God the Creator or God the Created?

“You thought that I was altogether like you” (Psalm 50:21).

The psalmist identifies the greatest sin of humanity – idolatry.  Idolatry is turning God the Creator into God the created.  It is men and women creating God in the image of humanity – limited in all ways, angry, arrogant, impatient, jealous, and so on.  Estrangement from God over time due to rebellion from Him lends to people viewing the created order as somehow resembling the image of God.  The psalmist claims that this estrangement begins in the mind with disordered thoughts.  It is natural for us to think this way in our rebellion from God.  In fact, the greater the distance humanity is from God, the more individuals shake off the truth of God and form Him into the image of the creature.  Idolatry has no bounds in its creativity.  It takes that which exist in the created order and converts it into a god.  In doing so, certain consequences occur.

Love turns into hatred, and embracing God becomes rejection. Raising up other gods demonstrates hatred for God’s instruction, especially the first of the 10 Commandments,

“You shall have no other gods before Me” (Exodus 20:3).

This instruction is not simply something in writing but the instruction of humanity’s design – created in the image of God.  If men and women are created in God’s image, then we bear the image of the one and only true God.  No other gods exist, for they are fictions risen from the minds of individuals.  Since God is righteous (50:6), His imprint of righteousness is on everyone.  It is an objective imprint that God stamps as good because it is the essence of His being and character; that is, He is internally consistent and faithful with all He is.  God is good and love and righteousness and truth.  Therefore, there is an objective good and rightness, and it resides in God.

Just as we create gods from that which exists in the created order, we think we can create our own good and rightness and make it our own truth.  When each person does this, goodness and rightness multiply by as many people that exist, and each person does what it right in one’s own eyes.  We develop our own “truth” after we have rejected God and the truth that He is.  We view ourselves righteous in our own eyes and claim, “Your truth may not be the same as my truth” and live in that fantasy world.  This is one of the major consequences of rejecting God’s instruction.  We take a path contrary to the way God created us – His design for our lives.  The world is a sad commentary of everyone doing what is right in one’s eyes.  Paul the Apostle gives a list of consequences that results from this action:

“Professing to be wise, they became fools, and changed the glory of the incorruptible God into an image made like corruptible man—and birds and four-footed animals and creeping things. Therefore God also gave them up to uncleanness, in the lusts of their hearts, to dishonor their bodies †among themselves, who exchanged the truth of God for the lie, and worshiped and served the creature rather than the Creator, who is blessed forever. Amen. For this reason God gave them up to vile passions. For even their women exchanged the natural use for what is against nature. Likewise also the men, leaving the natural use of the woman, burned in their lust for one another, men with men committing what is shameful, and receiving in themselves the penalty of their error which was due. And even as they did not like to retain God in their knowledge, God gave them over to a debased mind, to do those things which are not fitting; being filled with all unrighteousness, sexual immorality, wickedness, covetousness, maliciousness; full of envy, murder, strife, deceit, evil-mindedness; they are whisperers, backbiters, haters of God, violent, proud, boasters, inventors of evil things, disobedient to parents, undiscerning, untrustworthy, unloving, unforgiving, unmerciful” (Romans 1:22-29).

The above is a vicious cycle of destruction, a destruction arising from a lie and rejection of the one true God.

However, the psalmist claims another way,

“Whoever offers praise glorifies Me; And to him who orders his conduct aright I will show the salvation of God” (Psalm 50:23).

Praising God turns negatives and the cycle of destruction into life – eternal life.  Praise accepts God and His way for us.  It returns the good and brings order back to us.  God restores that good within us by faith in Him in recognizing Him as both God the Creator and Redeemer and rejects a god created in the image of a replica that exist in our minds.

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Surprised by Grace: Mary

All of us know the story of Mary the mother of Jesus. The Scriptures speak highly of her and give us many details about her. She fearlessly stood with her Son before the cross as He died for our sins. She prayed in the upper room with the disciples and witnessed their choice of Matthias to replace Judas. She received the Holy Spirit when He came upon the disciples on Pentecost. The writers of the gospels relied on her as a resource to record the life of Jesus. Yes, she played a pivotal role in rearing Jesus in bringing Him up in the fear of God. Although He existed as God come in the flesh, “He learned obedience…” (Hebrews 5:8), we cannot deny Mary’s participation in teaching Him. Yet, while she gave birth and mothered Jesus, she acquiesced to His rule over her as her Savior and Lord.

Mary-JesusAs we enter into her story, we discover the surprises she received from God. The first of these surprises came about when an angel of the Lord appeared to her. This was no ordinary angel. Rather, God sent Gabriel the archangel, among the highest of God’s angels. Gabriel dwelled in the presence of God (Luke 1:19), in His royal court as His personal servant (Maxwell Davidson, “Angels” in Dictionary of Jesus and the Gospels). It took a special messenger with a special message for Mary because she would bear the Son of God. Gabriel declared to her,

“Rejoice, highly favored one, the Lord is with you; blessed are you among women!” (Luke 1:28)
This declaration troubled Mary. That is, her emotions appeared to overwhelm her thoughts with intense perplexity and confusion rather than expressing joy as Gabriel encouraged her to experience. Favored? Blessed among women? What kind of message is this? God surprised her with grace. Gabriel continued in his greeting,
“Do not be afraid, Mary, for you have found favor with God” (Luke 1:30)
Gabriel wanted Mary to know that what he said was not simply idiomatic or an ordinary greeting as we often express ourselves to others such as,
Bless you!
or,
Have a good day!
or again,
I wish you well!
Rather, Gabriel declares God’s grace twice to Mary, not with a frivolous phrase, but with meaning and the full weight of God’s promise. God embedded His guaranteed redemption in this grace. God gave Mary genuine and earth-shattering grace. In the same way that Noah found favor or grace in God’s eyes (Genesis 6:8), so also did Mary. The favor or grace toward both Noah and Mary was momentous and historic. It was redeeming grace. Just as God redeemed Noah and his family, He also set apart Mary to bear the Redeemer of humanity. This grace amounted to far more than wishing one well or a reaction of “Bless you.” This grace possessed eternal weight and results, because God’s word has repercussions for eternity. What could prepare Mary or us for such grace?
Grace does come in surprising ways, especially when unexpected. Mary had a difficult time handling this grace from God. It initially confused her to realize that the King of all existence and the redemption of sinful humanity would grow in her womb and receive birth from her. Rejoice? Finally, after Gabriel finished speaking, she said,
“Behold the maidservant of the Lord! Let it be to me according to your word” (Luke 1:38).
What an example for us toward whom God declares grace! God surprised Mary with grace. He also does that with everyone who belongs to Him. God’s grace is not a frivolous declaration from Him such as “Bless you, my Son.” When God blesses us with grace, He does so with purpose, power, and resoluteness.
When God appeared to Isaiah as he worshiped in the temple, Isaiah fell prostrate on the ground and shook as he cried,
“Woe is me, for I am undone! Because I am a man of unclean lips,
And I dwell in the midst of a people of unclean lips;
For my eyes have seen the King, the LORD of hosts” (Isaiah 6:5)
The same trembling and fear came upon him as descended on Mary. He recognized the grace of God with great humility and received it in similar fashion. God’s grace causes such a response. It bends us to the earth and causes us to recognize our state – those in need of the Savior, for it comes with overwhelming mercy and love stunning in our encounter with it. How does grace bend us to recognize our state and simultaneously lift us up with mercy and love?  Forgiveness and complete acceptance.  Everyone who believes through the touch of the Holy Spirit, receives forgiveness and total acceptance before God the Father.  Grace surprises us and catches us off guard in a similar way that it did with Mary.
The group Hillsong presents this same surprise of grace in their lyrics:
And I stand, I stand in awe of you
I stand, I stand in awe of you
Holy God to whom all praise is due
I stand in awe of you
From Hillsong, “I Stand in Awe of You”
Awe expresses surprise and wonder.  Christmas is a time that represents God’s surprising grace that lifts our face to His. Does God’s stunning grace captivate you?
HAVE A GRACE-FILLED CHRISTMAS