Was Jesus Right About the World (God and Heaven)?

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The world according to Jesus.

Welcome to what I hope will be a paradigm-shifting, mind-blowing, life-changing weekend. It was originally my intent to skip discussion of one of Willard’s chapters to get right into the SOM with discussion of the Beatitudes. Re-reading that chapter made me realize we needed to wrestle with a question of prime importance lest the Red Letters be just another “good Bible study” instead of being transformative, which was Jesus’ original intent.
That question is, “Was, and is, Jesus right about the world?” The truth is the world as Jesus saw it has little in common with the world as commonly perceived. I’m talking about more than the differences of time, culture, discovery and technology. How we answer this question is fundamental (hate that word) to how seriously we take the words of Jesus.

Jesus’ view of the world must begin with his view of God.

Christians are people who believe Jesus was right about God. We don’t bring our own God to the table; we celebrate the God Jesus gave us.
This is the way we affirm the divinity of Jesus. We no longer ask if Jesus is the Son of God; we pray that God is the Father of Jesus. (Must we choose between fundamentalism and ‘belief-less Christianity’?, BNG, Alan Bean, March 24, 2015)

Willard wrote our day like that of Jesus requires a re-visioning of God.

“To his (Jesus’) eyes, this is a God bathed and God-permeated world,” making it a good world.

God said it was so (Genesis 1:10, 12, 18, 25, 31) and the fact it is a groaning creation [Rom 8.22] doesn’t undo that.

It is a world filled with a glorious reality, where every component is within the range of God's direct knowledge and control – though he obviously permits some of it, for good reasons, to be for a while otherwise than as he wishes. (Willard)

The “for good reasons” is tone-deaf and unnecessary to the larger argument that Jesus saw this as a good world; this phrase is more reflective of Willard’s theology than Jesus’ worldview.

What is God’s life like?

“We should, first, think that God leads a very interesting life, and that he is full of joy.”

One of the fruit of the Spirit is joy [Gal 3.22].

Many years ago, I read that the fruit of the Spirit is the character of Jesus, and we may by logical inference assume the same is true of the Father.

John 14:9 LEB
Jesus said to him, “Am I with you so long a time and you have not known me, Philip? The one who has seen me has seen the Father! How can you say, ‘Show us the Father?’
All of the good and beautiful things from which we occasionally drink tiny droplets of soul-exhilarating joy, God continuously experiences in all their breadth and depth and richness. (Willard)

While there is a need to affirm this, especially in these dark days, we cannot shy away from the other side which was just as much a part of Jesus’ worldview.

Isaiah 53:4 (NIV84)
Surely he took up our infirmities
and carried our sorrows,
yet we considered him stricken by God,
smitten by him, and afflicted.

Willard wrote that Jesus’ happiness was not derailed by sorrow and grief; we need to substitute joy (above circumstances) for happiness (grounded in circumstances).

Can humans really speak about God?

Like me, you were probably taught that because God is as high above us as the heavens are above the earth human language is inadequate when it comes to God.

It is true that our language cannot exhaust God, but it can approximate him.

That is certainly true of the Psalms, but not just the Psalms.

A general definition of this great First Cause, as far as human words dare attempt one, may be thus given: The eternal, independent, and self-existent Being: the Being whose purposes and actions spring from himself, without foreign motive or influence: he who is absolute in dominion; the most pure, the most simple, and most spiritual of all essences; infinitely benevolent, beneficent, true, and holy: the cause of all being, the upholder of all things; infinitely happy, because infinitely perfect; and eternally self-sufficient, needing nothing that he has made: illimitable in his immensity, inconceivable in his mode of existence, and indescribable in his essence; known fully only to himself, because an infinite mind can be fully apprehended only by itself. In a word, a Being who, from his infinite wisdom, cannot err or be deceived; and who, from his infinite goodness, can do nothing but what is eternally just, right, and kind. Reader, such is the God of the Bible; but how widely different from the God of most human creeds and apprehensions! (Adam Clarke’s Commentary on Genesis)

What a difference language makes.

Where was/is Jesus’ God?

As kids we were taught to answer that question, “God is in heaven,” which begs the question, “Where is heaven?”

What does that verse we referenced earlier actually say?

Isaiah 55:6–9 LEB
Seek Yahweh while he lets himself be found; call him while he is near. Let the wicked forsake his way, and the man of sin his thoughts. And let him return to Yahweh, that he may take pity on him, and to our God, for he will forgive manifold. “For my thoughts are not your thoughts, and your ways are not my ways,” declares Yahweh. “For as the heavens are higher than the earth, so my ways are higher than your ways, and my thoughts than your thoughts.

We’re not going to get into the how many heavens there are; we’re just going to affirm Jesus’ belief in God’s nearness as affirmed in one of is names.

Matthew 1:23 LEB
“Behold, the virgin will become pregnant and will give birth to a son, and they will call his name Emmanuel,” which is translated, “God with us.”

Matthews words are really the words of the OT prophet Isaiah which is fitting for the OT is awash with the belief in God’s nearness.

Exodus 33:11 NIV84
The Lord would speak to Moses face to face, as a man speaks with his friend. Then Moses would return to the camp, but his young aide Joshua son of Nun did not leave the tent.

While our rational minds have made us skeptical of reports of God’s nearness, and rightfully so, they have also made us unnecessarily cynical regarding that nearness.

His nearness is truly a subjective reality.

You Tube video, “He’s Everything to Me”

But it can’t be just that; a God who lives just in our hearts or way out there in no way measures up to Adam Clarke’s description or the Psalmists’ words.

I absolutely believe in human reason; I accept scientific reality; I reject the labels literalist or inerrantist; but why does that mean I cannot believe God inhabits the very air in which I live and move and exist (quoting Paul quoting Epimenides)?

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