A “Worldview” is More Than a “Point of View”
Everyone you know has a set of beliefs that they use to filter everything in their life and in their world. This set of beliefs is the basis from which they move and breathe and interpret everything that happens to them personally and everything that happens in the world they observe every day! Let’s say, for example, you are an atheist and you do not believe that there is a creator God who continues to interact with his creation. You have a worldview which now shapes how you interpret the events in your life. Tomorrow, your best friend dies in a car crash. Because you believe that all of us have come into being as part of a process of Darwinian evolution, you accept the perspective that we are the product of random chance occurrences over incredibly long periods of time. In fact, everything in your world is the product of random chance, including the destinies of each of us individually. Your friend’s death is a random accident of random events, within the context of a random universe. Not only is your friend’s death accidental, his very life was also accidental.
Worldview affects the way you interpret his death. From your perspective as an atheist, life is relatively meaningless to begin with; it is, after all, merely the product of random chance and unguided forces. There is no meaning in his death because there was really no meaning in his life. All of it was random and accidental. Worldview clearly colors the way we interpret the events of our life and the perspective we take on those events.
Christianity is More Than a Belief, It is a Worldview!
Now as a Christian, I recognize that my ideas about God are not limited to some little box in my life that I call my “faith” or my “religion”. My beliefs about God are a fundamental lens through which I view and interpret the world. They are also a grid from which I decide what is right and what is wrong. They are the structural foundation that helps me establish all future plans and movements. My faith is my WORLDVIEW! I believe my friend’s life has incredible meaning because he was created by a living God who knows his name and is still involved in the daily activities of his life. When my friend dies in a car accident, my Christian worldview moves me to try to interpret the event from God’s perspective. I cannot simply toss up my hands and see the event as another random cosmic accident. While I may never have the answer for events such as these, my worldview causes me to search the history of my life (and my friend’s life) to discover the work of God and try as best I can (while still here on earth) to understand God’s will and plan for our lives. My worldview will ultimately take me in a different direction than the atheist as I try to interpret the same events from a very different perspective.
We All Try to Answer the Same Questions
All worldviews try to answer the same three questions, and these questions are important. First, “How did we get here”? In addition to this, all worldviews try to answer the critical question, “What the heck happened to us?” In other words, “How did everything get this messed up?” or, “Why is there so much pain and suffering in the world?” And finally, worldviews address the third critical question, “How can this mess be corrected?”
All of us want to know how we got here, how our world got so messed up, and then what we can do to rescue ourselves and our planet from the mess we’re in. And every worldview does its best to provide answers for these questions. In fact, if you really think about it, there is something about human beings that REQUIRES us to develop views to answer these questions! Life is very difficult to live without some set of beliefs, imaginary or otherwise, that help us to interpret and understand our world.
I believe that Christianity is more than a limited set of religious opinions. It is the truth. Not just the truth about a set of events that happened in history. The truth about everything. The truth about God, the truth about life, the truth about the nature of the universes, and the truth about the TRUTH! All that we see, experience and live must be interpreted in light of this truth. Christianity is a worldview; not just another choice in the smorgasbord of worldview options, but the TRUE view of the world. All of science, all of human behavior, all of history, all of humanity can be properly understood from this one worldview. And where is this worldview described? Where is the worldview of Christianity revealed? It is revealed in the Scriptures, the Holy Bible, God’s love letter to us.
Answering the First Big Question
So let’s take a look at the scriptures and examine the worldview that they establish. There is a single over-arching theme that permeates all of the Bible. The scriptures track this theme from cover to cover. They tell us how we were created, came into our fallen condition and have then been offered a way to restore ourselves forever. Let’s begin at the beginning. How did we get here?
The very first words of the Bible (Genesis 1:1) are “In the beginning God created the heavens and the earth.” God is delighted to tell us how we got here and answer the first big question in our lives. He tells us quite simply that we were created. According to the Bible, there actually was a beginning to time and space, so we can actually know the historic origin of things. But there’s more here. Genesis tells us that there is a personal Creator God who created us as part of a personal created universe, and that makes a difference in how we see ourselves and our world. Have you ever asked yourself the question, “Who am I?” Well according to the Bible you are not just a random chance being or a “speck of protoplasm floating on a sea of meaninglessness”! You were made by God, and you reflect His image! You are important, you are somebody! You have real value and worth! And as God’s creation, you have been given a purpose. God designed you for a reason, with something important to do and be, and you will be in despair until you realize and fulfill this God-given purpose for your life.
The Scriptures tell us that God loved His creation enough to do two things for them. First, He loved them enough to want to hold them in relationship. The Scriptures tell us that God created a paradise in which His first created humans could know Him personally and be in fellowship with Him. This incredible place was known as the Garden of Eden. Here the first couple on earth came to understand the truth about their worth and purpose before God. It really was paradise!
But God also loved His creation enough to want them to have an important part of HIS nature. God loved us enough to want us to love Him back. God is personal, after all. He’s living, loving and active, and He desires a relationship with us. But love cannot be forced. You cannot say to your children, “you WILL love me!” Love requires something called ‘free will’, and while ‘free will’ may sound like a great thing, it is actually a double edged sword. It can cut both ways. When children are allowed to do whatever they want (so they can freely choose to love) they will sometimes choose to do what is wrong. That is the reality about free will. The very thing that allows us to love is also the very thing that allows us to hate. Free will is an essential, but dangerous necessity in our lives. God did not design us as robots. He designed us as thinking responsive beings, equipped for relationship and intimacy. This requires free will. It is an essential, albeit dangerous, part of our design.
Answering the Second Big Question
So why are things so messed up in our world? How could there be an all-powerful, all-loving God, yet so much pain all around us? Well, the scriptures demonstrate that ONLY a loving God would allow us the freedom to love. And the Bible tells us that we quickly chose (and continue to choose) to misuse this freedom.
The Book of Genesis also tells us that under the temptation of Satan, a rebellious and fallen angel, the first humans were faced with a choice. Should they love themselves and follow their own way, or love their creator and continue to submit to Him in obedience? Love REQUIRES choice. We can’t fault God for our choices; we should be celebrating the fact that He allows us choices! And the scriptures tell us that given a choice, we will often choose to go our own way. Adam and Eve did just that. In their choice to disobey God, sin historically came into the world, (and in this way, sin continues to come into the world). The covenant relationship that God made with the first human beings (to live in peace and harmony in the Garden) was broken. Man, by his choice, had brought down upon himself and his descendents all the consequences of his own rebellion: guilt, shame, misery, and ultimately, death.
The Book of Exodus demonstrates the depth of our sinful condition, for it is here that we get the first chance to see the Holy nature of God. On Mount Sinai, a craggy peak you can still visit today, God summoned his chosen servant, Moses, to meet with Him. It is here that God gave Moses his “Law”, commonly called the “Ten Commandments.” The Bible describes God as holy, pure, good, and the source of everything that is right. And God’s Law certainly demonstrated that kind of character. But when we look at this Law, and take the time to compare it to ourselves, we discover that we are very different than God. We are very “un-Godly”. It is the perfect and righteous Law that exposes who and what we really are! And it exposes just how different we are from the God who created us! Our world is what it is today, because WE are WHO we are today, and the Law exposes our nature relative to the Holy God we call “Father”! God didn’t give us the Law so that we could become more like him. He gave us the Law so we could see how unlike Him we really are:
Therefore no one will be declared righteous in his sight by observing the law; rather, through the law we become conscious of sin. (NIV)
The Histories (Joshua to 2 Chronicles)
And in case there was any doubt about our fallen nature and predisposition toward sin, God gave us a history of the Israelites to remind us of our situation. Over and over again in the history of the Israelites, we see God’s children trying to rule themselves, think for themselves or create a life for themselves, often with little regard for what God has done for them or with little regard for how God has told them to live.
The book of Judges is a story of disobedience and disaster on the part of man, as all the while, God continued to direct and deliver:
Yet they would not listen to their judges but prostituted themselves to other gods and worshiped them. Unlike their fathers, they quickly turned from the way in which their fathers had walked, the way of obedience to the LORD’s commands. Whenever the LORD raised up a judge for them, he was with the judge and saved them out of the hands of their enemies as long as the judge lived; for the LORD had compassion on them as they groaned under those who oppressed and afflicted them. But when the judge died, the people returned to ways even more corrupt than those of their fathers, following other gods and serving and worshiping them. They refused to give up their evil practices and stubborn ways.
While the histories also contain many records of great blessing and victory, this overall theme of failed relationship with God is repeated again and again. Some remember God, but most forget and turn to their own desire. God allows them to wallow in their sin, yet remains faithful and patient, restoring them to relationship when they return to Him. But clearly, their own ability is never consistent or strong enough to keep them near the God who created them. These histories are a sad, albeit accurate, description of our natural tendency to seek our own way, even when our relationship with God is on the line!
Here in Scripture we begin to see our dilemma. God is holy; we are not. God is perfect, we are fallen. God resides in a place of holy perfection; we (by virtue of our own free will) live in a broken place of decay and sin. We are separated from God across a hopeless and vast divide that cannot be traversed through our own effort. We could never be perfect enough to satisfy the requirements of heaven. Deep in our own hearts, each and every one of us knows we are sinful.
‘No one is good – no one in all the world is innocent. No one has ever really followed God’s paths or even truly wanted to.’
‘Yes, all have sinned; all fall short of God’s glorious ideal.’
Answering the Third Big Question
So, if we are really this fallen, how in the world are we ever going to be restored to the God who created us? Now it is true that God could simply leave us right here in our fallen condition, in a world that is often filled with pain and suffering and poor choices. In fact, God could have just wiped everything out at the first sign of disobedience and returned to His status as a childless eternal deity. But He didn’t do that. Even when faced with a rebellious people, God desired relationship with his creation. Even when faced with humans who continued to fail and rebel and mess everything up with their own ‘free will’, God continued to desire a reunion. Now that’s love! So, starting in the Book of Genesis, right after the fall of mankind, God outlined His plan to eventually bring us back into perfect relationship with Him. We didn’t have to wait until New Testament times to embrace His promise. God didn’t mess around; He didn’t make us wait! From the moment of the fall, God promised to eventually make it all right. He established a plan for restoration. Talking to Satan, God told him that he would free mankind from temptation and sin:
“I will make you and the woman hate each other; her offspring and yours will always be enemies. Her offspring will crush your head, and you will bite their heel.” (TEV)
God established an arrangement (or covenant) with His children. He promised to restore His creation to Himself. Here in Genesis, God declared that He would bring about this restoration through Eve’s offspring. God promised that a future Savior would enter the world and free God’s children from sin, and the rest of the Bible is the story of that restoration.
The promise was first given to Adam and Eve. Later God renewed it to Noah, the man who built the ark at the time of the Great Flood. Still later God appeared to a herdsman named Abraham. Once again he promised to use a descendent to bless the entire world:
I will make your descendants as numerous as the stars in the sky and will give them all these lands, and through your offspring all nations on earth will be blessed… (NIV)
But that’s not all. God also extended the promise to Abraham’s son, Isaac, and his son Jacob (later called Israel). One of Jacob’s sons, Judah, was chosen as the man through whom the Messiah would come:
The scepter will not depart from Judah, nor the ruler’s staff from between his feet, until he comes to whom it belongs and the obedience of the nations is his. (NIV)
The Pentateuch (the Five Books of Moses)
But the future promise of a savior who would be a descendent of Eve and Abraham was still a distant reality. As demonstrated by the history of the Israelites, God first wanted his children to understand the depth of their need for a Savior. God first wanted us to realize that we really had no ability to save ourselves with our own effort. So, God did more than give His children the Law (the Ten Commandments). He also gave the Israelites careful instructions on how to worship and find acceptance with the holy God of the Universe. And from the very beginning God wanted us to understand that all sin requires the payment of death. Just as the first sin committed by Adam brought death and its curse, death (through sacrifice) was the only way man could make himself acceptable to God. The sacrificial system established in Leviticus served as a constant reminder of the cost of sin. God gave detailed directions for offering sacrifices, including a place of worship called a Tabernacle (or tent), and elaborate duties for a regiment of special priests.
Now the Bible tells us clearly that the ritual itself did not make the people holy or acceptable to God, but rather it pointed to a future sacrifice that would have to be made on our part, the sacrifice of the coming Messiah (the offspring of Eve and Abraham, just as God promised).
The Books of the Prophets
And the historic prophets of the Israelites predicted the coming of this Messiah! In fact, Biblical prophecy is filled with the promise of a coming Savior. Even while these same prophets declared the sinful condition of the people, they held a promise from God. ‘In spite of who you are, my children, I do have a plan to bring you back into relationship with me. In spite of your dilemma and seemingly hopeless situation, I AM going to make things right. I am going to avenge your hopelessness. Do not despair. A Savior is coming!’ And the prophets began to describe this Messiah clearly:
The Messiah existed in the beginning with God:
“But as for you, Bethlehem Ephrathah, too little to be among the clans of Judah, from you One will go forth for Me to be ruler in Israel. His goings forth are from long ago, from the days of eternity.” (Micah 5:2)
The Messiah would be of the family line of Jesse:
“Then a shoot will spring from the stem of Jesse, and a branch from his roots will bear fruit” (Is. 11:1)
The Messiah would be of the house of David:
“For to us a child is born, to us a son is given, and the government will be on his shoulders. And he will be called Wonderful Counselor, Mighty God, Everlasting Father, Prince of Peace. Of the increase of his government and peace there will be no end. He will reign on David’s throne and over his kingdom, establishing and upholding it with justice and righteousness from that time on and forever. The zeal of the LORD Almighty will accomplish this.” (Is. 9:6-7)
The Messiah would be born of a virgin:
“Therefore the Lord Himself will give you a sign: a virgin will be with child and bear a son, and she will call His name Immanuel.” (Isaiah 7:14)
The Messiah would be born in Bethlehem:
“But as for you, Bethlehem Ephrathah, too little to be among the clans of Judah, from you One will go forth for Me to be ruler in Israel. His goings forth are from long ago, from the days of eternity.” (Micah 5:2)
The Messiah would be preceded by a messenger:
“A voice is calling, ‘Clear the way for the LORD in the wilderness; make smooth in the desert a highway for our God.’” (Isaiah 40:3)
The Messiah would minister in Galilee:
“But there will be no more gloom for her who was in anguish; in earlier times He treated the land of Zebulun and the land of Naphtali with contempt, but later on He shall make it glorious, by the way of the sea, on the other side of Jordan, Galilee of the Gentiles.” (Isaiah 9:1)
The Messiah’s ministry would include miracles:
“Then the eyes of the blind will be opened, and the ears of the deaf will be unstopped. Then the lame will leap like a deer, and the tongue of the dumb will shout for joy.” (Isaiah 35:5-6)
The Messiah would enter Jerusalem on a donkey:
“Rejoice greatly, O daughter of Zion! Shout in triumph, O daughter of Jerusalem! Behold, your king is coming to you; He is just and endowed with salvation, humble, and mounted on a donkey, even on a colt, the foal of a donkey.” (Zechariah 9:9)
The Messiah would enter the temple:
“And the Lord, whom you seek, will suddenly come to His temple.” (Malachi 3:1)
The Messiah would be rejected by his own people:
“He was despised and forsaken of men, a man of sorrows, and acquainted with grief; and like one from whom men hide their face, He was despised, and we did not esteem him.” (Isaiah 53:3)
The Messiah would be betrayed for thirty pieces of silver:
“And I said to them, ‘If it is good in your sight, give me my wages; but if not, never mind!’ So they weighed out thirty shekels of silver as my wages.” (Zechariah 11:12)
The Messiah would be silent before his accusers:
“He was oppressed and He was afflicted, yet He did not open His mouth.” (Isaiah 53:7)
The Messiah would be scourged and wounded:
“But he was pierced through for our transgressions, He was crushed for our iniquities; the chastening for our well-being fell upon Him, and by His scourging we are healed.” (Isaiah 53:5)
The Messiah’s hands and feet would be pierced:
“They pierced My hands and My feet.” (Psalm 22:16).
The Messiah’s side would be pierced:
“They will look on Me whom they pierced.” (Zech. 12:10)
The Messiah would rise from the dead:
“For Thou wilt not abandon my soul to Sheol; neither wilt Thou allow Thy Holy One to undergo decay.” (Psalm 16:10)
The Messiah would ascend to heaven:
“Thou hast ascended on high.” (Psalm 68:18)
The Old Testament prophets point to a redeemer, a Messiah. The Israelites understood that there was a price for their sin. God had always demanded a sacrifice on the part of His sinful creation for their desire to rebel against His holy law. This sacrifice was merely a substitute for the price that was actually required of all of us:
‘For the wages of sin is death’
None of us wants to pay this price personally. The Old Testament prophets pointed to a Messiah who would one day come and take the burden for our sin on Himself. A Messiah who would come into this world and bear the sins of others. A Messiah who would come and pay the penalty that we deserve to pay.
Therefore I will give him a portion among the great, and he will divide the spoils with the strong, because he poured out his life unto death, and was numbered with the transgressors. For he bore the sin of many, and made intercession for the transgressors.
So who is this Messiah that all of the Old Testament points to? The Jewish scriptures tell us clearly that God is Holy and requires perfection. The scriptures tell us that we are fallen and sinful and must pay the penalty for our sinfulness. The scriptures tell us that a Messiah was coming who would bear our penalty, however, and liberate us from the burden of our sin and the condemnation of God’s Holy Law. So, who is this guy? The Good News is that there is another Testament in our Scripture; the story of a Savior who came into our world.
The New Testament
As we begin to read the second testament of the scriptures, we discover this Messiah. Born of a young virgin named Mary, supernaturally conceived in her by the Holy Spirit, God’s Son came into the world. He was named Jesus for He would “save His people from their sins.” Thus, born in Bethlehem in poor conditions and reared in Nazareth in his stepfather’s carpenter shop, Jesus Christ spent the first thirty years of His earthly life.
At this point, the Bible tells us Jesus began to carry out His specific purpose. A man called John, nicknamed “the Baptizer”, introduced Jesus to the world:
“Look, The Lamb of God, Who takes away the sin of the world.”
From the very beginning of Jesus’ ministry, His purpose was clear. Just as the Old Testament had required, and just as it had predicted, Jesus had come to act as the sacrifice. God Himself sent Jesus into the world to be His sacrifice for sin. God was in the process of carrying out His promise and covenant through the offspring of Eve and Abraham.
‘But God showed his great love for us by sending Christ to die for us while we were still sinners’
Jesus clearly fulfilled numerous Old Testament prophecies related to the coming messiah. Over and over again His life mirrored the life of the Messiah that had been predicted in the Scriptures. And Jesus demonstrated the character of God. Where Adam had refused to love God and obey Him, Jesus was perfectly responsive to doing God’s will. He served God by choice. He kept the Law of God with absolute perfection. From God’s perspective and requirement, Jesus truly was righteous and perfect.
In addition to this, Jesus showed that He had come from God by healing the sick, curing the crippled, and even on an occasion or two, raising the dead! Everything about Jesus’ character and life pointed men to God. That shouldn’t surprise us; after all, Jesus was God in the flesh. And the scriptures confirm this for us:
In the beginning was the Word, and the Word was with God, and the Word was God. He was with God in the beginning. Through him all things were made; without him nothing was made that has been made. In him was life, and that life was the light of men.
Jesus also preached and taught wherever He went. He told men about God, about themselves, and about the world. He also told them why He had come. He showed by His love and concern that people (God’s created children) had incredible worth, yet He spoke plainly to them of sin and the judgment of God. He had no problem being honest and He bluntly told people, “Repent!” He commanded them to turn from self-centeredness and independence, and return to God. But let’s face it, lawbreakers seldom want to hear the truth about their lawlessness. The history of Scripture records that the Jewish leaders pressed false charges against Jesus in order to bring Him before the Roman governor, Pontius Pilate. Under pressure from the Jews, Pilate sentenced Jesus to death. So, at a place called “Calvary”, outside Jerusalem, Jesus was nailed to a cross, the custom for Roman executions at the time, and it was on this cross that He died. Sinful people, under the influence of their sinful condition, actually desired the death the Son of God. But their plot was part of God’s plan. In fact, these people were the means by which God’s sacrifice for sin had been offered. The Lamb of God was sacrificed for all our sin. Three days later, Jesus miraculously came back to life, His work on earth completed.
And so, in thousands of pages of scripture, and culminating with the New Testament history of Jesus Christ, the Messiah, we can see the overall message of the Bible. It is a message of truth about the nature of God, truth about the nature of Jesus, and truth about the nature of our salvation. The scriptures tell us that Jesus is the lamb of sacrifice that God requires of all of us. We no longer have to sacrifice animals over and over again to pay the price for our sin. Jesus died once for all of us, and we can accept his sacrifice on our behalf with a simple act of surrender:
Anyone who calls upon the name of the Lord will be saved
For if you tell others with your own mouth that Jesus Christ is your Lord and believe in your own heart that God has raised Him from the dead, you will be saved. For it is by believing in his heart that a man becomes right with God; and with his mouth he tells others of his faith, confirming his salvation
The entire Bible focuses on this point of truth and history. Jesus came as a sacrifice for us, died on that cross, came back to life to assure us of a life after death. Jesus is the solution and the answer to life’s big dilemma, “How can I correct this mess; what can I do to be restored to the God who created me?” Of all the things that people want and need, the first and greatest need we all have is to be restored to a right relationship with our Creator. According to the Bible, this can only be done through the perfect life and death of Jesus.
So What Does the Future Hold?
The story and promises of the Bible just keep getting better. In the last book of the scriptures, the book of Revelation, God allows us to get just a glimpse of what heaven might be like. Now the language of this book is filled with poetic, metaphoric and allegorical imagery, and many have devoted their lives to trying to understand it. There are many different interpretations of what God might be trying to tell us here, but there are several things about our future with God that are clear from the last book of the Bible. God promises us that Godly people will not always suffer, even if there are times when we may suffer here on earth. God has prepared a home in heaven for everyone who trusts Jesus, and nobody will be sad there. Heaven will be a wonderful place. In addition, there will not always be evil rulers; their cruelty and power will end, and God will punish them. But perhaps the most important thing that the Book of Revelation tells us is that Jesus WILL return to this earth, and when He does, everyone will know that He is God. The Scriptures tell us that Jesus will be the judge of everyone. That shouldn’t worry those of us who have already surrendered to Him as Lord, but it should worry those who continue to rebel against God and delight in their own passions, pride and rebellion. The Book of Revelation tells us that the devil will not always be powerful. God will eventually punish Satan and he will lose his evil powers and influence on our fallen world.
In everything that the book of Revelation describes, there is a sense of urgency that is palpable. This book tells us that terrible things will happen before Jesus returns, and the time to invite God into our lives is now. The Scriptures have been given to us for a reason. The Bible is not just a “good book”, it’s a “guide book”; a book that directs us toward Salvation, a book that guides us to God and helps us understand the nature of people, the nature of Salvation and the nature of the heaven that waits for those of us who have put our trust in Jesus.