You Thought I was one Like Yourself

Holy.  Set apart.  God is holy, holy, holy.  God is not like us.  He is independent of us. 

Because we are told we were created in God’s image, I think we often imagine God to be like us.  In doing so, we severely underestimate who God is.  God is not a reflection of who we are. Anything good in us is a reflection of who He is…a glimpse of how awesome and wonderful He is.  Consider the following passage from Psalm 50:16-23:

16But to the wicked God says:
    “What right have you to recite my statutes
    or take my covenant on your lips?
17 For you hate discipline,
    and you cast my words behind you.
18 If you see a thief, you are pleased with him,
    and you keep company with adulterers.

19 “You give your mouth free rein for evil,
    and your tongue frames deceit.
20 You sit and speak against your brother;
    you slander your own mother’s son.
21 These things you have done, and I have been silent;
    you thought that I was one like yourself.
But now I rebuke you and lay the charge before you.

22 “Mark this, then, you who forget God,
    lest I tear you apart, and there be none to deliver!
23 The one who offers thanksgiving as his sacrifice glorifies me;
    to one who orders his way rightly
    I will show the salvation of God!”

From this passage, we come to understand that it is the wicked that think God is like people.  How incredibly faulty that thinking is.  God does not see things the way we see them.  He sees perfectly.  Our vision is impaired.  We do not understand things the way God does.  He understand perfectly.  Our knowledge is extremely limited. 

We will never understand God by looking at ourselves.  We will only even begin to understand God by examining who God says He is in His Word, and even that is just a glimpse of all He is. 

What would happen if we truly understood what it means for God to be holy?  What would it mean if we completely understood that He is not like us? 

God is not one like us.  God is holy.  I don’t know about you, but this brings me great comfort.  If God was like me, we most certainly all would be lost and without hope in this world.  But He’s not like me.  He’s not like you.  He is God, and He is holy.  In that there is great hope!  In that truth is the foundation for such a great salvation! 

What is a Governing Authority?

As a follower of Christ, I have been contemplating Romans 13:1-14 which talks about being subject to governing authorities.  I mean, I do not want to disobey God by not being subject to the governing authorities.  So this got me to thinking.  What exactly is a governing authority?  Is it always a person?  Could it be a thing?  After all, God is my authority, and it is His written Word that guides my life and my decisions.

In a true monarchy, authority is vested in a king or queen who are sovereign to make decisions as to what should and should not be in the monarchy.  In a dictatorship, the dictator has the ultimate authority to make all the decisions as to what the people can and cannot do.  In a socialist government, a group of elite government officials have the ultimate authority to make all the decisions as to what the people can and cannot do.  What about in a Representative Republic like the one that is the great United States of America?

A Representative Republic is one where the people of the republic elect officials who are to exercise authority under a constitution.  No authority is granted to one of these elected officials except that given by the constitution.  These elected officials come and go, but the constitution is the abiding, constant authority for the republic.

Now I am not a history or a political science major, but if I am looking at this correctly, this means that the governing authority in the Representative Republic which we call the United States of America is the The Constitution of the United States.  The Preamble to the Constitution states, “We the People of the United States, in Order to form a more perfect Union, establish Justice, insure domestic Tranquility, provide for the common defence, promote the general Welfare, and secure the Blessings of Liberty to ourselves and our Posterity, do ordain and establish this Constitution for the United States of America.”  This governing authority then goes on to describe how the different branches of the government are to work.  In other words, these branches of government operate under the authority of the Constitution.

It would therefore stand to reason that as a believer following Romans 13:1-14, I am to be subject to the Constitution of the United States as the governing authority of my country.  God allowed our Founding Fathers to establish a Constitution that would govern this great nation with checks and balances put into place for the elected officials who are subject to the people under the authority of the Constitution.  The people have the power to vote those officials in.  The people have a voice and a right to communicate their ideas with those elected officials.  The elected officials are responsible to the people.  The people have the authority to replace elected officials with other elected officials.  In fact, in his Gettysburg address, Abraham Lincoln called our form of government, “government of the people, by the people, for the people.” Elected officials come and go. The Constitution of the United States by which those officials govern transcends time.

So does this therefore mean that as a citizen of the United States, if an elected official is undermining the governing authority of my country (i.e., The Constitution of the United States of America), that I need to sit idly by?  Am I rebelling against God if I chose to speak out against or vote out an elected official who does not respect or uphold the Constitution, or is it my responsibility to do so in being subject to the governing authority?  Am I rebelling if I ask one branch of government to hold another branch of government accountable to the Constitution?  If my duty is to be “be subject to the governing authorities” (Romans 13:1 New International Version), does that mean my duty is to The Constitution of the United States as the governing authority?

I have always thought of the “governing authorities” referred to in Scripture as a person.  However, is that truly the case when in this country, elected officials have to answer to a higher authority in the form of a written word:  The Constitution of the United States of America?  Just something to think about…

He did Christian Things and Went to Christian Places

He did Christian things and went to Christian places.  He even had a “Christian” burial.  From all external appearances, he seemed like a Christian.  But did he really know Christ?  Without a saving faith in Christ Jesus as the propitiation for sin, his sin, doing all these “Christian” things did not bring him to a right relationship with God.

So now he is gone.  I think about what it must be like for him to have come to the realization on the other side that he did not truly know Christ and was not known by Him.  Matthew 7:21-23 (ESV) states:

Not everyone who says to me, “Lord, Lord,” will enter the kingdom of heaven, but the one who does the will of my Father who is in heaven.  On that day many will say to me, “Lord, Lord, did we not prophesy in your name, and cast out demons in your name, and do many mighty works in your name?” And then will I declare to them, “I never knew you; depart from me, you workers of lawlessness.

Can you imagine what it must be like to die and think you knew God only to be rejected?  To be told to depart from Him because you were a “worker of lawlessness”?  To do “Christian” things your whole life, yet to not ever have truly known Christ or been a true follower of Christ?

Contrast that with John 10:27-28 (KJV) which states, “My sheep hear my voice, and I know them, and they follow me:  And I give unto them eternal life; and they shall never perish, neither shall any man pluck them out of my hand.”  It is not enough to know about Christ and do Christian things.  God’s sheep know God and are known by Him.  He gives them eternal life. It is God’s work through the redeeming act of Christ on the cross not our work that gives us eternal life.

Do you know how to be a Christian, how to act like a Christian, and how to do Christian-like things?  Without being known by Christ, it is all meaningless.  In Luke 13, Jesus shares:

Strive to enter through the narrow door. For many, I tell you, will seek to enter and will not be able.  When once the master of the house has risen and shut the door, and you begin to stand outside and to knock at the door, saying, “Lord, open to us,” then he will answer you, “I do not know where you come from.” Then you will begin to say, “We ate and drank in your presence, and you taught in our streets.”  But he will say, “I tell you, I do not know where you come from. Depart from me, all you workers of evil!”  In that place there will be weeping and gnashing of teeth. (Luke 13:24-28b ESV)

You do Christian things and go to Christian places, but do you really know Christ?  Are you known by Him?

Seek the Lord while he may be found; call upon him while he is near; let the wicked forsake his way, and the unrighteous man his thoughts; let him return to the Lord, that he may have compassion on him, and to our God, for he will abundantly pardon. (Isaiah 55:6-7 ESV)

Censoring Jesus

“You cannot use that word,” I was told.  “Our company takes great pride in being diverse and inclusive.”

“Those are not my words,” I thought to myself.  “Those are the words of Jesus Christ.”

I often write devotionals for the courses that I teach.  In one recent devotional which was to be published, I used the words of Christ from Mark 10:44 where He said, “Whoever wants to be first must be slave of all.”  Apparently, the word “slave” is off limits, and my devotional cannot be published the way it is written.  Interesting.  Am I to change the words of Christ to make them acceptable to man?  Am I to change the words of Christ to make them less offensive?

I wonder if the individual I was communicating with knows Whose words are being censored.  Presumably, it is my use of the word “slave” that is being critiqued.  However, in reality, to say that the use of the word “slave” is not appropriate is to say that the very words of Christ are not appropriate.

The world looks at slavery in a negative perspective, but there is no getting around what Jesus said.  Christ said that if we wanted to be first, “we must be a slave” (Mark 10:44 NIV).  The Greek word Christ used in Mark 10:44 is doulos which means “one who gives himself up to another’s will; those whose service is used by Christ in extending and advancing his cause among men; devoted to another to the disregard of one’s own interests.”   Apparently, the idea of giving up oneself to another and being devoted to another person is offensive to some people!

I get the historical context of the word.  Had I been alive throughout that tragic part of America’s history, I most certainly would have been an abolitionist.  Life matters.  People matter regardless of what they look like on the outside.  When touring Andrew Jackson’s Hermitage home several years ago, I discovered that he justified his use of slaves using passages from the Bible.  I was enraged!  I absolutely hate it that anyone used Scripture to justify treating another human being the way slaves in American were treated.

But do you really discount Christ’s words because the sinful actions of man have attached some tragic history to a word?  Do people realize that there has been more going on in this world than what happened in American in the past several hundred years?  Do people realize that Christ used the word long before the slavery we think of today even became an issue?  Do people realize He used the word on purpose?

When the world hears the word slavery, they think of years of treachery, abuse, and persecution.  When I hear the word slavery, I try to think beyond the corruption of man.  I think of selflessness.  After all, this is what Christ said we must be.  Being devoted to another in spite of my own personal interests is the epitome of selflessness.  It is too bad that the world today is so narrow-minded that they feel the need to censor Christ.  The world today could use a little selflessness.

If you would like to learn more about the word “slave” used in Scripture, here is a really great Biblically-based blog post about it:    Whether we are willing to admit it or not, we are all slaves to something (cf. John 8:34-36; Romans 6:4-6, 18).  By the grace of God, I am a slave to Christ.

Censoring Jesus over a word He used on purpose…that’s just not something I’m quite comfortable with!