Sometimes it is so hard to break out of our traditions. We just can’t “see” another way because we have always “seen” one way. When we do break free it is liberating and powerful and often world-changing. Does anyone have an iPhone? We applaud Steve Jobs and think “here is a guy who could think outside the box.” But when it comes to the stuff of religion there will be no applause for paradigm shifters. There will be no cheers when traditions are challenged. You might say I am being too harsh against our religions but I am not alone in my observation. You know someone who challenged tradition and paradigms and wrong religion and died in the process. His name was Jesus.
I can’t explain why 2000 years later we are still fighting what He came to reveal. I actually don’t understand why the good news hasn’t been embraced by the whole world. It perplexes me that we humans want to cling to our superstitions and mythologies and traditions and religions instead of falling into the arms of our Father. I blame the forbidden fruit that we still feast on but maybe it is even worse than that. Maybe we just have to “evolve” from carrying our sheaves to the altar of a fictional g.o.d. to embracing our Abba who just wants His kids to know Him as He really is.
So I just keep on keeping on. I don’t know if this voice can be heard over the din of tradition. I don’t know if any of these seeds land on the fertile soil of revelation. I pray they are. I actually know the truth is in all of us and just maybe one of these posts will shine a little light on what we already know deep down.
In the last few posts I’ve actually set the stage for this one. In “Judgment Crisis” I tried to show how the Greek word we translate as “judgment” is also the root word of our English word “crisis.” So judgment, like “the day of judgment,” could read “a day of crisis.” We all have days of crisis, right? When the going gets tough or we run into a brick wall or we reap from some of our poor investments, what will we believe? Will we still trust and have faith in the faithfulness of God? Will we still see our Abba as the one who loves us no matter what? Will we see a kind and good and gracious God who wants to help or will we see the angry g.o.d. of the ancients that needs to punish us?
In the last post I talked about this very real physiological phenomena of fear and how our Amygdala kicks in. In our fight or flight response we shut down. Our congnator stops congnating. We can’t think but only react. Sometimes we run. Sometimes we fight. This is what is going on when religion puts an irrational fear of God into our heads. This is what keeps us from seeing and understanding and believing in the good news of Jesus. Jesus said He is in the Father and we are in Him and He is in us. That is the good news. Our God is our Father and He is good and He is in us. Jesus reveals a Father who will not punish His children in retribution. He loves us and saves us from our fallen images of Him. He finds us in our worst junk and pulls us out of our brokenness. He restores His kids and renews their minds to “see” Him as He is. When religious fear is used in the name of Jesus it is anti-christ. That is not the God and Father of Jesus. That is the voice of the slanderous.
“What? Have you lost your mind?”
It’s OK. Keep your amygdala in check. Let me show you something. Here is a verse that is in your Bible. I have translated it using some different words to avoid any immobility of tradition.
Anyone who keeps missing the truth of God is of the slanderous because the slanderous have been missing the truth of God from the beginning. For this reason, what it looks like to be a Son of God has been revealed to us so that the lies of the slanderous will have no more power over us. (LLT)
Here is another translation of the same verse:
1 John 3:8 Whoever makes a practice of sinning is of the devil, for the devil has been sinning from the beginning. The reason the Son of God appeared was to destroy the works of the devil. (ESV)
I just lost most of my readers when they saw that verse in a familiar form. You may not trust me and need to look it up on your own and I encourage you to do so. For the rest let’s keep going shall we?
Even the concept of “the devil” is so intrenched in our traditions and mythologies. I don’t have the time to break it all down but what we typically believe about “the devil” in the western tradition is more of mythology and can be traced back to Zoroastrian teaching and Hellenistic Jewish book of Enoch inspired apocalyptic literature. We think that Dante’s version of the devil is the truth. Dante’s work is FICTION (just in case you didn’t know that). For now can you just let your mind “see” a different way, just for a moment.
The word devil is an adjective. It means slanderous. The word satan is not a proper name. It comes from a Hebrew word that means adversary.
Num 22:22 But God’s anger was kindled because he went, and the angel of the LORD took his stand in the way as his adversary (satan). Now he was riding on the donkey, and his two servants were with him. (ESV)
OK, maybe I just exploded your head because this concept so much bucks against our tradition but hang with me for a moment more. Jesus said this:
John 8:44 You are of your father the devil, and your will is to do your father‘s desires. He was a murderer from the beginning, and does not stand in the truth, because there is no truth in him. When he lies, he speaks out of his own character, for he is a liar and the father of lies. (ESV)
Here is a LLT so you can get free of the amygdala tradition response:
You are a product of your origins in the slanderous and your will is to do what you have always done and your traditions insists must be done. This voice of slander was the reason Cain killed Abel and is why people murder one another. There is no truth in this slander. The slanderous speaks slander and this need to accuse is the origin of the lies themselves. (LLT)
These are the religious leaders Jesus is talking to. They weren’t “evil” people in the sense of morality and law and all that. These were law-abiding people. We tend to demonize these religious Jews as if they had some huge morality problem. They didn’t. They followed the law to the letter (and to a fault). The problem they had was the g.o.d. they were worshiping. Jesus came to show them that God is not violent or vengeful or angry or retributive. Jesus was revealing the Father who accepts everyone and loves everyone and tells us to love and accept everyone.
Still your amygdala is kicking in even now.
Explain a God that lets mankind kill Him and He doesn’t defend Himself. He comes out of the tomb and loves us and reveals His home in us. God is in us. We are His children and have always been His children and it took the shocking truth of a dead God on a cross at the hands of rejection (missing who God is, sin) itself for us to WAKE UP. Still we don’t wake up even today.
I have come a long way around this thing and probably need to have a post or two more to come at it from other angles. So for now can you at least entertain that what John is talking about in the opening verse is this:
Jesus came to defeat the lies in our heads and in our traditions and in our religions and in our forbidden fruit feasts. He came to reveal our loving Father who is our Abba and is our savior (from our lies) and our redeemer (from our wrong thinking) and our restoration (to value ourselves again). He came to stop the voice of the slanderous and reveal what it looks like to be a child of God. His example is our inheritance. His demonstration of a restorative Father is our proof of our identity. His willingness to let us kill Him for no good reason whatsoever is our certainty of our worth and value and position and acceptance and assurance as a child of God.
Can you see it?
Defeating the works of the devil. We are still doing it today. It isn’t the stuff of fear or authority or religion or mythology. It is actually revealing a loving Father by His loving kids.