Three Lenses for Life
Study Guide – January 27, 2019
Pastor Clay Olsen
So, what does this remind you of… “Which is better? One or two? How about now…better one or better two?” Right, the eye test. My brother just retired from Optometry. I wonder how many times he asked those questions over the course of his career? He’s probably heard a lot of eye doctor jokes as well. Like: A man went to the eye doctor and said “I keep seeing spots in front of my eyes.” And the Optometrist said, “Well, have you seen any doctors before?” And the man said, “No, just the spots.” Or, “What do you call a deer without eyes?” “I’ve got ‘no eye-deer’”. Well, there are a lot of eye doctor jokes. And they are pretty funny, even though they are a little ‘cornea’!
But seriously, wouldn’t it be great if we did have three lenses through which we could not only see life clearly, but also understand life clearly? Well, there are three such lenses through which God Himself looks at all of life. And if we will learn to look at all of life through these same three lenses, then we will come to understand all of life much more clearly. And yet, in order to use these lenses, we must first learn, or we should say, we must first choose to ‘delight’ in these things, just as God does. Let’s return to the passage before we unpack this. Jer 9:23-24- “Thus says the Lord, “Let not a wise man boast of his wisdom, and let not the mighty man boast of his might, let not a rich man boast of his riches; but let him who boasts boast of this, that he understands and knows Me, that I am the Lord who exercises lovingkindness, justice and righteousness on earth; for I delight in these things,” declares the Lord.” NASU
We earlier saw that one of the most important things God wants in our relationship with Him is for us to come to understand our God better and better. And that is just an amazing thing to know – that God is that personal with us, His children. But then we find that God wants us to also know exactly what it is that He delights in, along with the fact that these are also three guides, or three attributes, or three lenses through which God sees and acts upon everything in this world. And, as such, we are to then understand that basically these three attributes govern the universe; lovingkindness, justice, and righteousness. Talk about the laws of nature – these are the laws over all that exists in the universe. And so, it behooves us to then choose to learn as much as we can about these three things, and to also then delight in these three things, and to then look at everything in our world through the lenses of these three things. And when something ‘behooves’ us that means it’s supposed to ‘move us’, because ‘behoove’ is far more than a suggestion…it’s a necessary action.
So now let’s think about it: God delights in ‘lovingkindness’. This Hebrew word ‘chesed’ is a combination of ‘love’ and ‘mercy’. And how thankful we are that this love and mercy, this lovingkindness, is the central motive of everything that our wonderful God does. It’s why we have John 3:16- “For God so loved the world, (so loved you and me) that He gave His only begotten Son, that whoever believes in Him (like you and me) shall not perish, but have eternal life.” NASU Thank the Lord for loving us enough to give His life for us so that we would not perish in our sins, but be pardoned and given eternal life in union with our Maker and our Savior.
But another point we need to see and to understand here is that this means that everything God does is from this central motive of lovingkindness. Everything God does begins here…with His love. Even when our first parents sinned against God and they were driven from the Garden of Eden, it was because God loved them and wanted to protect them. Gen 3:22-24- “Then the Lord God said, “The man has become like one of us, since he knows good and evil. He must not reach out and take the fruit from the tree of life and eat. Then he would live forever.” So the Lord God sent the man out of the Garden of Eden to farm the ground from which the man had been formed. After he sent the man out, God placed angels and a flaming sword that turned in all directions east of the Garden of Eden. He placed them there to guard the way to the tree of life.” God’s Word Version
If Adam and Eve ate of the Tree of Life they would then live forever on earth as sinners, separated from a relationship with their Creator. So even their being driven from Eden was because God loved them, and drove them out so that even though their sin had set the just judgment of death into motion, physical and spiritual death, still, through the coming Redeemer, they would be given another chance, given a new birth physically and a new birth spiritually.
Interesting isn’t it, that although we think of our new spirit in terms of the new spiritual birth, we usually don’t think of our new body in terms of a new physical birth. And yet, that is exactly how Paul described it in 1 Cor 15:35-38- “But someone will ask, “How do the dead come back to life? With what kind of body will they come back?” The seed you plant doesn’t come to life unless it dies first. What you plant, whether it’s wheat or something else, is only a seed. It doesn’t have the form that the plant will have. God gives the plant the form He wants it to have. Each kind of seed grows into its own form.” …42-43- “That is how it will be when the dead come back to life. When the body is planted, it decays. When it comes back to life, it cannot decay. When the body is planted, it doesn’t have any splendor and is weak. When it comes back to life, it has splendor and is strong.” God’s Word Version
This explanation by the Apostle should directly influence how Christians think about the death of the body. It’s like the planting of a seed so that it can come back to life…or be reborn into the splendor and strength of immortality! It’s also a point that is far too overlooked by our world, and sometimes by God’s people, who ignore what God has revealed to us in the Bible, in how that even in the death of the physical body the love of God is demonstrated. And how is that? By this: That even like with Adam and Eve, God loves us so much that He allows the seed of the sin damaged mortal body to die on this dying planet so that the plant of the immortal body can then live forever with Him in the New Heavens and New Earth. Remember, the presence of sin in this world has damaged everything in it, including our physical bodies. Sin is a universal toxin or poison. Yes, sin is a rebellion against the Creator, but it is also a poison to our body. And God loves us too much to leave us in this poisoned and damaged condition. And so, like Adam and Eve, because we too have sinned, we cannot go back to Eden…but we can go on to Heaven, because God loves us. And one day this planet Earth will also be reborn, and then God’s original plan will be continued, along with all of His redeemed and immortal children. Wow! And it’s all coming soon.
This is also why Christians die differently than the world…because although we love this life that God has given us, and we love our loved ones and want to stay with them as long as we can, and we love each other…still, we know that Jesus loves us, and so when death comes, we are willing to let go and let this seed of our mortal body be planted in death so that it will be reborn into life in an immortal body in which we will then live forever with those we love who also love Jesus and are loved by Him.
By the way: As for that Tree of Life in Eden? The Apostle John tells us in Rev. 22:2 that we’ll see it again, in the New Earth. And since we will already have immortality, this time it’s fruit and even its leaves will just be for our enjoyment and sense of well being. Hey, Whatever fruit you like the best now…well, the fruit from the Tree of Life is going to be the best ever! Even its leaves are therapeutic somehow!
But now back to God’s lovingkindness…again, this is the central motive for everything God does. Even God’s commandments are born out of God’s lovingkindness. And oh, how the world bristles against God’s commandments, like they would know what’s better for their lives; and like God’s commandments are restrictions to their happiness. How foolish! The world is completely foolish when it comes to understanding the purpose for the commandments of God. Actually, Moses even had to remind God’s people about the purpose of God’s commandments. Look at this: Deut 4:40- “So you shall keep His statutes and His commandments which I am giving you today, that it may go well with you and with your children after you, and that you may live long on the land which the Lord your God is giving you for all time.” Deut 5:29- “Oh that they had such a heart in them, that they would fear Me and keep all My commandments always, that it may be well with them and with their sons forever!” Deut 10:12-13- “Now, Israel, what does the Lord your God require from you, but to fear the Lord your God, to walk in all His ways and love Him, and to serve the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul, and to keep the Lord’s commandments and His statutes which I am commanding you today for your good?” NASU
God’s commandments are born out of God’s lovingkindness. And since God knows what it is that will make life be ‘well for us’ He then gives us His exact instructions in order to accomplish His loving desire for us. And that’s why it is not only sinful to disobey God’s commandments to us, but it is also the height of foolishness as well. It’s an example of how sin damaged the human nature is, to think that the creature would know better than the Creator about how to live a fulfilling and contented life. The sin damaged mind of the natural man has led mankind to live in a constant state of being ‘duped by sin into foolishness’.
The clearest example of this is that people have the tendency to live according to their personal preferences rather than according to God’s permissions. Back to our first parents: Gen 2:16-17- “The Lord God commanded the man, saying, “From any tree of the garden you may eat freely; but from the tree of the knowledge of good and evil you shall not eat, for in the day that you eat from it you will surely die.” NASU So Adam and Eve had God’s permission to choose from any tree in the entire area of Eden. Just think: the choices and liberties and privileges were enormous! But instead of going by God’s permission, they went with their own personal preference instead…and it resulted not in rejoicing, like they assumed it would, but in remorse…for the rest of their lives.
Most people tend to live their lives by their personal preferences about most everything, with little or no regard or knowledge about God’s permissions. Mark it down: Wisdom is to prefer what God has first permitted. Foolishness is to prefer what God has not first permitted. Foolishness is not first finding out what God has permitted before acting on it.
What God permits is what will produce joy, both now and forever, just like we saw in Deuteronomy. But to prefer and then to choose what God has not permitted will produce remorse sooner or later for sure, and forever, without repentance. That’s another reason to study the Word of God in order to find out just what God has permitted us to do in every area of life; from marriage and family, to church and community, to business and medicine and government, and so on…and then – just do that! Make sure that in whatever you prefer to do or to choose in life that you also have God’s permission to do that or choose that. Remember, if God doesn’t permit it, then just like in the Garden of Eden, no matter how good it seems to you or looks to you or you think may make you wise, it will result in leanness to your soul and regret to your heart.
But again remember, God delights in exercising lovingkindness toward us. That’s His central motive and attitude towards you and me. He even delights in showing mercy to us in our time of need. In fact, He calls for us to come to Him even when we might feel like drawing away from Him, like Adam and Eve felt after they sinned. They went and hid, but God came for them, calling for them to come back to Him. Why? Because He wanted them to understand that He delights in lovingkindness. He delights in showing mercy to His children when they are in need of mercy. Heb 4:16- “So let us come boldly to the throne of our gracious God. There we will receive His mercy, and we will find grace to help us when we need it most.” NLT
Well, we still need to unpack the other two lenses of Justice and Righteousness. We’ll get to that soon. But just think: God delights in exercising lovingkindness towards us. And that means that He loves us even more than we want to be loved by God, and that He forgives us even more than we want to be forgiven by God, and that He longs for us to be with Him in Heaven even more than we long to be in Heaven with Him. What an amazing God and Father we have!