#DawnOfJustice, God’s Undeniable Attributes V Mankind’s Divine Covetousness

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(Image Source)

***WARNING!! POSSIBLE SPOILER ALERTS (not major ones but still possible spoilers)***

This weekend I made sure I was one of the first in line to see the new Batman v Superman movie, Dawn of Justice. The movie was matinée money well spent! I’ve seen lots of unwarranted, unnecessary, hyper-critical assessments of the movie since its showing but I decided to not address the haters in this post. You’re welcome.What I did want to address is one of the themes showcased in the film. There were lots of different themes and little messages hidden and overtly shouted throughout the film. The one that stood out the most to me was the juxtaposition between the role of G/god(s) and man. The struggle between the heavenly and the earthly played out interestingly in the film.

The god role, played by Superman, was faced with the challenge of answering the question of how a should god act or intervene in the lives of those it/he protects. There was a pivotal moment in the movie  when the question was asked that if Superman can save someone, but doesn’t, should he be implicated due to his inactivity? Is he, in fact, an accessory to the crime if he does not intervene in the stopping of the crime? As a god/alien figure, clearly able to destroy the entire human race of Metropolis, and Gotham as well for that matter, the question posed challenged the immanence, which is how the divine manifest in the material world, of his goodness and his power.

On the opposite end of the spectrum you have man. Man, or mankind, will be used here as a term for humans, male and female. These roles were dual played, in my opinion, by both Batman and Lex Luthor. Both represented man’s desire to control the things and events around him based on a self-defined moral code and using whatever resources, mental and physical, to bring about these results. Batman seeks to control everything from his own self-defined moral code of justice and good. Lex Luthor, on the other hand, although agreeing that man should be able to control what he chooses, decides to rest his foundation of philosophy on the idea that man’s place is to step in where G/god cannot and/or should not. Lex Luthor posed an interesting thought to Superman in a climatic scene where Superman was forced to make a difficult decision of life or death (I am trying very hard to not spoil things here). He poses the idea that “if G/god is all-powerful, then he can’t be all good; but if he is all good, then he must not be all powerful”. Lex Luthor’s frame of thought is very similar to a quote from Harold S. Kushner from his book When Bad Things Happen to Good People where he states, in relating to Job’s experience of suffering before God, that “God wants the righteous to live peaceful, happy lives, but sometimes even He can’t bring that about. It is too difficult even for God to keep cruelty and chaos from claiming their innocent victims…”. Lex, and Harold for that matter, simply do not believe that a G/god can be both all-good and all-powerful. But, by this logic, the very nature of the name “god/God” is undermined.

The idea that God can’t be both powerful and good is actually wrong simply because it goes against the secular and religious definition of God. The idea of God connotes and implies divine absoluteness, a wholeness and perfection not achievable by the human race. This wholeness must be deeper than and far beyond just an ability to do something that no ordinary or extraordinary human, no matter how extraordinary, can do; it must be the fact that this divine entity not only has unattainable abilities and attributes, but ones that should be praised and adored. Basically, God/gods are supposed to be worshiped not just for what they can do but for who they are. So, if God can not be both all-good and all-powerful, then that God simply cannot be called “God” because that God has nothing worthy of worship. Therefore, a God who cannot be all-powerful and all-good cannot be God. No matter the context, the idea of god is always followed by the idea of worship. Even in Greek mythology, their gods were prayed to and revered highly, even though each one could be killed and often found themselves the prey of human emotions and consequential folly. But what about a God, not made by man’s hands, thoughts, desires, or wishes, who is all-powerful and all good, while simultaneously being all that man needs, desires, and wishes? The God of Holy Bible has an answer for that.

The God of the bible, as well as all those to whom He has revealed Himself, indeed describe Him as all-good and all-powerful. In regards to His omnipotence, which is His ability to do anything according to His will, the Lord asks of the laughing Sarah, “Is anything too hard for the Lord?” (Gen. 18:14); His Son Jesus, while talking to His disciples inquiring about salvation, answers that “With man this is impossible, but with God all things are possible” (Matthew 19:26); Paul, to the church of Ephesus, puts forth this adoration of praise to the God who “is able to do far more abundantly than all that we ask or do” (Eph. 3:20). God can do and does do all and anything that is according to His will. In regards to that, God cannot lie or do anything against His will. Now, though at first this may seem to negate the above passages of His power, these attributes actually speak to God’s ability to be all-good simultaneous with His ability to be all-powerful. God’s ability to be all good actually coincides with His omnipotence, His ability to do all that is according to His Will. God being all-good means everything He does is deemed worthy of approval. His approval. This attribute is controversial at best. Not due to the Bible being shy of proclaiming the goodness of God. The Psalmist proclaims repeatedly how good God is, and even Jesus Himself says ” No one is good except God alone” (Luke 18:19). God’s ability to set the standard of good started in the Garden of Eden. After creating everything we see around us, the Bible states that “And God saw everything that he had made, and behold, it was very good. And there was evening and there was morning, the sixth day”(Gen. 1:31). Here, after exercising his creative divine muscles, God saw what He had made and said that everything was to the standard of His good. God defines what is good. As stated, this statement is controversial due to the fact that, in our human minds, we wrestle with the notion that a divine entity has the ability, let alone the right, to tell us what is good. Just like Lex Luthor and Batman, we do not simply oppose God and His ways, we want to be God. We show that to be true of ourselves by acting and living in a such a way that says we have the right to define what is good and the right to decide how much and what kind of power should be used to bring forth that which we choose to define as good. Our problem is not with God being God; our problem is we believe we would make a better one. We are, from birth, covetous of Divinity.

The battle in Dawn of Justice, is about more than just the iconic duel between age-old heroes. It is not even about a challenge between good and evil. It is a battle between two entities; both claiming to be God, and both claiming the other is an impostor who we cannot and should not trust. Can we really trust a God that not only has the power to wipe us completely, but that also can set a standard, if He chooses, that says wiping us out completely is actually a good thing? We can only trust a powerful God who defines what is good if we know and are promised that this God will and can work His power for our good. The amazing thing about the God of the Bible is that He does things like this: “And we know that for those who love God all things work together for good, for those who are called according to His purpose” (Romans 8:28). Here we see the power of God’s will working, the good of God’s will being the aim, and the benefit of our good being the result. Those who love God and who are called according to His purpose are called by a God who does not wield His power simply to brag (although He is perfectly in His right to do so), nor do they serve a God who has set a flimsy or no standard of good; no, believers serve a God who uses His omnipotence and His all-goodness to work out good, the good worthy of approval from a Holy God, in the life of those called according to His purpose. Those who God calls into a relationship with Him, and those who answer that call, enjoy the goodness of God’s power. We can trust Him. You can trust Him. God is good. God is powerful. And we are neither without Him.

When I look at your heavens, the work of your fingers,
    the moon and the stars, which you have set in place,
what is man that you are mindful of him,
    and the son of man that you care for him? (Psalm 8:3-4)

 

 

A Serious Good Friday

So I just left my first ever Good Friday service. I had never been to one before and had only heard of pastors preaching on this day as of recently. Most of the pastors I heard were preaching did so around noon, close to the time of the crucifixion of Jesus. I’m not sure if that’s why they chose that time but I’m sure it plays a role.

Good Friday is a kind of weird day all around. For starters, it’s a recognized day but not by everyone. Some people had the day off, some didn’t. It’s a day only a select few people actually commemorate and for the longest, it had been a day of brief reflection and thankfulness from myself to God the Son for his obedience to die my death and take my wrath. I even read John 18 -19 in the morning so I could follow the story of the arrest, “trial”, and crucifixion of Jesus. Again, all things I was supposed to endure. I was looking forward to joining my church for their Good Friday evening service. On the way there I was blasting gospel choir music, “pre-gaming” my spirit to be ready to receive the message. From the announcements given the previous Sundays about this service I knew it would be a little more solemn and serious than a normal service. As it should be. Good Friday may be good for us A.D. Christians, but it was anything but good for the disciples and Christ Himself. And that “anything but” is exactly the setting my church wanted to showcase.

I walked in the door to the foyer area (does anyone use the word foyer anymore?)  and everything felt somewhat normal. The crowd was normal size of what I was expecting. It’s a Friday night service and after a long day at work I am sure some people justified they had stewarded enough of themselves for the glory of God at work today and could not make the service. Since I was off from work today, that excuse eluded my permission. I walk into the sanctuary and find my seat. The room is darker than normal but not enough to really make a glaring difference. We have a huge screen on the stage that is always playing announcements but this time the screen was black. Generally there is music playing softly in the background as people file into the worship center but there was no sound from the speakers. As the pastor made his way to the stage, the room started to quiet down. The pastor gave a welcome and then briefly went into how the night would go. On everyone’s way into the sanctuary we were given booklets with the songs we would sing, the scriptures we would read and the speaker/congregation responses we would do. The pastor basically told us that tonight was not a celebration of the resurrection of Jesus, but a solemn reminder of the true price He paid, the despair his disciples underwent, as well as a reflection of the fact that our sin put him there. The point of the service was to illuminate the true sadness of this day thousands of years ago, hopefully helping us to see what kind of emotions and true feelings the disciples felt when they saw their friend, and their God, Jesus, the Son of God, be killed before their very eyes. What followed next in the service was hard for me to process. We sang the normal songs we would sing in church but any lyrics with mention of the hope Jesus brought, the resurrection, or His triumph over our sin and death was taken out of the song. We read verses and were read recounts of the trial of Jesus. Our pastor took the stage and told us how Jesus did not merely get whipped; that he actually was gouged repeatedly with a whip that consisted of broken fragments of rock and glass, with the end of each strand of the whip mounted with hook like talons that dug deep into the flesh of the criminal on the front swing, and tore bones, ligament and muscle on the way out as the “whipper” retracted. We were told how Jesus did not merely die on a cross; that actually he was nailed to that cross in way that required him to attempt to stand on his nailed,  bruised, tired feet to stop the blood from rushing into his lungs further asphyxiating Him but since His feet were nailed to said cross, this motion was extremely painful making the  process of “standing” and giving up go on for hours. My pastor did not mince words when describing the reality of the type of suffering Jesus went through, on our behalf, in our place, and because of us. To be fair, he gave a disclaimer to parents of little ones beforehand. The rest of the service was the singing of only the sad parts of once hopeful-ending songs, the reading of solemn verses, and the call-and-response that led to the end of the service where all the lights went out, depicting the moment Jesus gave up his spirit and died, and utter darkness fell over the land. Earthquakes, darkness, temple veils defying the laws of physics being ripped. The earth knew something bad had just happened. After the lights came up in the sanctuary, we were dismissed in silence. It was like leaving a funeral. I didn’t know if I was allowed to talk until I got to the parking lot. As I processed what I just experienced, I had very mixed emotions. One the one hand, its my church and I trust my pastors, the elders and the staff. If they think this is what the congregation needed to experience, glory be to God. But it was rough. It wasn’t just solemn, or sobering, or serious, or sad. It felt hopeless. This is what I felt leaving the sanctuary. I felt hopeless. Be it the songs with the hopeful lyrics taken out, or only reading passages describing Jesus’s suffering, or the actual turning off of the lights to symbolize the Light of the world being snuffed out, or whatever effect hit me hardest, it hit me hopeless. I left wondering why did I come tonight? I do not like feeling sad, or being forced to be depressed, or even having to somberly reflect on the weight of a subject. But it was needed. It was very needed.

I think maybe we have only been looking at the good of Good Friday. There was actually nothing good about it for those involved. The disciples watched fearfully, eyes reddened and swollen from crying incessantly, as their friend, their beloved brother, Teacher, Master, Lord and Savior, the Christ, their Redemption and Salvation was beaten, mocked, crucified, killed and buried. Like the feeling I had when I left tonight, they too were left hopeless. Their funeral was not filled with sermons about Jesus going a better place; there was no reason to celebrate the life of Jesus with singing and dancing. Their one hope had been dashed right before their eyes. For them, this was actually the worse Friday of their entire lives. The earth was physically falling apart, their friend had been killed, they were filled with fear; there was nothing good to be found. We need to reflect on that more often. I’m not proposing that we purposely go out of our way to make ourselves sad. God is not impressed at you for crying on Good Friday or jumping up and down on Easter Sunday. But we all should let the weight of today, what happened today, sit on us. Let it sit next to us, speak to us, help us reflect. The Bible tells us many times to remember. Lets not glide by Good Friday as just a day to be off from work, or a day to write how “good indeed” a Friday it is. This day is only good because thousands of years ago it was absolutely terrible. This day is only good because an actual good and perfect Man died for actual imperfect evil people; that’s me and you. Good Friday should be celebrated. Celebrated with reflection and seriousness. Good Friday is a very Serious Friday…..

 

 

What’s It Costing You?

When I took Economics as freshman in college, I was introduced to the idea of an opportunity cost. An opportunity cost is determined by finding the value of the loss of one possible gain when another gain is chosen. This idea gave birth to the phrase “there’s no such thing as a ‘free lunch'”, meaning that every time we make a choice to do one thing, we lose the ability to choose to do something else. Choosing to go to lunch at this restaurant may mean losing time to run an errand at the other side of town; choosing to work at this company could mean not having the opportunity to live in the city you’ve always dreamed of. Our life is full of making choices and counting the cost of the choices made.

This lesson of an opportunity cost applies also to our spiritual life. The salvation we as children of God received came at a cost. It was bought with the blood of an innocent lamb. Jesus counted the cost of the sacrifice He was making, and He calls us to do the same. Salvation through Jesus Christ is free; faithfulness to Jesus Christ is not. He calls us to see that we are indeed called to give up something in order to follow him. But, as the Word says, Christ is always the perfect the example of the commands He calls us to follow

How Jesus Counted The Cost

Have this mind among yourselves, which is yours in Christ Jesus,who, though he was in the form of God, did not count equality with God a thing to be grasped, but emptied himself, by taking the form of a servant,being born in the likeness of men. And being found in human form, he humbled himself by becoming obedient to the point of death, even death on a cross. (Philippians 2:5-8 ESV)

looking to Jesus, the founder and perfecter of our faith, who for the joy that was set before him endured the cross, despising the shame, and is seated at the right hand of the throne of God.(Hebrews 12:2 ESV)

God the Father, in His steadfast love and sovereignty, sent His only begotten Son to die for the sins of humanity. God made a way for man to reconcile back with Him. That way is Jesus Christ. Jesus Christ, who knew no sin, became sin for us. These verses in Philippians and Hebrews show us some of the greatest costs Jesus paid for us. Jesus is part of the Triune God: Father, Son (Jesus), and Holy Spirit. Jesus had been in perfect community, intimacy, and happiness with the Father and Holy Spirit since before the beginning of time. But, in being obedient, Jesus left the side of God in paradise and robed Himself in frail humanity to walk as one of us, to live as one of us, but without sin, and to die because of us. His divinity, although fully inside of Him, was not something He took advantage of. He had to pray like we have to pray; He had to learn and grow as we learn and grow; He petitioned the Father for strength, for nearness, for presence. His mission on earth was not complete until he had endured the sinners’ punishment of the cross, encountered and bore the sinners’ shame, and lastly died the sinners’ death. But He endured all of this for the joy set before of Him of obeying the Father and being exalted high above seated at the right hand of God. His choice to be obedient cost Him His life; and it bought us our ticket to redemption. Jesus counted the cost and concluded that obedience to the Father was worth more than any pain, any suffering, and conclusion His life on earth would bring. The opportunity to bring many sons to salvation was worth the cost of the sacrifice. 41 And he withdrew from them about a stone’s throw, and knelt down and prayed, 42 saying, “Father, if you are willing, remove this cup from me. Nevertheless, not my will, but yours, be done.” (Luke 22:41-42)

How We Count the Cost

23 And he said to all, “If anyone would come after me, let him deny himself and take up his cross daily and follow me. 24 For whoever would save his life will lose it, but whoever loses his life for my sake will save it. 25 For what does it profit a man if he gains the whole world and loses or forfeits himself? (Luke 9: 23-25)

Jesus had just finished telling his disciples that He, the Son of Man, would have to suffer rejection and death but would be raised on the third day. Right after that shocking revelation He spoke these words to them, the cost of following Him. I remember reading these words as a young boy and the words “deny himself” always rang loud. I have never been good with denying myself. On the contrary, I am very good at be self-satisfying and self-pleasing. I naturally and joyfully make my life all about me. And we live in a world where that mantra is celebrated and expected. But here come Jesus, with words that pungently cut through the aroma of the selfishness and the self-centeredness that ravage this fallen world. The cost of following Jesus is denying yourself, taking up your cross and following Him. Jesus says that by trying to keep your life, in other words live your life on your terms with disregard for the will of God, you actually lose it. In Matthew 19, Jesus gave the same command to the rich young ruler. He told him to go and sell everything he had and then come follow Him. Instead, the rich young ruler left saddened by these words for he had “great possessions”. If only the young, materially-enslaved ruler understood Jesus’s words. If only he knew that by giving up his everything, in Jesus he would actually receive everything. The grip he had on his possessions was actually his possessions having a grip on his soul. He did not realize that in the denying himself of these temporary, fleeting, worldly pleasures and excitements, that that was actually storing up for himself treasures in Heaven. And if we are honest, we are the rich, young ruler every time we choose sin over Christ. We are choosing to believe that by giving in to the desires of our flesh, that we are actually finding life. But only in denying ourselves of the satisfaction of the flesh, and choosing to believe, with fear and trembling, that pleasures are truly evermore in His right hand, will we actually find the satisfaction our soul so desperately craves.

I wrote this article because I feel many people do not think they have to give up ways of living, habits, or mindsets when coming to Christ. As one of my favorite authors puts it, repentance is the threshold to God. The cost of following Jesus is choosing to deny the life the flesh says you need, believe the in the life Jesus offers through His sacrifice, and carrying the cross of sanctification daily. This cross makes us more like our Lord and Savior (2 Corinthians 3:18). God is the God of endurance and encouragement (Romans 15:5), knowing that the suffering we endure here not only produces a hope that does not disappoint (Romans 5:3 – 5) but also is not worth comparing to the glory that will be revealed to us (Romans 8:18). The opportunity cost of giving up the right to please ourselves by allowing God to sovereignty choose for us is worth it. Christ denied and sacrifice Himself for us. It cost Him is life. So let me ask you, what is following Christ costing you?

The Sin of Comparison and the Hope of Psalm 37

scales of justice
Photo credit at TimesUnion blog

 

 

We live in a world of constant comparisons. We may find ourselves constantly looking around at everyone, making sure we measure up. Or looking at our neighbors, the legendary Joneses, and seeing if you have what they have. Why wouldn’t we? We work hard and we deserve to have exactly what they have. I am sure I’m not the only one scrolling down Instagram or other social media, constantly running an internal system check to make sure I match the level of success and happiness of my peers, coworkers, and strangers from around the world. Often times, I feel as though I don’t. What seems to be even worse is seeing the happiness of someone not submitted in their ways to the Lord. Isnt the whole reason for doing the right thing to get right results? Watching others gladly and limitlessly satisfying the desires of the flesh and finding happiness while you find yourself day and night miserably struggling to live right, sometimes at the expense of immediate happiness and gratification, can be exhausting and defeating. God knows His children. And it’s for this reason He inspired David to write Psalm 37. This chapter came into my life at a time when I was wallowing in ungratefulness and sinful self-pity that the big, bad and mean God wouldn’t let me play outside with my other friends. His law and commands seemed more like a Divine “My house, My rules” edict than a loving rule “reviving the soul” and “rejoicing the heart”. He allowed Psalm 37 to surgically cut to the core of my struggles, not taking away the affliction, but bringing meaning and, most importantly, hope to a very weary soul. Here are some things I took away from my reading:

Fretting and Comparing leads to sin

Right out of the gate in verse 1 David addresses the struggle of the passage. “Fret not yourself because of evildoers; be not envious of wrongdoers!” David tells of two different commands, to not fret and to not be envious. To fret is to stress to the point of anger over a situation or circumstance; and envy comes out by the sin of comparison. David tells us right out the gate which two responses to avoid when struggling. This point is specifically stated further down in vs 8: “Refrain from anger, and forsake wrath! Fret not yourself; it tends only to evil”. David’s command is also a warning that fretting leads to anger, which leads to evil; possibly the very evil you are jealously watching your neighbor be successful in.

Evildoers

Throughout the entire passage there are promises about what will happen to both the evildoers and to the righteous. Let it be stated here that God, in His infinite sovereignty and impeccable holiness and perfection, defines the standard of right and wrong. Evil or bad is that which God does not approve of and right or good is that which God approves of to His standard. So when David is referring to the evildoers and wrongdoers, He is referring to those are ontologically and actively outside of the will and commands of God.

Of the wicked, David says their very being along with their accomplishments will fade like the grass: “For they will soon fade like the grass and wither like the green herb” (vs 2); “I have seen a wicked, ruthless man, spreading himself like a green laurel tree. But he passed away, and behold, he was no more; though I sought him, he could not be found” (vs 35-36). He also says they shall be cut off from the coming inheritance, the rest and life of dwelling in God forever: “For the evildoers shall be cut off, but those who wait for the Lord shall inherit the land” (vs 9 ); “But transgressors shall be altogether destroyed; the future of the wicked shall be cut off” (vs 38). And lastly the Psalmist juxtaposes the ultimate sovereignty of God against the ultimate futileness of the wicked: “The enemies of the Lord are like the glory of the pastures; they vanish – like smoke they vanish” (vs 20) ; “But the Lord laughs at the wicked for he sees that his day is coming” (vs 13). The message is clear: evil and wrongdoing have only the end of destruction to look to.

The Righteous

The point of this Psalm is actually not on evildoers or wrongdoers. It was written for the saints. To remind the saints that their God has not forsaken them. To the saints, David reminds them that their delight and the fulfillment of their desires is found in Him before anywhere else:” Delight yourself in the Lord, and he will give you the desires of your heart” (vs 4); “But the meek shall inherit the land and delight themselves in abundant peace” (vs 11). The righteous are reminded that if they trust and wait patiently in the Lord, they will see Him move and act:” Trust in the Lord, and do good; dwell in the land and befriend faithfulness” (vs 4); “Commit your way to the Lord; trust in Him and he will act.” (vs 5); “Wait for the Lord and keep his way, and he will exalt you to inherit the land” (vs 34). They are told they will be protected: “The wicked watches for the righteous and seeks to put him to death. The Lord will not abandon him to his power or let him be condemned when he is brought to trial” (vs 32-33); “The salvation of the righteous is from the Lord; he is their stronghold in the time of trouble” (vs 39).

I want to point out the interesting implied dichotomy between the results the righteous seek and actions the righteous take. It’s only when they choose to delight in the Lord that He gives them the desire of their heart; by committing your way to the Lord and trusting, you see His action. The righteous are to turn away from evil and do good, and that when the law of his God is in his heart, he does not slip. So what is the message? That the righteous will continue to live righteously as they serve a God who delights in saving His children and providing for them abundantly and fully :” I have been young and now I’m old, yet I have not seen the righteous forsaken or his children begging for bread”. So as you strive to live in manner pleasing and acceptable to God, you will be tempted to look to the left and the right and envy the success of those not doing so. Remind yourself that the way of wicked leads only to destruction, even if it provides fleeting happiness in this life; and remember that God has promised to provide peace, rest, and delight when we turn to him. “he delivers them from the wicked and saves them because they take refuge in him” (vs 40).

As with all this articles, this was written after many failed tests and weary cries to the Lord. So I do not write as one who has and will live this out perfectly. And I am sure that my faith is not done being refined and tested. But I hope you find this passage as encouraging as I did to continue in the way of the righteous. The Lord sees; He knows. We can trust Him.

Gospel reminder

As believers, all of us were at one point sons of wrath following the passions of the world. It’s only in God’s sovereign grace did He not only show us our sins laid before Him, but also made aware to us the reality of forgiveness that comes through Jesus, while giving us the ability to respond to the invitation towards that forgiveness and repentance. That being said, none of us have not been considered an evildoer, nor are we exempt from being tempted to giving in to evil doings. David, the writer of this Psalm, committed adultery, murder, and deception before the Lord. He suffered the consequences of these actions as well. Let us be reminded that if these words can be applied to us who were formerly seen as evildoers in God’s sight but who are now seen as righteous only through the imputed righteousness given to us through Jesus Christ, then they can be applied to those evildoers who have not yet answered the call to turn from their sin and choose The Way, The Truth, and The Life. Let us thank the Lord for His protection us while also praying for those still considered as evildoers to answer the call to repent and find the delight of Lord.