Tuesday, April 19, 2011

The Testimony of Man- Day 19- Proverbs 19

We live in an age of competing world views. There are ultimately only 2 opposing sides: the City of Man and The City of God, and these live in opposition to one another. Scripture paints these two paths in distinct antithetical terms:

Lamb vs Dragon
Lion vs Beast
Holy Spirit vs False Prophet
Spiritual vs Natural
Jerusalem vs Babylon
Faith vs Rebellion

One of the huge distinctives in these competing world views is the answer to the question regarding the core nature of man. The City of Man says, "Man is good" while the City of God says, "Man is evil". This doesn't mean that man can't do good things. There is an (apparently)  unexplainable dichotomy that shows man to be capable of building hospitals on one side and devices of torture on another. How can this be?

Scripture explains the human condition and one of the big reasons why I trust the Bible is the truth that basic human nature has not changed. Read the Iliad or study Shakespeare and you will see that the testimony of man's attitudes, actions, and emotions is relatively unchanged, from the earliest records until now.

As we read Proverbs 19, we get a glimpse into this stark reality- life is wonderful, but it is also a shattered utopia with disease, disappointment, delusion, and dispair.

The human condition surveyed in Proverbs 19: poverty, irrational passion, foolishness, hastiness, lying, imprisonment, bribery, favoritism, isolation, caste systems- avoidance- outcasts, mercilessness, gluttony, waste, punishment, broken families, laziness, anger, rage, temper, constant trouble, flogging, crime, robbery, shame, disgrace, corruption, pursuit of wickedness, abuse.

WOW- what a list. No wonder we meet individuals who are so torn up in life and end up broken. The saddest examples are those who are ripped apart by the collateral damage- it is bad enough to suffer for your choices, but what about suffering those things in which you were just the victim?

Now this is a huge point where some simply say,  'there is no god'- but they are sure mad at Him for being absent. Or they say. "There are no moral absolutes" but make harsh judgements like their morals are absolute.

Now, I get pressed pretty hard about my- 'better than any alternative' defense- but the fact is that if God is not there- you still have evil and brokenness and no real hope or chance to escape and no reason why there should be any change.

German theologian, David F. Strauss captures our predicament if God is absent or impotent:

“In the enormous scene of the universe- amid the whirl and hiss of jagged iron wheels- amid the deafening hammer blows- man, a helpless and defenseless creature, finds himself- not secure for one moment- any second an imprudent wheel may seize and rend him, a hammer may crush him to a powder- and worse- the sense of abandonment is awful.”

Do you see the point? When you diss or dismiss God in an angry fit of 'why'- you still have to deal with the reality that our planet is not healthy and is not getting better and you have destroyed the only hope for a solution. Some see religion as a great poison- I agree. But in the midst of that poison there is a cure. God is there and Jesus is the right antidote. But He must be taken straight, as He is, or the cure is worthless. He is a great ray of light piercing through the darkness.

Proverbs teaches us to not despair in the misery we see as the human condition. It has an energy to roll up our sleeves and live. It tells us to apply wisdom and help. It teaches us to be realists about how the system works, but warns us to live above the fray and wait on God to settle the score.

Have you ever considered how the justice of God actually assuages human vindictiveness? I love Tim Keller as a level headed, gospel focused, Biblically solid pastor and apologist. He makes an interesting counter intuitive point about how the existence of God and faith in His promise to ultimate justice is a key to breaking the cycle of endless violence:

"Just think about how you feel when someone you love is harmed by another. Do you respond with benign resignation? No, you are angry and you cry out for retribution and even vengeance. Your love drives you to seek justice. God’s wrath also flows from his love of his creation. One has said that if God were not angry at injustice and did not make a final end to violence, then God would not be worthy of worship. If God did not do it, we would undertake the course of action ourselves. Amazingly, it is the lack of belief in a God of vengeance that drives people to commit crimes against others. It does no good to say “Violence doesn’t solve anything.” Such talk is laughable when your house has been burned down or your daughter has been raped or your sons killed. Victims of violence are drawn to more violence in revenge. The cycle will continue indefinitely. Only the belief that God will eventually put all things right will keep you from taking up the sword. It is the lack of a belief in a just God that secretly nourishes violence." Reason for God- Ch 8

So yes- the testimony of man is not good- even our good deeds are tainted by agenda, and manipulation, and selfish ambition. Our default mode is works salvation and we crucify many for falling short of our demands.

My testimony is full of that greed, and selfishness, and pride, and deceit as well.

My only hope is the gospel. It is great news for me. It is my ray of hope and my encouragement to apply a proverb today. Not to save me- but clear evidence that I get it. I will not change the world- but I can help change something today in a small way that makes it worth it to live. It gives me reason to smile. It gives me medicine to endure. It gives me a heart to enjoy. It gives me an attitude of gratitude.

That is why you never see me lie on the ground after I have been kicked in the gut. I will get back up, again and again, until He returns.

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