I like watching “The Orville”. The humour isn’t for everyone—it’s pretty quirky—but there’s one episode that I think each Christian should watch: the one where Kelly becomes god [1]. And before every Christian I know lynches me, please let me explain why.

In this episode, Kelly, one of the starship crew members accidentally comes into contact with a less-developed alien civilization. She interacts briefly with a few people and then returns back to her ship. The planet exists in an accelerated time, and when she next returns to it, hundreds of years have passed for the alien civilization. She’s horrified to discover that, because of her advanced technology, to them she appeared to be a god. A whole religion has sprung up around “The Kelly”. She’s also horrified to discover that from her brief interaction, the people have extrapolated how “The Kelly” would want them to live, punish wrongdoers, and so forth. Some of their practices are quite cruel.

If we don’t get our backs up, and instead allow the story to speak for itself, it soon becomes apparent that this episode is a wonderful illustration of what happens when sinful humans come briefly into contact with the divine. Too often we overestimate our understanding of God, and underestimate our own propensity for error. And those are the sins I want to talk about today: the sins of assumption and presumption.

Sometimes, in the West we say things like:

  • I am a child of God.
  • The Holy Spirit is living in me.
  • I am doing the work of God.
  • My work is God’s work.
  • The causes I choose to support are all God’s causes.
  • The things I choose to do are what God wants.
  • I choose what God wants.
  • As an ambassador of Christ, I choose for God what He wants.

Does this sound familiar to you? Perhaps it did for awhile. Perhaps it did right up until that last statement.

Would it surprise you to know that if you’re a Christian only the first two items are guaranteed?

We don’t automatically start knowing what’s right and wrong when we become Christians. Learning how to discern the difference is a lifelong process, and requires continual closeness with our Creator as He teaches us.

We cannot assume that we know the difference between good and evil, and we cannot presume to proclaim that we know what God wants.

The Psalms make it very clear that God’s silence for a season does not mean He agrees with our sinful ways. “When you did these things and I kept silent, you thought I was exactly like you. But I now arraign you and set my accusations before you,” God said [2].

Speaking for God when He has not asked us to is a sin of presumption. We assume we know what God wants us to say about different issues, and then build ourselves up in ambition and false prophecy. [3]

Yes, the Bible tells us certain things that are right and wrong, but nowhere in the Bible does it say to “go into all the world and condemn the guilty”. Nor does it say to “go into all the world and change the culture to be more ‘moral’ or comfortable for Christians to live in”.

The command we are given is to preach the good news about Jesus. Two thousand years ago, not even Jesus came to judge the world, but to save it [4]. We are to leave conviction and judgment up to the Holy Spirit. Any other approach is human ambition scrabbling for a piece of God’s job description.

When we presume that the things we do are automatically God’s work, just because we’re the ones doing them, we commit the same sin that Moses did when God punished him by refusing him entry to the Promised Land.

At that time, the Israelites were in the desert and started complaining (again) that they had nothing to drink. Moses went off-script and spoke to the Israelites judgementally. God didn't ask him to do this. In addressing their rebellion, Moses became the rebel. [5] "Must we do this again?" he asked as he stood before the rock and struck it so that water flowed out. [6] Essentially, Moses and Aaron took credit for God's miracles. [5] Sound familiar?

This topic is not academic. Our behaviours and attitudes now can have real repercussions for eternity. During His human life on earth, Jesus said:

“Not everyone who says to me, ‘Lord, Lord,’ will enter the kingdom of heaven, but only the one who does the will of my Father who is in heaven. Many will say to me on that day, ‘Lord, Lord, did we not prophesy in your name and in your name drive out demons and in your name perform many miracles?’ Then I will tell them plainly, ‘I never knew you. Away from me, you evildoers!’” (Matthew 7:21-23, NIV)

Did you get that? Only people who do the will of the Father will enter the kingdom of heaven. Even if you’ve done miracles in Jesus’ name, you are not guaranteed to fall in this category.

So what can we do?

The only remedy is to humble ourselves before God and repent of sins of assumption and presumption. We must each earnestly ask God to examine our hearts and show us where those sins might be hiding in our own lives.

Dedicate significant time to this. We can’t expect Him to come to us in the half hour we set aside for prayer every day. Remember, we are to follow Jesus; He does not follow us. And sometimes, waiting a long time for Him to speak is the exact preparation of humility that’s required for us to properly hear Him.

Be courageous. We should be willing to cut away anything from our lives and heart that is not pleasing to God. We must feed our spiritual hunger and thirst for Him so that we would be willing to do anything—even pluck out an eye—if it causes us to sin [7].

“Have this attitude in yourselves which was also in Christ Jesus, who, although He existed in the form of God, did not regard equality with God a thing to be grasped, but emptied Himself...He humbled Himself by becoming obedient to the point of death”. [8]

This humility is key. Without it we become proud, and “God sets Himself against the proud” [9]. There is no such thing as a proud follower of Christ.


[1] The Orville, “Mad Idolatry”, season 1 episode 12.

[2] Psalm 50:21, NIV.

[3] God judges false prophets very severely. Just look at passages like: Jeremiah 23, Ezekiel 13, and Zechariah 13.

[4] John 3:17.

[5] Bruxy Cavey, The Meeting House, The Chosen One series, #11.

[6] Numbers 20:10.

[7] Mark 9:47.

[8] Philippians 2:5-7a,8b; NASB.

[9] James 4:6, DBT.

(Picture source)