TL:DR – From ideas comes your identity. We cannot prevent our susceptibility to ideas. But we can choose to inundate ourselves with good ideas. Extrapolating the extraction from good ideas, choose the best idea. There is an ultimate idea that wise men have suspected through their observations of the earth. This idea causes enduring changes instead of empty changes.
From Ideas come Identity
“Be less curious about people and more curious about ideas.” ― Marie Curie
A man has an idea that a retributive God will punish any “sin” should he messed up, and reward you only if you are “good”. This idea causes other ideas on how one should behave or act. Spending a great portion of time micro-managing everything he says and does in public, he might form an identity that includes being judgmental to other children of God if they don’t measure up, and anger when he sees “less holy” people do better than him in life. The eldest of the prodigal’s father’s two sons come to mind. He sees himself as a Son of God that must prove himself to a taskmaster Father, and thus also expect others to prove themselves as well.
A man believes the idea that there is no God, and that a cold universe and randomness is all there is. The ideas that spring forth from the first idea causes him to believe there is no intrinsic value to man and no cosmic justice. After observing the selfishness in society, he accepts it as a norm and decides that he will work the system – to be selfish or unethical to the extent he doesn’t get blow back. He might form an identity where the glorification of his wants is all that matters, and can easily justify breaking the law if he knows he won’t get caught, or take advantage of any grey areas so long as there is no significant retribution of him. I once met a China businessman that considers the ability to cheat people with schemes in a way that the law has no case against him as “brilliance”. He gets rich. His clients lose. How they feel doesn’t matter to him so long as it’s not his close friends or family. Such a man thinks himself as God in the sense that his glorification, feelings and survival is all that truly matters.
From both examples we see that it for the ideas that take hold of you that determines your identity. Identity is how you see yourself, how you want others to see you and what duties or actions come forth from such an identity.
The difficulty to forge a worthy Identity, and the temptation to fake one for the sake of public adoration has never been as exposed as today. Here is the trade off, truly worthy Identities are difficult to cultivate and require sacrifice. You don’t get the status of a Mother Teresa or Gandhi without a life of dedication and sacrifice. Too many people want to obtain that adored status without the transformative work that comes only with the right ideas and the commitment to follow those ideas.
The Insatiable Need: Million-dollar exteriors, five-dollar interiors.
Millennials and GenZ-ers have a problem unlike history before.
The internet and social media have allowed the entire world access to the performance stage of your life and vice versa. Because there never has been a time where you simultaneously cannot totally hide but also be able to manipulate what people see, crafting the narratives. Myka Stauffer, an infamous American YouTuber exploded on the scene, generating hundreds of thousands of followers because she portrayed herself as the white savior worthy of views who adopted an autistic baby from China. She documented many videos with the baby and even raised thousands of dollars through crowd funding. She made even more hundreds of thousands of dollars through ad revenues as seen in the new mansion she bought for herself. But after 3-years of documenting their lives together, netizens found out that she secretly “rehomed” (a euphemism for dumping him) her adoptive son without telling anyone. She withheld telling people for months until netizens noticed her child was absent from her pics. She claimed her adoptive son was better off somewhere else and she was not equipped or had enough resources to help him. People rightfully questioned that if she was a registered nurse, and was a millionaire, how could she be ill-equipped? More investigative videos from netizens would surface about her past, and most of which was not complementary. Her popularity crashed big time, having been exposed as a hypocrite.
The point is that we live in a world where everyone is so desperate to show the world, they have an IDENTITY that others might admire them when they don’t have the authentic personhood to back it up. It’s like when men inject Synthol to fake muscles into their chest and arms, it boasts of strength and manliness, but in reality, it’s weak and the complete opposite of manliness. When it gets exposed, the problems and the desperations get worse.
I’m a “walking contradiction”, says the descriptor of a glamor shot of a young lady, no doubt who went under the knife. “Fight for racial inequality! Demonize those who promote racism!” screams out from a young Hollywood heartthrob’ Instagram while there are hundreds of his red-carpet pictures to remind you how great his life is and how small yours is … then you find out that he’s involved with sex scandals involving young girls.
“The truthful atheist”
“Christian with purpose”
My personal eye-rolling favorite. “I’m better than Warren Buffet, #Iamthecaptainnow” says one caption of a young bearded guy with a stock trading screen in the pic. 1 year of great results means nothing. Resiliency in multiple market cycles is the true test of your strategy. People are so quickly willing to crown themselves on any hint of goodness. It’s how quickly they are willing to do so that tells me that they are so far from deserving that crown. The real kings don’t need to tell people, they are more concerned if they deserve their crowns rather than wanting to wear one at all cost.
Everyone is desperate to show everyone else their IDENTITIES – how unique they are, how special they are. Hence, they pepper their social media feed with quotes from proverbs and philosophies to the extent that I know they haven’t even explored the life of said philosopher.
It’s like the purpose in life is to convince others that you have made it, so that you can convince yourself you have made it because they can’t admit they don’t know what is truly good in life.
The strength of your IDENTITY comes from the strength of the IDEAS that have taken hold of you, and not the narrative you put out for the world to see.
In the natural world, apart from God, all ideas no matter how interesting they are at first, are mundane at the end. The Bible says that even if you pursue all the great ideas from men, you won’t be as original as you think, you will not be satisfied as you think, you’ll end up with an identity that feels incomplete and that thirsts for more, although you won’t even know what that “more” is.
That famous King Solomon, that man who accomplished more and accumulated more than anyone in history in his time, at the end of his journey to find the purpose of life, after falling away from God, concluded this so as to save you a lifetime to find this out by yourself:
“What has been will be again, what has been done will be done again; there is nothing new under the sun.” (Ecc 1:9, NIV)
Bad news. If you are trying to find your identity by looking to ideas in this world, you will simply be rehashing knowledge of the past, hence evolving to identities in the past as well. If you take a naturalistic worldview, then all people have evolved from inanimate rocks and ultimately have no intrinsic worth and our thoughts as inconsequential as random molecules vibrating. Why should anyone take us more seriously than a chicken on a farm, or the worm that the chicken eats? The acknowledgement of this fact has led many atheists to unyielding despair, myself included at one point.
History is replete by examples of people who had ideas, who had all sorts of gains, but was never satisfied. Even worse, no matter how much fame or power they amassed, they were soon forgotten.
In the 4th century BC, Alexander the Great notably expressed a desire to conquer the world, and a legend persists that after he completed his military conquest of the known ancient world, he “wept because he had no more worlds to conquer”. The world leader died mysteriously at 32. The once mighty Greek empire was defeated at the Battle of Corinth in 146 BC.
We’ve seen great empires come and go. The Persian empire before the Greeks, the Roman Empire, The Caliphate, the Mongol Empire. Today, the closest thing to a world empire is the USA, and some speculate on up and coming China will overtake USA’s GDP by 2030.
Today, if you ask any person on the street and ask them about Alexander the Great or any of the old-world empires, and most of them will likely not have thought much about them, or not care at all. In fact, if you ask them about their great-great grandfather, there’s a good chance he didn’t cross their minds much at all despite having the same DNA.
These dictators of great empires were the pinnacle of what many in the world call an identity worth having. They were never satisfied and they were soon forgotten.
No wonder the king of many kings, Solomon said “everything is meaningless”.
The end of Ecc 1:9 gives a glimmer of hope that seems to beg a question. If there is nothing new “under the sun” (that is, relying on earthly ideas), maybe the answer is found in places that transcend the sun? That there is a spiritual world hidden in plain sight superimposed on this the physical one.
Is there an Idea outside of this physical dimension that might truly change us to what we were made to be? Is there an idea that can truly quench our existential thirst? When I suffered pains that could not go away or contemplated how the world can be so unfair to many I often question if I belonged to this world at all.
CS Lewis’s observation that too many worldly ideas could not satisfy led him to believe that there must be an idea outside of creation that somehow, we were made to find.
If we find ourselves with a desire that nothing in this world can satisfy, the most probable explanation is that we were made for another world.” CS Lewis
That sets up the stage for the most audacious claim from a man who was suspected to be God himself:
Jesus answered a Samaritan woman when he asked for a drink from a well,
“Everyone who drinks this water will be thirsty again, but whoever drinks the water I give them will never thirst. Indeed, the water I give them will become in them a spring of water welling up to eternal life.” (John 4:15)
Every idea under the sun doesn’t satisfy, Jesus claims. Only what He gives can do so.
Plumb’s chorus line used to make my liberal progressive mind reject its audacity yet my heart had always suspected it to be true, “There’s a God-shaped hole in all of us that the restless heart is searching.”
People don’t have ideas; ideas have people
People don’t have ideas; ideas have people.
Graduating from a very liberal ivy-league college and steeped in progressivist thoughts on Christianity, that the Bible is just a man-made book like every other religion or idea out there, always tends to make me start a thread of thought that doesn’t start assuming the Bible is divinely inspired. The years have taught me there is so much nuance in the world itself that either is best explained by the Bible, or at least points me back to the Bible to realize just how unique the Bible’s claims are.
This write up is about ideas and how identity is formed around these. The strength of your identity is founded upon the ideas that take hold of you.
Karl Jung famously said: “People don’t have ideas; ideas have people.”
I find this to be intuitively true. Ideas get into our heads, it starts to change the directions we take in life, changes the way we perceive and respond to things, and the way the world responds back either cements our original ideas, or causes us to course-correct and also forcing us to modify the original idea in the first place.
If I were to assume the physical universe is all there is and take a naturalistic view that all of us evolved somehow from rocks due to chaos, then how could we have anything as an original thought that was generated with freewill and free agency? Our thoughts would ultimately be due to random vibrations of molecules. Ideas we get from others are also from the same origins.
As much as it seems that God is absent in this world, I always felt there is something divine about humans, even though extremely flawed. Because as hopelessly a slave to our selfish natures we are, I’ve always noticed how so many of us behave as through we always deserve more. We complain when things don’t go our way. We envy. We naturally want to add to our lives, not subtract. If all is chaos and randomness, why should we be behaving like kings that have lost their crowns at all? Why should we deserve more than say a chicken in a farm, or an earthworm that is here today and eaten by an eagle tomorrow. Why do we want to validate ourselves to the world at all? Why do we want to increase our creature comforts in the short term, and desperately hope we can leave some kind of legacy if everything is ultimately going to end and no one will remember us?
As illogical this behavior, given the brevity of life, and the tremendous lopsided amount of suffering instead of joys… it’s peculiarity led me to consider some Biblical claims that I was exposed to when as an ignorant teen, and captured my imagination more and more as the decades passed and I had to experience firsthand severe disease that removed any illusions I had about the selfishness of people and the lack of answers this physical world offered.
We humans often think too highly of how much our ideas come from places or people we don’t acknowledge, and also the validation our own identities.
But no one wants to explore just how porous their identities really are. It’s too scary. And, if we find we don’t like what we see, the crumbling of what we based our reality on might be too much to take.
Unjustified ego. Absolutist mentality. Playing the Victim. These are roots of historical evils.
Empty vessels make the most noise
I’ve seen too many people, especially in Hollywood and Politics (called Hollywood for ugly people) who generate personas that they are saints, only to be marred with sex and corruption scandals when it is no longer possible to control the narrative. Before Harvey Weinstein was finally busted for decades of sex scandals, almost every A-list actors and actress, even politicians like Hillary Clinton only spoke positive of him in public. Divergent young heartthrob Ansel Elgort’s social media is full of noble rhetoric of fighting injustice, recently had to apologize for a sexual scandal with a 17-year old fan.
Hollywood is a place with a great deal of virtue signaling, with up and coming actors trying to announce their fight for injustice. There are like hammers looking for a nail in order to be seen as creating positive change. Yet, simultaneously, Elijah Wood admits that there is a major pedophilia problem in Hollywood. The place of the loudest virtual signaling is also the place of the most debased of behavior. Is this correlated? The more the talk, the less the virtue?
In my life I observe that having some good ideas and virtue signaling cannot make you truly good. Any changes from these ideas are but temporary. There is a difference in acting good for a time, and having a heart that is transformed.
The Bible says we are “slaves to sin” and “dead in our sins”, this means that you might have some moments of goodness, but ultimately you will succumb to your debased desires. A slave might be able to think he has mobility, until he realizes the chains on his feet will always prevent real freedom. A slave cannot free himself. A dead man cannot make himself alive. Many of us can do altruistic things for short periods of time, but how many of us can go on for longer? And, how long is long enough? For those that think they are good people and they aren’t as bad as it seems, I challenge to see how you would react when you are either in a desperate state, or have absolute power. Did you think Hitler revealed how he would kill off all his political opponents and instigated genocide of the Jewish race when he was a poor artist canvasing for support or when he finally welded military power? Also, when he was a starving artist, he often played the victim, blaming too many things for his plight. Does this sound familiar?
Roy Baumeister did a study on evil. He concluded that major characteristics of evil dictators are: Unjustified ego. Ideological absolutism and Playing the victim. When I see people virtue signaling to “fight injustice” without seeing nuance (people claiming disproportionate police brutality on blacks without looking at the actual statistics), claiming how good they are without any quantitative proof of real sacrifice (how much money did you donate as a % of your net worth?), and making up their own goal posts (I am what I am, don’t change me), I see the young shoots of an evil mature tree – all that is lacking is the fertilizer of perceived affliction, the sunshine of absolute power and the catalyst of the passage of time. Power and wealth don’t cause corruption, it exposes it. Social media allows the biggest loudspeaker in history to amplify it.
So it seems that the people claim to have strong identities, the more fragile the identity it seems. The more people claim to be good, the less good they probably are. This always made sense to me. People who truly know what real goodness is have too much respect for goodness that they don’t dare to tell people about it because they know it’s something too hard to measure up. They are too busy making the sacrifices and trying to walk the path instead making sure the world recognizes it.
Real good people are too busy trying to be the change that they want to world to be and know just how far they are to have that standard.
“Why do you say I am good?” Jesus himself told a man. “Only God is good.”
The most deserving man of history declined to be called “good”, because He knew man’s fixation to be labelled as good to the world doesn’t lead to good outcomes. Why do you think the original sin of Adam was choosing the tree of the knowledge of good and evil? Since the beginning of time, people have been fixated on making other people think they are good instead of submerging themselves to where goodness comes from. The cosmic drama that started the human race wasn’t a choice between a tree of “good” and a tree of “evil”. This is what humans with our sinful mindset would assume, instead it was a choice between the tree of the knowledge of good and evil and the tree of life. Humans are meant for the tree of life, and not in a struggle to prove to one another they are good or evil. If you are struggling to prove your goodness, I already know you aren’t good. Seeing all those social media posts virtue signaling like there is no tomorrow simply points me back to the account in Genesis. There is nothing new under the sun. But, if the alternative to break out of the cycle of virtue signaling to prove to others you have an identity that can’t be faulted is to select the Tree of Life, then the first hint of this is the revolutionary statement of Jesus, that no religious figure came close to saying. Jesus didn’t say his primary mission was to educate, to make better, to teach ethics, to make people worship him, to make you serve others, instead He said, “I have come to give Life, and life abundantly.”
He was saying that He was the Idea that very first man on Earth was made for and could have selected but didn’t, trapping us in a blame game (we want to think others are evil) and self-aggrandizement (we want others to think we are good) and now He is here for all of us to choice again.
The problem with saying “Don’t try to change me, I am what I am”.
Acknowledging our helplessness is the first step to newness of life
There is another side of the coin of wanting the world recognize as you as “good”, and that is to say that my unique self should be celebrated and that no one can tell me any different. These two statements look like mirror opposites at first, but both tragically come from the exact same spirit of false pride. One wants the approval of others, the other actually demands it since it insists for unearned approval. The latter can’t beat the game and so they want to change the rules. Somehow, they assert that all behaviors and ideas are equal and thus must be respected regardless any objective measures of how worthy he is. It is like winning a trophy in a basketball tournament just for participating even if you can’t shoot, defend or score by changing which stats are measured to win games. Of course, those stats being measured are perfectly differently catered to each individual and so everyone wins.
“Don’t try to change me, I am what I am” is a hypnotic melodic line in the chorus of the band Oceanlab that many Gen Z girls resonate with.
Great song that is open to interpretation, but I know many that understand the implications in that line as having two points: that our identities are 1) only ours to shape if we want to, if it can be shaped at all; and that 2) we make up our own measurement of our success.
The first point is delusional, especially without God, you have already been shaped by the opinions, ideas and actions of others, it’s just that we don’t acknowledge it or realize it. Even the way people behave around you can shape you in significantly crucial ways, even if they aren’t formally introducing ideas to you. 30 years ago, Romania deprived thousands of babies of human contact. Even though they were fed and medically stable children, they grew up with all sorts of physiological problems like stunted growth and brain development. They were wasting away. Take away the validating actions of a caring parent and children waste away, becoming shadows of themselves. Adults have better ways to mitigate such social effects, but they are still vulnerable to being influenced by the society around them.
The second point will make you feel good temporarily, but your soul will revolt in dissonance over time, knowing that just because you deem yourself a success doesn’t mean your soul is satisfied. A healthy soul has a dynamic equilibrium between being open to change and a robust spirit that can take uncomfortable opinions. Swiss psychiatrist Carl Jung points out that “everything that irritates us about others can lead us to an understanding of ourselves” and that “there is no coming to consciousness without pain.” If one shuts down the barriers to any change, to never feel discomfort, it points to a fragility inside that will ultimately rot.
I found that most of these people have already been shaped by others it is just that this shaping occurred progressively over time. Most times we are unaware of it until something that is in-your-face occurs that is so directly unpleasant that we resist that change. Like the frog being slowly boiled in a pan thinking he can detect heat and easily escape destructive change, we don’t realize how susceptible we are to ideas, even if we insist we can resist it.
A man’s psyche is notoriously weak. History is replete with people that thought themselves strong and unchanging but gave themselves up to vices, crimes against humanity, selfishness that led to their own demise. How many drug addicts thought that they could easily try a drug and not get addicted only to lose everything to addiction? How many ladies told themselves they could handle themselves with a bad boy, only to become a shadow of themselves after?
Malcolm Muggeridge, a British journalist who lived a far from Christian life, attests what the Bible claims with his observation on historical events, he says, “The depravity of man is at once the most empirically verifiable fact but at the same time the most intellectually resisted fact.”
The problem with telling people “Be the best version of yourself”.
Be the best version of yourself? Just what does that look like?
That’s why I cringe every time I hear a Gen Z person throw out the quip, “Just be the best version of yourself and don’t let anyone else tell you different!” Why? Because people don’t know what the best version of themselves should look like. If they did, they wouldn’t need to ask you. No one would take another path if they knew for certain this one path is the perfect path. People are also bound by the limits of their experience and imagination, so how would they know what their theoretical best is? Today, I have recovered significantly from my eczema and having a meaningful career. This would have been impossible to believe when I was a 20-year old because I had an incurable sickness and had fallen out of the job market. If I did things based on what I realistically thought my best was, I would never have been able to do things unimaginable today.
If the physical universe was all there is, and all of us evolved from rocks from randomness, all ideas are from ultimately from randomness as well. It’s the blind leading the blind in circular reasoning. with the leader wanting to lead for the sake of leading and not because he knows exactly where he is going is going to be … the place our hearts yearn for but cannot find.
People who keep saying “be the best version of yourself” are almost always young, semi-successful people that never went through real hardships. You will never see the very best in the world take those quips seriously. You will also almost never see people who are severely disadvantaged or severely suffering believe that either. You won’t see the old grizzled Warren Buffet say that, neither will prisoners of Auschwitz say that either. The Bible shows the same pattern. You’ll never see King Solomon, the man who had everything, say anything remotely close to that, neither will you see Job, the man who lost more than anyone in this world say that as well. When success came easy to me when I was a teenager I would say things like that. When the harsh realities of disease, prejudice, selfishness and ignorance of people became very real in my life, I stopped saying things like that. Today, I have my own levels of success. After disappearing for most of the last 10 years to my peers in Singapore, 5 years because of sickness and 5 years in my new restorative journey in the US, I have had a great acceleration in progression. Even more today I will never tell people to “be the best version of yourself”, I will share what I believe as the best ideas in life, and if God is willing, will help you in tangible ways for you live those ideas.
The uber successful and those who are severely disadvantaged have one thing in common: both tend to realize more of greater reality than this one. The uber successful has attained more of what the world seeks for and realizes it doesn’t quite satisfy. The severely suffering are close to God. The harsh realities of life make them see things more clearly when they are forced to wrestle with themselves and “God” without the illusion of the world’s candy in between as distraction. That is, because the world has nothing for them, they must find out if there is a reality that is deeper than the physical universe. Those in the middle between extreme worldly success and the extreme sufferers are usually too distracted running after things that they think might satisfy and won’t know it wouldn’t until they achieve it. Usually it is people in the middle that tend to say “be the best version of yourself”. That’s the kind of answer that is to be expected by a person that doesn’t have an answer, but thinks that giving an answer is the answer itself. For such an acknowledgement that there isn’t an answer would cost too much, the thought that everything you built your validation upon might actually be meaningless. The risk is too much, for what if the world calls their bluff and realize they aren’t worth listening to or following?
But. we cannot help to be filled with ideas, something will fill your mind, the question is what. Even more important to find the one idea to rule all other ideas, that we find Life that leads to abundance.
In this world, we are not immune to ideas and thus immune to change. Kids pick up ideas unconsciously even they aren’t paying attention. Negative or positive experiences make us susceptible to certain ideas even when we want to resist that idea in the first place. I never wanted to believe that certain people were capable of certain behaviors, but constant disappointments chip away at such pre-conceived resistances.
Greeks believed there was a universal reason for accounted for everything. Christianity says that is Jesus.
Jesus is the Logos
Taking this extraction to its end, why not be inundated with the best idea, or the ultimate idea? In fact, did you know there is only one book of antiquity that has claimed not just to have good ideas, but what the good ideas of the entire world are based on?
There are good ideas, and then the Bible says there the one Idea to rule them all.
Jesus isn’t just a good idea, or had good ideas, the Bible audaciously claimed that Jesus is the essence of from where all great ideas are made of, across all cultures, religions and philosophers. The Bible says that Jesus is the embodiment of the pinnacle of the mystery of God since the creation of time. All the divine wisdom and divine grace that we have seen traces of in the world was packed into this one man who was God. Good ideas get you into a more beneficial state or place. Divine ideas get you into the fullness of abundance and also to be in the center of God’s will. Jesus claims to be this one and only divine idea that men of history have long suspected existed but only seen in part.
“In the beginning was the Logos, and the Logos was with God, and the Logos was God. He was with God in the beginning. Through him all things were made; without him nothing was made that has been made. In him was life, and that life was the light of all mankind.” John 1:4 says.
The Greeks in all their intellectualism had long independently determined that a divine Logos existed in the world. The Logos is a principle originating in classical Greek thought which refers to a universal divine reason, immanent in nature, yet transcending all oppositions and imperfections in the cosmos and humanity. An eternal and unchanging truth present from the time of creation, available to every individual who seeks it.
The Hebrew Bible boldly claims that Jesus was this Greek Logos, this divine reason that is unchanging and holds the answers to all the oppositions and imperfections in this life. In today’s world, we like to claim that each tradition has their own truths… the Bible is claiming to answer the blanks to the mysteries of our origin to every tradition that purports to see the world clearly.
It amazed me that the Hebrews, independently also hold to a divine wisdom (Chokmah) that contains all of God’s discernment (Biynah) that is the reason and the foundation of all creation. It’s more amazing that the prevailing empire at the time was Roman-Greco, and yet the small conquered Jews dare to claim that within their history and their scripture lay the answer that the great Greek philosophers were trying to find all along.
In Proverbs 8, this divine wisdom embodies Solomon and speaks through him as though Solomon was just a vessel to speak from. From verse 1 to verse 11, Solomon was trying to describe this wisdom. Like a speaker getting impatient by the pre-speaker who didn’t do a good job introducing him, Wisdom essentially took the microphone from Solomon and spoke to us directly. This divine chokmah boldly reveals that He “hates pride and arrogance”, by Him all leaders rule, with Him are riches, honor, enduring wealth and prosperity and His fruit is better than fine gold. This wisdom then embodies all the characteristics of the Logos:
“The Lord brought me forth as the first of his works,
before his deeds of old;
I was formed long ages ago,
at the very beginning, when the world came to be.
… I was there when he set the heavens in place,
when he marked out the horizon on the face of the deep,
… Then I was constantly at his side.
I was filled with delight day after day,
rejoicing always in his presence,
rejoicing in his whole world
and delighting in mankind.
“Now then, my children, listen to me;
blessed are those who keep my ways.
… For those who find me find life
and receive favor from the Lord.
But those who fail to find me harm themselves;
all who hate me love death.”
Prov 8, NIV
This divine chokmah is the ultimate embodiment of wisdom that existed prior to creation, was involved in the creation process, shared delight with God the Father and those that find this divine chokmah finds life itself, or more exactly, finds the fullness of life you were designed for… that the New Testament reveals is the “abundant life” that comes with Jesus. (John 10:10)
As John the Apostle reveals to the Greeks that Jesus was the Logos that they have forever been looking for but always remained out of their grasp, Paul reveals to the Hebrews that Jesus is the embodiment of divine wisdom Solomon was trying to fully understand or possess but could not. In just one poignant verse Paul reveals that the Hebrew divine chokmah and the Greek logos are the same person and was made in the flesh in the form of Christ Jesus.
“But to those who are called, both Jews and Greeks, Christ the power of God and the wisdom of God.” (1 Cor 1:24, NIV)
This divine Logos is the ultimate idea, the divine Wisdom of God that all things were made by and for. In this Wisdom all things hold together into a divinely inspired purpose. Without this Wisdom, all things ideas or actions are mundane and will eventually be forgotton.
This idea has a life of its own. You think you have formulated it with your mind as you read about it, but once this idea gets into you, the idea interacts with and changes both you and your reality. The Bible promises fruits that will come out when this idea takes hold of you. Righteousness, sanctification, redemption. (1 Cor 1:30) Righteousness as neing able to face your creator without shame. Sanctification as a transformed heart that matures closer to the heart of God. Redemption as redeeming the failures of your life and making beauty out of the ugliness. This results in more fruits like: Sound judgements. Seeing things the way God sees things. (Prov 8:14) Ability to lead people. (Prov 8:15) Access to enduring wealth and prosperity. (Prov 8:18) In Christ, you will have the ultimate blessing by being a master of wealth and not having money master you. Finally, the unmerited favor (checed) of God that actualizes the divine purposes in your life that no man can stop. (Prov 8:35)
Prov 8 summarizes all the fruits of finding this divine Logos/Chokmah as “those who fail to find me harm themselves.” (Prov 8:36) In other words, to the extent you find this wisdom is the extent you are closer to actualizing your best potential. The further away you are to this wisdom, the more you will harm yourself, even if you don’t think you are in the short term.
Jesus is not only the best idea, but He is also of a totally different category, He is the idea that all great ideas were based on and made of. Every wise man that gave wisdom for men to transcend their selfish humanity to be one step closer to who God is, those wisdoms are fumes emanating from the author made of divine wisdom itself – Jesus.
In Solomon’s epic quest to find all wisdom bound in creation, he had a prophetic revelation, that “the words of the wise (chakam) are like goads, their collected sayings like firmly embedded nails-given by one shepherd” and to be warned “of anything in addition to them” (Ecc 12:11-12)
In other words, all great ideas through history, those that were meant to benefit you somehow, if you added all of them together to find the maximum benefit that resulted from such ideas, the benefit extending from Jesus being nailed on the cross is that.
Like the Ring of Power in Lord of the Rings, there is one ring that is simply not of the same category as other rings. It wasn’t just that this ring was more powerful, but all rings were subjected to this one ring. There is one living idea that all good ideas derive their goodness from. If the idea was “good”, it’s because it hinted to who this other ring was. If an idea promoted overall wellbeing, it’s because there is one living idea that lives for the wellbeing of His creation. If an idea promoted grace for humanity, it’s because there is that one living idea that is the embodiment of unmerited favor for men. If an idea helped us to mature to become better fathers or mothers, it’s because there is a living idea that matures us closer to the heart of the heavenly father, that good early fathers are but a shadow of. “There is not a blessing in this world that God has not linked himself to.” DL Moody said. “All the great and higher blessings God associates with himself.”
Without this Central Idea, other Ideas are ultimately meaningless
Solomon bleakly said that that was “nothing new under the sun”. Based on such revelation, no wonder Paul exhorts us that we fight with “weapons outside of the world”, by taking “every thought to make it obedient to Christ.” (2 Cor 10:5) When we take mundane ideas but relate them back to Christ – by asking how this idea can help Christ’s mission, by asking God to divinely supply to it, we escape the futility of the world system that constrains it to pure indulgence or meaninglessness.
To give a physical analogy. If you give up your dinner to someone needy because of pity alone, that’s an act of charity with no real significance in the grand scheme of things. You might feel good for a while. The other person will feel temporarily satisfied. It’s a good thing. But if you give your five loaves and two fishes to Jesus at the right time, suddenly the act is multiplied tremendously beyond expectation and the act is now in the center of God’s purposes that lead to so much more than filling one man’s hunger.
The same goes for your mundane thoughts or ideas. The idea to study engineering has its benefits – a stable middle-class job, some financial stability to support a family. But to consecrate that idea to Christ might lead to God using those skills to put you in the right place and time to create great change. The idea to study the stock market might make you richer, but to consecrate that idea to Christ might open doors that was once unimaginable, and might help others in unimaginable ways.
When I first studied the stock market because I could not do anything else, I committed my little journey of learning to God. I would have never expected this would start a chain of events that would see me end up as a senior business analyst in the US as I rebuilt my life and career. When one studies stock market trading strategies as you stay home unable to “get out there” due to debilitating eczema, the most you hope for is that you will end up as a home stock trader that can earn a sustainable income (no one hires a home-trained stock trader with no formal training as a financial professional). Who would have thought I would one day end up a senior analyst in a foreign country doing financial modeling, M&A and operations research? My ex-employer had a shock when I was given double my salary. No one in the Singapore HR valued me that way. From the US, I had the time, space and resources to do well serving this company while pursuing Christian ministry. If I didn’t have this open door, I would still be up to my neck in work never feeling I would have enough.
God has a way to exceed what we can imagine when we commit ideas to the ultimate Idea himself.
The finished work of Jesus on the cross is the living Idea that extends from pages from a book or thoughts from your brain. The idea that reaches out and changes as you wrestle with it. He is the reason for everything under creation, the embodiment of divine wisdom and divine grace that actualizes everything you were meant to be before God and man.
The Bible is not claiming that Jesus is the person who Christians or Jews have been looking for. The Bible is making an infinitely wider claim, that all men of all cultures have been looking for this embodiment of wisdom and grace in God.
Jesus is the Logos, it is all of what good ideas are made of, and reason of life. Only in this Logos can we make sense of the world, and only in this Logos we can grow the way God wants us to grow, and produce worthy fruits; without this Logos, we will be filled with worldly ideas, and combined with our sinful natures, will have sub-optimal growth.
The best way to “guard” your identity is not to pretend we are impervious to the ideas of others, but instead, find the ultimate reason and let that reason subjugate all the other ideas such that the ideas will be in perfect harmony. (2 Cor 10:5) Then, when the ultimate reason holds everything together (Col 1:6), everything will work for your good. (Rom 8:28) Without the ultimate reason, worldly ideas may look good, but ultimately leads you to the wrong place. (Prov 14:12)
The best a man can do is to be filled with the Living Idea and allow that Living Idea to transform and then evolve him. (Justification and sanctification if you want to get technical).
All of us will evolve, every idea will come forth fruits, the question is what we are evolving towards.
Beware, not wanting to have an idea and to be happy to go through life taking the path of least resistance is an active idea in itself. We are in the game of life whether we like it or not, and even inactivity or taking a passive stance is actually an active idea that will yield fruits.
But the Bible asks for transformation first (2 Cor 5:17) before evolution, and that’s why the Logos is needed to reset everything in place so we can evolve in the correct direction. As a new creation in-Christ, the blueprint and stencil of our souls have been masterfully reworked, so the ink of worldly experiences and our responses to it can eventually go to the right places to produce a beautiful work of art in our lives that don’t feel a need to excessively convincing others of the beauty that is undeniable.
Do not tarry on finding what are the best ideas for your life. Do not tarry on finding the ultimate idea that could change everything for you.
The ultimate IDEA makes our mundane ideas more significant than we can imagine. Without the ultimate idea to give meaning and power to our other ideas, those ideas will lead to “nothing new under the sun”. Let’s learn from Solomon’s life-long study into worldly ideas and how they are dead mundane repetitions in history past that doesn’t lead to newness of life so that we don’t have to learn it the hard way.
Remember your Creator in the days of your youth … Not only was the Teacher wise, but he also imparted knowledge to the people. He pondered and searched out and set in order many proverbs. The Teacher searched to find just the right words, and what he wrote was upright and true. The words of the wise are like goads, their collected sayings like firmly embedded nails—given by one shepherd. Be warned, my son, of anything in addition to them (Ecc 12:1, 9-11, NIV)
All good ideas point to the ultimate IDEA. Nothing else can add to this ultimate IDEA.
My councilor friend told me, “My clients’ identities are often a product of their ideas, positive and negative, and it’s when we address who we are deep down, when we string together the ideas of ourselves, that we are then able to weave a beautiful fabric which is our identity.”
Like a when you are buttoning down a shirt, it is most important to get the first button into the correct button hole. If the first button is done correctly, the rest of the buttons will fall into place. If the first button is done in the wrong hole, no matter how smart you are, the rest of the shirt and the rest of the buttons will not be able to fit the way the creator of the shirt meant it to be. I believe the ultimate idea is that first button.
 Green, Peter (2007). Alexander the Great and the Hellenistic Age. London: Phoenix. p. 23. ISBN 978-0-7538-2413-9.
 Eric Donald Hirsch, William G. Rowland, Michael Stanford, The New First Dictionary of Cultural Literacy (2004), p. 144.
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