To His Own Master

Scripture is perfectly precise; it isn’t overly specific, nor is it inappropriately vague. The detail God has provided is both necessary and sufficient for us; we must not add to it, nor take away from it. (De 4:2)

Yet there are a great variety of circumstances in which we might find ourselves, and a body of law which explicitly detailed how to act in every conceivable setting would be enormous, unthinkably vast, anticipating the impact of undeveloped technologies and innumerable cultural/familial complexities. Composing such a paint-by-the-numbers standard is evidently untenable as we consider the great variety of possible cultural and societal forms that might evolve across time.

Even so, all we need to be fully equipped to please God in every circumstance of life is provided us in the Tanakh, the Old Testament. (2Ti 3:16-17) We may derive from its precepts how God would have us act in every scenario we could ever encounter. It is miraculously precise in this regard, a living Sword, discerning every motive and intent of our hearts. (He 4:12)

So, in extra-biblical matters, which are by definition beyond the scope and obvious spirit of the text of Scripture, we are required and encouraged to use our own judgement and understanding as to how best to follow God, discerning His way for us through the precepts embedded in His Word (Ps 119:104), which He must help us understand (Ps 119:27) as we meditate on them (Ps 119:15) in the Spirit. (1Jn 2:27)

Each of us may, indeed, being at varying points in our journey after God, see things a bit differently from those around us; this is both expected and healthy. God does not want us to blindly defer to others in these kinds of things by failing to seek His wisdom and discernment for ourselves, but to maintain a sense of individual responsibility to walk and to please Him. He tells us to be fully persuaded in our own mind (Ro 14:5), and to be happy in the freedom to obey according to our own conscience. (Ro 14:22)

This kind of spiritual autonomy and individuality does not promote lawlessness, where everyone’s selfishly doing what’s right in their own eyes (De 12:8) in spite of what God says, justifying absolutely anything they like. (Pr 21:2) Such is the way of the world. (Pr 30:12) This kind of liberty only works well in communities of saints, who delight in God’s Law as He is writing it in their hearts.

Neither should we permit our individuality to make us unteachable, disinterested in the insights, wisdom and challenges of others. (He 10:25) It is our great privilege to edify one another, seeking the living Christ in each other as we help each other follow Him. (1Th 5:11) This is the very foundation of spiritual community. (1Co 14:26)

And, to be certain, there are clear guidelines for this kind of spiritual liberty; we must not allow it to become a stumbling block to our weaker brothers. (1Co 8:9) When a brother or sister doesn’t have a mature understanding of God’s Way, and would be tempted to violate their untrained conscience through our example, walking in such liberty violates the law of love and sins against Christ Himself. (1Co 8:12) Further, insisting that others follow our particular understanding when seeking practical consensus in community is likewise stubborn uncharitableness. In such cases, deferring to others, especially the elder and more experienced, is simply wisdom. (Ep 5:21)

The dangerous alternative to God’s design here is to impose universal compliance in matters which God has not clearly specified, effectively adding to His Word through man-made tradition, which subtly — yet inevitably — corrupts our worship (Mk_7:7) and turns us from the truth. (Tit 1:14) It elevates a select group of men above the brotherhood into a place of unhealthy spiritual authority over others, oppressing the saints into delegating their responsibility to discern the optimal application of God’s Word for themselves to these select few. This is entirely contrary to God’s design for our spiritual life.

To be healthy in God, we must each retain a sense of individual accountability to God as our own Master (Ro 14:7-8), and encourage others to do the same. (Rom 14:4). We’re each individually responsible for how we live before Him; if we’re in any kind of error (Ja 1:16), or are misapplying God’s Word in some way, it is no one’s fault but our own.

The head of every man is Jesus Christ (1Co 11:3); we are to be looking unto Him as our Example in every facet of our lives (He 12:2), delegating no step of this precious, eternal walk to anyone else. (1Pe 2:21)

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I Hope In Thy Judgments

There are only two orientations from which we might view God and His Law: distrust and hope. We either believe God is good, and therefore that His decisions, evaluations, ways, laws and judgments are perfectly righteous and just (Ps 119:128), and thus we delight in God’s laws, and expect perfect goodness to come from obeying them, regardless of appearance (Ps 119:75), or we distrust God in some way, and expect His ways might be less than optimal, that we might fare better apart from Him.

The former view aligns us with reality, the latter postures us as the ultimate judges of God and of His Word (Ja 4:11), of Being itself, and thus aligns us with lies, darkness and deception. (Pr 4:19)

So, the Psalmist can ask God to keep him in the way of truth because he has maintained a posture of hopeful expectation in God’s judgments (Ps 119:43); he is trusting God in the face of suffering and injustice, hoping in God’s Word (Ps 119:147), trusting God will reconcile all things, and hasn’t set himself up as the judge of Being.

The corollary to this is that if we do yield to the temptation to posture ourselves as judges of Being, disdaining God’s purpose in Creation, questioning God’s wisdom in allowing evil and suffering in this world, we forfeit our access to and alignment with the truth, and we do so entirely.

There’s no middle ground here, no partial trust in the goodness and love of God. The required state is, in fact, supernatural: God must do this in us. (Jn 6:29)

Casting ourselves on God, let’s be asking Him to give us this understanding (Ps 119:34), making us understand the way of His precepts (Ps 119:27), and inclining our hearts unto His ways. (Ps 119:36) And let’s ask in faith, nothing wavering (Ja 1:6), knowing God is pleased to satisfy those who hunger and thirst after righteousness. (Mt 5:6)

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He Is Precious

Our capacity for delight has a singular purpose: to enable us to enjoy a single Person — Jesus Christ. This is what we’re made for. (Re 4:11) As we discover Him, we’re willing to give up anything and everything for Him. (Php 3:8)

Christ is precious to those who believe on Him (1Pe 2:7); in other words, those who don’t find Him precious haven’t yet found Him … they aren’t believers. Very few do find Him (Mt 7:14); these are the chosen of God. (Jn 6:44)

Christ Himself likens the disposition of the elect to a merchant seeking the finest pearls; trained to prize those of immense worth, he finds a single pearl of such incomparable value that he sells everything he owns to acquire it. (Mt 13:45-46)

We see the extreme intensity and degree of such passion illustrated in a sinful woman’s discovery of Christ; we’re told she loved much (Lk 7:47), and find her kissing His feet, anointing Him with extravagantly expensive ointment, weeping upon Him, washing His feet with tears and wiping them with her hair. (Lk 7:37-38) She is simply overwhelmed by Him; as are all who begin to truly apprehend the living God. (Php 3:12) Nothing compares to Him.

Of course, such love for Christ involves our sentiments, our emotions, the passion of our hearts, but it isn’t limited to this; such love engages our entire being: our wills, in obeying Him at all times and at all costs (Jn 14:21), our minds, in serving His Law (Ro 7:25) as it reveals His heart to us, meditating on Him and His ways day and night (Ps 1:2), and our bodies, as we spend ourselves in pleasing and glorifying Him. (1Co 6:20)

There’s a vast difference as well between cherishing Christ for what He’s done for us, and adoring Him for Who He actually is and what He’s like. A stranger’s generosity might bring forth passionate gratitude, but this is immensely different than finding unfathomable delight in another’s very nature. The former is merely self-interest in disguise, the latter a true cherishing of another soul. How might we distinguish between the two, if not in how we respond to God in our affliction? Are we after Him, or merely His gifts?

And how can we worship Him as He is if we misapprehend Him? If we’re not careful to understand Him, if we’re mistaken about His values, His nature and His ways? The enemy is constantly misrepresenting the divine Way and twisting His message to hide His true nature from us. (Jn 8:44) If we receive these lies about Christ, how can He be rightly precious to us? How do we rid ourselves of every false way (Ps 119:104), such that we’re free of these lying impressions and misrepresentations so we can value Jesus Christ as He truly is?

The documented life of Christ, His Words and ways as offered us in the Gospel narratives, provides a sweeping, panoramic view of His character, and we do well to ponder every detail. Yet a cursory, hit-and-miss sampling of His ways, dismissing parts we don’t understand or dislike, is misleading, incomplete, corrupting the word. We may easily misrepresent His heart if we aren’t deeply familiar with the context of His actions, and in the end receive another Jesus, a false one.

To know Him as He is, to find Him precious, we must perceive this revelation of the nature of God in its rightful context; to see the fullness of Christ, we must turn to Mosaic Law, considering all His commandments, and observe that Christ loved this Law with His whole heart (Ps 119:97), delighting in the wondrous revelation of His Father (Ps 119:18) with unspeakable intensity. (Ps 119:20) We must interpret His behavior through this lens, or we will miss Him. (Mt 5:17-19)

It is impossible, ultimately, to decouple love for Christ with what He values. If He’s precious to us, we’ll be rejoicing in His heart, beholding His beauty, obeying His commands (Jn 14:21), cherishing His words (Jn 14:23), and seeking His face.

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She Loved Much

As Christ is dining in the home of Simon the Pharisee, reclining at the table (Lk 7:36), a woman known for her sin approaches Him from behind, weeping. She pours some very expensive perfume onto His feet, and begins washing them with her tears, kissing them and wiping them with her hair. (Lk 7:37-38) Simon’s taken aback at Christ’s willingness to tolerate her touch, and sees it as proof that Christ isn’t a prophet. (Lk 7:39)

Christ picks up on this and offers Simon a little challenge: a creditor has two debtors — one owes him $1000, the other only $100. But since neither can repay him, he forgives them both. (Lk 7:41-42a) Christ asks Simon which of the two will love the creditor most, and Simon supposes it’s the one whose been forgiven more. Christ agrees. (Lk 7:42b-43)

Then Christ begins to explain why the woman is acting as she is: Christ has forgiven her of all of her many offenses, as they are all against Himself, and she is overwhelmed with gratitude. But Simon hasn’t shown Christ any love at all, failing even in the normal courtesies commonly offered to guests, so it appears he’s not been forgiven of anything by Christ. (Lk 7:44-47) Christ then turns to the woman, reassuring her that all of her sins are completely forgiven (Lk 7:48), that she’s now saved by faith, and bids her go in peace. (Lk 7:50)

This explanation of the woman’s behavior alarms everyone else present, as they begin to realize what Christ is saying about Himself: ultimately, only God can forgive sin. (Lk 7:49) If His words are considered carefully there can be no mistake here: Christ is actually claiming to be God, the very One against Whom all sins are primarily committed, something this sinful woman has somehow come to cherish.

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Now, it is so wildly preposterous for a mere human being to make such a claim that one may only conclude from this that Christ is either Who He says He is, God Almighty incarnate in human flesh, or He is insanely delusional, on par with one who claims to be an orange. In truth, Christ leaves us no middle ground, and apart from such fantastic claims regarding His identity, there is zero indication that Jesus Christ is delusional.

We can worship Christ as this precious woman did, loving Him and living worthy of His name in grateful wonder, or continue to hold Him at arm’s length and remain at enmity with Him. These are our choices; there are no other.

And such love cannot be pretended — if we’re not overwhelmed with the free gift of righteousness, amazed at the amount and degree of sin that we’ve been forgiven by God, then perhaps we’re yet as Simon, on the outside peering in, proud, judging those whose sins are much more visible than our own, ignorant of the depth of our own depravity, and the vast treasure we’ve been offered in Christ.

Anyone who does not love Jesus Christ — as we look carefully at this dear woman’s example — remains accursed. (1Co 16:22)

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The Creature Waits

Creation, all created things, evidently have a common consciousness: God says the whole creation groans together (Ro 8:22); created things are aware of being part of a sin-stained cosmos, and are waiting, earnestly expecting the resurrection and manifestation of God’s children. (Ro 8:19)

Since the individual animals with this expectation are constantly dying, just like we are, the implication here is that all created things are excitedly aware that they will all experience the resurrection of the dead together in all its glory along with us, sharing a common eternal destiny. (Ro 8:21)

Interestingly, Albert Barnes says of this text: Perhaps there is not a passage in the New Testament that has been deemed more difficult of interpretation than this; and after all the labors bestowed on it by critics, still there is no explanation proposed which is perfectly satisfactory, or in which commentators concur. It appears that reluctance to accept its plain, apparent meaning might lie in contradicting science, which we ought not allow. (1Ti 6:20-21)

Yet recent scientific discoveries in the paranormal are indicating this very thing, that all life forms, plants and animals, are connected in a common consciousness across time, and even that inanimate objects participate in this. Perhaps they are indeed struggling together with us under the stain of sin, in a universe infected by Man’s rebellion (Job 25:5), waiting for the adoption of the saints. (Ro 8:23)

What if God has temporarily silenced the creature (Ro 8:20), to allow men to rebel against Him with less obvious incrimination for a time? (Ro 11:32-33) If all Creation were free to proclaim God’s praise now (Lk 19:40), where would hatred and rebellion hide until wickedness is to be exposed? (2Th 2:7-8) And what if, in that final glorious day, all of creation will join with us in praising our living, transcendent, almighty Creator … together!

This insight puts Creation in an entirely different perspective, and encourages us to both treat it with respect, and also to enjoy the miracle of God’s expression of Himself through it all so much the more.

The heavens declare the glory of God, may be much more than metaphor. (Ps 19:1) It is truly for His pleasure that they are, and were created. (Re 4:11)

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Rejoice in the Lord

YHWH. Jehovah God. The infinite, unchanging (Ja 1:17), omniscient, omnipresent, omnipotent Creator. Matchless in beauty, infinite in wisdom and understanding (Ps 147:5), unwavering in truth. (Tit 1:2) He cannot learn; He cannot risk in hope: He knows.

Orion Nebula, Hubble

He inhabits eternity (Is 57:15), ever present in all places at every moment of time (2Pe 3:8), both within and beyond time and space, knowing all, pervading all, all powerful.

He made the stars (Ge 1:16), arranging them in countless, gigantic, spectacular galaxies, and calls them all by name (Ps 147:4) as they each uniquely proclaim His glory (Ps 19:1), His exquisite, eternal, infinite majesty(Ps 96:6)

He is infinitely sovereign, in absolute control of everything all the time. (Da 4:35) He always works everything according to His own will. (Ep 1:11)

He’s relational, in Himself a flawless divine community (Ge 1:26), in perfect delight and harmony within Himself (Jn 17:5), needing nothing and no one (Ps 50:12), welcoming every sentient being to come to Him and enjoy Himself. (Re 22:17)

He’s created each of us uniquely in His own image (Ge 1:27) to express some nuance of the divine nature, giving us meaning, purpose and intrinsic value, loving us unconditionally (Jn 3:16) and individually. (Jn 13:1) Though we’re all born at enmity with Him (Ep 2:1), He’s reaching out to every one of us in the mystery of the gospel to reconcile us to Himself, regardless what we’ve thought or done. (2Co 5:19)

He has revealed Himself though perfect Law (Ps 19:7), a living expression of His love and justice (He 4:12) in the context of human brokenness (Mt 22:37-40), revealing and exposing as corrupt all that is contrary to His nature. (Ro 8:7)

He has also revealed Himself through His Son Jesus Christ, Himself the godhead incarnate. (Col 2:9) God Himself condescended to become one of His own creatures, one of us, to show us exactly what He’s like (Jn 14:9), willing to die for His enemies (Ro 5:10), enduring His own justice on our behalf, receiving us into His family and adopting us as His own (1Jn_3:1), if we would just be willing to receive Him. (Jn 1:12)

He’s perfectly just, no respecter of persons (Ac 10:34), and yet He’s infinitely merciful (Ps 103:17), benevolent and kind (Lk 6:35), even offering us the strength to obey Him if we’ll have it; He will never turn anyone away who’s diligently seeking Him (He 11:6), and will eternally terrify (2Co 5:11) all who won’t. (Mt 25:46)

He’s made many, many amazing promises (2Pe 1:4), and He’s never broken one. He’s perfectly faithful; He will never leave us nor forsake us. (He 13:5)

Regardless where I am, who I’m with, or what’s happening to me or around me, I can always rejoice in the eternal infinitude of God, beholding His beauty (Ps 27:4), feeding in His majesty, being delighted in, awed by and overcome with the perfection of His Way.

The almighty, eternal God repeatedly commands me to rejoice in Him, and to persist in this, always. (Php 4:4) He will have it no other way; He’s made me to exult in Him: enjoying God is the singular fuel of the human soul, joy unspeakable and full of glory. (1Pe 1:8)

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