Previously I’ve laid out why I feel that Two Ways To Live is man centred as opposed to Christ centred. Today I look at a third issue, which is that…
It Defines Sin Poorly
For TWTL, Sin is basically defined as rebelling against God and making ourselves king rather than Him. The presentations blurb tells us “men and women everywhere have rejected God by doing things their own way.” Notice that rejection comes from our behaviour – “doing things.” How many times have you heard a conversation that goes something like this?
Evangelist: Do you think you’re a good person?
Non-Believer: Yeh I think I’m pretty good.
Evangelist: Have you ever stolen anything, even like say, paperclips from the office?
Non-Believer: Well yeh I guess, maybe some pens or something.
Evangelist: But that’s stealing. Are people that steal good people? Do you really think God will let people who steal into heaven?
Etc, etc. This kind of thing is standard fare in those American street evangelism videos. But do you see how petty that makes God look? Sending people to hell for all eternity for paperclips? Way to overreact God! Now, I’m not denying that sin lies at the root of this, but trying to convict people on their behaviour just isn’t a winner. Most people won’t even think they’re doing anything wrong, and certainly nothing that merits eternal punishment, no matter what the Bible might say.
So defining sin as rebellion and the things we do wrong is unhelpful (and I think biblically weak). Romans 5 coupled with Jesus’ comments in Matthew 5:19-20 (evil coming from our hearts and that being what defiles us) show us something else. Behaviour isn’t the problem, being is! And because of that we’re condemned from the start. Our behaviour is merely a symptom of corrupted being, something which is far deeper and darker. Now I think people can identify with and are more convicted by this than paperclips. Talking about deep drives that overpower us, the things we say and do that just seem to spill out of us and we don’t really know why. The dark thoughts that run through our minds that we wouldn’t want anyone else to know, or promising ourselves not to do something but finding ourselves doing it over and over again as if we have no control over ourselves. That even when we might behave relatively well, there is still a selfishness in us that we naturally gravitate to.
Can’t everyone see this in themselves? That somewhere, deep down inside, whether we like to admit it or not, there’s a darkness? There’s something fundamentally broken about us, even corrupted but normally we don’t like to stop long enough to think about it?
Now I’m not saying everyone will immediately say yes that’s me, but I think it stirs something deeper in people than running off a list of bad behaviours they may or may not have committed and which they may or may not think are wrong. We need to draw people’s attention to the root of the problem, not just the symptoms. And as someone once said “the heart of the human problem is the problem of the human heart.”
Another feature of TWTL’s take on sin, is sin as self rule. As the blurb says, “we prefer to follow our own desires, and to run things our own way, without God.” Couple that with the little crown pictures throughout the presentation and you’ve got sin as self rule. We’re little Kings and Queens! Here’s the thing. Some people might think they’re running their own lives but biblically this isn’t the case. Ephesians 2:1-2 tell us:
“As for you, you were dead in your transgressions and sins, in which you used to live when you followed the ways of this world and of the ruler of the kingdom of the air, the spirit who is now at work in those who are disobedient.”
Can you see what Paul says there? Before anyone came to Christ, they were under the influence of the ruler of the kingdom of the air. In other words, they weren’t ruling themselves, Satan was ruling them. As Martin Luther said “We are beasts ridden either by the devil or God.” We haven’t climbed onto the throne of our lives because someone else is already on the throne and it’s not us. So why would we want to reinforce the delusion of self rule? If anything, surely that’s to play down the seriousness of the situation?
Check out the first 53 seconds of this video (or watch the whole thing if you get sucked in, I’ll wait)
What happens there? The characters examine the evidence and begin to wonder who they’re fighting for; “Hans, are we the baddies?” They realise they’re on the wrong team and it’s not a neutral harmless one. And that’s our situation. We’re not rival kings & queens to Jesus, we’re subject in the wrong kingdom. We are the baddies on the wrong side of the war. We are not rulers, we are ruled. If anything is biblically true, it’s that we’re on the wrong team and it’s not team “Me”, it’s team “Satan.”
So the self-rule thing doesn’t really sit well for me but I also think TWTL’s answer to this misses a pretty important (and incredibly exciting) biblical point. Effectively, the solution we’re given is to get off of the throne of our lives and put Christ back on it. We need to submit to Jesus. Now submitting to Jesus is right and good, but if we only speak of our relationship with Jesus in terms of submission then we’re left with something very similar to Islam. Even the word Islam itself mean “to submit”
And whilst TWTL speaks simply of getting off of the throne and submitting, the Bible says something slightly different. Take at look at Ephesians 1:19-20:
“That power is the same as the mighty strength he exerted when he raised Christ from the dead and seated him at his right hand in the heavenly realms”
Here we’re told of what the Father did for Jesus. Now compare Ephesians 2:6 and what God does for us when we come to faith in Christ:
“And God raised us up with Christ and seated us with him in the heavenly realms in Christ Jesus”
The wording is almost identical and the passages are both so close together that I think we’re supposed to see that what God does for Christ, God also does for us. Stick this together with Revelation 3:21…
“To the one who is victorious, I will give the right to sit with me on my throne, just as I was victorious and sat down with my Father on his throne.”
…and we get a very different picture from TWTL. Rather than being told to get off the throne (which we’re not on anyway), we’re invited to join Christ on the throne and share in his rule with him. That’s pretty dramatically different and also a wonderful privilege for the Christian believer but I can’t help but feel that Two Ways To Live doesn’t even begin to factor in this wonderful truth. It just feels like it’s missing a rather large point.
Part 4 coming soon…