I.D. CRISIS--Series 8 of 20--The Bible
Author: Kurt Koppetsch, Publisher, Shepherd News Trust
The purpose of this blog is shedding light, i.e. truth, on the contemporary view of the Bible.
The goal of the Shepherd Blog is to help people secure quality of life--as prefaced by truth, justice, peace, health, shelter, and economic independence--by resolving human stress as the acute spiritual problem that overwhelm people and nations.
The book I.D. Crisis
by Kurt Koppetsch deals with the spiritual, intellectual, and social conflict in modern times. Confusion about the past and uncertainties in the present prevent us from knowing our true nature. As a direct consequence of such confusion, visions of the future are clouded. Some of the diversions that prevent us from realizing our true identity as children of God are philosophies, politics, economics, and falsehood such as religious cults. The solution is remembering that human beings are dependent creatures of God.
HOPE FOR THE FUTURE:
Each series of the book I.D. Crisis
will conclude with the poem "Rays of Hope and Freedom" to assure readers that God cares about our lives and we are his children of hope. Hope is the From/to process at work in the modern Era of Faith repairing life and circumstance. Hope is making the impossible come true.
Topic for March 3 through March 14: THE BIBLE
Preface and contemporary assessment
The Bible in the Era of Faith is the story of relationships according to God's plan for human life. The mission is to fill spiritual needs by means of the connection with God. The goal is to experience the presence of God in all that we do.
Once spiritual needs are met, the physical needs will also be met. God is out in the world. Christ says: "Come and see!" (John 1:39) He wants us to see God in him. And God wants us to experience the spiritual connection as the permanent bond with the Creator of all that is and in whom we have our true being. The Era of Faith is God's gift of hope for a new beginning to make our life spiritually complete.
To know God as our Father in Heaven is to love, honor, and respect him on Earth with the same intensity and commitment that Jesus Christ demonstrated during his earthly life. Jesus gave the world a foretaste of spiritual things to come when he told the Samaritan woman: "God is Spirit, and those who worship him must worship in spirit and truth." (John 4:24) Within this context of spirituality, the Holy Spirit widens our horizons for the purpose of seeing God, whom we now love, honor, and respect.
God is providing ample time for reflection and study of all the aspects of our relationship with him. We search his will. We examine the purpose of our creation. And we plan our behavior around the purpose of our creation: As children of God we are his voice and his hands in the world. God initiates this process of learning about him by setting the stage for a new beginning. The Era of Faith is the new beginning. It is absolute reality in which God supports our lives with his presence. This new beginning is his permanent gift by the power of the Holy Spirit for all generations to come. We all have now the opportunity to see God. This was precisely what Job experienced about 3,500 years ago when God came to him personally. An awestruck Job experienced eternal truth as the presence of the all-powerful Creator: "I heard of thee by the hearing of the ear, but now my eye sees thee." (Job 42:5) God was speaking with Job face to face.
This demonstrates that God calls each of us in person. He personally invites us to represent him and be "the salt of the Earth" and his "light of the world." Our light therefore must "so shine before men, that they may see your good works and give glory to your Father who is in Heaven." (Matthew 5:16) Faithful believers heed his call and summarily yield to the authority of God and submit to his guidance. God subsequently empowers the faithful by the power of the Holy Spirit with faith, hope, and love. Together we then build fortresses of truth from which the light of God in Christ shines piercingly bright and penetrates even the farthest corners in the world of doubt and disbelief. The Era of Faith is God's way of helping us to make the world a better place. God invites us to work with him to take back what is his own by witnessing to the world that the transformation of life from imperfection to perfection is by grace in faith! The Word of God defines the perfect life as the spiritual life in union with God.
The Bible details the pilgrimage of mankind as a life of choice between two opposing realities. As such, it demonstrates the ongoing conflict between the cosmic power of light and darkness.
As people of God living in the world, Christians are part of the continuous battles between good and evil. We are exposed to suffering and pain as we struggle to overcome the conflict within our lives.
Accordingly, Biblical literature serves to remind people that life in all its relationships--with God and with other people--is precious to God. Our behavior is important to spiritual survival.
The control of emotions and physical aggressiveness is so crucial to personal well-being that God is specifically reminding people through Biblical literature about imminent judgment. Individuals will be held accountable for all actions on earth. Our failure to honor the sanctity of human life will influence the outcome of Christ's judgment and determine spiritual destiny. Life in all its relationships is sacred to God.
Jesus Christ has demonstrated the model of the godly life for us. Believers will become disciples when they follow Christ's example of faithfulness and obedience to God the Father.
What will often appear like a seemingly confusing future of chaos and despair are nothing more than misleading impressions to discourage the uncommitted. Satan works to destroy the hope of those with little faith by keeping from them the penetrating rays of God's glory at the end of the tunnel of darkness. Discouragements are very effective tools of evil.
God has distinctly provided direction by means of the Bible's inspirational message. Its timeless truth is a matter of revelation through the Holy Spirit. But to make use of comfort and help from God requires that we accept God offer of guidance. We must keep our lives in harmony with God's objectives.
Under the guiding support of God's Holy Spirit, faithful believers may draw on God's never-ending power for finishing Christ's work in the world. This life-sustaining blessing is recorded in the Bible as Christ's promise.
The Bible shows that the will of God on earth is accomplished through people. Thus, the relationship between God and people demands that believers become fruitful in their work on behalf of God's Kingdom, for the mission of human life on earth is to bring glory to God.
Christ's prophetic declaration identifies Christians as the visible means of God's glory--we are "like light for the whole world."
Hence restored fellowship with God is a divine gift that is unique to Christianity. Through it Christians contribute to the Kingdom of God on earth. We are taught that restored fellowship is established for the purpose of sustaining a faithful witness. God's saving presence strengthens believers so that the will and purpose of God in creation can be properly fulfilled.
The Bible tells about relationships. It talks about rebellion, rejection, greed, anger, and hate. But the Bible also tells us about love, precisely the love of God for sinful people: "For a brief moment I forsook you, but with great compassion I will gather you. In overflowing wrath for a moment I hid my face from you, but with everlasting love I will have compassion on you, says the LORD, your redeemer." (Isaiah 54:7-8) The Bible makes the hope which grows out of repentance meaningful and real.
Repentant sinners can count on this assurance, because God's grace is based on divine righteousness alone and made available as a gift in fulfillment of God's promise: "For the mountains may depart and the hills be removed, but my steadfast love shall not depart from you, and my covenant of peace shall not be removed, says the LORD, who has compassion on you." (Isaiah 54:10)
God has reached out to sinful people solely on the basis of grace. But this divine offer for salvation requires that believers have faith in Christ as God's anointed Savior. This faith in Christ is made real and visible when contrite hearts urgently want to learn the will of God and then follow up all good intentions with commitment and dedication.
Biblical literature shows that the love of God has constantly reached out to people, independent of the many shortcoming of human nature. Repentant sinners can now share salvation through God's promise in Cross and Gospel, God's promise takes care of even the worst of sinners.
Consequently, the writer of the Gospel according to Saint John describes the love of God as the force that alone can propel the human spirit into eternity: "For God so loved the world that he gave his only Son, that whoever believes in him should not perish but have eternal life." (John 3:16)
And Christianity, as the one form of universal salvation, teaches that eternal life is ordained by God as spiritual union with Christ and communion with God through Christ. For in God's Kingdom, Christ commands the rightful place as the authority of beginning and end: " 'I am the Alpha and the Omega,' says the Lord God, who is and who was and who is to come, the Almighty." (Revelations 1:8)
Contrary to popular notions, the Bible is not a book of magic for making people religious. Nor is the Bible a weapon of doctrine or traditions for controlling human behavior to make people conform to ecclesiastical policy.
If anything, the revealed message of Christ's teaching declares war, figuratively and in reality, on legions of people who are complacent with sinful traditions. Christ's prelude to the Gospel is a call for repentance: "The time is fulfilled, and the kingdom of God is at hand; repent, and believe in the gospel." (Mark 1:15)
Speaking by the authority of the Holy Spirit, Saint Peter set forth Cross and Gospel as the one eternal truth and the one universal salvation: "Let all the house of Israel therefore know assuredly that God has made him both Lord and Christ, this Jesus whom you crucified ... And there is salvation in no one else, for there is no other name under heaven given among men by which we must be saved." (Acts 2:36, 4:12)
Long before Christ's sacrificial death on the Cross, God's call for repentance and spiritual renewal went out through the prophet Habakkuk. But the summons to a life of faith also contained God's message of hope: "Behold, he whose soul is not upright in him shall fail, but the righteous shall live by his faith." (Habakkuk 2:4)
This very same life-giving truth of the Word of God was picked up by Saint Paul. Christ's dedicated servant to Jews and Gentiles alike heralded God's eternal plan of salvation by grace through faith as the power of the Gospel: "For in it the righteousness of God is revealed through faith for faith; as it is written, 'He who through faith is righteous shall live.' " (Romans 1:17)
The Bible focuses on how people manipulate their spiritual similarity with God for personal gain. It exposes the sin caused by humanity's failure to use the power of God for establishing and advancing the Kingdom of God on earth. It declares the proper uses of God's power, the way God intended it to be used when divine power was made available as the great blessing for all human creation.
Christ told the Samaritan woman that "God is spirit, and those who worship him must worship in spirit and truth." (John 4:24) Renewed emphasis is directed toward spiritual oneness with God in preparation of a new type of covenant relationship between God and people. The center and cornerstone of this relationship is Jesus Christ. Its worldly manifestation is Cross and Gospel.
Through God's act of redemption in Jesus Christ, the Bible has suddenly changed from a lexicon of law to the encyclopedia of faith. In it we find information for spiritual growth. The lesson on truth starts with Abram, who "believed the LORD; and he reckoned it to him as righteousness." (Genesis 15:6)
Throughout the Bible's inspirational teaching, faith is presented within a covenant relationship of trust, justice, and love. Love is given priority as a mutual and reciprocal commitment of faithfulness between God and people. "For I desire steadfast love and not sacrifice, the knowledge of God, rather than burnt offerings." (Hosea 6:6)
This type of love is the direct result of true repentance, as God demanded through the prophet Amos: "Take away from me the noise of your songs; to the melody of your harps I will not listen. But let justice roll down like waters, and righteousness like an ever-flowing stream." (Amos 5:23-24)
As the literature of faith, the many "context stories" in the Bible require objective examination. Cultural background and living conditions are always unique to specific environments in time and place. What may have been readily obvious to people in Biblical times may be totally unknown in the present age.
Thus, proper comprehension of the Bible's content requires thorough study with a dedication that is typical of critical scholarship. But the prime factor in learning the truth about God is faith.
The necessary commitment for Bible study is different from any of the commitments that people must make in the world, if they want to succeed in what they are doing. Though the logistics may be similar, the concern for the Kingdom of God is above everything else we may think of in the world. The effort spent in sorting and weighing of the many variables in Biblical literature--of which time, place, and method of presentation are but a few--is then part of the investment for discipleship.
When under the guidance of the Holy Spirit grace and faith combine, then the Word of God as a divine message in the Bible becomes active and alive in the believer's heart. The written word, indeed, is human, but its inspirational message is divine.
As we look at the humanity of Biblical literature, we find, first of all, that the written word revolves around oral tradition for long periods of time. Secondly, composition and authorship is a matter of scholarly debate.
For example, The Torah, or Pentateuch, is judged by many scholars to be the work of three, possibly four, literary traditions. The oldest of the documents may have originated about 1,000 years before Christ. Newer writings in the Hebrew canon may have been compiled around the fifth century B.C.
Yet independent of authorship and composition, Old Testament literature is credited as the single most important factor in the survival of Judaism. And its contribution to Christianity, and the quality of Western life per se, must be acknowledged in praises and thanksgiving to Almighty God.
Thus, all readers of Biblical literature should recognize that of ultimate importance to human life is God's inspirational message through revelation by the Holy Spirit. Revelation alone makes the Word of God become active and alive in people. The written word--whether executed by hand as in ancient times or mass-produced by printing machines--is but a vehicle, by means of which the Holy Spirit makes known to faithful believers the truth about God.
Eternal truth and universal salvation as the essence of Christianity is God's message in Biblical literature. The written word continues to preserve hope for all generations, because God's love for people is the eternal truth of Cross and Gospel.
Biblical literature is a blessing from God to strengthen and purify the faith, and the means by which the Holy Spirit inspires people. Its narrative must not be misused.
For example, the Bible is not a weapon to enforce doctrine or a tool to manipulate behavior in people for getting a certain response. The Bible does not relate to goal-oriented psychology and its many schemes and mechanisms to control people by playing on their emotions.
The truth about God is not enhanced even by the most noble of human intentions. Dedication to God must have Christ as its foundation. Our faithfulness and obedience alone will prove the pertinence of Biblical literature in the affairs of daily life.
The world's best effort is not good enough when we mix worldly ambitions with eternal truth, however sincere our intentions may be in creating dogmas, developing theological precepts, or even employing creative energies to speculate about the future. All human manipulation of the truth about God is evil, for the pertinence of Biblical literature in the affairs of daily life is a matter of revelation by the Holy Spirit.
God has always made his will known for any specific needs at hand. So let us live in faith and put the future in God's hands. The relationship between God and people requires faith, dedication, trust, but most of all love--love for God and people around us.
RAYS OF HOPE AND FREEDOM
My life was in chaos.
Darkness clouded my senses.
My heart trembled in fear.
I prayed to God:
"Father, help me!"
And God transformed my life.
The world is still the same.
But I am now secure.
Christ is my Savior!
His love fills my heart,
His faith is my faith.
Rays of hope now light up my soul.
Rays of hope and freedom
Show me the way to God,
And where Christ lives I too will live.
Copyright (c) 2009 by Kurt Koppetsch/Shepherd News Trust. All rights reserved.
(Excerpt from the books I.D. Crisis and Era of Faith by Kurt Koppetsch, published by Shepherd News Trust, Inc.--www.shepherdnewstrust.com)
This blog will run from March 3 through March 14, 2010.
Starting on March 15, 2010: God's Prophet Elijah and his challenge