The Problem

Most of us would not have a job if there were no problems to fix. Teachers fix ignorance. Mechanics fix cars. Carpenters fix houses. Doctors fix bodies. At least they all try, and we appreciate them for it. Have you ever pondered what the world’s ultimate problem is, and what the solution might be?

Leslie Stevenson’s book “Seven Theories of Human Nature” explores that topic and the thinkers that influence Western civilization. Plato thought the problem was the weakness of the physical body. Physical and mental discipline would improve humanity. Karl Marx believed the problem was capitalism’s self-defeating contradictions that would lead to widespread socialism. His solution was for workers to arise and implement a state-controlled economy.

Sigmund Freud counseled that the problem is the inner conflict between desire and conscience. He wanted to minimize the influence of morality advocates. Philosopher Jean-Paul Sarte saw moral restraint as the problem. His solution was to avoid holding objective values.

Psychologist B.F. Skinner believed we are completely determined by our environment and we have no free will. He used behavior analysis and conditioning to improve outcomes. Konrad Lorenz was a medical doctor and scientist that studied animal behavior. He found that the problem is our innate evolutionary aggression, corrected best with positive feedback.

Notice the contradictions. The problem is either human weakness, economics, inner conflict, morality, environment, or evolution. It’s amazing that western civilization advanced despite these discordant voices and their divergent diagnoses.

Stevenson thinks they all miss the point. He writes, “If God has made man for fellowship with Himself, and if man has turned away and broken his relationship to God, then only God can forgive man and restore the relationship.” John’s gospel says we are created, but suffer with spiritual darkness. God’s solution is to shine the Light of Christ, so that “as many as received Him, to them He gave the right to become children of God, even to those who believe” (1:12).

Tim Keller says it this way: “The biblical worldview uniquely understands the nature, problem, and salvation of humankind as fundamentally relational. We were made for a relationship with God, we lost our relationship with God through sin against him, and we can be brought back into the relationship through his salvation and grace.”

This formula corresponds to the world as we know it. Despite the horrors, ugliness, and evil in the world, glimpses of love and beauty make our hearts yearn for what ought to be. We want ultimate meaning, but we cannot create a deeply satisfying purpose for ourselves. The grace of God is the only solution for a fallen world, and you’ll only find His relational solution after you admit that your problem is you.

Jesus Follower

The early church referred to itself as “the Way” before it adopted the label “Christian.” If we were to select a new name unfreighted by modern mischaracterizations, we could call ourselves “Jesus Followers.” But what does that mean? Glad you asked. Here are four ways you follow Jesus, found in His talk with Nicodemus (John 3).

1. You are born again. If you’re old enough, you recall that Jimmy Carter popularized this term. Chuck Colson wrote a book with that title. It comes from Jesus’ comment, “Unless one is born again he cannot see the kingdom of God” (v.3-8). Look, this doesn’t indicate a special category of Christian; rather, it is how Jesus explained a necessary spiritual transformation. “That which is born of the Spirit is spirit,” He said. Paul explained this new life, “It is no longer I who live, but Christ lives in me; and the life which I now live in the flesh I live by faith in the Son of God” (Gal. 2:20).

2. You speak what you know. Jesus said, “We speak of what we know and testify of what we have seen” (v.9-12). You know that Jesus lived, died, and lived again. You know that in Christ, your life is transformed into what it never could be otherwise. You know His power to live on this earth and His promise of a home in heaven. You are an ambassador for Christ (2 Cor. 5:20), joining God’s mission to reconcile the world to Himself.

3. You believe in Him. You demonstrate your faith in bridge engineers and airline pilots when traveling. You trust the grocery store and the restaurant when you eat their food. Belief is not a subjective conclusion about a fact. It is acting on that fact and accepting the consequences. Jesus said, “For God so loved the world, that He gave His only begotten Son, that whoever believes in Him shall not perish, but have eternal life” (v.13-18). Following Jesus means accepting who He said He is.

4. You practice the truth. “He who practices the truth comes to the Light, so that his deeds may be manifested as having been wrought in God” (v.19-21). Human nature is selfish, prideful, and secretive. When you act sacrificially, humble yourself before God and people, and confess your sins, you are practicing the truth of God. When you love God and your neighbor, you practice truth. If this is the light you walk in, then that is evidence of God at work in you.

Spiritual transformation from darkness to light, death to life, is a mystery. But Jesus sent the Spirit of truth to guide you into all truth (John 16:13). Since the Spirit is like the wind, why don’t you let out your sails and see what adventure awaits you, a Jesus Follower?

Supreme Truth

In case you didn’t notice, the Senate finally finished vetting a candidate for a seat on the U.S. Supreme Court. Of course you did. The news cycle was filled with emotionally and politically charged stories. It was a boon for those who sell news by writing headlines and counting eyeballs. They made us feel it.

All seemed normal until an accuser stepped forward late in the confirmation process. Wildly different truth claims emerged. The gloves came off. No Marquis of Queensberry Rules. Finally the latest FBI report came in, but it changed the feelings of few. The new headline posted the report summary and invited, “Judge for Yourself.” What, judge my feelings? No way.

We used to be a post-modern culture, so they say, meaning we are entitled to our own private and unassailable truths. But the term of the day is now “post-truth.” That means feelings matter more than facts and truth. Isn’t that what trigger warnings and safe spaces are about?

If feelings trump truth, it means opponents can claim the other does not want the truth to come out, when what they mean is my feelings are paramount. It means deceptions and distortions of facts are irrelevant. It means preferences change your feelings rather than facts change your mind. You’ve heard the saying, “Don’t confuse me with the facts. My mind is made up.”

We’ll live in this emperor-has-no-clothes fairytale until we recover the sanctity and reality of objective truth. It is a sole light source that casts out darkness. It is exclusive and intolerant, calling out other claims as posers. Truth matters in a court of law, in the accounting office, in a medical practice, and in bridge construction.

Truth also matters in matters of faith or non-faith. Consider the self-evident truths that nothing can cause itself, that humans have a sense of morality and self-awareness, and that living organisms have irreducible complexity. These point to a Creator, unless of course, you feel differently.

Pluralism’s intellectually dishonest claim is that all paths lead to truth. Feels good, but the problem is that world religions assess different problems, with varying solutions and destinies (topic for another day).

Jesus’s purpose is truth. At His trial, He answered Pilate, “You say correctly that I am a king. For this I have been born, and for this I have come into the world, to testify to the truth. Everyone who is of the truth hears My voice.” Pilate said, “What is truth?” (John 18:37-38). Good question!

Jesus claimed to be exclusive Truth, God incarnate. He claimed to be the promised Jewish Messiah. He claimed to prepare a place for you in eternity. He claimed to have the power to raise you from the dead and take you to be where He is. That’s His supreme truth claim. You can trust your feelings, or you can trust Him.


Identify this quote:  “What’s in a name?  That which we call a rose by any other word would smell as sweet.”

The quote means that a name doesn’t change the essence of a thing.  Yet we do use labels to identify and describe.  Clintonite and Trumpian are political.  Calvinist and Arminian are theological.  Capitalist and Socialist are economic.  But none of these names change a person’s essence, made in God’s image.

Some names are intended as pejorative.  If you’re into hashtags, #ShePersisted and #Deplorable are both labels coined as derogatory terms, now embraced by their targets.  A more ancient example of that is, “The disciples were first called Christians in Antioch” (Acts 11:26).   Unfortunately, “Christian” has become freighted with centuries of use and misuse, and remains offensive to some.

Trying to make a name for yourself may not be wise.  You know the Tower of Babel story when God confused their language, but why were they building it?  “Come, let us build for ourselves a city, and a tower whose top will reach into heaven, and let us make for ourselves a name, otherwise we will be scattered abroad over the face of the whole earth” (Gen. 11:4).  The name they wanted would reflect their success in religion and strength in numbers.  God nixed that as self-aggrandizement.

Have you seen that curious Bible passage about new names?  In a message to the church in Pergamum, God says, “You hold fast My name, and did not deny My faith even in the days of (persecution)…To him who overcomes, I will give him a white stone, and a new name written on the stone which no one knows but he who receives it” (Rev. 2:13,17).  A secret name written on a white stone?  A bit mysterious, but it does signify that God knows you personally.

Back to that quote.  Juliette was saying that her Romeo’s name Montague should not prohibit their union despite the feud between families.  I’ll borrow Shakespeare’s point.  We identify with Jesus even if those close to us feud with his loving grace and his claim on their lives.  It’s less important to me whether I’m called Baptist, Christian, or Bible thumper.  What matters is that God knows my name, and He can call me any name He wants (just don’t forget to call me to heaven!).

Charles Miles (d.1946) was trained as a pharmacist.  He left that career to become a composer and publisher.  Some of his lyrics read, “There’s a new name written down in glory, and it’s mine, yes it’s mine!  With my sins forgiven I am bound for heaven, nevermore to roam.”   The Bible says, “There is no other name under heaven that has been given among men by which we must be saved” (Acts 4:12).  That name is Jesus Christ.