One of the most pressing needs of man, if not the greatest, is to have some sense of significance or worth. I suspect there is nothing more tragic in the heart of man than to be overwhelmed with the sensation that he is absolutely and completely of no value…to anything or anyone. This state of mind, no doubt, is a key factor in depression and even suicidal thoughts and actions.
It seems as if we are not only born with this hunger, but we recognize it at a very early age. We long to be held by our mother. We long for our father’s embrace. We crave their approval.
Not only do we sense it in ourselves, but we are quite perceptive that it is a major need in others. So if we want to hurt someone, we do so with words or actions that are crafted to destroy the significance in another, hoping that by stealing theirs, we might therefore add to our own. It I call you “stupid” or “ugly” then my sinful nature is hoping that I can somehow strip you of the one thing that I know you want more than anything else. And, by some twisted form of logic, I think I can become more significant by putting you down.
Children aren’t stupid. They know how to hurt. And they go for the jugular.
When we get to adulthood, we normally have a tendency to temper this, although we never walk away from it. We can still play the game. We just learn how to play it more subtly.
But the game hasn’t changed.
We still long to be significant. And we think we can somehow get it from the people and things in the world around us. So, we chase desperately for significance from anything and everything. We seek applause; we seek confirmation; we seek praise; we seek what we falsely believe is “love”. If we can’t get it directly from people, we will seek to get it indirectly by chasing for significance from physical things…things such as wealth, beauty, power, or control. Some believe they gain significance by being funny or smart or being the quarterback or prom queen. The “life of the party” is often someone who is in a desperate search for garlands of significance tossed to her by the crowd. It is a sad thing to see our Hollywood starlets as they desperately try to maintain significance while their beauty fades and another, younger and now more beautiful and shapely, arises.
Some find that they cannot gain significance from anyone and so they pull into their shell with their own desperation…one that seeks to maintain whatever significance they have. They take no risks…publicly, socially, or in relationships, out of fear that they may lose what they have. This sometimes comes as the result of once trying to gain significance and miserably failing or being rejected…sometimes cruelly by those who think they can prosper by taking yours.
And because this false notion, that one can gain significance from the world around them, eventually fails…either with wrinkles or hollow wealth or just because there isn’t enough applause to go around, we have come up with another deception...possibly the greatest of all.
We live in a culture that has fallen into the well of self-centeredness. We have been taken prey by the belief that it is all about me. With that belief comes the notion that we have value and significance in and of ourselves. I don’t need you. I have myself. In other words, I can be significant even if the world doesn’t think me to be significant or of any value.
This requires some careful thought and wisdom.
The significance of something doesn’t lie in the something. It lies in the value another places on that something. A pot of gold is of no value by itself. It only has value because someone, or possibly a whole lot of someones, consider it to be of value…maybe even of great value.
When a person dies, they often leave behind things that had value to no one but themselves. When my mother passed away not long ago, she left a number of items. Most of those were given away or tossed because they no longer had any value or significance. Their "value" died with my mom. Some were kept because we also valued them and a few were kept, not because we saw direct value in them, but because they were of great worth to her. I suspect that when we die, our children, or our grandchildren, will discard them because they will be of no value to them.
This is also the reason for much of our “rubbish”. We may have valued it for a while, but then it becomes of no significance to us and we toss it. We value the tin can because it contains and protects our corn. We value the cardboard because it contains and protects our pizza. But once the can and the cardboard have served our purpose, we throw them out, for they no longer have any value or significance to us.
The point here is that the item, itself, has no value unless someone values it.
This is very, very contrary to modern thinking, where we have come to believe that the individual has worth all by himself. This thinking has, of necessity, arisen because we have rejected a belief in God. For without God, the individual human being becomes nothing but an empty tin can or a used piece of cardboard…he is nothing but “star stuff” as Carl Sagan put it. And, because of our hunger for significance, we have to come up with the notion that the “individual” has worth in and of themselves…so that we can feel significant without God. That is why there is such a big fuss over whether or not the baby in the womb has become a “person”. Peter Singer, Princeton’s elite Professor of Bioethics, argues that a baby doesn’t really become a “person” until he or she is two years old and therefore we should be able to “dispose” of them up until that time. Without God, the baby in the womb becomes mere tissue. And if the mother sees no value in it, then neither should you. But the truth is that God made man in His image, and therefore the human being, in the womb or outside of the womb, has value, not in and of itself, but because God gave it value. And if we remove Him, then humanity becomes trash, valuable only in the eyes of someone else, or in a desperate mode to maintain significance, valued by oneself. The argument for euthanasia follows the same line of thinking. If the individual no longer finds value in his own being, then he is of no ultimate value and can be disposed.
In a culture that removes God, one is left with the hopeless task of either finding significance in the praise of man or in the hoarding of wealth or power. And when this doesn’t pan out, in some sort of self-defense mode, we turn to the vain notion that I can generate my own significance internally…I am of value because “I am”.
Now, this sounds really good, but it is foolishness without the reality of the Creator God.
I know there are some who have taken exception to my position that God has given us this drive, but I believe they do so from misunderstanding. Just as He has given us the sexual drive and it can be focused on that which is wrong, so too, the hunger for significance can become sinful when misdirected.
When we hold our own children and tell them that we love them, we impart to them a sense of significance. It isn’t found in themselves. It is found in knowing that they, a mere child, have the love of their father and mother.
So, too, the love of our heavenly Father, and the great sacrifice that He gave on our behalf, fills a divine need within the human soul…the longing we are here calling “significance” is satisfied by the love of Christ.
There is a divine significance that is granted to us when we are called the children of God.
This comes from Him…not from us.
What significance can compare to being a child of God and fulfilling His purposes?
But, the enemy and the flesh and the world go to great lengths to turn this upside down. We believe that significance comes, not from the Father, but from how I stack up to the world around me…how I measure compared to others. We pervert the divine hunger for significance, which was meant to drive us to Him, and divert it toward the carnal…from the only One who can truly satisfy, to the world which can never satisfy.
This deceit leaves us as hopeless addicts desperately chasing a fix that is barely temporary, providing only a false taste of something that we wrongly believe to be satisfying, yet it merely makes us more desperate.
Jesus said that one might gain the whole world and yet lose their soul.
Solomon declared that one may love money, but they can never get enough of it.
Because you will never be wealthy enough; you will never be funny enough; you will never be beautiful enough. Nothing that the world has to offer will ever be enough because it can never really satisfy.
To think so is a fool’s quest.
God certainly knows this, and He therefore calls us from the unsatisfying to the satisfying:
Come, all you who are thirsty, come to the waters; and you who have no money, come, buy and eat! Come, buy wine and milk without money and without cost. Why spend money on what is not bread, and your labor on what does not satisfy? Listen, listen to me, and eat what is good, and your soul will delight in the richest of fare. Isaiah 55:1-2
Jesus said the same thing to the woman at the well:
Everyone who drinks this water will be thirsty again, but whoever drinks the water I give him will never thirst. Indeed, the water I give him will become in him a spring of water welling up to eternal life. John 4:13-14
You and I have been given a hunger for significance. The world, the flesh and the enemy want us to try to satisfy that with things that perish. It is a hopeless chase. Our significance can only come from God Himself. And the significance that comes from His love is never ending. It is eternal. It is the water that does not leave us thirsty. It is the bread that does not leave us hungry. It is the significance that comes from the spring of water than wells up to eternal life. It is the food that is the richest of fare.
He is no fool who gives up what he cannot keep to gain that which he cannot lose. Jim Elliot
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.”
The classic definitions of “worldview” take some form of “the lens through which one sees the world around them”. I think it is much deeper than this and much more complicated. In fact, I think there are two, yea three, different categories that we should keep in mind when we try to define “worldview” or attempt to understand what it is.
For sure, we need to understand it not as a mere linguistic term or academic study, but as a critically deep and profound aspect of our own life.
When we speak of a “worldview” there are two fundamentally different ways this can be used. The first is to refer to a “formal” worldview and the second is to refer to one’s “personal” worldview. These are vastly different from each other and should be defined separately.
A formal worldview is a set of truth claims that purport to paint a picture of reality. Formal worldviews are often titled, such as Marxism or Islam or Christianity. One can find a good number of publications that lay out the truth claims for each of these formal “worldviews”. This just simply means that the “book” for each of these worldviews makes the strong assertion that its truth claims are really real.
A personal worldview is also a set of truth claims, but these truth claims aren’t written in a book, they are written on the heart. They are truth claims that are embraced so deeply that we “believe” they really do match reality. But the critical factor here is that once we believe that a truth claim is really real, it will drive our behavior: how we act, how we think, and how we feel. If you believe that you are unlovable unless you weigh less than you do now, that belief will drive how you act. If you believe that your happiness and significance is based upon circumstances working out the way you have planned them and it appears that the chances of that happening are growing less probable, then you will find yourself worried. Jesus dealt with the issue of worry and He clearly jabbed His finger upon the source: our beliefs. This is the power of the personal worldview and the impotence of a formal worldview. No one acts on the ideas in a book. They act on the ideas in their heart. You can make up your own new formal worldview. You can write a book about it or maybe even a hundred books about it. You can give it a snazzy name, like Avatarism. But if no one embraces your truth claims as being really real, then you will have nothing but a dusty old book. But if hundreds, or thousands, or even millions of people begin to read that book and believe your truth claims to be really real, even if they are totally false, then you will rule them with your ideas. This is why Dave Breese wrote a book entitled “Seven Men Who Rule the World from the Grave”. How do they continue to rule? Because they each wrote a “book” with their own ideas in them, mostly false ideas, and people began to believe those ideas and in so doing, even long after the authors of those books were dead, their ideas continues to drive how people think, how they act, and how they feel. They are ruled by those ideas. Why? Because they are written in their hearts. They believe they are real. They became a part of their personal worldview.
This is the power of ideas and the power of a worldview. But until it becomes part of one’s personal worldview, it is powerless. This is why the Scripture warns us to “guard our heart” (Proverbs 4:23). That is not to guard ourselves against being emotionally hurt by someone, it is to guard what it is we end up believing to be really real.
And if you were to write your book and only one person began to believe your ideas were real, you would be ruling that one person. This should be enough for us to take seriously another warning from Scripture: “Let not many of you become teachers, my brethren, knowing that as such we will incur a stricter judgment.” (James 3:1)
If you are going to teach or write, you better make sure that the “truth claims” that you assert are really real. And the only way that I know to insure that, is to make very, very sure that your words are consistent with the Truth of God. If not, woe to you if some “little child should stumble” (Mark 9:42) because of your false teaching.
There are more differences in these two:
A formal worldview is usually quite comprehensive, dealing with most areas of life, if not all.
A personal worldview, can be quite spotty or incomplete.
Studying a formal worldview is fairly easy.
Trying to understand one’s personal worldview is not.
A formal worldview can be crafted to appear quite logical (although a false worldview will always be filled with contradictions if you are willing to examine them).
A personal worldview can be quite illogical. It can embrace ideas or truth claims that are very contradictory. It can be driven by selfish motives and desires, rather than reality. In fact, one’s personal worldview can be quite “unreal” and in certain areas it could be said that we are living in a “dream” world because our beliefs are so contrary to reality. When this is the case, it is usually because of our selfish motives: we believe what we want to believe.
What is common to both, however, is that each relies upon a source of truth.
For the formal worldview, this is fairly easy to determine. A Christian worldview believes that truth has been revealed in both the creation of God and in His written Word. Islam believes it has been revealed in the Koran. Latter Day Saints believe it has been revealed in the Book of Mormon and other revelations to their prophets, such as The Pearl of Great Price. Naturalism believes that the source of truth is found in science alone. Marxism and Leninism rests upon the writings of Karl Marx and Fredrick Engels, who also happened to stand upon a worldview of Naturalism.
For the personal worldview, consistent with its inconsistency, we could find multiple sources of truth. However, in the truly selfish worldview, it is sometimes expressed that the individual’s heart is the source of truth. So, “My heart tells me that…” is one’s source of truth.
Sometimes a person begins to believe that a formal worldview is right in its understanding of the source of truth and adherents will attempt to mold their personal worldview to the doctrines of the formal worldview. However, it is quite unusual for an individual to have a personal worldview that perfectly matches a formal worldview. When selfishness or other motives drive our beliefs, then we can declare that we believe in a formal worldview’s source of truth and its truth claims, but act in a different way. And why do we act in a different way? Because we have other truth claims that have captured our heart that are deeper than the truth claims of the formal worldview.
All of this leads us to the third type of worldview: the “professed” worldview.
This is a complicated thing, but not too much so. It is the thing that happens when we believe that it is in our best interest to “profess” a particular belief when we don’t really believe it is real. And why do we believe that it is in our “best interest”? Because we have believed another truth claim that says so. For example, if I believe the truth claim “I will be happy if people accept me and think well of me” then I might act in a way that would make people accept me and think well of me. If I were in a Christian group and I wanted to be happy, then I would say “Jesus is Lord” when I don’t really believe it. I might even memorize Scripture passages or go to church or raise my hands in worship to show that I am really worthy of the honor and praise of those who see me do such things. This becomes my “professed” worldview and it is often times difficult to separate the “professed” from the “personal”. Often times, the “professed” is the open profession of things consistent with the formal worldview, but it may be miles away from the personal worldview.
I believe God is speaking to this when He declares “These people draw near to me with their mouth and honor me with their lips, but their hearts are far from me.” (Isaiah 29:13) This is a “professed” worldview in action. But the omniscient God is not fooled by the “professions” we make for He “looks at the heart”. (1 Samuel 16:7) This doesn’t mean that He knows how you “feel”. It means He knows what you really believe despite what you “profess”.
This is why we must not fool ourselves in thinking that our “professed” worldview is equal to our “personal” worldview; nor that our “personal” worldview is equal to the “formal” worldview that I am associated with…just because I am a member of a church or synagogue or mosque or Free-Thinkers Society.
Mark records that Jesus knew what people were thinking in their hearts. (Mark 2:8) We can become quite good at crafting beautiful masks…the kind of mask that people love to see…and we can become masters of which mask to wear in the presence of certain people. We do this because we believe, in our hearts, that our significance and pleasure and happiness is bound up in what people think of us. So we wear a mask and fool everyone.
Everyone, of course, but God.
When we are sick, there is nothing we want more than to be restored to health. I can think of several times in my life when I was so sick (Lima, Peru and Cairo, Egypt) that I ashamedly admit I thought it would be better to die. That’s how “bad sick” it was. I can remember lying out in a field during pilot training after a bad parachute landing with my shoulder way out of joint. I thought I was going to die from the pain. I HOPED I would die from the pain!
But these are just physical ailments.
Much worse to be emotionally sick or spiritually sick and feel as if there is no way out. Increasingly, more people, especially young people, are seeking to “escape” life through suicide because they feel so emotionally sick (lonely, isolated, unloved, worthless) that death is the only way they think they can be “healed”. Others try to escape through alcohol or drugs or entertainment or any number of ways to attempt to numb the pain or mask the negative emotions that seem overwhelming at times, trying to pull us into a black hole.
Ah, but there is balm in Gilead. There is a great Physician… the God who heals.
If you were to tally up all of the miracles of Jesus and then classify them, by far the largest category would be His role of healing people. Here is one of the great understatements for which the Scripture is so famous:
“And Jesus was going about in all Galilee… healing every kind of disease and every kind of sickness among the people… and they brought to him all who were ill… and He healed them.” Matthew 4:23-24
Think about this: “every kind of disease and sickness … and He healed them”. Cancer? He healed it. Withered arms? Healed. Diabetes, hemorrhages, bad hearts, kidneys, gout, blindness, mute, deaf? All healed. Every kind of disease and sickness. Including the demoniacs… people who were physically, mentally and emotionally impaired due to a spiritual force. Healed by the Great Physician… Yahweh Rophe or Rapha, as it is more popularly known.
There are more than sixty references in the Scripture describing God as Yahweh-Rapha, the God who heals or restores. One of the early ones is in Exodus 15. Here is the back-story:
The children of Israel were in misery, slaves in Egypt until God intervened and restored them to freedom. God showed Himself mighty before their eyes, through the miracle of plagues, release from the captivity of a hard-hearted Pharaoh, crossing the Red Sea on dry ground, destroying Pharaoh’s army, and leading them with what must have been an eye-popping, jaw-dropping cloud by day and a pillar of fire by night. No one has ever had more open, physical evidence of God’s miraculous desire and power to restore than did the Israelites.
But they soon started to grumble and complain.
They travelled through the desert of Shur for three days without water until finally coming to what was probably a set of springs, looking cold and delicious. But the water was bad, “bitter” as can be found in similar locations in Saudi Arabia today. And the hearts of the people then turned bitter too and they began to whine and complain, “grumbling against Moses”. So Moses went to the Lord and prayed and God gave Moses a medical “instrument”, a piece of wood, which he threw into the water and it was restored and became “sweet”. God then told them that if they would listen and follow Him, He would keep them from all the plagues He had brought upon the Egyptians, for He was their healer… literally, “for I am Yahweh-Rapha”, the first time this name of God is used. And it was Yahweh-Rapha who had Elisha use instruments of a jar and salt to purify the bad water in Jericho (2 Kings 2:21) and flour to cleanse the poisonous stew (2 Kings 4:41).
As I write this, we are praying that God will use the instruments of human physicians to heal our dear friend of cancer. We desire for this to happen now, but we know that all of those in Christ will be ultimately healed, in the day of restoration, when the God of Restoration, Yahweh-Rapha, will restore everything.
And, ultimately, the real healing that we need is not physical, for our deepest and most serious disease is spiritual. Jesus made this connection plain:
On hearing this, Jesus said to them, “It is not the healthy who need a doctor, but the sick. I have not come to call the righteous, but sinners. Mark 2:17
Through Jeremiah, God spoke of how the Israelites had an “incurable” wound, that there was “no healing for their sore” and their “injury” was serious. But He wasn’t speaking of a physical wound or sore, He was talking about their spiritual state:
“… your iniquity is great and your sins are numerous.” Jeremiah 30:14
After speaking of Judah’s rebellion, sin and iniquity, calling them evildoers, sons who act corruptly, abandoning the Lord, despising the Holy One of Israel, God says of them:
“The whole head is sick, and the whole heart is faint.” Isaiah 1:5
David cried for healing from the Lord, but it wasn’t for physical ailments:
I said, “Have mercy on me, Lord; heal me, for I have sinned against you.” Psalm 41:4
In Psalm 147:3, it is Yahweh-Rapha who “heals the brokenhearted and binds up their wounds.”
In one of the great passages concerning Christ’s work on our behalf, that He has healed us of our wounds… not physical wounds, but the spiritual sickness that would have separated us from God forever:
But he was pierced for our transgressions, he was crushed for our iniquities;
the punishment that brought us peace was on him, and by his wounds we are healed. Isaiah 53:5
Many, unfortunately, misunderstand this passage and make it apply to our physical ailments, when it is so clearly speaking of Christ healing us of our transgressions and our iniquities. Nowhere are we promised, in this fallen world, to be free from its ubiquitous pull toward decay. But much of our maladies are caused by spiritual rebellion. It is here that we can find rest for our souls, if we would let go of our hold on the world and what it offers, and turn to Him. Every one of our negative emotions are birthed in our belief in the lie that if we can just get our own personal script fulfilled, we will be happy and content and pleasured. But the world around us continues to step on our scripts and sometimes just downright trashes them. As long as we desperately fight for our own scripts, we will be doomed to anger, disappointment and the host of dark emotions that follow.
Are you brokenhearted? Is your soul downcast? Does a darkness pervade you from within?
There is a balm in Gilead.
Do you feel lost and alone, isolated? Are you filled with dread and fear? Does guilt or bitterness eat at your heart?
Does your past weigh upon you so heavily that you can barely take another step? Are you sick with sorrow or despair?
Behold! Yahweh-Rapha, the God who heals!
Draw near to Him… gaze upon His face.
Do not neglect the instruments of healing that He has decreed for us. Meditate upon His Word; call upon Him in prayer; and do not forsake the deep fellowship of the saints.
“The Spirit of the Lord is on me, because he has anointed me to proclaim good news to the poor. He has sent me to proclaim freedom for the prisoners and recovery of sight for the blind, to set the oppressed free, to proclaim the year of the Lord’s favor.”
Then he rolled up the scroll, gave it back to the attendant and sat down. The eyes of everyone in the synagogue were fastened on him. He began by saying to them, “Today this scripture is fulfilled in your hearing.”
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”