MORALISM VERSUS GODSPEAK

WHY GOD’S KINGDOM IS A FAR CRY FROM WHAT MORALISM PREACHES

“Imagine yourself as a living house. God comes in to rebuild that house. At first, perhaps, you can understand what He is doing. He is getting the drains right and stopping the leaks in the roof and so on; you knew that those jobs needed doing and so you are not surprised. But presently He starts knocking the house about in a way that hurts abominably and does not seem to make any sense. What on earth is He up to? The explanation is that He is building quite a different house from the one you thought of – throwing out a new wing here, putting on an extra floor there, running up towers, making courtyards. You thought you were being made into a decent little cottage: but He is building a palace. He intends to come and live in it Himself.”
C.S. Lewis, Mere Christianity

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Oftentimes, I tend to hear both friends and strangers alike ask me about why I study theology. Nearly nine times out of ten, I am also asked-in the same breath-why I did not want to pursue another occupation and ‘top up’ to my theological studies. These queries, though distressing and frustrating at times, are in my opinion, vital to bringing clarity to my innate affinity for all things God. It is this very thing that I’d like to tackle today in hopes that it will shed light on some critical issues that vex the heart and trouble the mind in matters regarding the divine.

I’ve grown up in a Christian home, with a godly family–all of whom are devoted followers of Jesus. My parents have always tried their best to ensure that my sister and I lived morally acceptable lives in the sight of God and men. Whereas I do not have any qualms with this perception-primarily because parents have a special kind of wisdom when it comes to handling their children-I still struggled with this matter. And struggle with it did I do, for a very long time. You see, I understood then as I understand now that parents’ intentions reflect their hearts. They are wired to ensure that their children flourish, prosper and become people of good-standing and repute in the community.

Now, my struggles came in a two-fold manner; I did not know what it really meant to be good and how that was accomplished, and secondly I did not understand what God’s big deal was and what he intended/desired from me. In all honesty, growing up, these two struggles gave me a warped view of what the very definition of good and evil was! For example, if I never drank alcohol or slept around, I saw myself as a ‘better’ person than the ones who did these things. As though to add insult to injury (as old as this cliche expression is), I would judge these people by my own moral standards. What a darkness I lived in, and I did not even have a clue of how wrong I truly was.

The other struggle manifested itself in my life when I realized that I really liked moralists/teachers of moralism. The televangelists who belted out fire and brimstone on the television screen would quickly receive a huge, thundering “Amen!” from me. Yet, in my deepest, darkest hours during those times I sat alone with no one watching me, I struggled in silence. As Lecrae once rightly put it (God bless his heart), “I was sipping on some secret scene, [believing that] no one would ever love you [i.e. me]”. I really did not get it and these problems really began to show up in my high school years. I really did not know what I was doing or what I had believed in was truly something I could call “Christianity” (How many people right now are masquerading under this identity but are doing ill and hurting many in the process? Is it possible to pray for them and hope they encounter the Living God of whom they claim to represent?).

This dark veil over my eyes began to break over my eyes in those very high school years. I sincerely did not know that I, a kid studying to become a physicist would end up desiring to study something else entirely, theology/the Bible. It was during this period that, although I still struggled with my holier than thou disease that I truly met God. No, it wasn’t through some moralistic teaching on how to behave and how to do right but by God, through his Scriptures speaking to me. He addressed my selfishness, my weaknesses, my errors and began to use me in school.

One of the most important things to ever happen to me was seeing a friend of mine fully have his broken arm healed and restored, although it was due for surgery just three days away from the healing! Wow! Not only did this blow my mind entirely, but it flipped my world. This was NOT what I expected. Since then, I have been learning. Yes, I do make mistakes and sin, but I do not resort to my old moralistic ways. I have simply learnt to submit. I am humbled by him because I have realized that it’s his mission, not mine to save the world. He is the Judge, not I. He is the center of my faith, not I.

Living free is what I have come to experience because I have learned to hear his voice over my own. You know what’s even better (especially for you out there who have been hurt and wounded by those professing to be ‘Christians’) it really doesn’t matter what you are struggling with. What matters is your heart and your willingness to hear from him and be healed, be restored. For in this his reign is made manifest in your life and mine. And as the Apostle Paul once said, “The Kingdom of God is not merely a matter of eating and drinking, but it consists of right-standing with God/right-living, peace (restoration of your person as well as peace with others, including enemies), and joy in the Holy Spirit.

May healing flow,

Peace to you…

 

 

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MOSES AND THE STRUGGLE OF DOUBT: WHY FAITH IS NOT A SMALL MATTER

WHO AM I VERSUS I AM WHO I AM

“Why send me?”

-Moses (paraphrased)

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Recently, an interesting question was raised in the middle of a conversation I was having with a close friend of mine. It went a little bit like this, “We live in a very interesting world, where the question of faith in the marketplace is a taboo. It is virtually impossible to be faithful to my God when everyone else isn’t like keeping it straight?”. Something that caught my attention was the hidden intent behind the question. My friend wanted to serve God in her profession. This isn’t odd in the least bit, strange as it might be to the modern day Christian. It is fundamentally essential that some points are made about this matter because truth be told, the faith Christianity offers the world isn’t cheap, fairy-tale based magic, it is special indeed but it is of an entirely different nature.

Enter Moses, a man who was a prince of Egypt. He was a man whose heritage was questionable considering his true lineage, that of the slaves that worked under the same pharaoh that ordered the deaths of all his peers from his toddler years. Moses was saved because of the god-given wit and wisdom of his mother, Yochebed and it was this very act that led him into the courts of the pharaoh as a child of the royalty. In this place of privilege, Moses grew up. He was trained in the knowledge of the Egyptians, skilled in battle as well as made an authority and prince over the people who were Israel–the prince with God. An odd contrast ain’t it? But how far is it from the truth that each of us are currently living out today?

It may not be clear right now, but our current setting is a set up for something more, regardless of our diverse backgrounds. Now, back to Moses; this man, raised to be prince, commander and ruler is later a shepherd of sheep. His sustenance is no longer coming from the state through taxes, but through the sweat of his brow among livestock. If anything, this transition is greatly humbling. Everything Moses never once thought would become his world, is exactly what has become his reality. What’s more, he has married into the home of a religious leader; a priest to be exact. From his biblical resume, he seems to be the leading priest of his land.

All these things began to redefine Moses’ new identity and peculiar as it might seem, it’s at this stage of transition that God approaches Moses. Appearing at a time when he could be least expected-a time when Moses is pursuing a lost sheep-God appears (I really do think that there’s a powerful message in there somewhere; did Moses demonstrate God’s heart as a shepherd and thus prompt him to intercept him at this point?). God appears with a message and a mission and Moses “(now) go tell pharaoh…”. This is an amazing message indeed! But, did Moses realize it?

At the time of of his call, Moses goes through a spectrum of emotions. At first, he is astonished looking at the burning bush that burned and wasn’t consumed by the fire that had engulfed it; secondly, he is fearful when God talks to him from the midst of the fire and lastly, he is in complete awe as God addresses him by name from the midst of the fire. He is amazed by what he sees, but dismayed by the message he is given. This is the essence of a calling from God; a divine message. As some of you might know, Moses knew exactly what it meant for him to approach Pharaoh with the command of the Lord; he was fully aware of the fact that Pharaoh was considered a god. Oddly, this is not a fact that is far from the truth today, we have modern day people who are/consider themselves ‘gods’.But none of these quite compared to Pharaoh. He was the embodiment of the divine, ruling on earth as a god king according to Egyptian belief.

When YHWH appeared to Moses and he did not have a form, Moses did not know what to make of it. All he had was a word of authority from God, and although this was sufficient because Moses understood divine authority, he knew that Pharaoh did not acknowledge the authority of the God of Israel–considering that he had subdued his people. He merely saw this God as another (pardon my language) pitiful god of the weak. Such deities were not given time of day, for such were not seen as possessing any true authority. Hence, when we see Pharaoh’s reaction to Moses’ message, he says, “Who is the Lord that I should obey him?”

It wasn’t just a matter of pride but a matter of what the Egyptians valued over and against what YHWH valued. Here is the crux of the narrative, God knew that it was not an easy task for Moses but he hoped that Moses understood in the middle of his self-doubt and worry that he (YHWH) was implying that he was a King unlike any kind that he (Moses) had ever known and that Moses’ was essentially God’s ambassador–implying another kingdom other than Pharaoh’s. This paradigm shift was probably something Moses may have seen but had difficulty acknowledging initially. He saw that YHWH truly was strange and that he, unlike the gods of his past, cared for the weak–cared for his people.This God was declaring his greatness to one of the world’s greatest kingdoms and powers through sending his agent to it.

His message? My rule is the true rule. I am the true God. I am the life-source of all things. No man, no system is greater than Me. I made all, therefore I am King, God and Master of all creation. This is what the believer is called to embody as truth. Not, merely by sweet intellectual talk, but by dynamic, active ‘doing’ in the world. It may seem difficult but the God who called Moses, is the God who preserved him. He is the same God that redeemed an entire nation plus some Egyptians and made them one. He is the same one that God used Moses as a leader for the people. He is also the same man that became a type of Christ.

So, how mighty is this faith we are called to? Let us reflect carefully upon Moses’ words, as well as our own limitations;

“11 But Moses said to God, “Who am I that I should go to Pharaoh and bring the Israelites out of Egypt?”

12 And God said, “I will be with you. And this will be the sign to you that it is I who have sent you: When you have brought the people out of Egypt, you[a] will worship God on this mountain.”

13 Moses said to God, “Suppose I go to the Israelites and say to them, ‘The God of your fathers has sent me to you,’ and they ask me, ‘What is his name?’ Then what shall I tell them?”

14 God said to Moses, “I am who I am.[b] This is what you are to say to the Israelites: ‘I am has sent me to you.’””

He is with you,

Stay blessed!