When God Questions

There’s always a deeper reason to why God asks questions He clearly knows the answers. Like Jesus asking the woman “who touched me?” Or asking the woman at the well to get her husband, or Peter, “Do you love me?” the first question out of the gate out of the garden was “Where are you?” Not to shame them (they already did that to themselves) but to locate that shame as a flight from intimacy from Him, exposure that they were no longer loving Him.

Secondly, the next question revealed that they were no longer listening to Him: “Who told you…?” This was to locate their faith as distanced from Him.

Then, and only then, does behavior come into the picture with “What have you done?” Disobedience is the fruit of that process in an attempt to feel better. Works of the flesh are just that: OF the flesh.

The Gospel answers all three those questions, in that order. God first reveals His Worth, through His Word, by His Way. All Personified in Jesus. Faith and repentance lets us reverse our sin-filled, shame-soaked direction.

“Vibing” the Imago Dei


Our story of power, our “dunamis,” our “dynamic” or vibe” using modern parlance is the image of God. If He is an emotional, rational, volitional God He is incorporating all of that always to be relational. It therefore means he is existential, experiencial. This is how He reveals what He reveals. He is, after all the God of Revelation. He is Wrath and He is Righteous because He is Holy, Holy, Holy. We get the brunt or the benefit depending on our condition. If reconciled, we get the benefit of revealed righteousness through faith “beginning to end.” If not, we will be objects of wrath given over to our idolatry, immorality, and individualism. We will experience His dynamic one way or another. If we attempt to “suppress the truth in our unrighteousness,” well, we’re given over to that as well.

Our “vibe” is therefore whatever our condition is and where we are with God in our wrath or our redemption based on our reconciliation.

Idolatry says “Look at me, what I got! Aren’t you impressed?!?”

Immorality has its own vibe of that sensual setup.

Individualism is being controlled by anger, deceit, malice and other narcissistic tendencies.

Dynamics depraved will either pull or push. We sense that from everyone. And they sense ours.

Redemption, in various degrees, is inviting, to an understanding, mercy and grace. This is the Gospel after all, the power of God for salvation. In us, there will be a lack of a condemning spirit, not confused with gullibility and naïveté. It will permeate strength mingled with sensitivity. Like Jesus “vibe.” “Come unto me and I will give you rest, for my burden is light and my yoke is easy.” As we are transformed more into His image, the Imago Dei we were originally designed, we will take on His Dynamic. “For we have not been given the spirit of fear but of power.” Dunamis. Dynamic. Vibe.

The Three Layers of Being

We are created by God. Most people would agree. There’s little disputing that. Even those who don’t believe don’t really take issue with it. It’s a relatively benign phrase. But what does it even mean and better yet, what do we as believers do with this knowledge? Moreso, what does it require of us?

The theology of place, person, and purpose that comes out of the Garden continues to astound me. And now especially, how it reveals to us as beings created by God, its respect to importance of each layer of our design.

It goes like this: as created by God we are first created human. Adam (and Eve), meaning “Red,” the color of clay, is how we are created from the earth. Not unimportant. In fact, it clues us into the idea that we are to take dominion over the land to till it and grow from it. God said it “was good.” We are “king of the hill.”

Secondly, then it gets even more good. Like the created animals we are sexual beings. Defined as “Ish” and “Ishla,” “Man” and “Woman, ” we are to “be fruitful and multiply.” By naming the animals we are empowered to have dominion over them. We are therefore “top dog.”

But now, now, it gets Very Good! Now we are designed as reflectors of Trinitarian Glory. Instead of being separate and above, we now have identity rooted in Another. This is our gendered identity, “Zakar” and “Neqibah,” “male” and “female.” In Hebrew these words refer to aspects that complement one another, complete one another. Translated as “To Remember” and “Vulnerable,” (literally, Bored Through), we “fit together.” Because when this happens, God as Trinity is reflected: two-in-one mirroring Three-in-One. Romans 1 states that if we add another combination it is exchanging “The Truth for The Lie,” in other words, “it ain’t happenin’.” Because this is where God exclaims it is now “Very good,” this gendered identity is the pinnacle of His creation, the most important. So, humanity: important. Sexuality: more important. Gender: most important.

The issue? There is a spiritual component to all three layers.

The world has stated the opposite to be their “truth.” Upside down. Humanity is now most important, “my body, my choice!” Sexuality is next: “I can do what I want sexually, you’re not the boss of me.” And gender? Well, “today male, tomorrow, female. Gender is ‘fluid.’” 71 gender identities. Least important.

So I asked what it requires? Being who you were designed to be means risking the ire of the world by believing in the “Very Good” Truth that God is worthy, worshipping appropriately, not depending upon futile and passing desire and feelings but that you actually be the gender God designed and behave accordingly. That you love those who do not believe with you but hope/pray they may.

Blessed are Those Who Mourn

“Blessed are those who mourn.” You see, there’s blessing in the simple act of mourning. Even before the “and they shall be comforted.” In fact, the comfort itself, I would submit comes from the act of faith it takes to enter into the existential reality of loss. Because that’s when, and only when, we get to see Jesus in our stories, I get to believe it’s worth it, that’s the faith part, to feel the loss so Jesus can give it His worth. There’s something both transformative and redemptive about the act of mourning. If we are not seeing Jesus in the midst of our pain, his fingerprints on every shame-soaked, sin-drenched, sorrow-filled page of our stories, we are not seeing Him redeeming our stories, and that means we are not seeing Him as Lord of all, reconciling all things to Himself.

Disappointment and Faith

If we are not living in a constant state of disappointment we are not living by faith. We are led to this Truth by Paul’s exposure to his shame in Romans 7. “Wretched man that I am” is not about the guilt of doing something wrong but the shame in not being able to do anything about it. He can’t help himself. That is the power of the flesh. In his weakness he asks a good question, “Who will deliver me?” He knows he has to look outside himself for hope and help. He knows that his problem (himself) doesn’t need a program, a procedure, or a plan, but deliverance. His aid rests in another beyond himself. And it’s a delivery from a condition, not a circumstance. “The body of this death” is the locus of his deep need. It points to a prisoner who has, shackled to his ankle, another prisoner who has died. And it’s now up to him to carry death from then on. This is a fitting picture of the flesh. Dead but attached. A heavy load. But we keep going back to try to find life in this dead body, apart from God. We are looking for life in something that will only bring more death, helplessness, and hopelessness. “There is a way that seems right to a person but the end therein is death.” Yet Paul goes on to answer his question with “thanks be to God through Jesus Christ our Lord.”

A posture of desperation can lead to a life-giving, life-gripping perspective of  dependency. This informs the very next verse whose context is unfortunately ruined by the words “”Romans 8” which follows. The continuity and context is marred with that addition. It disrupts a most beautiful flow. We go directly from helplessness in ourselves to hope in God through Jesus to “there is therefore no condemnation to those who are in Christ, who walk not according to the flesh but according to the Spirit.” No condemnation! Free from the penalty, and now the power, of the flesh. This means, by the way, we have no right for guilt or regret.

Walking in the Spirit as opposed to walking in the flesh provides very interesting differences. The Greek for “walk” is the word Greek word “peripateo.” We use the prefix “peri” for words like “periscope” and “perimeter” which means “around.” “Pateo” is the word for “path.” We get “patio” from this. Its root is “pat” which literally means “to strike” or “make an imprint.” When we march around and around beating that path it creates a deep rut. The “pat” becomes a “pit” over time from which there is no escape. Psalm 40:1-3 comes to mind. The desperation for deliverance is now more clearly understood. “In waiting, I waited for the Lord. He turned to me and heard my cry.” David was then lifted out of the “pit of destruction.” He didn’t, couldn’t, climb out on his own. There’s no ladder for him. Helpless and hopeless in himself.

Walking in the Spirit on the other hand implies movement (Spirit is “pneuma” means wind, direction, movement) and rather than getting stuck, beating that path frees us to move with intentionality and purpose. There’s no being stuck demanding life in that which doesn’t give life, only death. Psalm 40 again: “He set my feet upon a Rock, making my footsteps secure.” On that Rock (Jesus) I can walk, I can move forward.

Freedom.

And from a free heart I can praise God. Verse 3, “He put a new song (the old song is the crying) in my mouth, a song of praise to our God.” Now the freedom from the flesh releases us from demanding comfort from our false gods, expecting life from “that which I would not do” as Paul exclaimed. And since there’s also no condemnation for having gone there, we can view our stories of idolatry, immorality, and individualism (the three lusts) honestly. So what do we do now with the existential reality of pain from unsatiated hunger and unquenched thirst that our lusts and false gods had relieved?

We groan. Just groan.

Anticipating pushback; groaning is not grumbling. Grumbling is groaning apart from faith. Grumbling and griping is our reaction to God not feeding our demands. It’s believing that He owes us. He does not. There are two ditches on each side of the road of faith: demand and denial. Both give us the illusion of control, relief. To believe we really have no hunger (anorexia) or that we have a right to anything that provides relief (gluttony) is actually faithlessness. Faith is this: even though we experience unsatiated hunger for life to work and unquenched thirst for deep relationship and even God seems far off, we trust anyway that God is there for us (YWHW), that He is good to us (Love), and that He is in control over us (Sovereign).

And so, we are led through Romans 8 to much groaning. Groaning is merely our spiritual stomach growling. We are hungry, without guarantee of being fed; not completely, not in this life. But as we groan, like the earth itself is groaning, something deeper is occurring. Paul describes it like “childbirth.” That produces, in the end, life. So the route to life is death. The pain is worth it, in other words. Even the Spirit Himself groans for us as He intercedes for us.That pressure, that crushing sorrow we experience in growing faith, ultimately gives birth to seeing God’s goodness. We go from groaning to birth in Romans 8:28. “All things work together for our good.” The goodness (love) of God produces, in His sovereignty, value to our stories. “All things” (our stories) “work together for our good” (redemption).  In other words, our disappointment that the world, as it is, is not even close to the world as it was intended to be, causes us deep and profound pain (spiritual, social, somatic) that God then uses to actually benefit us. He has conquered that sin and shame. In essence He says to the enemy, “I see your evil and I’m not getting rid of it, it doesn’t threaten me. I’m actually going to use it for their benefit. So I see your evil and I raise it a redemption.” We are experiencing crushing, disappointing, hunger. If we don’t eat “satisfaction” from our idols, God will then reveal Himself as YWHW Jireh (the God Who is there and Who provides) and gives our pain value.

He is worth the wait.

And that will inevitably lead us to love others. If I’m not using them to feed my gnawing distress, I can then give to them out of the redemption of my story. Back to Psalm 40: “many will see and fear and put their trust in the Lord.”Let others see this movement of yours as you walk in the Spirit. Don’t hide your light under a bushel as it’s not your light to hide. It’s His. Your story, whatever the sorrow, sin, or shame, is arranged by God to glorify Himself and give to others. And that is love. That is how we move from being our own demanding, denying, story to the story of the Gospel particular to us. We are the contextualization of the Gospel, a redeemed story.

And at the end of this process we start to taste, even feed on, the very “fruit” we were hungry for in the first place: the fruit of the Spirit. It’s counterintuitive to the flesh but when we trust Him we’ll eat from that fruit of love, joy, peace, etc.

Psalm 40:4 then, and only then, reveals, “blessed is the man who puts his trust in the Lord.”

Truth for a Lie

Please stop telling people, in an attempt to counsel or encourage them, that they need to “believe the truth” when first they need be exposed to why they’d believe a lie in the first place (sin). Otherwise it will not be the least bit helpful. Of course, it’s true that “the Truth will set you free” but that never takes place in a vacuum. The lie they’re believing is functioning too well for them or they wouldn’t believe it. It provides a sense of comfort (idolatry) and until they can see why it’d be worth it (faith) to reverse their belief (repentance) don’t take their lie from them.

Oh, yes, you’d be right, but it will leave them desperate, with nowhere to go. Jesus said “when the unclean spirit has gone out of a person, it passes through waterless places seeking rest, but finds none.’ Then it says, ‘I will return to my house from which I came.’ And when it comes, it finds the house empty, swept, and put in order. Then it goes and brings with it seven other spirits more evil than itself, and they enter and dwell there, and the last state of that person is worse than the first.”

The Truth, to a guarded, shutdown heart only hardens it further thus creating even more pressure to believe the lie. But, the Truth given to an exposed, naked, shame-filled, lie-doubting heart (grace) will then soften it. And that is when Truth can begin to take up residence and transform.

The Function of Flesh

There is deep fleshly functionality to our sin. Our sin nature’s behavior “works” in that it provides for us a denial of God. According to Romans 1, “unrighteous behavior suppresses the Truth” (of God: His character, and His ways). It functions to justify our being faithless (self-protective, self-reliant, and self-exaltive). Therefore, shaming, demanding, insisting, cajoling, or focusing on someone’s behavior in an attempt to get them (or us) to “stop it” is not only ineffective, it is essentially another gospel.

It’s a heavy burden and hard yoke (which is antithetical to the Gospel. It is decidedly NOT Good News). If we’re committed to self-protection because deep down we believeGod is not there, good, or sovereign (which is the heart of sin), more law doesn’t cut it (it will actually increase the sinful behavior). It takes faith (that God is “worth it”) to supersede our flesh. “As you have received Christ Jesus as Lord so walk in Him,” and “walk in the Spirit and you will not gratify the desires of the flesh.” For that we desperately need grace…which God supplies in abundance in all manner of ways. To think we can just “stop it” is like trying to kill a tree by picking the leaves off; that’s called pruning and actually just helps the tree grow better.

Realizing our helplessness and hopelessness over sin is where we need to start as “God gives grace to the humble.”