Last week we saw, writ large in Peter’s life, what Jesus called not “thinking God’s way” but man’s way; the same, satanically inspired way Adam and Eve chose to think at the Tree of the Knowledge of Good and Evil. We now, as sons of Adam, naturally think in terms of good and evil, cause and effect; i.e., the more we work to achieve the desired, good result, the more success we will have.
Since the Fall, this is man’s natural, intuitive way of thinking. If I want positive results in my Christian life, I have to focus on, and then get to work at achieving, those results by doing “good things.” The more diligent I am in my Christian disciplines, for example, the more progress I will make in my self-sanctification process.
On the other hand, God’s way of thinking is to think counter-intuitively, in terms of opposites—the more we focus on the opposite of the desired result in our relationships with God and with others, the more the desired results appear! Listen to some other examples of this way of thinking from the Bible:
- If I want to be first, then I must be last of all and servant of all. (Mark 9:35).
- The Lord kills me so He can make me alive; He brings me down to the grave, so He can raise me up (1 Samuel 2:6).
- God is strong only in my weakness, not in my strength (1 Corinthians 12:9),
- Life only comes out of death (John 12:24, 2 Corinthians 4:12),
- Those who seek after righteousness by obedience to God’s law do not attain it (i.e., the Jews), but those who do not seek it (i.e., the Gentiles) do attain it-–not the supposed righteousness that comes from keeping the law, but by faith—believing that they already are righteous by faith in Christ alone (Romans 10:3).
- Trying to be obedient and not sin only makes me sin more (Romans 7:8).
- If I want to be free from sin, then I will actually embrace the reality of specific sin in my life and openly repent (1 John 1:7, 9; 2:1).
Each of these truths from the Bible is a way I can die—to myself. It is a whole new way to think that renders my way of thinking obsolete. It attacks my latent religious aspirations, the unseen spiritual hypocrisy of the old Robert Andrews, that ambitious spiritual athlete, who, for 50 years, has been out to do his very best to make God’s first team.
However, my way of thinking will be over as God progressively takes the curtain from my eyes and shows me who I really am and the futility of all my efforts to be a starter (even the quarterback!) on God’s first team. Then I begin to learn to view life in a whole new way, through the lens of the cross. This is what Jesus means by “take up My cross daily and follow Me”—following Him in a whole new way to think as I learn to die to myself!
It is not as though I first must experience death and get it over with so I can then have life and leave that ugly, painful death behind me so I can forget it. Although death and life are sequential (it is true that death always precedes life), it is not as though I can ever finish with death so I can then have abundant life, with no problems forever after. The reality is that both death and life are always a continuous, daily experience! As I learn to first embrace the cross—the death—I then surprisingly learn that in the very midst of death, death is no longer death but life; in the very midst of sorrow, sorrow is no longer sorrow but joy; in the very midst of losing, losing is no longer losing but winning!
For example, at the cross on Golgotha, 2000 years ago, this greatest of all tragedies—Jesus was being tortured and killed by the very people He came to save—was in reality, in God’s world of opposites, eternity’s greatest victory. The only One on the scene at the cross who knew that was true, was the One who died on it!
How can this amazing experience of death producing life be true in our lives? We can’t know how God’s way of thinking produces these results; only experience that it does. However, I believe that, as we do, we begin to get some insight into one of one of the great mysteries of our faith. Why does a sovereign God, who ordains all things after the council of His will (Ephesians 1:11), ordain (“order or command”) our sin? If God hates sin (Proverbs 6:6-19), why would He ever ordain that we walk in it?
Even questioning our all-knowing Father as His little children, believing we deserve to know what He knows, betrays our insufferable arrogance. We must always be very cautious when we speculate outside the clear parameters in the Bible, within which we are to live. “Why?” questions generally take us into territory only God inhabits. I offer the following possibility with that caution as to why God ordained sin..
I believe our sovereign God introduced sin into the world, and ordained the Fall, that we would all be wicked sinners. This was His brilliant, divinely-inspired method to teach us to think, and ultimately live, the way He thinks and lives. Each member of the divine family, the Godhead (Father Son, and Holy Spirit) honors, defers, and is other-centered. The Father exalts and glorifies His Son, and, along with the Son, sent the Holy Spirit to interact with all of us here on the earth; the Son also submits and obeys explicitly His Father’s instructions in all He does; the Holy Spirit, Who indwells and empowers us, defers to and always does the bidding of the Father and the Son.
I believe that, without first being a wicked sinner, saved only and fully by Another and not, in any way, by ourselves—and recognizing and embracing that fact—is the only way for us to learn God’s way, to think and live.
Next week we will look at real-life examples of common, spiritual-sounding statements that appear to the naturally thinking man to be a glorious truth. However, they illustrate our blindness to what it means to think God’s way.