Conversations Worth Having

#2-Humanity

What’s the second most talked about topic in the Bible? It’s Humanity. It kind of makes sense, right? If God is the most beautiful, glorious, and important being in the Scriptures than the being that most reflects him should be next. This bears itself out not simply in logical appeal but also in the word count. Check out the handy dandy pie chart below:

Humanity

All of these are different forms of the same word, man. They have slight variations, but all carry basically the same meaning. We see this also in how frequently the Bible talks about humanity. As Christians we believe God spoke through men to humanity. It’s important to know, because the Bible has lots to say to us, as humans. It’s full of clarity, wisdom, and truth from and to humanity all to the glory of God. Who are we? Where did we come from? Why are we here? Where are we going? How am I called to live my life? What is the best life I can possibly live? What’s wrong with us as individuals and corporately as cultures? Why do we sense a brokenness inside that we can’t seem to completely fix or do away with? I think everyone asks themselves these questions in one form or another throughout their life. Where we turn to for the answers matters greatly! I want to briefly (It is a blog so I won’t keep you all day) outline some of what the Bible teaches about humanity.

In Genesis we learn that Man is the crown of God’s creation. God uniquely and intentionally created humanity to be like him, to bear His very image. Bearing God’s image means that we are like him, but we are not him. Men and Women bear God’s image alike. Bearing God’s image has a ton of affects on how we see others and ourselves. Humans have intrinsic value as image bearers, despite what state they are in: whether in the womb, deformed and handicapped, on the edge of death, or our worst enemies. People ought to be treated as those who have value because they bear God’s image. This should erase sexism, racism, and other forms of discrimination and hatred. People should be treated with love, compassion, and care because they have infinite dignity as image bearers of the divine. Not only this but we also see that God created humanity to be in community. He created marriage not simply as a form of procreation, but as a way to more fully represent the divine. Marriage, but also the larger community, helps to form us to be more like the God who is completely unified in himself while three distinct persons. It is while engaging in community with other people that we realize and see more of who we actually are. This means we need to engage with other people, we can’t be isolated, to represent the divine image.

So why did God create us? If there’s a God that’s perfect and complete than he didn’t need to create anything. So why did God choose to create? Isaiah 43:7 says, “everyone who is called by my name, whom I created for my glory, whom I formed and made.” God created us to glorify himself. God had no need, but out of His abundant goodness and greatness He desired to create to show and spread His glory. God made Adam and Eve and placed them in a garden to work and keep it. They were created to know God’s goodness and to reflect it back unto the rest of creation. They were stewards intended to show the same care and responsibility to the world that God had showed to them. This means that the way we bring glory to God is by caring for the people and things around us. It means we must love and care about our neighbors, our family, even our enemies. It means we care about our physical world: what we throw away, how we treat animals, the pollution all around us.

We don’t care though. Well, at least not to the degree we know we ought. We care about some people, we care about some issues, and we care about parts of the world that really affect us. I see it in my own life. There are moments when I know I should show love and compassion to others but I don’t. The Bible even says as much in the book of James (4:17), “Whoever knows the right thing to do and fails to do it, for him it is sin.” We often know what we ought to do, what the right thing is, but we aren’t moved or changed to act. It’s this inner bentness, this inner selfishness that the Bible calls sin. Sin is missing the mark of God’s perfection. Though we were created in God’s image to bear His resemblance, that image has been broken. It has been fractured, like a broken mirror, so that we don’t truly and fully reflect God. It leads us to ignore and rebel against God and the good He would call us to. Our brokenness makes us concerned about our kingdom, our lives, and our good rather than God’s and others. We’re born enslaved to this cancerous disease called sin. We’ve lost what it really means to be human.

This is where the gospel comes in. Though we have lost and forgotten what it means to be human, to love God and care for His created order, He has not. God is faithful to mend what we have broken. He has come to us to reveal what our original intention and design looks like. He has come to us in Jesus to be our example of what it means to be human. We see in Jesus our example of knowing and relating to God the Father as we were made to. Jesus reflected God’s glory and care back unto all those around him. He served, he loved, he cared, he rebuked, he suffered, he died, and he resurrected all to the glory of God that he might be our example of how to live. We need Jesus not simply as our example though, but also as our savior.

When I was a kid my dad took me to Colorado to see the Mountains. One of the days he took me with him to climb one of the mountains. I could climb with him for part of it but before long the mountain grew steep and I couldn’t keep up. My Dad put me next to a tree that was sturdy, so I could lean and rest on it. He instructed me to stay put as he was going to climb further to explore. I was to stay put until he got back! Ha! He left and as a young kid I got curious. After several minutes I called out. After no answer I decided I could follow my dad. I began my climb but after several steps I slipped and began tumbling down the mountain crying out to my dad to save me. As I slid down the mountain I reached out and grabbed a small twig to hold onto. As I was holding on about to lose my grip and continue tumbling down the mountain my dad came down and swept me up in his arms. He saved me from my foolish mistake and inability to follow in his footsteps. This is a picture of what God has done for us through Christ. We don’t simply need someone to clarify the way up the mountain to God. We need someone who will pick us up on his back and climb us up the mountain that we can’t climb. We need one who is strong enough to climb where we could never climb. We also need one who will rescue us from our sinful weakness to bring us with Him. The gospel is that Jesus came to live the life we couldn’t and die the death we deserved that we might be brought to God. It is through His Salvation and Example that we can begin to be renewed and healed. We can begin to experience the love and compassion God has for us. We can begin to reflect that love back unto His creation. Have you trusted in what Chris has done for you? Do you see him as your savior and your leader? What ways is God calling you to better reflect His image by loving those around you?

The #1 Subject in the Bible

The #1 subject that the Bible devotes itself to is….God. Probably not that surprising, eh? The word God or god is used 4,358 times throughout the Old and New Testament. God as Elohyim, Theos, and Yhwh come together to make up the top 3 words used over 3800 times. Not only is God highest in the word count but He’s also the most prominent character and subject emphasized throughout the entire Bible. He’s the main character consistent throughout. Every book and chapter relate back to Him in some form or fashion. From Genesis 1 to Revelations 21, the the whole thing is about Him. So, why is God the most talked about subject in the Bible? Simply put, because He’s the most important person to talk about. He’s the most important person because He created everything and because everything completely depends upon Him. God is the creator and author behind everything that is, both visible and invisible(Col.1). He’s the most powerful being imaginable. He has no beginning nor end, no limit, he never sleeps or gets tired, he has no needs, and he can do anything consistent with His own nature. He thinks and things come into existence. He holds the universe in the palm of His hand. Every breath, every moment, every relationship, every pleasant experience is all because of Him. He is the source behind everything. This kind of being is worthy of thinking and meditating on. This God is worthy of spending our time on. Not only this, but God is also the person we need most. The Bible teaches that we were created to know and love God. The best thing for God’s creation, the one thing most needed to flourish, is God. As a famous adaptation of the Westminster Catechism goes, “The Chief end of man is to glorify God by enjoying Him forever (Piper).” Solomon says that God has put eternity in the heart of man (Eccl.3:11). We have an emptiness, a void, and an inward longing that only God can satisfy and fill. This is another reason the Bible talks about God so much, because we need Him so desperately. God desires that we would know and be with Him because it’s what we need most desperately. If God didn’t hold himself up as supremely glorious and important than He’s be robbing us of what’s best. He’d be lying about what we really need most in our lives. So, the Bible talks about God because He’s the most important and necessary person there is.

What is God like? Why do we need the Bible to know Him? Opinions about God abound. In my experience I’ve found that we tend to make God like us. We like people that are similar to us; the same look, opinion, and beliefs. So, we create God to be like us: Republican, Democrat, Moderate, Sensible, Tactful, Comfortable, Tolerant, Apathetic….I’ve seen it in my own life. We try to shape and fashion God to cater to our life, to our preferences. Surely God wouldn’t want me to go to that country…He wouldn’t want me to say that hard truth…He wouldn’t have me to sell and give up those possession…He wouldn’t lead me to listen, serve, and love those kinds of people. We try to censure God to only say or call us to things that are palatable for our modern tastes. This is why we need the Scriptures so badly. In the Bible God reveals himself as who He is in reality. His self-revelation offends and encourages each age and culture differently. The idea of a God you can’t see, who forbids worship of other “gods” offended Roman sensibilities and led them to call Christians “atheists”. The truth of God’s forgiveness and grace towards the most unworthy sinners greatly offends those who believe only the hard working righteous and will be saved. A God who would humble himself and become a man who would then die on a cross is unthinkable and offensive to other monotheistic religions (Islam, Judaism). While God’s holiness and justice offends those who believe in a God of love and tolerance who would never call out injustice or evil in our lives personally. In the Bible I encounter a God who is big and real enough to offend and challenge my present cultural sensibilities with the truth of who He is. I encounter a God that I can’t change, but who will change me. He says, “I AM who I AM”. He will be forever who He has been. He is consistent and unchanging, an anchor in an ever changing time and culture. This is good news. We need to be changed by God rather than try to change Him. The Bible talks about God so frequently because we need to know Him for who He is and be changed to reflect Him. God is the most talked about subject in the Bible. He’s #1 on the list because He’s the most important and valuable person there is. We need the Bible to know Him Him for who He is rather than who we want to make Him out to be.

How does the God of the Bible offend you? How does He challenge your cultural sensibilities? In what ways do you try to change the God of the Bible to fit you? How does He lead and call you to people, places, things that you would have never done unless you encountered the reality of who He is? Do you know who the God of the Bible is?

The Search for the Top 12

So what do you think the Bible devotes itself to? What do you think the top 12 subjects that the Scriptures emphasize? Before listing them I think it’s important to think about how we could discover such a list. How would you find the top 12 subjects the Bible devotes itself to? You could start by doing a word search. Look up and find which words were used most frequently in the Bible. You’d find there are a lot of conjunctions (and, but), indefinite articles (the, a), and personal pronouns (he, she, they). Not only do you find words that have little stand alone significance but you also run into words that mean different things depending on their context. Lord is one example. The word Lord is used in the Greek N.T. around 717 times. You might conclude that Lordship is an important idea in the Bible. It is; but those numbers are deceiving because the word Lord can be used to refer to human Lords as well as the divine Lordship of Jesus. Spirit is another example. It’s used around 379 in the Greek N.T. The word pnuema (Spirit) can be translated as wind, breath, self, or spirit depending on the context the word’s used in. So, while the Holy Spirit is an important person and subject, you don’t discover that by simply looking at the word count for Spirit. The context of a word, not simply it’s numerical usage, plays a large role in understanding what the Bible devotes itself to. Word count isn’t the single method to discover what’s most important in the Bible! What about discovering what’s most emphasized? What themes are spoken over and over again throughout the Bible? What subjects are so intricate that the Bible’s message would cease to exist if they were taken out? Discerning these themes, discovering their emphasis, is a key part of finding what the Bible devotes itself to.

I believe it’s in utilizing word count, word context, and thematic emphasis that we can begin to discern what’s most important to the Bible. What it most devotes its energy and pages to. This is both a science and an art. It’s a science in that there are clear word counts, context, and obvious emphasis placed upon certain topics. It’s an art because there are areas of obscurity, where it’s not crystal clear which topic is more important than another. In saying this it means there is some interpretive stances taken on my part in seeking to discern what the Top 12 topics are. I’m interested to hear what subjects you think will make the Top 12?

FYI: I’m using Accordance Bible Software’s Word Analytics for word count.

Devoted To The Apostle Teaching

We’re starting a new series or rather theme for our church for 2017. It’s called Devoted. Our verse or passage as a church is Acts 2:42-47, where the Church exploded forth through the power of the Holy Spirit and the preaching of Peter. This first group of baptized Christians filled with the Spirit devoted themselves to several things: The Apostle’s teaching, the fellowship, the breaking of bread, and prayers. We’ve broken it up into those 4 aspects and are doing different things each month to help devote ourselves to what those early believers devoted themselves to. I’ve got the Apostle’s teaching. What even is the Apostle’s teaching? What does it mean to be devoted to their teaching? When Jesus lived he had many disciples that followed him but He intentionally chose 12 that he called Apostles. These Apostles lived, ate, drank, slept, listened, and followed Jesus for nearly 3 years. Jesus entrusted and devoted His life and ministry to them. After His resurrection He gave the Holy Spirit to indwell and guide them to remember everything He had taught them. The early church listened and devoted themselves to what the Apostle’s taught because it was what Jesus taught. Thousands of years have passed and we no longer have Apostles in the same authority and fashion as then, but we do still have their teachings through the Holy Scripture. The Apostles used the O.T. for their foundation and pointed to it’s fulfillment and culmination in Jesus as the Christ. Their teachings are found through the gospel’s, the epistles, and other writing’s in the N.T. As those who follow Jesus we’re to devote ourselves to those teachings, both in the Old and in the New Covenants. As I began to think about what it means to be devoted to the Scriptures I began wondering what the Scriptures devote themselves to. The Bible is the most read book that has ever been written! It’s been translated into more languages than any others text. It’s influenced more people than any other text has. What is the subject that the Bible devotes itself to? What’s it most concerned with? In the coming months we’ll look at the 12 subjects that I believe the Bible devotes itself to. What do you think will make the list?