Pots Throwing Pieces

I bit the bait and clicked an inflammatory link a while back that permanently burned my brain. A straightforward tweet asked: What is the most offensive verse in the Bible? and promised an answer behind a click. The answer surprised me, stirred me, and settled for me so much of our cultural, and even Christian and Christian cultural, woes.

The most offensive verse in the Bible is Genesis 1:1. In the beginning, God created the heavens and the earth.

If that verse is true–and I believe it without hedging or hesitation, without a wink or crossed fingers behind the back–then God must be acknowledged as Creator, thanked as Maker, and obeyed as Lord by all. This God who created the world rules the world and He makes the rules for the world. He does not need anyone’s counsel, nor does He ask for it or take it. He did not create in order to disclaim His authority but rather to demonstrate it.

He has told you, O man, what is good;

and what does the LORD require of you 
 but to do justice, and to love kindness,

and to walk humbly with your God? (Micah 6:8)

What is good for man requires man to submit to God. What is this strange word, “submit”? It means to do what someone else says.

As the t-shirt so memorably exhorts: There is a God, and you’re not Him. Resistance is futile, like clay pots throwing pieces of themselves at the Potter, destroying themselves in the process.

We would do well to take the posture and pray in a way similar as Jesus did, “Not my world, but Yours be done.”

As Reliable as the Sunrise

On the night He was betrayed, Jesus told His disciples that the cup poured out for them was the new covenant in His blood (Luke 22:20). It is the sign of the promise revealed in Ezekiel 36 and Jeremiah 31. The Lord committed to Israel that He would cleanse their sins, take away their hearts of stone, give them hearts of flesh, and cause each of them to know Him. This covenant stands out because it depends wholly on the Lord. As it’s been observed, no man can give himself a heart transplant.

Not only is this promise unconditional, it is also as reliable as the sunrise. Jeremiah explains what would need to happen before this promise could fail.

“Behold, the days are coming, declares the LORD, when I will make a new covenant with the house of Israel and the house of Judah, not like the covenant that I made with their fathers on the day when I took them by the hand to bring them out of the land of Egypt, my covenant that they broke, though I was their husband, declares the LORD. For this is the covenant that I will make with the house of Israel after those days, declares the LORD: I will put my law within them, and I will write it on their hearts. And I will be their God, and they shall be my people. And no longer shall each one teach his neighbor and each his brother, saying, ‘Know the LORD,’ for they shall all know me, from the least of them to the greatest, declares the LORD. For I will forgive their iniquity, and I will remember their sin no more.”
Thus says the LORD,
who gives the sun for light by day
and the fixed order of the moon and the stars for light by night,
who stirs up the sea so that its waves roar—
the LORD of hosts is his name:
“If this fixed order departs
from before me, declares the LORD,
then shall the offspring of Israel cease
from being a nation before me forever.” (Jeremiah 31:31–36)

God established the light and seasons of the sun to teach us about His strength and faithfulness. Through these God also shows His joy. As Chesterton speculated in his book Orthodoxy, “It is possible that God says every morning, ‘Do it again’ to the sun.” He does not get tired of calling the sun into place, and He does not tire of keeping His promises.

We Gentiles partake as the overflow of the new covenant life. There is a season when God is grafting in those who had no promise to receive the salvation, and even this is part of God’s plan to finally save Israel (Romans 11:25-27).

As we eat and drink communion week by week, as we cross off days on the calendar until the Son comes, as we take it for granted when our weather apps say the sun will come up tomorrow, then we have reason to trust God in all His good words to us.

What Fits?

What sort of behavior belongs with the God who created heaven and earth? When we receive His revelation about His effective word that brought about being in blankness, what other kinds of conduct would be characteristic? What else does a sovereign God do that fits His demeanor?

World leaders enter meetings with elaborate ceremonies and fanfare. What about the world Maker? World leaders travel with security and command armies? What about the world Maker? World leaders allot meeting times in five minute increments and control that time to show who has the power. What about the world Maker?

The author of Hebrews reveals what fits with our God.

For it was fitting that he, for whom and by whom all things exist, in bringing many sons to glory, should make the founder of their salvation perfect through suffering. (Hebrews 2:10)

The magnificent, matchless God does not hoard glory, He intends to share it. He is “bringing many sons to glory.” He gives life to children and then invests in our inheritance. The transcendent, incomparable God also does not stay aloof. He sent His Son and wrote His story as one of suffering. He came down to our level and endured pain at the hands of His own rather than pageantry. This is the world Maker. This fits Him.

We are saved and we are being sanctified by the power of a transcendent Creator of the universe. And it is also true that it is fitting for the incarnate Son to call us “brothers.” I say all of this because we ought both to fear God and to know that He is glad with us in Christ. It is fitting for Him to receive us. When we confess our sins, we need to remember to whom we confess.

Less Mary Poppins Snapping

Why did God create an unformed and unfilled mass of earth first (Genesis 1:1-2)? Why was Stage One at the beginning of day one a watery wilderness and wasteland? Why not create it all with one word, heaven and earth and creatures and man? For that matter, why create with only one man and woman? He created forests of trees and swarms of birds, why not create with a full population with full cell coverage and free smart phones for all?

One reason we can observe in Genesis 1 and from 6,000 years or so of history is that God enjoys the process. The process is His idea. He invented helpless babies. It is a selling point, not a glitch, that they have to grow up into maturity, physical and spiritual. He thought organizing should take a while, more Snow White whistling while working and less Mary Poppins snapping to make the work magically disappear. He instituted seeds and photosynthesis and buds budding and fruit fruiting and doing it all over again next year. Not only did He declare these things to be good, He decided that these things were the best for showing His glory.

Seeds grew into grain for bread and grapes for wine. But it doesn’t stop there. As we eat and drink at the communion table by faith, we are being refined. He is growing us, increasing our love for Him and likeness to His Son. He continues, week by week, to make us less of a mess. We were unformed and unfilled. Now He put His law in our hearts and sheds His love abroad in there, too. It’s a God work of new creation, and by His Spirit He is making us into something the world can use.

An Airtight Case

The only thing required to be guilty before God is to do nothing. Men transgress God’s law on purpose more than the evening news has time to report. But they can and do sin before getting out of bed in the morning and when they crawl under the covers after a day of ignoring God.

One of the scariest paragraphs in the Bible covers a legal ramification of creation. While the author of Hebrews acknowledges that we only understand that God made the world by faith, Paul warns that every man who doesn’t praise God for making the world is guilty in his unbelief.

For what can be known about God is plain to them, because God has shown it to them. For his invisible attributes, namely, his eternal power and divine nature, have been clearly perceived, ever since the creation of the world, in the things that have been made. So they are without excuse. For although they knew God, they did not honor him as God or give thanks to him, but they became futile in their thinking, and their foolish hearts were darkened. (Romans 1:19–21)

God can be and is known by everyone at some level. His invisible attributes, at least in His power and divine personhood, have been clearly perceived in the visible world. Every man who breathes has an airtight case against him. All he has to do to deserve wrath is nothing, to fail to honor God or give Him thanks. Many men talk a good game about their earthly knowledge and give one another honorary PhDs, but “claiming to be wise, they become fools.”

How much more ought Christians, a people of faith, a people alive to God, a people who serve righteousness, to live godly and righteous in the present age by honoring and thanking God? This is part of what it means for us to live by faith. We cannot be satisfied doing nothing, and our confidence in six day creation and our apologetics against evolution will not please God if we don’t worship Him.