In many ways we humans have the wrong idea or a distorted view of God. God through His word (the Bible) has provided “everything we need for a godly life through our knowledge of him who called us by his own glory and goodness” (2 Peter 1:3 NIV), but many do not consider the Bible to be divinely inspired or the word of God, so at best it is considered to be an antiquated or archaic system of beliefs that needs a dramatic overhaul or makeover that will make it more appealing to our current culture. Especially the parts of the Bible that refer to commandments, rules, self-denial, surrender, obedience, or submission. Submission to any authority even a god is counter intuitive to our human spirit or what the Bible calls “the flesh”. We want to be free to do what we want without interference. So, for example when James says “God opposes the proud but shows favor to the humble. Submit yourselves, then, to God. Resist the devil, and he will flee from you. Come near to God and he will come near to you. Wash your hands, you sinners, and purify your hearts, you double-minded. Grieve, mourn, and wail. Change your laughter to mourning and your joy to gloom. Humble yourselves before the Lord, and he will lift you up.” in James 4:6-10, it’s not going to be very popular.
One thing that jumped into my head as I typed that introduction is the “buddy Christ” that appears in the 1999 film “Dogma”. (See “buddy Christ” image below) If you haven’t seen the movie, you may want to proceed with caution. This movie is rated R for a reason. It’s not only filled foul language and violence, but also extremely sacrilegious and disrespectful towards God, Jesus, the church, and Christianity. It’s basically making a mockery of them all. So why in the world would you want to watch it? Well, I’m not recommending it, but I am going to use a scene as an illustration for this devotional.
At the time the movie provided a sneak peek of coming attractions, a window into the soul of our culture if you will. The themes of the movie have proven to be an accurate preview of what we are experiencing now. Christianity has never been more unpopular throughout the world and in the US than it is now. So, in response to this unpopularity some churches and Christians have attempted to give Christianity, the Bible, our faith, and God Himself a makeover, something a little more palpable, acceptable, or user friendly. Even though “Dogma” came out almost 25 years ago it is a great example of how distorted our view of God can get.
In the movie “Dogma” there is a scene where a priest “Cardinal Glick” played by George Carlin is standing just outside the front doors of a church giving a press conference. There are a bunch of reporters in attendance. His objective is to change the church’s image. This is what “Cardinal Click” says.
“Now we all know how the majority and the media in this country view the Catholic church. They think of us as a passe, archaic institution. People find the Bible obtuse… even hokey. Now in an effort to disprove all that the church has appointed this year as a time of renewal… both of faith and of style. For example, the crucifix. While it has been a time-honored symbol of our faith, Holy Mother Church has decided to retire this highly recognizable, yet wholly depressing image of our Lord crucified. Christ didn’t come to Earth to give us the willies… He came to help us out. He was a booster. And it is with that take on our Lord in mind that we’ve come up with a new, more inspiring sigil. So it is with great pleasure that I present you with the first of many revamps the “Catholicism WOW” campaign will unveil over the next year. I give you… The Buddy Christ. Now that’s not the sanctioned term we’re using for the symbol, just something we’ve been kicking around the office, but look at it. Doesn’t it… pop? Buddy Christ…
First of all, I’m not trying to pick on the Catholic church. This scene is fictional. This could be any church and every church that has tried to change God’s image, as if God needed a new spin or public relations campaign to repair His reputation. While I must admit that the church in many ways has contributed to our current cultures dim view of God through our hypocrisy, favoritism, and generally un-Christlike behavior, God doesn’t need or want us to restore or overhaul His image. God’s image is perfect just the way it is, and His word is still relevant. He doesn’t need to be fixed. However, that doesn’t stop us from trying to recreate God in our own image or make Him our “buddy” rather than an authority figure or Lord that requires submission. This desire to remake God according to our own likeness, desires and interests reveals our basic inability to not only accept God as He is, but also to submit to Him as Lord.
Let’s go back to James 4:10. It says, “Humble yourselves before the Lord, and he will lift you up.” The Greek word for “Lord” in this passage is κύριος (kurios) which translates as master, supreme in authority, controller, etc. In addition, the Apostle Paul on many occasions refers to himself as a “servant” or “slave” of Christ Jesus. Paul begins his letter to the Romans by saying, “Paul, a servant of Christ Jesus, called to be an apostle and set apart for the gospel of God.” (Romans 1:1 NIV) The Greek word for “servant” is δοῦλος (doulos) which also means “slave”. In other passages from Paul and other Biblical writers it is translated as “bondservant” or “a person bound in service without wages”. Of course, slavery is a horrible thing so when we read that we are supposed “humble” ourselves or bow before God as our Lord and master and one of his apostles is taking about slavery to God, it’s easy to understand why people get the wrong idea about God. However, there is a bigger picture and a deeper meaning behind Paul’s words, so hang in there with me.
If we read Galatians 3:23-4:7 for example, we get a better idea of what Paul is driving at. According to Paul when we believe or put our faith in God, we actually become “heirs” of God. In Galatians 4:1 he calls it an “underage” or an “under-age”, which is a child. So according to Paul we aren’t just slaves in the conventional sense, we can actually become “heirs” or children of God. In Ephesians 1:5 Paul says, “he (God) predestined us for adoption to sonship through Jesus Christ, in accordance with his pleasure and will”. Okay first of all don’t get hung up on the word “predestined”. What we really need to focus on is our “adoption to sonship through Jesus Christ, in accordance with his pleasure and will”. We are adopted into God’s family through Jesus Christ who made it possible. Jesus brokered the deal with His own blood. So, there is a big difference between being a “slave” in the conventional sense, and an adopted son, daughter, heir, or child of God.
As heirs of God, we receive salvation and an inheritance which includes eternal life, but we are also under God’s authority in the same way that a child is under the authority of a parent or guardian. Galatians 4:2 says, “The heir is subject to guardians and trustees until the time set by his father.” The Greek word for “subject” in this passage is ὑπό (hypo) which means “under” as in “under the authority” of guardians, parents, or trustees. Paul continues in Galatians 4:6-7 by saying, “Because you (we) are his sons, God sent the Spirit of his Son into our hearts, the Spirit who calls out, “Abba, Father.” So, you are no longer a slave, but God’s child; and since you are his child, God has made you also an heir.” (Galatians 4:6-7 NIV) So while we are under God’s authority which includes obeying His word-doing what He says through submission or humbling ourselves before Him as Lord, we are ”no longer a slave, but God’s child” in a similar way that I am my father and mother’s son.
TO BE CONTINUED…
Have a great weekend! Love y’all!
Director of Family Ministry and Facility Coordinator – Andrews UMC