Saturday, March 24, 2012

In the World

Earth, Photo by tonynetone, from Creative Commons, © July 13, 2009

“We know that we are of God, and the whole world lies under the sway of the wicked one.” – 1 John 5: 19

The world was created good. The world and all that is in it was created for our enjoyment and pleasure, and points us to a good God who loves us and desires our good pleasure. However, something is wrong.

Often we hear that the world is evil and that we should avoid it and remain separate from it. As followers of Jesus, we can be confused by the notion that the world Christ created and came to redeem is evil. Are we not to be in the world? What do the scriptures mean when they speak of “not loving the world, or the things in the world?” What does “friendship with the world is enmity with God” look like? How do we make sense of “not being in the world,” or “not being friends with the world,” in light of God placing us here in this world at this specific time? Something must be wrong in the world.

The Apostle John, who speaks of not loving the world, defines his terms in First John 2:15-17 when he says, Do not love the world or the things in the world. If anyone loves the world, the love of the Father is not in him. For all that is in the world—the lust of the flesh, the lust of the eyes, and the pride of life—is not of the Father but is of the world. And the world is passing away, and the lust of it; but he who does the will of God abides forever.”

Several observations can be made from First John 2:15-17. The first observation, John defines what he means by “the world” in verse 16 of First John 2. John describes three specific categories of sin that must be avoided “in the world.” This sin is what John is referring to as “the world.” The first sin is the lust of the flesh, the second is the lust of the eyes, and the third is the pride of life. These three sins are similar to the temptations that faced Adam and Eve in the Garden of Eden, which destroyed their relationship with God, and destroyed all that was to be right and good in the world. First, they were tempted by their physical needs, eating the fruit, above their relationship with God. This was the lust of the flesh. Second, they were tempted by desiring that which would harm them because it looked pleasurable. This was the lust of the eye. Third, they were tempted to be their own god. When the serpent said that they would be “like God” if they ate the fruit, this was the pride of life (See Genesis 3).

These three sins, “the lust of the flesh, the lust of the eyes, and the pride of life,” are depicted in Jesus’ own temptation in the wilderness in Matthew 4 as well. Here, Jesus is tempted to sin against God by pursuing “worldly things” above God. He is tempted by his physical needs, the lust of the flesh, when He is tempted to turn the stones into bread. Next, Jesus is tempted to do something spectacular by throwing himself off the temple and having his angels recue Him, the lust of the eyes. Finally, Jesus is tempted to receive all the kingdoms of the world if he worships Satan; this is idol worship and this is the pride of life (See Matthew 4:1-11). These three temptations that Jesus resisted in the wilderness mirror Adam and Eve’s temptations and sin in Garden, and reflects what John defines as “loving the world,” the sins of “the lust of the flesh, the lust of the eyes, and the pride of life.”

The next observation we can make from John is from First John 2:17, “the world is passing away, and the lust of it; but he who does the will of God abides forever.” John is warning us against sins that are leading to death, and about pleasures in sin that are not eternal. He is telling us that these pleasures will not last and they will lead to our death. John is contrasting clearly the differences between the temporary sins and pleasures in this life and the pleasures of eternity to come. John’s concern is that the believer has an eternal perspective and does not place stock in the temporary pleasures, which will all pass away in the end. The pleasures of this temporary world are not comparable with the pleasures and blessings to come in eternity with God. God has our best in mind.

The final observation we can make from John is from the context of John’s whole letter. From the context, we find that John concludes his letter with an appeal to his readers to “keep yourselves from idols (1 John 5:21).” John is saying here that loving the world and the things in the world above God is idolatry. Simply put, John is speaking against idol worship. John goes on to say in 1 John 5:18-21:

“We know that whoever is born of God does not sin; but he who has been born of God keeps himself, and the wicked one does not touch him. We know that we are of God, and the whole world lies under the sway of the wicked one. And we know that the Son of God has come and has given us an understanding, that we may know Him who is true; and we are in Him who is true, in His Son Jesus Christ. This is the true God and eternal life. Little children, keep yourselves from idols. Amen.” (1 John 5:18-21).

John is not the only Biblical author who defines his terms like this. James also defines “loving the world,” or “friendship with the world,” as idol worship. In James 4: 4 and 5, James speaks of pride and unfaithfulness to God as unfaithfulness and adultery, “Adulterers and adulteresses! Do you not know that friendship with the world is enmity with God? Whoever therefore wants to be a friend of the world makes himself an enemy of God. Or do you think that the Scripture says in vain, ‘The Spirit who dwells in us yearns jealously?’” (See James 4) James emphasizes that our God is a jealous God and desires our worship and well-being.

This world was created good. The world and all that is in it was created for our enjoyment and pleasure. However, sin has marred the world’s goodness, and its charms have strived for our affections under the influence, or “sway of the wicked one.” God desires us. God yearns for us jealously and desires to give us so much more than what “the world” can offer us. As far as we see beauty and goodness through sin’s shadows in this world, that goodness is pointing us to someone better, the author of life itself, God. God knows that the pleasures and sin in this world can lead us away from Him and can harm us or hurt us. God also knows that this world is passing away and He knows He is going to make all things new. God desires our best and wants our good pleasure in Him, in this lifetime and in the next.

May we not be led astray by “the lust of the flesh, the lust of the eyes, and the pride of life.” Would we come to the author of life and receive life eternal from Him.


The New King James Version. Nashville : Thomas Nelson, 1982, S. 1 Jn 2:15-17

Monday, March 12, 2012

The First Essential Trait of Leadership

Leadership Qualities, Photo from thegenyblogger, © 2012

What do you think is the first essential trait of leadership?

Recently, the Chick-fil-A Leadercast posted the following quote by Suzy Welch on their Facebook page:

“The first essential trait of leadership is positive energy-the capacity to go-go-go with healthy vigor and an upbeat attitude through good times and bad.” – Suzy Welch

In response to the quote above, I commented, “I do not agree. . .” Although I am not sure what I would put as the first essential trait of leadership, I am confident it would not be "positive energy,” at least not for me, with all due respect to Suzy Welch.

While it is not certain that this is the first essential trait of leadership, it does beg the question, “What is the first essential trait of leadership?” And this is the question the Chick-fil-A Leadercast rightfully asked in response to my comment of disagreement. Below is my response:

“Servant-hood would be a good choice for the first essential trait of a leader. A good leader will exercise selfless service, whether or not the leader "feels" like leading, "feels" positive, or has an “upbeat attitude.” A good leader will exercise good self-care in order to give their very best in service, which may mean resting, exercising restraint, delegating, asking for help, or humbly stepping aside when they recognize their inability to lead effectively in a particular situation.

"Positive energy" is an ambiguous concept. If an “upbeat attitude" is what is meant by "positive energy,” then I understand the concept being portrayed. However, I am fairly confident that a leader will find themselves at the end of their "leadership rope" if this is their first priority, or their first characteristic, of leadership. An upbeat attitude, or “positive energy,” though a great leadership attribute, will not compensate for timely and well-balanced exertion of service, skill, and humble restraint.”

Regardless of what our first essential trait of leadership is, it is important to recognize how we are thinking and leading through our presuppositions about leadership. What we think about and prioritize in leadership will affect our leadership. So we must reckon with the question, “What do you think is the first essential trait of leadership?” We could also ask, “What leadership trait is exhibited as a result of our leadership? Are we modeling effective leadership? Are we leading well? Are we thinking rightly about leadership?”

Saturday, March 3, 2012

Thoughts on Creation

Haitian Mountains, Photo by Robbie Pruitt, © February 2012

By faith we understand that the worlds were framed by the word of God, so that the things which are seen were not made of things which are visible.” –Hebrews 11:3

God created everything ex nihilo, or "out of nothing" in seven literal days. This “out of nothing” does not exclude a design in God’s “heart and mind” of creation and humanity. God Himself embarked on creating from within God’s own being. While God creates within His own power and resources, He exists completely outside of His creation. Only God is capable of making something out of nothing. God creates out of His love and out of the essence of His being and nature.

Within this process of creation, see Genesis 1:1-2, God possibly begins His seven-day creation with an existing form that He has already created, and to which He is already relating. As it says in Genesis 1:1-2, “In the beginning God created the heavens and the earth. The earth was without form, and void; and darkness was on the face of the deep. And the Spirit of God was hovering over the face of the waters.” In these verses, it appears that God is at work before He begins His seven-day creation and ordering of His world. This can account for the Earth seeming older than it is; contingent upon how God has created and ordered His world, and contingent on what is a product of the fall, and what is not a product of the fall.

This view of God creating in the six days from existing matter already formed by God’s Self before creation is supported by The New Bible Commentary. The commentary states the following about Genesis 1:1-2: “The New International Version accepts the traditional understanding of these verses, namely that they describe the very first act of creation, when God created all matter (the heavens and the earth) out of nothing But the earth immediately after creation was formless and empty, i.e. unproductive and uninhabited. So the narrative then proceeds to relate how in six days God organized this chaos into the well-ordered world we now see.”

People are unique to God’s creation. People did not evolve from a lesser species. Human beings were created unique, and in God’s image. We are special and superior to the rest of creation. Creation was intended to be good, was good, and was created for man. Humankind was created for God, to worship God, to bring God glory, and to enjoy God. As the Westminster Catechism states,” Man's chief and highest end is to glorify God, and fully to enjoy him forever.” While humanity is unique, superior, and special in creation, God does not need us for His own existence and well-being. God desires us and we were created out of His own Trinitarian love. God wants us.

In the theology of creation, one can hold a “day age theory” of creation and still be a believer. This “day age theory” holds that the Hebrew word for day, Yome, can mean “a period of time,” as well as a 24-hour day, according to the definition from Strong’s, The Exhaustive Concordance of the Bible. This “day age theory” is not a viable rationale to support time for evolution, however. Nor should we see this added time as an invitation to embrace macroevolution, or its possibility. It seems impossible to reconcile macroevolution with Christianity, given the importance and uniqueness of humankind in God’s creation.

It is vital to note that God exists as Trinity before the foundations of the world and that Jesus and The Holy Spirit were co-creators with the Father. They were not created beings. We have already noted The Spirit of God hovering over the waters of the deep in Genesis 1:1-2. We can also see Jesus in creation from John 1:1-5:

“In the beginning was the Word, and the Word was with God, and the Word was God. He was in the beginning with God. All things were made through Him, and without Him nothing was made that was made. In Him was life, and the life was the light of men. And the light shines in the darkness, and the darkness did not comprehend it.”

Jesus was in the beginning with God as the great “I Am” before creation. Through Him, Jesus, all things were made, and without Jesus, nothing was made. The Nicene Creed restates this Biblical truth from John beautifully as it speaks of creation:

“We believe in one God,
the Father, the Almighty,
maker of heaven and earth,
of all that is, seen and unseen.

We believe in one Lord, Jesus Christ,
the only Son of God,
eternally begotten of the Father,
God from God, Light from Light,
true God from true God,
begotten, not made,
of one Being with the Father.
Through him all things were made.
For us and for our salvation” –Nicene Creed

In looking at creation, it is important to recognize all the creation accounts in scripture, not just the ones in Genesis, or in the Gospel of John. Colossians 1 and Job 38-42 also have creation accounts and Revelation 21 and 22 presents us with the ultimate re-creation account in the restoration of all things to come. Hebrews 11:3 speaks of creation, “By faith we understand that the worlds were framed by the word of God, so that the things which are seen were not made of things which are visible.”

Colossians 1:15-17 also speaks of Christ’s role in creation and in the sustaining of the created order when Paul says, “He is the image of the invisible God, the firstborn over all creation. For by Him all things were created that are in heaven and that are on earth, visible and invisible, whether thrones or dominions or principalities or powers. All things were created through Him and for Him. And He is before all things, and in Him all things consist.” Without Jesus, there is no creation, or order of any existing thing.


Carson, D. A.: New Bible Commentary : 21st Century Edition. 4th ed. Leicester, England; Downers Grove, Ill., USA : Inter-Varsity Press, 1994, S. Ge 1:1

Strong, James: The Exhaustive Concordance of the Bible : Showing Every Word of the Text of the Common English Version of the Canonical Books, and Every Occurrence of Each Word in Regular Order. electronic ed. Ontario : Woodside Bible Fellowship., 1996, S. H3117

The New King James Version. Nashville : Thomas Nelson, 1982, S. Jn 1:1-5