Noah & God’s Justice

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NoahThis week, I was able to get to see Noah. I had high expectations going into the film because I am a huge Aronofsky fan. His ability to delve into the psyche of a character is fascinating. That’s what drew me to the film.

Before watching it, I had read a majority of the “controversy” surrounding it. I say it like that because I am pretty certain that at any given time, we, as the church, will pick a wrong battle to fight. We tend to make mountains out of molehills. Since Aronofsky is an atheist, we began preparing our rebuttal for whatever film we saw from him. Even if the film was 100% accurate, we were ready to make our case as to why the film was not 100% accurate. Most had their minds made up before the film was even released.

And then we wonder why people claim Christians are full of hate?

I’m not going to dive into a piece by piece dissection of the film. To do that to any kind of film does a disservice to the work of art. So I tend to steer clear of those kind of reviews of films. Most people who write those kinds of reviews are usually the kind of people who do not appreciate art or culture as much as they want to be right and want to make sure that everyone knows that they are right.

Instead, I want to highlight what I think this film displays beautifully: the justice of God. After Noah receives the vision from God as to what He is going to do to the world, you begin to sense in him a disturbance. But wouldn’t you be disturbed if you knew what was going to happen to the entire world?

As a child, I think I misread Noah. I read it as this wonderful story of happiness and singing animals. There was even a rainbow at the end. In reality, it is this horribly destructive story that shows the justice of God. That should disturb us. That should shake us to our foundations. That should cause us a sense of uneasiness. Because God’s justice will never be comfortable to us. We will never fully comprehend His justice because we will never fully comprehend Him.

In my mind, I could never understand why a mass genocide would be necessary. No matter what kind of evil takes place. Try as you may to put it in your own words, but it will never sound right. And we need to be okay with that. We need to understand that there are parts of the Bible that will cause us uneasiness and disturbance. If we read through the Bible and do not have those feelings, I don’t think that means that we’ve finally understood the justice of God as much as it means that we have tried to justify it in our minds (and that is never a good idea).

God demanded justice be served for the way people treated one another, nature, the animals, and ultimately Him. If you’ve heard anything about the film it is probably that Aronofsky works from a position that Noah was the first environmentalist. People were immediately upset because obviously God never said to look after the earth…well except that was His first command to man. What I loved about this element was that it showed that God’s justice demanded a verdict for all of creation. Not just mankind. Everything.

God’s justice is much larger than we can ever comprehend. In the film, it drove Noah to insanity. He was disturbed by everything that had just taken place. And he should have been. God’s justice is not an easy pill to swallow.

So why have we made it that way?

Christ is ultimately the fulfillment of God’s justice. But I fear that doesn’t disturb us as much as it should. A living man, the son of God, had to be killed in order for the justice of God to be fulfilled. I can give you answers as to why this makes sense. I can show you in the Bible why it is the way it is. But in my heart, it is harder for me to comprehend. Maybe that’s a lack of faith. Maybe that’s a lack of understanding. Or maybe that is the difference between mankind and God. We can say the words that make perfect sense but that doesn’t necessarily mean we truly understand and comprehend. And for that, there are no words.

This film helped me see that. It helped me see a glimpse of God’s justice. Is it hard to watch? Yes. Is it disturbing? Yes. And it should be. The more it disturbs and upsets us, the sweeter His mercy and grace is to us. The harder it is for us to explain why things had to happen like that, the more powerful Christ’s sacrifice is to us. We will not fully understand it, but that does not mean that it is meaningless. Far from it. I think the things that we cannot fully understand are the things that are more meaningful.

So yes. Go and watch Noah. It is an incredible film with a powerful story. I mean…it’s not as funny as Evan Almighty, but Russell Crowe is no Steve Carell. Wrestle with God’s justice and wrestle with God’s mercy. Be uncomfortable and at a loss for words. Not everything will be able to be explained. And even if it can be explained, that doesn’t mean we will understand it.

*Oh — and the Nephilites are awesome. Believable? Unlikely. But still, they are awesome.*

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There is No Grace

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Grace is a word that has been tossed around so much that it has, unfortunately, lost quite a bit of its meaning. I would endeavor to say that many of us have vague thoughts about grace. We might believe it is what saves us. We might believe that it is what God gives whenever we don’t get punished for sin. Some might confuse grace and mercy (which are two different attributes, one is not synonymous for the other). Some might think that grace has something to do with prayer. And then there are a few that might think that Grace died 30 years ago.

Whatever your thoughts, we can all agree that grace is a term that has been used quite a bit. It is for good reason. Ephesians says that “it is by grace you have been saved.” Grace is spoken of heavily throughout the Pauline epistles. In fact, we probably gather most of our teachings regarding grace from Paul, particularly from Romans.

So why do I want to talk about grace? Because there is no grace. At least not anymore.Image 

Grace used to exist. But now we are weighed down by phrases like:

You should’ve known better…

I expected more from you…

I can’t believe you did that…

When will you ever learn…

We’ve heard these phrases. Maybe from our parents. Maybe from friends. Maybe from fellow church members. Maybe from our pastor. When we hear those words, something inside of us dies. What is that thing? Our perception of grace.

In the evangelical church, we work hard at making sure grace is given to those outside the church. We want everyone to experience the grace of God; well, at least until you begin following Christ. When you start following Christ, you should know better. I mean, that’s what Paul is saying in Romans when he says “shall we go on sinning so that grace may increase? By no means!” What Paul is saying is that once you become a Christian, stop sinning because you shouldn’t increase grace. Right? 

Sometimes the people who feel grace the least are the ones inside the church. 

If a Christian has an abortion, she should’ve known better.

If a guy has sex with his girlfriend, he should’ve known better.

If someone is given to drunkenness, he/she should’ve known better.

Drugs? You should know better.

Did something you regret? You should know better.

And on and on the list can go. Because once you become a Christian, you should know better. Once you become a Christian, there is no grace. Well, unless it is one of the smaller sins, like lying, cheating, coveting, gossip, laziness, etc. Those sins are covered by grace because they aren’t really sins. They are the things we all do…which makes them okay; because God can’t damn us all to hell. So if you do a small sin, God’s grace covers that. But if you do a large sin, like sex, drugs, drunkenness, etc., there is no grace.

I hope we are shown as much grace as we give. One of the saddest things I see is when Christians are graceless toward other Christians. Our definition of grace has been killed by people withholding grace. For living in a covenant of grace, it sure looks a lot like the law at times.

God Doesn’t Deserve Us

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So many times I hear people saying, “I don’t deserve you, God.” I’ve never understood that. It seems to be a bit of a pity party. It’s like you look at your life and say, “You’re too good for me. I don’t know why you haven’t abandoned me.” What does that do for self-worth? What does that do for motivation for mission?

I’d like to propose the exact opposite of this mindset. God doesn’t deserve us. I mean, look at us. We’ve got it all together. We’ve put out hundreds of thousands of books on ministry. God has one. We’ve written several blogs about the Church. God doesn’t have a blog. We’ve created innovative worship. God has the Psalms.

We’ve formulated messages to where you can reach people wherever they are in relation to God.

We’ve translated the Bible into almost every language and are working toward having it available in every language.

We’ve written several commentaries about what the Scriptures are really saying.

We’ve built huge churches to bring in thousands of people.

We have denominations for every single taste. Much like that of Baskin Robbins.

We’ve simplified church to an hour long so that it can fit in our busy schedules.

We’ve put out one-page devotionals so we can have accessible spiritual growth.

We’ve made church available online so that you do not have to leave your home.

We’ve done a lot if you look at it. What makes God think that He actually deserves us? When looking at it, we run a pretty tight ship. These are accomplishments of which we should be proud. Look at all that we have done to advance the Kingdom (I mean, we can give praise to God, but we played a pretty key role in all of it).

I fear that we sometimes move toward this mindset. We move toward the mindset that God doesn’t deserve us. But in reality, it’s true.

God doesn’t deserve someone who thinks he/she can fix the Church.

God doesn’t deserve someone who thinks he/she is going to be the next leader of the Church.

God doesn’t deserve someone who thinks he/she is the greatest worship leader.

God doesn’t deserve someone who thinks he/she is the best preacher.

God doesn’t deserve someone who thinks he/she knows the best direction for the Church.

God doesn’t deserve us. He deserves better.

He deserves the woman who gave all of her money to the synagogue.

He deserves the fishermen who left their occupation.

He deserves the prostitute who begs for forgiveness.

He deserves the repentant disciple who previously disowned Him.

He deserves the thief who recognizes His sovereignty.

He deserves much better than us. Many times, He deserves the exact opposite of who we are. So why is it that we are scared to try and become what He deserves? Why is it that we are scared to become “perfect as I am perfect?” Why is it that we are scared to admit we don’t have it all together? To admit that we are sinful? To admit that we are not in a position to lead a church (but that for some reason He still desires to use us)? To admit that we sometimes try to steal His fame? To admit that sometimes we are in the wrong?

Perhaps instead of saying, “God, I don’t deserve you,” we should say, “God, you don’t deserve me.” Because when we understand that concept, I think we begin to understand grace and mercy a little more.