Going Our Own Way 2

I worked in building construction as my career.  Everyone who works in building construction knows that we have to get the concrete foundation, the structural embed hardware, and the framing layout correct in order for all of the future pieces to fit together.

If the concrete slab has a hump (is not perfectly flat), if a structural embed for a structural wood post is off by a few inches, or if a door or window rough opening is mistakenly framed the wrong size…this produces future corrections that surface later in the construction…that take time and cost money to repair.

Because humans are imperfect and lack foresight…the best way in building construction to approximate the beneficial features of foresight…is to record and document subtle building design and construction problems as they surface …compiling a generic checklist of photographic images, sketches, and explanatory text to use as proactive information in preventing future similar problems and mistakes from reoccurring.

One point I want to make in this section…is that even with a knowledge of the “law and the prophets” in Old Testament times…and even with a thorough knowledge of the New Testament today…the unfamiliarity of the pathway in a walk of faith with God…and the divine creative ingenuity in crafting life-scripts that take us from going our own way to God-sovereignty…without exception brings biblical faith (Heb. 11:1) into operation on our part.

Biblical journeys of faith universally have this as a built-in component.

What is uniquely original to Old Testament Judaism and New Testament Christianity…in all of literature and in all of human experience…is that the tribulations, challenges, disappointments, and heart-breaks written into God-composed journey of faith life-scripts are deliberately designed by God to separate us from going our own way.

We see this repeatedly throughout the Bible…as people of faith reach the divinely premeditated point of exasperation in not being able to “see” just around the corner in time in their particular calling and mission…and must abandon self-reliance in whole or in part…and exercise instead the hope…spread out over time…of Hebrews 11:1 faith in a God whose pinpoint accuracy is based upon timeless foresight into the future…and perfect moral character.

There are no “one size fits all” 3-point or 5-point plans in the Bible that we follow using our own abilities…that can substitute for a personal walk with God.

Even though we have the brilliant and informative backstory of the Bible…with all of its precepts and life-examples…every Christian today is called to experience biblical faith…within a scenario that is crafted by God.

Jesus Christ is the Word of God that we get to know through study and through a personal relationship (Jn. 14:8-9).

What differentiates Judaism/Christianity from all other worldviews…is that unlike amassing a database of past mistakes to use for future proactive prevention in building construction…thus partially solving the human capability gap where timeless foresight does not exist…in God-composed journeys of faith…the missing ingredient of timeless foresight being identified as a fundamental deficiency in going our own way…is precisely the divine attribute that God uses to skillfully spread apart life-script events and circumstances to create the uniquely biblical faith of “the substance of things hoped for, the evidence of things not seen.”

A biblical example might be helpful here in understanding the wide gulf between the two tracks of biblical faith…contrasted with going our own way…and the real difficulty of changing from our thoughts to God’s higher thoughts having the benefit of timeless foresight.

In Matthew 11:9-11 and Luke 7:24-28…Jesus calls John the Baptist one of the greatest prophets who has ever lived.

John 1:29-37 records John the Baptist early on saying about Jesus: “Behold the Lamb of God, which taketh away the sin of the world” (Jn. 1:29)…and that while baptizing Jesus…John saw the Spirit shaped like a dove…descending upon Jesus.

But this is at the very start of the public ministry of Jesus.  John the Baptist has not at this point been able to view Jesus over a long period of time.

John the Baptist is no less than the very important person identified in scripture (Isa. 40:3-5)…called to be the forerunner to prepare the way ahead for the coming of the messiah to Israel.

Yet in prison, while contemplating the growing negative reception to the teaching and ministry of Jesus by the religious elites in Jerusalem…John the Baptist has trouble squaring this disappointing reality with what he knows with certainty early on about the divine identity of Jesus from their first meetings at the river Jordan.

The gap between the “going our own way” expectations and preconceptions on what the messiah would be like…normalized for hundreds of years in the Jewish culture…contrasts sharply with the life-script God has written for Jesus the Passover Lamb of God sacrifice for sin…slain before the foundation of the world (Rev. 13:8)…causing John to send two of his disciples to ask Him the question: “Art thou he that should come, or do we look for another?” (Mt. 11:3).

If over the course of this short interval of time…from the opening expectations for the messiah…of a great prophet John the Baptist…to the realization of the entirely different higher ways and thoughts of God (Mt. 11:4-6)…if the gap is this wide…this tells us that God is making an important point about His capacity to rule and reign…having timeless foresight, perfect character, free-will choice, the knowledge of good and evil, and a brilliantly creative imagination.

If the leap from going our own way to biblical faith is this far…for John the Baptist…for Mary the mother of Jesus (Lk. 2:34-35)…and for all of the people of faith in the Bible operating without possessing timeless foresight in their adventures of faith…this puts into clearer context the key issues of human life having eternal import.

This tells us this biblical and spiritual reality is not going to be easy or simplistic.

Whenever the timeless nature of God is brought into the discussion…atheists and skeptics rightly bring up the objection that a timeless God is being unjust and unfair in condemning people for unbelief…when He knows in advance that some people will not exercise faith in God or in Christ…and knows in advance who these people are as a result of possessing divinely timeless foresight and foreknowledge.

This seems on the surface to be a formidable challenge…until we observe that the self-sovereignty track that leads to the rejection and crucifixion of Jesus Christ extends backwards in time in a straight line to the decision of Adam and Eve to go their own way.

This produces the ripple-effect of faulty living running down through the course of human history…resulting in people so committed to the worldview of going our own way (Jn. 11:47-48)…so invested in self-sovereignty…they cannot make the conceptual leap across the gap to biblical faith…even though the outreach to them is simplified as much as possible (Jn. 10:38)

This is expressed succinctly in 1 Corinthians 2:7-8:

7 But we speak the wisdom of God in a mystery, even the hidden wisdom, which God ordained before the world unto our glory.

8 Which none of the princes of this world knew: for had they known it, they would not have crucified the Lord of glory.

This is why Jesus responded to the inquiry of John the Baptist from prison: “And blessed is he, whosoever shall not be offended in me” (Mt. 11:6).

Biblical faith…invented by God when He invented time…allows God the opportunity to work out in our lives the real journey into the knowledge of good and evil…factoring in His timeless foresight and perfect character…two things that were missing in the impetuous and impatient decision by Adam and Eve to eat the forbidden fruit.

This is why the faith of Abraham is accounted to him as righteousness (Rom. 4:3)…because he trusted God’s capacity to rule and reign…rather than the strong pull or worldly conventional normalcy and thinking to go our own way.

Hebrews 11:6 reads: “But without faith it is impossible to please him: for he that cometh to God must believe that he is, and that he is a rewarder of them that diligently seek him.”

One of the most brilliantly insightful statements in all of human history is expressed in Isaiah 53:6…which explains how and why Jesus ends up on the cross: “All we like sheep have gone astray; we have turned every one to his own way; and the Lord hath laid on him the iniquity of us all.”

If the misguided decision in first-century Jerusalem to crucify Jesus Christ is based upon this Isaiah 53:6 prophetic appraisal of the iniquity of going our own way…extending all the way back to the Garden of Eden…and Jesus on the cross is the extreme demonstration of the negative outcome of departing from God…being the zenith…the epitome of the mindset of going our own way…then how can anyone justifiably blame God if we stubbornly continue to push God away using the very same mindset of going our own way that eventually crucified Jesus?

These two things…going our own way and biblical faith coalesce at the same historical event of the cross at Calvary…preventing any excuse for unbelief.

People freely choosing to go their own way apart from God…automatically crucify Jesus Christ on a Roman cross of execution in the first-century…thus by their very choice condemning themselves…because God…using timeless foresight…has skillfully blended condemnation and salvation together…at the cross.

This is too brilliantly complex to be explainable as human literary invention.

Going Our Own Way 1

“Likewise also the chief priests mocking him, with the scribes and elders, said, He saved others; himself he cannot save.  If he be the King of Israel, let him now come down from the cross, and we will believe him.”                                                                              (Mt. 27:41-42)

In the Garden of Eden…allow me to start with the premise that God knew ahead of time that Adam and Eve would sin (Isa. 46:9-10; Rev. 13:8)…that eventually they would succumb to the alluring temptation to eat the forbidden fruit to obtain the knowledge of good and evil…the same thing I would do if I had been in their place.

One basic problem with this in a practical, applied sense is that humans do not have divinely timeless foresight.

Adam and Eve had no idea about the negative ripple-effect their imperfect decisions, choices, and actions would create over time…choices made independently outside of God’s input and participation…choices rendered imperfect through lack of foreknowledge…not being able to see far down the road in their own lives and in the upcoming, future history of mankind.

Like us today…Adam and Eve lacked the divine attribute of timeless foresight…a necessary ingredient to compliment free-will human beings having the capacity for moral reasoning.

Without being able to see into the future…without a roadmap spread-out over future time…choosing the right destination and how best to get there becomes problematic.

The three-legged stool of the knowledge of good and evil, free-will choice, and the capacity for moral reasoning…are not enough.  We also need timeless foresight and perfect moral character…to be able to produce optimum future outcomes.

This is one of the simplest and most basic reasons for why we need God.

God has timeless foresight…and is perfect.  God is absolute goodness and brilliant, pure light (Jas. 1:17).  God has all knowledge, is all powerful, and can be everywhere.  Doing the will of God therefore…staying within His directives…is in alignment with producing the best possible current and future outcomes in life.  The ways and thoughts of a perfect, timeless God by definition inform the best possible options and courses of action.

God’s will-and-way must reign supreme…for the best and highest practical, applied reasons imaginable.

In a timeless existence…there is no future block of time to sort things out…to learn and profit from past mistakes.  If we live in a timeless existence…literally in-the-moment all the time…then getting it right the first time and every time without exception…is imperative.

The issue in the Garden of Eden is not so much that Adam and Eve impulsively jumped at the chance to obtain the knowledge of good and evil…which otherwise might be considered a short-sighted, yet partially commendable enterprise…but that they did this against the commandment of God and without His timeless wisdom.

Going our own way, without the timeless wisdom and foresight of God…creates the never-ending, repetitive cycle of trial-and-error mistakes and problems that always has us in the reactive mode…one or two steps behind the current problem…and wishing through hindsight we could go back in time to be able to do things all over again…to have a second chance to do things differently and better.

God ingeniously and insightfully invented the fourth dimension of time…at the beginning creation of our universe…so that the two contrasting tracks…the self-sovereignty of going our own ways independent of God and without the benefit of timeless foresight…and the God-sovereignty of hearing God’s voice in the Spirit and following His lead through a well-defined journey of faith…could both play themselves out fully on a parallel timeline for everyone to see and consider.

The Bible makes brilliantly coordinated sense if we run with it all the way to its natural conclusion…that God exists, that the Bible has a divine origin, and that God wants to set up the context of events and circumstances in our lives with the purpose of being able to actualize a relationship with us…on His terms from the standpoint of timeless foresight and having perfect moral character…on a track different from the “broad way” of Matthew 7:13-14.

Conversely, the Bible makes no sense as a humanistic literary invention.  The beauty, elegance, and coherence of its highly complex and sophisticated God-ward trajectory…points us precisely in the opposite direction to going our own way…the fundamental question at issue in the temptation in the Garden of Eden.

God skillfully separates out these two contrasting dichotomies…by the use of God-composed journey of faith life-scripts…in the narrative stories of faith recorded in the Bible…and in our journey of faith callings today as Christians.

These life-scripts not only contain the telltale signs of divine origin as revealed first in the displacement of our ways with God’s higher ways…and second in the fine-tuned advance preparations that match perfectly with a person’s calling and mission…but also God’s use of time to separate out life events and circumstances over an interval of time…in the process inventing biblical faith (Heb. 11:1)

An Argument for the Ages 2

From Commonsense Christian Apologetics

At this point it should be remembered that in this story of Abraham and Isaac on Mount Moriah…to borrow the concise words of Ravi Zacharias he uses in describing this biblical scene in his public lectures…God shouts from heaven at the last moment as Abraham is raising his knife to kill Isaac his son on the altar of sacrifice: “Stop…I myself will provide.”

The writer of the epistle to the Hebrews (who I believe was Paul), wrote in chapter eleven:

17 By faith Abraham, when he was tried, offered up Isaac: and he that had received the promises offered up his only begotten son,

18 Of whom it was said, That in Isaac shall thy seed be called:

19 Accounting that God was able to raise him up, even from the dead; from whence also he received him in a figure.

It was in part the advance preparation for Abraham…in patient waiting for the birth of Isaac…”from whence also he received him in a figure” …that enabled God to take Abraham and us up to the singularly high vantage point of being able to peer ahead into the future and see the second Person of the Trinity…Jesus the Son of God…on the cross as the sacrifice for human sins past, present, and future…and then God the Father three days later “able to raise him up, even from the dead.”

In the 8th chapter of the gospel of John…in one of His verbal exchanges with the religious leaders in Jerusalem, Jesus says something enlightening on the question of what did Abraham think about God…after the events of Mount Moriah…and as he and Isaac came down from the mountain to safely return home:

“Your father Abraham rejoiced to see my day: and he saw it, and was glad” (Jn. 8:56).

What makes the story of Abraham so important in human history…and a nearly irrefutable apologetic argument for the divine origin of the Bible…is that as Abraham received his calling to leave the city of Haran and go to the Promised Land of Canaan…with each step that Abraham takes God is displacing whatever normative life Abraham might have lived back in Haran…with a new life that Abraham would never have dreamed up in his wildest imagination.

No human writer using fictional imagination…working from the limited zone of worldly conventional normalcy and thinking…could get Abraham or us up to this lofty, looking-point foreglimpse on Mount Moriah of an upcoming, eternally important epiphany…in this dress-rehearsal of the sacrifice for sin that Jesus Christ would accomplish on the cross at Calvary in the first-century of our modern era.

No human writer could or would invent this life-script story having a tightly specified, advance preparation that encompassed a brilliantly conceived message wrapped within another message (a nested hierarchy)…that had as its targeted end-point the utter unconventionality of a supernatural finale…a humanistically unimaginable final chapter ending that was non-natural…of a ram caught in a thicket to symbolize Jesus on the cross as the substitute for mankind…in this case Isaac (Gen. 22:13).

No human writer could or would compose narrow, highly specific, complex scenarios of advance preparation that lead to goals, outcomes, callings, and promises of God that are unreachable by human abilities or intellect…that is universal in the biblical narrative stories of faith.

Abraham can no more make himself the “father of faith” through his own imagination or actions…any more than you or I could make ourselves the “father of faith” through self-contrivance.

But that is the point.  A novel and creatively unconventional amount of storyline information enters into human experience in the ancient time of Abraham…which is as profoundly innovative and complex as any in all of history…at the very start of the biblical record.

The life-script of Abraham…from beginning to end…has premeditated foresight and prophetic “far”-sight written all over it…that is so deep…so forward looking…so ingeniously creative…and so thoroughly outside of the aspirations and expectations of worldly conventional normalcy and thinking…that to categorize this opening story of Abraham in the Bible as fiction…as a humanistic production of mythological literature…to this Christian writer seems to be simplistically nonsensical.

How and why would any human literary genius create such a fictional worldview?

All such literary fictional attempts would traditionally and historically be grounded in a projection…a reflection…of ourselves, coming exclusively from the self-autonomous and pride-filled zone of worldly conventional normalcy and thinking…where self-reliance rules and reigns…and where displacement of our ways with God’s higher ways is unthinkably non-existent.

How would over 40 different authors, spanning 1,500 years…artistically create the varied books of the Bible…all consistently and coherently having this unconventional message of the cross of Christ that displaces our ways with God’s higher ways and thoughts.

The ingeniously innovative, advance, upfront preparation for Abraham matches perfectly the final, later test on Mount Moriah…perfect and complete right out of the box the first time…no assembly instructions needed…and no time spent on Darwinian evolutionary development.

This is precisely what we also see in the advance preparation for Joseph to become governor of Egypt, Moses to deliver the Israelites from bondage as slaves and lead them to the Promised Land, David to become king of Israel despite being the youngest and least valued son of Jesse, Peter the common fisherman learning the humility of walking and listening in the Spirit to become the leader of the early Christian church in Jerusalem, and Paul the persecutor of the early Christian church experiencing the grace of divine forgiveness that he can then take with him to give to the polytheistic, idol-worshipping Gentiles…in becoming the premier missionary evangelist to the first-century Greco-Roman world.

If the complex storyline of Abraham…having the element of displacement, an advance upfront period of highly specified preparation, and a nested hierarchy of a supernatural message wrapped up within an unconventional life-script plotline that Abraham could not self-compose, contrive, or self-orchestrate into a positive outcome using human abilities and intellect…then the obvious remaining conclusion is that God is actively participating in the lives of those people who will place their faith and trust in Him.

This is one of the most important facts in all of human history…one of the most important developments in all of human civilization.

An Argument for the Ages 1

From Commonsense Christian Apologetics

“If ye be risen with Christ, seek those things which are above, where Christ sitteth on the right hand of God.  Set your affections on things above, not on things on the earth.  For ye are dead, and your life is hid with Christ in God.”                                                                   (Col. 3:1-3)

In making an apologetic argument for the existence of God and the truth of Old Testament Judaism and New Testament Christianity…one place to start is to make the opening claim that the story of Abraham is too profound…too complex…too coherently integrated…and too thoroughly unconventional to be the product of human literary invention.

If this claim is true…and I think it is…this is one of the most important issues for discussion and testing through applied Christian living…in all of human history.

The novel through-line of the story of Abraham…having no precedent or parallel…is that God…the Creator of the universe…communicates and interacts on a personal level with Abraham in a life-script that has an imaginative story, true-to-life characters, and captivating drama.  But the story of Abraham also has a life-script that introduces non-simplistic, highly specific, unheard-of themes that cannot be found anywhere within the universally conventional mindset of the plans and goals for “normal” human living…in 2,100 B.C. or in the twenty-first century A.D.

The commonsense apologetic argument in this book starts out by suggesting that unless Abraham has the faith-challenging, plotline component of waiting the unexpected twenty-five years for the birth of Isaac…this being a large detail left out of God’s promise to Abraham of descendants as numerous as the dust of the earth and the stars in the night sky (Gen. 13:16, 22:17)…that unless God shakes up the universal mindset of worldly conventional thinking shared by Abraham and every other human being on earth…then Abraham would not have been able to muster the faith to take Isaac up to Mount Moriah (Gen. 22:1-19).

This ultimate surrender of all that is important to Abraham in trusting and obeying God in taking Isaac up to Mount Moriah…gives us an invaluable foreglimpse of what God the Father planned to do with His Son Jesus the Passover Lamb of God sacrifice for sin…two thousand years later at the cross on Calvary Hill in Jerusalem.

If Abraham and Sarah had been able to start a large family early…according to a more conventional life-script upon their arrival in Canaan…to live a commonplace, unremarkable, and unadventurous life-script…then over time it is likely that Abraham would have become so committed to the routine activities and continued longevity of a large family life…that the conditioned instinctual pull inside him to stay within worldly conventional normalcy on a going-forward basis…would have flat-out said “no way” to God’s incredibly audacious and unconventional “request” to sacrifice Isaac as a burnt offering at Mount Moriah.

It was the unusually unconventional component of the late arrival of the birth of Isaac…engineered by God in Abraham’s life-script…that reconditioned Abraham’s thinking and thereby set-up the context of events that inaugurated the revolutionary new concept of biblical faith.

This is described succinctly in Hebrews 11:1…”Now faith is the substance of things hoped for, the evidence of things not seen”…that scrambled-up the otherwise rigid duties, responsibilities, and long-range aspirations that normally accompany the early start and ongoing maintenance of a large-sized family-life…that created the space within the newly liberated mindset of faith within Abraham to even entertain…much less follow through with this idea to sacrifice his beloved son Isaac…for what turned out to be the highest and best of reasons imaginable…as we see at the end of the story.

It was the innovatively specified and inconceivably fine-tuned trajectory of the upfront, advance preparation for Abraham that enabled him (Heb. 11:17-19) to step forward in faith…take Isaac to Mount Moriah…and become the “father of faith” for the millions upon millions of people down through the succeeding centuries of human redemptive history…who will take the risk to place the benefit-of-the-doubt in the living God…in their unique “called-out” missions in life.

Simply put, the faith-journey of Abraham offers an alternative dynamic for human life…previously unheard-of…of God displacing our otherwise mundane, mediocre, and short-sighted ways with something far better.

What does the Bible have to say further about the brilliant dynamic of God displacing our ways with His higher ways and thoughts (Isa. 55:8-9; Prov. 3:5-6)…in this opening life-story of Abraham…for our benefit?

In Genesis 17:17…after God reaffirmed His promise to Abraham and changed his name from Abram to Abraham, and Sarah’s name from Sarai to Sarah…it reads:

“Then Abraham fell upon his face, and laughed, and said in his heart, Shall a child be born unto him that is an hundred years old? and shall Sarah, that is ninety years old, bear?”

Then in the following verse 18, Abraham reveals that he is close to giving up on this promise of God, and suggests to God a more reasonably conventional, alternative solution for the fulfillment of God’s promise:

“And Abraham said unto God, O that Ishmael might live before thee!” meaning that Ishmael is alive and here now…and cannot Ismael be the preferred and more expedient fulfillment to this protracted, long overdue promise?

Or, in other words…”cannot the earlier arrangement be acceptable that Sarah and I worked out with Hagar that produced Ishmael…without your council and input God…according to our own clever and imaginative scheme”…rather than continuing forward within the original plan of God to wait for the birth of the promised heir which seems to be taking far too long in time…according to the worldly unconventionality of God-sovereignty?

But the point of the storyline of the life of Abraham is not to achieve a start to a conventional family-life…but for God to create the context of events and circumstances to actualize biblical faith.

After the birth of Isaac…the biblical faith of Hebrews 11:1 of “the substance of things hoped for, the evidence of things not seen”…previously inconceivable to Abraham before this point in time…now actualizes into a new worldview of faith in the true living God…that 13 years later on Mount Moriah will take Abraham to the pinnacle…the summit…of trust and faith placed in the word of another person…in this case…trust and faith placed in the word of God.

The Thief on the Cross 2

From Commonsense Christian Apologetics

The scriptural arguments…for and against eternal security…have already been written and fill entire books.

But for the purposes of this book…the biblical narrative stories of faith are the God-designed vehicles that actualize the context of events wherein our souls are measured.”

This is an apologetic argument for the divine origin of the Bible.

The events and circumstances of the narrative stories of faith recorded in the Bible…unlike any other form or genre of human literature…measure our souls on the basis of our faith and relationship with God.  Our souls are not measured by courage in battle, or the resilience to bounce back from numerous defeats to accomplish greatness, or by an epiphany that changes us from being a crass, self-centered person to becoming a loving person through character growth…the theme of countless books, plays, and movies.

The quality of life-script events that will measure our souls at the height of moral reasoning and decision-making regarding our relationship with God…can only come from God.

The thief on the cross could never have orchestrated the cascade of events that placed him that fateful Friday on a cross of execution alongside Jesus Christ the Son of God…with the opportunity to go along with the crowd in verbally mocking Jesus (Lk. 23:35-39)…or amazingly for the first and only time in his life…to discover the power, conviction, courage, and liberated audacity to resist the peer pressure in the moment…and to instead proclaim publicly through the Holy Spirit a faith in the God/man Jesus crucified alongside him…to his fellow thief and to any and all others standing around the crosses and listening…that would pass the test of saving faith for time eternal (Lk. 23:43).

On that fateful day…and over a few short hours…the soul of the thief on the cross was measured…and found brilliantly passing the test for salvation…according to God’s terms and standards.

The point I want to make here is monumental in its importance.

We need God-composed journey of faith life-scripts to actualize for us a context of life-events wherein our souls are measured…precisely so that we can succeed on God’s terms and by His standards…and not through the futility of good-works and self-realization according to our ways (Isa. 55:8-9).

This is the record of the biblical narrative stories of faith…including this incredibly inspiring story of the thief on the cross.

Choosing amongst the buffet of the wants and aspirations of worldly conventional normalcy and thinking…a great education. a good job, high salary, good marriage, a big house, luxury automobile, European vacation, a stock portfolio, good health, and sending our kids to Harvard or Oxford…will not measure our souls in the way that the life-scripts of Abraham, Joseph, Moses, David, Peter, Paul, and the thief on the cross…were measured.

The thief on the cross could not have orchestrated the events that led to his salvation that day…any more than Abraham could have orchestrated his life-script of faith…any more than Paul could have orchestrated the events that led to him becoming the premier Christian evangelical missionary to the first-century Greco-Roman world.

The grand irony here…that is far beyond the contemplative imagination of human literary invention…is that the Pharisees, Sadducees, lawyers, and scribes standing around and mocking Jesus on the cross…who attempted to self-craft “perfect lives” according to their way (Mt. 6:2, 5; 9:12-13; 10:33; 11:16-19; 15:7-9)…end up unknowingly killing Jesus their Passover Lamb of God sacrifice for sin (1 Cor. 2:8).

The grand irony is that the one person who obtained on that day on Calvary Hill the assurance of the eternal security of salvation…for the short but priceless few hours from sometime around mid-morning to when he died at dusk that late afternoon…was the thief on the cross alongside Jesus.

There are two massive takeaways from this dramatic scene taking place in Jerusalem in the first-century.

Imagine in our mind’s eye the religious elites standing around the three crosses…mocking Jesus…the Roman soldiers who carried out the execution nearby…the women disciples of Jesus including His mother at the base of His cross weeping over what has occurred…and the two thieves crucified on each side of Jesus.

The first massive takeaway from this scene is the huge gulf between the two opposing outcomes of going our own way in self-sovereignty…in contrast to God-sovereignty.

Jesus is the perfect, blemish-free Passover Lamb of God sacrifice for sin.  To qualify to be the atonement for sin…Jesus must be perfect.  A flawed sacrifice…in terms of moral performance in life…would be unacceptable.  Wealth, popularity, and political influence are not qualifiers in this Passover Lamb of God sacrifice for sin.

The problem of human sin is the target honed-in on by the blemish-free moral life of Jesus Christ…perfectly lived according to a life-script composed by God the Father, Jesus Christ the Son of God, and the Holy Spirit.

The perfect life and the perfect life-script of Jesus…lead to the cross on Calvary Hill.  But trying to be perfect…our way…as demonstrated by the religious elites mocking Jesus…leads to placing Jesus on the cross.  These two outcomes could not be more diametrically opposite.

The second massive takeaway from this scene on Calvary Hill two thousand years ago…is that the thief on the cross…immovably stuck there and not going anywhere or able to do anything…secular or religious in the slightest way…surprisingly and unexpectedly experiences that fateful day in his life the “joy unspeakable and full of glory” assurance of the eternal security of salvation for the otherwise physically agonizing hours he spends being executed by Roman crucifixion…through the sure words of promise spoken to him by Jesus the Son of God being crucified alongside him.

If we incorrectly believe that we can lose our salvation…this opens the door ever so slightly for self-achieved good-works and self-realization to creep in as the sustaining justification for maintaining our salvation.

The story of the thief on the cross…composed and orchestrated by God Himself…totally outside the contemplative imagination of human literary invention…tells us our salvation…that is based upon faith in Jesus Christ…as demonstrated by the thief on the cross as contrasted to the religious elites…not on crosses themselves but standing at a distance on the ground of self-sovereignty and self-justification (Mk. 8:34-38)…in this divinely illustrated case of the thief on the cross…is eternally secure.

The Thief on the Cross 1

From Commonsense Christian Apologetics

The story of the thief on the cross recorded in Luke 23:39-43 is the minimum baseline example given to us in the New Testament gospels…that defines faith plus our good-works for salvation…that will pass the test of fire (Jn. 6:28-29; 1 Cor. 3:13; 1 Pet. 1:7).

This baseline example is illustrated through an actual event in history…spread-out over the short interval of a few hours…rather than a doctrinal concept given to us in explanatory words alone.

This baseline standard for measuring salvation is given to us by no less an authority than Jesus Christ Himself…the Passover Lamb of God sacrifice for sin…at the precise moments of that sacrifice…and from the very instrument…the cross on Calvary Hill…that procured our salvation.

This condemned thief is not coming down off the cross to start a positive, God-composed journey of faith life-script for the remaining years of his life.  His wrists and feet are immovably pinned by long metal spikes to the wooden cross-beams of Roman crucifixion.  He will die there in a few more hours.  There is no time left to do anything good or bad from that moment forward…in any major way.

The thief on the cross at that moment in time…has nothing by way of reformed, future good-works to offer to God on behalf of his salvation…to qualify himself before God.  There is no second chance for him to come down off the cross with the promise to live a better life going forward.

Yet when Jesus says to the thief on the cross…crucified alongside Him and sharing His fate that eventful Friday in history: “Today shalt thou be with me in paradise”…this thief can then confidently take this promise “to the bank.”  He can “bet the farm on it.”

This is not just the word of a great prophet…declaring a future event.  This promise comes from Jesus Christ the divine Son of God…the very Word of God in the flesh.

The thief on the cross can rest in the inner peace and assurance of eternal salvation for the remaining few hours he has on this earth.

I believe this real-life example…spelled-out for us through an action event recorded in the Bible…resolves the controversial theological issue of the eternal security of our salvation while we are still in this life and engaged in our journey of faith…by combining in this specific example both ends of a short time-interval defined as biblical faith in Hebrews 11:1…”the substance of things hoped for, the evidence of things not seen”…in this salvation story of the last final hours of the thief on the cross.

A fundamental problem here with the general biblical interpretation…believed by some people today…that we can lose our salvation…is that as Jesus at that moment in time is telling the thief that later that same day he will be with Jesus in His kingdom…Jesus…as the divine Son of God either possesses Himself…or is perfectly exercising through God the Father…timeless foresight.

In my opinion…the part that confuses the issue of eternal security is the seemingly incoherent blend of a God who exists in a timeless environment…and human beings that live in the four dimensions of time and space.

These two things do not appear on the surface…at first glance…to easily mix.  But both these realities…God’s timeless existence and our lives spread-out within the forward march of the God-created dimension of time…are absolutely essential for developing confidence in the wisdom and leadership of God…and our placing trust in a God-composed journey of faith for our lives…that have this Hebrews 11:1 risk-element of time.

Our future actualized promise of salvation…the “evidence of things not seen” regarding eternal life…does not occur yet in this lifetime.  This culminating event occurs at our resurrection…at the last trumpet sound…at the great Judgment Day and our entrance into heaven.

This is what introduces an element of confusion…which in actuality is another strong apologetic evidence for the existence of God and the truth of the Bible.

This interval of time…the gap in practical, lived experience between where we are now and where we need to get to…this unique feature of biblical faith as defined by Hebrews 11:1…is an inseparable part of the storyline of every positive person in their biblical-quality journey of faith life-scripts…whether we are Moses, David, or the thief on the cross.

Whether our destiny-of-faith moment in history spans years, months, or a few short hours on the cross alongside Jesus the Passover Lamb of God of Isaiah 53…like this thief…the surety of our salvation is not dependent upon any specific duration of time…or more importantly is not dependent upon our performance over that period of time…because with a timeless God having divine foreknowledge…there is no span of time that determines our salvation…years, months, or hours.

The simplistic yet powerful lesson of the thief on the cross…is that he cannot “mess-up” his salvation during his remaining few hours…this short interval of Hebrews 11:1 time remaining for him…and the brief entirety of his faith-journey…on his cross of execution alongside Jesus…as the sky overhead darkens and the earth rumbles that Friday afternoon.

Why…because the promise of the assurance of eternal salvation comes from the mouth of the divine Son of God…Jesus Christ of Nazareth…from the cross…in the very act of being the Passover sacrifice for sin.  Jesus that moment on the cross…either has Himself or is exercising from God the Father…divine timeless foresight.

This pivotal moment in time and the dramatic circumstances of this historic event…could not be more definitive and decisive on the topic of eternal security.

That Jesus Christ our eternal Savior and King…and this remarkable human thief on the cross having no merit or achievements to argue on his behalf for salvation…should come together in this moment in history…is not an accident (Isa. 53:12).

The promise of entering shortly into paradise…coming from the timeless foresight of Jesus Christ the Passover Lamb of God sacrifice for the sins of the world…while He is suffering and dying on the cross…to the thief also suffering and dying alongside Him…is an iron-clad, irrevocable, unalterable event that cannot change within the span of a few short hours…for both Jesus and the thief on their respective crosses.

The word of God is sure…not only because it is based on the high-quality of His character…but also because it is timeless.

This is a product of the timeless nature of God (Isa. 46:9-10)…and the functional nature of the limitations of time and space that God created for us…so that we might experience and discover the knowledge of good and evil…not in split-second, instantaneous flashes of time…but spread-out over longer intervals of time…sometimes only hours as in the case of the thief on the cross…as expressed in Hebrews 11:1 and as so beautifully told in Luke 23:39-43.

Purpose and the Cross 3

From The Christian Church in the Last Days

It is the precise and intricate ways and purposes of God that enlists our own in-built facility for purpose, which can be integrated by God into any set of current life circumstances and events.  Whether we are a heart surgeon, congresswoman, appellate court judge, school teacher, auto mechanic, pastor of a small-town church, writer of Christian books, or housewife raising children, God can overlay and integrate His higher ways and purposes into our lives if we will surrender and yield our self-wills to Him in faith and trust.  The deliverance and salvation of God within the challenges of life, expressed so beautifully throughout the Psalms, takes place within the plans of God, and not our own.

Innate purpose translates into reality at the highest most glorious level when orchestrated and directed within the framework of a God-composed journey of faith.

Sometimes purpose and worldly conventional normalcy do not mix.  Sometimes we cannot have both the risk-filled pursuit of truth and the security of conventional normalcy simultaneously within the dynamics of this broken world.  Jesus, the Lamb-of-God sacrifice for the sins of the world can only die and be resurrected if His generation rejects and crucifies Him.  Only God can knit together a meaningful and purposeful tapestry of the commendable aspects of the Protestant work ethic with the worldly incomprehensible, biblical journey of faith through the cross of Calvary.

All of the people of faith in the Bible gave up some measure of worldly conventional normalcy in following God’s life-script for them.  This separates out and elevates the quality of purpose and meaning into a higher zone that only God can orchestrate.  This highlights the wisdom of God in the area of purpose, and like the scriptural example of God composing a life-script for Jesus that contained challenging difficulty for our consolation, it reveals an imaginative creativity that is at the edge of perfection regarding brilliantly directed purpose.  If even our hardships work an eternal glory in us that we cannot fully understand in the present moment, orchestrated, managed, and moderated by a loving and brilliantly wise God at the limits of perfection, this should bolster our faith and confidence when outward appearances seem close to hopeless.

The narrative stories of faith in the Bible tell us that God knows precisely what He is doing, dovetailed perfectly with the type and measure of purpose He has placed within us.  Laws, rules, precepts, psalms of praise and encouragement, prophetic warnings, and historical events all occupy their place in the revelation of God to man.  But the biblical narrative stories of faith demonstrate in action the will and ways of God within life-events to reveal His craftsmanship in the management of our journeys of faith and discovery.

At the advanced Christian end of the spectrum of purpose and meaning in life, God will ask us to place our own personal Isaac on the altar of sacrifice.  Isaac is not just Abraham’s son.  Isaac is the son of promise.  Wrapped up in Isaac are all of Abraham’s commendable hopes, dreams, love, and care.  Isaac does not represent some bad character trait or secret sin that Abraham must surrender to God.

If the purpose and meaning of life were just about smooth sailing through calm seas, then Abraham and Sarah could have started a large family upon correctly obeying God to leave Haran and journey to Canaan.  But Abraham and Sarah wait for Isaac, and Abraham is maneuvered by God through long-range circumstances to this pivotal moment on Mount Moriah, for a monumental reason.

The lesson for the “father of faith” (and all of us) is that he must completely and totally rely upon God and give up any remaining residue of self-reliance.  This is one part of the Bible that cannot be manufactured by man through conventional thinking.  This was the God-manufactured reality in Abraham’s life that qualified him to be called the “father of faith,” initiating a new, higher way of life with God.  As Abraham lifts his knife up to thrust it down into his beloved son Isaac, Hebrews 11:19 reads that Abraham accounted “…that God was able to raise him up, even from the dead, from which also he received him in a figure.”

No ordinary person conquers death.  Through the incarnation, cross, and resurrection, Jesus conquered death…our last great enemy.  We are raised to new life in Christ because Jesus was raised from the tomb by God the Father.  This is the central message of the Bible.  God can and will do for us in a better and much higher way what we cannot possibly even imagine for ourselves.

The most painfully difficult, yet liberating, faith-producing events in our lives are when God maneuvers our circumstances to the point where we willingly make the decision to let go of our own plans, schemes, self-efforts, and even our personal hopes and dreams in a particular area.  As God shouts to Abraham “Stop!” as he is about to plunge his knife down into Isaac, Abraham has totally let go of all self-generated assistance regarding helping God out toward the fulfillment of God’s promise to Abraham.

God would not and never has unjustly asked anyone to take the life of someone else.  The sacrifice on Mount Moriah was a foreglimpse, a “type” of the real sacrifice of Jesus Christ on Calvary Hill two thousand years later that would go forward to full consummation in the death of God’s own beloved Son.  The foundational example of a biblical journey of faith, starting with Abraham, begins with Abraham placing his Isaac on the altar of sacrifice…and God taking this unconditional faith and trust and literally turning it around into life from the dead.

Like all Christians, I have experienced trials, tragedies, and heartbreaks in my life.  Although excruciatingly painful at the time, I would not trade these experiences for anything.  When shaped, orchestrated, and moderated by God, they make me into a better person.  Could one of the things that conventional, worldly thinking chokes on and stumbles over so badly…the presence of suffering and periods of hardship in this life…be an important ingredient that produces the continue-on-at-all-costs, come-what-may, get-up-and-carry-on resiliency of character that can overcome any life-challenge that comes our way?

I cannot discover the inspirations to write this book unless I allow God to lead me through a personal guided tour of life’s valleys and mountaintops to demonstrate to me His faithfulness and His management skills.  The partially hypocritical “do-as-I-say”…moves closer to the absolute ideal of “do-as-I-do”…when divinely-guided purpose is actualized within a God-composed journey of faith.

Purpose and meaning are inextricably connected with this concept of Jesus walking alongside us through the most challenging of life’s circumstances.  The purpose in the cross is all over this encouraging reality of a journey of faith following Jesus Christ through the hills and valleys of life, ironically fulfilling in the most commendable God-scripted way the tempting seduction of Lucifer in the Garden: “ye shall be as gods, knowing good and evil” (Gen. 3:5).

As King Saul’s deadly pursuit of David is on several occasions within a hair’s breadth of succeeding, David must think to himself whether God’s promise to him through the prophet Samuel will ever come true.  Joseph’s own attempt to get Pharaoh’s butler and baker to speak well of Joseph to Pharaoh and hopefully procure his exoneration and release from prison, falls flat.

When the Israelites are trapped up against the banks of the Red Sea with the Egyptian chariot army in deadly pursuit, it never entered the minds of the Israelites as a plausible solution that God could open up the Red Sea.  If the Red Sea bordered on a forest, some small number of people might have used drift wood as floatation devices to swim safely on top of the surface of the water to the opposite shore.  But this body of water was in the middle of a desert…there were no trees or driftwood.  Some daring people might have considered attempting to swim across the entire width of the Red Sea.  Opening up a dry land passage through the midst of the waters was something that only God could even imagine, much less actually accomplish.

Upon first hearing God’s plan to successfully defeat the opposing army, we can imagine Gideon asking God “Did I hear you correctly…you want us to do what?”  Esther throws all personal caution to the wind in seeking an uninvited audience with the king, in an extremely tight set of deadly circumstances forced upon her by the expediency of the crisis, not at all of her making.

Even on Resurrection Day, as the two disciples are walking toward Emmaus and speaking with the as-yet unrecognized Jesus, after some of the disciples had already reported discovering the empty tomb, they still did not understand the magnitude of the power of the resurrection.  They say about Jesus that He was “a prophet, mighty in deed and word before God and all the people” (Lk. 24:19), and that “we hoped that it had been he who should have redeemed Israel” (Lk. 24:21).  They did not realize that Jesus, a “prophet mighty in deed and word,” had that very day conquered the great final enemy of death and hell for them, through His divinely empowered resurrection from the tomb of Joseph of Arimathaea.

Most of us did not fully understand the second half of the cross…the surrender of the sovereignty of sitting atop the thrones of our lives as self-autonomous kings…when we experienced believer’s water baptism.  When we were submerged briefly below the surface of the water, and then assisted up into a vertical standing position representing resurrection into new life, we grasped the basic outlines of the cross and the resurrection.

Only after some length of time in our journey of faith do we begin to comprehend in some measure the depth of God’s purposes, patterned for us in the narrative examples of faith recorded in the Bible.  This concept of placing our personal Isaac on the altar of sacrifice so that God can insert His higher ways into our lives, will crystalize into a major theme for Christians as we enter the last-days to close out the long redemptive history of mankind.  This is another key to our success as the Christian church in the last-days.

Just as the cross and the resurrection conquered death in a way that was beyond our capacity to accomplish for ourselves, the second half of the cross is a divine creation beyond human imagination or creative literary invention.  The narrative stories of faith in the Bible, and our own personal experience of salvation and a journey of faith following Jesus Christ, will be a calm harbor of refuge and a sturdy anchor of protection through whatever worldwide turbulence lies ahead.

A journey of faith through the second half of the cross is at the pinnacle of divinely inspired and revealed orthodoxy, as orthodox as orthodox can be.  This is the part of the message of the Bible that is designed to illustrate the Spirit-born transformation that takes place within a person, from having merely an impersonal knowledge about God, to a personal, purpose-filled, new covenant adventure of faith following Jesus Christ (Jer. 31:31-34).