In the late 18th century the German philosopher Friedrich Nietzsche suggested that the time had come for man to evolve into Superman, the self-determined individual who wills, who trusts only in himself, who needs no one else. A man who creates his own good and evil.
Nietzsche’s goal? To become better, stronger, faster, smarter, more self-sufficient. To extract all the enjoyment we can from this life and rely on no one.
In Nietzsche’s opinion, Jesus was too meek and too weak. How could we worship a man who died on a cross?
But what would Paul and Jesus say to Nietzsche?
Please join us as we engage in our daily Bible conversation.
INSIGHTS AND EXPLANATIONS
Isaiah 3:1-5:30. Yesterday we began reading through the prophets. Some people really identify with them, but for most of my life, I haven’t. However, I’ve learned that when I read them as if they were written for my generation, they begin speaking to my heart. The key is to realize that the idols of old still exist, but with new names and practices. We’ll help you identify this along the way. I’ve also noticed that I pick up momentum as my brain begins to adjust and understand the figurative language.
For those of you who already enjoy the prophets: never mind!
Isaiah is sometimes referred to as the “prince of the prophets” because Israel considered him their greatest prophet. A contemporary of Amos, Hosea, and Micah, his name means “the Lord Saves.” He began his ministry in 740 B.C., about 20 years before the destruction of the northern kingdom of Israel.
So what are we to understand about today’s reading? Through Isaiah, God promised destruction for Jerusalem and Judah. He is confronting them for their self-absorbed lifestyles. They care more about living extravagantly for themselves than God. Ouch! So, he promises to bring it to an end.
Yet, in the middle of impending judgment, we’re given a ray of hope: a promise of restoration and forgiveness. The judgment promised isn’t punitive, but restorative. God loves us so much that he allows us to suffer the consequences of our sin, but he also sends a deliverer (the Branch of the Lord in Isaiah 4:2).
The theme of chapter 5 is striking. God will judge his beloved vineyard (a word picture for Judah) because their actions have failed to reflect their holy God.
The hell and brimstone preaching about God in the past has dulled our senses to the fact that God is indeed holy.
Psalm 53:1-6. This psalm seems to echo the message of Isaiah. “Everyone has turned away, they have together become corrupt; there is no one who does good, not even one” (verse 3).
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THE WORD MADE FRESH
Don’t you hate cleaning up someone else’s mess? While getting the church of Ephesus off the ground, Paul was forced into some emergency clean-up work. Unfortunately, his only recourse was to write an epistle—which we know as 2 Corinthians.
After departing from the church of Corinth, some men showed up promising to continue where Paul left off. Instead, they undermined Paul’s integrity and message. Most disturbing of all, the Corinthians believed these false teachers.
Paul defended his credibility because he didn’t want the Corinthians to stray from his message. Then he writes this…
But I am afraid that…your minds may somehow be led astray from your sincere and pure devotion to Christ. For if someone comes to you and preaches a Jesus other than the Jesus we preached, or if you receive a different spirit from the one you received, or a different gospel from the one you accepted, you put up with it easily enough. 2 Corinthians 11:3-4
Paul lamented that the false teachers had proclaimed a different Jesus, a different gospel, and a different spirit.
So what was this message the false teachers proclaimed?
Reading between the lines, it appears that the false teachers criticized Paul for presenting Jesus as nice, tame, weak, and permissive. “We don’t need to carry the cross,” they claimed. “Live for yourself and follow your passions and compulsions.”
D. A. Carson comments that “Paul’s opponents prized highly evidences of power and authority, so it may be that they had induced the Corinthians to accept a Jesus, a spirit and a gospel in which there was no place for weakness, humiliation, suffering and death.”
Sounds like (post)modern times!!
And Nietzsche’s view of Jesus.
Here’s what I think Jesus and Paul would say in response to Nietzsche and the false teachers:
Your view of freedom and strength are completely backwards. Contrary to popular belief, living without restraints doesn’t bring freedom, it brings bondage. The “anything goes” philosophy only leads to destruction. “Wide is the gate and broad is the road that leads to destruction, and many enter through it, but small is the gate and narrow the road that leads to life, and only a few find it” (Matthew 7:13-14).
The gospel of Jesus is anything but weak. Anyone can follow their basest human inclinations and compulsions. Only the strong willingly carry the cross of Christ. And only the strongest willingly die on the cross for someone else. Jesus’ power is made perfect in weakness (2 Corinthians 12:9).
Although Friedrich Nietzsche aspired to become Superman, he couldn’t live up to his own beliefs. As he grew older, he became increasingly irrational and ended up in an insane asylum. He spent the last twelve years of his life being cared for by his mother—a woman who loved Jesus.
Despite his attempts at being self-sufficient and self-determined, he became dependent, unable to make decisions on his own, and powerless.
On the other hand, weakness and reliance result in power and strength.
- What spoke to you in today’s reading?
- What would you say to Nietzsche?
- In what ways do you willingly or unwillingly follow Nietzsche’s philosophy?
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Michael co-pastors The Neighborhood Church with Eugene Scott in Littleton, Colorado.