Complex Carbohydrates

God chose man-made products to represent something that man could not do for himself. Bread and wine are modest when compared to Solomon’s daily menu, yet bread and wine are too elaborate to be found in the world unprocessed.

Joe Rigney writes about this in chapter 7 of his book, The Things of Earth.

God mediates grace to us through created goods that have been cultivated and transformed by human effort. Bread is grain, but transfigured. Wine is grapes, but glorified. Human creativity and labor mingle with the stuff of God’s creation, and then God establishes the result as the church’s sacramental meal. (147)

God gave man grain and grapes, but men took those and developed more complex carbohydrates. This is the work of image-bearing, and God ratified the cultural advance by using bread and wine to honor the body and blood of His Son.

We can say that God gave us bread, but He gave it through agricultural and culinary discoveries. God continues to give to us through farmers and cooks. God also gave wine to gladden the heart of man, but no wineskin or bottle dropped from heaven. Other than the miracle in Cana, God has men plant and pick and press and wait. Communion, then, is a cultured meal.

Communion is also a meal that creates culture. This Table teaches us the way of love, of giving, of sacrifice. It also reminds us to depend on God and one another who share Christ’s body. The bread strengthens us and the cup gladdens our hearts, by faith, through earthly means that God ordained. Here the fruit of the field and the kitchen remind us of the fruit of the cross. Here is the seed that the Spirit will grow into more cultured fruit.

Slipping the Hold

For all our Kuyperian talk about culture and cultural advances and the importance of the things of earth, we do want to take seriously God’s warnings about worshipping the creation rather than the Creator. One brick-through-the-window sort of warning comes in 1 John 2.

Do not love the world or the things in the world. If anyone loves the world, the love of the Father is not in him. (1 John 2:15)

The command is clear and so is the conclusion. Love the world or love God the Father, but don’t believe that both loves can coexist. Love your wife or love your mistress, it’s not a question of percentages. Saying, “I love you most” to your wife isn’t sufficient.

But, without trying to slip the hold of the warning, what exactly is the “world”? Genesis gives glory to God for creating it. Even most unbelievers know John 3:16, penned by the same author, which says that God loved the world. So we’re not supposed to love what He made and loves?

It would be inconsistent if we read verse 15 the wrong way. The easiest way to read it wrong is to read it without reading the next verse.

For all that is in the world—-the desires of the flesh and the desires of the eyes and pride of life—-is not from the Father but is from the world. (1 John 2:16)

John has defined his terms and explained what he meant by the word “world” and “the things in the world.” The people and the stuff in the world aren’t the problems, the mindset of the world is.

The mortal flesh is fine. Eating and drinking are good and ways to glorify God until sensual pleasures rule us. The the “desires of the flesh” are corrupt. It’s similar with the eyes. Eyes are God’s idea. He wanted us to see so that we could avoid walking into walls and also to paint beautiful things to hang on the walls. But He does not want us to see and lust to grab what is our neighbor’s. Those are worldly desires. Owning things is also good, land and houses, flocks and 403(b)s. But it’s not fine if we say that that is our life, as if our pile of possessions could define our image rather than the Father who gave us His.

We must not love a world where we make stuff the god. We must also not love a God who didn’t make and give us stuff in the world.

Two Kinds of Worldlings

There is a kind of worldling with whom believers can associate and another kind with whom we must not. We can appreciate all true image-bearing contributions from unbelievers and we can associate with them while recognizing their sinfulness. Paul’s instruction to the Corinthians is clear on the matter.

I wrote to you in my letter not to associate with sexually immoral people—-not at all meaning the sexually immoral of this world, or the greedy and swindlers, or idolaters, since then you would need to go out of the world. (1 Corinthians 5:9–10)

Unbelievers sin, they can’t help but sin, and we can still associate and mingle with them. That is, we can buy from and sell to, live next to, work with, and enjoy some of life with them. We can associate with non-Christians on the basis of common grace while proclaiming to them their need for redeeming grace.

But we must not associate with those who profess to be believing brothers, who claim to share redeeming grace but who give no evidence of redemption from sin.

But now I am writing to you not to associate with anyone who bears the name of brother if he is guilty of sexual immorality or greed, or is an idolater, reviler, drunkard, or swindler—not even to eat with such a one. (1 Corinthians 5:11)

We have different levels of association because we share different things in common with different people. Often our expectations reverse God’s Word. We disassociate with the world because they won’t act right while we continue to associate with any so-called Christian in the name of grace. This is our failure to understand the different types of communion God gives. We share likeness with all men, we share salvation with believers. Our time around the Lord’s Table means something because we have Christ, not because we have an appetite.

The World as God

The early chapters of Genesis call for significant attention not only on God’s command to men to marry and multiply and make but also on our imitative nature as multipliers and makers. When we worship we see what God is like and what our reflections of Him should look like. From the beginning it has been so. We glorify God by consuming in thankfulness what He’s given and also by producing in reflectiveness. This is a more positive approach to the things of earth than most of us are familiar with. More than that we can enjoy and do things in the world, we must enjoy and make things if we want to glorify God.

That said, there is a reason why so many Christians are suspicious of the world. It’s because many who call themselves Christians have become idolators of the world. Jesus told a parable about some who are almost-Christians like the seed that grows until choked out by the cares of the world (Matthew 13:22). Jesus also offered this inerrant valuation: What will it profit a man if he gains the whole world and forfeits his soul? (Matthew 16:26) The given is that the soul matters most and that your soul is a poor trade for temporary glory that is stuck in the world.

Which brings us back to true glory, eternal glory, God’s glory. How do we share in His glory? It isn’t by rejecting what He has made but by being able to keep it in the proper place. Many people have not done that. “Do not be conformed to this world” (Romans 12:2). “Demas, in love with this present world” deserted Paul and the gospel (2 Timothy 4:10). “If anyone loves the world, the love of the Father is not in him” (1 John 2:15). These warnings are real and must not be minimized. The question should test us regularly: are we living in the world for God or are we living for the world as god? As image-bearers of God and disciples of Christ we need to get that right.

Making a Contribution

I had a roommate in college who loved to play SimCity. Even though I’ve never been a huge video game sort of guy, he let me play every so often and it was strangely fascinating. At that time, SimCity was a fairly new game without the niche variations available today.

“Sim” in SimCity stands for “simulation.” It means to imitate or make a computer model of something. The goal of the game is to build a thriving city, keeping digital citizens happy and maintaining a stable budget. You, as mayor, start with a given amount of capital and you choose where and what to build. You need transportation (roads, railroads, airports), power companies, stores, schools, and homes for all the people. As the population grows, you also need an adequate amount of police stations and hospitals to keep people safe and healthy. Even in the two-dimensional world, without the complexities of personalities, it gave a bit of appreciate for the challenges of setting up a society.


Unlike SimCity we live in the world where your thumb hurts if you hit it with a hammer, not because you smashed the controller buttons too many times. Here there are life and death consequences without a reset or reboot. Even more unlike SimCity, we are not the architects of humanity, we’re not city mayors or presidents, and certainly we are not God. We do not get to make all the decisions even if we thought we knew all the ways to guarantee a glorious future.

However, even though we don’t get to be the boss, we are all called to build. We don’t get to start with a full back account and open fields, but we do get to invent and design and fix and remodel and renovate. We are cultural construction workers. We’re not building in order to make it nice for Jesus when He returns. We’re building because this is what Jesus made us to do.

As we start our fourth year of Evangel Classical School, I want to remind us who we are, what we’re trying to do, what we’re up against, and why we work hard with humility and laughter.

You are the imago Dei, the image of God. Each one of you, students, parents, and teachers are mirrors of God Himself. God revealed our reflective nature in the story of creation. According to Genesis 1 He made a world for men and then He made men to be makers in the world. Dorothy Sayers wrote the following in her book, The Mind of the Maker:

[W]hen we turn back to see what he says about the original upon which the “image” of God was modeled, we find only the single assertion, “God created.” The characteristic common to God and man is apparently that: the desire and the ability to make things.

The reason you color, cut and paste, write and paint, sing and dance, is because the creative impulse beats in your chest. At some point drawings are not only art for the front of the refrigerator, they become blueprints for better refrigerators. You cut paper made from trees and later you cut trees to make paper. You sing tenor in the school choir and then someday you give your report on the city council; both are better when you contribute your part.

God told Adam and Eve to be fruitful and multiply and fill the earth and subdue it and take dominion. What He had made was great and yet He wanted them to make more great things. God made little makers with minds and hands. You bear God’s creative glory as you create.

ECS exists to equip and encourage culture creators, or at least culture contributors. It takes faith to see how a kindergartner chanting phonogram jingles could one day write a novel that shapes the thinking of generations better than Virgil’s Aeneid. But phonemes become graphemes via penmanship which turns into published books. You will learn names and dates and places, not only so that you can rule at Trivial Pursuit (which you could), or even so that you can be thankful for the good foundation we stand on (which you should), but also so that you would want to do your part in these days in this place.

Not only can we honor Christ in our work, we must work if we want to honor Him. We’re made to make.

Again, we don’t reign on earth as sovereign kings and queens, but we are poets and plumbers and pilots and parents. We do flavor and preserve and influence and shape the world. If you want to be a Christian doctor or nurse, we want you to know the skeletal, muscular, nervous, sensory, reproductive, digestive, circulatory, immune, respiratory, and endocrine systems. We also want you to know in your bones that God loves life. If you want to be a Christian lawyer–and why wouldn’t you?–we want you to know the true law, to love righteousness and hate evil. If you want to start a business or write books or build buildings, then believe that God is pleased with those who do such culture construction.

It is true, however, that all image-bearers are also the bearers of bad news. We are all mirrors of God’s glory, but we are also all broken mirrors due to sin. Sin is what ruins our plans and spoils our relationships. You will, at some point, prefer laziness to labor. You will choose to be angry with a classmate who disagrees with you, or a teacher who corrects you, rather than serve or learn. You will seek to grab rather than contribute. This happens because of sin. The reason the world is so messed up is because of sin.

But we have a Savior. It is of first importance that Christ died for our sins in accordance with the Scriptures, that he was buried, that he was raised on the third day in accordance with the Scriptures. This is the evangel. He saves us and is sanctifying us to be like Him, which includes enjoying and using all the things He has made. Math? He created the problems. Logic? He is the Logos. Poetry? His invented language and lovers and flowers and rhyme and rhythm. Biology, history, Engrade, recess soccer? He is Lord over them all.

One more thing. ECS is a training ground for cultural contributors. You will (hopefully) bear much fruit after you graduate. But you are also creating now. Working hard is never wasted. Loving one another now is loving one another. Confessing rather than covering sin is building, not destroying. The stakes are high, the Savior is great, the new school year is here. It’s not a simulation game. Let’s get to work.

Blood Speaks

Blood speaks. God made the world in such a way that the shedding of blood reverberates.

Cain killed his brother Abel in a field far away from earshot. No one knew because no one could hear Abel yell, or so Cain thought. But God said, “The voice of your brother’s blood is crying out to me from the ground.” The blood cry isn’t a certain pitch, like a dog whistle, that only certain ears can hear. The blood cry is an inescapable principle, even if men try to ignore it.

Life is in the blood and shedding blood is destroying the life of an image-bearer of God. God does not condone when we mar our own image or when we mar another’s man’s reflection. Blood witnesses that worship has gone wrong somewhere, even if the blood is a sacrifice of atonement for sin.

More than a deterrent against shedding blood, the principle that blood speaks is the reason that we are not pessimistic about the world. Yes, hatred and murder and abortion and other evils run rampant. But Jesus shed His blood and His blood makes a cry that will never be forgotten. This is the good news.

The author of Hebrews wrote about Jesus, “the mediator of a new covenant,” and how we who worship Him have come “to the sprinkled blood that speaks a better word than the blood of Abel” (Hebrews 12:24). Abel’s blood cries out for justice. Christ’s blood cries out for for justice and also for justification. God hears the blood of all murdered men, but none more loudly than the blood of His own Son.

Even as we eat and drink Jesus’ body and blood by faith, the “better word,” the saving word of Jesus’ death is proclaimed until He comes.

Driven by Jealousy

Last week I pointed out that God’s call to love one another started in Genesis not with Jesus. The apostle John wrote that this message was “from the beginning” and illustrated how not to do it via Cain’s example. “We should not be like Cain, who was of the evil one and murdered his brother” (1 John 3:12a). Getting mad and murdering is an old story.

Cain killed his own brother. The second half of verse twelve asks and answers: “And why did he murder him? Because his own deeds were evil and his brother’s righteous.” More is happening than bad guy versus good guy. Cain’s evil deeds came from Cain’s evil heart, but not because evil is simply absurd and unpredictable. Sometimes sin is senseless, but more often it has an explanation.

John is not making an argument based on the absurdity of Cain’s murder. “He was of the evil one, so of course he would kill.” John answers the Why? question with a reason, a “because.” Cain’s deeds were evil when he looked at Abel’s. Cain’s hatred was driven by jealousy not by stupidity. Cain wanted Abel’s blessing from God but without the hassle of Abel’s sacrifice to God.

Envy-killing is serious business. John is warning all his readers, meaning that he’s warning the Christians. Watch out especially for envy, even envy of believers who are blessed by God. “I wish I could be [adjective] like him.” “I wish I could have [noun] like her” are dangerous desires. They take the life out of fellowship, unity, gratitude, and joy, even if they don’t put a brother in his grave.

Do not let roots of bitterness grow up into a harvest of jealousy, hatred, and death.

Offerings That Please God

When it comes to offerings that please God, Abel’s was the first, but Jesus’ was the greatest.

Abel offered the first and fattest of his flock. He brought more than leftovers and whatevers like his brother. The cost of Abel’s sacrifice was great, the cost of Christ’s even greater. The offering was “the precious blood of Christ, like that of a lamb without blemish or spot” (1 Peter 1:19). Our High Priest was “holy, innocent, unstained, separated from sinners, and exalted above the heavens” (Hebrews 7:26). His own body and blood were the price of atonement.

Abel made sacrifice as worship in thankfulness. Jesus made sacrifice as substitute for unthankful sinners. Abel’s sheep expressed his obedience and communicated personal affection for God. Christ’s sacrifice redeemed the disobedient and reconciled spiritual adulterers to God.

Cain killed Abel because he was jealous that God received his brother, not him. Christ was killed because His brothers were jealous and God received that death as a sacrifice. We know that when Christ “gave himself up for us” it was “a fragrant offering and sacrifice to God” (Ephesians 5:1-2). God not only regarded His offering but also His offspring. In Christ, the Father receives all of us who believe as justified for eternal life.

As Old as Dirt Made into Man

Jesus commanded His disciples to love one another. He told them that such love would identify them in the world and that He His life was the standard of love. Love for your brother is a distinctive of believers but was actually meant for every image bearer from the beginning.

For this is the message that you have heard from the beginning, that we should love one another. (1 John 3:11)

When is this “beginning”? Maybe John meant the beginning of Jesus’ ministry. But the biblical reports of Jesus’ early message were about calls to repent not calls to love. More likely John’s use of “beginning” refers to the beginning of beginnings, the beginning when the Word was with God and was God and then made all things. The message of brotherly love began in Genesis.

Further evidence for the historic nature of this message follows from John’s illustration in the next verse.

We should not be like Cain, who was of the evil one and murdered his brother. (1 John 3:12a)

We’ll can consider why Cain killed Abel later. For now, let’s meditate on the fact that the call to love is as old as dirt made into man. From the beginning men were created in the image of the God of love and we are to love the people we can see (family, brothers, one another). We are to do it in deed and in truth, not just in word or talk.

According to John “we know that we have passed out of death into life because we love the brothers” and “whoever does not love abides in death” (1 John 3:14). How we treat one another, not merely how many Hebrew or Greek or English words we can list for love, is the behavior expected from the beginning.