Tuesday, October 30, 2012

Follow Christ? But I thought He was in me

We hear all the time we follow Christ. How can I follow Him if He is IN me? I can follow someone who walks in front of me but how do I follow someone who lives IN me?

Following Jesus Before the Spirit Came
If you look at the word "follow" in the NT you will see that following Christ does not refer to keeping rules or following teachings. Most of the times Jesus said, "Follow Me" He was speaking before the Spirit came. It is very obvious, yet somehow missed, that when Jesus said, "Follow Me" He meant "physically follow me." We think of following Jesus today as "following His teachings." Jesus didn't mean that then. When He said "follow me" He didn't mean "Stay here, think about what I've taught you, and put it into practice while I go on to the next town." No one would've taken it that way when the man is right there in front of them. He spoke with many people. There is no telling how much the various people had heard Jesus teach up to the point when He says, "Follow me." It would have been silly for Jesus to mean "follow my teachings" when the people had barely heard Him teach.

I could say, "I don't follow Christ's teachings" because much of them were old covenant teachings to people under the law. When you are following someone that implies that you can fall behind or even "get lost." Many times Jesus actually referred to things like that regarding the people who were physically following Him. Today many think those scriptures are warnings about "losing salvation" but they are not. They are actually addressed to the Jews who followed Jesus so that they might stay with Him close enough to the resurrection to trust in it & be saved.

Following Jesus Now that the Spirit Has Come
In John 21 after Jesus had already given Peter the Spirit He said to Him "Follow Me." The word follow means "accompany," similar to how Jesus "saw" what the Father was doing and joined in, though the Father was not physically visible (John 5:19-20,30). "These are the ones who accompany the Lamb wherever He goes" (Revelation 14:4).

Since you can't see Him, to follow Jesus doesn't mean to follow behind. You can't fall behind or get lost. Following Jesus means to "walk by the Spirit," to put your mind on spiritual things. To put it simply, following Jesus is to stay aware of Him & pay attention to Him. He is always with you, always yoked alongside you. To follow or not follow Him is a matter of awareness. To not follow Him is to be like someone who "zones out" while watching tv or on a computer while someone is with you & talking to you.

We always accompany Christ in one sense. My heart accompanies me wherever I go likewise Christ accompanies me wherever I go. So when Jesus said "accompany me" He wasn't talking about sitting in the back seat with headphones on. He was talking about sitting up front and having a relationship with Him. It is a relational & mental accompanying not a physical one or even a spiritual one.

In John 21 Peter was out fishing. He had the Spirit inside of him yet when Jesus showed up he acted as if Jesus were not already there. There was nothing wrong with him going fishing, Jesus had told them to wait for the power of the Spirit. However they already had the presence of the Spirit. To follow Jesus is to follow the Spirit, to listen to Him.

Seeing yourself as a "follower of Christ" can be yet another reason why people see relationship with God as so hard. But Following Christ is not something where we strive to keep up. It is the awareness of our oneness with God.

Related Posts
"Following" God Without Predicting the Path

Why It is Unhealthy to Tie Your Behavior to Your Identity, Part 1

Tying behavior to identity.. makes God's love seem utterly conditional
Conditional love is based either on the behavior of the one loved or the whims of the lover. God is consistent & trustworthy. He is FAITHFUL. Faithful means He is loyal to love you. "The Lord’s lovingkindnesses certainly never cease because His compassions never fail. His love, kindness, and compassion are new every morning. Great is Your faithfulness O Lord" (Lamentations 3:22-23). So God doesn't love based on whims or moods. "His love endures forever" (1 Chronicles 16:34). Don't forget that His love is aimed at you. Many will agree that God is loving but they will also feel like they are the exception to His enduring love. Why? Because they think His love is conditional based on their behavior.

Tying behavior to identity makes you see your identity as conditional to your behavior, you are only good if you act good, etc. God does not see you this way. He has made a new you, an eternal you that is perfect as He is perfect. He has no reason to not love you. He has taken all of your sins away & has given you a perfect spirit. But His love is so much better than that, He didn't start loving you when you were reborn & perfected. "Christ died for the ungodly. He demonstrated His love for us by dying for us while we were still sinners" (Romans 5:6-8). Knowing the worst behavior of your life He still loved you enough to suffer & die for you. What room is there left to think that His love is now conditional depending upon your behavior? There is no room. His love doesn't depend on your behavior or your identity. His love is His choice & He loves you for you, not for what you've done or can do, not for what you have been, are, or will become. You cannot be separated from His love (Romans 8:33-39). That means you are already in & next to His love. "The love of Christ surrounds us & completely holds us" (2 Corinthians 5:14).

Tying behavior to identity.. sees righteousness, holiness, worthiness, etc. as things that come and go
“Righteousness from God comes through trust in Jesus Christ to all who trust. All are justified as a gift by His grace through the redemption which is in Christ Jesus" (Romans 3:22,24). “Righteousness is a gift” (Romans 5:17). "The gifts of God are irrevocable" (Romans 11:29). Righteousness is His gift to us. "It is God that justifies (makes people righteous)" not our own behavior (Romans 8:33). Identity comes from birth not from behavior. Ephesians 4:24 says, "When your new man (spirit) is born you are created in the likeness of God as truly righteous and truly holy."

Righteous means "right with God." The mindset that sees behavior tied to identity believes in & endorses paradigms not found in scripture such as, "You're only right with God when you confess your sins to Him," & "You are only right with God if you have repented of recent sins" & "You have to ask God for forgiveness to be right with Him." No such ideas or relative language appears in scripture. Those ideas are all based on false doctrines, twists of scripture, out of context scripture, & mistranslations that are centuries old. God does not revoke your standing with Him. He doesn't revoke His feelings of favor (grace) for you when you don't behave well. All of God's gifts are irrevocable because they are born into who you are when your spirit is reborn. In rebirth you have become one spirit with Him (1 Corinthians 6:17, Ephesians 4:4, 1 John 4:17). He cannot deny Himself (2 Timothy 2:13) & you are now a part of Him. He isn't going to deny you of any of the gifts He has given you. His gifts are righteousness (justification), holiness, worthiness, & so much more. Sinful behavior cannot remove any of these things from you even for a moment. If you believe it can please stop believing that lie, it is destroying you & will continue to do so.

Tying behavior to identity.. limits how we see our righteousness
The number one thing I've heard from people against our spiritual identity being a reality is that our righteousness/justification is only "legal righteousness." Another way of saying this is that we are only "positionally righteous." This is a very harmful mindset. While legal righteousness is a part of our righteousness to have it stop there leaves room for us to make excuses to devalue ourselves based on our behavior. It does not recognize the beauty of what it means to be born again. People who see themselves as only legally righteous say things like, "We are righteous because God calls us righteous but for no other reason" & think "We aren't really righteous."

However most who believe in this still say, "When God sees us He sees Christ." Sadly limiting our righteousness as legal or positional makes that statement merely lip service because these people believe God sees sin in us. They believe we are sinners who sin & flesh is part of our identity. God does not see Christ as sinful or in sin. They may even go so far as to say "Christ is our identity" but in practice they hold no such belief. If you actually believe Christ is our new identity how then do you believe we can sin with that identity? How can you believe your identity is still a sinner? If God sees us as He sees Christ why should we see ourselves any different? Why should I not see myself with God's perfect eyes?

Those who hold to positional identity without recognizing spiritual identity ultimately believe, "God declared me righteous (justified me) but I'm not really righteous. God only loves me enough to pretend that I am righteous. I cannot be righteous unless I behave righteously all the time. God is lying to Himself & to me when He calls me righteous & holy." So for some positional identity/legal righteousness is a cop out just so you can say, "I believe the Bible" without actually having to change your mind about yourself or the bulk of how God sees you.

Tying behavior to identity.. centers life on sin instead of Christ & empowers sin
Actions of sin have been taught to be the deciding factor of whether or not you have right standing with God or fellowship with God. It is taught that your behavior can change how God feels about you, that you can lose favor with Him or even that He can love you less based on your actions. When you believe that you put the ball in sin's court & essentially say, "rule me sin." If you think sinful behavior can separate you from God's love, approval, forgiveness, blessings, etc you have had the white flag thrown up to sin nearly your whole life. You see sin as more powerful than the cross, the blood, the resurrection, the Spirit, & God Himself. There is no talking your way out of this because if you believe sin can separate you from God in any way you believe your behavior is more powerful than God Himself!! Nothing can separate you from God's love (Romans 8:33-39). God is love. If we cannot be separated from His love we cannot be separated from Him!!

Those who fear that sin is detrimental to God's view of them will end up focusing on sin most of the time. Instead of enjoying and sharing the love of Christ the goal of their life is to "sin less." Sin, flesh, & the law (which empowers sin) is the triune god of religion. They are focused on, preached on, prayed about. The mind keeps sin, confession, & repentance logs. Christ and all He has given us is ignored in practice. Is your thought life consumed with whether or not you sin or is it consumed with the love, peace, & joy of our Lord?

Tuesday, October 16, 2012

Obliterating Offices

"Bitter jealousy and selfish ambition do not come down from above. They are worldly, fleshly, & demonic. Where jealousy and selfish ambition exist, there is confusion and every evil thing." (James 3:14-16)

Selfish ambition is translated from a Greek word that means "seeking to occupy an office." An "office" is defined as "an official position of power/authority." God did not establish offices in His body. He in fact forbade top-down authority among His people. Knowing this lets take a second look at this scripture.

"The ambition to occupy an office is not from God but is worldly, fleshly, & demonic. Where people seek to occupy offices there is confusion & EVERY evil thing."

There is the problem with most churches my friends. It comes from the top down because an office sits atop most churches rather than Christ Himself. Biblically we could say that every evil thing & every bit of confusion that exists in churches is because people occupy & seek to occupy revered offices.

Many scriptures say seeking to occupy an office or getting what you have sought for & occupying an office is a very bad thing. Romans 2:8-9 calls it evil. It is also called fleshly, worldly, demonic, & a "work of the flesh." Here are some other works of the flesh & other bad things scripture lists alongside seeking to occupy an office to give you an idea of just how bad this really is:  immorality, impurity, sensuality, idolatry, sorcery, enmities, strife, jealousy, outbursts of anger, disputes, dissensions, factions, envying, drunkenness, carousing, angry tempers, slanders, gossip, arrogance, instability, self-centeredness, pride, bitterness, dishonesty.

"Do nothing to seek an office for yourself but with humility of mind regard others as more important than yourselves." (Philippians 2:3). Connecting verse 2 to this we can learn that where offices exist and are sought after "A group of people cannot be of the same mind," "Cannot have the same love for one another," "Cannot be united in spirit," & "Cannot be intent on one purpose."

Galatians 5:19-20 says, Seeking to occupy an office is an obvious work of the flesh. If we don't see it as a work of the flesh we have been greatly deceived. These 3 works of the flesh appear right next to each other:  seeking to occupy an office, divisions, & factions. Where men are set up as official leaders there will be division. Look no further than the opposing churches set on opposite street corners who both have their own sets of leaders who draw people into their building.

Paul said to the Corinthians (2 Cor 12:20), "I am afraid that when I come I may not find you as I want you to be. I fear that there may be people who seek to occupy offices..." Paul says the existence of offices is something he "does not want to be" & that its danger was so great it caused fear in him.

The supposed "positions" & "offices" in scripture have been misinterpreted for centuries. The word "office" isn't actually used in the New Testament to describe something positive. Most times the word is outright added to the text. None of the many words used for “office” in the Greek language are ever used to describe a function or role in the assembly. One scripture (1 Timothy 3:1) is so grossly translated it says, "if a man aspires to the office of overseer, he desires a good work." There is no word representing "office" in the Greek in this text. It is a total addition by the translators. It makes people think aspiring to an office is a good thing when the rest of scripture severely attests otherwise. Additionally the noun overseer isn't used here, instead it is a verb. It really means, "A man who wants to look out for or pay attention to others with the intent of helping desires a fine work."

Rather than as offices to occupy things are described as gifts in both the contexts of 1 Corinthians 12 & Ephesians 4. The gifts that are historically (not biblically) tied to positions of leadership people consider to be leadership offices. (Read more on the absence of offices in the New Testament Body of Christ).

"Some proclaim Christ out of the desire to hold an office rather than from pure motives. But it is still fitting to rejoice that Christ is proclaimed" (Philippians 1:15,17-18).
God does not bless offices or titles. He in fact hates them (see this post). However He does bless people. God hates that which harms His people not the people themselves. He will never support an office but He will always support a person. This is how I view things as well.

Monday, October 15, 2012

Commitment vs. Surrender vs. Cooperation

With commitment the focus is on what you are giving into the relationship. With surrender the focus is on what you are giving up for the relationship. This may be a surprise to most but the bible never uses either of those words to describe our relationship with God. The word that is used is submission which literally means "voluntary cooperation."

Commitment proclaims, "My utmost for His highest." Cooperation says, "His highest is fun!" Surrender says, "More of Him & less of me." Cooperation says, "Us." Commitment burdens you. Surrender takes away your value. Voluntary Cooperation gives you value without giving you burden. With cooperation the focus is not on what you are giving to God or giving up for God but on what God is giving you!

Commitment thinks God is demanding, "Do my will." Surrender thinks God is demanding, "Deny yourself." Cooperation knows God is offering, saying, "I've thought of some great things we can do today. What do you want to do with me?"

Synonyms for commitment are obligation, duty, adherence, dedication, devotion, responsibility, liability, promise, vow, oath, pledge.
Synonyms for surrender are despair, defeatism, giving up, quit, cave in, throw in the towel, succumb, resign, loss.
Synonyms for cooperation are unity, teamwork, collaboration, help, assistance, participation, responsiveness, helpfulness.

Commitment is the language of the law. Surrender is the language of shame. Cooperation is the language of loving relationship. Religion has added, removed, or reinterpreted words but God chose wisely the words He used. He doesn't demand commitment or surrender. He lovingly requests cooperation both for salvation and day to day living.

Remember we are His children & His friends. Our Father just wants to have a good time loving His kids & bringing more people into the family. He says, "Wanna go do something today for your older brother? Wanna go do something today for your younger sister?" No one in His family is looked down upon for opting out. They are loved just the same. Yes they are missing out on a good time with the Father & the family but they will be treated no worse by the Father even if they never want to cooperate. He will love us into participation & cooperation. That is our Father's unconditional love. Everyone is free & everyone is favored. Who could ask for anything more?

Sacred Cow BBQ II: Nation & Neighbors, Offend, Oppose, Owe

Lie:  God Will Either Heal Our Land or Judge It
"If My people who are called by My name humble themselves and pray and seek My face and turn from their wicked ways, then I will hear from heaven, will forgive their sin and will heal their land" (2 Chronicles 7:14). This was written to the land of Israel. Christians are God's people today and God has already forgiven Christians of all their sin. He hears all of our prayers. The first century Christians "sought God's face" like no generation before them but God didn't "heal the land" of Rome. We need to stop dreaming about behaving good enough to get God to give us a perfect nation and start loving neighbors. Nation blessing starts with neighbor blessing. Jesus didn't say, "Love your nation, Love your region, Love your city." He wisely said, "Love your neighbor." That is achievable.

Those who think or fear that God is going to judge a nation because of its sin just don't know the goodness of the good news of the gospel. 2 Corinthians 5:19-20 clearly says, because of what Jesus did "God no longer counts the world's sins against it." God doesn't view mankind based on sin anymore. He doesn't bless or curse people or nations for what they do. God stores up all wrath for judgment day (Romans 2:5). Some people self-righteously froth at the mouth waiting for God to judge nations and even attribute disasters to His wrath. That is pure hatred for your neighbors, hoping God judges a nation for its sins & claiming God punishes people with natural disasters. Promoting those falsehoods turn people away from even the idea of God because it paints Him as an intolerant murderer. Tolerant is a dirty word among Christians. Consider this, patient & tolerant are synonyms. "God is tolerant, not wanting anyone to perish, but everyone to come to changing their mind to trusting Him" (2 Peter 3:9). If God doesn't want anyone to perish why would He kill them while they aren't saved? Death is perishing, He doesn't want anyone to experience death.

Lie:  Christians Should Oppose Immoral Behavior in Society
Christian involvement in American politics mostly boils down to condemnation of the people who are not keeping the perceived rules of the bible. That is why Christians are hated so much, they judge others by their own knowledge of good & evil. Jesus didn't hunt people down and beat people up for their bad behavior. He didn't run down the street yelling, "Stop! Stop! You're breaking the rules!" He offered love and compassion and mercy for the people He encountered.

It is not the Christian's job to police the world or to convince the world. The Christian is to show love for all people & share the good news about Jesus Christ that God is knowable through trusting Him. If you doubt this then briefly consider the life of Jesus. He didn't try to force governments to bend to His will. He allowed people to walk away from Him when they rejected Him. Jesus wasn't motivated by fear of people's behavior or fear of their eternal destiny. He was motivated by love and compassion. Just as a couple's love produces a living child so Jesus knew that love is the only thing that produces eternal life. Shame, fear, manipulation, & especially rules do not produce eternal life.

Because we Americans live in a democratic republic we have the freedom to attempt to enact change. It is ok to do so but we must not forget that Jesus & the apostles didn't spend a second trying to change the Roman government. They had a more important kingdom on their minds.

Lie:  Christians Can Offend God by Their Actions
Offend means "to cause anger in." While there are times where God gets angry and severe in scripture nowhere does scripture say "God was offended" or that God's holiness was offended. Scripture never uses the word "offended" to describe God at all. It only says that we are the ones who get offended at Him! (See Matthew 13:57 & Mark 6:3). Jesus said, "Blessed is he who does not take offense at Me” (Matthew 11:6, Luke 7:23). God's holiness does not get offended but His compassion burns to protect those He loves like any good father's would.

In Isaiah 54:9-10 God spoke of our covenant of peace with Himself through the blood of Jesus that we are now a part of, He said, "I, the Lord, have sworn that I will never be angry (offended) with you and I will never rebuke you. For the mountains may be removed and the hills may shake, but My loving kindness (grace/favor) will not be removed from you, and My covenant of peace will not be shaken," says the Lord who has compassion on you." Christian, God holds no sins against you, He has no anger toward you. God only has love, kindness, and peace for you. This is His promise written in the blood of His Son.

Lie:  You Owe God
Love doesn't require a return payment. Love gives without asking for anything back. You can never pay God back and you shouldn't try. God already has everything that we are. He is protecting the treasure that is you. We are encouraged to be grateful to God out of our freewill. God demands nothing from us but as our Father, He does want us to work with Him. If you never did anything for or with God He wouldn't love you any less. However the experience of your relationship with Him could always be much better. There is always more of His love, peace, & joy to explore so cooperate with God, join Him in loving others. God is love, He does not demand His own way but He still wants what is best for you. God doesn't burden you with responsibilities. He gives you the opportunity to respond.

Thursday, October 11, 2012

Sacred Cow BBQ I: Manifest, Mature, Move, & More

How can people tell the right (truth) from the wrong (lies) when the right is protecting the wrong?
Satan is the master of lies, he convinces God's people of falsehood to the point of them defending the lie for him in the face of truth. They will stand against God's love and what Jesus accomplished on the cross because they are convinced of Satanically formulated doctrines that, to any non-religious ear, make God out to be evil. From time to time I'll be grilling prominent lies promoted by churches. Welcome to the first Sacred Cow BBQ.

"For the weapons of our warfare are not of the flesh but have divine power to destroy strongholds. We destroy arguments and every barrier raised against the knowledge of God, and take every thought captive to obey Christ" (2 Corinthians 10:4-5).

Lie:  The Presence of God is Only in Certain Places at Certain Times
If you are in a church service & think to yourself "the presence of God is here" of course the presence of God is there because you are there, & He is in you. Don't assume that just because you don't always feel the warm & gushies that God isn't with you all the time. Acts 17:28 says ALL of mankind lives, moves, & exists in Him. They aren't one with Him in Spirit like Christians are but He is everywhere with everyone. If anyone seeks Him and reaches out for him they will find Him. "Finding" God is like standing nose to the wall & putting your hand out to touch the wall. If you genuinely want to trust Him & know His love you'll find Him right away no matter who you are or what you are doing. Not everyone will experience the same thoughts & feelings because God will engage you in the way you need to be engaged. Sometimes the way you want to experience Him isn't the way you need to experience Him.

Though God inhabits all good just because you feel good doesn't mean you are feeling Him in a healthy way. Your emotions may be getting manipulated in a church service by music or a style of preaching that goads you into believing that God has a special presence or "His Spirit fell" when you could go to a concert of a secular band you enjoy & get the same feeling. Sometimes even a sense of community makes you think God is more present in one place than He is in another. The truth is those emotional experiences are joining the presence of God in you for your joy, but emotions don't equate to God's presence. God is always with you. It is fine to enjoy emotions in a worship setting. If however that setting causes you to disconnect the awareness of God's presence from the rest of your life or mark His presence in the rest of your life as inferior you limit your everyday joy of knowing God.

God was rubbing in His continual presence with us in Hebrews 13:5, He didn't just say He'd never forsake us, He said He'd never leave us too. Why would He need to say both? He didn't, but he wanted to so it would be drilled into our heads. Forsake means to abandon, desert, leave helpless, leave behind, to leave only surviving. Not only does He never get up and leave but as much as you'll let Him He will always help you, He never wants you to feel like you are just barely hanging on. Leave means to send back or give up. Leave also means to let sink or to loosen. God will never loosen His grip on you. His grip is not one of manipulative force but that of a loving embrace from an enraptured Father. In Matthew 28:20 Jesus intentionally invited us to always look for His presence when He said, "Lo I will be with you always." "Lo" means "look," "behold." Jesus was saying, "Look for me in your life because I will always be with you."

Lie:  I Should be Concerned about My Spiritual Growth
There is no such thing as spiritual growth. As a Christian your spirit is full grown. You, as spirit, are created perfect (Hebrews 12:22-23, Ephesians 4:24) & are forever perfect (Hebrews 10:14). It is not your spirit that needs to improve but your mind. We are to let God renew our minds. We are to walk by the spirit by putting our minds on the things of the spirit. Maturing is not growing, it is realizing reality. We mature by coming to a realization of what is already here. God's love for us is here. God's infinite blessings are here. "God has already given us everything we need for life and godliness but we can only use these things when we have true knowledge of Him" (2 Peter 1:3).

Lie:  We Have to Pray for God to Move or Send Revival
Saying that there are "moves of God," "waves of God," & that God "sends revival" is ultimately men justifying their ignorance of God & ignorance of the power He has given us. God has already moved & He has never stopped moving. The idea that we need to beg God through prayer to do something great or loving is dumb. It is also prideful, the idea that we love people more than God does so we have to beg God to do good things for others. It is an old covenant mindset that ignores the power of the cross & the grace given out from there. People are destroyed for a lack of knowledge or a surplus of false knowledge. Layer upon layer of performance based, sin imputing, human devaluing falsehood guards our hearts from being willing to accept God's love for us. Jesus is The Truth. Jesus is Love. Knowledge of the truth of love is how people can have God's love move their hearts. Tell people about His love for them! "How will those who don't truly know of our loving God trust Him? How will they hear about Him & His true love without someone to tell them?" (Romans 10:14)

Lie:  We Need to Ask for More of God
A Christian asking for "more of God" is like a hungry man sitting in front of a feast refusing to eat. God has already provided everything. He has already fully given us Himself. While we can experience more of God's love, asking for "more of God" promotes a dangerous mindset. One, it assumes we don't have enough God already. Two, it makes us think God is withholding Himself from us, usually because of our behavior. We can't get more of God but we can become more aware of how we already have Him with us. We can ask Him to help us recognize the good & loving things He does for us everyday.

How much God does one human need to be satisfied or overwhelmed? Shouldn't a little God go a long way? It sure should but if we don't know what we've got it won't benefit us. If I didn't know I had a mouth I would starve to death. If I didn't know I had ears I'd never listen. If I didn't know I had eyes I would never see. So many Christians have been taught through various false teachings that they are mouthless, earless, & eyeless; that they need someone to inject them for them to be fed, that they can't hear God on their own, they have been outright blinded to God's love for them because His love is taught to be not only utterly conditional but also abusive.

Lie:  You Have to Love God More Than Anyone Else
In church I was taught, along with many others, to love God "more" than anyone else, that if I loved my wife or anyone else more than God that it was a sin. The main problem with that mindset is that it makes loving God & loving others separate affairs. God is our Father. We love Him when we love our brothers & sisters. Loving my brother doesn't subtract from my love for God, it adds to it. This is why there is no New Covenant command to "love God" but instead it is always "love one another." Our Father isn't insecure in how He wants to receive affection. He loves His children so much that our love for one another touches His heart. Because He is not self-seeking He seeks first to love us and second for us to love one another. God is love. As long as love is present He is loving & being loved.
For More Read Love God?

Wednesday, October 10, 2012

Why Be Afraid of Hebrews 10?

"Jesus our High priest has taken away sins for everyone.. Where there is forgiveness, there is no longer any offering for sin. We can be confident to enter the holy place by the blood of Jesus, by a new and living way which He inaugurated for us through the veil, that is, His flesh, and since we have a great priest over the house of God, let us draw near with a sincere heart in full assurance of trust, having our hearts sprinkled clean from an evil conscience and our bodies washed with pure water (this speaks of being saved & reborn by trusting Christ)..

If we go on sinning willfully after receiving the knowledge of the truth, there no longer remains a sacrifice for sins, but a terrifying expectation of judgment and the fury of a fire which will consume the adversaries. Anyone who has set aside the Law of Moses dies without mercy on the testimony of two or three witnesses. How much severer punishment do you think he will deserve who has trampled under foot the Son of God, and has regarded as unclean the blood of the covenant by which he was sanctified, and has insulted the Spirit of grace? For we know Him who said, “Vengeance is Mine, I will repay.” And again, “The Lord will judge His people.” It is a terrifying thing to fall into the hands of the living God.. Do not throw away your confidence (in God as a Jew), which has a great reward. For you have need of endurance, so that when you have done the will of God (trusted in Christ, gotten saved), you may receive what was promised." (Hebrews 10:11, 18-22, 25-36)

"If we go on sinning willfully after receiving the knowledge of the truth.." The only way to sin willfully is to reject Christ because Christ makes it impossible for someone to sin willfully through rebirth. Rebirth concerns the birth of a new identity as a perfect spirit which "is not able to sin" (1 John 3:9). "The knowledge of the truth" is the good news of what Jesus Christ has done which is described for the Jewish audience here in the letter to the Hebrews.

"Where there is forgiveness, there is no longer any offering for sin.." "There no longer remains a sacrifice for sins.." Forgiveness has already been given out through the sacrifice of Christ thus no other offering for sin exists, He was the last one & He got the job done. He is the last offering & last sacrifice, literally. The focal point isn't a warning about your sin points racking up because you've rejected Christ. It is focused on the all sufficient sacrifice of Christ for all mankind. Any offering or sacrifice a Jew would now make is worthless because sin has already been taken care of, the problem is solved and the solution is Jesus!

"Those who have trampled under foot the Son of God, and regarded as unclean the blood of the covenant, and insulted the Spirit of God's love for us (grace) are deserving of immense punishment." The Jews are, for all time, in some way "God's people." So it says, "The Lord will judge his people."

How can a loving God punish these people? Imagine someone you love inviting a group of old friends over for dinner & cooking them an elaborate meal. When they come over they chew up the food and spit it in her face, smash the dishes, & throw her on the ground to stomp on her. It is fully loving to be angry with these people. Your anger is on behalf of the person whom you love. Likewise the Father has anger on behalf of those who hate & invalidate His Son. God did not hold anything against those who physically persecuted & killed Jesus but those who insult His love, those who stomp on Christ as if He were worthless are asking to "fall into the hands of the living God" for punishment. They have decided to be His adversaries.

Note a uniquely Jewish statement here, they "regarded His blood to be unclean" thus His covenant to be unbinding. The idea of unclean blood & covenants only pertain to Jews, not Gentiles of the day. The Jews alive during the resurrection of Christ who have the chance to outright reject Him are the unique group of people described here. Perhaps there are no other people in history whom this applies to. Interestingly God says to forgive those who do bad things to you. To my knowledge He doesn't say to forgive those who hurt the ones you love. This portion of Hebrews 10 is written as a warning but more so as an invitation to trust in the Son of God & live. The writer speaks of Christ taking care of sin & making a new covenant, then of how to be saved, & finally what happens if they rejected Christ after hearing all this truth.

None of this is aimed at a reborn child of God. These are not warnings about losing your salvation. The idea that one could lose their salvation is like a fireman who saves you from a burning building later deciding to murder you because you did or said something he didn't like. "Whoever trusts in the Father has eternal life and will never be condemned; that person has crossed over from death to life" (John 5:24). How can God extinguish eternal life?

Hebrews makes the case for Jesus as Christ & reveals the impact of His sacrifice to the Jews who were alive during the time of Jesus' resurrection (saved or unsaved). It is sad that the mere existence of any statement in scripture makes Christians think that it applies to them. If, as a Christian, you see a scripture that lessens your peace, causes you fear, makes you feel less loved by God, or lessens your confidence in God & His goodness it is either not aimed at you or you have already believed various falsehoods that make you misinterpret it. The Spirit of Jesus brings peace & drives out fear. He causes you to become more confident in Him and less confident in falsehood. If you know you have trusted Jesus and any scripture makes you fearful (less peaceful) you have misapplied it or misinterpreted it. Reconsider the meaning or just pay no mind to it, letting God teach you the meaning if He so chooses.

The Lord will Repay..

Never pay back evil for evil to anyone.. Do not take revenge, my friends, but leave room for God's wrath, for it is written: "It is mine to avenge; I will repay," says the Lord. Instead, "If your enemies are hungry, feed them. If they are thirsty, give them something to drink. In doing this, you will heap burning coals on his head" (Romans 12:17,19-20).
Do not repay evil with evil or insult with insult, but with blessing (1 Peter 3:9).
See that no one repays another with evil for evil, but always seek after that which is good for one another and for all people (1 Thessalonians 5:15).

Would God ask us to do something He, Himself wouldn't do? What will God repay with? Will He repay evil for evil or will he repay with blessing for the good of the person? Wrath is anger but anger towards what? Is it towards the person who does evil or the evil that is done?

The best way to end evil is not with punishment but with love. Love dissolves or displaces evil. Instead of abusing a person for their actions God will show them how they are valuable beyond their actions. He did this very thing with Paul the apostle.

How then is it wrath? God separates people from their actions. He has taken every one's sin away. Romans 1:18 says God's wrath is against the actions of men, not men themselves. His wrath is for the evil itself. He seeks to stop evil by loving the person that evil comes through. The word "vengeance" or "avenge" means to "give justice." Because Jesus died for the sins of all, justice is no longer defined by mankind getting rewarded or punished according to our deeds (1 Peter 3:18). Now justice is that all people be saved by trusting Jesus so that Jesus gets who is due Him. After the cross justice is the Savior getting who He paid for. So for God to avenge in this context is for Him to give justice, which is kindness, to those who He died for so that they might change their mind to trust in Him (Romans 2:4).

"God sent Jesus to you to bless you by turning each of you from your evil ways" (Acts 3:26). If some one's "evil ways" prevent them from having a relationship with Him He blesses them with love until their evil ways are no longer a hindrance. Once the hindrance is removed they are really ready to experience His amazing love.

How does loving someone "heap burning coals" on their head? This refers to the high priest of old who, on the Day of Atonement, took his censer and filled it with “coals of fire” from off the altar of burnt offering, and then put incense on the coals to create a pleasing, sweet-smelling fragrance (Leviticus 16:12). The cloud or smoke of the incense covered the mercy seat and was acceptable to God for atonement.

Coal represents Christ's removal of sin. So to heap coals on some one's head is to, through love, bring the heart knowledge of the gospel to their mind. So Paul was saying, "Jesus is our High Priest, let Him love your enemies through you by giving them what they need. God is love. When you give people love it draws them closer to God."

Related Posts
The Good News of Justice

Tuesday, October 9, 2012

Satan is Not God's Attack Dog

Satan and the Sifting
“Simon, Simon, behold, Satan has demanded to sift you like wheat; but I have prayed for you, that your trust may not fail; and you, when once you have turned again, strengthen your brothers." But Peter said to Jesus, “Lord, with You I am ready to go both to prison and to death!” And He said, “I say to you, Peter, the rooster will not crow today until you have denied three times that you know Me.” (Luke 22:31-34)

Most think Satan demanded permission from God, that God is in cahoots with Satan. But that is not true! This plays out a little like a hostage situation. Satan is making a demand of Peter and Jesus has passed the message along to help prepare Peter. Even though Jesus said Satan would succeed Peter denies that he will let Satan sift him. Then Jesus confirms exactly what will happen & that Peter will let Satan sift him by denying Christ three times.

Some say that Satan is on God's leash and can only do as much & go as far as God lets Him. If you believe that then you believe God uses "the adversary" as a weapon to steal from you, kill you, or destroy you. If Satan is God's dog then God is not loving, He's a maniac! Satan is "the enemy" not the knife God uses to massacre His own children. Neither is God standing at the front door to your house saying, "Ok Satan come on in and take all you want." What kind of father lets a thief, not break into, but walk into their house and steal from their children? A terrible father who has no love for his children whatsoever! Yet some of you may believe that very thing about your heavenly Father.

Satan in Job
"Satan came before God. The Lord said to Satan, “From where do you come?” Then Satan answered the Lord and said, “From roaming about on the earth and walking around on it.” The Lord said to Satan, “Have you considered My servant Job? For there is no one like him on the earth, a blameless and upright man, fearing God and turning away from evil.” Then Satan answered the Lord, “Does Job fear God for nothing? Have You not made a hedge about him and his house and all that he has, on every side? You have blessed the work of his hands, and his possessions have increased in the land. But put forth Your hand now and touch all that he has; he will surely curse You to Your face.” Then the Lord said to Satan, “Behold, all that he has is in your power, only do not put forth your hand on him.” So Satan departed from the presence of the Lord." (Job 1:6-12)

When God asks Satan, "Have you considered Job?" most think this means God is offering Satan someone to torture, that God is suggesting Job to Satan as someone to attempt to devour. But our knowing God was saying something more like this, "You've considered my servant Job haven't you? There is no one like him, you will have a hard time getting him to reject me." God wasn't proposing an offer to Satan but instead knowingly addressing Satan's intentions.

God then says to Satan, "Behold, all that he has is in your power." Most again think this means God is giving over Job to Satan perhaps even to test Job's trust in God. But that is not the case! Scripture is clear that Satan already has jurisdiction over unregenerate mankind. 1 John 5:19 says, "The whole world lies in the power of the evil one." In 2 Corinthians 4:3 Satan is called "the god of this world" who blinds minds. Most telling of all is the fact that Hebrews 2:14 says, "Satan holds the power of death."

Satan actually challenges God to "touch all that Job has & ruin it." God refuses to accept the challenge & reminds Satan, "All that he has is in your power." The first time God says, "only do not put forth your hand on him." The second time Satan comes God says, "Only spare his life." Satan could already do whatever he wanted to Job but God limited Satan's jurisdiction, He didn't increase it! The enemy seeks to kill, God seeks to save.

The second time Satan approaches God, God says, "Are you still considering Job? He still holds fast his integrity, yet you still are inciting Me against him to ruin him without cause.” Satan is so wicked and clueless that he is attempting to get God to do his dirty work for him! God again refused to attack Job. Sad that most see the story of Job as God wanting to test Job so He challenges Satan to do His dirty work for Him, but it is in fact the opposite! Satan could have killed & ruined whoever he wanted but here Satan is extra-bold & challenges God to do evil for Him, tempting God to test Job's faith (not much different from how Satan tempted Jesus in the wilderness). God essentially says no & sends Satan away to do what he was going to do anyway except God limits Satan's power over Job. For whatever reason God does remove some restriction on what Satan does to Job next, only preventing him from killing Job. Satan never appears again in the book of Job after giving Job boils all over his body. Satan didn't come back to propose death for Job.

Satan's powers are lies, shame, & fear. Satan rules this world but he rules it only through cooperation with mankind. He is "the god of this world" because he "blinds minds." Minds are blinded by lies, shame, & fear. Satan influenced the Sabeans & Chaldeans to take Job's animals & kill his servants. Ezekiel 28:13 says Satan was "created with pipes" & Ephesians 2:2 calls him "the prince of the power of the air." So Satan was able to create "a great wind" to kill Job's children. Scientifically wind can create lightning thus the mistakenly labeled "fire of God" that "fell from heaven" was lightning created by Satan. Just like mankind was created with all of their physical abilities, Satan was created with "pipes" that he chose to do wicked things with.

It is likely Satan caused the storm Jesus & the disciples went through. I believe most bad weather is a result of the fallen creation but I certainly see Satan being able to manipulate wind by the evidence here. Otherwise we would have to believe:
A. God aided Satan (as an accessory to the crime) in persecuting Job by allowing Satan to command wind & lightning when at other times Satan would not be able to do so (ie God "allowed" Satan to have this power because God was testing Job).
B. God did the murdering Himself even though He said the ruining of Job's life was "without cause."

If Satan can't control wind God must be a murderous maniac with Satan as His attack dog who kills without cause. Many are willing to destroy God's character in the name of making Him "totally in control." The truth is we all (God, humans, Satan) have various extents of control as exercised by our freewill. When one's freewill collides with another's there is conflict. Cooperating with Satan brings death. Cooperating with God brings life. God doesn't override freewill. Instead He goes to every extent to offer life to whoever wants it. God created the universe to be a place of freedom. There are consequences & conflicts because of this. Usually God is offering the positive consequences of choosing life by trusting Him. At certain times in history God will deliver the negative consequences Himself. Here, Job, by God's own admission, had earned no consequences.

Job lived long before the cross & while he was credited with righteousness he did not have a reborn righteous spirit. Satan has no power over Christians because Christians are born again, perfect in spirit. 1 John 5:18 says, "Whoever is born of God is kept safe, the evil one cannot harm him." However Satan can still influence other people to harm us. Satan also still comes & tries to deceive us. Resisting Satan causes him to flee. If Satan were on God's team God wouldn't want us to resist him. God would want us to embrace Satan. Remember "flee" is a cowardly word. Lies flee when confronted by truth. We have The Truth living in us.

Monday, October 8, 2012

The Gifts of A Great Father

Grace means "favor." Grace is God's love for you. "We have gifts that differ according to the grace given to us." (Romans 12:6)

Some think this scripture means some people are superior to others because of the gifts God gives them but when we look at grace as God's love we see that is not the case. "We have gifts that differ according to the love given to us by God" (Romans 12:6). This means God looks at who we are & what we like. As a lovingly wise Father He gifts His children according to their personalities. Despite the insistence of religion He doesn't force you to be something you don't want to be. God has perfect unconditional love for His children but because His children are not all the same He loves each one of us differently for our benefit & enjoyment.
"Out of the immeasurable magnitude of the gift of Christ God has given each one of us His love with personalized gifts accompanying it." (Ephesians 4:7-8)

Friday, October 5, 2012

Grace is God's Love for You

When I think of the word "grace" I get a vague idea of some positive power & goodness that comes from God. Personally I think grace is a religious word because the unsaved & most saved can't quite define it. The word grace is best translated as "favor." Grace is God's love for you. I challenge you to look at scriptures and exchange the word grace with the phrase "God's love for you" & see how scripture explodes with God's love. I have done so below.
  • The Law was given through Moses; but God's love for us and God's truth were made evident through Jesus Christ. (John 1:17)
  • Stephen, full of power and the knowledge of God's love for him, was performing great wonders and signs among the people. (Acts 6:8)
  • When Barnabas witnessed God's love for the assembly in Antioch he rejoiced. (Acts 11:23)
  • The people were urged to continue to recognize God's love for them. (Acts 13:43)
  • We trust that we are saved & made whole through the love the Lord Jesus has for us. (Acts 15:11)
  • I sincerely testify of the good news of God's love for mankind. (Acts 20:24)
  • We have been made righteous by trusting God. We have unending peace with God through our Lord Jesus Christ. Through trusting Him we have obtained our access into God's love for us. In His love is where we stand. We rejoice with the expectancy of experiencing God's magnificent love throughout our lives. (Romans 5:1-2)
  • Those who receive the abundance of God's love and the gift of righteousness will reign in life through the One, Jesus Christ. (Romans 5:17)
  • Sin shall have no power over you because you are not under law but under God's love for you. (Romans 6:14)
  • If salvation is by God's love for us then salvation is not based on our works. If it were based on our works then His love would not really be love. (Romans 11:6)
  • It is because of God's love for me that I am who I am. (1 Corinthians 15:10)
  • It is not I who labor but the love of God accompanying me. (1 Corinthians 15:10)
  • You know the love of our Lord Jesus Christ for you. Though He was rich He became poor for your sake. Through His poverty you have become rich. (2 Corinthians 8:9)
  • God is able to make all of His love superabound to you. His love gives you everything you need & is more than enough for you to do every kind of good work. He simply makes you rich in everything and produces countless reasons for thanksgiving. The love of God in you is transcendent, it is beyond everything else. Thank you God for Your indescribable gift! (from 2 Corinthians 9:8-15)
  • The Lord said to me, "My love is all you need. My power brings an end to weakness." I will gladly rejoice about my weaknesses so that the power of Christ may move in & take control of my weaknesses. (2 Corinthians 12:9)
  • You who are seeking to be justified by law have made Christ useless to you; you have fallen from the awareness of God's love for you. (Galatians 5:4)
  • In Christ Jesus we have salvation through His blood, the removal of our sins, according to the riches of the love which He has lavished upon us. (Ephesians 1:7-8)
  • God is so rich in mercy He made us alive together with Christ while we were still dead in our sins. He did this because of the great love that He has for us. You are saved by God’s love for you! God has raised us up and seated us in heavenly places with Christ Jesus so He can forever show us the surpassing riches of His love for us & His kindness toward us in Christ Jesus. It is by His love for you that you have been saved through trust. This salvation is God’s gift to you. It is not a result of any good deeds you've done, so there is no reason for anyone to brag about how good they are because it is all about God's goodness. He gives us enough value through loving us that we don't even feel like boasting in our deeds because we are so busy basking in His unconditional love. We are God’s accomplishment, created in Christ Jesus to join Him in doing the loving things He has decided for us to do. (Ephesians 2:4-10)
  •  God has given me the honor of dispensing to you His love for you. (Ephesians 3:2)
  • Don't speak bad things but only things that are good for building people up according to the need of the moment. In short, remind people of God's great & giving love for them. (Ephesians 4:29)
  • We all partake of God's love for us. (Philippians 1:7)
  • The love of the Lord Jesus Christ for you is with your spirit. (Philippians 4:23)
  • You truly understood the love of God for us all. (Colossians 1:6)
  • Conduct yourselves with wisdom toward outsiders, making the most of every opportunity. Always speak of or with God's love towards mankind so that you will know how you should respond to each person. His love is like a fine seasoning that draws people to Him for more. (Colossians 4:5-6)
  • Please recognize & remember that our Father always has love towards you & that the love of our Lord Jesus Christ is always with you. (1 Thessalonians 5:28)
  • The name of our Lord Jesus is glorified in you, and you are glorified in Him when you confidently live knowing that He loves you. (2 Thessalonians 1:12)
  • Allow the Lord Jesus Christ Himself and God our Father to comfort and strengthen your hearts in every good work and word because He has loved us and given us eternal comfort & good hope by His gracious love for us. (2 Thessalonians 2:16)
  • God has saved us and called us with a holy calling, not according to our works, but according to His own purpose and His love for us which was granted to us in Christ Jesus from all eternity, but now has been revealed by the appearing of our Savior Christ Jesus, who abolished death and brought life and immortality to light through the good news. (2 Timothy 1:9-10)
  • Be strong in the love that Christ Jesus has for you. (2 Timothy 2:1)
  • The love of God for mankind has appeared, bringing salvation to all men. His love for us trains us to reject godless ways & worldly desires and to live self-controlled, upright, and godly lives. His love for us makes us eager to do what is good. He gave Himself for us to restore us from every lawless deed, and to purify for Himself a people who belong to Him as His very own dearly loved children. (Titus 2:11-12,14)
  • Listen to what I am about to say because it is reliable. "When the kindness of God our Savior and His love for mankind appeared, He saved us, not on the basis of good deeds we have done, but according to His compassion. We have been made whole by the Holy Spirit's washing which restored us to who we were uniquely meant to be and changed us into children of God. He richly poured out His Spirit upon us through Jesus Christ our Savior and we have been made righteous by His love for us. We are now heirs with Christ to everything God has as we are holding onto the expectancy of continuing our eternal life with Him." When people who come to trust in God understand this they will seek to do good with eagerness & wisdom. (Titus 3:4-8)
  • Because of God’s love for us, Jesus tasted death on behalf of everyone. (Hebrews 2:9)
  • Let us confidently draw near to the throne of God's gracious love for us so that we may receive kindness and find His love for us which helps us in our time of need. (Hebrews 4:16)
  • See to it that no one comes short in their understanding of how much God loves them. No root of bitterness will spring up & cause trouble if we understand His love for us. No immoral or godless person can stand the pure love of God without being sucked into it & freed or angrily walking away from it. (Hebrews 12:15-16)
  • It is good for your heart to be strengthened by God's love for you. The love of Jesus Christ for you is the same yesterday and today and forever. He Himself has said, “I will never desert you, nor will I ever forsake you,” so that we could confidently say, “The Lord is my helper, I will not be afraid. What will man do to me?” The more you recognize God's love for you the less you will be carried away by various teachings. (Hebrews 13:5-6,8-9)
  • God loves all of you and His love is with you all. (Hebrews 13:25)
  • If you humble yourself, resist the devil, & engage God you will experience His love for you in greater & greater ways. (James 4:6-8)
  • May you experience God's love for you & His peace to the furthest extent possible! (1 Peter 1:2)
  • Fix your hope completely on the love that God has for you. (1 Peter 1:13)
  • Show your wife that you value her as an equal partner in the life God loves to give you both. (1 Peter 3:7)
  • Use the special gifts our Father has lovingly given you to serve one another. Be good at directing the beautifully multi-colored love of God for us to the right people at the right time. (1 Peter 4:10)
  • If you value yourself & others as God does you will see God's love for us everywhere. (1 Peter 5:5)
  • Though you suffer for a little while, the God of all gracious love has called you to His eternal glory in Christ and He will Himself completely mend you, make you stable, strengthen you, and settle you. (1 Peter 5:10)
  • Stand firm in the true love of God! He loves you! (1 Peter 5:12)
  • Your experience of God's peace & His love for you multiplies through your knowledge of God and Jesus our Lord. Know this, the Lord, by His divine power, has already given us everything we need for life and godliness. We can only take advantage of what He has given us by having knowledge of Him. (2 Peter 1:2-3)
  • Keep on growing in your knowing that God loves you. Learn of Him from Him & you will not be carried away by the error of those who seek the flesh, instead your mind will stand firm in the knowledge & love of our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ (2 Peter 3:18)
  • God's gracious love for us, His compassionate kindness, & His indescribable peace will certainly be with us forever in the truth & love of the Son & the Father. (2 John 1:2-3)
  • May all have God’s loving-favor. Trust and let it be so. (Revelation 22:21)

See Also
God's Love in The Old Testament
God's Love in The New Testament

Lifted Up to His Glory

"All have sinned and fall short of the glory of God but all are declared righteous through the redemption which is in Christ Jesus." (Romans 3:23-24)

Glory can be defined as "Great honor," to honor means to value. We fall short of God's value. Sin devalues us who were originally created in the image of God. So since "all have sinned" all have been devalued, they take on the value of sin. "The worker deserves his wages." The worker's value determines his wages. The value of sin is so low that its payment (wage) is nothing but death.

The only way to regain value is to be separated from sin. God makes us righteous in our spirit which also makes us righteous in the eyes of the law (the power of sin is the law). He makes us one spirit with Him  (1 Corinthians 6:17) & even goes so far as to hide our life in Himself (Colossians 3:3-4). So we are completely separated from sin as Christ is (Hebrews 7:26) thus death has no sting because the sting of death is sin & our sins have been eradicated. So in spirit we never sin and we never die because He has given us the overabundant value of His Son. The value of His Son is so high that His payment (wage) is life. "The wages of the righteous is life" (Proverbs 10:16).

Redeem means to "restore honor, value, & worth." But He not only regains our value by separating us from sin but in His love He gives us the maximum value of Jesus! So redemption is just the beginning because in Him we are also justified (made righteous) & glorified (Romans 8:30). No matter how much we had fallen short of His glory He much more raises us up to His glory!

"All have sinned and are worthy of death because of it. All fall short of the value of God, He is worthy of life. However God freely makes us righteous & lets everybody know it. Through Christ Jesus He freed us from the death penalty for our sins. He gives us His value because of His love for us."

I take God "declaring us righteous" to mean that He not only convinces us of our righteousness (John 16:8-10) but that He shows His kids off to the angels & our family in heaven.

Thursday, October 4, 2012

Our New Creation in Christ & sin

  • People are born spiritually dead with the condition of sin. It is the charge of the action of sin that does not currently exist (from God or the law). God holds nothing against anyone so they can freely experience the grace of His kindness which leads them to trust Jesus. Not everyone is born again but God makes it as easy as possible to be by removing sin as a spiritual barrier & having no wrath for the time being for anyone.
  • Baptism is a picture of burial & resurrection with Christ. My understanding is that all spiritually died with Christ on the cross, "Christ died for all, and therefore all died" (2 Corinthians 5:14). However you are not raised until you first trust in Jesus. That raising is new birth. New birth is exclusively spiritual. Your new born spirit cannot sin because it is "one spirit with God" (1 Corinthians 6:17). The issue of sin was taken care of on the cross. We trust God and thank God that He has handled sin for us. Eternal life is about relationship. Jesus said in John 17:3, "This is eternal life, to intimately know God the Father and Jesus Christ whom He has sent."
  • "If we say that we have no sin, we deceive ourselves, and the truth is not in us." (1 John 1:8)
    • 1 John 1 is a description of how to be saved in the first place. One must acknowledge their sinful state to recognize that Christ has already taken their sin upon Himself. 1 John 1 is not a continuing description of Christians whom God has rebirthed & cleansed forever. Christians have no sin. They are in Christ & "in Him there is no sin." (1 John 3:5)
  • My stance on 1 John 3:6,9 & 1 John 5:18 is that it speaks of the Christian's spirit, their true identity. It says, "Whoever is born of God cannot sin."  The only part of us that is born of God is our spirit, Jesus makes that clear in John 3. There is no doubt to me that these scriptures speak of spiritual identity & not of temporal flesh based morality.
    • If these scriptures meant "Christians cannot continually sin" how do you define continually? Is that to be left up to man's interpretation? How I see these scriptures don't leave a gaping whole of "how much sin is enough sin to be considered "continually"? The interpretation that this means "Christians cannot continually sin" points to man's performance in the flesh rather than the rebirth of the spirit through the work of Christ. It is utterly sin conscious.
  • Can a disciple of Jesus Christ look at a woman lustfully?
    I would say no.
    • The bible says to not regard anyone (including yourself) according to the flesh (2 Corinthians 5:16). The Christian's spirit is their true & sole identity & it cannot sin. It is "perfected forever by the one time sacrifice of Christ" (Hebrews 10:14).
    • A disciple of Jesus Christ, through unrenewed parts of their mind (which is flesh), can offer their eyes (part of their flesh) to sin (Romans 6:13). God does not charge them with sin because of this. He doesn't add plus one to the sin ledger, He doesn't get offended (angry), He doesn't break fellowship, He doesn't condemn, disgrace, shame, or convict (convict means to declare guilty). He doesn't require you to ask for forgiveness or to "turn from sin."
    • As a disciple pays attention to the Spirit God will walk them out of doing such a thing (it could take a very long time before the eyes are no longer offered to sin). God's loving kindness is able to change us without charging us with sin.
  • Walk by the spirit which is your true (sinless) identity in Christ or walk by the flesh which causes you to treat others unlovingly through lies etc. My manifested actions do not change my identity nor are the sinful actions caused by it.
  • 1 Corinthians 6:17 says, "He who joins himself to the Lord is one spirit with Him." If you think a Christian's spirit can produce sin you believe God can produce sin. Is God's Spirit sinful?
  • We have both the flesh & the spirit but I am only identified by one.
    • "YOU ARE NOT IN THE FLESH BUT IN THE SPIRIT, if indeed the Spirit of God dwells in you."  (Romans 8:9)
      • That means all Christians are exclusively in the spirit because all of us have His spirit in us.
    • "Because Christ died for all we are to no longer identify anyone according to the flesh" (2 Corinthians 5:16).
      • Our identity is our spirit, that is how God identifies us and how God wants us to identify ourselves.
    • "Your new man (spirit) has been created in the likeness of God. You truly are right with God. You were made righteous, pure, guiltless, innocent, faultless, and holy" (Ephesians 4:24).
  • I am not saying we do not have flesh. I am upholding the idea that we are to walk by the spirit/not the flesh. If the spirit is bad why walk by it?
  • Sin is never sourced in or credited to our spirit, which is our sole identity. Our flesh (if we walk by it) produces sin.
    The flesh we have can produce sin but our spirit cannot. Our spirit is one Spirit with God.
  • If you actually believe Christ is our new identity how then do you believe we can sin with that identity? Christ does not serve out sin (Galatians 2:17), we are in Him.
  • If God sees us as he sees Christ WHY SHOULD WE SEE OURSELVES ANY DIFFERENT? Why should I not see myself with God's perfect eyes?
  • Did Peter sin when he lied about not being with Jesus?
    • Yes. Peter had not yet received God's spirit (John 20:22) & Christ had not yet been to the cross.
  • Can a child of God sin?
    The answer is no.
    • A child of God is an eternal spirit that temporarily lives in the flesh. They are responsible for controlling their flesh but are not condemned or charged with sin by God if they do a bad job.
    • "No one who is born of God practices sin, BECAUSE GOD'S SEED ABIDES IN HIM; and he cannot sin, because he is born of God." (1 John 3:9)
      • "You have been born again, not of corruptible seed, but of incorruptible seed" (1 Peter 1:23).
        • Sin corrupts. Sin cannot touch our spirit.
    • "YOU ARE NOT IN THE FLESH BUT IN THE SPIRIT, if indeed the Spirit of God dwells in you." (Romans 8:9)
      • This isn't talking about physical locality but identity.
    • "Because Christ died for all we are to no longer identify anyone according to the flesh" (2 Corinthians 5:16).
  • You empower sin by holding onto it as part of your identity.
  • Perfect Spirits
    • In spirit we are perfect but our consciousness resides in the flesh. Our mind is the bridge between the spirit & the flesh. When we allow God to renew our minds we walk by the spirit.
    • His divine power has granted to us EVERYTHING pertaining to life and godliness, THROUGH OUR TRUE KNOWLEDGE OF HIM (2 Peter 1:3-4)
      • "Everything" means we lack nothing (are perfect) but we cannot experience "everything" or "perfection" unless we have true knowledge of Him.
    • I say we are perfect in the spirit only. That does not mean we see perfect behavior come out of us all the time. Nor does it mean that our fleshly minds have perfect knowledge. Our spirits have the mind of Christ. Our spirits "know all things" (1 John 2:20) but we cannot access that knowledge & righteousness if our fleshly minds are ignorant (unrenewed).
    • "The spirits of righteous men have been made perfect" (Hebrews 12:22-23).
  • "I am not practicing what I would like to do, but I am doing the very thing I hate. For the good that I want, I do not do, but I practice the very evil that I do not want." (Romans 7:15,19)
    • I once experienced the struggle Romans 7 talks about when I believed I was a sinner. But now that I truly walk by the spirit (which doesn't simply mean to act moral or obey the law, it means to know & focus on the spirit of God & what he has birthed as our spirit) I never experience the condition of Romans 7 but the freedom & empowered state spoken of in Romans 8 where I never have condemnation, guilt, or shame.
    • Twice in Romans 7 (17 & 20) Paul says, "It is no longer I who sin but sin living in me that sins." He is saying "I no longer sin." "I do not sin anymore." "When you see sin come out of my person it is not me who is doing it. I am not the cause or the source. I no longer produce sin." This gels perfectly with 1 John 3:9 which says someone who is born of God cannot produce sin. I can rightly say, "I, being a child of God, no longer sin."
      • "It is no longer I who sin but sin living in me that sins," has to be speaking of either the flesh, the mind (soul), the spirit, or some combination of those. Certainly it is at the very least talking about the spirit. IT MUST BE TALKING ABOUT ONE OF THEM or Paul is a liar & you must throw out his writings.
      • I no longer sin. Sin in my flesh still produces sinful actions if I don't walk by spirit but I, in my new spiritual identity in Christ, do not sin. Why? Because a birth establishes a new identity. "Your new creation has been created in God’s image. It is righteous and holy" (Ephesians 4:24).
    • "From now on we identify NO ONE according to the flesh (what else is there left to identify by but the spirit?). If anyone is in Christ, he is a new creature; the old things PASSED AWAY; behold, new things have come." (2 Corinthians 5:16-17) That new creature is new because it has been recently born. Jesus said in John 3:6, "That which is born of the flesh is flesh, and that which is born of the Spirit is spirit." New birth exclusively concerns the spirit because "A man cannot be born when he is old. He cannot enter a second time into his mother’s womb and be born" (John 3:4). Our new creation is our spirit, we are not to identify ourselves according to the flesh. Don't hold onto the flesh as part of your identity, doing so empowers the enemy.
  • If "It is not I who sins but the sin living in me that sins," as Paul says in Romans 7:17,20, then who is responsible for the sins?
    • While there are various instigators for unloving actions (sin, Satan, the law, the body, lies that are believed) the unrenewed mind, which is flesh, is ultimately responsible for those actions occurring.
    • If you don't put to death the DEEDS of the flesh sin is going to come out of your body. If you don't mow the lawn it is going to continue to grow & get longer. Putting to death the deeds of the flesh is like mowing the lawn.
    • Renewing your mind is like uprooting the grass & plowing the dirt so sin will never grow there again. The less renewed your mind is the more unloving actions will show up in your behavior.
    • Truly it is not you, as a spiritual child of God, sinning. If sinful actions come out in your behavior it is your unrenewed mind that does not cut them off. Your mind is the bridge between the flesh & the spirit. The unrenewed parts of your mind are paved with old flesh. The renewed parts of your mind are paved with spirit.
    • Your mind can be used as a lawnmower, plow, or seed sowing hand. The unrenewed mind lets the grass grow. A partially spiritual area of the mind only mows the grass. A renewed area of the mind plows the land to prevent grass from growing in that area again. A fully renewed area of the mind sows good seed into the soil for fruit bearing life.
    • The love of the spirit, through renewed parts of the mind, takes responsibility for the unloving actions caused by the flesh & makes amends with the parties harmed. Christ made amends for our actions & relationally He continues to do so through us who walk by spirit.
  • So our spiritual identity in Christ isn't a false excuse to "get off the hook" for how we behave. It is our reborn identity perfectly loved by God that, given the opportunity, flows out only good things. It is our true self, our eternal self. It is not self-centered nor does it make excuses for the flesh's behavior. It is one spirit with God(1 Corinthians 6:17 & Ephesians 4:4) . It is God living in us, & with us, & through us. I will accept nothing less than the identity I know I was born into by the Spirit of God. I am not a sinner. I am perfected forever. I am perfect as my Father in heaven is perfect. I am one with God because He wanted to love me & I let Him. The fact that nothing can separate you from His love means you are already in His love. Absolutely nothing ever stands between you & His love. Trust Him & let Him love you as He wants to love you.

Fearing the Truth

I don't have the impression that truth is dangerous & to be avoided. Are we to think that everyone that Paul wrote Romans & Corinthians to, or everyone Hebrews was written to, or everyone that 1 John was written to were all mature enough to "handle the truth"?

Paul said to the Romans "I am speaking in human terms because of the weakness of your flesh" & he goes on to speak some of the most solid & amazing spiritual perfection language in all of scripture.

In 1 Corinthians Paul calls the people "babes" yet still hands out to them major things in 2 Corinthians such as "God is no longer charging people with sin" (5:19-20), & "we identify no one according to the flesh (5:16)."

2 Corinthians 5:16-20 isn't meat, it is as pure & simple as the gospel gets & Paul speaks of the new creation (spirit) in this same context.
"From now on we identify no one according to the flesh; even though we have known Christ according to the flesh, yet now we know Him in this way no longer. If anyone is in Christ, he is a new creature; the old things have passed away; look, new things have come. Now all these things are from God, who reconciled us to Himself through Christ and gave us the service of reconciliation, which is that, "In Christ God was reconciling the world to himself, not counting their (the world's) sins against them, and entrusting to us the message of reconciliation. Therefore, we are ambassadors for Christ, God making his appeal through us. We implore you on behalf of Christ, be reconciled to God."'

Is it dangerous for people to pick up the bible and read it? How does the truth lead someone astray? Why would we rather put the light of the gospel & our new creation in Christ under a bushel OUT OF FEAR than we would shine it?

Are we to be afraid of God's perfect love which doesn't charge people with sin & makes His children born spiritually perfect? Or are we to be so afraid of sin, whose power Christ destroyed, that we hush up about the goodness of God? Are we to be more afraid of the power of the enemy to lead people astray with the truth than we are to trust in God that He will use the truth to set them free?

"I am not ashamed of the gospel, for it is the power of God for salvation to everyone who trusts" (Romans 1:16). I trust the power of the true gospel far more than I trust that the enemy can distort its results. False gospels ruin people. The true gospel makes people whole.

I've never seen a single person ruined by the God's honest truth. People who fear the truth of grace still bask in a self-righteous mindset. They think that people shouldn't be taught about Christ's righteousness given to us until they can "handle the truth" & not go out acting however they want. They are afraid that knowledge of grace will cause people to behave badly. So what if it does? Would you rather someone believe a lie & be ignorant of the truth & behave morally for a time or someone know the truth of God's love & behave immorally for a time? The first entrusts people to themselves and their own performance. The second entrusts people to God & the power of His truth. For whatever reason people are so afraid of someone "sinning" that they'd rather keep them in the dark instead of exposing them to the light of God's love, the same love that is the only thing that truly changes people.

Wednesday, October 3, 2012

Instead of going to the box factory today, we'll be going to the...box factory

There shall be a time when people will not tolerate or listen to healthy teaching. Instead, to suit their own desires, they will gather around them a great number of teachers who say what their itching ears want to hear. They will turn their ears away from the truth and turn aside to falsehood & stories of fiction invented by men. (2 Timothy 4:3-4)

While there is a beneficial place for teachers (this scripture was telling Timothy to be a good teacher) scripture is clear that it is the Holy Spirit who is to be our teacher and lead us to ALL truth. Surely He can do this through other people. However the problem arises when people trust in men to teach them more than they trust in God to teach them. Religion is designed to have people do this. So this scripture sounds like a prophecy of sermons, preachers, & authors to me. The Spirit cannot teach you if you hitch your cart to someone else's horse. Most of what people "know" are things they don't know for themselves. Most of their knowledge comes from preachers & predetermined doctrines that have been passed down. They have discovered few if anything themselves through the Spirit's teaching because they have signed up for the wrong class. They have signed up to be taught by indoctrinated or ego driven religious leaders. Those same religious leaders will deride those who don't preach what or how they preach using the verses above. They will say, "itching ears want to hear easy & happy teachings" but the truth is an itching ear mainly wants to hear what agrees with it already. It doesn't want to hear something new. It doesn't want to be challenged to believe something different.

For thousands of years doctrines (teachings) invented by men have been formulated & propagated. Every denomination & every church thereof has already decided what is true & what is false. There is no room for the Spirit to teach because everyone already has everything down in neat little packaged boxes. The church leaders, church fathers, & church history's most touted theologians are the ones people are taught to listen to directly or indirectly. People walk around as if they are fatherless while the Father longs to lead them Himself but they are imprisoned by lies or are fearful or unwilling to follow Him themselves. The living God has been traded for the dead teachings of men. Religion has hidden or deleted most truth from people's hearts & minds. The truth is what religion desperately seeks to destroy. Instead religion, as if designed by Satan himself, claims to have all the answers. It speaks shame, fear, & death. It sets up its own set of leaders who, knowingly or not, directly usurp the place & work of God in people's lives.

So many people see through religion because it is lifeless, Godless, & loveless. Yet religion has claimed the concept of God for its own so people who reject religion often reject the concept of God. Religion seeks only to devour & deceive the many well intentioned people who choose to adhere themselves to it. The dangerous few who tell the truth are continually told to be silent. Even some who know the truth fear what would happen if other people knew it. My God is The Truth & He sets people free. Freedom is the enemy of religion because religion enslaves people & causes them to act like shame filled beggars who plead for God's mercy and forgiveness as if Christ had never died & rose again. Religion empties the cross of its power. At most the cross is taught as a ticket to a far off heaven.

You can fit a lot of dirt & rock into a box but you can't fit the whole planet earth in there. Likewise you can find truth while in religion & its systems but you can't find the vast majority of it in there. Knowing truth lets us experience freedom. There isn't much freedom inside of a box so there can't be much truth either. Each doctrine is a box as well, prohibiting anything that disagrees with it. After enough time in religion people themselves become box like, excluding any ideas or people who don't fit into their box. As sad as it is, the box of religion, its systems, & its doctrines will always restrict truth, leaving most of it outside. All of us are ignorant about something and there are countless things we could be deceived about too. Who do you trust more, ignorant, deceived men, alive or dead, who have followed their own itching ears or our all knowing, all loving, completely trustworthy Father?

Tuesday, October 2, 2012

Eternal Torment, Annihilation, Ultimate Reconciliation? How about a little of each?

This is Part 2 of 2, See Part 1:  Saved? Saved from What?
Revelation 20:10 says, "The devil who had deceived them was thrown into the lake of fire and sulfur where the beast and the false prophet were, and they will be tormented day and night forever and ever." There is no mention of this eternal torment for the people that are thrown into the lake of fire in Revelation 20:14-15. For them it is described as "the second death."

"The Lord Jesus will be revealed from heaven with His mighty angels in flaming fire, dealing out justice to those who do not know God and to those who do not obey the gospel of our Lord Jesus (obeying the gospel means trusting in Jesus). These people will pay the penalty of eternal DESTRUCTION, away from the presence of the Lord and from the glory of His power" (2 Thessalonians 1:7-9). Here, as Revelation 20:14-15 suggests, those who fully reject Christ are destroyed forever, as in annihilated, never to come back to life. To come back from death requires a resurrection. No resurrection is spoken of for these people after the lake of fire. There is no resurrection from the second death. Even John 3:16 has perishing (destruction/death) as the opposite of everlasting life. The opposite is not eternal torment.

A Second Chance?
Once people are thrown into the lake of fire there can be no resurrection or "ultimate reconciliation." If there were an afterlife reconciliation available it would have to be before someone is thrown into the lake of fire. Scripture says that old testament people were given a chance in the afterlife to be saved by faith. "The gospel was proclaimed to those who are now dead so that they could live like God in the spirit" (1 Peter 4:6). "Jesus went and made proclamation of the gospel to the spirits in prison, who once were disobedient" (1 Peter 3:18-19). Notice it says they were "once disobedient" suggesting that they became obedient to the gospel and are now saved. The context says the people from the days of Noah, the worst people ever in the history of the world who were presumably warned by Noah for years, were given this chance to hear the gospel & trust Jesus. Jesus died for everyone past, present, & future so it would have been unjust for God to leave these people condemned without knowing about the freedom Christ has made available. I think it is possible that everyone who died before Christ died could indeed be saved & born again.

Every Knee Shall Bow..
"For we will all stand before the judgment seat of God. For it is written, “As I live, says the Lord, every knee will bow to me, and every tongue will give praise to God” (Romans 14:10-12). This scripture lets us know that the "every knee bowing" event clearly happens on judgment day, the same day people are later thrown in the lake of fire. This event is described in Isaiah 45, showing EXACTLY what God says to people on that day.

“Thus says the Lord, who created the heavens, “I am the Lord, and there is none else. I have not spoken in secret, I, the Lord, speak righteousness, Declaring things that are upright. Gather yourselves and come; Draw near together, you fugitives of the nations. They have no knowledge, Who carry about their wooden idol and pray to a god who cannot save. Declare and set forth your case; Indeed, let them consult together. Who has announced this from of old? Who has long since declared it? Is it not I, the Lord? And there is no other God besides Me, A righteous God and a Savior; There is none except Me. Turn to Me and be saved, all the ends of the earth; For I am God, and there is no other. I have sworn by Myself, The word has gone forth from My mouth in righteousness and will not turn back, That to Me every knee will bow, every tongue will swear allegiance. They will say of Me, ‘Only in the Lord are righteousness and strength."
Men will come to Him, and all who were angry at Him will be put to shame. In the Lord all the offspring of Israel Will be justified and will glory” (Isaiah 45:18-25).

Here we have God telling people who He is, even calling Himself a Savior on the day of judgment. He says, "Turn to me & be saved." God offers "all the ends of the earth" salvation on judgment day. It is beautiful & worth rereading. Isaiah then writes that "all who are angry at him will be put to shame." In SEVEN places God promises, “Whoever trusts in the Lord will NEVER be put to shame” (Isaiah 28:16, Romans 9:33, 10:11, 1 Peter 2:6, Joel 2:26-27, Isaiah 45:17, 54:4). If you are put to shame you are not saved. Shame is literally the opposite of grace. If you are put to shame you have not chosen to receive God's grace. So we see that there are some who choose to retain anger towards God. They angrily bow. Those who come before the Lord in judgement will acknowledge Him as God and give Him praise at the very least by the fact that they are in His almighty presence at judgement. But those who retain anger (hatred, murderous feelings & thoughts) towards Him in their hearts are thrown into the lake of fire. They did not call Him Lord from their heart. "If you confess with your mouth, "Jesus is Lord," and trust in your heart that God raised him from the dead, you will be saved" (Romans 10:9). This statement from Romans 10:9 does not have an expiration date just because your body dies. We see that the resurrection is so integral to the gospel that if someone even in the next life does not trust in it, they will not be saved. You cannot hate God & live forever. God is life. If you hate God you hate life & thus you have chosen death for yourself.

Isaiah says, "In the Lord all the seed of Israel Will be justified and will glory." The true seed of Israel are all who are saved. "God exalted Jesus and gave him the name that is above every name, so that at the name of Jesus every knee will bow – in heaven and on earth and under the earth – and every tongue confess that Jesus Christ is Lord to the glory of God the Father" (Philippians 2:9-11).

Eternal Torment
Scriptures (Matthew 18:8, 25:41; Jude 1:7) still speak of "eternal fire" and it is true that the lake of fire is eternal. However eternal experience (torture) in this fire is only said to be for the devil, the beast, & the false prophet. Below some scriptures are examined to this point.

Revelation 14:9-11 says, “If anyone worships the beast and his image, and receives a mark on his forehead or on his hand, he also will drink of the wine of the wrath of God, which is mixed in FULL STRENGTH in the cup of His anger; and he will be tormented with fire and brimstone in the presence of the holy angels and in the presence of the Lamb. And the smoke of their torment goes up forever and ever; they have no rest day and night, those who worship the beast and his image, and whoever receives the mark of his name.”

It says the smoke of their torment goes up forever but doesn't say that their torment lasts forever as it does about the torment of those mentioned in Revelation 20:10. These subtleties of language reveal the truth! It also says that they are tormented in the presence of Jesus "day and night." Later on in Revelation 22:5 it is said that "There will no longer be any night because the Lord God will illumine his people forever and ever." So it is impossible for this to be speaking of eternal torture because in God's presence there will eventually only be day. Those 3 mentioned in Revelation 20:10 are away from God's presence & still have night. Thus those who take the mark of the beast are tortured at least one day & one night but no longer than the time span between Revelation 14:11-22:5.

Jude speaks of people for whom "the utter depths of eternal darkness have been reserved." The darkness is eternal but the experience thereof is not. It says these people will perish (be annihilated) unless they are "snatched out of the fire." Matthew 25:41 says that God prepared the eternal fire for the devil & his angels. The devil's angels are not mentioned in Revelation 20:21 but Jude says that certain angels are being kept in eternal bonds under eternal darkness. Jude hints that the place of eternal darkness is also the place of eternal fire, which is the lake of fire.

Jesus said in Mark 3:29, "Whoever blasphemes against the Holy Spirit will never be pardoned, but is guilty of an eternal sin." Some of the Pharisees did this specific blaspheming, which was to credit to Satan the works of God (ie Satan empowered Jesus to heal people). If the sin is eternal one could think the punishment could be as well. But of course the 2nd death is a punishment of eternal death.

God's Wrath on Judgment Day
Scripture refers to judgment day as, "the day of wrath." It is just one day of wrath for mankind. God "stores up wrath for the day of judgment" for the sake of justice (Romans 2:5) so that those who hate Him, even after He offers them one more chance on that judgment day, can justly have the second death (which is annihilation) that they have chosen.

Why does Revelation 20:12 say God judges by deeds? Why oh, why wouldn't it say He judges them by sins? Because Jesus has already taken the sinful deeds of the world away! "The sting of death is sin" (1 Corinthians 15:56). God wants to take away that sting as much as He can, even for those who reject Him! He judges them by their deeds to ease the sting of death that sin has earned them.

But still how can a loving God punish anyone? God tormenting Satan isn't out of love for Satan but out of love for those who Satan has deceived. Likewise God's wrath for those who hate Him & those who embraced the beast is out of love for Jesus.

God is the giver of all good things and He holds all things together. If God's wrath includes separation from God His mere absence is the cause of the torture. Perhaps where God's goodness does not have influence there can only be torture and pain. Without Him there is no good left. All good things on earth are because of Him. His love is spread all over the world.

What about Hell?
There are three words translated as "hell" in the bible & two of them are different things.

Gehenna, also called "Gehenna of fire," referred to a literal place, the valley of Hinnom, south of Jerusalem, where the filth and dead animals of the city were cast out and burned. Gehenna pictures the lake of fire. That lake is also called the "lake of fire & sulfur" meaning it smells, Gehenna smelled.

Hades pictures the realm of the dead or the grave. Sheol is the old testament (Hebrew) word for Hades (a Greek word). The "hell" spoken of being thrown into the lake of fire in Revelation 20 is Hades, not Gehenna. The lake of fire will not be thrown into itself. Hades is also spoken of as the grave in contrast to Jesus' resurrection.

The "parable" of Lazarus happened in Hades not Gehenna & it is told as a true story not as a parable. It speaks of flames & torment. Christ spoke the good news to these people in Hades after He died (1 Peter 3:18-19,4:6, quoted above). Interesting it says, "they will not be persuaded even if someone rises from the dead." But the "they" that are spoken of aren't the people in Hades, it is the people living on earth. Lazarus sounds like he would be persuaded & he likely was when Jesus spoke to him there after His death on the cross. Hades & wrath reveal God's desperate love to save the otherwise unwilling.

Today there is still a Hades because it is spoken of as something that is thrown in the lake of fire in the future, not something abolished at the cross. Remember Hades is Sheol, "the grave."

Jesus often spoke of an "outer darkness" & a "furnace of fire." In Luke 13:28 He said of it, "In that place there will be weeping and gnashing of teeth when you see Abraham and Isaac and Jacob and all the prophets in the kingdom of God, but yourselves being thrown out." He says the people in that place will see Abraham, just like Lazarus did! He was speaking of Hades, a temporary place with pain & misery.

"The gates of hell" that will not prevail against the body of Christ are the gates of Hades. Jesus was saying that death will not prevail over His people because they have His resurrection power within them & live an everlasting life. Remember He broke the power of sin & death. In Revelation 1:18 Jesus said, "I am he that lives, and was dead; and, behold, I am alive forevermore, and I have the keys of death and of Hades." Jesus has the keys of Hades and thus the power to release people from there who will trust Him on the judgment day. Hades itself will be thrown into the lake of fire.

Perhaps Jesus' gates of hell statement speaks of His people speaking to those in Hades as Abraham did because they cannot be stopped by the gates & Jesus holds the keys to the gates. I have not seen any place in scripture where Satan & Hades are even mentioned together. The gates of Hades does not picture the power of Satan & his forces but instead the power of the grave to stop the gospel. The grave will not stop God's people from proclaiming the gospel to those who have died! As Jesus & Abraham spoke to the "spirits in prison" so shall we. The gospel is about Christ conquering death so why assume He cannot conquer some one's first, bodily, death when it comes to saving them?

Why does God pour wrath out on the earth in Revelation?
Revelation 16:9 says, "Men were scorched with fierce heat; and they blasphemed the name of God who has the power over these plagues, and they did not change their minds so as to give Him glory." We can see that in torment there are people who refuse to glorify God & live. They choose to suffer instead. The wrath of God that comes upon the earth in Revelation is God's last resort in getting people to choose Him & live because they would by no other means do so. This is also part of why people suffer in Hades. There is little to no time left for these people in Revelation to suffer in Hades so God has to bring wrath to the earth. "During those days men will seek death, but will not find it; they will long to die, but death will elude them" (Revelation 9:6). God makes these people suffer but without killing them. God does not kill people. He is not a murderer but a rescuer. So during His wrath people will suffer and not die. Likewise in Hades people suffer without a "death" event to end it. God essentially brings "hell on earth" because there is almost no time left for people to choose God & live. Wrath is the worst way of getting people to choose life but in the most extreme cases people need to be scorched to wake up & realize the danger of death.

What about "Narrow is the Way?"
“Enter through the narrow gate; for the gate is wide and the way is broad that leads to destruction, and there are many who enter through it. For the gate is small and the way is narrow that leads to life, and there are few who find it" (Jesus in Matthew 7:13-14).

Jesus says, "the broad gate LEADS to destruction." He did not say, "to enter the broad gate is to guarantee destruction." Also note that it leads to destruction, not to eternal torment. The narrow way is eternal life begun on earth. Eternal life on earth is important & it guarantees no second death. Life & love matter now!

Jesus says, "few find it." He uses comparative terms. Few are reborn on earth compared to the many who are reborn on judgment day. Few find it because most people look for God in religion which distorts & misrepresents Him. An innumerable amount of people will have been saved even before judgment day as Revelation 7:10 says, "I looked, and behold, a great multitude that no one could number, from every nation, from all tribes and peoples and languages, standing before the throne and before the Lamb, clothed in white robes."

What's the point?
People who ask, "Well what is the point of doing good if people will go to heaven anyway?" don't understand grace or salvation & especially don't understand love. God is love. If we know Him we will want to love others with Him.

Why spread the gospel? 1. Because knowing God is good news! 2. Because people are suffering & are missing out on our amazing Father. The gospel is not spread out of obligation or fear for some one's eternal destiny. It all comes out of our love for the goodness of God & our love for people. Why wouldn't you want someone to experience the enjoyment of the greatest gift of all time as soon as they possibly can? The gospel isn't urgent because of the danger people are in. The gospel is urgent because of the good people are missing out on! Someone who loves would want others to enjoy the goodness of Jesus ASAP. It is not just good but good news!

I've personally never heard the viewpoint which I've adopted espoused by anyone else. Scripture doesn't have to be justified by men who hold polarized viewpoints to back themselves up, it just needs to be studied out by the leading of the Spirit. He leads you to truth. You don't lead yourself.

Those who retain their anger towards God at judgment will be annihilated in the lake of fire. God is love AND God is not unjust. God gives everyone a chance on the day of judgment to trust Him. Some are annihilated. Most, I think, are saved.

Is everyone saved in the end? No, but God is completely loving & completely just in all His dealings with mankind. Some men simply loved the darkness too much to ever embrace the light of life.

So with God all things are possible but nothing is forced. Mankind's free will determines their destiny. God doesn't force a totally two-way reconciliation nor has He left anyone without a second chance. God gives opportunities but the expiration date is the day of judgment where people will either choose Him & live or reject Him and die.

God created a universe where you can "have it your way." A universe where love is not something that manipulates you into servitude but instead is something to be enjoyed at will. "Your way" is not without consequences in this universe. God wants to show you His Way, Jesus, so you can have abundant life & never face the consequence of death. His way is to love you at all costs. You can have His love as long as you want His love.

"Whoever trusts in me has victory over sin & death, he will not be hurt by the second death. I will grant to him to sit down with Me on My throne, as I also was victorious and sat down with My Father on His throne" (Revelation 2:11, 3:21).

"As I live!" declares the Lord God, "I take no pleasure in the death of the wicked, but rather that the wicked turn from his way to My Way, Jesus the Savior of mankind, and live. Why then will you die?" (Ezekiel 33:11, New Covenant paraphrase)

"I have set before you life and death. Therefore choose life, that you may live!" (Deuteronomy 30:19)