The Tulip Driven Life Podcast

Sunday, February 19, 2012

What is the Tulip Driven Life? (Part 1)

I don’t really know anything about flowers. If you thought this was about flowers, you must be new here. That’s okay. New people are more than welcome. What I can tell you is that if you read the whole of this series, you probably will never look at flowers, or anything for that matter, quite the same way again.

This is a series about everything. Or perhaps, this is a series about how to discover everything and find it wonderful. Not that I have discovered everything that can be discovered, but I do believe I have the essential tool with which one can understand everything there is to know and find it most wonderful. If you aren’t interested in something so grandiose, something so big picture, then go read a book on flowers. That book on flowers might tell you a lot about flowers, but it won’t tell you how to look at flowers, and if you aren’t looking at flowers rightly, what’s the point in knowing lots about them? This series will make flowers matter because you will see them, and everything else, in a new light. In the light they were meant to be seen in. In the light of God.
                And just who am I? I’m no one. If you are looking for someone with a degree to tell you how to view life you’ve come to the wrong place. But I say if you are looking for anyone with a degree to tell you about life, you’re not aiming high enough. C’s get degrees, don’t you know? And if we took the smartest men throughout the ages, we’d come up with a cornucopia of life views. Which one is the right one, then?
                God has a life view. Did you know that? It’s revealed in the Bible. God is life. God is. God is the only thing that ever was before we were, and He has always been. Whether we like it or not, we are dependent on Him for our very existence. This world is His, and everything in it. He makes the rules. He makes everything. I think you can see where I am going. If anyone has the right life view, it is the one who made all life and is life itself.
                If you are looking for the true, accurate, correct life view, then it has to be God’s life view. He made us, and made us for a purpose. If you don’t believe in God, I can’t imagine why you would even believe in such a thing as a life view. You can go and do what you want, since you believe you are dependent on nothing, and the idea of becoming subservient to an all sovereign Creator probably doesn’t sound that wonderful to you. But for those who know there is a God, and want to know if He is good or not, worth living for or not, keep reading. And most especially for those who are Christians but don’t understand why they aren’t being fulfilled, or simply want to be fulfilled more, keep reading. The Tulip Driven Life is living life for God with understanding, resting on the only foundation that can re-enable us to live life for God with fullness of joy that comes through understanding-- Jesus Christ.
                But why Jesus? Why the cross? Because of the forbidden fruit. I imagine that if Adam and Eve were created in a post-Fall world, they’d off themselves in a hurry. This world isn’t worth living for. It’s harder on the surface to see that as 21st century Americans, but reality testifies that it’s true. The celebrities have a habit of offing themselves; few find happiness in themselves or in this world. One who has to plow the field to produce food to keep on living is likely happier than the one who can go to McDonald’s whenever they wish. This is because one has a purpose in life- to beat death by working the field, and the other has no purpose. Starvation isn’t a problem nor is death pondered when you are rich and healthy. And if you are reading this, chances are you are rich, healthy, and weren’t thinking about death until I brought it up.
                  In fact, when it’s living itself you are concerned about, just staying alive is all you need, all you hope for and desire. It is your goal, your purpose, and you can find a wonderful satisfaction in the labors that are necessary for your survival, particularly if you are engaging in them socially, with family or friends. The camaraderie itself brings delight. But once staying alive isn’t something you have to worry about, the quality of your life is never quite good enough. Money is the root of all kinds of evil. We are materialists at heart. If someone put a gun to your head, and said your money or your life, and you gave him all your money and lived, you’d call yourself lucky. But if someone simply stole all your stuff without threatening your life, you’d call yourself most unlucky. The difference was in the former you had your life threatened, in the latter you did not. We value life above all, but most people are still prone to depression and sorrow once life itself is secure. What gives? Why is life worth fighting for when so often we find that once we have it comfortably we become quite uncomfortable, quite unfulfilled? Perhaps it is because so many options open up to us once we aren’t fighting for survival, and we believe that surely one of them will offer us lasting satisfaction that justifies our desire to exist. Celebrities just so happen to be on top of the mountain this sad world has to offer, and seeing that none of the possessions and fame can bring them true joy, they simply lose their minds and sorrow seeps in.
                If you think this life is all well and good, with its murder, rape, and genocide, then you are either a liar, a hypocrite, or one of the most evil people in the world. A liar, because you simply don’t believe this world is okay when you say you do. A hypocrite, because if you do, then you aren’t participating in the murder, rape, and genocide. Or, you are Hitler, and you think genocide is the highest good. And I am not sure how to reason with someone like that, who believes up is down, black is white. Most people, thankfully, recognize the more obvious expressions of evil such as these. What is not recognized is the highest good, except when the highest good is simply struggling for survival. But if that’s not a struggle anymore, then we have to start asking the real question that we didn’t have time to think much on when we were plowing fields all day. Why do we want to live? What are we to live for? The depression and sorrow that still afflicts many, the billions spent on tasty foods and conversely diet books and diet fads indicate that many live life in a sort of tension, in a sort of contradiction, wavering between two opposing things. Do we celebrate the fact that life is secured, for the time being, by stuffing ourselves with food and sexual pleasures? But something rings hollow whenever we do that. Being an obese sleaze just isn’t that satisfactory, no matter how you dress it up. But eating right, exercising, and remaining faithful to your spouse for some reason isn’t very easy or desirable either. This is what happens when one has no compass to point them to the highest good, the place where satisfaction can be found.
                I know some will say they are quite happy apart from Jesus Christ. I do not doubt that that is true, at times. I do not doubt that perhaps some have so numbed themselves that they have found happiness quite often. What I am saying is, besides the fact that that is rare, it’s still not worth living for. I’d rather be miserable living for truth than happy chasing an illusion, a lie. The wonderful thing about the tulip driven life is that you don’t have to choose between the two. Being happy in what God commands us to do is ultimately what we were created to do, and where true satisfaction is found. It is the highest good. So if you took the happiest sinner in the world, who did nothing but what God hates, and stacked that sinner up against the happiest, most faithful human being in the world, Jesus Christ, Christ’s joy and delight is going to overcome the sinner’s joy by a landslide. So it is for the true Christian who understands what he or she is living for, what he or she has been called to. Those who have a taste for sex with whoever they can get in bed, and getting fat on foods, or whatever other menial pleasures this world tempts with, pales in comparison to the splendors of what God has made us for. The unbeliever is incapable of enjoying delicious homemade pasta, or pasta from Olive Garden, instead only being able to enjoy Mac n’ cheese from a box, like a child. But the believer has been changed by God, and has been enabled to enjoy the better tasting things, the things that God has commanded us to enjoy and pursue.
                Of course, the Bible seems like a real buzzkill, doesn’t it? With all its laws and rules and regulations. After all, Adam and Eve were punished because of eating a piece of fruit that God said not to eat. In fact, we were all punished because of their peccadillo. Or was it a peccadillo? If you created everything, have the power in yourself to have existed always, were altogether good, powerful, loving, and holy, and created as the crown of your creation these beings made in your image, and even gave them the authority to rule over your creation on your behalf, and even made them in such a way that they would find their highest delight in doing so, and then the crown of your creation, after given the universe, does the one little thing that you forbid them of doing- eating a piece of fruit that they could have had from any other tree- wouldn’t you be a bit upset too? Wouldn’t it be nearly unthinkable that your creation would betray you for a piece of fruit? Further, God warned Adam and Eve that they would die if they ate the fruit. But they allowed themselves to be convinced by the serpent that God was holding out on them, that being free from God’s rule and law, and being their own god, was where true happiness and delight was found. How’s that working out for us? We all do the same thing, before we are saved at all times, and even after we are saved (if we are) at times. Who in this world is truly happy and content?
Here’s the decisive crisis, the crisis before Christ. If you don’t settle this one, you can’t live the tulip driven life, and you can’t live for, much less love and value, Christ. Did God give Adam and Eve something worse than they deserved? Was the fall of man into sin and rebellion and the curse that the earth received because of the rebellion somehow unfair? If it was unfair, how and why? Adam and Eve knew the stipulations. God didn’t have to give them anything. God could have commanded them to fan Him all day while He sat on His throne. Instead He created them like Him and gave them authority like Him. He made man as close to being gods as could be without actually being one. Meaning, we get all the benefits of being a god without actually having the ultimate responsibility of all things. It is still God who has to worry about maintaining the universe and whatnot. Sounds like a pretty good deal for us, considering since we are the created, we are in no position to make any demands on the Creator whatsoever. God made us, and He had every right to make us without asking our permission (which would be impossible anyways) simply because He is God. There is no law that God is bound to. Remember, God is. God is a law unto Himself. The funny thing is we think we are a law unto ourselves. We think if we disagree with the Bible, or with God Himself, that our opinion matters. What does it matter? With what power do we think? Is not our brain a gift from God? Is not our existence a gift from God? But God thinks by His own power, and has existed by His own power forever. Yet after the fall, our existence became cursed, and we fled from God thinking we knew what was best. We sided with the devil and we got what we deserved.
                No, we didn’t. We got grace. God didn’t kill them, He let them live. He clothed them to hide their newfound shame. The earth was cursed, there would be sweat working the now unfruitful ground, childbirth would be painful, but they were still alive! And living is what we want at heart, when we have to fight for our lives. Now earlier I said Adam and Eve would have offed themselves if they were created in the post fall world. This is because they would have never known Paradise and only a cursed earth. They would have never known life freed from sin, freed from evil, freed from the fear of aging and getting sick and dying. They never would have dwelled in the direct presence of the Almighty. But they did know Paradise, they did not life apart from curse and sin, and they did know what it was like to fellowship with God. That was such a sweet thing, such a satisfying splendor, that Adam and Eve chose to live through and push on in the now dangerous and hostile world. God said to labor under sweat and to have babies with great pain. Does that sound fun to anyone? No, but we do it don’t we? Don’t we? We all have eternity written on our hearts. The Bible tells us why we all press on for survival when survival is the thing we must live for:
“9 What do workers gain from their toil? 10 I have seen the burden God has laid on the human race. 11 He has made everything beautiful in its time. He has also set eternity in the human heart; yet no one can fathom what God has done from beginning to end. 12 I know that there is nothing better for people than to be happy and to do good while they live. 13 That each of them may eat and drink, and find satisfaction in all their toil—this is the gift of God.”
Ecclesiastes 3 teaches us that everything has a purpose in its due time. We can’t fathom fully where God is taking us, but we do know that the work He has given us is satisfying. We were made to work. Adam was created to tend a Garden, and Eve was made to help Him do that. We tend gardens to keep on living, and the fruit of our labor is in itself is the gift of God. Notice, this is not a gift of God, but ultimately the gift of God. It may seem crazy but we were made for this, and we enjoy it. True, Adam and Eve, before they sinned, did it without toil and pain, without fear of death. Labor was sweet, pure pleasure. Work was leisure.
Work was leisure. No. Work is leisure still. It can be, at least, when you are working for the One who made you. The tulip driven life, in its essence, is the pursuit to experience work for what it really is- leisure. The highest good. The gift of God which we use to glorify Him simply by enjoying the work that He created us to get pleasure from.
Now, how can that be done? How do you delight in what God told Adam and Eve would now be arduous and painful? It is done by the same strength, the same faith with which Adam and Eve chose to keep on living. Eternity is on our hearts. There is a sense in which this world was once well and good, free from sorrow, free from pain. And we can see that, as time has passed, the curse of sin is being lifted and we are advancing to states of lesser pain and sorrow.
Not to mention the uncertainty of death. Is death the end? Do we become nothing? If we did, we wouldn’t know. Do we go back to that paradise, that beautiful place with God where pain is gone and all is well? And then the guilt that comes with our sin. We know we all have it. We do things we shouldn’t, even atheists believe that. Will we be held accountable for that? Is there punishment, and if so, how bad is it? It’s bad enough on this earth as it is already.
The Bible gives us the answers to all those questions. The short answer is, yes. Yes this life is bad, yes hell is real and we all deserve it. But then there’s mercy and grace. There’s not getting the hell we deserve, and instead getting the Paradise we do not deserve. And the means by which one can get this mercy and grace is through what Jesus Christ, God’s Son and who is eternally God Himself, did for man. It is the saving work of Christ that makes life worth living, indeed, which re-enables us to live life for God and have work be most pleasurable, leisurely, and eternally beneficial, once again.
And next, we turn our attention to what it is exactly that Christ did for man so that they can be saved from their sins and enter paradise once again.