The story of Joseph as recorded in Genesis 37-50 is perhaps one of the more remarkable in the Bible. Perhaps the most stunning feature of the story is his forgiveness toward his hating, jealous brothers. After having been severely mistreated by them, even to the point of being sold by them as a slave, Joseph is carried away to Egypt. There he is careful to maintain his perspective of God’s sovereign oversight of his life. Through a series of events that most of us would consider misfortune, in which he was falsely accused, neglected, forgotten, and used, Joseph finds himself useful to the Pharaoh of Egypt, interpreting his troubling dreams. Through this divinely appointed meeting, God positions Joseph to save the people during an intense drought. Among those Joseph saves are his duplicitous brothers.
For several years I’ve been reading, thinking, and praying much about the meaning of the Gospel. As a biblical counselor, I believe the gospel is the central element of change. By that I mean that the gospel is necessary in order to change the heart from its natural pursuit and slavery to sin toward the pursuit of Christ and the things pertaining to Him. The gospel is good news. But what is the good news? And what is the substance of what we are believing when by faith in that gospel we are changed?
Many of our experiences in life confirm that our perception of reality is, at best, skewed.How often is it the case that we have firmly believed something about someone or a circumstance that we later come to the see that we did not have the right perspective?Since that is true in the physical realm, much more should we humbly acknowledge our propensity to get things wrong in the spiritual realm. In fact, if we trust the truth of God’s word and become honest about the human condition, we must admit that people are in many ways totally blind. We are, without divine assistance, naturally oblivious to ultimate spiritual reality. By that I mean that we do not naturally see the glorious nature of the person of God and His marvelous works. To make matters even worse, we are oblivious to the very presence of this blindness in moments in which it is most profound. Therefore, we read ourselves, others, and situations with perception that is frail and distorted. The result is that our living in a corrupted and corrupting fallen world, combined with our tendency to misread and wrongly reacting, makes for more trouble than we can adequately be aware. But add to this that our greatest blindness is toward God. Our assessment of Him leads us toward greater blindness in regard to all other reality. We try to make God a god of our own liking, who caters to the desires of our hearts—the very desires that cause us to want a lesser god than the glorious, holy, matchless one He truly is.
Life is war. On many levels, each day is a struggle at worst to survive or at best to thrive. The struggle can become so intense that we seek just to “make it” another day. For the Christian, who at some level understands that he is living in a fallen world, gains a degree of clarity that things are, in a sense, as should be expected. We get no further in the Bible than chapter three of Genesis but that we are confronted with the source of the world’s brokenness (namely, sin) and the consequences of it. Things are painful, messed up, perverted, corrupt, poisoned because of the foolish rebellion of man. Ironically, that same foolish rebellion which gave rise to fallenness is also the expressive fruit of it. The result is chaos, disintegration, sickness and disease, wars, fighting, strife, animosity, addiction, loneliness and more. One can easily become discouraged and even depressed, or turn to pseudo means of escape in order to avoid the painful realities of living in a fallen world. Our own sin—both as a condition of our hearts and also as the sins it produces— compounds our suffering and pain, making worse our experience of living in a fallen world. We just are in a huge mess with no means to extricate ourselves apart from divine intervention. We desperately need help if we are to battle well in life.
As this is a continuation of two former blogs in which I discussed the essence and nature of sin and faith, a brief summary might be helpful at this point. We’ve learned that sin is more than acts or even thoughts. It’s a condition of the heart in which we are enslaved to foolish thinking, desiring, and responding. Sin is a power within us that corrupts everything about us—mind, emotions, and will. Sinful thoughts and actions flow out of corrupted desires. Sin causes us to wrongly evaluate what is truly worthy and thus affects us in what we trust. Because God created us to glorify Him by enjoying Him supremely, our sinful condition demands His judgment on us. God’s wrath is kindled against sin, because it belittles His worth and robs Him of glory. Such is our state in sin apart from Christ.
In John 6, we see Jesus feeding 5000 people with five barley loaves and two fish. Plainly this miracle demonstrated to those people (and to us) that He is God, capable of making something from practically nothing. This Jesus is the Son of God who spoke all creation into existence (Colossians 1:16). No doubt, He is omnipotent deity. He performed this sign of the loaves so that they would see His glory and be drawn to Him through it. It seems that from the account that the crowd did indeed see Him as a miracle worker, and maybe even as God. Their response was to call Him a prophet (v. 14). But Jesus perceived their intentions to make Him king and pulled away from them. He knew that in their heart was the mere craving of bread and the absence of seeking after His glory. These people wanted to make Him king because He could deliver the goods, were not drawn to Him because they wanted Him. They wanted His gifts—and they wanted them apart from the person of the gift. They did not see the sign, but only bread (v.26). The sign was intended to point to a greater reality, to a greater gift, a greater delight. The sign was to point to the glory of Christ, His infinite worth and beauty. He is the Bread of Life (v.35). It was Him they were to love, not the physical bread. They were content with the taste and temporary sustenance of barley loaves, when the Bread of Life was available to them. All they had to do was believe! (v.29).