From A Popular Defense of the Bible and Christianity (coming out in about a week on Amazon and Kindle)
When we look at the Bible from the big picture…from a distance…in my opinion we are all missing one of the main points.
That sounds arrogant…but like the discovery…in this case the recovery of fundamental truths…this one came with a cost…which tempers this claim with humility.
The title of the book Your Best Life Now by the television preacher Joel Osteen based in Houston…is actually Joel Osteen’s Best Life Now…because he is making tens of millions of dollars from his own variation of the prosperity gospel…which again…in my opinion…is an unbiblical message.
“Our best life now” is not our best life…it is our best life according to God’s higher ways and thoughts…and on His terms.
This is what Jesus is telling us in The Sermon on the Mount…and throughout the gospels (Mt. 5:3-12, 5:20, 6:19-21, 6:25-34, 7:13-14).
The through-line in all of the narrative stories of faith in the Bible…which we entirely miss…is that if we are living in a God-composed journey of faith life-script…at least for a period of time according to the biblical pattern…is that we will barely make it.
This observation is a compelling evidence for the existence of God, the divine origin of the biblical narrative stories of faith, and the truth of the Christian gospel message.
Barely making it within a God-composed life-script for us would never originate from the humanism of literary imagination rooted in worldly conventional normalcy and thinking. It would never come from the optimism of the historical “Doctrine of Progress” of the last 400 years riding atop the dizzying advancements in science and technology that were a product of the Scientific Revolution and two Industrial Revolutions.
And barely making it in a God-composed journey of faith…after the biblical pattern…is the direct opposite of the “name it and claim it” and prosperity gospel message that is the product of modern-day false teachers.
Jesus Christ is the eternal Word of God (Jn. 1:1-2, 14). What Jesus is recorded as saying in the New Testament gospels is what counts…not what comes out of the imagination of people for the purpose of building personal empires of wealth, fame, and power.
Abraham the “father of faith” barely makes it…coming within a few split-seconds of killing his beloved son Isaac…as a sacrifice…on Mount Moriah…called-off by God by a shout from heaven at the last moment.
During the thirteen years of MBA training for Joseph in Egypt from age 17 to age 30 when he stands before Pharaoh interpreting Pharaoh’s dream…it can be reasonably said that Joseph is barely making it. Being falsely accused by Potiphar’s wife of attacking her…this sends Joseph inexplicably into Pharaoh’s prison…yet this in hindsight is a mere change in venue in Joseph’s God-scripted, advance preparatory training in leadership, management, and humility in interacting with the Egyptians as a foreigner.
During the ten plagues in Egypt…Moses and Aaron are probably daily on the edge of being killed any moment by Pharaoh. As the Israelites are trapped at the shore of the Red Sea…pursued by the Egyptian chariot army…and God opens up at dry land passage through the waters right before their eyes…it is safe to say that Moses and the Israelites are barely making it.
Does Joshua come into the land of Canaan and militarily conquer it according to conventional means? The answer is no…Joshua and the Israelites barely make it.
Joshua and the Israelites again miraculously cross on a dry land passage this time through the Jordan River…and then weeks later see the walls of the fortified city Jericho fall down after marching around it seven times…per the totally conventional instructions of God.
During the thirteen years of unusual and unconventional training to become king of Israel for David…like Joseph from age 17 to 30…David is barely making it within the life-script composed for him by God. David could have been captured and killed by the jealous King Saul at numerous times during this period…David finding himself and his men fleeing for their lives just moments ahead of the pursuing King Saul.
The stories of Gideon, Elijah, Jeremiah, Ruth, Hannah, Esther and Mordecai, the three Hebrew young-men in the fiery furnace, Daniel in the lion’s den, Ezra, Nehemiah, and every other positive person of faith in the Old Testament…are stories of people barely making it for periods of time during their God-composed journey of faith life-scripts.
This is as contrary to “name it and claim it” and the prosperity gospel as can be.
I think it can safely be said that Peter is barely making it from the time of his denial of Jesus in the courtyard of Caiaphas…to his personal interview with the risen Jesus on resurrection morning.
Paul articulates the series of challenges in his evangelical missionary ministry in 2 Corinthians 11:23-33 and in 1 Corinthians 4:9-13…which can only be fairly described as barely making it.
One of the most fascinating things in all of eternity is that God is able to compose a life-script for Himself…for the Second Person of the Trinity…for Jesus Christ the Son of God…that according to the most brilliantly counter-intuitive storyline…includes this very self-same element of barely making it…incredibly for our benefit as a pattern and as an alternative “living way” (Heb. 10:20) to go through this life.
I am not suggesting here that God somehow “dumbed-down” His approach in procuring our salvation…so as to be in-line with what we must experience in barely making it in our journeys of faith.
I think that the cross and the resurrection of Jesus Christ are at the pinnacle…at the highest boundary edge of what is possible in moral achievement.
But I think God is so brilliant in His creative imagination…that in coming up with the best and broadest solution to saving us out of our fallen condition in sin…that in the best imaginable solution within all possible solutions in the eternal expanse of reality…that the life-script that God composed for Jesus to be the Passover Lamb of God sacrifice for us…that this also included the inconceivable commonality with us of God also barely making it within the events and circumstances of His walking the tightrope of perfection in the “journey of faith” of Jesus Christ the Son of God.
Jesus is perfect in the Garden of Gethsemane the night before his crucifixion…and perfect throughout the ordeal of the next day in His trial, public humiliation, and crucifixion.
But in the most honest and forthcoming…in the most transparent way…God is telling us through the challenge of Jesus the Son of God…in Gethsemane the night before His crucifixion…in going back to pray “more earnestly” a second time…in sweating drops of blood…in being amazed at the heaviness of our soul…and in requiring the aid of a powerful angel from heaven for comfort (Mk. 14:39; Lk. 22:39-46)…through all of this God is telling us that confronting the mass of evil and sin as the Passover Lamb of God…was not easy.
Jesus is walking the high-wire tight-rope of having to maintain perfect character in order to qualify as the blemish-free atonement for sin…in our place…at the highest limits of creative life-script composition and moral reasoning.
In the most revealing transparency…unimaginably coming from the God who is all powerful, all knowing, and ever-present…God Himself is telling us that He can craft a life-script for Himself in which He is barely making it…lovingly for our benefit.
This places in context the high value of our sin and rebellion…and what it cost God in procuring our release from the darkness of the hold that sin had over us.
In my opinion…the reason behind this and the explanation for this…is that this is the simply the reality of this world…accurately identified by God and addressed in the highest and best way imaginable…in keeping with the highest moral standard.
Our best life now is demonstrated in the biblical narrative stories of faith…having direction, purpose, and meaning while living in the world but not being of the world (1 Cor. 5:10).
According to worldly conventional normalcy and thinking:
Abraham and Sarah should have had a large family and “lived happily ever-after.”
Joseph should have been sent off to university in Egypt…excelled…and then promoted through talent and leadership ability to become governor.
The Jews should have grown in numbers in Egypt…contributed to society there in a non-threatening way…and occupied choice and preferred locations throughout the land of Egypt…living peaceably with the Egyptians.
According to worldly conventional normalcy and thinking…some Jews would have moved from Egypt back to Canaan and re-colonized portions of the land…seamlessly and amicably synthesizing into the surrounding cultures of the peace-loving and inviting Canaanites.
David would have demonstrated his God-validated capacity to succeed King Saul…being accepted in that role by Saul and Jonathon…and simply waited-out his time productively in service to King Saul and Israel as a team-player.
We can easily see where this line of reasoning is going.
When atheists and skeptics criticize the Bible…from the viewpoint of humanism…they are arguing from a reality that does not exist.
The argument made in this book…that the narrative stories of faith outline the true reality from God’s perspective and not ours…is that reality is not our best life now…according to our wants, desires, aspirations, plans, and schemes…but something much different entirely.
“For what shall it profit a man, if he shall gain the whole world, and lose his own soul?” (Mk. 8:36)…tells us that we can pursue goals and aspirations according to the tenets of worldly conventional normalcy and thinking…and miss the mark…and come up short.
The Bible presents an entirely different and contrary worldview of God’s higher ways and thoughts for us…in this world as it actually is.
If God barely makes it within a perfectly composed life-script of Jesus on the cross as the atoning sacrifice for sin…and not instead leisurely sailing the Greek Islands in the Mediterranean Sea in carefree luxury…then the God-composed life-scripts for the biblical narrative stories of faith will also reflect the reality of this world…the simple reality of the “lay of the land”…and our barely making it.
Whether we want to argue the pros and cons of the participation and interventions of God in the biblical narrative stories of faith…and in the Christian church-age up to the present-day of Christians going about within their journey of faith callings…the mere innovative novelty and unconventional contrariness of the alternate option of God-sovereignty in the lives of humans…is a compelling argument for the existence of God, the divine origin of the Bible, and the truth of Christianity.
Please forgive me if I once again say that this is beyond the creative imagination of human literary invention.