The Theology of Underwear

May our confidence be based on more than this!

“Therefore, brothers, since we have confidence to enter the holy places by the blood of Jesus, by the new and living way that he opened for us through the curtain, that is, through his flesh, and since we have a great priest over the house of God, let us draw near with a true heart in full assurance of faith, with our hearts sprinkled clean from an evil conscience and our bodies washed with pure water. Let us hold fast the confession of our hope without wavering, for he who promised is faithful. And let us consider how to stir up one another to love and good works, not neglecting to meet together, as is the habit of some, but encouraging one another, and all the more as you see the Day drawing near.”

Now there’s a hope that will last today, tomorrow, next week and on into an incredible eternity in God’s new creation! I’ve been challenged recently that perhaps I don’t talk about these positives enough. Yes, Jesus’ death on the cross does save me from the terrors of a real Hell, but God always saves us for something better – life forever with him! Not a nervous day-by-day “have I been good enough to escape the clutches of hell today?” but a bold, assertive “praise God!” for doing everything on my behalf that was necessary to secure my eternal future. My primary identity as a Christian is now “in Jesus” – i.e. it’s Jesus’ obedience, Jesus’ excellencies, Jesus’ perfect sinlessness that is the deciding factor in whether I’ll be admitted to heaven. If Jesus is in, and I’m in Jesus, then I can be sure that I’ll be there with him – that’s what being in him means!

National Biblical Literacy Survey

Yesterday on BBC Radio Four’s Sunday programme (about 10 minutes before the end) they shared some preliminary results from a National Biblical Literacy Survey carried out by St. John’s College, Durham. The results will come as no surprise, but they do paint a sorry picture of a nation that has forgotten God:

  • Encouragingly, 75% of people surveyed owned a Bible, though few ever read it
  • 57% could say nothing at all about the story of Joseph and his brothers, despite the popular musical
  • 60% could say nothing at all about the Good Samaritan (“wasn’t he the man who helped the woman at the well?”, asks one interviewee)
  • One of the commentators involved in education said many of her students couldn’t even tell you which came first: the crucifixion or the resurrection of Jesus

“Why does any of this matter?”, you may ask. Kudos to Nicky Gumbell, one of the guests on the show, for a very clear presentation of what’s at stake: God tells us that the Bible is the ultimate revelation of his character, will and plan, and that it’s therefore powerful to change people. As the wonderful Vijay Menon often likes to put it, it’s pure dynamite. Ignorance of the Bible is ignorance of God, which is ultimately the world’s biggest problem.

Sounds to me like a great time to be making Old Testament adventure games to help share with people the amazing message of the Bible.

Announcing Your Plans

A fascinating blog post was doing the rounds last week titled “Shut Up! Announcing your plans makes you less motivated to accomplish them” by Derek Sivers (whose entire blog makes for great reading!). The gist of it was this:

Tests done since 1933 show that people who talk about their intentions are less likely to make them happen.

Announcing your plans to others satisfies your self-identity just enough that you’re less motivated to do the hard work needed.

It seems to fit with my own experience, that the more I talk about my Bible-teaching computer game the more it becomes a “social reality” sometimes to the detriment of actually making progress on the project.

What I found interesting, however, was the tacit assumption throughout that the essence of motivation is essentially pride. If talking about our plans with others satisfies our pride sufficiently, why bother going to all the trouble of actually implementing them? The whole notion of “Bible-teaching computer games” is so other-worldly to the average person’s experience that I can convey the idea of Andy Geers the programming wizard without needing to demonstrate the least iota of actual talent, merely through so much hot air.

The conclusion of the blog post was this:

If you do tell a friend, make sure not to say it as a satisfaction (“I’ve joined a gym and bought running shoes. I’m going to do it!”), but as dissatisfaction (“I want to lose 20 pounds, so kick my ass if I don’t, OK?”)

As sound as such advice may be, may I suggest that it settles too easily for treating the problem rather than actually curing it? It concedes the inevitability of human pride and refocuses it into a form of motivation that actually works (now your reputation is bound up in actually succeeding, meaning you don’t get the pay off if you fail). Yet being content with our pride is a dangerous place to be – a topic the Bible has much to say about – that is likely to lead us towards our eventual ruin. I wonder if a better approach is to renounce our pride and turn away from self-glorification as a motivation, seeking the glory of Jesus Christ in sacrificial service of others instead. I suspect it might require a different kind of plan though: for most of us, it’s hard to see how “losing 20 pounds” can be a Christ-glorifying goal in its own right (though if our bodies are seriously struggling under the strain of an unhealthy lifestyle, we may well find ourselves with more energy to serve Christ and others if we were to commit to losing 20 pounds!) But maybe we could follow the example of a friend of mine, whose first instinct is always to ask “who could I do this with?” If you’re a Christian, why not find somebody who’s new at church and needs somebody to take them under their wing, then agree to play squash together once a week? The motivation then becomes serving this other person in the name of Christ, and losing weight comes as a handy side-effect!

A man’s pride brings him low,
but a man of lowly spirit gains honor.
(Proverbs 29:23)

Losing All Confidence (Unity FTW!)

The Transformational Power of Glorying in Christ Jesus

As I have stated previously, I care far too much about what other people think about me. There’s all sorts of issues of self esteem and self worth bound up together in there, but at the end of the day I want people to think that Andy Geers is awesome. Given the right conditions, I can even go a long way towards convincing myself that might be true. I can pull some pretty smart moves on the dance mats, for instance. Not to mention how I’ve been labouring for four and a half years on a custom-built 3D engine for my Bible-teaching computer games under the illusion that I’m an awesome programmer (there’s no other sensible hypothesis for why I would have attempted such a feat, after all!) I can convince myself it’s true when it comes to my relationship with God as well: if I leave out the ugly parts, I’m basically a good person and I’m sure God will be happy enough with my performance, given how generally awesome I am.

But the trouble with this attitude is when the cracks start to show. What happens when you come to start using your game engine in anger and you find that it’s riddled with bugs, leaving you facing the prospect of investing months more work in an engine that’s already at least five years behind the state-of-the-art? What happens when somebody else shows up on the scene who is quite clearly even more awesome that you thought you were (and whose dance mat prowess leaves you in the dust)? What happens when the sin in your life because so painfully obvious that it starts to become clear that the holy God in whom is no darkness whatsoever must be offended by the very thought of you?

Put no confidence in the flesh

At church tonight we had a brilliant sermon looking at Philippians 3:1-7, and I was particularly struck by verse 3:

“For we are the real circumcision, who worship by the Spirit of God and glory in Christ Jesus and put no confidence in the flesh

The Christian person is free (indeed, obliged) to discard any pretensions at having reason to boast in themselves, and instead is freed to glory in their utter worthlessness and dependence upon the merits of the Lord Jesus Christ alone. Let me shout it from the rooftops with the utmost joy in my heart: I HAVE NO GROUNDS FOR CONFIDENCE IN MYSELF!!! Hurrah! It doesn’t matter if so-and-so is threatening to outshine me with their superior awesomeness – I have no awesomeness to protect! Andy Geers is not awesome – but Jesus IS!

It’s such a liberating truth to know that I don’t need to protect my self-esteem – instead I need to bolster my Jesus-esteem. I’ve been really encouraged and challenged by these accounts of Martin Luther that have been doing the rounds this past week:

The Devil would come to him and whisper in his ear, accusing him of all manner of filthy sin: “Martin, you are a liar, greedy, lecherous, a blasphemer, a hypocrite. You cannot stand before God.” To which Luther would respond: “Well, yes, I am. And, indeed, Satan, you do not know the half of it. I have done much worse than that and if you care to give me your full list, I can no doubt add to it and help make it more complete. But you know what? My Saviour has died for all my sins – those you mention, those I could add and, indeed, those I have committed but am so wicked that I am unaware of having done so. It does not change the fact that Christ has died for all of them; his blood is sufficient; and on the Day of Judgment I shall be exonerated because he has taken all my sins on himself and clothed me in his own perfect righteousness.”

Unity FTW!

I’m going to keep dwelling on Luther’s approach this week. But in the mean time, I’ve taken the plunge and started a 30 day trial of the Unity game engine to see if I can reproduce my point & click adventure game during that time. So far I’m absolutely loving it! It’s a great feeling to know instead of being burdened with having to do everything myself, instead the longer I sit back and wait the more features and extensions and bugfixes get developed for it! And it has so many more features than my poor little engine could ever hope to have offered, it’s unbelievable, not to mention cross-platform support for Windows, Apple and Nintendo Wii. Somehow, I think I’ve made the right choice! Even if it does mean giving up a little cause to boast in myself.

I’d rather spend my time boasting in Jesus Christ.