What It Means to Be Human

What does it mean to be human? In today’s society, we teach that being human means being ourselves and that of course, is rather vague and fuzzy and can be defined as just about anything. We can be whoever or whatever we want to be.

However, God has set clear laws in place that define for us what it means to be human. We can twist and distort our understanding of His laws, but we can’t rid ourselves of the law of humanness found even within ourselves, no matter how hard we try. Truth always exists. It may be hidden, ignored, snubbed, trampled upon, ridiculed, and pushed aside, but it cannot be destroyed. If we as human beings were able to destroy the truth, then we as the creature could destroy the Creator, the Author of truth. That simply is and never will be possible.

If we truly desire to be as human as we can possibly become, then serving, obeying, and worshipping our Creator is how we can do this. Christians should then be the most normal people on the planet, striving to be solely and utterly human. It is the essence of our existence. The Spirit breathed into man and woman both the breath of life. We are living on His breath, by His command, in accordance to His plan. Thus, human life has the greatest value and the greatest purpose of any creature on the planet.

(Yes, nature too is commanded to worship the Creator, but no book was written especially for the plants and animals on how to worship the Lord. Neither were plants and animals specifically commanded to name themselves or govern themselves. Nor are animals and plants spiritual beings made in the image of the Creator.)

Thus, every breath that we breathe should be an utterance of praise and thanksgiving to the Creator. Every thought that we think should be purposed to glorify the Creator. Every feeling that we feel should be our soaking in of the Creator. Our rationale and our emotions should be expressing and essentially mimicking the Creator’s, in a creaturely manner. The intents of our hearts and minds should be in submission to the Lord’s. This again is the essence of humanness.

Being human is not being one with nature or our fellow human beings. That simply leads into pantheism and humanism. Neither nature nor humanity is to be glorified. However, if we recognize and acknowledge that we must worship the Lord, then we will care for nature and honour our fellow human beings, since we have placed the Creator above us. He rules, while we are His subjects, tending and caring for the earth and for each other, following His bidding. Again, this is our essence. Truth triumphs falsehood. Beauty triumphs ugliness. Action triumphs apathy. Purpose triumphs hopelessness. Clarity triumphs obscurity.    

For the Lord is great and greatly to be praised;

He is to be feared above all gods.

For all the gods of the peoples are idols,

But the Lord made the heavens.

Honor and majesty are before Him;

Strength and beauty are in His sanctuary.

Give to the Lord, O families of the peoples,

Give to the Lord glory and strength.

Give to the Lord the glory due His name;

Bring an offering, and come into His courts.

Oh, worship the Lord in the beauty of holiness!

Tremble before Him, all the earth.–Psalm 96:4-9 (NKJV)

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Divine Passibility: God as Sufferer

It may be safe to say that very few Christians today believe in divine impassibility. Most, in fact, believe that God does possesses emotions and can suffer and be grieved. However, in our understanding of this divine passibility, we often focus upon the fact that God suffers with us and grieves with us. We forget that God also grieves because of us.

No doubt we can be greatly comforted by the fact that God in all of His trascendence (He is outside of, beyond, and infinitely greater than us.) stoops down to love and care for us, to comfort us in our afflictions and pain. We can thus say that God is both transcedent and immanent (He is also present with us.). But sometimes, we focus so much upon God’s immanency seen within divine passibility, that we miss the fact that God in all of His purity, holiness, and majesty is far above and over us.

God is a pure and holy Lord. He wishes that we, His followers, servants, and friends, would serve Him wholeheartedly, with willing hearts and minds. He desires that we be in tune with Him and His workings of goodness, mercy, justice, and love. Hence, to say that God suffers with us–only–bypasses the point that God suffers because of us.

If more of us could recognise that God is grieved when we sin, when we do wrong, when we choose to disobey Him, then how much more would we seek to live lives that please and honour Him? The Christian life isn’t about me, easy grace, and a wishy-washy relationship with an all-loving, do-as-you-please Jesus. If that is so, then my life is quite selfish, bland, and basic.

Nor is it to be a life filled with continual condemnatin, guilt, and unhealthy fear in the sight of the almighty, all-powerful God. We cannot forever be tallying up our many sins. Neither should be our Christian disposition. Instead, we should recognise that when we do sin, if there is truly repetenance (a turning away from our wrongdoing, to run toward the righteousness of God), then the Lord in His mercy forgives us.

At the same time, due to our sinful natures rebelling against God’s perfectly good laws set in place, we know that we will experience consequences for our sin. That is only “natural”: It isn’t as if God is up there scheming or conjuring up some consequences for us (Although, Scriptures certainly speaks of God disciplines those He loves.). Consequences already exist in and of ourselves and are realised when we sin.

Yet the forgiveness, the grace, the mercy, and the goodness of our Lord overcomes, overwhelms, and moves us beyond our sinful actions. That is the beauty and wonder of our relationship with the triune God. He grieves with us when we sin, wants us to change and grow, and seeks to offer us a life of beauty, pleasure, and goodness found within Him. He extends His hand of love and compassion to us.

So yes, God certainly does feel our pain and cares for us, but as part of His immanency and hence, passibility, grieves when our pain is the result of our own willfulness. He desires that we be holy as He is holy. This is the essence of the Christian life and we (including me) would do well to remember it.

Why Read the Old Testament?

I’ve heard it said many times that since we have the New Testament Scriptures, it is hardly worthwhile to read the Old Testament. I’ve also had Christians confess to me that they find the Old Testament boring. I’m always a little taken aback by this, since the Old Testament is largely narrative and most people like to hear/read a story. I think back to my childhood memories of sitting in Sunday school and children’s church, learning the stories of Adam and Eve, Noah and the Flood, Abraham and Isaac, Moses and Aaron, David and Goliath, Daniel in the Lion’s Den, Elijah and Elisha, and the list goes on. Why then would we not bother reading those same stories, now that we’re adults?

Here are some reasons, I have heard, as to why many don’t want to read the OT:

  1. The Old Testament is boring. Too many lists of names, rules and regulations, and such lengthy explanations about the law.
  2. Is it really necessary to repeat Moses’ exact same instructions 12 times over?!
  3. I don’t like reading about animals being sacrificed.
  4. God seems too angry in the Old Testament.
  5. There is just way too much killing in those books.
  6. I want to study about Jesus. That’s what really matters.
  7. Who needs to read about the law anyway? We are now under Christ.
  8. It is more important that I know and understand the Gospel message.
  9. I don’t like reading history.
  10. We’re now under grace. We don’t need the law!

In response to these reasons above, I will say immediately that the Old Testament is vital for us to understand who Jesus really is, why He came to earth, and the purpose and depth of the Cross. Moreover, nowhere in the New Testament do Jesus or the apostles state that the law no longer matters. In fact, Christ states that He did not come to abolish the law but fulfill it (Matt. 5:17-18). In addition, Paul goes to great lengths to explain how the law is good and necessary, but because of the magnitude of sin, no person can perfectly obey the law and thus be cleansed of his/her sin (Rom. 7). It is utterly impossible, and thus we are all in need of a Saviour.

We then realise why God put the sacrificial system in place. Without the shedding of blood, no remission of sins can occur (Lev. 17:11; Heb. 9:22). In order to even enter the outer courts of God’s throne room, wherein He sits in all His glory and holiness, blood must be shed. Hence, this was the need for such an extensive and detailed sacrificial system. It reveals the seriousness of sin.

But even sin itself, how did it get here? Why even bother believing Christ is our Saviour? What’s the point? Genesis will tell us the whole story as to when, where, how, and why. It will explain what sin is and how it came to exist. Also, in today’s world, many are desperately seeking to discover what their purpose is for living; Genesis answers those questions. It is where the Gospel message actually begins. As God curses Adam and Eve, at the same time, He speaks a word of hope, a word of salvation to Adam and Eve. Read Genesis 3:15. Moreover, this Gospel theme is not forgotten throughout the rest of the OT. Prophecies of Jesus’ coming to earth to bring salvation are found all throughout the prophetic books. But we wouldn’t know they exist, if we didn’t read them.

Lastly, the concept of an angry God in the OT often becomes contrasted with the more mild and loving God a.ka. Jesus, of the NT. However, we serve God of both the Old and New Testaments. He exists as Three in One: Father, Son, and Spirit. Hence, Jesus, as such, is the God of the OT as well as the NT. If we view God as angry in the Old, then we do so of Christ in the New. The Gospel of John begins by stating that “All things were made through Him [Christ], and without Him nothing was made that was made” (1:3). Thus, Jesus as Creator God requires that we know Him in the entirety of Scripture. (And in response to God as angry in the OT, I strongly believe that the OT reveals the overwhelming mercy, grace, love, and justice of God, that I cannot fathom God simply as angry.)

Obviously, my response to why read the OT is rather short. I could have said so much more. But if by this brief answer, I can encourage and motivate myself and you, my reader, to begin or continue to delve into the richness of the Old Testament, then I have accomplished what I set out to do.