We are in the third week of a series examining the subject of one’s worldview. To quickly summarize what we’ve seen so far, there are two basic worldviews – one is biblically based and the other best defined as pagan or ‘not Christ-centered.’ All worldviews – pagan and Christian – ask and answer three basic questions: 1) Who are we? 2) How did we get here? and 3) Where are we going? And I want to again be clear about this: ONLY a Biblical worldview can save us from our own personal, family, and national social disasters.
The first element of a Biblical worldview is this: The God of Genesis chapter one is the ONLY true God. He is eternal. He has never been anything other than almighty God. He has revealed Himself to humanity as a triune Being, better known as Father, Son, and Holy Spirit. Each person coeternal, coequal, and coexistent with each other, three Persons, three Natures within the One God and Creator.
The second element of a Biblical worldview is this: The same God who created everything and everyone has also given us a series of love letters – letters that describe His passionate affection for each of us. Letters that tell us again and again – not only through words on paper, but also in the most supreme and substantive way on Calvay’s cross where God the Son
demonstrated to us – even while we were living in sin: See How Much I Love You. (See Romans 5:8)
We call those letters, of course, the Bible.
Today I want to keep our focus on God's love letters, but to direct our focus on them from a different perspective. They’re the same letters, they carry the same message of love – but today we need to see how those letters are also framed in instructions – commandments is a better word. The God who loves us wants to protect us from self-destruction and, ultimately, eternal agony in the Lake of Fire. He wants us to know love cannot truly be ‘love’ were it not for warnings against sin. I mean, just think of it in these terms: Can a parent be said to truly love his child without giving that child strict rules of behavior? Listen to Hebrews 12:7-10
“It is for discipline that you endure; God deals with you as with sons; for what son is there whom his father does not discipline? 8 But if you are without discipline . . . then you are illegitimate children and not sons. 9 Furthermore, we had earthly fathers to discipline us, and we respected them; shall we not much rather be subject to the Father of spirits, and live? 10 For they disciplined us for a short time as seemed best to them, but He disciplines us for our good, so that we may share His holiness.”
Please hear this: The more we understand what constitutes real love, the greater will be our understanding of the need for rules of behavior. And the more we understand God's love for us, the more we will value texts such as this one in 1 John 5:3 “For this is the love of God, that we keep His commandments; and His commandments are not burdensome.” (Greek also: grievous, oppressive)
So, what are some of Gods rules for behavior? And just as important, I suppose, is the question does, God have the right to make AND enforce those rules?
Surely, we all know more than a few people who believe those to be fair questions. I’ve spoken to my share of people over the decades who have said essentially, “Who does God think He is that He can make such unbending rules for us?”
Uhhh – Because He is God. Our creator. In whose hands is your next breath, and that only by His grace and mercy.
And don’t think for a moment that such arrogance on the part of mere mortals is a current phenomenon. Such irrational chutzpah exposes itself throughout God's love letters as examples of how far AND how quickly we can stray from Him.
For example, here is Isaiah 45:9-10 - “Woe to the one who quarrels with his Maker— An earthenware vessel among the vessels of earth! Will the clay say to the potter, ‘What are you doing?’ . . . 10 “Woe to him who says to a father, ‘What are you begetting?’ Or to a woman, ‘To what are you giving birth?’”
And now listen to this text in Job 40:1,8, “Will the faultfinder contend with the Almighty? . . . “Will you really annul My judgment? Will you condemn Me that you may be justified?”
I know I am preaching to the proverbial choir now when I say this, but I say it nonetheless because I need to tell the truth as best as I understand the truths of Scriptures lest any of us be hardened to truth by the deceitfulness of sin.
God made rules because he has the absolute authority and right to make the rules. And we his creatures make an eternally dangerous decision to argue with Him about His rules. And so, for the sake of time, let’s look at only a few representative texts that list some of His rules of behavior.
Galatians 5:19-21 “Now the works of the flesh are obvious: fornication, impurity, licentiousness, idolatry, sorcery, enmities, strife, jealousy, anger, quarrels, dissensions, factions, 21 envy, drunkenness, carousing, and the like. I warn you, as I warned you previously, that no one who does such things will inherit the kingdom of God.”
Listen also to 1 Cor 6:9-11 “Don’t you know that the unrighteous will not inherit God’s kingdom? Do not be deceived: No sexually immoral people, idolaters, adulterers, or anyone practicing homosexuality, no thieves, greedy people, drunkards, verbally abusive people, or swindlers will inherit God’s kingdom. 11 And some of you used to be like this. But you were washed, you were sanctified, you were justified in the name of the Lord Jesus Christ and by the Spirit of our God.”
We need to pause a moment and look once again at the last part of this passage in 2 Corinthians. Sin was rampant in Corinth. And those who were part of the Corinthian church came out of the moral sewer that was Corinth.
They came out because something happened to them. Something glorious, something miraculous – and I use that word, miraculous, in its common definition. They’d been dead in their sins. Necrotic. Spiritual corpses. But – as Paul tells those in Ephesus about themselves –God made them alive through their faith in the atonement of Jesus the Messiah – in the SAME WAY that God miraculously made you and me alive who were spiritual corpses.
“But you were washed,” the apostle tells the Corinthian Christians. “You were sanctified, you were justified in the name of the Lord Jesus Christ and by the Spirit of our God.”
Former thieves and homosexuals and drunkards and idolators and liars and gossips – God now sanctified them, set them apart for His work. God now justified them – declared them to be without guilt. God cleansed them with the precious blood of His only begotten Son.
And listen to this promise from that same love letter we call 2 Corinthians: God did the SAME thing for everyone in this room today who were caught up in a variety of damnable sins – and made you and me alive. Why? Because He loves us, that’s why. He loves us.
Some will say, however, we still sin. Yes, of course we do. Sin in our life has been dethroned, but it has not been destroyed.
You might be familiar with the story of the Two Wolves. I think I’ve told it before, but it bears repeating at this point:
An elderly Cherokee sat by a fire with his grandson. He said to him, “A battle between two wolves is raging inside of me. One wolf is evil, full of anger, lies, envy, jealousy, regret, greed, arrogance, guilt, and resentment. The other wolf is good. It has joy, peace, love, hope, humility, kindness, empathy, generosity, truth, compassion, and faith.”
The grandfather was silent for only a moment, and then continued: “The same fight is going on inside you—and inside every other person, too.”
The grandson thought about it for a minute and then asked his grandfather, “Which wolf wins?”
The old Cherokee replied simply, “The one that you feed.”
Which wolf are we feeding today? Which did we feed yesterday? Which will we feed tomorrow? As the apostle Paul counsels us (Colossians 3:5-8): 5 Therefore consider the members of your earthly body as dead to immorality, impurity, passion, evil desire, and greed, which amounts to idolatry. 6 For it is because of these things that the wrath of God will come upon the sons of disobedience, 7 and in them you also once walked, when you were living in them. 8 But now you also, put them all aside: anger, wrath, malice, slander, and abusive speech from your mouth.”
James reminds us in his epistle: (James 3:2) “We all stumble in many ways.” And the history of humanity gives explosive testimony to that terrible truth. Think of the great king, David. Oh! Did he ever stumble along his path. Bathsheba. Uriah and the other soldiers. His sons Absolom and Amnon, to cite only a few of his failures.
And then there is St Peter, the one to whom the Lord Jesus gave the keys of the kingdom (See Matthew 16:19). Peter, who lived day in and day out for three years with his Master and friend. Peter, who walked on water, and who boasted that he would never deny knowing Jesus.
Yes, we all stumble in many ways, and don’t think for a moment that Satan is not ready to pounce on our failures – past or current failures – to try to get us off-center, to derail us so that we slink back into the shadows.
THAT’S why God's love letters are so important for us. Not only do they remind us of His rules of behavior, given to us for our protection, but they also remind us of His passionate love for us – a love so great, so powerful, so magnanimous and forgiving that there is never any reason for ANY of us to slink into the shadows and give up on God.
He NEVER gives up on us.
Do you remember the exchange between Peter and Jesus after the Lord’s resurrection? The Lord met with him and some of the other disciples on the beach after they’d been fishing.
If anyone could have wallowed in paralyzing self-condemnation and self-recrimination for his sins, it was this man. Surely, he remembered the words of his Lord recorded in Mark 8:38, “For whoever is ashamed of Me and My words in this adulterous and sinful generation, the Son of Man will also be ashamed of him when He comes in the glory of His Father with the holy angels.”
And now here he was, shortly after he vehemently denied his Lord – not once, but three times – even swearing “I do not know the Man.” And, if it ended there, we’d have heard nothing more about the man.
But it didn’t end there.
The New Testament writers used two words for “love” – phileo and agape. Phileo (fil-EH-oh) carries the idea of a close fraternal affection. The special friendship of David and Jonathan is an example of phileo love. (1 Samuel 18:1-3)
Agape love is often used to describe God's unconditional, merciful, and enduring love for you and me. One of the definitions of Agape is this: “To prize the object of that love above all other things; to be unwilling to abandon the object of that love, or to do without the object of that love.”
The margin of my Bible includes the two Greek words used for “love” in this passage. Beginning with verse 15 we read this: When they had finished breakfast, Jesus said to Simon Peter, "Simon, son of John, do you love (agape) me more than these?” He said to him, "Yes, Lord, you know that I love (phileo) you.” He said to him, "Feed my lambs.”
He then said to him a second time, "Simon, son of John, do you love (agape) me?” He said to him, "Yes, Lord, you know that I love (phileo) you." He said to him, "Tend my sheep.”
He said to him the third time, "Simon, son of John, do you love (phileo) me?” Peter was distressed that he had said to him a third time, "Do you love (phileo) me?” and he said to him, "Lord, you know everything; you know that I love (phileo) you.” (Jesus) said to him, "Feed my sheep.”
A modern version of the conversation might sound something like this:
“Peter, do you love me with all your heart?”
“Lord, I have great affection for you.”
“Feed My lambs.”
“Peter, do you really love me?”
“Lord, I think you are wonderful.”
“Tend My sheep.”
“Peter, do you have great affection for me?”
“Lord, you know I do.”
“Feed My sheep.”
Two things catch my attention each time I read this exchange between the Lord and Peter. First, Peter felt miserable about his three-times denial of his best friend and Lord. Miserable, and self-condemned. But then I noticed how the Savior tried to help Peter move beyond his guilt. When Peter wouldn't say – couldn’t say – he loved Jesus, the Lord came down to his level: “Okay, my friend. Do you have affection for me?”
How like Christ to be so gentle to our wounded spirits.
The second thing I noticed here – and this is equally important – after each agape/phileo exchange the Lord’s charge to Peter was essentially the same: “Feed My sheep.”
In other words, “Peter, I know you feel guilty, but your repentance restored our relationship. Your sorrow and guilt are unnecessary. Don’t let them keep you from your task to tend My flock."
How like the merciful Christ to call us out of our sorrow. How like Him to renew our relationship and set us about the work He’s given us to do.
I need that gentleness and mercy. And I imagine you can probably use a dose of it yourself. When we feel unable to tell Him, “I love You,” the Savior tells us it’s okay if we just like Him a lot. When our sorrow overwhelms us, the Shepherd comes alongside, puts His arm across our shoulders and tells us, "I agape you." “I love you very, very much. I prize you. I do not want to be without you.”
Scripture is full of the stories of people who let God down, people who at first rejected God’s grace, and whom God received their repentance and then sent them into His service.
Doesn’t such knowledge of our God – of our heavenly FATHER – doesn’t such knowledge bolster our self-view? Doesn’t such knowledge of our God work to change our worldview – from a view which tells us ‘The sky is falling, the sky is falling” to one which tells us, (Psalm 46:1-3) “God is our refuge and strength, an ever-present help in trouble. 2 Therefore we will not fear, though the earth give way and the mountains fall into the heart of the sea, 3 though its waters roar and foam and the mountains quake with their surging.”
Who are we? How did we get here? Where are we going?
We are beloved children of the almighty creator of the heavens and the earth, creator of the universe. We received life in the womb because God gave us life. And we are on our way along the straight and narrow path through the small gate that leads to our eternal home.
Let a Biblical worldview capture your heart. It is the ONLY way to avoid personal disaster.