God is not a cheater
It’s interesting to reexamine the beliefs we once (perhaps even alarmingly recently) held. I think there was a long time that I thought of the gospel as God “cheating”- we couldn’t be saved by our works, so God “cheats” by sending his son as a man who is also God so he won’t sin, and then when Jesus dies and Satan thinks he’s won then God “cheats” again and raises Jesus from the dead. And so now, by a technicality, everyone who believes in God gets into heaven. Whew.
Of course this view is so so wrong in many ways, and one of the ways is that it made me imagine God’s attitude as He brings us into salvation as something like this: yeah ok go ahead. I’ve made this loophole so now I can forgive you and you get to live, awesome.
But 1 John says something different:
If we confess our sins, he is faithful and just to forgive us our sins and to cleanse us from all unrighteousness.
Faithful, I’ve heard. He says he’s gonna forgive us, and he does. But just? Isn’t the point of the gospel telling us that we escape from justice because we don’t get what we deserve? But John says that God forgives us because He is just.
The implications are big- the first being that God’s justice is now on our side. Having been washed with Jesus’ blood and having received His righteousness, it is now just and right for God to forgive us. No cheating- that’s just how clean we are when we are clothed with Christ. And it can’t be changed, even as God’s justice and faithfulness cannot be changed. And secondly, Christ’s sacrifice was huge. The only reason why we are so clean is because every speck of sin on us was paid for in Christ, and He suffered all of it. No cheating there either.
Praise God that we didn’t get in by a technicality.
Here we go
It’s ironic and embarrassing and so God that after coming off of a semester (or a whole school year, really) of discovering and falling in love with theology and the clarity and solidity that comes with embracing thinking as a vital part of Christianity, and resolving to, as best I can, henceforth have all my emotional responses be informed by doctrines to which I first give mental assent, that in the first week of summer I would get my emotions all invested and tangled up in something as trivial as a video game, and be out of commission and nonfunctioning for a couple of days. I am indeed a wise fool. Or maybe just a fool.
Anyways, here we go Spring 2013! - From one degree of glory to the next.
I’m ashamed to admit it but playing Bioshock Infinite has had a bigger impact on me than I thought it would. As of this moment I’m still feeling sad because I miss someone that doesn’t exist. Somebody help! Maybe I should stop playing video games haha.
The Walking Dead… I can’t
There was a while when I really enjoyed dark/depressing stuff. I loved reading books like Lord of the Flies and The Great Gatsby, and I prefered shows like Mad Men and Breaking Bad and The Wire where characters were complex and lived in melancholy worlds to the saccharine stories in Disney movies. I thought Tangled would have been a better movie if Eugene had died at the end. LOL.
I think the reason why was because it just tasted more real to me. I looked at the sadness and the ambiguity and the dilemmas and the crappy situations and I (only partially correctly) thought, mmph. That’s real life. Life is hard. It sucks. So when I started reading the Walking Dead comics, the darkness and the danger and the bleakness of it drew me in. It was almost like the worse the situation got for Rick Grimes and his band of survivors, the more “real” it seemed to me. Like how dearly loved characters died suddenly and unexpectedly. Wow. That’s real life. Or survivors that betray the group and lead to the deaths of people that trusted them. Dang. Or other groups of survivors that had deteriorated to the point of placing little value in human life. Whoa- people are messed up.
I liked the comics so I started playing the games that they put out. It’s a similar flavor, but I’m halfway through episode 2, and…. I just can’t. I can’t play it. Not that it’s bad- it won a lot of awards and has great writing and I’m sure it has a story that’s just as good as the comics or the tv show. But I just… can’t. It’s just way too far from reality. The writers of the Walking Dead do their best to put the characters in progressively more and more hopeless situations. They always get out (at least so far) but always at the cost of some people dying, or injuries, or being forced to commit acts that deaden their humanity. But there’s no point to the story. Because there is no God in the Walking Dead. The whole point of the entire universe is God, and when you take God out of the picture, what you’re left with is a meaningless mess that, try as we might to draw out principles or takeaways or truth from, makes no sense.
And I can’t live in that world, even if it’s just pretend. I need Him. I need His Son, and His Spirit, and His love, and His promises, and His sovereignty, and His goodness, and His working all things for my good. I need to know that even if a worldwide catastrophe like a zombie apocalypse happens, He’s there for me. Because He is. That’s reality.
Those Who Stay Will Be Champions
But the one who endures to the end will be saved.
2 Timothy 2:12:
If we endure, we will also reign with him; if we deny him, he also will deny us.
To the one who conquers I will grant to eat of the tree of life, which is in the paradise of God.
Be faithful unto death, and I will give you the crown of life.
To the one who conquers I will give some of the hidden manna, and I will give him a white stone, with a new name written on the stone that no one knows except the one who receives it.
The one who conquers and who keeps my works until the end, to him I will give authority over the nations…
The one who conquers will be clothed thus in white garments, and I will never blot his name out of the book of life. I will confess his name before my Father and before his angels.
The one who conquers, I will make him a pillar in the temple of my God. Never shall he go out of it, and I will write on him the name of my God, and the name of the city of my God, the new Jerusalem, which comes down from my God out of heaven, and my own new name.
The one who conquers, I will grant him to sit with me on my throne, as I also conquered and sat down with my Father on his throne.
I feel like when someone says that “you have come into the presence of the king”, that phrase is not really being used to talk about you- it’s not saying that you’re necessarily staring at the king, or having a respectful attitude towards him, or even that you’re paying attention to him. In fact, you can be in the presence of a king and not even know it! But that phrase is more talking about what the king is doing- he sees you and he notices you.
So when we come into the presence of God, we might be walking into His throne room backwards- looking at or thinking about something besides Him, and talking to someone other than Him. But we’re in His presence, and He’s looking at us, and noticing us, and thinking about us.
Oh and also, He loves us.
One of the testimonies from our church’s baptism service that was most memorable for me was Man Kuan’s. She talked about how she got to a point where she couldn’t see any reason in her life to believe God was real- but then she read a verse that really impacted her:
“Blessed are those who have not seen and yet have believed.” John 20:29
Take a look at that verse again. It makes no sense. Like, NO sense. Try telling someone that Jesus died for them, having them ask, “How do I know? What evidence can you give me to make me believe that this is true?”, and responding with “Blessed are those who have not seen and yet have believed.” WHAT?
The word of God is “folly to those who are perishing, but to us who are being saved it is the power of God.” I am SURE that many, many people read John 20:29 and scoff, and why wouldn’t they? Why should you believe in something you have never seen? They would walk away, refusing to believe until God splits the skies in front of them, or sends angels, or whatever. And that could have been Man Kuan, or me, or you, or any Christian ever. The only difference for us is that while we were reading that verse, God pointed at us, and he said, “LIVE” (or “RISE” if you’re a batman fan), and the life of God’s word enters our heart and our eyes are opened to understand the scriptures, and we say, “This is the wisdom of God!” There is no logical rationale for how someone can go from totally rejecting God to embracing Him- all we can say is that God’s power is just that great!