Faulty Teaching or Bad Language Part 2

In the last post, we looked at the results of some ideas that were put forth by the author of an article. They were that Jesus is no longer human and that reconciliation to the Father removes humanity. This time I want to tackle the next three which deal with emotions as it pertains to Christ, God, the Holy Spirit, and us (humans). As a reminder the sentence in question is “after Jesus ascended into heaven, he was no longer human. He had been fully reconciled to the Father and wasn’t experiencing human emotions and doubts anymore.” So, what we are going to look at is:

  • Jesus does not have human emotions. Statement
  • God does not have human emotions. Implication
  • God’s emotions and human emotions are different. Implication

All throughout the Bible emotions are ascribed to God. So, the question we are really asking is, when the Bible speaks of God having emotions is it anthropomorphic like when the Bible speaks of God having physical human traits (eyes, ears, arms, etc.)? Put another way does the Bible give God human emotions like it does physical attributes so we can relate or understand Him, or does He truly have emotions? Additionally, are our emotions as humans different than God’s emotions, if in fact, He has them.

First, just to give a clear picture the Bible does use figurative language about God. There are multiple passages about the eyes of the Lord or the arm of the Lord. This language is sometimes used to convey a nearness about God or His seeking of people. This type of language is used to communicate something about God in a way that we as people can understand. We can grasp things like eyes being used or seeing or arms used for strength, but we cannot grasp how the spirit seeks or has strength. It is something that is beyond our understanding. That should lead us to ask if the language used about God having emotion is similar language. Is the language used about God having emotions figurative? I say no.

To start with we must go to the beginning. Genesis 1:26 God says let us create man in our image. This tells us a lot because if I tell you I am building something like a motorcycle then when you come by you already have a reasonable idea of what you expect to see. You know what a motorcycle is, and you would expect to see something similar. Here what we have is God saying “I am going to create something like myself” so we should expect that whatever we have is like God right? Now let’s work backward. If I tell you I am building something like a motorcycle and you don’t know what motorcycle is then when you come by you have no idea what to expect. But, and here is the kicker once you see the thing I have built and learn that it is like a motorcycle you will then have an idea of what a motorcycle is like based on the new information. So, for starters what we have is an understanding that we are like God because we are made in His image. We have emotions and He has emotions. But there is more that is not simple reasoning.

I could leave it at that and I think that is a fairly decent argument but because there is more I will provide more. Theology places the perfections or attributes of God in categories. Why? Because we need more categories in the world. Anyway, two such categories are the Incommunicable and Communicable attributes of God. Incommunicable are attributes He alone possess and Communicable are ones He shares (for lack of a better term) with us. An attribute like Omnipresence (all present) is His alone but truth, while He possesses it to the ultimate degree, He shares with us. Omnipower (all powerful) is His alone but unity, as in being united as the body of Christ, we can share in. We can see there are things about God that rubbed off on us in creation. These are just two examples.

Emotion is one of those things. But how do we know this? Well, the most two popular are probably God saying He is a jealous God and Jesus weeping. However, because we are arguing the point of emotions for a preincarnate and ascended Christ we will skip over the earthly life of Christ for now even though I think that foolishness.

Here is a brief list I stole from a website because I am feeling a little lazy:

The list above shows us that God not only has emotions, but He has multiple emotions. More than that He is in control of His emotions. God is able to have emotions and not let them control Him. This, by the way, is an attribute of God which I place in the unity section because there is no division within God. He does not wrestle with His emotions like you or I do. He does not have to be conflicted over being angry at sin or feel sorry He hated something. There is perfect unity in His emotions.

I think one of the reasons people might reject the emotions of God is because to acknowledge that God has emotions and is able to remain in control (for lack of a better term) of them highlights the lack of emotional control we feel. We know that sometimes our emotions get the better of us and that we should do a better job at keeping them in control. To acknowledge that God has emotions is to either run the risk of being afraid God will fly off the handle at you or is to suggest you are not as in control of your own emotions as you think.

Additionally, we cannot attribute our general basic understanding of emotions to God. For example, we overuse and misuse the word love so much that when we attempt to think of God as love we uncut the real meaning of what that means. In the western world, and especially the English-speaking western world, we can say we love everything and the meaning can be anything from a fleeting infatuation to romantic desire to lifelong service to a spouse. The biblical definition of love, however, is vastly different. I like the way Charles Ryrie puts is when talking about love “love seeks the good of the object loved.”[1] Love is an emotion, but it is so much more too.

Lastly, because we have laid the groundwork we can probably now talk about the emotions Jesus has while in heaven and I will only mention one. Jesus sympathizes. According to Hebrews 4:15 Jesus sympathizes with our weakness. The Greek word is sympatheō. We could not even come up with an English word for the emotion or action. He intimately understands and relates to our weakness. Sympathy is an emotion and Jesus feels that for us while in heaven. This is why He lives to make intercession for His people.

None of this even gets into the emotions of the Holy Spirit see for example Eph 4:30. But whereas He is a full member of the Godhead He too has emotions.

We could probably keep going but I think the point is clear. Yes, Jesus has emotions because He is God and yes God the Father has emotions. God is not some impersonal force that is void of emotion who creates beings with emotions and then leaves them to fend for themselves. Jesus experienced all the “human” emotions and when He returned to the Father He kept those emotions.

We must be clear with the words we use to describe and talk about God because words are the basis for understanding and thinking. If we use the wrong words we start to get the wrong idea. It is not easy, and I have failed many times, but we must push forward never settling for cheap theology. We can never adequality explain God, but we can try to better understand and use the right words.

Just a thought,

Mike

[1] Charles C. Ryrie, Basic Theology, (Moody: Chicago 1999), 44.

Kingdom of Heaven

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I have been thinking about the Gospel and the kingdom of heaven lately. I know it surprised me too. Jesus talks about the kingdom of heaven some 33 times so I think it is kind of important. One commentary defines the kingdom of heaven as “the rule which God exercises through the person, work, and teachings of Jesus.”[1] I think that is a pretty good definition but to go a little further Edward Schillebeekx (no I did not make that up) says the kingdom of heaven is “a process, a course of events, whereby God begins to govern or to act as king or Lord, an action, therefore, by which God manifests his being-God in the world of men.”[2] I think that one is pretty good too. But I would simplify it a little and say the Kingdom of Heaven is God ruling now.

Have you ever heard the expression that some people are too heavenly minded for their own earthly good? I have and to be honest that is how we should live. The problem is that what is meant by that is some people are only looking forward to the after-death part of heaven and not the here and now part. I am not talking about heaven on earth as in everything is perfect but God ruling here and now in us. Jesus coming to earth, living, dying, and being raised again was an invasion. I mean think about it, Jesus came to earth to bring the kingdom of heaven here. He came to bring people out of sin and death and back into God’s kingdom.

We live in this weird now but not yet place of belonging to Heaven but still residing on earth. The kingdom of heaven lives in us and we carry around the kingdom of heaven everywhere we go. The Gospel message is that we can live in that reality of heaven now. Yes, one day when we die we will move there so to speak but we have it now. Right now, at work, at home, even in the car you have the kingdom of heaven because as a Christian you have submitted yourself to Gods rule.

As believers in the resurrected Christ, we live in the reality of this. This is why Peter writes to people and calls them sojourners or pilgrims. We should live heavenly minded but we should understand that it is a destination and position we currently hold.

 

Just a thought,

Mike

[1] HCSB Study Bible

[2]  Schillebeeckx, Edward, Jesus: An Experiment in Christology. London: Fount Paperbacks. pp. 140–141.

There are no extras in the church

As Christians, it is easy to get caught up in wanting to do more, wanting to accomplish more for the Kingdom, and sometimes even wanting more recognition. We can start to think that in God’s amazing plan we are just extras who get a little screen time when needed in order to highlight a main character. That somehow, we are less than others and when God was passing out gifts He decided we would be fillers for someone else’s story. We can read Paul’s letters and wonder why we cannot be more like him. We can read about Peter in the Gospels getting off the boat and wonder if we will have or even can have such experiences. The list goes on and on and if we are not careful we can think that somehow, we are not as good as other Christians. Now, there are things that can hinder your growth as a Christian but for now, we are going to assume that you are doing what you need to do. We are going to be on the working assumption you are a redeemed, Spirit-filled, Christ loving child of God.

I want to look at Romans 16 which is the last chapter of Romans. The book of Romans covers many great topics like predestination, the message of the Gospel, fulfilled prophecy, liberty in love, and much more. One thing that is covered that can be overlooked if we are not careful is Paul’s closing where he commends or to use modern vocabulary, he gives a shout out to some people. In the closing of this amazing book Paul names twenty-six people and says to either greet them or recognizes them for their work. We do not have the space to cover all of them and maybe that would be good to do sometime but for now, we will just briefly look at a few.

Before we do it is important to reiterate again that there are no extra’s in God’s story. There are heroes for sure that stand out and these people should inspire us and drive us to more but their abilities still come from the same God who made us all. Even at that the “hero” we see is usually flawed, broken, and has failed more often than they have succeeded. The list in chapter 16 of Romans should inspire us because these are “average” people. These were everyday grocery shopping, mall going, Starbucks drinking, trying to get by people of the first century.

First on the list is Prisca and Aquila who are actually mentioned quite a bit in the Bible. They do not have any deep stories but they are mentioned six times in the New Testament. The longest episode is in Acts 18 where this couple takes in a young man who has just come to Christ. They take him in and explain the way of God more accurately. They discipled this young man who some believe went on to write the book of Hebrews. This average ordinary couple saw a need and fulfilled that need and for that, among other things, Paul says “Everyone need to greet these people when you see them because I love them and they have always been there for me.”

Skipping down one, Paul says to greet Mary who has worked very hard for you. There are a lot of Mary’s in our churches. They are the ones who do Sunday school for the kids every week. They are the ones who come in and clean the church when nobody is around. They are the ones praying daily for our pastors and our suffering. There are people in our churches working harder than most and you would never know it because not once do they ask to be recognized for their labors but without them, we would all suffer. Think about your toes for a minute. When is the last time you thought about how valuable your toes are? I read once that your toes come in contact with the ground about seventy-five percent of the time (75%). We take that for granted and we take so many people in our churches who are much more valuable than toes for granted too. When we come across a Mary we should be saying thank you to them and letting others know that this person is vital to the growth, success, and love in our church family.

Lastly, we will look at Andronicus and Junia. There is a lot of controversy around this one because some will argue that Junia was an Apostle which would be a big deal because she was a woman. I am not going to go there right now. Rather, let us just look at what Paul says and put it into modern terms. Have you ever met someone and asked them if they so and so? They say no and you respond with “What, they are amazing how do you now know them?” We all know someone who does not get nearly enough air time in conversation but deserves it more than we do. I am talking about people that when someone says, “you are awesome” you think “I am not so and so.” That was Andronicus and Junia. Paul says that this couple us noteworthy and in the Greek that word also means “well known, respected, and admired for past achievements.” Paul says these two these two are what it is about, and all the Apostles know this. I do not know another way to explain the significance of this. The Apostles who are the big guns give credit to this couple.

I know this is a rather short version of the list Paul gives but the point is that you are someone in God’s story. Maybe you come in early or stay late to stack chairs but without chairs, new people would not know where to sit. Maybe you vacuum but without you, there would not be clean floors and that is not only a little gross but distracting to people who are looking for reasons to not pay attention. Maybe you run a little blog and feel like no one is being helped by your words but someone somewhere out there might be. Maybe you are a pastor and cannot figure out why you are not reaching people like others are but you have planted seeds that will grow into mighty trees. Maybe just maybe, the thing you do is service to and for Christ and He will make it into something more.

Just a thought,

Mike

 

What is hope?

Do you have hope? What is your hope? In Colossians chapter 1 Paul mentions hope four times and that might not sound like a lot because a lot of words are repeated throughout the chapter and throughout the Bible in general so what makes, or should make a word like hope stand out?

Not all words are created equal. Words like love, freedom, victory and hope carry more weight than other words. For example, if you are in sales then a word like “discount” carries more weight than other words. When you are talking to a customer and they hear the word “discount” it will make their ears perk up. Use it two or three times in the conversation and you have their attention. If you are talking to your kids (little kids) and you mention a snack they instantly pay a little more attention because a word like “snack” means something more to them. The same thing holds true here in Colossians 1 with the word “hope.”

Hope as is typically used means something along the lines of “want something to happen or be the case” but that is not what the word means in Greek. In Greek, hope, as used here, means “confident expectation” which is to say you know this is a thing is going to happen. The difference is huge because in the typical usage definition you would like something to be true but in the Bible (especially in Colossians) you know it to be true.

I think we get it. Let’s look at Colossians 1:27 which says, “God wanted to make known among the Gentile (non-Jews) the glorious wealth of this mystery which is Christ in you the hope of glory.” With the understanding of what hope is in biblical terms, we can read this and see that Christ in us is the confident expectation of glory. What a relief! I don’t have to be great or good enough but Christ in me is good enough. Jesus is the answer to the question of what does God want from me. All my work can be laid down and I can rest in Jesus’ finished work on the cross. I can rest from my labor and take His yoke. I can stop trying to figure out how to make myself good enough because it is Christ in me that is good enough.

Hope is such a powerful word. Hope is an amazing thing because the hope is Christ, not my better performance. If we back up and look at two of the other uses of hope in chapter 1 we read that we can love others because of our hope in Christ (Col 1:5a). We can love others the way we should and want to because of the hope of Christ. The pressure to perform or be self-sufficient is gone because of Jesus. The hope (confident expectation) we have in Jesus frees us to love others.

The hymn writer Edward Mote wrote “My hope is built on nothing less than Jesus’ blood and righteousness; I dare not trust the sweetest frame, but wholly lean on Jesus’ name.” Our hope is built or founded in Christ and on His work. This brings us to the second point which is that our understanding of this hope is found in the Gospel (Col 1:5b). Because of the message of the Gospel and the confirmation from the Holy Spirit we can understand that there is hope. The Holy Spirit brings the truth of the Gospel to life in us and produces fruit. The hope of Christ is not pie in the sky but is a living hope that is useful and producing fruit in us now.

I will close with this thought from Paul in Romans 5:5 “Now hope does not disappoint us, because God’s love has been poured out in our hearts through the Holy Spirit who was given to us.” Hope is not only an amazing and wonderful thing but if your hope is in Christ, and that is the key, then it will not disappoint because Jesus is faithful. He is always faithful and will always be faithful because He cannot be anything but faithful. That might now always show in the way you want but it will always be true. You can count on that.

Just a thought,

Mike

Paint by Numbers or Create a Masterpiece

Given the choice between guiding and directing I would choose to direct but to paraphrase Blaise Pascal, “it is better for people to figure it out themselves.”[1] It occurs to me that people are not necessarily opposed to being directed but that directing does not mean as much and is not as transformational to them long term as if they were guided to the truth. This is the difference between paint but numbers and an open canvas. You could theoretically produce the same result but only one is truly art.

If we look at anything from cheating on a test to cheating on a spouse the reasons are usually based of should or shouldn’t. We do not cheat on our spouses because it is wrong, we do not steal money because we should think about the consequences, or whatever other situation you can think of. The reasons are measured by weight and whichever is heavier is the winner. This leads us to compromising situations because as the holder of the scales we can make adjustments to fit our desire.

We should think about right and wrong. The Bible is solid on this matter and we are told we have God’s law written on our hearts (Rom 2:15). There is a clear right and wrong in most situations so there is a matter of right and wrong to consider. However, if the desire to please God, living of a life of faith and obedience is not at the forefront of hearts and minds then weighing right and wrong will do little good because it is the same as directing. We can be led to a place that we do not necessarily want to be because the choice to go there was not ours.

The question that needs to be settled before we look at right and wrong is do I have a desire to please God and live a life of faith, love, and obedience? Do I at my very core want to live in fellowship with my God and those around me? When we first look to fulfill the royal law of love we do not have to weigh other choices most of the time. We could think that yes it would be easy to XXX but I don’t want to because I want to show love to my God. The answer to the one question removes the need to even worry about other questions. If you have decided in your heart that you want to show your spouse extravagant love then you do not need to answer the question of cheating because you have answered a higher question. If you decided that you want to learn and know the information from school then you do not need to answer the question of cheating on a test because that would violate the first answer.

Often times we get ourselves into trouble because we are asking and answering the wrong questions much like looking at symptoms instead of the cause. When we decide to get deep and go the core of a situation we avoid so much unnecessary heartache and unneeded battles. If we can get to the point where like Joshua we say “as for me and my house we will serve the LORD” then we do not have to wonder whom we serve or what we will do. The choice you make to start with determines whether you are painting your life as a masterpiece or just going through the process like a paint by numbers. My suggestion – Paint a masterpiece.

Just a thought,

Mike

 

[1] The proper quote from Blaise Pascal is “we are generally more effectually persuaded by reasons we have ourselves discovered than by those which have occurred to others.”

God’s Pleasure

In reading Ephesians we see that it was God’s pleasure to adopt us as sons in Christ (1:5) and if that was not enough He then gives us an inheritance (1:11). God did not adopt us to just rescue us and place us in the back of the room to be quiet. We can get caught up in the day-to-day of life and think that now that I am saved I need to stay in line or walk the walk. While this is true to an extent because we should be changed the problem like so many things in life is the intent. If the intent is “being good” or “being good enough” then we will fall because we cannot be good or good enough. Instead, the intent should be on being in fellowship. Christianity is a relational religion. What I mean by that is Christ is in us (Col 3:3) and we in Him. God adopted us to give us the greatest inheritance of all which is a relationship with Him.

Looking back at Abraham, who is the father all who believe (Rom 4:11), God told him in Gen 15:1 that He would be his reward and in 17:7 that He would be his God. What an amazing inheritance we have that Yahweh the creator and sustainer of heaven and earth is our God and Father. We have a God that desires intimacy with us and is in us. This encourages me so much because it means I do not walk this walk alone but I walk it faith with God. What a difference that makes.

Think of like when you are learning to ride a bike. After the training wheels come off your parents (or whoever is teaching you) holds on to you while you ride. You are riding the bike but the one teaching is actually keeping you up. In the same way, God is holding on to you. Yes, you are riding the bike but God is holding on to you. You do not have to, as if you could, try to walk this walk alone. God who sustains the universe is sustaining you right now.

Just a thought,
Mike

Why does God allow suffering

 

There is a song called Hurricane by Jimmy Needham that has always resonated with me because in the song he sings “I need you like a hurricane… to tear my walls down.” The song is about needing God to come into our lives and remove the walls we have built up. The walls as I see it represent anything from the places in our lives we have blocked God off from to the protections we place around our sins and insecurities. We all have walls we have built and whether we realize it or not only God tear down those walls.

In chapter Ten of Spiritual Friends Kelleman goes over five possible purposes of suffering and while the topic has long been discussed by many I do find three suggestions by Kelleman to be important to the conversation. Kelleman’s first suggestion that “in suffering, God is drawing us to Himself” is of interest because we do not often think of suffering as something that can draw us to someone.[1] Typically suffering pushes us away from something or someone yet when we stop to think that God is a Father we should be able to adjust our perspective of how we relate to the one allowing us to suffer. When faced with a situation that is causing or has caused suffering we find that God, the omnipotent and omniscient One, is the only one we can turn to give us help in our time of need. I do not want to seem as if I am making light of suffering but regardless of the situation, God is the only one who can give us peace.

We generally view things and look at life as Kelleman says “with eyeballs only” however God’s peace is not meant for the eyes but for the soul.[2] We see struggles and suffering but we feel defeat. God could, being all powerful as He is, change the circumstances but how much better is it that He gives us Himself in the midst of the suffering (Deut 31:6). Rather than miraculously make everything better, God chooses to make us new in the process which brings up Kelleman’s second point that “God is conforming us to the image of His Son.”[3] These two ideas, that God is pulling us in and changing us, are virtually inseparable.

By the very nature of the relationship the closer we get to the Father the more we develop Christlikeness. This is because it is God’s desire to make us more like the Son (Rom 8:29). Part of suffering and drawing near to God is the removal of walls that block us from submitting to His lordship. Once those walls are removed new construction can take place and we are transformed into something new. In suffering, we become more than a six-million-dollar man because we are not just better, stronger, and faster, instead, we are new.

Lastly, Kelleman says that “in suffering, God is demonstrating just how needy we are for Him” and again to sound like a broken record this follows the first point because the closer we get to God the more we should realize that we are weak.[4] If the goal is to be more like the Son, then suffering shows us how we need God to make that happen. Additionally, it shows us that we are not nearly as strong as we imagine we are. Suffering reveals our frailty.

As my wife and I continue to foster two boys my twelve-year-old daughter is starting to think herself a mother because she can point out right and wrong to the boys. She has a higher understanding of this then they do. For some reason made the connection that “I know more than they, so I am like mom” and this is a mistake on her behalf. This a mistake because she does not know nearly as much as she thinks she does. She is protected from dealing with the real issues that parents face. However, as she decides and shows she wants more responsibility we allow her to be privy to and involved in certain things. She quickly becomes overwhelmed and realizes that she needs us to be the parents. She cannot be a parent on her own, nor should she be. We allow her to suffer a bit in order to teach her that she needs us to be the ones in charge so that she can be a child.

God, in suffering, allows us to be children even though the goal is maturity. In suffering, we see that we need Him because we are weak. In suffering God makes us more like Christ because intimacy changes who you are from the inside out. In suffering, God pulls us into Himself to reveal a Fathers’ heart. What we often need is the thing we most often avoid, we need God to be a hurricane and tear down the walls we build.

 

[1] Robert W. Kellemen, Spiritual Friends: A Methodology of Soul Care and Spiritual Direction, (Winona Lake, IN: BMH Books, 2005), 200

[2] Ibid 201

[3] Kelleman, 200

[4] Ibid., 200