This is the first post in a series covering Dan Phillips' book "The World-Tilting Gospel: Embracing a Biblical Worldview & Hanging on Tight". (Available through Amazon.com. Kindle download available now, paperback set to ship August 1.) A word of warning: This post will be rather long, so pack a lunch. :)
I'm not a professional literary critic, nor am I an academician. This series of posts is from the point of view of a person who loves Jesus and God's Word and seeks to better understand the Christian faith. I know what I believe, but often have trouble putting that into concrete terms. That being said, this is my humble attempt to give an "everyday Christian" perspective, and my hope is that God will be glorified through it.
Let's get started, shall we?
I'm somewhat envious of first-century Christians. They were taught about Jesus from people who actually knew Him; who heard His words from His own mouth! They believed and were saved because they accepted that the Apostles' teaching from God's Word was God's Word. Those first-century Christians believed because the leaders spoke to them with authority from Scripture. They understood that they needed a Savior because God's Word revealed their condition as desperately sick. Once they were saved, they went out and practiced their faith and told others the Good News. First-century Christians held a "whole-Bible" (as it was at the time) worldview.
Desperately sick? Me?
The first chapter of "The World-Tilting Gospel" (hereafter "WTG") deals with what is called our "heart". In this case, our heart is more accurately described as our mind. To quote Dan Phillips, "It's the fountainhead of the way we live (Proverbs 4:23). It is the seat not only of our emotions, but of our calculated plans (Genesis 6:5, Proverbs 16:1,9, etc.), our intellect (Proverbs 18:15), our values (Matthew 15:18), and our decisions (1 Corinthians 7:37)."
Jeremiah 17:9 in the Amplified Bible tells us, "The heart is deceitful above all things, and it is exceedingly perverse and corrupt and severely, mortally sick! Who can know it [perceive, understand, be acquainted with his own heart and mind]?"
Because our hearts are sick and corrupt, it affects our view of everything. Looking through the lens of our own minds, we see a distorted vision of God and His Word, and we see a distorted vision of our own condition.
Dan gives examples of 3 different approaches to God. The first is someone who is "a decent, moral, well-meaning guy" who views God as "the grand Rubber Stamp in the Sky", Jesus is "Facilitator, Enabler, Cheerleader" rather than Savior, and the Cross is "an expression of God's love and approval." This person decided to add Jesus to his life, like an accessory.
The second and third examples are people who understand that they need a Savior, but one gets caught up in works, with the belief that he can gain and maintain God's favor by so doing. The other believes that she must become totally inert and all but cease to exist for God to be able to do anything. This third example shows a person who is "yielding to God" and "waiting on the LORD" by doing nothing, lest God be hampered.
In all three examples, the person takes the initiative in the salvation process, and because of the distorted lens of the heart, it's possible that each is wrong about himself, wrong about God, and wrong about the relationship between himself and Jesus.
Only God can truly know what's in our hearts. Jeremiah 17:10a states, "I, the LORD, search the heart, I test the mind" (NKJV). He searches our hearts and minds and applies His holy standards to diagnose us. We may think we're a-ok, but God sees everything and knows different. We're anything but ok.
How can we know about ourselves and God?
We can know about ourselves and God by turning to Scripture and learning its precepts. Scripture is "God's unalloyed, inerrant disclosure of Himself and His diagnosis of the human condition. What the Bible says, God says."
Jesus treated Scripture as God's Word and made it clear that it could not be outranked or supplanted by man made doctrine (Mark 7:6-13). Jesus taught from what we call the Old Testament with authority, knowing that it was the truth. We need to start from the beginning to be able to fully grasp who we were, how we got to be that way, and how God planned and went about transforming us.
Notes of Interest
Dan gives us a lesson in Hebrew, noting that the word Jeremiah uses for "heart" is very closely related to the name "Jacob", which means "heel-catcher"; someone who trips someone up to take advantage of him. Jacob was a conniver and a trickster, looking out for Number One, and that Jeremiah used such a play on words lets us know exactly what kind of heart we have.
Elsewhere in the chapter, Dan lets us know that the Hebrew word used to describe "sick" describes an incurable condition, like an incurable cancer, rather than a temporary illness that will go away in time. It's a spiritual cancer.
"Finally!" you say. :)
Dan has established, using Scripture, that we are stricken with an incurable cancer of the spirit. Our hearts are so sick that we view ourselves and God through a deceitful, distorted lens, and only God can truly see what's inside us. We may think that we're in control of our relationship with God because He's waiting for us to do something, but we don't really have much of anything to offer. By turning to the Bible, we can know about ourselves and God, and what the cure is for our desperate condition.