Terrific Theatre – Tricky Theology

Terrific Theatre – Tricky Theology

A Personal Review of THE SHACK

The journey to arrive at this point of writing a review of the movie The Shack has been very difficult for me. There are many people with strong opinions about the movie and how it has helped them in some way. It is not my desire to debate how God might be using this movie to heal your heart.  It is my deep desire to humbly represent the truth of the Gospel of Jesus Christ as the only means of true healing and help. I want to both commend noteworthy projects that help people with real hurts, and at the same time address the sometimes subtle and sometimes obvious deceptions of the enemy of God that are built into the help that is provided.

In this blog, I am going to give a summary of what I observed as I watched the movie. This reviews requires some pastoral teaching on theology that is so very essential in today’s culture of whitewashed belief systems. I would encourage you to contact me personally if you would like further explanations.

I am writing primarily for the sake of disciples of Christ who want to be discerning and helpful to people who come out of this movie with questions about God. And they will come out of the movie with questions about God. Many will be honestly seeking to know Him. It is our privilege to lead them to the truth. Please recognize that some of your friends may believe that they understand God better because of this movie. Please engage them in truth conversations based on the Bible and lead them to true salvation and healing.

First, let me tell you that from a purely theatrical perspective, this movie is very well done. It engages the audience dramatically and emotionally, and sincerely touches on one of the real issues of people’s hurts. That is commendable.

I also saw value in the teaching that came from the personification of wisdom who explained the need for mankind to stop judging others. I thought this was handled very well.

The movie also does a good job of expressing three truths that are foundational to Christianity: God is by nature three-in-one; God loves us; and His love can bring powerful healing to hurting hearts. This can be a great opportunity for disciples of Jesus Christ to begin a conversation with people who are drawn to God through the movie. That is commendable.

The way these three truths are presented impacts every part of our being – our hearts, our minds, and our emotions. So deeply does the healing power of God affect people as they watch that dry eyes are uncommon. That is commendable.

But with each of the commendations come several cautions. We live in a world governed by consistent appeals to our emotions so that they become our personal validation of truth. That is one of the great deceptions of Satan, who seeks to lead us to base our understanding of eternal truth on nothing more trustworthy than human reason, human experience, and human emotion. If we allow the emotion of this movie to influence our understanding of the truth of God, then we open ourselves up to falsehood. We must be cautious.

“Some defend The Shack by saying it’s only a work of fiction. But if you’re going to have God as a character in your fiction, then you must deal with God as He has revealed Himself in Scripture. By using the Trinity as characters, The Shack is clearly indicating that it’s talking about the God of Christianity. But God has said certain things about Himself in Scripture, and much of what’s in this novel contradicts that.” (quoted from GotQuestions.Org/The-Shack-Review)

Before I list the cautions so you can address them with people who truly seek the truth, I must issue a spoiler alert. The only way to truly evaluate this movie is to reveal the ending, so I am about to do that.

The entire context of the representations of God in this movie are the product of a man’s imagination while he is in a coma of who he wants God to be. After seeing the end of the movie, I concluded that the teachings about God in this movie are nothing more than man’s desire to define God in a way that is acceptable to our way of thinking, rather than an attempt to declare the truth of who God is and then conform our thinking to that truth.

That logical conclusion drawn from the end of the movie reveals then, in my opinion, the author’s desire to so emotionally involve us in the story that we will accept conclusions about the nature of God that are not true even though they are very appealing. I will address in detail only three major cautions, and then end with a list of other concerns that you need to be prepared to address with people who are interested in conversations about God.

Caution #1 – Be prepared to share with your friends that this movie should not be the basis of our understanding of the nature of God. It presents a flawed view of both the nature of the Trinity and the perfect nature of God’s attributes.

Scripture teaches that there is a hierarchy of authority and submission within the Trinity. The “God” character tells Mack that authority and submission are a result of sin, and the Trinity is a perfect circle of communion.

“Mackenzie, we have no concept of final authority among us, only unity. We are in a circle of relationship, not a chain of command or ‘great chain of being’ as your ancestors termed it. What you’re seeing here is relationship without any overlay of power. We don’t need power over the other because we are always looking out for the best. Hierarchy would make no sense among us.”

But Scripture teaches that authority and submission are inherent to the Godhead and have existed from the beginning. Jesus was sent by the Father (John 6:57), and Jesus says it is his intention to obey the Father’s will (Luke 22:42). The Holy Spirit obeys both the Father and the Son (John 14:26, John 15:26). These are not the result of sin; they are the very nature of the Godhead in which all three persons are equal in essence but exist within a hierarchy of authority and submission.

Regarding the nature of God, many will argue that the movie is not intended to reveal the full nature of God, and I agree. However, the primary aspect of His nature that is addressed in the movie – God’s love – is presented in a context of love being the totality of His nature so that other aspects of God’s nature are directly denied. Any presentation of God that shows only one side of His nature is wrong.

For example, the movie clearly teaches that the love of God completely excludes any possibility of the judgment of sin. The character representing God declares that God has nothing to do with wrath against sin, and that sin is its own punishment. This is a huge problem, yet it appeals directly to our desire to understand God only in the context of love.

Here are some Bible verses that the movie denies as truth:

  • Romans 1:18 For the wrath of God is revealed from heaven against all ungodliness and unrighteousness of men, who by their unrighteousness suppress the truth.
  • Romans 2:5 But because of your hard and impenitent heart you are storing up wrath for yourself on the day of wrath when God’s righteous judgment will be revealed.
  • Romans 2:8 but for those who are self-seeking and do not obey the truth, but obey unrighteousness, there will be wrath and fury.
  • Ephesians 5:6 Let no one deceive you with empty words, for because of these things the wrath of God comes upon the sons of disobedience.
  • Colossians 3:6 On account of these the wrath of God is coming.
  • 1 Thessalonians 1:10 and to wait for his Son from heaven, whom he raised from the dead, Jesus who delivers us from the wrath to come.

Is God love? YES! Does God love sinners? YES! Does God forgive sinners? YES! Does God’s love negate any other aspect of His nature like justice? ABSOLUTELY NOT!

Caution #2 – Be prepared to talk to your friends about Divine justice against sin. This movie teaches that God’s love eliminates His need for the punishment of sin. It clearly states that after we have experienced the human consequences of guilt and shame, our punishment is complete and we will all be saved and enter the presence of Christ.

No matter how this belief is explained away by the author of the book and movie, who describes his belief system as hopeful universalism, it denies the truth of Scripture that only those saved by grace through faith in the sacrifice of Christ on the cross will be granted eternal life, and all others will be sentenced by God to eternal damnation.

The not-so-subtle representation of unsaved people all being saved and observed in the movie in the presence of Christ as eternal lights is false teaching. The words of Jesus tell us clearly that “Whoever believes in the Son has eternal life; whoever does not obey the Son shall not see life, but the wrath of God remains on him.” (John 3:36)

Be very careful here with people’s word skills. The false doctrine of universal salvation is clear in this movie, and the wordsmithing that is taking place is a great deception with eternal consequence. Be prepared to help people to understand this by balancing the love of God with the perfect justice of God against all sin. Only then will people be able to understand the magnificent grace of God for salvation available because of Christ’s death on the cross. Help your friends understand the truth.

Caution #3 – Leading your friends to the cross of Jesus Christ and His resurrection is vital after seeing this movie. Nowhere in the movie is our personal accountability to God for our sin presented. It is not even hinted. Nowhere is repentance from that sin and faith in Jesus Christ offered as the only way of salvation. This movie does not teach the Gospel of Jesus Christ. It is an entertaining movie, but it is my fear that the average unsaved person will walk away with an underlying philosophy of faith that gives them a false hope. My fear is that they will believe that in the end, no matter what they have done and whatever sins they may have committed, they are automatically forgiven because God suffered for those sins and will never punish them.

The depiction of God with nail scars in “her” wrists is not only an offense to the truth, but it validates the belief that God the Father will never pour out His wrath against sin. This is the false teaching of patripassionism, another ancient heresy that teaches that God the Father suffered on the cross. In the book upon which the movie is based, the “God” character says this about the scars: “When we three spoke ourself into human existence as the Son of God, we became fully human. We also chose to embrace all the limitations that this entailed. Even though we have always been present in this created universe, we now became flesh and blood.” God the Father and God the Holy Spirit did not speak themselves into human existence; only the Son became human (John 1:14). And while He was human, He was still fully God. The Trinity did not lower themselves to the limitations of humanity.

We live in a world that demands that there be many ways to eternal life. This movie validates the fundamental belief behind such demands – that God is only love and will never punish anyone for their sin. That is so very dangerous.

Well, there are several other things that I could mention, but I will only mention two of them:

  1. Be prepared to talk to your friends about the near-death experience and vision of heaven. It is Mack’s vision that gives assurance to the family that their daughter and his father are safe, and this is not in agreement with Scripture. There is no substantiated truth from Scripture that anyone ever dies and sees heaven and then returns to earth. This is based solely on man’s desire to declare personal experience as absolute truth, which is a false premise.
  2. Talk to your friends about the danger demanding an experience to validate faith. The representation of God as a human may be a good theatrical device but should be recognized for its errors. First, God the Father has never revealed Himself as a human except in the person of Jesus Christ. Never! He is the eternal Spirit. We tend to like this device in the movie because of our desire to define God in human terms. But God says, “For my thoughts are not your thoughts, neither are your ways my ways, declares the LORD. For as the heavens are higher than the earth, so are my ways higher than your ways and my thoughts than your thoughts.” (Isaiah 55:8-9) Second, faith that saves people from their sin is not based on human experience but rather on God’s Word, even when it cannot be explained in human form. Here’s how the Bible defines faith: Now faith is the assurance of things hoped for, the conviction of things not seen. (Hebrews 11:1) Be careful not to base your faith on what is seen. In reality, faith leads to seeing rather than seeing producing faith. Help your friends understand that.

Hopefully this has helped you to become more discerning about Biblical truth. My goal is that as you see the movie with your friends, you can engage in spiritually healthy conversations that result in hearts, minds, and souls becoming grounded in the truth of who God is and His redemptive purpose for mankind.

Deception is always subtle at first, and usually appeals to our emotions. It is my goal to help you move beyond emotional gratification.  Do not fall victim to the philosophy presented in the book that Scripture is not sufficient to communicate with God. (This was done when Mack’s seminary teaching about the Bible was mocked.) I encourage you and your friends to study the Word of God so that you may be approved by God, so that you are not ashamed of the true Gospel because you correctly understand and interpret the truth of God’s written revelation of Himself to us. It is ALL in the BIBLE. (2 Timothy 2:15)

I encourage your comments.

Pastor John

Here’s the Problem

Okay, I know, it seems like forever since I wrote anything for this devotional blog. But today I  am motivated by a constantly growing problem. It frustrates me and breaks my heart, so I can only imagine what the Savior Jesus Christ must be feeling.

What is the problem? Let’s see if you can discern it from excerpts of this news story on Fox news:

“Actress Anjelah Johnson-Reyes first shot to fame in the viral MADTv skit “Bon Qui Qui.” The former NFL cheerleader continued to make a name for herself in the world of comedy with both her stand-up and TV and movie roles.

Now the 34-year-old is starring in the faith-based film “The Resurrection of Gavin Stone.” While faith has been an important factor in Johnson-Reyes’ life since she was a teenager, it’s always something she’s kept in her personal life until now.

“I do a joke in my stand-up where I say I’m a Christian, but I’m not a Christian comedian,” Johnson-Reyes told us. “I think that’s definitely how I see my acting. I’m an actor who happens to be a Christian.”

The California-native said she has been reluctant to take roles in Christian films because she doesn’t “want to be known as a Christian actor.” But in 2014, she agreed to a small role in “Moms’ Night Out” because it was “funny and not a typical Christian film.”

So when she was approached about “The Resurrection of Gavin Stone,” Johnson-Reyes was hesitant to take the role so as not to be branded as a Christian entertainer.

“Before I read the script [for ‘Gavin Stone’], a producer reached out to me and asked if I was interested, and I said no because I didn’t want to be known as a Christian actor. And then I read the script, and I really enjoyed it. I enjoyed how authentic it felt and thought I can get on board with this.”

That’s not to say the star’s faith hasn’t played a role in her career before she delved into the world of faith-based entertainment. Johnson-Reyes said she had turned down many opportunities because they conflicted with her beliefs.

“There’s been roles that I have turned down,” she revealed. “There’s no rule book or handbook… It’s just… whatever I’m comfortable with…

“I live my life not to please my pastor or my church or fellow Christians,” she told us. “I live my life according to my own convictions and morals and core values and principles and a lot of times that’s not going to add up to other Christians.”

So here’s the problem. “…whatever I’m comfortable with…I live my life according to my own convictions and morals and core values and principles.”

Where do people who say they are followers of Christ get the audacity to believe that they get to live according to their own convictions and morals and core values and principles? Where do people who, if they are born again believers in Jesus Christ and filled with the Holy Spirit, get the arrogance it takes to say they make their decisions based on their own comfort levels and not on the direction of the Holy Spirit? Do you see the problem?

I am not going to go on, because this is the root problem of today’s so-called “Christian” community. Following Christ is not following Christ, but rather it has become nothing more than putting a spiritual justification on self-centered living.

It is time we ALL repent of such attitudes and return to the truth. Our convictions, morals, core values, and principles are clearly defined in Scripture by the God who saves us from sin and self. Let’s give Him ALL the glory for what He has done, and then let’s actually live that way.

Pastor John

What Defines Me?

LifeLink Devotional

March 15, 2016

Psalm 77:10  Then I said, “I will appeal to this, to the years of the right hand of the Most High.”

(Before I begin, a reminder of what I am currently trying to accomplish in these devotionals. I am working my way through the Psalms one-by-one, and picking out one highlight that the Holy Spirit uses to continue the process of producing the character of Christ in me. We are just past the half-way point.)

Birthdays carry the potential of discouragement. They also carry the possibility of celebration. It is quite probable that both are experienced. The outward celebration could be only a mask for the inner realities of fear, doubt, and depression. Aging can be scary. Getting old brings the doubt of worth based on the reality of reduced function. And what makes it even worse is when the memories of the productive years are gone. It is such a shame that we spend so much of our lives convinced that our value is based upon our abilities. Then we reach an age where we lose both the abilities and the memories of what we did. The result is we have nothing upon which to base our personal worth.

Now in case you are concerned, that is not what my birthday did to me yesterday. The assumption might be that I live in a state of denial about my age, and I will do everything possible to prove my abilities. That is also not true. Well, at least partly not true. I still think I can do many things that I did when I was younger, so that could be considered denial. However, I do not gain or lose personal value based on my ability or inability to continue to do those things. My performance does not dictate my worth!

In the 77th Psalm, written by Asaph, there is a verse that in the last week has become very significant in my life. It comes after Asaph has confessed that he is trying to restore the good old days. He is trying to remember how it used to be, and it’s messing up his mind. He gets so discouraged that he even blames God for not caring anymore and for withholding His love.

Have you ever really thought about what causes us to get discouraged when things can’t be the way they used to be? I have, and I have reached the conclusion that it boils down to one simple thing – I still consider the best times of my life to be the times when I was in control and things worked out for my benefit. You too, right?

When things go bad today, our default is to remember the times when things were great. We then assign ourselves the credit for them being great. This in turn reinforces our desire to take control again because we believe that since we made things great once before we can do it again.

But look at what Asaph concluded. After trying to remember the days of old (verse 5) he reaches this conclusion in verse 7 – Then I said, “I will appeal to this, to the years of the right hand of the Most High.”

Every one of us must come to the point when we realize that the best times of our life were not defined by the good or bad circumstances we enjoyed or endured, but rather they were defined by the reality of God working in and through every one of those circumstances to produce the character of Christ in us.

Listen, there is no possible hope for the present in trying to remember what we did in the past. But, as Asaph says, I will remember the deeds of the Lord; yes, I will remember YOUR wonders of old. (Verse 11 – emphasis mine)

Asaph also declares that the key to understanding the past and the present is this – Your way, O God, is holy. (Verse 13) You see, through the good and the bad of the past and the present, God is at work according to His holy nature to produce the character of Christ in us. What that means is this: the circumstances of life do not define God any more than they define me. Instead, and this is a powerful truth that will transform our lives –

God designs the circumstances of life to reveal His definition of me.

So when things get tough – even unbearable – remember this: we can appeal to the years of the right hand of the Most High. His right hand upholds us, sustains us, shapes us, carries us, nurtures us, and provides for us.

But maybe most of all, His right hand assures us that we are His – not defined by life, but declared possessors of eternal life. It has to be true, for God could not hold in His hand anything that does not measure up to His holiness – a holiness we have in Christ Jesus His Son.

Pastor John

Evaluating Significance

LifeLink Devotional

Tuesday, March 8, 2016

Psalm 76:11 Make your vows to the LORD your God and perform them;

Question: What is the most significant contribution you make to your family, your place of work, or your church?  Take some time to really think about this. I will wait…

(insert imaginary jeopardy music here)

Now, let me ask you another question? How many of the options you considered as an answer to the first questions were in the category of actions, functions, or accomplishments? And if so, why? Why is it that we consider our most significant contributions to life to be the things we do?

We are so stuck in a performance-based value system. We tend to measure our significance by what we do, which opens up can after can of worms; worms that eat away at the reality of our worth rather than truly express our worth. We put our faith in the worms to define our value, which only leads to us feeling like dirt.

There is the worm of expectations. We become motivated by what we believe others expect from us, and if we don’t measure up then we minimize our significance.

There is the worm of excellence. We are driven by the need to do things so well that no fault can be found in how we performed. Performance becomes the standard by which our worth is measured.

May I suggest, at the risk of it sounding arrogant, that the most significant contribution you make to any social or spiritual relationship to just be you?

YOU!

You are significant. Not because of what you have done, but because of what God has done and is doing in you. You do not earn significance. Significance is a gift of grace that declares your eternal worth in Jesus Christ.

Significance does not need to develop. The first declaration of significance God makes over your life when you receive Jesus Christ as your Lord and Savior is the final declaration you will ever need.

Significance does not fade with unfulfilled expectations or lack of excellence, for that would mean that God’s love is capable of fading.

From the moment this truth is realized and believed, expectations and excellence cease to be the means by which we gain significance and they become the means by which we express significance.

Because we are significant, we can consider others better than ourselves (Phil. 2:3) and love them by seeking to fulfill their expectations.

When we understand our significance, we will do all things with excellence as an expression of the worth of Jesus Christ in us. (1 Peter 2:9)

When we truly accept that the glory and excellence of Jesus Christ has been granted to us by God the Father (2 Peter 1:3), then we will cease from making promises to people and seeking to fulfill them to earn our worth. Instead, we will make our vows to the LORD your God and perform them as an expression of His great worth in us.

You are the most significant contribution to any social or spiritual relationship you have. Not because of what you do, but because you bring Christ to that place.

Motivated to Give Thanks

LifeLink Devotional

Thursday, March 03, 2016

Psalm 75:1  We give thanks to you, O God; we give thanks, for your name is near.

I find that one of the hardest commands of Scripture to obey is this – “give thanks in all circumstances.” (1 Thessalonians 5:18)

Many times it seems unreasonable to be thankful. Tragedy doesn’t stimulate thanksgiving. News that rocks our confidence in the future does not generate gratitude. Circumstances that disappoint our expectations do not arouse an attitude of appreciation. How are we supposed to be thankful when the things happening to us really stink?

We have the answer to the issue of thankfulness in Psalm 75. Thanksgiving is not motivated by circumstances; it is motivated by the nearness of God.

The simple truths of thankfulness are these:

  • God never changes
  • God is always faithful
  • God has a plan
  • The closer I am to God the more I trust Him
  • The more I trust Him the more thankful I am in all circumstances

Very quickly, Asaph, the author of this Psalm, teaches us that giving thanks depends on understanding the following things:

  • God is near – vs. 1
  • We remember the great things God has done in the past – vs. 1
  • We remember the declaration of God that He will bring a just end to all things – vs. 2
  • We remember the guarantee of God that He is in absolute control of all things – vs. 3

There is one huge lesson I learned from this Psalm. It is in verses 6 and 7.

For not from the east or from the west and not from the wilderness comes lifting up, but it is God who executes judgment, putting down one and lifting up another.

Our natural tendency is to look around us for the solutions to the circumstances that grieve us. We desire to be lifted up from the pain and fear generated by our circumstances. So we begin a search for a new doctor, a new diet, a new direction, or a new deliverer. We believe that the only way to be able to give thanks is for us to resolve the problem.

But Asaph tells us the truth that we will not be lifted out of the quicksand of our circumstances by any human hand or human wisdom. We are guaranteed, however, that God will lift us up in His appointed time. In that truth lies the motivation for giving thanks. Deliverance is coming. God will accomplish it in His time. His name is near. He has done it before, and He has assured me that He is working with the same power and authority in this case as well.

We give thanks to you O God. Not for what is around us, but for the fact that you are in us and your love never fails!

Pastor John

 

Implicit Trust

LifeLink Devotions

Tuesday, March 1, 2016

Psalms 74:12 But you, O God, are my king from of old; you bring salvation upon the earth.

There’s a special relationship between the flyer and the catcher during a circus trapeze act. In case it’s not obvious, the flyer is the one that lets go, and the catcher is the one that catches. As the flyer swings high above the crowd on the trapeze, the moment comes when he must let go. He arcs out into the air. His job is to remain as still as possible and wait for the strong hands of the catcher to pluck him from the air. The flyer must never try to catch the catcher. The flyer must wait in absolute trust. The catcher will catch him, but he must wait.

I remember playing with my boys when they were little, throwing them in the air and catching them just before they hit the ground. They would giggle with delight and say, “Again! Do it again!” They were totally relaxed and trusted me to catch them. As I would do this, my thoughts were, “If I were the one being thrown in the air, I‘d be stiff as a board. I wonder why my son is so relaxed and trusting?”

Then it dawned on me – we had a history together. We had done this before, and I had never failed to catch him.

Trust is earned. We live within that template. Any confidence we place in a person or thing is based on previous experience. Blind trust is difficult at least and impossible for most. God created us that way, and he has created a history with us so that we can trust Him.

Psalm 74 is the historical template of Israel’s trust. While the enemies of God march against the nation and have defiled and decimated the temple, the Psalmist reminds the people of their history with God. Look at the symbolism of verses 13-17.

  • It was you who split open the sea by your power… Here is a reference to the parting of the Red Sea as Israel escaped from Egypt.
  • You broke the heads of the monster in the waters. The monster is the Egyptian army, and they were destroyed in the Red Sea.
  • It was you who crushed the heads of Leviathan and gave him as food to the creatures of the desert. As the bodies of the dead Egyptians washed up on shore they became food for the creatures of the land.
  • It was you who opened up springs and streams; God provided water from a rock for the people as they traveled through the wilderness. You dried up the ever flowing rivers. The Jordan River was dried up so they could enter the Promised Land. The day is yours, and yours also the night; God led them with a pillar of smoke by day and fire by night.
  • It was you who set all the boundaries of the earth; God gave them their inheritance in the Promised Land even though it was already occupied by others.
  • You made both summer and winter. They had never lived anywhere except where it was summer all the time. Now they were occupying and dwelling in a land that had summer and winter. It was their new and permanent home.

When times got tough in their new land, their trust wavered. They felt like they had been dropped. They stiffened up and wanted the game to be over. They needed a reminder from history that God would not fail them.

We need the same reminders. When we read God’s Word we discover God’s template of trust. His nature and character are revealed, and because He is unchanging and constant, what He did for others He will do for us as well. His methods may change from generation to generation and from person to person, but His faithfulness can never change. 2 Timothy 2:13 says, if we are faithless, he will remain faithful, for he cannot disown himself.

In addition to the Biblical record of God’s trustworthiness, you have a personal history with God as well. He has worked on you and in you since you received His Son Jesus as your Savior. He has done great things in your life, and has filled you with the hope of glory that surpasses any and all trials and troubles of this life.

Take some time today to recall God’s awesome works in your life. It is your template of trust.

Remember it.

Review it.

Reflect on it.

Repeat it to your family and friends.

Then, no matter what your circumstances, you will be able to say – But you, O God, are my king from of old; you bring salvation upon the earth.

Pastor John

No Comparison

LifeLink Devotions

Monday, February 29, 2016

Psalm 73:23-28  Nevertheless, I am continually with you; you hold my right hand. You guide me with your counsel, and afterward you will receive me to glory. Whom have I in heaven but you? And there is nothing on earth that I desire besides you. My flesh and my heart may fail, but God is the strength of my heart and my portion forever. For behold, those who are far from you shall perish; you put an end to everyone who is unfaithful to you. But for me it is good to be near God; I have made the Lord GOD my refuge, that I may tell of all your works.

I have found in all of these years of following Jesus that the Word of God clearly and precisely touches the reality of who I am. Sometimes it really hurts to recognize that the Holy Spirit is using the divine revelation of God in the Bible to address the most personal of issues that affect my life.

So it is with Psalm 73. I have one of those love/hate relationships with it. I love the way it ends. I don’t like the way it convicts me in the beginning. You see, this Psalm describes me.

I tend to make comparisons. And like Asaph, the author of this Psalm, those comparisons are distorted. I think we can all relate to this. We tend to see what we want to see because our hearts are already convinced that there is something better that we are missing. When our minds have determined that we are not experiencing everything we could, then we tend to be extra-observant of those things we think we are missing.

For example, when you wanted to buy a different car, and you had to choose a model and a color, you started noticing how many other cars just like it there were on the road, didn’t you? There were no more of those cars on the road today then yesterday, but suddenly you noticed more of them because it’s what you wanted.

Asaph is not happy about his financial condition and social status. He thinks he would be better off if he had more money. Suddenly it looks like everyone who doesn’t trust God has what he wants. His impressions of the ungodly person become so distorted that in addition to being wealthy he thinks they also have no struggles. Their bodies are healthy and strong. They are free from the burdens common to man. They appear to not be plagued by human ills. All he can see in the unsaved person is what appears to be great prosperity in every part of their lives.

This is a huge distortion of reality, isn’t it? But when we play the comparison game we invite the Enemy to deceive us into thinking that we are missing something and only the world can provide it. We are tempted to pursue their independent and self-sufficient lifestyle, being carefree and increasing in wealth.

But Asaph quickly comes to his senses. He passes on the opportunities of the immediate and with a mature perspective he considers the long-term ramifications of his choices. The immediate benefits of worldly living are not worth the ultimate destruction that will come upon all who choose them.

Satan has devised an attractive “70 years same as cash” offer. He has sold people a bill of goods. His advertisements are convincing. People believe that personal happiness is the ultimate experience of life, and that the world’s ways are the best ways to achieve that happiness. And you don’t have to pay a thing now to enjoy all of the benefits. Just sign this contract and take the merchandise home today. You can pay for it in 70 years.

Asaph doesn’t fall for it. He’s tempted, but when he takes the offer to God (verse 17) his eyes are opened to be able to read the fine print. He sees that in exchange for immediate pleasure and prosperity we sacrifice eternal life. Payment in full is required upon your death. Payment consists of the total loss of life, wealth, health, relationships, and freedom and an eternity of suffering separated from God in the lake of burning sulfur.

If only more people would pay attention to the fine print. Asaph does and chooses wisely. He says, “Earth has nothing I desire besides you. My flesh and my heart may fail, but God is the strength of my heart and my portion forever.” (verse 25)

The choice seems easy. It’s either the world now and nothing later, or God now and everything later. Those who choose the world now may get the world’s goods now, but they get God never. Those who choose God now may have to suffer for a while, but God is there to walk through it with them, and God will bring them into His glory when it’s over.

Don’t let Satan convince you that you’re missing something. Eve fell for that in the garden and look where we are today. Don’t fall for his comparison game with the world. You’ll end up with nothing. Delete from your memory bank and thought process any phrases that start with, “It would be good if I had ____________.”

Instead, live by this statement – “It is good to be near God.” (verse 28)

Pastor John