The Human-like Creature

Some are strangely fascinated by rainstorms. They are amused with flashes of lightning, thunderous rumblings, and the tap-tap-tap of rain on the window. On this particular night, I was none-too-fond of the weather. Nevertheless, after much struggle, and a seeming excess of tossing and turning in my bed, I finally succumbed to a deep sleep. As is the custom of the night, accompanying my sleep was a dream.

As I dreamed, I passed through what seemed an ocean of wet leaves and soft branches until I came to a lush green meadow amid the willow trees. Toward the far side of the meadow, was hunched a gruesome looking figure feeding on the carcass of another of his kind. He was not quite human, but he certainly had human-like qualities. He was bent forward with his bare back and ribs protruding through his thin, nearly translucent skin. His long thick hair was matted to his pale gray skin so that his large ears were greatly emphasized. He had what appeared to be the remnants of clothing draped over his body the original color of which was not, by this point, discernable. From my dreamy recollection, I cannot conjure the details of his face, except to note the wildness of his eyes, which seemed never to rest long on one object. Feverishly, he fed on the flesh of his poor fellow, and I could discern from this callous feast no history of affection between one and the other.

As my eyes drifted to survey the meadow and the willows that provided its border, I noticed the seeming calmness with which the wild animals accepted the presence of this creature. The birds continued their nesting, whistling and chirping as they fluttered from branch to field to branch. A doe and her fawn inched their way along the tree line nibbling the grass with a coolness of temper. A monarch butterfly passed just inches from my nose as the heather drifted gently atop the breeze settling here and there in the tall grass.

Suddenly, there was a disturbance in the meadow. A faint snap of a twig from the right side of the meadow (my right, that is) sent the birds in a flash into the cover of the trees. The deer darted deep into the woods, and the entirety of the dream seemed to sink into a hazy, low tremor under a dark red hue. I could feel my pulse rising, though I knew not the source of the danger. The only being in all of this lonely pocket of existence who seemed totally unaware of the danger was the creature on the other side of the meadow. As my awareness of this ever growing danger increased, I grew more and more unsettled until finally I shifted, rather fluidly, around the meadow to my left until, passing through trees as a spirit, my being settling near the creature. Surprisingly, he did not seem to notice my presence, and I did not feel quite as threatened by him as by the danger now emerging from the trees on the other side of the meadow.

Slowly, a tall, dark figure emerged from the trees. This was clearly a man, though he was cloaked in his entirety. From head to toe, the dark figure was covered in what appeared to be a suit of cast-iron. His helmet was tightly fit to his head so that it did not wobble when he turned to observe his surroundings. His neck, arms, and torso were tightly fit with black mail and a large breastplate was strapped snug just under his broad shoulders. On the breastplate was the imprint of an open book and this same image adorned the large black shield strapped to his left forearm. As he crossed through the middle of the meadow, I became aware of a large, double-edged, black iron sword. He held the fearsome weapon at a forty-five degree angle behind his right leg, his shield now held tightly under his chin as he approached the creature.

As the knight approached, his steady pace slowed, and he lowered his shield as if to get a better look at the creature. In that moment, without any warning, in one motion, the creature leapt at the knight bringing him to the ground with a thud. In my curiosity, losing all fear, my entire being rushed forward to soak in the commotion.  As the two grappled on the ground, the human-like creature moved around to the back of the knight, wrapping his legs around his torso and his arms around his neck. The creature was roughly half the size of the knight. However, he seemed to have more fierceness of spirit and he certainly had less constraint by way of heavy armor.

In the end, though, the knight’s size and strength won out. The creature was no match for the knight. The knight reached around, grabbed the creature, threw him to the ground and mounted him. After gathering his senses, he reached over into the grass and grabbed his sword, the creature still squirming, fighting for every moment of life with every ounce of strength he could muster. In a low calm voice, after gathering his breath, I heard the knight say, “Please, sir. Do not struggle against me.” At that, I witnessed the strangest of occurrences. After a short, seeming deliberation of thought, the creature laid his head and arms back against the grass exposing his chest, ceased his struggle, and closed his eyes. With this, the knight raised his sword high in the air and drove it into the heart of the creature.

In that instant, I felt a strong sense of righteous indignation surge through me. Part of me knowing that the creature ought to die—that part of one’s dreaming self that ever remains anchored in reality—but the other part of me felt an unnatural sense of oneness with the creature. However, I was not, to the best of my knowledge, part of this reality, so I restrained any physical intervention on my part. I would say that I expected at the moment of the death blow to see life and color depart from the creature had the creature not already so vividly exhibited all the marks of death in his body. What I saw, instead, was stunning, to say the least.

As the knight pulled his sword from the chest of his victim, his chest wound automatically began to heal. The knight stood with a little difficulty of effort, keeping his eyes ever on the creature, except now he did not look so much like a creature as an actual human being. His flesh began slowly to turn from a milky grey to a tannish brown. His eyes, which had never closed, turned from a steal blue to a dark brown, and his form transfigured in seconds from its formerly disfigured smallness to a straightened, full-statured, stateliness. It was as though that which was thought to bring death had actually brought life into this creature. The sword that brought death to the horrid, gruesome creature at once brought newness of life to a healthy, vibrant, young, black man.

Standing, as it were, and considering these things, I realized that for a span of time unmeasured I had ceased to observe my subjects in the meadow. As I gathered my thoughts and yet again focused on them, I saw the newly revived young man surrounded now by five or six knights, these in silver armor strikingly similar to that of the black knight. The knights all busily worked to fit the young man in his own armor which looked like theirs in every way.  I did not see the black knight among them, but the newly revived young man was handed a sword and a shield as he walked and talked together with the others. They continued in this mode of discourse to the edge of the meadow and, as they approached the willows, the branches moved as though the trees themselves were making way for royalty, and the knights passed through to a journey I know not where.

In that moment, I would have liked to say this was the end of my dream, but it was not, for the meadow seemed so empty in the absence of the knights. That is it seemed empty until, venturing out into its center, I realized that the carcass of the other creature was still present. I passed over toward the creature where I beheld a scene that gripped all my senses. What had appeared to me at first to be just one carcass was several: this one and several others strewn out into the forest beyond him. Atop and among many of these carcasses were creatures like the one who had just been slain and revived. Each of them had more of the marks of deadness in him than the one before. They took no notice of me but continued to feed on one another and on the carcasses that lay on the forest floor.

As I looked on this horrifying scene, I fully expected to be repulsed and even nauseous. Instead, what I felt was an all-too-familiar sharp pain in my gut. At first I did not know what it was, but it came to me soon enough. The sharp pain I felt was hunger. Turning to the carcass in the meadow and looking over his half-eaten figure, the hunger within me intensified! The intensity of this hunger would only be rivaled by one thing: a besetting curiosity. As I approached the carcass, I noticed a shiny object lying on the nearby turf. Drawing near to the object, I realized that it was a piece of a mirror and, lifting it up, I saw my own reflection, but it was not my own. It was different.

I cannot give you the details of my face as I saw it in the mirror. My hair was long and matted down to my flesh so that my large round ears were greatly emphasized, and my eyes shifted wildly from one object to another. I was small, disfigured, bony, and exhibited more signs of deadness within myself than them all. Horrified, I threw the mirror fragment to the ground. At that very same moment, I felt a presence to my left and, looking, I saw the black knight standing just a couple yards from me, poised to attack. I knew at that moment what I must do. I stood as tall as I knew how, spread my arms, threw my head back, and closed my eyes. The next moment pain. The next moment death. The next moment life, and life more abundant than ever I had experienced.

Awaking, I sat up against the headboard of my bed pondering the meaning of all these things. Listening to the steady rain as it rolled against my window with each new gust of wind, I found the melody of it. After nestling back down on my pillow, I allowed the melody of the rain to sing me back into a deep sleep. As is the custom of the night, accompanying my sleep was another dream. This dream, however, shall go untold for the present.

The New Birth in First Peter

With Sovereign Grace Baptist Church in San Angelo, TX., I have had the honor of preaching through the book of 1 Peter. This past week, we got as far as 2:17 in our study. Reflecting on the study thus far, and looking forward to where we are headed, I have come to the conclusion that everything in the first half of 1 Peter flows out of the reality of the new birth (1Pt. 1:3).

Outline:

As a result of the new birth:

1) …we have a new relationship with God (1:1-21).
2) …we have a new relationship with one another (1:22-2:3).
3) …we have a new relationship with unbelievers (2:4-3:17):

a) …unbelieving Jews (2:4-12).
b) …unbelieving civil authorities (2:13-17).
c) …unbelieving masters (2:18-20)

(In all this Christ is our example; 2:21-25)

d) …unbelieving husbands (3:1-6).
e) …unbelieving wives (3:7).

4) …we are to love as brothers (3:8-12).
5) …we will suffer (3:13-17).

Hopefully this serves as a helpful outline for those of you who would like to engage the book of 1 Peter a little deeper. I was almost done with the first chapter of the book before I realized this was what Peter was doing with his argumentation. Let me flesh it out a little further though for those of you who may be a bit skeptical of my approach here.

New Relationship with God

Peter starts by securing our new relationship with God in eternity past through the election of God’s people (1:1-2). Understanding how our new relationship with God is rooted in eternity past gives us great security. He will go one to explain how our relationship with God is also being kept secure in the here and now.

First, he points us to the new birth itself (1:3-9). We are born again to a living hope, an inheritance being kept in heaven for us who are being kept by God Himself. We rejoice in this new standing we have before God as heirs of the promise, even though now we are sojourners in a land where we are persecuted strangers. We have a home, a glorious family awaiting us in heaven. The hope and assurance of that great promise sustains us through our trials.

Second, we have this hope revealed to us this side of the incarnation. We are a privileged generation in that we have these great mysteries revealed to us. The prophets prophesied of the Messiah to come, the things He would suffer, and the glories that would follow, but they did not have as full a revelation as we now have.

Third, as a result of this new birth, this inheritance we have received as sons of God, we have a new relationship with Him. We are no longer children of wrath (Eph. 2:3) and sons of disobedience (Eph. 2:2; 5:6; Col. 3:6). Rather, we are now called children of obedience. As such, our behavior is to reflect what we truly are as a result of having born again into the family of God (1Pt. 1:13-21).

New Relationship with One Another

IMG_8323Also, as a result of our new birth, we have new brothers and sisters. We have brothers and sisters in the flesh, but flesh is like grass. “All flesh is like grass, and all its glory like the flower of grassThe grass withers, and the flower falls off, but the word of the Lord endures forever” (1:24-25a). By contrast, our inheritance and relationships with our new family are imperishable (1:22-25).

Our new relationships with one another yield new behaviors (2:1-3). As a result of our new birth, we now have familial obligations and familial motivations. We seek unity rather than division, and this new motivation effects how we live in fellowship with one another. We put aside devices of discord and cling to the One who builds up the body: Christ Jesus.

New Relationship with Unbelievers

As a result of our new birth, we have been grafted into true Israel (2:4-12). Paul taught that unbelieving Jews in the New Covenant have been broken off so that believing Gentiles might be grafted in (Rom. 11:17-24). This is part of a greater argument Paul made about his unbelieving brothers in the flesh starting in Romans 9. Peter refers to these unbelieving Jews as builders. We know he has unbelieving Jews in mind because he quotes the same verses Paul quotes in his argumentation in Romans 9-11.

We also know that he is referring to unbelieving Jews and Gentiles who are being grafted into true Israel because he applies uniquely Jewish titles to the New Covenant believing community. He describes the church as a temple being built and we are the stones and we are the priests, with Christ as the Capstone / Cornerstone. In fact, Peter calls us a royal priesthood and a holy nation. We ought not to take this to mean that we have replaced Israel, though. We have not. We have merely been grafted into true Israel. As such, true Israel has taken on a new shape.

As a result of the new birth, we also have a new relationship with civil government (2:13-17). Just as I would expect my kids to obey any adults with whom I would leave them, God expects us to honor the authorities He has placed in our lives. To disobey and dishonor the civil authorities God has established in our lives is to disobey and dishonor God.

We also have a new relationship to our masters as a result of the new birth (2:18-20). This has particular application in our day and age where people hold so loosely to their commitments to their employers. In Peter’s day, you entered into a contractual agreement with your master. It was much like joining the military. If a man were to come to a church and say, “I went AWOL from the military, because my sergeant was an unbeliever,” our proper response would be to tell him he needs to return and honor his enlistment. In the same way, Christian employees should not be flippant about jumping from job to job simply because their employers are unbelievers. We need to honor our commitments and show honor to our bosses.

Christ is our example in these things (2:21-25). When He was slandered and reviled, He did not revile in return. He willingly submitted to His persecutors and, as such, He was submitting to the will of God. We do not know the will of God for our lives or what He is orchestrating for our future, so we ought to humble ourselves and submit to the hardships we will receive as a result of our new relationship to the world.

Our new birth does not give us license to divorce or liberty to ill-treat our spouses (3:1-7). Rather, wives are to respect and submit to their unbelieving husbands. Husbands, are likewise to deal with their unbelieving wives in an understanding way and not to domineer them. When I was first introduced to the Doctrines of Grace, I tried to force-feed them to my wife. This is not how wives learn. We need to be patient with them and allow them to sit under the word and be convinced by God, not our forcefulness.

Love for the Brethren

Once again, Peter returns to our familial motivations / obligations (3:8-12). As a result of the new birth, we are to deal with one another with brotherly affections. This will result in certain heart motivations, which will then lead to changes in the way that we behave toward one another.

The Suffering to Follow

If we commit all of these things to memory and allow them to shape us and motivate us in how we walk in this world, we will have hardship. The world hates Christ. As those who are being made over in His image, they will hate us. We are to be ready to give a defense in the face of the trials that come our way. However, we must do so in fear and solemnity, recognizing that we represent our holy Father who is in heaven, and we have a brotherhood who will reap the consequences for our misdeeds in the flesh.