JACKSON — Back in the Old Testament days, God spoke directly to his people. The reaction among all those who experienced this was the same: They were all terrified.
There were several causes behind this terror. The first was physical. God’s presence created terrifying physical manifestations, with searing, blinding light being the most universal. His presence singed Moses’ eyeballs and bronzed his skin.
The second cause of the terror was conceptual. Right before you was the creator of the universe. It was mind-blowing to be face-to- face with such power and might.
The third cause of the terror was practical. When you come face-to-face with God, there is no more denying his existence. This means your disobedience and sin can’t be swept under the rug or ignored. You can’t very well go about your selfish existence and think there are no consequences. God is real. God is just. Your actions have consequences — eternal consequences. That’s terrifying.
Atheism amazes me in many ways. First, atheism is hopelessly arrogant. To think you got here all by yourself and that there is no higher power in the universe is hopelessly arrogant. Second, it is ignorant. Anyone who truly studies the Bible will find miracles and predictions of incredible detail with thousands of witnesses that are inexplicable without a creator.
But most of all, atheism is selfish. It allows us to do whatever we want with no accountability or repercussions. If there is no God, then we are God and our will can be done. This is a recipe for mankind’s disaster.
On numerous occasions throughout history, God has become so frustrated with mankind that he came close to wiping us out entirely. Thankfully, God’s mercy is bountiful, or I wouldn’t be writing these words.
The First Commandment is to have no other gods before the real God. I can understand this. If I had created mankind, I’d be really irritated if my very creation refused to acknowledge me. My children may not do everything I say, but at least they acknowledge that I am their father (but not their creator, which I am quick to remind them).
Back in the days of the Old Testament, “other gods” were truly other gods — golden calves that were worshipped, the sun and various other engraven idols.
Today, the worship of other gods is more subtle and far more invidious. We worship money. We worship our appearance or our career or our hobbies or children or a thousand other material things that we put before God. Truly, we are as disobedient in our material idolatry as those who worshipped graven images back in the old days. We must be careful about this.
You see it in the way the rest of the nation puts down Mississippi for having the lowest per capita income (even though it’s as high as England, France and New Zealand). Yet Mississippi has more churches and more believers per capita than the rest of the nation, maybe the world. As Jesus told us: What good does it do for a man to gain the whole world and lose his soul?
Ah, Jesus. The whole point of Christmas. God terrified and puzzled man. He was too great, too mighty, too sizzling to approach. But not so the baby Jesus. Here was God made man, a baby in a manger who could be held and rocked to sleep in the arms of his mother, Mary. For the first time in human history, man could come face-to-face with God. We could touch God, talk to God and listen to God. God was able to show us and tell us all we needed to know.
And what a show-and-tell it was. The life of Jesus was perfectly spectacular. He taught us how to love, how to live, how to forgive, how to raise our children, how to treat our spouses, our enemies, our church. He taught us how to eat, how to work, how to trust, how to die and even how to conquer death. God made man, Jesus Christ, taught us everything we could possibly need to know. Now that is the gift that keeps on giving!
What is man that God is mindful of us? Why should he care? There is a lot about us that is awful, sinful and unredeemable. Yet he does. He cares about each and every one of us. How joyful to know of his love.
God could have made us obedient robots, but he didn’t. We are made in his image, which is a hard concept to grasp given our sinful nature. And he makes each one of us unique, like snowflakes each have their own unique crystalline lattice structure. Out of all the trillions upon trillions of snowflakes, no two are identical. And so it is with us. This is God’s immense power of creation.
I have written 30 Christmas columns. I could just rerun the old ones, and no one would ever know the difference. But it gives me joy to write one fresh, each slightly different from the rest. So it is with God and man. Each new birth starts a unique journey.
God knew from day one that Jesus would reconcile him to mankind. He knew we would be unable to keep the laws of the Old Testament. He knew we would require a savior. Surely, we are supposed to learn something from this magnificent process.
It’s all there in the Bible. The whole story. Perfectly planned and executed. Start to finish. Do yourself a favor and learn it.