Written by: Pastor Joel
The Bible makes several statements about the nature of man, what is sometimes termed the doctrine of anthropology. For instance, Isaiah 40:6-7 says, “The voice said, Cry. And he said, What shall I cry? All flesh is grass, and all the goodliness thereof is as the flower of the field: The grass withereth, the flower fadeth: because the spirit of the LORD bloweth upon it: surely the people is grass.”
And Psalm 103:13-16 says, “Like as a father pitieth his children, so the LORD pitieth them that fear him. For he knoweth our frame; he remembereth that we are dust. As for man, his days are as grass: as a flower of the field, so he flourisheth. For the wind passeth over it, and it is gone; and the place thereof shall know it no more.”
Human nature is in stark contrast to the character of God. This is true whether we speak of one who knows the Lord, such as Job, or whether we speak of the world at large. The world we live in, by and large, has an identity crisis. Mankind, for the most part, does not know who mankind is. Man is fickle. Man is malleable. Man is subject to change. How far will man go? Do men realize how far they have gone?
I want to read to you a fascinating quotation that I think illustrates what I am trying to say. It is found in the classic psychology textbook, Theories of Personality, by Richard M. Ryckman. In the introductory section to part two, Psychoanalytic and Neoanalytic Perspectives, Mr. Ryckman makes the following observation:
“Only a few people in human history have generated work so creative and provocative that it shapes the course of human values, thought, and behavior. Copernicus, the eminent 16th-century Polish astronomer, was one such individual; his discovery that the Earth was not the center of the universe forced us to reexamine our beliefs about our own omnipotence and omniscience. Darwin, the English naturalist of the 19th century, was another; his work forced us to realize that we too are part of the natural world and are governed to some extent by our biology. Sigmund Freud belongs in this elite company, because he compelled us to acknowledge that we are often driven to act impulsively and irrationally by unconscious conflicts of a sexual and aggressive nature.” (1)
So we follow the progression of thought expressed in the above quotation, and we find in fact a regression, or perhaps transgression, away from the divine revelation toward human reason. The essence of the Freudian viewpoint is: “there is nothing special about one’s actions.” That which man does, whatever he does, is the impulse of the subconscious, and so nothing is especially right or especially wrong, at least not as commonly understood by definitions of words such as “righteousness” or “wickedness.”
However, the only reason the Freudian viewpoint was able to be popularized was because it was built upon the Darwinian viewpoint. The essence of the Darwinian viewpoint is: “there is nothing special about man, that is to say, about humans.” Man is part of the animal kingdom, and while more advanced than other species, he is not truly special, at least not as commonly understood by such phrases as, “created in the image of God.”
However, the only reason the Darwinian viewpoint was able to be popularized was because it was built upon the Copernican viewpoint. The essence of the Copernican viewpoint is: “there is nothing special about earth.” Earth is part of the greater cosmos, not occupying any special place in the so-called universe. While Earth is apparently uniquely habitable and admittedly beautiful, it cannot be thought of as the centerpiece of the heavens or in any way special in its physical relationship to the rest of creation.
What does any of this mean? It illustrates that man has lost his identity. Whether it is the philosophy of Copernicus, Darwin, or Freud, or of public opinion, pop culture, and humanistic religion, mankind has turned from revelation and lost the truth of his own identity. He does not truly know who he is, and so he does not know how he then should live. Therefore, people are left to do whatever is right to them, whatever is right in their own eyes. And so, when you go to visit the 9/11 memorial in New York City, to view the names of the nearly three thousand souls who were murdered on September 11, 2001, you find the names of a couple women who, next to their names stands the phrase, “and her unborn child.” That unborn child is memorialized because it is viewed, in this case, as a victim. And yet how many unborn children in America are not thought of as victims and not memorialized? Everything is completely relative. Anything can change. The world has cast off unchanging, rock-solid, immutable truth in exchange for handfuls of sand. The world does not know what to believe, and it will follow itself, like a dog chasing its tail in circles, rather than turn to the One of Whom it is said in Revelation 21:5-8:
“And he that sat upon the throne said, Behold, I make all things new. And he said unto me, Write: for these words are true and faithful. And he said unto me, It is done. I am Alpha and Omega, the beginning and the end. I will give unto him that is athirst of the fountain of the water of life freely. He that overcometh shall inherit all things; and I will be his God, and he shall be my son. But the fearful, and unbelieving, and the abominable, and murderers, and whoremongers, and sorcerers, and idolaters, and all liars, shall have their part in the lake which burneth with fire and brimstone: which is the second death.”
It is easy to overlook the man Job after chapter two of his book. We know the short introductory chapters. And we know the short concluding chapters. But how well do we know the long, long middle? Job lost his identity for a while; longer than we may be comfortable admitting. If Job had a Twitter account, and we were following his daily tweets, many no doubt would conclude that Job was lost.
But what if you had to visit ten graves? What if you lost all you had, all you had worked for, all you had become? What if the quality of life you take for granted were stripped from you in an instant? What if God told Satan about you? What if God allowed Himself, as it says in Job 2:3, to be moved by Satan against you, to destroy you without cause? What if your few friends, for whatever reason, did nothing to comfort, but in their words of encouragement, stuck rusty knives in your open wounds? And what if God did not answer? What if he let you go from bad to worse? How would your identity hold up? Do you want the opportunity to try to do better than Job did?
At the conclusion of the book, Job is blessed greatly, but he is a different person than the man we read of in chapter one. He is not described as he was once described.
We the readers of the book of Job never get a satisfactory ending because the man Job never gets a satisfying answer. We are told little about him at the end because the book of Job is not about Job, anymore than your testimony is really about you. If we focus more on people than on God, we will be dissatisfied. And that is true even when we study the history of God’s people, for the history of God’s people is more about God than about the people. The book of Job is somewhat about a man who was changed permanently, but it is more about a God Who changes never. Job never got an explanation to the changes that God allowed. But which would he rather have had: an explanation? Or God?
My counsel is that you not look for an explanation for the changes that happen in your life. Only look to the unchanging God, and to His unchanging truth.
As I said at the beginning, your family could change. Your church could change. Your country could change.
Far be it from me to in any way be the least bit disparaging to John the Baptist. That hesitation is part of the reason why I hold to the position I do regarding his statement in Matthew 11:3. But John was not immortal, only truth is. And so, whether he doubted for a moment or not, I am reminded that there is a blessing for me and for you, if, by the grace of God, we are not offended in the Lord. And do not think that that could never happen to you. We know what happens to those who swear that they will never deny the Lord.
Now that my introduction is concluded, I can get to my message. Fortunately for you, my message is one sentence:
The only hope we have in this life, is to find our identity in relation to the immutable God of heaven.
Immutability and Identity.
(1) Richard M. Ryckman, Theories of Personality, 9th Edition (Belmont, CA: Wadsworth Cengage, 2008), p. 27
Read more blogs written by Pastor Joel!
Our church is known as the Commonwealth Community Baptist Church of the Bronx. Sometimes people will refer to our church simply as “Commonwealth.”
As everyone in our church knows, this past Christmas season we completed a detailed study of I Timothy 3:16.
“And blessed is he, whosoever shall not be offended in me.”