Sunday, May 21, 2006

GRII Retreat 2006 Session 2 - Why Am I Made This Way?

This is my personal summary of Rev.Stephen Tong's sharing on Session 2 of "Seeking and working out your calling in God's big picture" in GRII Singapore Retreat on 11-13 May 2006

Every human being is created distinctively, differently and individually. This becomes the foundation of the essence of existence said by Kierkegaard, “To exist is to be one and alone before God.”

Following from the first session, if I cannot answer the question of who I am, can I then find an answer from another human being? Obviously the answer is no. Every other human being also has the same question to ask pertaining himself.

This is the qualitative difference between Christian philosophy and other worldly philosophies. Worldly philosophies and psychologies are complicated because they act as if they are God who can solve fundamental human problems, forgetting that they themselves are also humans who have the same problems. They will not get to the root and hence will never succeed. Humans are not their own savior. The only exit route from this deadlock is to go back to the Designer.

When we go back to our Maker, our status is passive instead of active. This is an important concept that is not realized by sinners. Sinners always take themselves as the subject while they should be the object. Those who rebel against God knowingly and willfully think that they are the subjects who have successfully rejected God. Is God still sovereign? It seems that they win and God loses. But they do not realize that in reality, they are the objects that God has rejected. Indeed, if God wants to reject a sinner, all He needs to do is just to leave the sinner alone to curse Him and rebel against Him.

God's sovereignty has 4 aspects:
1. God's eternal will
2. God guides His people
3. God permits but will restore later
4. God lets and just leaves alone the reprobates

Romans 1:26 and 28 speak particularly about the last aspect of God's sovereignty where He allows sinners to do whatever they want. This confirms His rejection hence God's sovereignty still stands.

As beings created in the image of God, we have attributes that reflect Him. One is our realization of our own existence, which we have discussed in the first session. Another attribute is the freedom to choose. This freedom is not absolute. There is qualitative difference between our freedom and God's freedom. Human freedom is a created freedom, not an absolute one. The highest creation is creation that is created like God, but still is not God.

Because of this attribute, humans become very crucial beings. That is, their existence is in a state of crisis because there is potential of danger. It is like giving your own son a sword with both the potential and the chance to kill you. Then he did try to kill you so that he can get your inheritance, but instead of getting what he wants, his choice ends him up in jail.

After the fall of angels, God created human beings and gave them this gift of freedom. This ‘sword’ given to us is meant to slay God’s enemy, not to slay Him. But humans fell too. The whole humanity failed, till Jesus came on earth as the only perfect human being who could pray, “Your Kingdom come, Your will be done.” Jesus changed “me” (self-centeredness) to “You” (God-centeredness).

The question “Who am I” will leads us the important fundamental question of where we should be. When Man fell, the first question God asked human is, “Where are you?” and not “Who are you?”

The answer to “Who are you?” is that you are made in the image of God. The question of “Where are you?” is the question of whether you have shifted your position, i.e. have you sinned? Have you been redeemed?

Why did God create us in that kind of state of crisis? Why not just create us such that we can never have the potential to disobey Him (read: no freedom of choice)?

This gift of freedom is where our dignity lies. This is our given privilege. Everything that is happy has its dangerous element. Everything good has its crucial element. For instance, is it more dangerous to be beautiful or to be ugly? Is it more dangerous to be intelligent or to be stupid? We know that a beautiful lady might face more danger and a smart person has the potential to scheme very bad things, however, do we pray for an ugly and stupid child? This requires us to understand the essence of great gifts. Great blessings are hidden within the crucial status of human beings.

Since it is a given privilege, the responsibility expected by the Giver in giving us this privilege is the question that needs to be considered seriously. The balance between grace and responsibility is the measure of one's spirituality.

The question now is how to actualize the hidden blessedness in this crucial existence that we are. Hence we need a compass to direct our lives. We truly need God's help.

Because I am created, my existence is not absolute and independent. I am created in relation to God. Therefore I need to take care of proper relationship. The word ‘religion’ comes from Latin word ‘religere’ which means relationship, i.e. relationships with God, yourself, people and nature. Relationship with God is the foundation for all other relationships. It is the relationship that brings all relationships to harmony.

After we are awakened to the sense of our crucial existence, we learn who we are, and begin to see that we need to take responsibility before God. The question of “Who am I” will lead to either you submitting to God or you rebel against Him. When you know that you are not an independent creature but made for Him, when you realize that you are supposed to seek His Kingdom and His will, you are at a critical crossroad that would lead either to life or to death.

As a preview to the next topic, is there any meaning in life? If there is, where does the meaning lies? If there is not, why do we keep living on? For most of us, we fear death. Since we have lived and have not tasted death and do not know what it is like, it is better to live on. And if we do not even know how to live properly, how do we know how to die? There are people who are brave enough to commit suicide because they have come to a very strong sense of their own existence through sufferings in life. So strong is their sense of existence in their sufferings that they do not want to have any more relationships. So they decide to end their existence to cut themselves from all relationships in this world of sufferings. This is a mockery to God as implicitly they are saying that they do not agree that God created them. Again, this aspect of value judgment is another attribute of human beings made in the image of God.

Consciously and subconsciously, we are making decisions at every moment based on certain valuation system, therefore we truly need God!


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