God, the Benevolent Dictator

I cringe when I hear an older, experienced pastor naively say, “God is a Gentleman…hee, hee, hee. He would never force…nor impose His will upon you…” I then wonder what his name is, for the God of Scripture is revealed as a Benevolent Dictator who always acts according to His predetermined plan in the lives of the wicked and saints alike to bring glory unto Himself and redemption unto His elect. (What Bible have they been reading? And we won’t even get started on the young whippersnapper preachers rolling into pulpits today from liberal Bible colleges and seminaries.)

Do you think it an accident the Lord of glory was crucified? And do you think it anything other than grace that you today happen to love Christ and despise the sin that you once loved?

Or… Do you think you can escape sin you now love and are intimately married to…apart from God overthrowing your rebellion, changing your heart, and commanding you to life from death into the freedom of knowing the Son? If God does not act to impose grace and His sovereign will upon you, you perish in sin. It’s that simple. He makes you willing to do His will. You can’t do that in your natural flesh.

Acts 2:23 (NASB)

“…this Man, delivered over by the predetermined plan and foreknowledge of God, you nailed to a cross by the hands of godless men and put Him to death.”

God has a plan. It will not and cannot fail. Ours is to discover this plan and ensure we become worshippers of the One who can reveal or conceal the Father. 

If your God is not as I have described… then just what idol of your own creation are you worshipping? Repent and bow to Creator God, Sovereign Lord of Heaven and Earth. It matters Who you worship. You have absolutely no right and no authority to ignorantly attempt to remake God; He has revealed Himself to be, I AM that I AM. He will have no other gods before Him. He is a jealous God. And He is good.

Matthew 11:25-27 (NASB)

At that time Jesus said, “I praise You, Father, Lord of heaven and earth, that You have hidden these things from the wise and intelligent and have revealed them to infants. “Yes, Father, for this way was well-pleasing in Your sight. “All things have been handed over to Me by My Father; and no one knows the Son except the Father; nor does anyone know the Father except the Son, and anyone to whom the Son wills to reveal Him.

Joy in Loving God and Loving Stuff… 

Luke 16:15 (NASB)And He said to them, “You are those who justify yourselves in the sight of men, but God knows your hearts; for that which is highly esteemed among men is detestable in the sight of God.”

Jesus

I think it important to distinguish between essential evil and idolatry. It is uncommon for a “thing” (anything) to touch and embrace essential evil or evil incarnate. Abominations are evil. We know they exist, and maybe we struggle with a few or more… By the contrary and confusing standard of stupid legalism Asceticism is deceptive and attracts the flesh in a perverse religious way as it enhances the illusion of righteousness… self-righteousness. That’s worth a lot in the “wood, hay, stubble” category. Stuff is generally neither an abomination in origin or essence. Stay with me please.

“All things are lawful to me but I will not be mastered by anything. All things are lawful… not all are profitable…not all edify…” (1 Corth 10) Yet, something greater is at stake. There is a greater governing principle a serious-minded Christ-follower must be confronted by. The Pharisee of all ages (times) refuses the greater principle as his preference is pleasure over glory to God. 

Idolatry is that which catapults a thing or thought to supersede beyond its boundary and into the arena of interference with foundational love for God by a subtle or overt attachment to the hidden heart. All such encumbering weights corrupt worship and are therefore detestable in God’s sight. Everything is on the table in such cases. Everything. Anything can be a help or hinderance. Take this iPhone for example…

The really strange thing is that all (most) things morphed to the detestable idol category in God’s eyes are okay and often essential things in their proper sphere. They certainly are permissible when used and even loved in proper context. God has provided to us all things in their proper place. He is the Giver of every good and perfect gift from above. (Spend time with the Preacher in Ecclesiastes for clarity… or confusion.)

Jack speaks to this in the Screwtape Letters.

Screwtape to Wormwood:

“Never forget that when we are dealing with any pleasure in its healthy and normal and satisfying form, we are, in a sense, on the Enemy’s ground. I know we have won many a soul through pleasure. All the same, it is His invention, not ours. He made all the pleasures: all our research so far has not enabled us to produce one. All we can do is to encourage the humans to take pleasures which our Enemy has produced, at times, or in ways, or in degrees, which He has forbidden. Hence we always try to work away from the natural condition of any pleasure to that in which it is least natural, least redolent of its Maker, and least pleasurable.” 

#CSLewis
Conclusion:

1 Corinthians 10:31 (NASB)

“Whether, then, you eat or drink or whatever you do, do all to the glory of God.”

  Herein lies not only a safety net but a driving principle of glory to a higher calling to Another’s standard and perspective that ensures joy without condemnation. 

We need never neglect the cross as the instrument of death that Jesus embraced for us and that He subsequently calls us to daily carry with Him.

Do I Worship an Icon or God?

The ever-present danger of intellectual formalism is its capacity to woo me to comfortably tolerate a cold reductionism of saving religion to signs and symbols. In an icon-driven society we can stealthily become “icon-worshipers” rather than a people who are preeminently relational in our religion. We can discover the value of form and practice as paramount to and the equivalent of walking with God as His imitators. We imitate a practice rather than God. Putting to death the deeds of the flesh can become a mission of dealing out retribution to those who disagree with me over my icon. (An icon sure sounds similar to an idol.) Jesus said it simply and concisely to the Formalists of His day, “You search the Scriptures, and it is these that testify of Me, but you will not come to Me that you may have life.” My Bible can be my idol or icon I substitute for my God. 

If my good habits, my disciplined duties and even zealous religious practices are not enhancing my entry into the close proximity of His actual light and presence, to the end of a required and desired change of my heart and essence, then I need to abandon the form that hinders and simply start over. I must come to Christ for life. I must do that every day. That is not once-for-all… “I die daily.”

My religion when functioning near the Biblical norm is intensely personal and obligatory to a supremely worthy and intrusive God who demands my good through His nonnegotiable Lordship of even the most insignificant details of my life. (If the hairs of my head are numbered… what can possibly be insignificant to this God?) Furthermore, His dominion of my life is perfectly reasonable to me and my supreme desire lived our in response to His call to be His disciple. Discipleship requires a ransack of the old to know true life as a new creation. We don’t buy nor sell “cheap grace.” (Bonhoeffer)

The Lord Jesus Christ is not an icon. He is my Friend by faith who loved me and actually gave Himself up for me, and He bids me do the same for Him. There is and must be a mystical aspect of my walk with God as He, the unseen God, governs my all by His Spirit, and I see Him do it as He speaks to me in the Way. That sounds pretty mystical to me yet I perceive it to be more real and enduring than all I see, for it touches eternity. 

“Knowledge makes arrogant; love edifies.”

“He who dwells in the shelter of the Most High will abide in the shadow of the Almighty.”

So God offers His shadow as my shelter. That’s beyond an icon to a Biblical theophany I pursue as worthy.  

 
Photo by George Dobbs. A friend and adventurer who is a hybrid form of Jeremiah Johnson and Ansel Adams.