C. S. Lewis offered an illustration regarding the relationship of time and God’s eternal existence. If you had a sheet of paper and could extend it in both directions endlessly, representing the eternality of God, and then drew a short line on the paper. The line would represent all of time—engulfed in the eternal nature of God. This is why God can be both the Alpha and Omega simultaneously. There is neither beginning nor end with Him. He is “from everlasting to everlasting”, as Moses put it.
These are hard things to comprehend for those of us bound up within that line. We live in the confines of an existence in which we experience this mortal thing we call “time”—the measurement of change: the clock ticks; the earth rotates and circles the sun; events are preceded by a cause and followed by an effect; actions have reactions; things begin and end; a birth is followed by growth, aging and death. Everything around us is in a state of flux—a universe of constant change. But for the immutable, unchanging God in whom that short line exists, time is irrelevant. The words “begin”, “change”, and “end” are not part of His nature.
Somewhere in here our minds begin to grow fuzzy because we are so totally bound up in the march of time that we have trouble conceiving a God who is not caught up in it with us. This why a child might ponder, or the atheist challenge, “Where did God come from?” To ask is to begin with the assumption that God is not transcendent to time, but subordinate to it. This shrinks God down to something finite that can be placed inside the line.
But if God is eternal, as the Scripture declares, and time has a beginning and end, then God has created a finite line of time that exists as a small dash within His eternality.
It is puzzling enough to contemplate that God has existed forever, without beginning or end, but it becomes more difficult for us when the eternal God acts causally within our realm of time. When He asks Adam: “Where are you?” we have a tendency to think that God is caught up, as we are, in the flow of time, cause and effect—Adam hides and then neither we nor God can see him. But God is not like us. He exists outside of time, seeing both the “beginning” and the “end”—and everything in between, in one complete view:
“I am God, and there is no one like Me, declaring the end from the beginning, and from ancient times, things which have not been done…” Isaiah 46:9-10
That is why neither Adam nor Jonah could hide from God… nor can we. And this is not because He knows all the good hiding places, it is because He not only sees us hiding but He sees our entire hiding event from beginning to end as if it were all present to Him. The past, the present, the future… the whole of time exists within the eternal presence of God. When God declared to Moses that His name is “I Am”, it bore, among many things, the essence of the God who “is” regardless of where we are on our finite timeline.
Yet this eternal God “stoops” to interact with us, entering into our realm of time to do so. Certainly God sees where Adam is, just as He sees where you and I are hiding today, tomorrow and years from now, but He asks the question so that Adam can respond and confess that he was naked and ashamed.
God acts within the line of time but He is transcendent to it—engulfing it within His eternal and infinite nature. As Tozier put it: “… God lives in the everlasting now.”
The implications for us are as immeasurably good as they are immeasurably puzzling. Consider 2 Timothy, as Paul is talking about the Gospel and the power of God:
“… [He] saved us and called us with a holy calling, not according to our works, but according to His own purpose and grace which was granted us in Christ Jesus from all eternity… ” 2 Timothy 1:9
This is an astounding statement. Our salvation and calling were granted to us “from all eternity”. This is only possible if God Himself is eternal and able, therefore, to grant them from the eternal past. And, if this is so, then it is understandable why the Scripture speaks of our “eternal salvation”—a salvation that extends from eternity past to eternity future. Otherwise, it cannot be “eternal”. And, it is also why we see our future state so often declared in the “present tense”. For example, we are declared to be “seated in the heavenly places in Christ Jesus”, present tense. How can this be when that hasn’t, in our time frame, happened to us yet? It is because of the eternality of God, in whom our future is already a reality to Him. And if it is a reality to Him, then it is a reality for us.
This, of course, raises more mysteries in our mind as we read in Ephesians 1:4 that He “chose us in Him before the foundation of the world”. Some would say that this was based upon God “knowing” that we would do some sufficient “work” in the future. Yet our Timothy passage clearly says that our salvation is granted to us purely by His purpose and grace and not according to our works. How is this possible, for surely He knows our beginning and end and our daily failings in between? Surely this “knowledge” of us would disqualify us rather than qualify us, wouldn’t it?
Several years ago, a theological position arose in which men tried to diminish the difficulty of biblical words like “chosen” and “predestination” and “foreordained” by pulling God inside the line with us. It was called “Process Theology” because God was supposedly in “process” with us… bound up in the present, not really knowing the future but learning along with us. They thought they could erase those troubling words. But the cost was to create a God who was quite scary, for if He is learning about me and my thoughts and actions on a daily, minute by minute basis, then He may soon realize that I am not worth bothering with. He will, day after day, be disappointed in my lack of true agape love, or my less than full devotion to Him, or my constantly falling short of His bar of holiness and perfection. For if He is in “process”, then He could well change His mind about my “sonship”, now that He has learned the “truth” about me.
BUT, for the eternal God who knows and sees every one of my gazillion faults and failings from beginning to end simultaneously and still, from the eternal past grants that to me? Oh, the depth and richness of the love of God in Christ Jesus!
It is at this point we should fall prostrate to the ground before Him in utter thankfulness for a grace poured out upon us that is so completely unearned and so completely forever-forever… so eternally eternal.
As Peter ended, so do we:
“… but grow in the grace and knowledge of our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ. To Him be the glory, both now and to the day of eternity. Amen.” 2 Peter 3:18
For contemplation throughout the week (don’t skip the hard ones J ):
“I am the Alpha and the Omega,” says the Lord God, “who is, and who was, and who is to come, the Almighty.” Revelation 1:8
Remember the former things, those of long ago; I am God, and there is no other;
I am God, and there is none like me. I make known the end from the beginning,
from ancient times, what is still to come. I say, ‘My purpose will stand,
and I will do all that I please.’ Isaiah 46:9-10
And having been made perfect, He became to all those who obey Him the source of eternal salvation… Hebrews 5:9
Therefore do not be ashamed of the testimony of our Lord or of me His prisoner, but join with me in suffering for the gospel according to the power of God, who has saved us and called us with a holy calling, not according to our works, but according to His own purpose and grace which was granted us in Christ Jesus from all eternity… 2 Timothy 1:8-9
But God, being rich in mercy, because of the great love with which he loved us, even when we were dead in our trespasses, made us alive together with Christ—by grace you have been saved—and raised us up with him and seated us with him in the heavenly places in Christ Jesus, so that in the coming ages he might show the immeasurable riches of his grace in kindness toward us in Christ Jesus. For by grace you have been saved through faith. And this is not your own doing; it is the gift of God, not a result of works, so that no one may boast. Ephesians 2:4-9
Lord, You have been our dwelling place in all generations. Before the mountains were born or You gave birth to the earth and the world,
Even from everlasting to everlasting, You are God. Psalm 90:1-2
Even from eternity I am He,
And there is none who can deliver out of My hand;
I act and who can reverse it? Isaiah 43:13
Blessed be the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, who has blessed us in Christ with every spiritual blessing in the heavenly places, even as he chose us in him before the foundation of the world, that we should be holy and blameless before him. In love he predestined us for adoption to himself as sons through Jesus Christ, according to the purpose of his will, to the praise of his glorious grace, with which he has blessed us in the Beloved. Ephesians 1:3-6
For if the blood of goats and bulls and the ashes of a heifer sprinkling those who have been defiled sanctify for the cleansing of the flesh, how much more will the blood of Christ, who through the eternal Spirit offered Himself without blemish to God, cleanse your conscience from dead works to serve the living God? For this reason He is the mediator of a new covenant, so that, since a death has taken place for the redemption of the transgressions that were committed under the first covenant, those who have been called may receive the promise of the eternal inheritance. Hebrews 9:13-15
See now that I, even I, am he, and there is no god beside me;
I kill and I make alive; I wound and I heal; and there is none that can deliver out of my hand.
For I lift up my hand to heaven and swear, As I live forever,
if I sharpen my flashing sword and my hand takes hold on judgment,
I will take vengeance on my adversaries and will repay those who hate me. Deuteronomy 32:39-41
The eternal God is a dwelling place,
And underneath are the everlasting arms; Deuteronomy 33:27
Behold, God is exalted, and we do not know Him;
The number of His years is unsearchable. Job 36:26
But the Lord abides forever;
He has established His throne for judgment… Psalm 9:7
Your name, O Lord, is everlasting,
Your remembrance, O Lord, throughout all generations. Psalm 135:13
Your kingdom is an everlasting kingdom,
And Your dominion endures throughout all generations. Psalm 145:13
For thus says the high and exalted One
Who lives forever, whose name is Holy,
“I dwell on a high and holy place,
And also with the contrite and lowly of spirit
In order to revive the spirit of the lowly
And to revive the heart of the contrite. Isaiah 57:15
But you, O Lord, reign forever; your throne endures to all generations. Lamentations 5:19
He has made everything beautiful in its time. Also, he has put eternity into man's heart, yet so that he cannot find out what God has done from the beginning to the end. Ecclesiastes 3:11
“… but grow in the grace and knowledge of our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ. To Him be the glory, both now and to the day of eternity. Amen.” 2 Peter 3:18
Now to the King eternal, immortal, invisible, the only God, be honor and glory for ever and ever. Amen. 1 Timothy 1:17
From A.W. Tozer, “The Knowledge of the Holy”, page 45: “The truth is that if the Bible did not teach that God possessed endless being in the ultimate meaning of that term, we would be compelled to infer it from His other attributes, and if the Holy Scriptures had no word for absolute everlastingness, it would be necessary for us to coin one to express the concept, for it is assumed, implied, and generally taken for granted everywhere throughout the inspired Scriptures. The idea of endlessness is to the kingdom of God what carbon is to the kingdom of nature. As carbon is present almost everywhere, as it is an essential element in all living matter and supplies all life with energy, so the concept of everlastingness is necessary to give meaning to any Christian doctrine. Indeed I know of no tenet of the Christian creed that could retain its significance if the idea of eternity were extracted from it.”
[preface] When I was 16, I wrecked my father’s brand new car. It was the only time he ever “switched” me. But I deserved it, because if I had been more attentive, it wouldn’t have happened. One of the few times I had to spank my children was when they were playing with fire in the shed and almost burned it down—and with it possibly our house and others’. I wasn’t “punishing” them; I was training them with words of admonition coupled with a “memory moment”.
Unfortunately, we often equate “discipline” with punishment. But punishment and discipline are radically different. Punishment is meant to somehow extract a “payment” for what was done… a form of retribution or a leveling of the books or scales. Discipline, on the other hand, has a fruitful purpose and objective in mind… a means of training or molding the person into someone better.
Consider 1 John 4:17-18
"By this, love is perfected with us, so that we may have confidence in the day of judgment; because as He is, so also are we in this world. There is no fear in love; but perfect love casts out fear, because fear involves punishment, and the one who fears is not perfected in love."
This is interesting: “…fear involves punishment”.
John is obviously talking here about a fear of “punishment” instead of the reverent “fear” that one has before a holy and omnipotent God. Under God’s grace, the entirety of His wrath, reserved for us, was poured out upon Jesus. As a result, there’s nothing left for us to be “punished” for. If punishment is a means by which we “pay” for what we’ve done, then punishment would never be able to “save” us from out sins, for you and I are hopelessly unable to pay for even the smallest breach of God’s holiness. What? Am I to think that maybe 10 years in prison would pay for my sins? What about 100 years? If so, I think too little of my sin and too little of God’s holiness. This is why those who are not in Christ will be separated from God for eternity. I suppose one could say that even after an eternity, there is still an eternity of payment left.
This is why Jesus had to pay for ALL of it.
And, that is why it is called “good news”.
For if Jesus had paid only part of our penalty, even as much as 99.999999% of it, the balance due from us would be infinitely more than we could ever “pay”, no matter how severe or deep… or long the punishment.
There is no fear in true agape love, John tells us, because there is no punishment remaining. And, that is why he says we will have confidence in the day of judgment. Not a confidence in ourselves, but in the radical grace of God. So if you still live your life in fear of punishment before God, then there are two possibilities: 1) you have never really come to know Him and the grace of His love; or 2) you may be in Christ, but you have yet to fully understand His grace, believing the lie that you must pay for some part of your sins, or that you have to “balance them out” through good works.
This is foolish, for we can do neither. Who are we to believe that our “punishment” is sufficient to pay for even smallest portion of our sin or that our most ardent attempts at righteousness are sufficient to make us holy?
When you pull your salvation back under the law, Paul refers to this as “falling away from grace” for you have left the sufficiency of Christ’s atoning work, placing yourself back under the “curse” of the law, which can only condemn. Because our “righteousness is as filthy rags” in the presence of a Holy God, any punishment is insufficient payment for the depth of our unholiness. Only One can make us holy; only One can pay for our sins. And that Someone is Christ, accomplished through His propitiation.
Oh, my! How deep is the love of God and how rich is His grace towards us! We are in awe of His amazing grace, poured out upon us without any merit of our own… nothing in which we can boast.
However… though we are made righteous in the sight of God through Christ’s work, yet we still live and walk in this world, a son of Adam, burdened with a sinful nature that is contrary to the Lord’s will. Therefore, we stray… we sin… we fall woefully short. Yet, we remain as His children. And God, as a good Father, treats us as true sons and not as illegitimate. And because of this, He disciplines us:
“… you have forgotten the exhortation which is addressed to you as sons, 'My son, do not regard lightly the discipline of the Lord, nor faint when you are reproved by Him; for those whom the Lord loves He disciplines, and He scourges every son whom He receives...” Hebrews 12:5-6
The Greek word here for “discipline” is “paideia”. This is a very, very interesting word and we must take the time to examine what it means.
The Greeks believed the individual should be molded into the “ideal”. The word “paideia” was used to describe the means by which the individual was to be trained and molded into this ideal. It carried the notion of perfection or excellence in intellectual, moral and physical characteristics… the model Greek.
The Scripture uses this term in all of the New Testament passages that refer to God’s disciplinary actions toward us. He is not punishing us, but he is training us, molding us, forming and transforming us more and more into the likeness of the ultimate Ideal, Christ.
It is spurred on by an affectionate zeal to enhance, not by a punitive fist.
This is why Christ says in Revelation 3:19
"Those whom I love, I reprove and discipline; therefore be zealous and repent."
The discipline of the Lord shapes us, so that we grow in the right direction, just as one would prune a Bonsai tree into a desired form. Or as the vinedresser, He prunes us like a grape vine so that we might produce more fruit:
“… He disciplines us for our good, so that we may share His holiness. All discipline for the moment seems not to be joyful, but sorrowful; yet to those who have been trained by it, afterwards it yields the peaceful fruit of righteousness." Hebrews 12: 10-11
As earthly fathers, we are enjoined to do the same:
"Fathers, do not provoke your children to anger, but bring them up in the discipline and instruction of the Lord." Ephesians 6:4
Why? Because we desire our children to be fruitful, to flourish, to bring God glory in all they do. This is what true discipline seeks and this is the discipline the Lord uses to form us more and more into His Ideal.
“For the grace of God has appeared, bringing salvation for all people, training [root: paideia] us to renounce ungodliness and worldly passions, and to live self-controlled, upright, and godly lives in the present age… “ Titus 2:11-12
And though there are physical manifestations of this in our life as God acts through the events around us, it is entirely possible that the primary means of discipline is through the work of the Spirit of Truth as we read His word:
“All Scripture is breathed out by God and profitable for teaching, for reproof, for correction, and for training [root: paideia] in righteousness, that the man of God may be complete, equipped for every good work.” 2 Timothy 3:16-17
God wants to form us into children who are “complete, equipped for every good work”. He uses the Word and the discipline that comes through it to achieve this.
So, we rejoice! For if God did not discipline us, then we would not be His children. Or, another way to put it is this: when you become the child of the King, you will then be subject to His carving and pruning tools… a discipline that is motivated by true agape love.
Don’t kick back at Him. Be thankful in the midst of His discipline.
Ponder these verses throughout this week:
Thus you are to know in your heart that the Lord your God was disciplining you just as a man disciplines his son. Deuteronomy 8:5
“For you hate discipline, and you cast My words behind you. Psalm 50:17
My son, do not reject the discipline of the Lord or loathe His reproof… Proverbs 3:11
Whoever loves discipline loves knowledge, but he who hates reproof is stupid. Proverbs 12:1
A wise son accepts his father’s discipline, but a scoffer does not listen to rebuke. Proverbs 13:1
Poverty and shame will come to him who neglects discipline, but he who regards reproof will be honored. Proverbs 13:18
He who neglects discipline despises himself, but he who listens to reproof acquires understanding. Proverbs 15:32
Listen to counsel and accept discipline, that you may be wise the rest of your days. Proverbs 19:20
Apply your heart to discipline and your ears to words of knowledge. Proverbs 23:12
But when we are judged, we are disciplined by the Lord so that we will not be condemned along with the world. 1 Corinthians 11:32
Fathers, do not provoke your children to anger, but bring them up in the discipline and instruction of the Lord. Ephesians 6:4
Those whom I love, I reprove and discipline; therefore be zealous and repent. Revelation 3:19
You have not yet resisted to the point of shedding blood in your striving against sin; and you have forgotten the exhortation which is addressed to you as sons,
“My son, do not regard lightly the discipline of the Lord,
Nor faint when you are reproved by Him;
For those whom the Lord loves He disciplines,
And He scourges every son whom He receives.”
It is for discipline that you endure; God deals with you as with sons; for what son is there whom his father does not discipline? But if you are without discipline, of which all have become partakers, then you are illegitimate children and not sons. Furthermore, we had earthly fathers to discipline us, and we respected them; shall we not much rather be subject to the Father of spirits, and live? For they disciplined us for a short time as seemed best to them, but He disciplines us for our good, so that we may share His holiness. All discipline for the moment seems not to be joyful, but sorrowful; yet to those who have been trained by it, afterwards it yields the peaceful fruit of righteousness.
Therefore, strengthen the hands that are weak and the knees that are feeble, and make straight paths for your feet, so that the limb which is lame may not be put out of joint, but rather be healed. Hebrews 12:4-13
In the upcoming (hopefully and prayerfully) “Engagement” series, the first tour* will examine the rise of a phobia in our culture toward Truth… Truth with a capital “T” that is, for our culture is filled with little “t” truths… those truth claims that have their genesis in our own precious and special little hearts. We celebrate those truths so much that it borders on being a new cult… one in which the individual and the individual’s belief is elevated to something akin to divinity. To say “my heart tells me…” or “this is who I am…” is tantamount to speaking scripture and to speak against the feelings or desires of the individual is to be labeled with the culture’s current schoolyard names: bigot, hate-monger, intolerant, etc. etc. in hopes, as we did in grade school, that we can elevate our own significance and posture by sneering immature “put-downs” at our favorite “nobodies” and “deplorables”.
It would be a grave mistake, as many Christians have done, to label what is happening here with things like “liberal” or “progressive” or “Democrat”. What we are witnessing is a wholesale attack upon truth that has infested much of the cultural powers. The New Democratic party has been deeply infected. But it isn’t the Party… it is the worldview.
That worldview is one in which Transcendent Truth is no longer merely ignored nor just set aside so that we can go our own way. No… now there is a war against it. There is a hatred toward it… and a deep fear.
An interview on several northwest campuses highlighted this fear. The interviewer, a 5’10” white guy, was trying to get university students to tell him that he wasn’t a 6’ 5” Chinese woman. Even though it was obvious to them, they were afraid to speak it, for to do so was to trump the individual’s declaration with something Transcendent… even that which was obviously real.
So, last week, Daniel Piepenbring, writing in the New Yorker, decries the advent of a Chick-fil-A store to the City where, Daniel believes, it “doesn’t quite belong”. He writes that the store’s arrival “augurs worse than a load of manure on the F train”.
Is it because he believes there is something wrong with the chicken or the fries? Is it because the milkshakes carry a lot of calories? And, in a city that bans “Big Gulp” drinks in order to protect its citizens from consuming too much sugar, is the store simply out of “nutritional” step with New Yorkers?
No. That isn’t why Piepenbring writes a scathing article against Chick-fil-A.
It is because Chick-fil-A and its owners embrace a Transcendent Truth.
Here is the caption under the article’s picture of the new store:
“Chick-fil-A’s corporate purpose begins with the words “to glorify God,” and that proselytism thrums below the surface of its new Fulton Street restaurant.”
Interesting, isn’t it? A corporate purpose that begins with “to glorify God” is viewed with distaste and is equated with one of the growing schoolyard taunts: “proselytism”? By the way, “proselytizing” is viewed as an attack upon the divineness of the individual, for It implies that the individual should be persuaded to a different way of thinking and living. In a culture that has made the individual divine, to say there is something wrong in the individual’s beliefs is to speak blasphemy and deserves a sentencing to the stocks… or worse.
That is the tenor of the article. It is written with a sense of outrage, of seething anger and hatred toward an establishment, as Daniel states: whose headquarters “are adorned with Bible verses”… Oh my! Or its stores have the audacity to “close on Sundays”… double Oh My!
Then comes, of course, the thing that is probably stirring up the greatest phobia in Daniel, and that is the position of Dan Cathy, the CEO, who stood for “traditional marriage”.
Our culture is in a war against Transcendent Truth and anyone who dares to stand for that Truth. If it is a transcendent truth about anything: sex, marriage, male and female, God, Jesus, salvation by Him alone, moral right and wrong… anything… you will be either opposed or openly hated by the cultural “elites”.
Although the war against truth has been raging from the Garden, it has never been so openly waged in our culture as it is today.
This is a recent phenomenon.
But, there is a strong and faithful remnant in the land… take hope.
“Blessed are those who are persecuted for the sake of righteousness, for theirs is the kingdom of heaven. Blessed are you when men revile you and say all kinds of evil against you because of Me. Rejoice and be glad, for your reward in heaven is great; for in the same way they persecuted the prophets who were before you.” Jesus, Matthew 5:10-11
Do everything in your power to live at peace in this culture, but don’t let it bully you into giving up the Truth. Jesus said He was the Truth. We will not turn away from Him, even if the beautiful people of Hollywood mock us, or the professors scorn us, or the NBA or NCAA move their games, or the state and the courts threaten us and close our stores, or even if a writer holds us in disdain and contempt.
You are the light of the world. If you hide your light, then the whole house groans in darkness.
We are a Remnant of Hope. Stand firm in Him.
*the Engagement: Tour 0: “In a Land of Nought—A Remnant of Hope”
I remember the first time I heard George Washington’s Farewell Address. I was stunned. I heard things that didn’t match what I had been taught and his words described something far afield from what I was seeing in my job at the White House. It was so unsettling that it provoked an insatiable search to discover the truth about that generation and what they believed. What I found eventually led me to leave the White House to do whatever I could to restore the foundations they believed were absolutely critical to our liberty and freedom.
But it wasn’t just Washington’s words concerning the necessary foundations of religion and morality that stunned me, it was also his warning about “political parties”.
He loathed them.
Because Washington believed that a political party would eventually begin to primarily seek those things that brought it power and control rather than seeking those things that were best for the country.
He was prophetic.
For the political parties today, by and large, do just that.
Case in point: the current flap over whether or not the Census in 2020 should include a simple question that asks if the person is a citizen of the United States. Now, for a farm kid from Idaho, this sounds like a reasonable question that a nation might want to ask. Many other nations ask it; the U.N. recommends it; the Constitution actually demands it by requiring "complete and accurate data" and this is why it was a question on the Census up until the 1950's. One would think, in our times of intense debate about illegal aliens, that we would want to have accurate data on the subject. But, instead, it has now created a firestorm and numerous states have brought a law suit to ban this question from the Census. Eric Holder and the California Attorney General claim this question is "irresponsible" and "unconstitutional".
Why? What is going on here?
Well the answer isn’t found in something compassionate concerning non-citizens, but it is found by looking at the loss or gain of power associated with asking a citizenship question. One particular party knows that if the Census asks that question, it could change the numbers that would reduce their power.
This is much like the flap over the Constitution’s three-fifth rule concerning counting slaves. Many have pointed to it as proof that the founders believed black people were only three-fifths of a human being. But they are ignorant of the fact that it was all about power. The slave-states wanted their slaves counted so it would increase their “representation” and the non-slave states didn’t want them counted because they wanted to reduce the power of slave-holding states.
If you look behind the rhetoric today, you will find much of the same thing. One party derives power by having more illegal aliens in the country or by increasing the number of “dependents” or “wards” of the state; both parties derive power by promising largess from the treasury; one party derives power by doing everything it can to destroy the reputation of those in the other party.
Is it for the flourishing of the people?
No. It is for power.
Why do many votes fall along “partisan” lines? Is it because they differ so radically on what would be best for the nation or is it simply for the sake of their party? When a sound judge is nominated for an office, why does one party stonewall him? Is it for the best of the nation or is it another party power play?
It’s all about power.
You’ve heard the phrase “follow the money”. Well, when you see and hear the intense political rhetoric and hatred today, simply ask the question: “Which party gains from this?”… and you will have a better understanding of what is really going on.
Often, one party will feign a deep benevolent concern for a segment of the culture, but it is not because they have a real compassionate heart for them, some do for sure, but it is primarily because that segment represents a voting block. Much like Judas (John 12:5-6), who feigned concern for the poor, not because he had a real compassion for them, but because he was stealing from the till.
It’s all about power. And power is about money and control and significance.
And that does not seek the “general welfare” of the nation.
Listen to Washington’s words:
“It [the political party] serves always to distract the public councils and enfeeble the public administration. It agitates the community with ill-founded jealousies and false alarms, kindles the animosity of one part against another, foments occasionally riot and insurrection. It opens the door to foreign influence and corruption, which finds a facilitated access to the government itself through the channels of party passions.”
He also believed that this “partisan lust for power” and the alternating domination of one political party over another would eventually lead to one party, when it enjoyed the position of power, to “exact revenge on the other”.
It isn’t hard to see, with the deep hatred that is expressed by the current party out of power, that when they regain it, they will scorch the earth with revenge.
This is scary.
And that is why Washington was not a party animal.
I saw “Risen” last week while in Tennessee. Great movie. I had never thought about the possibility that Pilate would have a deep interest in finding the body of Jesus. For sure, the Jewish hierarchy would have been rabid to do so. They had taken measures beforehand to ensure no one stole the body and then when the tomb was found empty, they immediately bribed the guards to spread a lie. For sure, they would have done everything possible to find Jesus’ body in order to squash a “resurrection” movement. But I’ve never considered the political pressure that Pilate would have felt to do the same.
With both the power of Rome and the power of the High Priest joined together to find the corpse, it would have been pretty much impossible for someone to pull off such a hoax. Especially since, as the movie portrayed, the evidence at the tomb had to be significant. Ropes that were busted “like thread”, the huge stone tossed aside like nothing, grave clothes collapsed upon themselves, guards giving fearful testimony of something terribly “supernatural” happening… evidence that didn’t match up with a body heist by a bunch of uneducated fishermen.
The movie followed a plausible course in which the Roman Tribune, sent by Pilate, squeezes all the possible suspects and witnesses, looking for answers, and, hopefully, a dead body. But instead of a corpse, the Tribune comes face to face with Jesus… alive. Risen. Just as He had said.
This is the heart of the movie plot and what happens in the heart of the Tribune as he encounters the risen Nazarene.
But what struck me was the scene when the Tribune had hauled in Bartholomew and was putting pressure on him to reveal where they had taken the body. The disciple wasn’t fazed by the intimidation, nor the threats. Surely, the Tribune had the power of life and death over him, but Bartholomew was overpowered, instead, by the reality that Jesus was really, really alive. He had seen Him. He had talked with Him. It was true… absolutely true. All doubts were now gone. And if Jesus had really risen from the dead, then everything about Jesus… everything He had said, everything He had done, everything He had been teaching them was not only confirmed, but it meant that death was NOTHING… the grave was NOTHING. And so, standing in the presence of a worldly power that could have easily hung him on a cross as well, Bartholomew spoke with a sense of awe and inner joy: “If you want to crucify me, I will gladly submit… this changes everything!”
And from that point on in the film, in the back of my mind I wondered, why don’t I carry that same sense of awe and inner joy and outlook on life?
The resurrection of Jesus is by far the most documented event in the Scripture. It is virtually impossible for anyone to mount an honest and credible argument against it. For those, of course, who do not believe, no amount of evidence would suffice, much like George Wald and spontaneous generation or Francis Crick and DNA.
But I am not writing for those who do not believe, but for those who do… because it is easy to allow the narrative of the Easter event to become just that… an oft-heard narrative… so familiar, so common, that we are no longer moved by its reality.
That is why I have continually asked myself the question:
“Do you really believe that what you believe is really real?”
Bartholomew was realistically portrayed in the movie as one who had “seen the risen Jesus” and for him it “changed everything”. The Tribune saw Jesus alive as well and the movie concluded with him taking off his Tribunal signet ring and confessing, “I can never be the same.”
For those of us who believe, we, too, at some time have confessed the same thing, that we would never be the same again.
But the flow of the world pulls at us daily… like a relentless gravity… and our perspective shrinks back into the box and into the mold of a world that continually acts as if there is nothing outside of that box… the only reality is the physical realm that we are bumping around in minute after minute, year after year, life after life… matter and energy is all there is… survival of the fittest… grab what you can… all about me… nothing really matters.
And all of that would be true…
Jesus rose from the dead.
He really did.
“Where, O death, is your victory?
Where, O grave, is your sting?” 1 Corinthians 15:54-55
May this amazing reality be lived out in our lives daily.
Because if He lives…
it really does change everything.