Imagine a little Texas girl who grew up sometime in the last 50 years. She goes to a Bible-preaching church twice a week with her family, and a fine public school system five times a week with her friends. Both the school and the church intend to influence her for good. They both aim to teach her what is true, there’s no doubt about that. They both aim to equip her to live effectively in this world. They both carry a strong sense of responsibility about what they must do for this little girl. But from the girl’s perspective, something is wrong. For some reason, these two institutions that influence her the most (underneath her immediate family) can’t seem to agree on the things that matter most. They teach contradictory truths. The nearly constant disagreement is implicit everywhere, but shows up nowhere so explicitly as science class. The church tells her that God is everything, but the school tells her that God is just one thing, a thing that has nothing to do with serious academic inquiry. They don’t have to say it out loud, their actions say it well enough.
What does the little girl conclude? The same thing that the school has long since concluded – that matters of faith and matters of fact dwell in two different arenas. She decides that learning about the Word of God and learning about the world are two different things entirely, as separate as night and day. She adds a strange new word to her vocabulary…secular. The very acknowledgement of such a term gives away her new assumption that there are some things in life which are not sacred. She would never put it in these terms, but the fact is that her concept of truth has been bifurcated. Science and faith are viewed as incompatible. She wouldn’t say it out loud, but truthfully she fears science, with all its confidences and boasts. She adopts the assumption of the school – that on the one hand there are matters of fact that the public school teaches, and on the other there are matters of faith and value that church teaches. The former (whatever it may claim) cares less for value or morals, the latter (whatever it may claim) cares less for objective fact. The American way of separating church and state has put God on an island in her mind, isolating him from everything else there is to know or interact with. She’s infected by a false dichotomy that informs everything she sees. Her worldview dwells nearer than a contact lens.
This is the story for so many of us, both little boys and little girls. The very admission of a so-called “secular” world gives away our assumption that there are some things that have nothing to do with God. Unfortunately, the Bible knows nothing of such a separation, because it doesn’t exist. The Word of God is not a science book, fair enough. That is because the world is the world of God, and he has equipped us to write our own books of discovery about it. But rest assured that there is one body of truth, defined simply as “things as God knows them to be.” Those truths discovered through science, while they may be less relevant to salvation, are just as true as those found in Scripture. The things we discover in mathematics may have less nourishment for the soul than, say, the book of Philippians. But 2+2=4 is just as true as the fact that Jesus Christ took the form of a servant (Phil 2:7). Obviously, the two statements have varying degrees of relevance to the human plight. I hold the truth about Jesus more nearly and dearly than the truth about math. But they have the same degree of truthfulness – 100%. All truth is God’s truth. And all the truth we will ever apprehend will be apprehended because of God’s grace in revealing it to us. Christians have nothing to fear of science, because the God who reveals things through the study of creation is the same God who reveals things through the study of the Bible, and he will never contradict himself. Should scientific findings disagree with properly interpreted Scripture, science has simply made an error. Surely charging the creature with making an error is less audacious than charging the Creator with writing one.
To give an example of the integration that will resolve our false conflict, think of biochemicals in a lab. They will behave the same way for Christians and non-Christians, that’s for sure. But while the non-Christian will be content to answer the question “What is there?”, the Christian will strive just as strongly to answer this question and then also to inquire, “Why is it there?” Science cannot answer the question of “why,” and honest scientists will admit as much. That is the task of philosophy, or for the believer in God, theology. Therefore theology is tied to everything, even biochemistry. All those minute chemical details come into better focus when we remember that Jesus “holds all things together.”
The Creator and Sustainer of everything that exists is relevant to all things, and they are relevant to him. Christian learning, whether from the Word or the world, seeks to locate that relevance. Christian inquiry is not a side-show to “real” science and learning. It is a rising above and going beyond it. It is looking for the real purpose, already knowing that that purpose is gloriously Personal. Christian learning is realizing that the truths of the Christian church and the truths of the school (insofar as they are actually true and not simply erroneous theories purported to be true, as is often the case) emanate from the same God. A Christian learner is one who goes beyond studying the mere state of things and begins to discern what their true relationship and significance in the universe is. Science cannot lift our eyes to the royalty of God in creation, but theology can. That is why theology is called queen of the sciences.
Imagine the freedom, now, to explore the inerrant Word of God and the fascinating world of God with the goal of integration, rather than division. English class is now a Bible reading training class. Biology now reveals the details of the creation account. Anatomy shows the beauty and terror of the cross of Jesus.
And here will our worldview be reassembled, when the idea of “secular” is properly labeled “illusion.” There is nothing in the universe that has nothing to do with God. Positively stated, everything has to do with God. And that gives license to fearlessly study everything.
When the pursuit of truth, in whatever field, becomes the pursuit of God, we are free to explore and arrive at real Truth. And, as a wise man once said, “the truth will set you free.”
Hey hey, it’s the 400-year old debate, back again. For some people this topic is terribly new and exciting, and for others you’d rather watch paint dry. For a elect few though (couldn’t resist), the conversation just doesn’t get old. Anyway, wherever you are and whatever your interest level, here’s a chart I recently made for a friend that summarizes the central points of each school of thought. I did my very best to be fair to both sides, limiting argumentation and giving no supporting Bible verses.
Here’s a link to the chart as a free resource for you.
If you’re a strong representative from either side and feel like I didn’t throw up your set very well, just pray for my salvation.
Sometimes it’s good to be reminded of the certainty of where our story ends. There are ups and there are downs in the Christian life, and some of the highs are really high and some of the lows are really low. Just as your plane of vision changes while riding a roller coaster, sometimes we get confused on where we’ll actually end up, afraid one of those dips may not pull up in time to avoid disaster. How comforting, then, to look to the Word of God and know beyond a shadow of a doubt that every one of us who belong to Jesus will also be made like him in the end. We can know this because sanctification is ultimately his work anyway – work that he has promised to do. Here are a few passages.
“For those whom he foreknew he also predestined to be conformed to the image of his Son” (Rom 8:29). There are some loud theological words in this passage that raise some important questions, like, “What exactly does ‘foreknew’ and ‘predestined’ mean?” But for this writing, these pursuits are not the point. The point is this – if you a believer in Christ, you will ultimately be changed into the likeness of Jesus. It is as sure today as it ever has been, regardless of what your recent or not-so-recent experience has been. It’s up to him, and there’s nothing you can do about it. That is not constraining, it’s comforting.
“If the Spirit of him who raised Jesus from the dead dwells in you, the Spirit of him who raised Christ Jesus from the dead will also give life to your mortal bodies, through his Spirit who dwells in you” (Rom 8:11). Everyone who belongs to Jesus has the Spirit (Rom 8:9). And if you have the Spirit, life is yours. There are no surprise endings.
“Now the Lord is the Spirit, and where the Spirit of the Lord is, there is freedom. And we all, with unveiled face, beholding the glory of the Lord, are being transformed into the same image from one degree of glory to another. For this comes from the Lord who is the Spirit” (2 Cor 3:17-18). The Holy Spirit is God and brings freedom everywhere he goes, and your person is no exception. We all are becoming more like Jesus, from one degree of glory to the next. Progress may be unsteady from our wavering perspective, but it is as certain as the Word of the Lord. How do we know this? Because “it comes from the Lord.” Who, in case you forgot, is the Spirit.
“And I am confident of this: that he who began a good in work in you will carry it on to completion until the day of Christ Jesus” (Phil 1:6). You have a role to play in your sanctification. You are to battle the flesh and “let not sin reign in your mortal body” (Rom 6:11). God equips you ”to work out your salvation with fear and trembling” (Phil 2:12). But in all these things, never forget that it is God who began the work. And it is God who will finish the work.
“My sheep hear my voice, and I know them, and they follow me. I give them eternal life, and they will never perish, and no one will snatch them out of my hand” (John 10:27-28). The Shepherd takes care of the sheep, and he’s never lost any. Not even one.
“We eagerly await a Savior from [heaven], the Lord Jesus Christ, who by the power that enables him to bring everything under his control, will transform our lowly bodies so that they will be like his glorious body” (Phil 3:20-21). If you trust in Jesus, you are included in that “our.” By his own authority, Christ is going to make your sin-filled body like his sinless, perfect body.
“But now that you have been set free from sin and have become slaves of God, the fruit you get leads to sanctification, and its end, eternal life” (Rom 3:22). This is the clearest of all, perhaps. Man I love this verse. Easy and beautiful observations: 1) Sanctification has an end. 2) That end is eternal life.
“And those whom he predestined he also called, and those whom he called he also justified, and those whom he justified he also glorified” (Rom 8:30). The “Golden Chain” of salvation. This verse is sweet sweet sweet. It means that salvation is an inextricable web, a work of God from start to finish. No one has ever begun who has not finished. There are no exit ramps on the highway of salvation. You will arrive safely at glory.
All this is to encourage you and let you know that even though the struggle hurts, it doesn’t go on forever. If you’re at the top of the spiritual stratosphere right now, take the time to encourage another believer. And if you’re in the midst of the struggle, know that the struggle has an end. And, because of the grace and lovingkindness of God toward you, you will win. Until then, keep seeking that next degree of glory.
In college I had a tightly-knit group of guys who met weekly for Bible study and accountability. We had a running joke about which guys in the group were “thinkers” and which were “feelers.” Granted, everyone is a thinker and everyone is a feeler to some degree. Nobody is entirely devoid of cognition (believe it or not), and nobody is entirely affection-less either. But some people have a serious tendency toward either intellection or emotion, and they don’t always assess themselves accurately (much to our humor). So my friends and I had more than a few chuckles learning about one another’s personalities in this regard.
I’ve spent a large amount of time pondering the relationship between thinking and feeling, with my main pursuit being an answer to the question, “How am I best to glorify God with my thinking and feeling?” Many questions stem from this when you get down into the mechanics of it all. Do my realizations about God provoke affection toward him (meaning thinking precedes feeling)? I think the answer to this had better be yes. Do my affections for God provoke me to more deeply study God and his Word (meaning feeling precedes thinking)? I think the answer to this had better be yes, too. It can be a puzzling exploration, but pursuing the correct thoughts and feelings about God is the highest pursuit of which one can avail himself. Right?
Enter Jonathan Edwards. The 18th-century pastor is probably the greatest intellectual America has ever produced. Edwards finds his basis for thinking and feeling within God’s very nature – the Trinity itself. He says that we are constructed as head and heart, thinkers and feelers, knowers and lovers, because these two realities are present in God’s being. I’ll be honest, what he writes is not easy to understand. But if you have a few minutes to stare at the computer screen and think it through, you’ll be rewarded. Prepare to be boggled.
This I suppose to be the blessed Trinity that we read of in the Holy Scriptures. The Father is the deity subsisting in the prime, unoriginated and most absolute manner, or the deity in its direct existence. The Son is the deity generated by God’s understanding, or having an idea of Himself and subsisting in that idea. The Holy Ghost is the deity subsisting in act, or the divine essence flowing out and breathed forth in God’s infinite love to and delight in Himself. And I believe the whole Divine essence does truly and distinctly subsist both in the Divine idea and Divine love, and that each of them are properly distinct persons.
In other words, the Father has had an eternal idea of himself (thinking) that is so full and profound that it is another Person standing forth – the Son. In turn, the Father and the Son have had an eternal joy between themselves (feeling) that is so full and delightful that it is another Person standing forth – the Spirit. The Son is the thinking of the Father, and the Spirit is the feeling of them both. Carefully note that none of this is chronologically ordered; these are eternal realities. There was never a moment when God did not experience himself in this way.
If I get the chance to meet him sometime (which seems likely), I’ll have to thank Jonathan Edwards for this little gem. Beats the heck out of “Sinners in the Hands of an Angry God.”
Here’s to thinking the right thoughts and feeling the right feelings for the glory of the thinking, feeling God.
How do you define “theology”? Our first inclination in answering this question is to use the garage toolbox method we all learned in grade school. I don’t dislike the garage toolbox method; as a matter of fact, it’s downright helpful sometimes. Let’s give it a go with the word “theology”:
- Get your saw out and cut the word “theology” precisely in half.
- You now have two Greek word roots (theo and logy), one in each hand. Translate them into English.
- Use a drill to stick ‘em back together.
If you follow the instructions to this proverbial game of Operation correctly, you’ll get a definition that goes something like this – “Theology is the study of God.” Done, right? Not so much.
This definition doesn’t seem to float the boats of theologians. Not because it’s wrong or because they don’t like the garage toolbox method. They do. But mere word root translations are only bare-bones introductions to whatever topic they propose to encompass, and as such they are usually insufficient for definitional purposes. I was told in grade school that the phrase “solar system” meant “sun system” because sol means sun. None of that is incorrect, and I have no complaint with it. However, there is much more about the solar system that could be included in a more proper definition, yes? Using word roots to understand our solar system as the “sun system” is a great way for a tiny person to start, but it is just that – a place to start. As we mature, a richer understanding is necessary. So let’s use our understanding of theology as “the study of God” in a similar way. It is not defined incorrectly as such, but rather incompletely. It is a great place to start, but a terrible place to finish. If we aim to describe the very loftiest pursuit which avails itself to mankind, simply translating word roots and sewing them back together will not do. Theology is queen of the sciences. What description shall fit?
Read what Anselm of Canterbury (1033-1109) offered on the subject and be blessed.
“I do not try, Lord, to attain your lofty heights because my understanding is in no way equal to it. But I do desire to know your truth a little, that truth that my heart believes and loves. For I do not seek to understand so that I may believe, but I believe so that I may understand. For I believe this also, that unless I believe, I shall not understand.”
Quite beautiful, yes? Here’s is Anselm’s derived definition of theology (shorter, even, than the one provided by the garage toolbox method, but decidedly more attractive). Anselm says that theology is faith seeking understanding. That’s it. Theology is faith seeking understanding. In studying the depths of the Lord, we trust everything that he has revealed up to the present moment, and find ourselves very nearly begging for what he may reveal next. This is why the Bible is inextricably tied to theology and the reason it is so inexhaustibly interesting to us…it’s God’s revelation of himself. And best of all, he has promised to reward those who diligently seek him (Prov 8:17, Heb 11:6). Doing theology is earnestly trusting what God has already shown you and asking him to show you more – which he has guaranteed to do.
Now, some people don’t like this definition. “It excludes non-Christians,” I’m told. “It’s really short,” I’m told (which happens rarely in theology). “It’s really old,” I’m told (which happens quite often in theology). Concerning the first of these objections, many people prefer to define theology more broadly, claiming that all people are theologians because all people without exception contemplate life’s questions of ultimacy (which must at some point include considering at least the possibility of God). I can’t say that I’m inclined to agree. Considering the possibility that God exists doesn’t make someone a theologian any more than considering the possibility that sick people exist makes someone a doctor. No, I think that “without faith it is impossible to please him, for whoever would draw near to God must believe he exists” (Heb 11:6). Don’t be bothered, however. To say that one must be a Christian in order to properly do Christian theology is not an exclusive statement – not when the invitation to become a Christian is inclusive of all.
Theology is faith seeking understanding. Ponder this as I pray Paul’s prayer over you.
I bow my knees before the Father, that according to the riches of his glory he may grant you to be strengthened with power through his Spirit in your inner being, so that you may have strength to comprehend with all the saints what is the breadth and length and height and depth, and to know the love of Christ that surpasses knowledge, that you may be filled with all the fullness of God. Now to him who is able to far more abundantly than all that we ask or think, to him be glory in the church and in Christ Jesus throughout all generations, forever and ever. Amen. (Ephesians 3:14-21)
Anyone who has lived with their eyes open long enough to see clearly has lived long enough to witness one human being (or group) taking advantage of another. It is an undeniable symptom of a sinful nature that we will use as leverage whatever we can to gain advantage over another. “The rat race,” “keeping up with the Jones,” call it what you will – apart from the sanctifying work of Christ, life is an endless jockeying for position against your
opponents fellow person. And the teaching of Jesus is diametrically opposed to this system. Jesus did the opposite, although if anyone ever had the right to use their station to their advantage, it was he. But instead of considering his station something to be LEVERAGED, he made himself nothing (Phil 2:6-7). It is impossible to understand this apart from the Spirit’s enablement. That’s why “the natural person does not accept the things of the Spirit of God, for they are folly to him” (1 Cor 2 :14).
And while people have used anything they can get their hands on as leverage against others, I can’t think of anything that has been used more than race, economic station, and gender. In every injustice, far more often than not, the criteria that garnered undeserved discrimination has been the color of someone’s skin, their economic freedom (whether monetary status or freedom itself), or their gender. In America alone, we’ve seen all three of these in the last 150 years. We’ve seen people oppressed because they are not white. We’ve seen people oppressed because they are not free. We’ve seen people oppressed because they are not men. If you find this history (and, in some parts of the world, present reality) to be repulsive, the word of God in Galatians 3:28 will be particularly delicious to you.
Paul writes, “There is neither Jew nor Greek, there is neither slave nor free, there is no male and female, for you are all one in Christ Jesus.” You can strive all day long until your days run out to gain leverage over others, but nothing you get can gain you a single thing in your standing before God. All that ultimately matters is your standing in Christ, in whom there are no racial distinctions, economic distinctions, or gender distinctions (as it pertains to justification; concerning practical daily living, many of these distinctions are imperatively kept, as evidenced by Paul’s addressing each group one at a time in Scripture). Salvation comes by faith (Eph 2:8), not by leverage or coercion.
The Jewish man once proudly prayed a prayer each morning thanking God that he was not a Gentile, a slave, or a woman. He literally thanked God for his worldly leverage over other people groups. To this, the gospel of our Lord says, “No more.” In Christ, there is no such thing as racism, no such thing as slavery, and no such thing as sexism. Rather, “the grace of God has appeared, bringing salvation for all people” (Titus 2:11).
Christians hear all the time that the Bible inflames hate toward certain segments of the population. Groundless charge, I’m afraid, since the Author of the Bible created and loves every segment of the population. His acceptance is free, and his salvation is no respecter of persons.
Life is not a rat race. It is the race (2 Tim 4:7), won by Christ’s effort, not ours.
Legalism is oft-used word and an oft-followed philosophy (although many do not realize they are trapped in its snare). So what is legalism, anyway?
In its more explicit application, legalism refers to the Law of Moses in the Pentateuch (the first five books of the Bible) and the belief that by following the Law one can be justified before God (by justified, think “made right” or “saved”). This kind of explicit legalism isn’t the legalism that typically entangles us most of the time, because it’s so easy to spot (and because it is so clearly obliterated by Scripture – see entire book of Galatians). I don’t find many people who are trusting in the Law of Moses for their justification/salvation.
But the principle behind this “Old Testament” legalism still plagues us. What, exactly, accomplishes justification according to legalism? Following the Law. And what is following the Law? An action which I do by my own effort. The legalism of our day has the same ultimate driving force behind it as explicit legalism – the belief that my merit before God comes from me. I trust in myself. I justify myself. We say in our minds, Not me. But our practice of running from God after spiritual failures and yet sprinting toward him proudly after spiritual successes says, Yes, you. Legalism at its core is justification by self-effort. In common usage today, Christians give the word “religion” the same definition.
Jesus gave a truly profound warning against this idea that comes so naturally to us all (John 5:45). Addressing a group of Jews (explicit legalists), he said, “Do not think that I will accuse you to the Father. There is one who accuses you: Moses, on whom you have set your hope.” Do you have ears to hear what he is saying? There is no need to accuse or condemn those who trust in the Law, because the Law will do that for itself. The very standard in which the Jews were trusting for deliverance would become the standard that would sentence them. What does that mean for you today? That if you set your hope on your own behavioral merits before God, your own behavioral shortcomings will stand to condemn you before God. Belief in self-propelled reward leads to the reality of self-wrought destruction. Trust in your own good, and your own bad will sentence you. Your penultimate success will not prevent your ultimate failure. Your good will not outweigh your bad – not when the standard is perfection. Do you have ears to hear these things?
What is the solution, then? The estate of humanity looks pretty bleak at this point. Are we helplessly and hopelessly condemned forever? By no means!
By trusting in a substitute, we can be made right with God. The light of Jesus Christ breaks into our darkness, and by faith in him we apprehend a right relationship with God. He prevents our failure. His good outweighs our bad. His merits overcome our shortcomings. His reward becomes ours. The question is not whether we deserve reward from God; that question has been already answered with a resounding no. What we deserve is punishment, because the wages of sin is death (Romans 6:23). But forgiveness and life are offered to us anyway, with the affection of God the Father as the motivator. It’s grace, when you least expect to find it. It’s freedom, when you thought you already had it. Read John 3:16 with new eyes. “The free gift of God is eternal life in Christ Jesus our Lord” (Romans 6:23).
But, sadly, we don’t naturally like grace, do we? When we’re rewarded, we want the credit. We don’t want to depend on anyone or anything else for our lot in life, this one or the next. The legalist from within emerges, threatening to stomp out the hope of the gospel of grace. So the question you must ask yourself becomes, Can I bear to live in the light of a love I did not earn?
If you can, you will live a very long time, indeed. Forever. And this will be your song:
In Christ alone my hope is found
He is my light, my strength, my song
This Cornerstone, this solid ground
Firm through the fiercest drought and storm
What heights of love, what depths of peace!
When fears are stilled, when strivings cease!
My Comforter, my all in all,
Here in the love of Christ I stand!
A 100 year-old compilation of the sermons and writings of Oswald Chambers has been assembled under the title “My Utmost for His Highest” (you may have heard of it). It takes the form of a daily devotional, with one little gold mine of a page to be read per day. And Chambers doesn’t exactly waste any time getting to the convicting stuff. Here’s January 1 from one of the most famous devotionals of all time. Let it pierce you.
“My eager desire and hope being that I may never feel ashamed, but that now as ever I may do honour to Christ in my own person by fearless courage” (Phil 1:20, Moffat). We shall all feel very much ashamed if we do not yield to Jesus on the point He has asked us to yield to Him. Paul says – “My determination is to be my utmost for His Highest.” To get there is a question of will, not of debate nor of reasoning, but a surrender of will, an absolute and irrevocable surrender on that point. An over-weaning consideration for ourselves is the thing that keeps us from that decision, though we put it that we are considering others. When we consider what it will cost others if we obey the call of Jesus, we tell God He does not know what our obedience will mean. Keep to the point; He does know. Shut out every other consideration and keep yourself before God for this one thing only – My Utmost for His Highest. I am determined to be absolutely and entirely for Him and for Him alone. “Whether that means life or death, no matter!” (Phil 1:21). Paul is determined that nothing shall deter him from doing exactly what God wants. God’s order has to work up to a crisis in our lives because we will not heed the gentler way. He brings us to the place where He asks us to be our utmost for Him, and we begin to debate; then He produces a providential crisis where we have to decide – for or against, and from that point the “Great Divide” begins. If the crisis has come to you on any line, surrender your will to Him absolutely and irrevocably.
I keep hearing this little voice…Your kingdom come, Your will be done.
Lord, in 2013, not as I will, but as you will.
I always chuckle at the cleverness of those posters that says, “Everything I need to know, I learned in kindergarten.” Under this headline will be several painfully obvious ideas that most adults are painfully bad at applying – things like “I shouldn’t take things that aren’t mine” and “I should treat other people how I want to be treated.” Simple, beautiful (and unmistakably biblical) truths to live by.
And as much as I enjoy seminary and “deep study,” sometimes I think that “everything I need to know about God, I learned in kindergarten.” Don’t mistake my meaning; I know not everyone was in Sunday School as a five year old learning basic things about God. I also don’t mean that we shouldn’t progressively grow in our understanding of God and develop knowledge as time goes on. By no means are we to remain children when it comes to the knowledge of God, as Paul prayed for us in Scripture, “that our love may abound more and more in knowledge and depth of insight” (Philippians 1:9). So what I mean, precisely, is this: “The most important things that any human being needs to know about God, a small child is capable of understanding.” Even better, they’re both in a single verse.
Psalm 62:11 says, “Once God has spoken, twice I have heard this: That power belongs to God, and that to you, O God, belongs steadfast love.” God has power, and God has love. God is infinitely strong and infinitely loving. He is omnipotent and omnibenevolent. You learned this as a child, but you prayed it like this: “God is great, God is good.” Is this not the gospel? The gospel is unavoidably about a God who is not only inconceivably strong, but a God who is for people. He has the power to do whatever he likes, and what he likes is what is good for people - namely, to save our souls from the destruction we’ve earned for ourselves and bring us back into relationship with himself. God is great and God is good.
God is. And God is for you. And if you leave these things behind for “deeper study,” you will impoverish yourself.
Don’t get me wrong – the beauty of God is the deepest reality that anyone can experience. Delight yourself in knowing him, and lose yourself in finding him. Lose sleep in searching for him. It will take effort to do deep study, and the Bible does not yield its fruit to the lazy. Besides, the payoff of doing deep study is obviously much greater than giving a mere surface-level scratch. Raking is easy, but you only get leaves. Digging is hard, but you may get diamonds. Don’t waste the Bible.
But no matter how deep you go or how many diamonds you’re given, don’t forget that the most valuable diamonds of all are easily found, even for a kindergartner – that God is great. And God is good.
“Satan is the father of lies,” says Jesus. He invented the practice. He employed it to perfection on our first parents, Adam and Eve. He tempted them through lies. He trapped them by presenting believable falsehoods. How could a falsehood ever be made believable? Turn to Genesis 3 and observe the Master Deceiver.
Before being tempted, Eve accurately recited to Satan the warning of God: “God said, ‘You shall not eat of the fruit of the tree that is in the midst of the garden, neither shall you touch it, or you will die’” (Genesis 3:3). Obviously, God was correct – to eat the forbidden fruit would be a sin, and sin always…always…always…leads to death (Romans 6, James 1). But the Liar, Satan, flat out contradicts this in the very next sentence, saying five words that don’t have a speck of truth in them: “You will not surely die.” LIAR.
Now pause right here. I am certain that if this had been the end of the conversation between Satan and Eve, there would have been no Fall. There would have been no deception. Sin would not have entered the world. Satan’s lie would have been spotted for what it really was. It would have been painfully easy to know that Satan was blatantly lying at this point. Their conversation so far is basically Eve saying, “God said I’ll die if I do that,” and Satan saying, “No you won’t.” I doubt this simple contradiction would have been enough to trick Eve into eating the fruit. It took no genius whatsoever on Satan’s part to simply contradict God. But it took incredible, terrible genius to say what he said next.
His complete thought: ”You will not surely die. For God knows that when you eat of it your eyes will be opened, and you will be like God, knowing good and evil.” Is this second sentence a lie? No. You see, part of being innocent is being unaware. Adam and Eve were blessed to be beautifully unaware of evil in the Garden before they sinned; they knew only good. They had no knowledge of evil, which is exactly what Satan promised them – that their eyes would be opened, and they would know good and evil and thus be like God (who is aware of all things). And guess what? Satan did not lie when he said that. That is exactly what happened. Adam and Eve ate the fruit, learned of the existence of evil, and became like God. God himself says so later: “The man has become like one of us in knowing good and evil” (Genesis 3:22). Satan lied when he promised Eve she wouldn’t die. But he didn’t lie when he promised her that her eyes would be opened. Her eyes were opened, indeed – in a more terrible, shameful way than any of us can imagine. That’s the part Satan conveniently left out. He told a lie followed by a half-truth. He made his falsehood believable.
If you want to be a good liar, this is a great pattern to learn. Don’t just lie head-on or you’ll get laughed at. But dress your lie up in some great-looking half-truths and you’re in business. Plant some doubt and then go for the kill. It worked like a charm on Eve, and it still works on us today. Satan has yet to update his methods. He still plants lies painted with truth. For instance, how about this faulty logic: ”God created sex for people to enjoy” (TRUTH). “That means I’m free enjoy it whenever and however I want.” (LIE). Just because God created a gift does not mean they’re aren’t guidelines for enjoying it. How about this one? “My decisions don’t define me; I am more than just my decisions” (TRUTH). “Therefore my decisions don’t matter” (LIE). Your decisions are not isolated events that are made in unrelated vacuums. They are steps that are going to lead you somewhere and they matter. A lot.
Here’s the punch line. The Deception will not come to you uncamouflaged. Temptations do not announce themselves. Effective lies are not apparent. They are cleverly clothed in half-truths and on the surface they seem hopelessly attractive. This has been Satan’s procedure from the beginning – he won’t try to take you all at once; it’s a slow fade. It is time to understand that Satan has a plan for your life, too. A specific one. And he’s trillions of times smarter and stronger than you. But thankfully, because of Jesus, “in all these things we are more than conquerors” (Romans 8:37). And since “we lack wisdom, we should ask God, who gives generously to all without finding fault” (James 1:5).
Pray for wisdom. Expose the lie. “And then you will know the truth, and the truth shall set you free” (John 8:32).