And I will put enmity
Between you and the woman,
And between your seed and her Seed;
He shall bruise your head,
And you shall bruise His heel.
- Genesis 3:15
When woman first came on the scene she was the fulfillment to a longing of Adam's heart. Despite his intimate relationship with the Lord, Adam still desired a mate to share his life with. Being made in the image of God, this made perfect sense. Even God exists as Three-in-One, One-in-Three, announcing Himself plurally from the beginning of the Bible. Literally, the beginning. In Genesis 1:1 the word for God is elohiym, it's a plural Hebrew word.
Knowing Adam's desire for intimacy with another of his kind, he created Eve. He had Adam lay down, removed his rib, and from it formed Eve. God then presented Eve to Adam as his equal. Adam knew this, immediately declaring "This is now bone of my bones and flesh of my flesh; she shall be called ‘woman,’ for she was taken out of man.” (Gen. 2:23) The Bible affirms this in the next verse recording that from now on man and woman were meant to be joined together, becoming "one flesh." (2:24) This brings full circle the truth written in 1:27, that male and female were created in the image of God.
And so the controversy begins.
In Gen. 3 the serpent, the enemy, deceives Eve, who in turn deceives Adam, and from that point on the majority of mankind has regarded woman as lesser. God's intention for woman has been disregarded because of deception. Because we should know better, there is no one guiltier in this than the church.
And it's time for this to end.
Starting in Genesis 3 many have made the mistake of believing that God curses man and woman because of their sin. This is simply not true. The curses God pronounces are upon the serpent (v.14) and the ground (v.17). To the woman He declares that her pain in childbirth will be increased and that she will long for her husband to the point that it will give him power over her (16). However this is not a curse, just as Adam's "painful toil" (17) plowing the ground is not a curse. No, rather they are repercussions of allowing sin (and therefore, death) into the world. With sin came pain, sickness, and death. Things that do not exist in heaven were now a part of earth because of their choices. Adam and Eve had given up their authority, their fullness, through their sin, and with that came consequences.
Many use this story to explain why woman will never rise to the same prominence as man until heaven. These people believe it is God's will to keep women subjugated to man until we're all in heaven.
But this simply is not true.
Firstly, Jesus paid the price for sin. Now anyone who accepts the gift of salvation enters into His permanent rest (Hebrews 4). Curses no longer have any power over us. Jesus seized back the authority Adam and Eve once relinquished and now lives in us, restoring to us that same authority (Matt. 28:18-20). The sinful one we were is now dead, and we are raised back to life in Christ (Rom. 6:11).
Our identity is now restored! All that came about because of sin is no longer to be part of our lives. This includes hierarchy based on race, culture, class, or sex.
There is neither Jew nor Gentile, neither slave nor free, nor is there male and female, for you are all one in Christ Jesus.
- Galatians 3:28
To God the difference in value between man and woman is negligible. There is none!
Unfortunately many in the church still do not see this. They instead put limits on women because of bad understanding of two passages in the New Testament.
1 Timothy 2:9-15
And that the women would also pray with clean hearts, dressed appropriately and adorned modestly and sensibly, not flaunting their wealth. But they should be recognized instead by their beautiful deeds of kindness, suitable as one who worships God.
Let the women who are new converts be willing to learn with all submission to their leaders and not speak out of turn. I don't advocate that the newly converted women be the teachers in the church, assuming authority over the men, but to live in peace. For God formed Adam first, then Eve. Adam did not mislead Eve, but Eve misled him and violated the command of God. Yet a woman shall live in restored dignity by means of her children, receiving the blessing that comes from raising them as consecrated children nurtured in faith and love, walking in wisdom. (TPT)
Read apart from the larger context of scripture, this passage can seem to mean that Paul is reasserting the dominance of man brought about by sin. But to believe that requires ignorance of Paul's other writings. He is the same man that wrote the above verse in Galatians. Surely the same man that clearly stated "nor is there male and female" and also affirmed female apostles (Rom. 16:7) would not also ban women from speaking in church, would he?
No, he would not. Paul does not contradict himself here, he was far too brilliant and intentional for that. The letter to Timothy was written when Timothy was in Ephesus. In Ephesus was the temple of the goddess Diana, and Ephesians had a worship system built around female leadership. In their pagan system the women had all authority. Therefore one of the challenges Timothy faced were women unwilling to learn from men. In response to this Paul stresses that the women must be willing to learn from the men. He didn't need to mention the men learning from women, for that was their tradition anyways! This is why similar instructions are not included in letters to other locations.
Also, Paul mentions the forming of Adam first as a response to Gnosticism. The gnostics taught that Eve had been formed first, which would have been an especially popular teaching in Ephesus. Paul is simply affirming Biblical truth.
Finally, when Paul says a woman will live in restored dignity through her children he is not saying that she can only be restored through childbearing, that is a bad translation. Instead he is affirming she is already restored, and that restoration is displayed through her children that walk with the Lord. Also the Greek text implies that the restoration came through "the Child", which would mean Jesus. Either way, the emphasis is on the woman's restoration, not the need to do something in order to receive favor.
1 Corinthians 14:34-35
The women should be respectfully silent during the evaluation of prophecy in the meetings. They are not allowed to interrupt, but are to be in a support role, as in fact the law teaches. If they want to inquire about something, let them ask their husbands when they get home, for a woman embarrasses herself when she constantly interrupts the church meeting. (TPT)
This is another passage used to keep women silent in many churches. But once again that represents a poor understanding of what Paul is communicating here. Just three verses before, in v. 31, Paul stresses that all may prophesy in their turn. Also, in the same letter, Paul gives women standards for leadership in church, the implication being clear that they could speak (11:2-16). Like Ephesus, Corinth worshiped Diana (Artemis) and was used to women carrying the spiritual authority. This again put Paul in the position of correcting these women to respect the men as having authority as well.
And out of your reverence for Christ be supportive of each other in love.
For wives, this means being supportive to your husbands like you are tenderly devoted to our Lord, for the husband provides leadership for the wife, just as Christ provides leadership for his church, as the Savior and Reviver of the body. In the same way the church is devoted to Christ, let the wives be devoted to their husbands in everything.
And to the husband, you are to demonstrate love for your wives with the same tender devotion that Christ demonstrated to us, His bride. For he died for us, sacrificing himself to make us holy and pure, cleansing us through the showering of the pure water of the Word of God. All that he does in us is designed to make us a mature church for his pleasure, until we become a source of praise to him-- glorious and radiant, beautiful and holy, without fault or floaw.
Husbands have the obligation of loving and caring for their wives the same way they love and care for their own bodies, for to love your wife is to love your own self. No one abuses his own body, but pampers is-- serving and satisfying its needs. That's exactly what Christ does for his church! He serves and satisfies us as members of his body.
For this reason a man is to leave his father and his mother and lovingly hold to his wife, since the two have become joined as one flesh. Marriage is the beautiful design of the Almighty, a great a sacred mystery-- meant to be a vivid example of Christ and his church. So every married man should be gracious to his wife just as he is gracious to himself. And every wife should be tenderly devoted to her husband. (TPT)
One of the most popular phrases used to promote male dominance is in verse 22, which many translations record to say "wives, submit to your husbands." Interestingly, there is no Greek word for "submit" here. It literally is not in any text! The true, direct translation is "Wives, with your husbands." The word "submit" or "support" or "be subject to" was added through the contextual understanding of the translators. The actual Greek word for submission is hypotasso, and it is used in vs. 21 when Paul writes that we should be supportive of, or "submit to", each other. There is no singling out of women in the original manuscripts!
Knowing this, the greater responsibility is clearly with the husbands, who are to love their wives as Christ loved the church. That means we are to be ready to die for them! The women are called to be devoted to us and to respect us, but we are called to live sacrificial lives of love for them.
Isn't the power of context amazing?
There are other, less popular passages also used to belittle the role of women in the church, but the breakdown of these three should make it clear that keeping women down was never the intent of the early Apostles, and especially not of God!
The Secret Weapon
Now that it should be clear much of the church has been wrong about the role of women for a long time, what does that mean for us looking forward?
It means that it's time to lift them up to their rightful place!
Women are equally gifted to lead the church as men. With powerful and free women leading beside men, the church can finally begin to grow into the maturity it has always been meant to grow into. Women were made in the image of God just as much as men were. They carry with them aspects of God that men cannot and do not.
For the past 2000 years the church has literally been moving ahead with only half of its body given the chance to reach its full potential. It's like we've been lifting weights for 2000 years, but only developing our legs! The arms have been left alone, and that makes a funny looking person!
The men have had our chance to lead by ourselves. We've led a church that has accomplished many amazing things, but has also fractured because of our need to be right. Our competitive streak has led to church-sponsored wars. It has led to a church that often values logic over truth. We have been operating at less than our full capacity because of the deception that women are lesser in spiritual authority.
It's time to put that lie to rest forever! It's time to take the glass ceiling off our women!
It's not going to be easy, for we will be given every excuse not to empower our sisters, our wives and our daughters. The enemy knows what is coming to him when the women are finally valued the way they were always meant to be valued.
And I will put enmity
Between you and the woman,
And between your seed and her Seed;
He shall bruise your head,
And you shall bruise His heel.
- Genesis 3:15
It's through the woman the Seed (Jesus) came that crushed the serpent's head. She was the source of our greatest breakthrough! God gave the honor of carrying the Savior to woman, and her role did not end there.
From the very beginning it's the woman who was prophesied to provide the stomp on the head of the enemy. She is God's secret weapon for defeating his works on the earth. As men it's our job to see that she is promoted to this task. It's our job to empower her. We are to assist her until she is given the same platform we are, the same opportunity. Men and women, as one, are the only way we can see the church come to its rightful place, to its fullness in preparation for Christ.
Women are capable of carrying out the same roles as men. Deborah was a judge in the Bible. Junia an apostle.
Jesus treated women as equals, often baffling his disciples in the process. He may have only had male disciples, but His ministry occurred before the New Covenant was established, and Jesus perfectly kept the Law in His life for the sake of the Jews, whom He came to first. If He had meant for male dominance to continue in the church, He would have declared it in His teachings. He never did so.
Jesus came to earth through a woman. He calls His church a "bride". It is obvious God's favor toward women. It's also obvious the enemy is doing everything he can to keep them oppressed, as the most backward-thinking nations in the world are male-dominant and hateful toward women.
Church, we need our women to be powerful! They are a great weapon against the enemy we have been holding back because of religious tradition. We have ignored God's heart toward them in favor of tradition.
It's our turn to lead on this. No longer should the church be known as one of the last places women are valued as equals.
Unified, male and female, it's time we stand together. The revelation of this is spreading, as God no longer wants to see His daughters held back. The more we discover about original scriptural manuscripts, the more God opens our eyes, the less excuse we have to fight this. It's no coincidence that movies like Wonder Woman have been major hits lately. It's not by chance that oppression and abuse of women is being exposed at all levels of culture. The glass ceiling is starting to break.
It's our choice to run with the momentum or keep fighting against it.
Woman, thou art about to be loosed! And I, for one, am very excited about that!
(I first wrote this nearly 2 years ago, but was recently stirred to update and share again. I personally feel the attack against millennials comes because religion and the spirit behind it are deathly afraid that this generation holds the key to it losing its grip in America. So we need to be educated about them, lift them up, and help them achieve their destiny.)
I keep hearing it and seeing it. Even some of those I know and love will say it.
"I don't understand this generation."
"They don't want to work!"
"They just want to play video games!"
"I'm worried about the future in their hands."
"These millennials are so entitled."
Over and over again the curses against this latest generation continue. It's no wonder their problems seem to keep piling up. When no one believes in you it's really hard to succeed in anything.
I'm a millennial myself. In fact, I just found this out. After years of mistakenly thinking I was a Gen-Xer, (I could have sworn I had just made it!) someone pointed out to me that you now were considered a "millennial" if you had been born after '82.
Now I'm the first to admit that it probably doesn't matter. A generational label doesn't mean much of anything in an individual sense. But I have to admit, my first reaction when I heard that was disgust. I mean, really? Did I really want to be identified with the generation that everyone over 40 seems to hate?
The truth is, no, I really didn't.
There's such a stigma going around about the millennial generation that I hadn't even realized I had been affected by it too. Apparently getting negative about the next generation is a twisted rite of passage into grumpy adulthood, and, well, I passed!
Unfortunately, that's not something I want to pass. I to be the kind of person who believes in everyone just as I want to be believed in. My parents raised me to always go after my dreams and what was in my heart. They raised me in a way that I always felt believed in. It has impacted my life in such a positive way that I want to be someone who does the same.
So I went looking. There had to be some good stuff about this generation, right?
It didn't take long. Thanks to Google (I love you) it took me about 5 minutes to come across a massive report published by the Pew Research Center. Some of its findings were fascinating:
* exhibit more respect for their elders than previous generations
* claim less moral superiority than previous generations (I personally find this as a positive)
* are more racially tolerant
* get along better across generations
* are the highest educated generation
* care most about family
* highest priorities are to be a good parent and have a successful marriage
* third highest priority is to help others in need (all of these over being famous or making money)
* earn the least of any generation, but are the most optimistic about the future
* are the happiest generation
There's more but I'll stop there. Suddenly I'm pretty proud to be part of this generation! My peers are respectful, less pious, less judgmental, less selfish, more educated, more optimistic, and happier than previous generations. I'll take it!
All of that is pretty amazing and runs hugely counter to what most of us have been led to believe. But let me put it in a perspective that is even more impressive:
Millennials have had a tougher start than the last couple generations.
Google "harder for millennials" and these are some of the headlines that will immediately pop up:
We're Making Life too Hard for Millennials - NY Times
It's Harder to a 20-Something Than Ever Before - Washington Post
Millennials Are Still Struggling to Find Jobs - The Atlantic
The Number Behind why Millennials are 'Generation Frustration' - Huffington Post
... and so much more
Millennials have grown up in a stagnant economy where good jobs are hard to find and college education doesn't bring with it the guarantees it once did. (Although it should be noted that the economy is finally turning around!) A bachelor degree today is worth the same as a high school diploma was worth in the 60s. For every corporate job there are 250 resumes. We are facing the most difficult economy to succeed since the Great Depression. Sure there are more jobs then back then, but wages stink.
The facts speak for themselves. The median income for age 18-34 is $3472/yr LESS than the previous generation, yet they have more bachelor degrees. Their median net worth is 43% LESS than Generation X in the same age range. They have more debt from school. They face higher costs of living.
Yet they remain optimistic and happy. Why?
In previous generations even the uneducated could get a manufacturing job and make a decent wage. Those are all but gone now. In the 1970s a teacher could buy a 3-bedroom home in San Diego. Now a teacher is lucky to be able to afford a house in the countryside.
The more I look the more I realize that millennials have gotten a bad rap. The more I realize that I'm proud to be a part of this generation. We are a generation of dreamers who want to change the world. We're a generation who has been given a great deal of technology but not careers. We are smart but face the highest climb to financial success of any generation in decades. Yet we are positive! We believe in ourselves and in the world! I can proudly be a part of that.
Do we play video games? We do. We like to play, period. It's part of being in a good mood, which is essential when your best job prospect at the moment is working at Starbucks for $10/hr even with a college degree.
Are we less committal to jobs? Absolutely. Why wouldn't we be? Our job situation hasn't been great. But we are going to keep trying! We'd rather work for love than money anyways.
Are we entitled? Turns out no. We're actually one of the most charitable generations most willing to sacrifice time and money.
Are we lazy? No. We're dreamers. And we actually tend to work smarter and more productively. We just don't take it as seriously.
I could keep going, but I don't need to. I can now proudly say I'm a millennial. I believe in my generation. I've gone from believing that millennials were a kind of lost generation to believing that maybe, just maybe, we could be remembered as the greatest one.
That's not a knock on other generations either. We've all had our moments! Each generation has done amazing things and was put in place by God for the time they were in. But everything with God is about improvement, about moving from Glory to Glory. So as I see this generation growing in optimism with the deck stacked against us I can't shake it. The millennial generation cares about the right things and believes in ourselves. They are innovative and are willing to lead. They want to change the world, not just work for a paycheck. They care about others more than growing our bank accounts. They are the most highly educated generation the world has ever known.
All of this speaks of greatness to me. Do they have our issues? Absolutely! But who doesn't? The positives are here in full effect. So I'm not going to entertain bad thoughts about millennials anymore. I'm not going to let it affect me and I'll be quick to forgive. I know it's just spoken out of ignorance anyways. We are more tattooed, more easy going, and far more techy than they could have ever dreamed of being, and people often fear what they don't understand. So I can let that go.
Millennials want what's real. They care about passion and meaning in their lives and work. They don't want rules, they want inspiration. Therefore religion has little value to them. This is a wonderful thing! Jesus came to bring us an experience and a relationship, not a bunch of rules to live by. That's what the Jews had for 1300 years, and we see where that got them!
I believe God has ordained this generation to stir up the church and the country. As a result millennials are attacked because they are offending the religious spirit. This attack has been prolonged and very effective, yet it cannot be allowed to win. More than anything millennials need spiritual fathers and mothers who believe in them and will guide them. They are prone to be experience driven, which is fine so long as its accompanied by solid understanding. They will not be controlled, but they flock to community, and they are openly teachable.
If we love them, they will flourish. Church, that's our job to do.
As Generation Millennial starts to grow into our own element I'm firmly convinced they are going to change the world for the better. One day history will look back and marvel at how they impacted history. It's coming. I know it!
Now about that Generation Z... (just kidding)
If I were to speak with eloquence in earth's many languages, and in the heavenly tongues of angels, yet I didn't express myself with love, my words would be reduced to the hollow sound of nothing more than a clanging cymbal.
- 1 Cor. 13:1
There are some things you never want to address. Some things you hope you don't have to.
Earlier this week I was online, watching a group of Christian intellectuals at a conference. They were all well-known apologists whom I highly respect. However I'm not going to name them here, because what I saw grieved my heart.
At one point their conversation turned to lambasting a well-known pastor in America. They avoided using the man's name, but gave enough details (including titles of the man's books) that anyone with two seconds and Google at hand could easily determine who it was. The person they took turns criticizing has done a lot of good things and has led thousands to Christ, yet they all expressed deep concerns and disapproval that Jesus wasn't mentioned in some of the man's writings. In other words, they were accusing this pastor of not spreading the gospel.
With the momentum of criticism (and borderline slander) at their backs, another one of the speakers brought up that he had been watching Christian television the other day and heard something that deeply troubled him. He then said he would refrain from using this person's name in order to "protect the guilty." And while he spoke that jovially, you could tell it was said in attack.
What he recounted watching was someone saying that, "no matter what you've done, how far you've fallen, how badly you've screwed up, God is not mad at you." As soon as the quote was released there was an audible groan from the crowd. The speaker then launched into how such a statement negates much of the New Testament. From there turns were taken explaining how people must be made to known the wrath of God in order to be saved. The crowd cheered.
Makes you want to cheer, doesn't it? That was a joke.
Other pastors demeaned, slandered and mocked. Fear promoted as the path to salvation. Worst of all, a profoundly wrong representation of the gospel presented. All before the cheers of men. All coming from men I've admired and respected for years.
My heart's been heavy ever since.
After the sweet initial experience of my salvation I soon gravitated toward the intellectual trend of western Christianity. To me, the more I knew and understood the holier I became. I studied and studied. I listened to every apologist I could find. My knowledge about God and the Bible grew and grew for years.
Over that time I never stopped to talk to God about it.
As I grew more confident in my knowledge I grew more political and more religious. I also grew more depressed. The more I knew the harder it was for me to keep going in my own strength. Everything simply got harder.
I'm so thankful I was delivered from that life!
My story is recorded more thoroughly in other places, but the short of it is that I started to have radical encounters with God. Like, for real. Experiencing Him and learning how to hear His voice. In a short time much changed as He led me to understand things on a deeper level. I learned that my knowledge wasn't bad, but my understanding of much of that knowledge was. For the past seven years I've been on a journey of learning the heart and nature of God. It's a journey that will last me through eternity, but in these short years I've learned more than I ever imagined.
Seven years ago I could have been a younger, less seasoned one of those panel members. I would have fit right in. Now I see them and hear them, and it hurts. They are so close, but so far.
One of the greatest deceptions in intellectual circles is the inherent belief that knowledge is power. This belief comes from Greek tradition and not God, yet because of the great influence of Enlightenment thinking in the early years of the Protestant Reformation most of our Christian tradition in the western church equates rationality and reason with the Gospel and greater holiness. This is exactly why large conference halls are filled to the brim when Christian intellectuals are hosted. We yearn to always know more.
Inherently there is nothing wrong with this. The danger lies in when we focus only on knowledge and ignore the heart. Without understanding the heart of God the words of scripture become cold and often harsh. When Scripture is reduced to factoids about God, when memorization takes the place of meditation, when reasoning replaces revelation, our knowledge becomes exactly what Paul warned about in 2 Corinthians 3:6:
He alone makes us adequate ministers who are focused on an entirely new covenant. Our ministry is not based on the letter of the law but through the power of the Spirit. The letter of the law kills, but he Spirit pours out life.
What I watched on that video was brilliant men, men who have been studying scripture much longer than I, who could think and reason circles around most of the world. They were also men who, at least in this instance, displayed a legalistic, wholly religious portrayal of the gospel. They missed the heart, the very part that gives those words life. They were speaking death and being celebrated as defenders of the faith.
Yes, death. Scripture is that powerful. When Biblical knowledge is used with the wrong heart it ensnares and imprisons. Paul knew this and warned about it. We're also given another warning in seeing the temptation Jesus experienced in Matthew 4. When satan speaks to Jesus, he quotes scripture:
(He) said to him, "If you're really the God's Son, jump, and the angels will catch you. For it is written in the Scriptures:
He will command his angels to protect you
and they will lift you up
so that you won't even bruise your foot on a rock."
- Matthew 4:6
The enemy quoted Psalm 91:11-12 to Jesus, putting Jesus in the unenviable position of having to disagree with Scripture. Yet Jesus knew better, and without missing a beat Jesus countered with more Scripture. Both Scriptures were true. Both were inspired by God. One passage used by satan for evil, one passage used by Jesus to defeat evil. The difference between the passages was the intent, i.e. the heart.
Weigh the Words
he understanding of God's nature changes everything. It changes how we read scripture, how we interpret it. It's the difference between knowledge and wisdom. Only with the help of the Holy Spirit, with God's voice and perfect mind, can we get the fullest amount of wisdom from what is written.
Those brilliant men I once looked up to missed the heart of God, and they did it to the tune of thunderous applause.
Jesus faced the same problem with the religious Pharisees of the day. They knew their scripture but had no wisdom to accompany their knowledge, so it became simply religion to them. Those who were supposed to know God the best, who were looked up to by the people, found they couldn't recognize God when He stared them in the eye in person. Instead it was the people they were most critical of whom received the most from the King of Kings.
The deception of religion hides behind intellectualism just as much today as it did then. These men I watched possess powerful minds, yet their pursuit of knowledge apart from the pulse of God's heart has put a veil over their understanding. As they enjoyed the validation of one another and the crowd they forgot much of the very gospel they were claiming to teach. Deception closes the mind to simple truths. They displayed that in the following ways:
1. Dishonoring Fellow Ministers
It is true that some preach Christ out of envy and rivalry, but others out of goodwill. The latter do so out of love, knowing that I am put here for the defense of the gospel. The former preach Christ out of selfish ambition, not sincerely, supposing that they can stir up trouble for me while I am in chains. But what does it matter? The important thing is that in every way, whether from false motives or true, Christ is preached. And because of this I rejoice.
- Phil. 1:15-18
The pastors who lead the church well should be paid well. They should receive double honor for faithfully preaching and teaching the revelation of the Word of God. For the Scriptures have taught us: "Do not muzzle an ox or forbid it to eat while it grinds the grain." And also, "The one who labors deserves his wages."
Refuse to listen to suspicious accusations against the pastors who lead the flock unless you have two or three witnesses to confirm the accusations. But if indeed you find that they have sinned, bring correction to them before the congregation so that the rest of the people will respect you.
- 1 Tim. 5:17-20
Paul gives us two interesting examples here. Firstly, he says very clearly that he doesn't really care about the motives of those sharing the gospel, he simply rejoices that it's being preached at all!
Secondly, he very clearly states that leaders in the church who preach and teach should be treated with double honor. This is because they have such a weighty task ahead of them! Double-honor means respect and also giving them the benefit of the doubt. Furthermore, he describes how issues with them should be handled in the cases of sin. Two or three witnesses for confirmation then correction.
What I watched the intellectuals do was not honorable. It also had nothing to do with sin but rather, disagreement. They got so caught up in being right that they blatantly disregarded the scriptural guidelines for how to treat other ministers of the gospel. In the process they promoted dissension over such disagreements to thousands more who look up to them. They put being right over being in relationship, which is completely against Jesus' desire for unity (expressed in John 17).
2. Ignorance of Gospel Truth
Do the riches of his extraordinary kindness make you take him for granted and despise him? Haven't you experienced how kind and understanding he has been to you? Don't mistake his tolerance for acceptance. Do you realize that all the wealth of his extravagant kindness is meant to melt your heart and lead you into repentance?
- Rom. 2:4
This royal promise was not fulfilled because Abraham kept all the law, but through the righteousness that was transferred by faith. For if keeping the law earns the inheritance, then faith is robbed of its power and the promise becomes useless. For the law provokes punishment, and where no law exists there cannot be a violation of the law.
The promise depends on faith so that it can be experienced as a grace-gift, and now it extends to all the descendants of Abraham.
- Rom. 4:14-16a
Love never brings fear, for fear is always related to punishment. But love's perfection drives the fear of punishment far from our hearts. Whoever walks constantly afraid of punishment has not reached love's perfection. Our love for others is our grateful response to the love God first demonstrated to us.
- 1 John 4:18-19
There was no love in the exchange I watched. I realize I could be countered with the response, "It's actually loving to express truth!" and that's not necessarily wrong, but the way in which that "truth" was communicated was not loving. Also, as the verses above prove, it was not truth.
The greatest uproar from the crowd came when it was quoted that God is not angry with us, or anyone else, for that matter. The collective gasp and exasperation from the speakers about this phrase was disheartening. It displayed such a lack of understanding about God. it also showed a disregard for scriptural truth.
Romans 2:4 is very clear that God does not use fear to bring us into repentance. He uses his kindness and overwhelms us with his love. Furthermore John clearly writes that God is love, and love drives fear away. In other words, God has no desire to stir up fear in any of us. Does that sound like an angry God?
Finally, punishment (or "wrath", depending on the translation) was only a response to the Law. There is no wrath for us anymore, because none of us are under the Law. We have received the grace-gift of faith now, and that gift leads to righteousness. It also now rains on the righteous and the wicked (Matt. 5:45). There are consequences for our actions, but they are from the natural order of things and from spiritual or relational dynamics. They are NOT sent by God from heaven. There is a final punishment for those who don't choose God, but the lake of fire was never meant for man. Choosing eternal torment is not God's will for anyone. Rather it's the only place completely separate from him, the only place people can go if they never accept his gift of salvation. God will not be angry when he speaks the judgment, "I never knew you." He'll be doing it with tears in his eyes.
Nowhere, I repeat, nowhere is there any evidence in the New Testament, in the unveiling of who God is from the example of Jesus, that God is angry with sinners or his saints. This belief is a complete fallacy and horrible inaccuracy.
Must be that "Oil of Gladness..."
Once again, knowing the Bible does not also mean it's understood.
One of the greatest dangers in the church is the elevation of the intellectual over actual Truth. Those who sound smart all too often draw itching ears. But if what they are sharing isn't communicating love, unity, peace, joy, and righteousness, we don't need to listen. In fact, we're better off looking away.
Without love behind them our words are more harmful than helpful. God is not a God of wrath and anger. He's a God of love. Yes, he can get angry, but not at us. He gets angered at sin, and injustice, and the spirits behind them, but not at people. Your actions can anger God, but who you are cannot. You're made in his image, after all.
One of the best things to ever happen to me was for me to lay down my right to be right. To lay my intellect at His feet and say, "God, I really don't know if I know anything. Teach me your heart." He did, and he still is. And what I've found is that he didn't take away what I already knew, he didn't have me throw out all my years of study. Rather He amplified it. He added Truth to my knowledge. He added heart.
I didn't want to write this because it hurt to see some of my old heroes doing something I knew was blatantly wrong and against the heart of God. It hurt to see men I respected and admired choose religion over Truth. It hurt to see many other Christians celebrating them as they did so. It hurt because it showed me how far we still have to go.
But I have hope. New intellectuals are springing up all over the place. Men and Women who carry the brilliance and the right heart. They carry understanding, and when they speak crowds flock to them. Because they carry truth, and they do it with the love of the Father.
God is making all things new. That includes apologetics. It's getting better, and will continue to do so. I pray that those that previously knew the Bible so well but didn't understand it will come along for the ride. I know deep down they truly love the Lord, so I believe they will. If many of the Pharisees could finally come around to Truth (Acts 15:5), so can they.
I'd love to hear what they'd have to say.
O God, to the farthest corners of the planet
people will stand in awe,
startled and stunned by your signs and wonders.
Sunrise brilliance and sunset beauty
both take turns singing their songs of joy to you.
- Psalms 65:8
May we never lose our wonder.
This morning my wife and I were talking about how easy it is to take for granted the wonder in life. She related to me a story she had read the previous day, about a man who had grown up loving the beach but at some point lost his wonder of it and moved away. Years later he realized that he had taken for granted his time there, and he found the awe again.
A simple story, but profound.
I have had the realization before, but it never loses its welcome, that I'm taking things for granted. That I'm living outside of the moment in my own mind. Such a simple oversight, but in reality it's terrible and tragic.
We are surrounded by beauty. In everything, in everyone. Every second of every day we are witnessing miracles. The miracle of life, the miracle of nature, the miracle of physics. It's all around us. Even as I type this I'm convicted. How can I be so quick to ignore all that God is doing?
God saw all that he had made, and it was very good. And there was evening, and there was morning—the sixth day.
- Genesis 1:31
How do we miss it?
It's all good, all of it. He didn't make a mistake. He gave us a world of miracles, a world of beauty and wonder, and too often we don't take even a minute a day to be blessed by it all.
We all have our reasons, some legitimate, some not. And I'm not meaning to belittle anyone's troubles. There also is ugliness in the world, and mistakes. But that's our fault, not His.
And the good far outweighs the bad.
What if we just took five minutes a day to start? Five minutes to close our eyes and feel the sunlight on our cheeks. Five minutes to smile as a child learns something new. Five minutes to marvel at the birds of the air. Five minutes to be impressed by the loyalty of a dog. Five minutes to gives thanks for the air we breathe. These things are simple, they are all around us, and we all too easily overlook them.
Awe and wonder should be a regular part of our lives. They shouldn't be reserved for only the uncommon. The common are just as wonderful, just as good. We are not a people living in a world of lack. There is abundance all around us, if we'd only recognize it.
We know that all creation is beautiful to God and there is nothing to be refused if it is received with gratitude.
-1 Tim. 4:4
Let your heart be always guided by the peace of the Anointed One, who called you to peace as part of his one body. And always be thankful.
- Colossians 3:15
Awe and wonder bring peace and thanksgiving with them. Resting in the realization of the beautiful life we've been given resets our perspective. When our perspective is correct, it's impossible not to be thankful. We've been given so much, and He never stops giving us more.
So I'm making it a point to take more time to be in awe, to experience wonder. To live in a place of thankfulness. In that place it's hard to get caught up in the hard things, the bad news of the world. I don't want my perspective to ever be influenced by something other than Him. He's made a beautiful world, full of beautiful people, full of far more good than bad. I can't afford to forget that. None of us can.
Bright-eyed and mystified, may we be just like a child. Staring at the beauty of our king.
May we never lose our wonder.
Justin Carpenter has a passion for Christ and His body. Justin longs to see the body of Christ be equipped and sent out into all the world preaching the gospel of the kingdom with authority and power.