Jerusalem at that time…religious imposters posing as God’s agents…and the deadliest of enemies of the early Christian church?  How does politics fit-in within this extremely adversarial environment?

The simple answer…and an answer that may be totally unsatisfactory because of its simplicity and lack of detailed direction or agenda applicable to our modern issues…the simple answer is to exercise faith in God and follow His leading…no matter what is the composition of the ruling government.

This is the approach of the early Christian church and its first evangelists who took the gospel message bravely out into the Greco-Roman empire…starting first at the most adversarial location in the heart of the city of Jerusalem…the great spiritual city where the King of Glory was crucified and rose from the dead…changing the world forever.

To Be Continued.

Christian Politics 3

Just as Jesus cannot walk around Israel in the first-century with an exterior halo of His divinity…in His princely garb of fine clothing, a royal carriage, and a retinue of soldiers…so to speak…and then be able to meet us where we are and to hone-in on His end-point destiny to be the Passover Lamb of God sacrifice for sin…Jesus likewise and in addition cannot also engage the current political, social, and cultural issues that do not directly relate to the narrow-gate mandate of His unique calling.

As contrary to conventional normalcy and thinking as this may seem at first glance…Jesus Christ cannot ingratiate Himself to the ruling elite in Israel by inserting Himself into the contemporary political and social dialogue…in which He would have been brilliantly helpful and insightful (Lk. 2:46-47)…and thereby compromise the gap between self-sovereignty and God-sovereignty…which is the defining issue that leads to a cross in Jerusalem (Jn. 15:22-25).

In Luke 12:13-14 a man from the audience asks Jesus to intervene in a family dispute over the division of an inheritance…and Jesus declines saying: “Man, who made me a judge or a divider over you?”

After Jesus multiplies the loaves of bread and fish to feed thousands…and the people who saw this miracle remark: “This is of a truth that prophet that should come into the world” (Jn. 6:14)…the next verse reads: “When Jesus therefore perceived that they would come and take him by force, to make him a king, he departed again into a mountain himself alone” (Jn. 6:15).

In the classic verbal confrontation between the Herodians and Jesus regarding the paying of tribute to the Romans…Jesus deftly raises the issue of the dual allegiances of our duty to secular authorities and to God…to a higher level above and outside of the worldly conventional zone where the Pharisees through the Herodians wanted to “entangle” Jesus in His words (Mt. 22:15-22).

The opponents of Jesus again try to trap Him in His words…by re-litigating the laws of Moses by asking Jesus what are the most important of these (Mt. 22:34-40).

But the mission of Jesus does not include what was already established for the nation of Israel…as Jesus clearly states by saying in the Sermon on the Mount: “Think not that I am come to destroy the law, or the prophets: I am not come to destroy, but to fulfill” (Mt. 5:17).

What has enormous apologetic value as an argument for the divine origin of the Bible…is this narrow discipline and restraint shown by Jesus the Son of God in staying within the calling and mission to be the lowly Passover Lamb of God sacrifice for mankind’s sins…which even seems to preclude not getting involved too closely with the contemporary political and cultural issues of that time period.

At this point I would refer the reader to the Introduction and Chapter Five of one of my favorite books God: The Evidence by Patrick Glynn…in which he makes the case that the teaching of Jesus turned the philosophy of the ancient world upside-down on its head.

Atheists and agnostics might reasonably argue at this point that if Jesus was the all-knowing Son of God…why did He not introduce the technological and scientific advancements then…that would jump-start the Scientific and Industrial Revolutions that eventually produced steam engines, automobiles, airplanes, solar and wind energy, I-phones, and e-mail?

Yet we have all of these gadgets now…and is life the paradise these imagined and dreamed-of Doctrine of Progress mechanical devices potentially promised?  Have they changed the heart of man?  We appear to have just as many and arguably just as difficult of problems to solve today as ever.

The earthly life-script boundaries for Jesus Christ end at the cross, the resurrection, and His ascension…because this is precisely its brilliant scope and mission.

This should tell Christians today that the God-composed journey of faith life-scripts that God is still producing today for the people who will pick up their cross and follow Jesus…are each perfectly designed to match our created abilities and gifts…and destined through the foresight and creative imagination of God to produce outcomes that are outside of worldly conventional normalcy and thinking…that will both challenge and satisfy our deepest longing for purpose and meaning in our lives.

Christian Politics 2

A fundamental reality for all human beings is that we can only do so much in a 24-hour, 7-day week.  There are only so many hours available for life.

This reality in essence means that everyone…without exception…must make choices.  We cannot simultaneously work in three different careers, become proficient in five different sports, lead an active social life with friends and family, carve out time to read all of the books we want to read in several genres, live in the city, and at the same time enjoy country life in the great outdoors.

Time and space constraints place practical limitations on each of us.  We cannot be in two or three places at the same time.

One of the instructive biblical facts-of-life is that as Abraham first walks from the city of Haran to Canaan…leaving behind the normative life he would have lived in Haran according to all of the social and cultural opportunities that society could afford him…God is actually displacing this normative agenda with a new and innovative life-script previously unknown to mankind…a God-composed journey of faith.

Note here that both lives could not be lived simultaneously…impossible in terms of geographical distance…and too large in scope to fit within only one measure of time.  The old life in Haran had to go in order to make room for the new life to actualize in Canaan.

We see this same pattern for Joseph’s life in Potiphar’s house, Pharaoh’s prison, and as governor of Egypt.  Again, this pattern repeats itself for David’s perilous life as King Saul pursues David to take his life.

In fact, we see this pattern in every called-out person engaged in a biblical-quality adventure of faith…God displacing whatever normative life these people would have lived…with a God-composed life-script they never would or could have dreamed up in their wildest imagination.

In a blog on Christian politics…this can and should tell us something about the relative value God places on what is important in our lives…when choices must be made to include some things and cut-out others…when for practical reasons alone…space and time are limited.

God-composed journeys of faith as recorded in the Bible prioritize for us what is eternally important in life…in a way that is not discoverable within the humanism of worldly conventional normalcy and thinking (1 Cor. 2:6-12; Jn. 16:13; Gal. 2:20).

So the most basic, fundamental question is…when God has to make a choice within the limitations of time and space that He Himself alone created…do the God-composed journey of faith life-scripts as recorded in the Bible…focus on concentrating our time and energy on political, social, and cultural reform within the secular realm…or are journeys of faith following God something that transcends the horizontally applicable daily concerns of local and international business trade, economic stability, and peace among nations (Mt. 6:25-34, 7:7-11)?

To be continued in the next post.

Christian Politics 1

A few years ago, I took time off work to attend a local university for two semesters…enrolling in five classes in religious studies and a class on the history of science.

The history of science class was taught by a brilliant PhD professor who had the gift of being able to not only lecture…but to be able to draw out the students into lively discussions on the wide range of issues involving the modern Scientific Revolution and the two Industrial Revolutions, along with the political, social, and cultural change-and-effect these historical events entailed.

This particular professor was an American who studied the Russian language, had spent a few years in graduate school in Moscow studying Russian, and had even worked on a Russian fishing trawler to perfect his Russian.

Some of the thought-provoking discussion therefore centered on what is called in recent history the Doctrine of Progress which was a prevalent social/philosophical thinking as a by-product of the rapid advances in science and technology that held promise for mankind alleviating the ills of poverty, hunger, and disease.

Some of the enthusiasm for the Doctrine of Progress has been eroded in modern times as a result of the sobering reality of the two major world wars in the 20th century…where it became evident that technological advancement can also be used to kill millions of people…80 million in WWII.

But one of the intriguing discussions…which I so much enjoy as an adult being immersed in university life…was the ultimate failure of the social experiment of the Soviet Union.

As usually happens with me…I am a slow and deliberate thinker…I would make a terrible courtroom lawyer…as my client would be hanged and buried for a few weeks by the time I figured out the one thing I should have said in his defense at the one opportune time during the trial.

In a blog exploring the subject of Christian politics…this comparison between the political systems of the Soviet Union in the 20th century…and the United States…is fundamentally important.

As I sat in this history of science class listening to the professor and the students interact…I thought about what would happen in Moscow in 1950 if Stalin and a small group of Kremlin leaders decided that they had too many PhD history professors…and what they really needed more of were manual labor ditch-diggers to widen the main road into Moscow.

The political system in the Soviet Union at that time had the power to simply announce that you were no longer a history professor at Moscow University…but instead now a ditch-digger with a shovel and a wheel barrow widening the road into the city…along with a lot of other people displaced out of their chosen careers…by a few politically powerful people who decided for the good of society that a road was more important than teaching history…and if anyone resisted…you were sent off to a prison camp in Siberia.

Then I thought about the contrasting political, social, and cultural system as expressed in a modern American university…that I was observing all around me.

Many students entering as freshman do not know what they want to do or to be in life.  They try out a broad range of required general education classes…and some classes in subjects they think they might like.

The fascinating thing I observed is that once a student discovered something they liked and could excel at…religious studies, English, history, electrical engineering, physics, chemistry, mathematics, education, physical therapy, or a particular foreign language…to name only a few examples…their motivation to work their tails off in applying themselves to mastering their chosen field took on an urgency of purpose and will-power that would probably amaze their parents, family members, and friends back home.

In a political, social, and cultural system that allows the freedom to pursue this in-built, innate drive to actualize the uniqueness of who and what each of us individually are…this is the fuel that drives people to willingly choose to be part of and invest themselves in this self-same system…in total contrast to the Soviet Union system of a few powerful people interjecting themselves into the center of this individual, personal discovery and decision-making sphere.

As I sat in this history of science class watching and listening…what if we were all transported back in time to a university classroom in the city of Moscow in the 1950’s…and Stalin decided that my brilliant and talented history professor…doing what he loved and was best suited for…must leave his position as a university professor and take up a shovel for the good of the nation…simply because some other person decided that what they were born to do was no longer important.

As Christians…we believe that every human being is a special creation of God and has a unique, individual capacity to pursue the best possible life-script imagined within the mind and heart of God.

In this post I am making the argument that the best possible political, social, and cultural system…as differentiated in the contrast made above between the Soviet Union dictatorship and the open society of rules and laws in America…demonstrated by college students in free societies pursuing their talents with a motivated energy that invests itself throughout their lifetimes in perpetuating this system…that the best possible system is the system that provides the most opportunity to its people and at the same time removes as many barriers to opportunity as is possible.

As a Christian…I will close this rather lengthy post by saying that…this contrasting dichotomy between closed political systems like as occurred in the Soviet Union in the 20th century…and open societies like we have here in America that is built upon rules and laws…and not the whim of a few powerful people…leaves the atheistic philosophy of materialism and naturalism far behind in the dust.

This very sophisticated and complex discussion has nothing to do with survival of the fittest in terms of hunting wild animals for food and securing dwelling places for protection from the weather.

As a Christian…I reject the notion of Richard Dawkins that there are winners and losers merely “dancing to their DNA.”  Material particles and energy could never rise to the level of a pre-law undergraduate student working night and day…as I observed at the university…working their tails off in the history of science class to achieve a high grade to move on and to actualize the life-plan goal that is within sight.

Is it plausible for moral reasoning of this caliber to evolve unguided through gradualistic, naturalistic causation alone?  I do not think so.

This question affects our worldview…and therefore our politics.

More on this in future posts.