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September 10, 2011

First Things First

Before reading anything else I have written, you must first understand the background through which everything I write filters. Without this understanding, you may be tempted to irate utterings or flaming emails. Therefore, before reading anything else, reading and understanding this will accomplish one of several things, primarily two:

1) Since all my essays and blogs are based on this document, you are free to dissent only if you feel my conclusions disagree with my filter, or if certain facts supporting my conclusions are incorrect.

2) Understanding this filter is the key to understanding the perspective from which I view things, and might even challenge your own beliefs.

So, here are the basics

Everyone's opinion, their actions, their life, is based around one's own personal view of how the world fits together, or their "world-view". In other words, what is the world? How did it get here? Why do people act like they do? What is their motivation? What in the world (sorry) is it all about??? If you've never really confronted directly these questions, perhaps now is as good a time as any. If you have, then prepare to either agree or disagree - there's no middle ground. EVERYONE lives by faith. The question is: Faith in what?

My own world-view centers around these indisputable facts:

1. There is a God

2. He Knows my name!

3. He inspired the writing of His truths and guidelines for living. We know it as the Holy Bible.

4. He has a Son who was born, lived a life on earth just like everyone else for 33 years, then suffered, was murdered, then 3 days later, defeated death, appeared among men (sometimes to over 200), then was visibly and bodily resurrected into the heavens where He now sits at the right hand of God Almighty Himself

5. His death and subsequent resurrection was payment for my personal sins!

6. There will come a time when God resolves the conflict between Himself and His creation. At that time, those who have accepted His Son's sacrifice as payment for their own sins will live as His adopted sons in a place He's prepared for us. The rest will be judged on their own, and God uses perfection as the standard. All will fail.

7. God has expectations not only for us, but for the human race as a whole, and we are to proclaim truth as His "light in the darkness" for the rest of mankind. We are to be "salt and light" to the world, which means we are directed to be "in the world" but not "of the world" (and that distinction is important).

8. He knows we'll not always be successful, and we will personally fail His tests at regular intervals. When this occurs, see item 5.

9. I am not perfect, and won't be in this lifetime - no one is. As a matter of fact, there will be times when I'm indistinguishable from many of the rest of mankind. In such times, see item 8. The difference is internal, and the destination different.

10. God directs the affairs of men - including sometimes the allowing of evil. He never sponsors evil, but allows it to exist - otherwise we'd have no freedom to choose. We will never in this life understand exactly how He works because...

11. He's God - we're not!

Now, everyone's world-view - EVERYONE's - is centered, whether they will acknowledge it or not, around this one question: Who was Jesus Christ? OK, before you turn me off answer the question. The answer to this question governs not only everything I do, but everything you do as well. "NO WAY!", you on.

IF you believe that Jesus was indeed the Son of God, and IF you believe that He actually was born of a virgin, lived a normal human life (until age 30, at least), was crucified, buried, and, on the 3rd day, was miraculously resurrected, and sits at the right-hand of God Himself today, then you're within a stone's throw of my world-view. There may be minor discrepancies (see other essays), but the MAIN thing you may have right (more about that later).

If you have a problem with any of the things in the last paragraph, then you still need to answer the question: Who is Jesus? If you don't want to answer that question, then you already have!

Some say Jesus was a great teacher (he was!), but that is not "who" He was, that is, He was much more than that.

Some say Jesus was a great leader (he was!), but that alone is insufficient.

Some say Jesus was a great man. That by itself is way too simplistic.

There are only three possibilities (and I steal these from Josh McDowell, who I think borrowed them from C.S. Lewis):

1. He was a raving lunatic in need of serious psychiatric help.

2. He was a liar, deserving of an Academy Award for His performance.

3. He was just who He said He was - The Son of the Living God, and in reality, God Himself, clothed in human flesh.

There are no other possibilities because He didn't leave open any others. He proclaimed Himself to be God. He proclaimed Himself to be God's Son, and He proclaimed Himself to be the only way to get to Heaven! He was not ambiguous, He did not stutter, and He never retreated from these claims. So, there are your choices - choose carefully!

Now, if you're really serious (and to be honest, most people aren't), you'll do some homework. The Bible is the obvious place to start, because it contains His story as told by those who knew Him. It also contains the predictions of His arrival (both times - you did know there were two, didn't you? There were, and more are imminent). Additionally, the traditional Bible (66 books) is considered by the "believing" world to be definitive, with no need for outside help. However, I'll give you the option of doing some other reading, but on one condition: You be honest. Listen carefully to your own conscious, your own heart. Listen to the reason of the Apostle Paul, the passion of Peter, and most importantly, the compassionate but firm words of Jesus Himself. They're all in there. If you really want to know, you'll join thousands of others who took an honest look at who Jesus was/is and became a follower.

Now, two or three things to clear up first. I believe the Bible to be without error. That is, the teachings in the Bible fully agree from book to book. Now, some words have changed meaning slightly since King James allowed the Anglican Church of England to translate into English the original texts, but those are easily recognized. A good example is in the Ten Commandments. The 6th commandment, "Thou shalt not kill", at the time of the translating had a different connotation. To fit today's use, this phrase is better translated to "Thou shalt not murder". God Himself allows His people to kill under certain circumstances, so this grammatical correction is necessary for full understanding. However, other than these few and far between (and mostly insignificant) grammatical corrections, what the Bible teaches, when taken in context, is absolutely in harmony from book to book. So, don't fall into the trap of reading something in one place in the Bible and using only that one place to derive certain "truths". The Bible is a progressive course requiring all parts to understand the full. So, since the entire Bible is necessary for the teaching of "truth", whatever you think it says in one place must agree with everything else written in the Bible, front to back. That sometimes makes understanding difficult, but it also makes for crystal clarity! That may in itself seem a contradiction, but many times clarity is difficult. That's why we study the Bible so incessantly.

Second, I really believe this stuff, and while I'm still a human trapped in this body with all its failings, and subject to do some pretty nasty stuff - similar to the rest of the world - my ultimate goal is to be like Jesus. I may stumble and fall more regularly than I wish to admit, but He'll help me pick myself up to continue on the right track. My "want to" has changed forever. I fully trust God through both Jesus and the Holy Spirit to fully direct my life and the events through and around which I live. Without that trust, life would make no sense. As someone so truthfully once said: "If this is all there is to life, it's not enough". Jesus came to give us a "more abundant" life, not to mention an eternal life when this human life is over. In reality, I don't believe this is real life. I believe this is practice for the real thing, but I digress.

When you Get this MAIN THING right, you find that translates into all areas of life, personal, private, and public. What's the procedure, you say? Simply bow your head, acknowledge that there's someone larger than you are, and in a normal conversational mode, accept His gift, turn your life over to Him, agree to follow Him, and MEAN IT. If you make that decision, and that commitment, He promises to pick up the ball from there and show you the way. It also helps to seek out others who have made similar decisions. You'll find them every Sunday in a church building nearby.

So, through all this I filter everything I believe. My world-view is wrapped around my belief in Jesus Christ, and my trust in God to fulfill His promises. My understanding of His teachings causes me to act and react certain ways, and to have certain attitudes and beliefs that may confound those around me, particularly those of the politically correct gang. These truths are verified by history, personal testimonies, and my own personal experience with God through His Son, Christ Jesus.

Thus, through this filter, I attempt to not only understand the world around me, but to find my place in it, and fulfill His commands to affect that world. Remember as you read what I've written - I really do believe this stuff.

Karl Bullock


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