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.”

Strong “Ewww” Reflexes

Maybe the only threat more grave to our souls than unrighteousness is self-righteousness. Both make us enemies of God, the former by honest rebellion and the latter by dishonest resistance.

If our consciences are working, either by the Spirit or common grace, then the last section of Genesis 19 turns our stomachs. But we need it to turn them in such a way that we appreciate God’s mercy more than we appreciate that we are not like Lot and his daughters.

The girls exaggerated their misfortune, premeditated their manipulation, and dishonored their father in more ways than one. For Lot’s part, it’s almost as if he enjoyed the opportunity to get drunk in his self-pity and forget everything he lost. The sons of this incestuous perversion, Moab and Ben-ammi, were the fruit of selfishness, weakness, and unbelief. Thank goodness Lot’s plot line is over.

Until we get to Ruth, the Moabites. This Moabites married Boaz, the great-grandfather of King David. This Moabite woman is in the genealogy of Jesus. She’s mentioned by name in Matthew 1, the first chapter of the good news of the New Testament.

The point is “Jesus came into the world to save sinners” (1 Timothy 1:15), and not just the “good” sinners. He really identifies with the ungodly, on the cross, and even in His family tree. Our invitation to the Table of communion depends on His mercy, not because we sinned in “natural” ways or have strong “ewww” reflexes.

If we want to compare, let us compare correctly. We compare ourselves with God’s standard, not to others. So we eat and drink and boast, not that we are not like other men, but that God is merciful to us, sinners. He knows what we’re capable of and He is glad to have us here because of Christ’s death and resurrection, and that is amazing.

The Life Behind

One of Jesus’ primary teachings is about losing and keeping. Anyone who tries to keep his life will lose it, but anyone who loses his life because of following Christ will keep it. This isn’t about leadership style, it’s about eternal life, and it has application in every relationship you can think of. It also isn’t one strategy for success “God’s way.” It is the only way to salvation.

All four Gospel writers cover this teaching. That doesn’t give it more authority—God only needs to say something once, but the repetition does highlight that it’s a big deal, especially for hard heads. Luke put it in his Gospel twice (9:24; 17:33), and the second time he included the part when Jesus named a name of someone who lost big.

Warning about the possibility of judgment coming when least expected, Jesus said:

Remember Lot’s wife. Whoever seeks to preserve his life will lose it, but whoever loses his life will keep it. (Luke 17:32–33)

Moses didn’t mention much about Mrs. Lot in Genesis 19. Presumably she was a Sodomite, a native of Sodom, since Lot was single in the previous chapters. Even if she wasn’t from the city, she wanted to stay there. Lot was slow to leave, she was slower, she was “behind him” on their way out of town (Genesis 19:26). And though one of the angels told them not to look back, she did and became a pillar of salt.

Jesus wasn’t saying that those who look back and long to keep their life will become a salt statue, but they will still lose. Don’t fall for the allurements of the world, and don’t try to take it all with you. The life ahead is not just better, the life behind is not life at all.

Our Cultural Garden

The Supreme Court of the United States ruled last Friday that no State has the right to make it illegal for a man to “marry” a man and for a woman to “marry” a woman. This is on the heels of national news and controversy over a man changing himself into a woman (adding some female parts to his male parts). Some women are mad that this defines womanhood according to bodily features, and pink nail polish. There is also outrage over the Confederate flag presumed to represent motives behind the murder of nine people in Charleston even though no outrage is directed over the US flag which flies over thousands of murders day by day, all claimed it in the name of “liberty.” And, of course, our celebration of Independence Day is a couple days away. Do we, as those who worship the LORD God, Creator of heaven and earth, have a way to explain what we see? Do we have any message in the midst of this?

I took a (sort of) break from Genesis last Sunday to preach about these questions. In fact, I think the ancient chapters of the Bible reveal decisive answers for now.

Let’s start with an argument from greater to lesser. If man entertains the idea that he could be God, then it is less difficult for him to entertain the idea that he could be not a man. He could fancy himself to be a woman. He could figure he could do with another man what he could do with a woman. The step from heterosexuality to homosexuality is shorter than the step from humanity into divinity. Jumping between genders is easier than jumping into deity.

If a pot toys with trying to be the Potter, it is less surprising if a pot toys with trying to be a plate rather than a pot. A man who believes he could be God could believe he could be, or do, anything.

The greater sin is exactly what happened in the Garden of Eden. The woman believed the serpent when he told her that if she ate of the fruit, her eyes would be opened and she would be like God (Genesis 3:5). She would be free from His throttle and restraints. Whatever it was exactly that motivated the man to eat, when he did, he claimed by his conduct that he knew better than God. He put himself in the position of judging God. He was all the god he needed.

Where does that end? Once a man decides that he doesn’t need to listen to God, why should he listen to “nature,” or science, or history, or court rulings, or neighbors? He trumps God; who can trump him?

Abortion and same-sex mirage (as Doug Wilson can’t help but continue to call it) under government license, or ESPN giving Bruce Jenner a “courage” award, each of these sins are found in seed form in Adam’s rebellion. The sins in our cultural garden are not worse than the sin in the first garden. All sins stem from denying the Creator’s authority.

Romans reveals this same chain of sin. A man who rejects God the Creator, who will not honor Him or give Him thanks, exchanges the glory of God for that of man. “Since they did not see fit to acknowledge God, God gave them up to a debased mind to do what ought not to be done” (Romans 1:28). Men worship and serve the creature, including themselves, and

For this reason God gave them up to dishonorable passions. For their women exchanged natural relations for those that are contrary to nature; and the men likewise gave up natural relations with women and were consumed with passion for one another, men committing shameless acts with men and receiving in themselves the due penalty for their error. (Romans 1:26–27)

This is part of the reason why our attention to Genesis changes culture, even if that is only visible in the little cultures/communities of our life together. Genesis 2:24 is a great definition of marriage, but we first need a great understanding of God, the One who gives life and makes marriage. Seeing Him as the creative Giver of all our good, and seeing the serpent as a subtle deceiver, changes how we listen to our options.

Living together, fornication, easy (no-fault) divorce, adultery, are all forms of covenant breaking that disregard God’s word. Though there have always been some abnormally immoral, we are now in a time when that sort of immorality is claimed to be normal. In one sense we’ve worked up to the extreme cases, in another sense we still haven’t done anything as stupid as try to be God.

The original sin went contrary to nature. What should have been more obvious than that man was not God? Man’s defiance was perverse (deviating from what was right and good), dishonorable (shameful, not exalting), and destructive. So it is with every sin, and some are more obvious. Men and women act contrary to nature–as defined by nature’s Maker–and this is the inevitable consequence when men do not see fit to acknowledge God.