Total Pageviews

Sunday, 24 February 2013

How Could This Happen?

Within the last couple of weeks, while my laptop is at a friend's house, I spent a few days without a computer in the home. Although grown addicted to the Internet, during those few days without it, I read the Bible and spent time in meditation and prayer, when I felt God speaking to me about Judicial Acquittal, better known as Justification.

This awesome truth hit home. It was glorious news! Judicial acquittal means that God declares a sinner righteous who have faith in Jesus. As Paul wrote, But for him that worketh not, but believeth on him that justifies the ungodly, his faith is counted as righteousness. (Romans 4:5 AV.) In other words, for the ungodly person to have faith in Jesus Christ is declared righteous by God the Judge in the Heavenly Court. That is judicial acquittal. It means that God sees this person "in Christ" - which is to say that before the Throne in Heaven, this person is as much righteous as Jesus himself was, and as such, no punishment would ever be bestowed for sins committed throughout his lifetime. Now that is good news, the precise meaning of the word Gospel.

This glorious truth did not commence in AD 32, when Jesus was crucified; it was already in place since the Fall, when God promised this acquittal when he declared that the seed of the woman (i.e. Eve) would crush the serpent's head. It was put into practise straight away when God himself killed a beast to clothe Adam and Eve with its skin. This was a dynamic demonstration of an innocent substitute paying the price of the couple's sin committed, and covering the resulting guilt. This also demonstrated that the fig leaves which the couple sewed together, which symbolised religion, was so useless to God that he ignored them completely. (Genesis 3.) It is utterly impossible for a sinner to work his way towards God by his own efforts. A person is only saved by the shedding the blood of another, itself sinless and innocent.

Throughout the whole of the Old Testament, great men were declared righteous by God. Noah was a good example. It is said that Noah was a just man and perfect in his generations, and Noah walked with God (Genesis 6:9). Noah did not try to become righteous by his own efforts. Rather, God declared him righteous (judicial acquittal) and because of this, he was able to "walk with God". And he was still equally righteous before God when he drank to excess soon after the Flood and to lay in his tent drunk. Even then, he was seen as equally righteous as Jesus Christ himself (Genesis 9:20-21). Every saint in the Old Testament had the righteousness of Christ credited, or imputed into his account, as Christ was slain from the foundation of the world. (Revelation 13:8).

Further examples of Old Testament Saints who were declared righteous included King David. He was the one who wrote,

Blessed is to whose transgression is forgiven, whose sin is covered. Blessed is the man whom the LORD impute not iniquity, and in his spirit there is no guile. Psalm 32:1-2.

David knew about judicial acquittal very well, as being King of Israel, also knew enough about dispensing justice. Having being declared righteous by God, he went on to sleep with another man's wife and plotted the murder of this woman's husband in an attempt to rid himself of the guilt of impregnating her. As a result, he could not lose his salvation, having being declared righteous already, with the righteousness of Jesus Christ already imputed into his account. But God still had to discipline him for those deeds, and he did so by causing strife and pre-mature deaths among his other sons, his throne coming under threat by his son Absalom, his daughter raped by one of her brothers, and the king's harem of ten concubines enjoying sex with one of his sons on the rooftop of his palace, in full public view. King David paid a hefty price for the double sin of adultery and murder, yet God says of him that he was a man after (God's) own heart. He was already righteous in his sight.

King David had a weakness with beautiful women.

We can conclude then, that judicial acquittal spanned the whole of human history. It has never altered when the Law of Moses was given. Instead, the Crucifixion made judicial acquittal the only means of salvation throughout the whole of eternity, both before and after the Crucifixion.

Yet, the vast majority of the world's population is unaware of it. Even with me, it took years for this truth to sink in. Soon after Christ had risen and ascended to Heaven, there was an explosion of knowledge and faith, centred in Jerusalem and then spreading outward. It was not that long after that this truth was known throughout a large proportion of the Roman Empire. Multiple thousands were saved, acquitted by God and declared righteous. You would think that with such good news, the whole world would be converted and the truth passed down from generation to generation. After all, who would not want to be declared righteous by God himself?

But instead, the vast majority are not aware of justification by faith. What went wrong? Yes, what went

In the Dark ages, generation after generation lived in terror of Purgatory, a Catholic doctrine teaching that every believer must spend some time in unbearable, hellish torment before being admitted to Heaven. This temporal Hell lasted from a few days to thousands of years, and in those days, Indulgences were sold for money to the public from the clergy. Indulgences were passes out of Purgatory, allowing the believer to be released earlier. The more Indulgences were bought, the quicker he got out of this temporal Hell and entered Heaven. Therefore it becomes obvious that the rich and wealthy took a short cut to Heaven while the poor had to face the full brunt of their punishment. Through promoting fear, the Vatican became immensely rich. Meanwhile, in the Far East, the general population remained under two dominant religions - Hinduism and Buddhism. Hinduism specialised in the social class system based on karma, the re-carnation of the sinner depending on how sinful or virtuous he was during this life. If one was virtuous, he was re-born on the next rung of the social ladder, if not, then he was either demoted in the next life or re-born as an animal. Buddhism, also a religion of pure self-effort, had a very similar principle, except that sins committed in this life resulting in a lower rung of the social ladder in the next.

These two religions create slavery, as sin is a brat which lurks in the heart of everyone born. This, along with the growth of a third religion, Islam, has made me wonder whether hearing the Gospel is based largely on the postcode lottery. After all, if a Muslim converts to Jesus Christ, he is likely to face a death penalty. So a baby born in the UK or North America has a far greater chance of hearing and believing the Gospel.

So in my mind, I visualise millions of tiny babies born into a religious culture which blocks the truth of judicial acquittal. When I consider the vast non-Christian population of Asia, Africa, South America and much of Europe where Catholicism holds power, I have already asked God, Lord, why did you make us and bring us to existence, when the vast majority of us will perish? I find this so frustrating, as the death and resurrection of Jesus has already atone for the sins of everyone born. Whenever I see a newborn, a thought goes through my mind: Will this child grow up to know God, or perish? Even in Protestantism, the dominant UK/USA faith, there are hindrances in believing in Biblical justification. One idea, promoted by James Arminius in the 16th Century, is that if enough sins accumulate, or if one turns from his faith, then his salvation is lost. This has strong parallels with Catholicism, which teaches the same sort of thing. This should not be surprising, as Arminius was a Protestant student who sat at the feet of Catholic Jesuit Luis de Molina.Yet there are many Protestant denominations which holds on to this teaching, which denies imputed righteousness in favour of infused grace, in order to attain or keep one's own righteousness through works, and not the righteousness of Christ.

Then among evangelicals, the issue on how one can be saved can be confusing. Many sincere Christians insist that to be saved, one must turn from his sins and believe the Gospel. Did you know that this is putting the cart before the horse? It is false teaching, dare to say!

Recently I have read a story about a family who were saved at a church meeting, that is, except the husband and father. While the mother and children were rejoicing in their new faith, the man sat still, looking solemn. The minister approached and asked if there was a problem. The man answered,
"I can't do this."
"Why not?" the minister asked.
"Because, after believing, sooner or later I will sin again. If believing involves turning from sin, I'm doomed to fail."
"There is no 'turning from sin'." the minister answered. "All you need to do is to trust in Jesus Christ, his death and his Resurrection, and God will acquit you. That's all. It's as simple as that."
The man thought for a moment, broke into a smile and joined his family's celebrations.

For much of my forty years of being a believer, I had to undo all the Roman Catholic teaching of infused grace as well as its sibling, holding fast to keep my salvation. Not that I ever swallowed Arminius' teachings, but rather I was reading and listening to prominent men who taught it. Well educated men, respected to the point of reverence by other Christians, pushing a false gospel made me study the Bible more intensely, and trying to explain to myself why some "problem passages" such as Hebrews 6:4-6 and John 15:6 seem to contradict John chapters 6, 10 and 17. The sudden impact of the truth of judicial acquittal was almost a "Damascus Road" experience for me.

The truth of judicial acquittal, or justification by faith, underwent ferocious persecution over the past two millennia. If ever there was a doctrine so maligned as this one, this was it. It is almost unbelievable! I would have thought that Judicial acquittal would spread like wildfire across the globe, instead it has but all been extinguished by religion.

It does make me wonder whether the Devil is the author of all religion, which he designed specifically to blind mankind from this glorious truth.

Why, O Lord, why have you brought us into existence, only to be blinded from the glorious truth of the Gospel?

Isn't there any hope, Lord?

Sunday, 17 February 2013

Judicial Acquittal

For much of my life the Internet had been non-existent. I was able to live quite well without it. Then in July 2008 I bought a laptop, and straightaway I had the Internet line installed in my home and well, I have been addicted to it ever since.

Then over a week ago the computer went really crazy, and unable to deal with the problem, I called one of my mates who attend the Kerith Centre (formerly Bracknell Baptist Church) whose life and full time job is computers, and he took my ailing laptop to his own home to track down the cause of the problem. After a thorough search, which included examining the hard disc, he traced the cause to a virus I have unwittingly let in during a former browsing session. I asked how this can be, as I have a fully operational security system in place.

He explained that if an email is opened which contains a link, the virus is let in when clicking onto this link, and the security is powerless to catch it, as I gave permission to allow the infected program to run. The link was attached to a website through which I donate to a Third World charity, leaving me to speculate whether the offender was attempting to worm his way to my bank account.

This is a frightening situation. It means nothing is safe. To think Paul the Apostle was right when he wrote that the love of money is the root of all evil, it goes to show how one can steal what does not belong to him, leaving the victim in total despair while the perpetrator gloats over his dishonest gain. It seems certain that Jeremiah was right when he stated that the heart is deceitful above all things, and desperately wicked: who can know it? (Jeremiah 17:9.)

But at least I now have access to a computer, a desktop complete with a bulky tower, lent to me while mine is repaired. With this, I can carry on blogging.

As I have stated in previous blogs, one of my favourite passages of Scripture is Romans chapter eight, which contains the verse; In all things God works for the good for those who love him, who are called according to his purpose. V.28. During the five days I had no computer, my evenings were spent praying, meditating and reading the Bible and associated books. It was during this time that I felt God speaking to me in a powerful way. Although I was aware of Judicial Acquittal, the Biblical meaning of the word Justification, the reality of this truth had never thoroughly sunk in, even over forty years of being a believer. But this truth is the reason why I'm such an advocate of Once Saved Always Saved. During those evenings I was reading an illustration about myself who was overdrawn by 10,000 dollars, and the Bank was to call me to attend a meeting in the branch where my account was held. But as the Bank was about to 'phone me, Ross Perot, a billionaire, phones the Bank with the request to join his account with mine. This means that all the money Perot has is now also in my name and I have full access to it. Not only is the overdrawn balance fully paid up but I have unlimited access to funds of which I have not earned a single penny. In short, Ross Perot's account was imputed or credited to my account.

Another illustration was that I am standing in Court, charged with a crime. I was faced to pay a hefty fine of £10,000 or go to jail. Since I don't have £10,000, the judge passes a lifelong jail term and Security staff were about to escort me to the cells when a rich cousin of mine arrives and pays the fine! Now I am free to go home instead. Furthermore, I have done nothing to earn a single penny of the fine paid by my cousin.

But the tragic story is, I could plead my guilt and insist I serve jail time. Thus, even if the penalty is fully paid, I'm still led to the cells. Tragic isn't it?

Tragic it is, and many choose to serve their jail time than to walk out free! The penalty paid I'm referring to is the price Jesus Christ paid Infinite Justice when he died on the cross.

When Jesus died on the cross, the sins of every person born were transferred to him, for he died for the sins of the whole world. Paul wrote that in Christ the whole world was reconciled to God, not counting their sins against them (John 1:29, 2 Corinthians 5:19, Colossians 1:20.) Therefore whenever a person puts his trust in Jesus Christ, the Heavenly Court declares him "not guilty." All his sins are wiped away, without a single work done by the sinner to earn this forgiveness. But furthermore, the righteousness of Christ is imputed into the believer's account. Therefore, if Jesus Christ has lived a perfect, sinless life, then God will never see the sins of the believer again, as he is declared righteous. How terrific is the Grace of God!

Here is where the true Gospel differs from that of Roman Catholicism, Arminianism or that of religion as a whole. If, after believing, sins can accumulate to the point of loss of salvation (as James Arminius taught, for example) then Jesus Christ did not lead a perfect life, neither is the atonement made on the cross sufficient enough to impute righteousness on the sinner. The believer is declared righteous by God.  If so, then the believer's sins will never be held accountable ever again. Religion says that one has to work to become righteous. By contrast, the Gospel says that a sinner who believes is declared righteous, and God will never see his sins again, having thrown them all away as far as east is to the west.

These were the truths God spoke to me about in the last few days while there was no computer in the house. The fact was, I had an idea of these truths for a very long time. But having grown up as a Roman Catholic, and as a child, taught that grace was infused (meaning grace given for working to attain righteousness before being fit for Heaven) - it also took me a very long time to undo all my childhood teachings of the subject, and although I was saved the moment I believed in 1973, understanding Judicial Acquittance was something I would gradually become familiar in the years to come.

But despite such wonderful truths, multitudes are either willing to remain in their guilt, or don't know any better, or as I wish to specify here, being well educated and having knowledge being a block to believing.

While this blog is written, at present the BBC is currently broadcasting a series presented by the ever-so-lovable Professor Brian Cox, The Wonders of Life, with his enthusiasm on Evolution by Natural Selection. Cox's youthfulness, good looks and brains to match has, according to what I have read, become a darling among female viewers while the male population in general concentrate more on absorbing his rather academic presentation.

Brian Cox
But he, along with Sir David Attenborough, denies a vital truth in the Bible which makes Judicial Acquittal work. That is the truth about Divine Creation and the Fall of humanity, vital truths upon which the whole Bible rests. Brian Cox is a self-confessed atheist, and since he denies the existence of God, the creation and the fall of man, and God's attempt to rescue him from his fallen state, the idea of salvation from sin and being declared righteous by God becomes meaningless. This is a tragedy. Jesus Christ has already atoned for Cox's sins on the cross, and by believing, have access to the presence of the Father. Instead, his head knowledge and atheism will result in retaining his guilt, and to face Judgement. Yet, knowledge in itself can be very good. I have looked into the genome and the DNA operating within the nucleus of every cell in the body. It is a fascinating study - and one which cause me to look upon a creator-God with awe.

But Darwinism is the absolute enemy of the Gospel. And its subtlety makes it all the more dangerous. Here in England, a well educated person receives much more respect from society as a whole than one who is unlearnt. Today at church, I gave a short talk on Judicial Acquittal. As I stood at the front and scanned the audience, I was able to pick out a couple of faces who were guffawing at my testimony. If I had been a "Big Shot" in the Christian faith, I would have drawn serious attention. But a window cleaner? What do I know?

Just before my computer crashed, I heard on the morning news bulletin that our Education Secretary Michael Gove is to make Darwinism compulsory in all UK junior schools (of ages 5-11 years.) My heart sank. Here, young children will be taught a subject that would shut down any belief in the truth of the Gospel. For the sake of education, the truth that their misdeeds were already paid for on the cross becomes a non essential and the Gospel loses its power, and to be seen as a product of a few miscreants or nutcases. That is how most in the academic world sees us now. Rather potty, not malicious but a group whose beliefs are something of a joke and not to be taken seriously.

If only the Gospel, including Divine Creation and the Fall were taught with seriousness in our schools today, both in primary schools and secondary. If far, far more people believed the Gospel and had all their sins forgiven, then how much safer our society would be worldwide? For example, such a perpetrator who wishes to worm into my bank account would be far fewer in between. Internet browsing would be far more relaxing and more enjoyable.

But despite of all this, the Gospel will stand for all eternity, long after all knowledge had passed away.
Judicial Acquittal is the Gospel of God. And everything that is from God will endure forever.

Sunday, 10 February 2013

A Computer gltch

To all readers and followers,
At this moment my home computer has been infected with malicious software.
Therefore I am at present not able to post a new blog, neither am I able to read any of your posts until the problem is cleared up.
I am writing this from the church computer, not my own.
I hope everything will be restored as soon as possible.
God bless you all,

Sunday, 3 February 2013

Turning From Sin.

In a few of my last blogs I gave an impression that one does not attempt or try to turn from his sins to know God but to believe in the death, burial and Resurrection of Jesus Christ. This I wrote about the meaning of the word repentance - which literally mean "to change your mind" - in this case from doubting who Jesus Christ was to believing that he is the risen Lord who atoned for our sins by dying on a cross.

So let's take a look of what sin really is, a brat which is a lot more subtle than the overt misdeeds that readily comes to mind - fornication, adultery, murder, stealing, drunkenness, telling coarse jokes, getting into fights and whatever. The sort of things Christians don't generally get up to.

Most evangelical Christians, when asked how one can be saved, normally give this formula: "Repent and turn from your sins and believe the Gospel of the atonement and resurrection of Jesus Christ, calling on his name." That seems fair enough. Only that repentance (turning from sin) and believing can be seen here as two separate stages, when the truth is; Repentance simply means to change your mind about Jesus Christ crucified and resurrected. In my last blog, A Letter To Church of Christ Members, I gave two examples of this kind of repentance, first to the three thousand-plus Jews who were at the Temple precincts on the day of Pentecost, and then of Cornelius and all who were present in his house. On both occasions, Peter never said, Turn from your sins, especially to Cornelius, who was already seen by God as a righteous man. Yet he had to believe in the resurrected Christ, whom God sent Peter to announce. The same can be said for the Ethiopian eunuch (Acts 8:26-40) where Philip arrived at his chariot to find him reading a portion of Isaiah, but was unable to understand it.

Philip and the Ethiopian

There is no hint that Philip instructed the eunuch to turn from his sins, but instead Philip gave an explanation who this servant the prophet was referring to; himself or someone else. When Philip revealed Jesus to him, the eunuch believed and was baptised.

In the dramatic conversion of Saul, he was not told to "turn from your sins" when the Lord appeared to him. Instead, he was asked why this religious Jew was persecuting him. In response, Saul asked, "Who are you, Lord?"
"I am Jesus, who you are persecuting. Is it hard to kick against the thorns?"
Immediately Paul believed and was saved from that moment on. The Lord then proceeded to instruct him what he must do, including baptism. By "kicking against the thorns" Saul was aware of Jesus Christ condemned on the cross. He was also aware that rumours of his Resurrection were widespread. He had heard all about it, but had put it down to a group of fanatics who wanted a way out from the responsibilities in keeping the Law of Moses. When the Lord revealed himself to him, everything about his Resurrection fell into place, and he believed - so much so that he was willing to lay down his own life for this truth.

In Acts chapter 13, we read how Paul performed a miracle in condemning a sorcerer which led to his master, Sergius Paulus, believing in Jesus. It was the miracle by which he was convinced, not a list of his sins he had committed.

And there are more examples of the preaching of the Gospel as found in Acts. In Thessaloniki (17:1-9) Paul spoke to some Jews at the synagogue there, emphasising the Resurrection of Jesus Christ. Some of his listeners believed, others did not. In verse 18, while Paul was in Athens, some philosophers were discussing about "his strange gods" because of his preaching of Jesus and his Resurrection.

Paul in Athens, preaching Christ Resurrected.

Paul's defence against Festus and King Agrippa was centred on his conviction that Christ died and rose again, Acts 26:8, 23. His only exhortation was to turn from darkness to light, from Satan to God, verse 18, which was something only the power of the Gospel was able to accomplish, the Gospel being that Christ has risen from the dead and believing this brings this deliverance.

So we can see, mainly through the book of Acts, that conversion involves a change of mind about Jesus Christ. But we tend to say to prospective converts that they should turn from their sins and call upon the name of the Lord. Other Christians may even emphasise "the sinner's prayer" which involves asking Jesus Christ into their hearts. Checking over the tales of conversion found in the Bible, I have not come across any of these. The emphasis always seem to be Jesus Christ: His death, burial and rising from the dead. Especially the latter.

As mentioned earlier, sin is a much more subtle brat than what we often imagine it to be. If you were a thief in the past, it is relatively easy to stop stealing. This sort of thing is an overt act done out of choice, and one can choose not to steal any more. But getting sexually stimulated is another matter all together. Not so easy to control. In fact, sexual stimulation is rather enjoyable. Yet is it sinful? Jesus taught that one only has to look at a woman with a lustful heart, and he has committed adultery with her already in his heart (Matthew 5:27-28.) Or if you call someone a fool, it is murder (Matthew 5:21-22). Can you as a Christian man lay your hand across your chest and honestly plead that you had never felt sexual stimulation over someone not your own wife, or hated another person because he does not meet your expectations? If you can say yes to both these questions, then congratulations! You are well ahead of me. If I were to believe that, because these feelings are very much alive in me, therefore I'm still lost, then such a burden becomes impossible to bear. There is no way that I have assurance of my salvation.

And to be honest, I do still have these questioning thoughts. Thinking that as a believer, God expects perfection in my life, and if and when I feel lusty, I wonder if I'm really saved. That is the reason the statement turn from your sins I have found to be binding, not liberating.

In preparation of this article I read carefully the 18th and 20th chapters of Leviticus. Now if there is a book giving such detailed instructions on holy living, then this is it. This is a chapter about sexual relations, and it deals with forbidding having sex with a member of the same family, whether your stepmother, an aunt through marriage or your brother's wife, your nieces or daughter-in-law. Even bestiality is mentioned and forbidden, along with same sex activity (sodomy). All these sins were sentenced with a death penalty. But reading this chapter, I have found that all these sins were overt and of choice. They did not deal with the condition of the heart. For example, one may have a crushing desire for a niece or sister-in-law, but the death penalty would only be applied if one choose to fulfil such desire by carrying out the act itself. So for one to say that in order to be saved, one must turn from sin - if such overt sins of choice were meant, then I can see some justification in this. But if I'm in church and I see someone that stimulates my desire - well, that's quite a different matter, even if I know perfectly well that nothing overt will come out of this. But does this prove that I'm still lost?

Then there is that other form of sin - hatred and murder. As with sexual sins, no Christian in his right mind would go around with a knife under his belt in readiness to stab someone. But before his conversion, he could well have been a gang member toting a knife, although unfortunately, converts from such backgrounds are far and few between! Rather, they tend to end up in prison. But it still remains within his power of choice to put the knife away or even dispose of it once such a gang member experience regeneration.

But Jesus said that only calling someone a fool is enough to call that murder. And I wonder how many Christians have done that throughout their lives, especially as mentioned in my last blog, the anger felt by a driver of a car who was cut up by another driver. Or for that matter, (common here in the UK where many rural roads are narrow and twisting) being stuck behind a slow car driver, trucker or even a tractor, unable to overtake. As the patience of the driver stuck behind runs out, his feelings of frustration and anger starts to mount up, and a torrent of expletives is thrown out of his mouth. If the car is shared with an unbelieving passenger, the driver would have fallen from grace as the passenger sees it. His Christian credentials would never be restored.

Road rage can be the end result of such pent up frustration, when the driver takes physical revenge on the offending driver or vehicle. This could lead to physical murder. The fact is, anyone can hate or feel anger towards another human being, and being a Christian does not free us from such emotion. Therefore to say that turning from sin is essential to salvation has put me under an impossible burden to bear, and such emotional turbulence is enough to question whether I'm really saved.

And we can take this issue of murder even further. According to James 2:11, it looks like favouritism or snobbery is a form of murder. This verse appears after a rebuke against favouritism was delivered. Yet I have seen this sin not only overlooked but condoned in church life over the past forty years. If an elder in the church, or a group of elders evaluate one person over another due to his higher level of education or profession, then isn't this a form of favouritism? And furthermore, this sort of thing is quite acceptable in churches in this country. Therefore this turning from sin to be saved becomes even a greater problem. According to this formula, isn't there anyone in our churches genuinely saved?

The idea that a sinning saint can lose credibility among unbelievers is certainly true. As a believer myself, I want to be honest enough to admit that I am not unfamiliar with such experiences. In James' letter, we read of a believer shutting up his bowels of compassion against the needs of a poor, naked or hungry fellow human. How would the poor man evaluate the believer's faith? Dead, as far as the poor man is concerned.

Therefore, I suppose, sin can be defined as a lack of love for God or fellowmen, particularly believers. We as humans will go through such negative emotions, being natural as they are. Such life experiences has helped me understand the Bible better, and I have found, particularly through the stories recorded in the book of Acts, that faith in the death, burial and resurrection of Jesus Christ is the key to salvation. It is the sanctification process which follows salvation is where sin can be exposed and dealt with, although all our sins, past, present and future, are totally forgiven by God at conversion. The exposing and cleansing of sins is for the benefit of the believer living in a world of unbelievers.

Hence, we are disciples, or learners. Learning on how our faith in Jesus Christ can make an impact on unbelievers, for the sole purpose of winning them to the Lord, so they too can be saved. And the only answer for dealing with our sinful nature is to be filled with the Holy Spirit, and letting him do a work in our lives which will not only be a fragrance towards God, but also to the world around us.