Where to Start the Map

In the movie “Indiana Jones and the Last Crusade,” Indiana and his friends were seeking Jesus’ grail.  They had an ancient map that was incomplete.  Specifically, it was missing the starting place.  All of the map’s directions were useless without the proper place to start.

In the “map” of our lives and in the “map” of the LORD’s work in our lives, where are we to start?

As we discuss God’s revelation to us and His work among His people, the church has typically started at three places, three attributes of the LORD that are seen as His most-core value. There is a fourth non-core value with which some churches down through the millenniums have used to start their “following” of the LORD – it is totally wrong.

The most-core value that the church of the European middle-ages had settled upon was the Righteousness of God.  God’s righteousness is a good and true attribute.  Yet, when that75-righteousness attribute was viewed as God’s most-core, the human nature reacted with the thought “If God’s righteousness is what He most applies in our relationship then I must be righteous.”  That central reaction to the LORD and His Word had the consequence that salvation was based upon my good works.  Possibly we could argue about whether the starting point that God’s most-core value is righteousness does not, of necessity, lead to salvation by works, but historically good works for salvation were the result.

A second most-core value that arose, by my knowledge following the Reformation, is God’s75-sovereign-will Sovereignty, His almighty power, also called his Sovereign Will.  Sadly, human nature takes God’s sovereign will as the start and concludes “If God’s all-powerful Will is the starting point of all which He does for us, then it is His all-powerful will that controls all that happens, including what happens with faith and unbelief.”  Starting with God’s all-powerful will leads to a concept of “Christian” fatalism and has led to people thinking that they are doomed to hell by God regardless of Christ (reference the concepts of double-predestination, and election to hell).

The LORD himself has given us the attribute with which He wants us to start.

When Moses asked the LORD to show him His glory, Moses probably expected some act of power.  Instead the LORD told Moses His most important attribute –

“The “I Am,” the “I Am,” the compassionate and gracious God, slow to anger, abounding in love and faithfulness, 7 maintaining love to thousands, and forgiving wickedness, rebellion and sin.” (Exodus 34:6-7).

The LORD would speak about punishing sin, but we must note where He begins His work –75-grace-and-love with His compassion, love, faithfulness, and forgiveness.  Christians have summarized those core attributes as His Love and His Grace.

The only good place to start with the “map” of our life and faith, the “map” of the church’s work, and the “map” of revelation is at God’s grace and love.  No other starting point will get us where the LORD wants His people to be.

A sad, fourth “non-core value” where some churches start “reading their map” is the LORD/Jesus as “good teacher.”  Jesus was a good teacher, but ultimately that title for Jesus is a rejection of Jesus as Savior and LORD and a rejection of the LORD as the only true God.  Nice reflections about Jesus and God do not encourage faith, they encourage “the institution of church” and coldness in faith.  We cannot demote Jesus from Savior to good teacher and expect that faith will grow.

The only starting point for meditation and action which we pursue about Jesus is the most-core value of God’s Love and Grace.

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