Wednesday, August 24, 2011

The World-Tilting Gospel - A Study & Review Part 4a

This is a continuation of a series studying "The World-Tilting Gospel: Embracing a Biblical Worldview & Hanging on Tight" by Dan Phillips. Note: Block quotes in italics are from the book, and used with permission. Scripture quotations are NKJV unless otherwise noted.

As with chapter 3, I will cover chapter 4 in parts. There's a lot of "meat" to "chew on". :)

Part Two of "WTG" begins with Chapter 4, "The God Who Plans". Dan opens the chapter by having us imagine a scene in an operating room, with a major surgery underway. He has us wonder why such a large-scale operation is necessary; what catastrophic condition requires such drastic measures. He segues into a vivid accounting of Jesus in the Garden of Gethsemane, praying. Dan writes:
"It is nighttime. Before us, we immediately recognize the figure of Jesus Christ - but we are seeing Him as no one has ever seen Him. This man who has stared down thousands of hell's foulest demons without blinking, who has shut up storms with a curt word of command, who has reduced the human powers to babbling, loose-bowelled nonsense - is falling down in horror, and He is pleading with His Father."
 Dan goes on to recount Christ's arrest, trial, crucifixion and death. He doesn't go into excruciating detail, but he doesn't really gloss over the realities, either. His descriptions, while brief, strike the right balance of delivering the facts without going overboard into horror-movie territory. 

Why was Jesus' death on the cross absolutely necessary for the recovery and redemption of man? From what ruin were we saved, and was it really that bad? 

We've learned that by our sin nature, we're dead, doomed, helpless and completely disinterested in seeking a relationship with God as God and Lord, and our own efforts to improve our situation often makes things worse. We must have a biblical understanding of God, to Whom we must give account. 

What Kind of God is God?

The living God of the Bible is described repeatedly and emphatically in moral terms, in language bristling with that element we hate in our postmodern culture: value judgments.
 Dan singles out three of God's traits, the first of which we'll look at in this post. 

God Is Holy

Holiness is a central character trait of God. Isaiah 57:15 reads, "For thus says the High and Lofty One who inhabits eternity, whose name is Holy." By saying God's "name is Holy", Isaiah is saying that holiness is a fundamental defining trait of God. It is essential to His moral existence.

Holiness is the only attribute of God that is declared in threefold repetition. In Isaiah 6:3 we find seraphim  crying out saying, "Holy, holy, holy is the LORD of hosts; The whole earth is full of His glory!" 

God's holiness will also never change. Revelation 4:8 reads, in part, "Holy, holy, holy, Lord God Almighty. Who was and is and is to come." God was holy, God is holy, and God will always be holy. His holiness must not be isolated from His other attributes, however. Rather, God's holiness describes His other attributes. His love is a holy love. His goodness is a holy goodness, and so forth and so on. 

There is no "God is holy, but"; there is only "God is holy, and."
What, then, is holiness? The basic idea of holiness is separation, apartness, transcendence. God has no rival, peer or equal. He is lofty, removed from mankind and His name is Holy.

God is self-existent, dependent on nothing for His being, unlike everything else. He is independent of creation. By contrast, all created things are dependent on the sustaining work of God the Son, even to the atomic level. Colossians 1:17 says, "And He [Jesus] is before all things, and in Him all things consist."

Dan offers several illustrations of the impact of God's holiness to help us understand. The first illustration is Moses' encounter with God at the burning bush. Moses was told to take his sandals off because the presence of God made it "holy ground" (Exodus 3:5). It was set apart from all the other ground because God's presence was there at that moment.

The second illustration is that God set apart the seventh day as a day of rest because He rested (Genesis 2:3). He later told Israel to set the seventh day apart from the others (Exodus 20:8). 

The third and probably most detailed illustration Dan gives is that of the tabernacle. The description of the tabernacle can be found in Exodus 26. 

What makes all these things holy isn't their physical attributes or any magical qualities. They are "holy" by virtue of their association with God.

God is the original; He is the definition; He is the source. God naturally possesses holiness by virtue of being God. Holiness is not conferred on God, or achieved by Him. He is holy because He is who He is. He is 'the Holy One of Israel.' When we give Him a holy place as Lord in our hearts (Isa. 8:13; 1 Peter 3:15), we add nothing to Him. We are only crediting Him with being what He is in truth.
 In the OT, when anyone is in the presence of God, they are overwhelmed by His holiness. Likewise, when Peter got a brief glimpse of Christ's nature, he was driven to his knees, unable to bear His presence. (Luke 5:8). 

Personal Notes

In our finite minds, it's difficult to grasp God's holiness. We tend to make God "one of the guys". He's not just like us, and we tread on dangerous ground when we try to make God fit our ideas of how we think He should be. That's why it's so vital that we read, learn and understand Scripture. 

This first part of chapter 4 was much easier to read through than it was to try to summarize. :) I strongly encourage you to get a copy of the book (links are at the beginning of each post, and at the right-hand side of the page). As I said at the beginning of this post, there's a lot of well-written "meat". What I've written here is the equivalent of bacon bits, but I am learning as I write. :)

Coming Up Next...

The next post will cover the second Central Truth: God is Love. 

Have a blessed day!


Sunday, August 14, 2011

A Brief Interlude

To be honest, I'm not sure how brief the interlude will be. Maybe we'll all be surprised. :)

I realize it has been 2 weeks since I posted an installment in the study series. I haven't given up on this project, however. It's something that I feel I need to do, and I am still enthusiastically endorsing the book. I do have a husband and two daughters who also require my attention, so the last couple of weeks have been spent taking care of them (and it's a joy to do so). :) To those who have been following my little blog, I thank you for your patience. :)

My family and I have been through many trials over the past 6 years, and I've come to realize that even when things look bleak, we are blessed. Sometimes, especially when one is in the middle of circumstances, it's difficult to see the point of the trials, and it's difficult not to worry. I've had to ask forgiveness for worrying many, many times, but God has seen us through every valley and strengthened us. He is worthy of all praise, and I am very thankful.

Just sayin'.


The World-Tilting Gospel - A Study & Review Part 3c

This is "Part C" covering chapter 3 of "The World-Tilting Gospel: Embracing a Biblical Worldview & Hanging on Tight" by Dan Phillips, and a continuation of my study series on the book. Block quotes in italics are from the book and used with permission. Bible verse quotations are from the NKJV unless otherwise noted. Part one is here. Part two is here. Part 3a is here. Part 3b is here.

Dead Like Me

The apostle Paul vividly depicts our natural condition in the book of Ephesians; chapters 2 and 4 specifically. We learn just how bad things were for us, thereby revealing how grand God's salvation through Christ really is.

Ephesians 2:1-3 reads, "And you [He made alive], when you were dead (slain) by [your] trespasses and sins in which at one time you walked [habitually]. You were following the course and fashion of this world [were under the sway of the tendency of this present age], following the prince of the power of the air. [You were obedient to and under the control of] the [demon] spirit that still constantly works in the sons of disobedience [the careless, the rebellious, and the unbelieving, who go against the purposes of God]. Among these we as well as you once lived and conducted ourselves in the passions of our flesh [our behavior governed by our corrupt and sensual nature], obeying the impulses of the flesh and the thoughts of the mind [our cravings dictated by our senses and our dark imaginings]. We were then by nature children of [God's] wrath and heirs of [His] indignation, like the rest of mankind." (Amplified Bible) 

Dan explains it in plain English:
Paul says that we are dead. Not "resting". Not "pining for the Fjords". Not "getting better". Not "only mostly dead". Not merely sick and weak, though we are that (Rom. 5:6; 8:3). Dead.

Death has no degrees. It is an absolute. If one is dead, that's it. That's how Paul describes our spiritual condition. The Greek word for "dead" means DEAD. All are spiritually dead, bereft of the blessings of God, unable to extricate ourselves from the grip of sin. Sin not only makes us behave badly, it makes us think badly (remember the distorted lens of the heart [mind] in part 1?), and we don't even know it. Without Christ, we are hopeless, helpless, shut off and cut off.

Dan paints a scene, asking us to imagine walking into a morgue. We have an elixir that will bring the dead back to life, but those in the morgue have to get up and drink it. No matter how persuasive we may be, freely offering this life-giving elixir, the dead won't respond. Once again, I'll let Dan speak:
My point: If there is to be a rescue operation for us as children of Adam, aimed at bringing us to anything like God meant us to be, it has to overcome not only our sin and depravity, but the fact that sin makes us utterly uninterested in the solution. In fact, we would be repelled by it.
Proverbs 4:23 reads, "Keep your heart with all diligence, for out of it spring the issues of life."

Jeremiah 17:9 reads, "The heart is deceitful above all things, and desperately wicked; Who can know it?"

Ephesians 2:1 reads, "And you He made alive, who were dead in trespasses and sins" 

Romans 8:7 reads, "Because the carnal mind is enmity against God; for it is not subject to the law of God, nor indeed can be."

John 6:44a reads, "No one can come to Me unless the Father who sent Me draws him."


The way we see ourselves and the way God sees us are exact opposites. We see ourselves as basically good, or at least having good intentions, lively and living life. God sees that our hearts are desperately wicked and that we're spiritually dead. That sounds like the worst news ever! There is a solution, which will be covered in the next chapters of "The World-Tilting Gospel".

Personal Notes

Reading this section of chapter 3 was a real "light bulb moment" for me. Knowing that because of sin, man's heart is wicked, and that man is spiritually dead, how is it possible for him to want to seek God? Do the dead "choose life"? It is just as impossible for those who are spiritually dead to "choose Christ" as it is for the physically dead to choose to stand up and start breathing again. 

Quite frankly, I was on the fence as to whether we choose or are chosen. In my Bible reading, I couldn't ignore the verses that indicate that it is God who chooses us, and those that say that no one seeks God. But I also felt that maybe it was a case of "God knows who's going to choose and who won't."  Dan's explanation makes sense. Dead is dead, whether it's physical or spiritual, and it's God who brings life. We don't have the capability in and of ourselves.

Coming Up Next

We'll be moving on to Part Two of "The World-Tilting Gospel", where Dan asks, "What Has God Done for Us? The Eternal Plan Conceived, Predicted, Executed."

God willing, it won't be two weeks before the next post. :)