On episode 57 of The Edge of Innovation, we are exploring Christianity with Pastor Paul Buckley of King of Grace Church.

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Made in the Image of God
The Foundation of a Christian Worldview
Heaven and the Afterlife
The Problem with Humanity – Loving our Neighbors
The Good News – Why God Became Man
God is not an Angry Old Man
The Cost of Being a Christ Follower
The Core Needs in Life

Exploring Christianity: The Good News

Made in the Image of God

Paul P: We’re on the track here of Jesus died for your sins. I’m not sure why we would need to die for sins, but we’ll talk about that in a second. But you just said “made in the image of God.” You mentioned that a couple of times. If God is God in anybody’s measure of God, that seems a little bit boastful or a little bit…you know, I’m equal to the president. Or I’m equal to Tom Brady. Well, no. You’re not. So where does that come from?

Paul B: Yeah. Well the Bible teaches us that in the beginning chapters of the Bible, which are really foundational for all that follows in the Bible, it really tells us our origins, and it tells us that we’re made by God in his image. Really, we see both there, the whole storyline of the Bible is the invisible God, the God that is beyond physical sight, making himself known, making himself visible through his creation. He shows what he’s like through his creation, and he does that in multiple ways. He does that just in the things that we all enjoy, beautiful falls days in New England, the ocean, majestic mountains, all those sorts of things.

Paul P: Chocolate.

Paul B: Chocolate. He shows himself through all of these things, and we love engaging those things, but he shows himself through mankind. Mankind is kind of the pinnacle of him revealing himself and showing us what he’s like. We don’t image him completely and we don’t image him, perfectly, but we do image him. We do show what he’s like. He’s relational. He’s moral. He’s into creating and recreating and expressing himself through interacting with creation. Those are just some of the ways that we image God.

Paul P: It sounds sort of genetics, like you see somebody, and you say, “Hey, you look just like this person.”

“Oh, yeah. He’s my father.”

So that’s interesting. So it’s that children come out in the image of their parents. So I guess maybe that’s something to think about there.

The Foundation of a Christian Worldview

Paul B: It’s foundational to a Christian worldview, that we’re made in the image of God. And so I could argue for it from different avenues but most importantly that the scriptures reveal that truth, give us that truth to build other things on.

Paul P: Okay. So now let’s go back to what you were saying that Christ died for our sins. I don’t know. Did Confu—, did Buddha die for his people’s sins? Or is it channelized like that?

Paul B: Well certainly I think every worldview deals with the issue of failure, of moral failure. And Buddhism has its own practices and thoughts on that. But Buddha didn’t die to atone for sins.

Paul P: What do you mean, atone?

Paul B: He didn’t die to deal with sins and the implications of sins. Christ died to atone for sin. So he died to pay the penalty, the consequences of sin. So let me just back up. We were talking about the image of God.

We’re made in the image of God, and so, as such, we know right and wrong. Actually, the Bible would say we have an inherent sense of God, and so when we make choices not to love others, and most importantly, not to love God — because he’s made himself known just in creation — when we choose not to love him and to live that way, that’s sin. So that’s either by committing things that are wrong or failing to do what’s right. All of the law, all of the ways, the ethics of God can be summed up in two simple commandments: love God with all your heart, soul, mind, and strength; love your neighbor as yourself.

So failure to do those things is sin. And God is just. He’s good. Therefore, he has to be just, and therefore he has to bring consequences to bear. He has to deal with wrongdoing. We all have an inherent sense of justice. We want wrong things dealt with, and we want people who perpetrate evil things to be dealt with. God’s no different. Matter of fact, he’s the guy that made us like that. And, in his goodness, he judges sin, and the punishment for sin, the punishment for rebellion against God is to be pushed away from his presence, to experience what it’s like to be separated from goodness. We see that, to a degree, in the world we live in. The brokenness of our world is a consequence of sin, and there is a spiritual consequence of a broken relationship through our sin.

We believe as Christians that, should we not reconcile with God, and not respond to his gracious activity, we’ll live eternally separated from him. So Christ came, God came in the flesh, became a man, lived a life of love for God, love for others, and then laid down that good life on a cross, in our place, that paid for the sins that we deserved to pay for. So through faith in him, simply believing and receiving him as the one that rescues us and leads us onward, we are forgiven. Our sins are paid for, and we’re reconciled to God.

And that’s really the start of a new life. It’s a start of reconciliation of a new creation in God, and a life living, following Jesus and being fruitful people. That impacts us now, has a huge impact on how we live life now. And really, we believe, impacts us for eternity, leads us into an eternity of following Christ.

Heaven and the Afterlife

Paul P: So you’ve mentioned that Christ died for my sins or for sins or for… I don’t know. You can clarify that — died for sins that I might not have even known I had. I mean certainly I’ve done some bad things. But isn’t that just the way it is? I mean, so am I excluded from heaven? Is God actively keeping me out, or what’s the deal there? And is that the goal? So we’re sort of talking about is there an afterlife, you know, because if there’s not an afterlife, well then, do whatever you want. Right? Except we have this inherent concept of good and evil, and I shouldn’t hurt the people that I don’t like.

Paul B: Yeah. I think there’s a historic view of these things in light of, “I want to go to heaven,” you know. So I want to believe these things so I get to go to heaven.

And I don’t think that’s really the whole picture. Sometimes it gets shortened and reduced and misses a lot of things. The issue isn’t heaven, per se. The issue is God. And the Bible is very clear that the reality is that we are separated from God by our sin. Just as we get into conflict we people, we do something terrible against our neighbor, it makes it difficult to interact with them. We don’t have a same relationship. So there’s a relational problem with God because of us, not because of him. He still is the same. He’s committed to being gracious and good and kind, but we have broken the relationship with our sinful choices, with the choosing not to love him, and not to love others. And we’re kind of stuck there. We’re, we’re addicted to dumb decisions in some ways.

Paul P: So you’re saying that the actual way I behave has an effect on how I know God or experience him?

The Problem with Humanity – Loving our Neighbors

Paul B: Yes. I, I think that we all have that problem, and collectively together, it makes a big mess. So we, we tend to externalize this, don’t we. Do we look at the news. We look at what’s going on in the world, and we think, what terrible people. But those are people just like us. And we could be the people doing that thing that we critique. Humanity has a problem. We have it as individuals. I think of, I think it was G. K. Chesterton. They asked people to write what they thought the biggest problem in the world is, and his submission was something like,

“Dear Sirs,
I am.
Sincerely yours,
G. K. Chesterton.”

Paul P: Oh, interesting. Was he a criminal?

Paul B: No. He was a very moral man, but he recognized it. So he’s an author and a theologian, back in the early 1900’s. And he understood that the biggest problem in the world is each of us individually and our broken relationship with God, that we live in this place where we make bad decisions. We follow the insanity of not loving a creator who has given us all these things, not loving our neighbors as ourselves. So that’s the reality. And that reality in our sin and in our brokenness with God, has cut us off from an ongoing relationship with him.

Paul P: So as I’m hearing you, I’m sort of thinking, “Well, why wouldn’t I like my neighbor?” Why wouldn’t I just be kind and nice to people and I know that certain people annoy me. I’m struggling with what’s the reason for that. Is this what religion is about, trying to answer that question, or is it trying to answer our relationship with God question? Or is it both, and they’re so closely mingled that you can’t separate them?

Paul B: Yeah. I’d say the latter. In the Christian worldview, that loving God and love our neighbors are connected. It says in one place we really can’t say we love God if we don’t love our neighbors. So they’re connected. And I think we all have problems loving our neighbors.

Paul P: But they’re not that bad. I mean, you know. I tolerate them. So are you saying it’s supposed to be better than that? I’m just struggling with what the problem is here. I will admit that I struggle with some people. But let’s say that’s something I could overcome. And I could just be nice to everybody.

Paul B: Yeah. I think your standard is a little too light from what I hear. It says the standard is love your neighbor as yourself and that we are to love our neighbors on the same level that we love ourselves.

Paul P: What does that mean? I mean, practically?

Paul B: We equal regard for their wellbeing that we do for ourselves. And it doesn’t necessarily mean that you spend as much time and energy on your neighbor as yourself, because I think there’s a priority of responsibility that plays into all that. But your regard for their wellbeing is on the same level as the regard for your own wellbeing.

Paul P: Now is this a religious teaching or is this a Christian teaching? Do all the religions teach this?

Paul B: They may or may not get into that level of defining what it means but scripture is detailed in that. The famous story of the Good Samaritan who went out of his way and was very much inconvenienced to care for someone who was his natural enemy. The implication of the story was that Samaritan was being a good neighbor to that wounded, needy man. So it’s detailed to a great level, just the depth of care, the depth of concern that that’s the action that’s supposed to be there.

The Good News – Why God Became Man

Paul P: So it sounds like there are implications as you discover different facets of this worldview. So as you discover, “Gee, God’s pretty cool. I want to be his friend,” well, just be his friend. But there’s this problem of sin. Oh, my gosh. What am I going to do? So can I just solve my own sin and just not sin?

Paul B: No. It would be nice in some ways, I guess, but we can’t. So we need help. That’s the core, really, of why Christ came, why God become a man.

Paul P: Why would he do that? I mean, what’s in it for him? So you’re telling me that this Christ came to earth, lived a good life, and… I mean, I think I’ve lived a good life. So how does that compare? We’ll ask that question. But then, so he lives this good somehow special life. And then he dies for my sins. So explain that interchange to me.

Paul B: Well, he lived a perfect life. He never failed in his intention. He never had lesser regard for others than himself. He never had a lesser regard for God the father. He loved God the father with his whole life, and he lived in that way being full of faith and full of obedience, full of goodness and service to others. He demonstrated that he was more than just an average man in his miracles. So his life was on a level way above any of ours in both the perfection and the scope of what he did. We’re not going around walking on water, raising the dead. He did. So he demonstrated that he was more than the average man. Way more than the average man or woman.

So he was unique in that way. And as God and man together, two natures in one being, he was fully able to live that life and then fully able in offering that life to be in our place, to pay for our sins and and basically earn for us all the blessings of a right relationship with God, simply through faith. So that’s the core of the Christian message. That’s the Good News, that he’s died for our sins and, and now there’s forgiveness and new life and go forth.


Paul P: Okay. So there’s forgiveness. So I go and offend somebody, and I say, you know, “Your, your clothing is just terrible.” And I hurt them, and they cry, and I feel bad. This is sort of a trivial example here. So I go to them and ask for forgiveness, and they forgive me, and we make up. Is that what you’re sort of talking about here? But it sounds like to a different quantum level.

Paul B: Yes. Right. So certainly forgiveness with individuals is important, but forgiveness with God is most important. So when you say those things to your friend, you need forgiveness from them. But you actually need forgiveness from God because they’re made in God’s image, and he cares a lot about them, and he cares about you.

Paul P: So I’ve not only offend them. I’ve offended God.

Paul B: Right. More importantly. Yeah.

Paul P: Does it matter if they’re a Christian or not?

Paul B: No. It doesn’t. They’re human.

Paul P: Okay. So just a person. I go and offend them, and you’re saying I’ve affectively offended God.

Paul B: Right. Yeah. And that would be the more important, more serious, perhaps, offense in what you did.

Paul P: So, okay. I can breathe somewhat a sigh of relief when somebody says, “I’m no longer angry at you.” And maybe I can go to God and say, you know, “Forgive me for this,” and breathe a sign of relief that he forgives in some form or fashion. But I’m going to make another mistake. So do I have to keep doing this or just try really hard not to make a mistake?

Paul B: Yeah. You are. You are going to make another mistake and that’s why we need forgiveness. We need it all the time. We need it, to live in it. We need to define ourselves as forgiven ones. I think part of making mistakes over and over again is because we don’t define ourselves as forgiven and changed by God. So the Good News comes in and says we’re forgiven. God forgives us. He’s for us. See, God loves us. He wants to teach us as if we’ve never done wrong. He wants to bless us and help us. He wants to be close to us.

God is not an Angry Old Man

Paul P: Alright. So I had asked you earlier, well, what’s in it for him? Can you explain that? I think a lot of people have an idea of God as sort of like an angry man, an angry old man or whatever. Don’t do this. Don’t do this. Don’t do this. That seems very different when you say he loves us. Well, what does that mean? I think even a lot of churches I’ve seen will say he loves us, but that doesn’t mean you’re going to be happy. So can you expound on that a little bit?

Paul B: Well, first off, he loves us, and he does want us to be happy. Getting us there might not be our best choice of how to get there. But he does want us to be happy. He loves us. As far as the question, What’s in it for him? I don’t think we can quite ask that question in the same way we might think in terms of human relationships because God is not like us. The Bible teaches us that he’s not in need. He doesn’t need us. He’s not lonely. He’s not sitting there thinking, “I just don’t have enough friends, so I’m going to go do this stuff to get more friends.” He’s perfect. He’s complete in himself. He’s three persons in one. It’s the mystery of the trinity. So there’s this relationship that’s been there forever. It’s a perfect relationship and full of all that you would think would come with an infinite being.

So he’s not needy, and he’s not trying to get a deal out of this. He’s just expressing who he is in creation and in the unfolding of time. In these actions, he’s expressing himself. He’s being himself. And part of who he is, he’s a God of infinite love. Has that much love that he’s glad and he’s eager to show that love to humans.

But he’s also a God of perfect justice and wisdom and goodness. So he has to deal with that side of things too. So the wonderful part of the good news is that God makes a way that he can pour out his infinite love and blessing on us and deal with the injustices that we’ve perpetrated in a perfect way so that we can be forgiven. That forgiveness doesn’t just mean petty, like, “I guess he’s not angry with me anymore.” No. It means full inheritance and rights to his love and all that comes with that. So being a Christian is to live in that love and to learn how to be more loving as well. So that’s where you’re going to make a mistake again. Yes. But when you start this walk and start to know God and live in these truths, there’s a change in our outlook. There’s a change inside of us. The scripture talks about being a new creation. And there’s the ability to start changing in what we do. Now we still fail, and we still need to remember that we’re forgiven, and we need to remember that we’ve been given a new relationship, and that relationship defines us more than our failures.

And I think there’s great power in that to change and to be a better person that comes out of that.

The Cost of Being a Christ Follower

Paul P: Okay. That sounds pretty attractive, to say, okay. I am going to be forgiven from my sins, even ones I haven’t committed yet, or ones I commit in the future. So in other words, there’s this relationship, I guess, you’re talking about, that has been restored with God in some form or fashion. But what does it cost me? I mean, what’s the downside here? Do you have to dress a certain way? It sounds like too good of a deal.

Paul B: Yeah. Well, it costs you both nothing and everything. It costs you nothing because it’s through simple faith. It’s putting your faith his him, believing this message to be true, and then entrusting yourself to the person of Christ. So that really doesn’t cost you anything. You’re not earning something there. He doesn’t wait to see what else you’re going to do to cinch the deal. So it’s simply through faith, a faith that turns away from sin and towards Christ so that in that faith is a change, what we would call repentance. So it’s turning to him in faith.

So it costs you nothing in that sense. But it costs you everything because to be joined to him is to be transformed by him and to live a new life of loving him and following him. And really when we make that decision to trust him, we’re laying everything else down. We’re saying, “I’m going to trust you. I’m going to follow you.”

Now the sorts of changes that come in our lives, the sorts of things that his leads us into are, are not silly things. It’s not about wearing a special sort of hat or something around or an unusual costume or something like that. It’s about ethical changes, belief changes. Those are the sorts of things that we change in. So that’s where it costs us, in a sense. But those things follow from, from what we believe. And those things are actually, I think they’re really good things — those sorts of changes, those sorts of ethics that we live in, the sorts of decisions that we make as a result, I think, are good things and have a very positive impact all around us.

He doesn’t promise us a life of ease and comfort necessarily, but he does promise us himself and the strength, the help, the comfort that comes from being in a relationship with him that can take us through the difficulties of life.

The Core Needs in Life

Paul P: Interesting. So I’m trying to think what the core needs are in life. You know, we need food, shelter. But is it relationship? Is that the core thing we want? Because I was thinking in the analogy where I said somebody’s dress, or clothes were ridiculous or something and hurt their feelings. What I’m doing there is breaking a relationship and doing that. Now I might say, “Well, gee, you know, I want… Life to me is I want to be rich, and I want to have a lot of houses and cars and things like that.” What is the core need that we’re trying to fulfill? And how does that integrate or not integrate with being a Christian and knowing who God is?

Paul B: Yeah, I don’t think the core needs are food, clothing, and shelter. Those are important physical needs. It’s kind of hard to get by without them. But they’re not the core needs. It’s not really what we live for. We live for something deeper and greater. I think we live for things that come from relationships. But I don’t think it’s relationships, per se. I think we’re looking for purpose. We’re looking for love. We’re looking for acceptance. I think we’re looking for God really. I think that makes sense if we think about it. He’s made us in his image. He’s made creation to be a place where he shoes himself. So if we have a broken relationship with him, we’re going to try to find him, in a sense, even if it’s in a confused way.

So I think that’s what we’re looking for, and we can find a degree of that in healthy relationships. So we want to celebrate those things.

Paul P: But there seems to be so few examples of healthy relationships in media, and all the different things. You know, you hear Brad and Angelina break up, and oh my gosh, it’s terrible. You don’t hear about all the good relationships. So it seems to be our lot that we’re not having a lot of good relationships as humans.

Paul B: Yeah, there’s a lot of problems I think. But, you know, there’s a lot of good that we see out there, and we celebrate that. Right? So, you know, we were watching what’s happened in Houston, and we’re watching people respond and to do heroic things to help people. And we all love to watch that and participate as we’re able as well. So we’re looking for that. We celebrate. We love those things.

But yeah, we’ve living in a broken world. So at one moment, we’re reading these stories of heroism, and then another moment, we’re reading these stories of terrible relational things and tragedy. And again, we’re made in the image of God, and so we’re made to be like him. And he’s loving, and he’s like that. He lays his life down for us. And that idea of someone doing that inspires us. And he’s the one that rescues us from the brokenness, our brokenness. We, we need the help. We need reconciliation. We need a change in our lives to learn how to build relationships that are healthy, to do that in all the different contexts of our relationships.