Loving God and Loving Self

When Christ told people to love God and love neighbor, I don’t recall anyone asking questions to define what loving God meant, but I do see people wondering about loving neighbor.

There is a tendency to think loving neighbor is harder. It may be, but let’s follow suit and ignore that loving God thing too. I’m sure we do that already.

Anyway, “Thou shalt love thy neighbour as thyself” is a fine sounding statement. One question I’ve heard in relation to this is, “Shouldn’t I learn to love myself first? I just need to accept me before I can accept others.”

Let me put this plainly and simply so as not to be confusing:

Drop your psychological crap.

People inherently love themselves. “For no man ever yet hated his own flesh.” We all love our flesh. Even those who torture themselves or even kill themselves are doing it for some perceived benefit to their self.

The fact that you are breathing shows you love yourself. To love someone else the way you love yourself means to do what is necessary to provide for their well-being. Something not easily done.

Interesting that Christ calls us to deny ourselves. Is denying ourselves the opposite of loving ourselves? It could be, unless denying yourself temporally means loving yourself for eternity! But if our love for self leads us to deny self are we then to deny others as we deny ourselves?

Wow, see how easy it is to get confused by this issue? Anything to avoid thinking about whether I love God enough.

Loving God and Loving Neighbor

The two greatest commandments in the Bible are

1) Thou shalt love the Lord thy God with all thy heart, and with all thy soul, and with all thy mind.
2) Thou shalt love thy neighbour as thyself.

Question: Is it possible to love your neighbor as yourself if you don’t love the Lord your God?

To a certain degree I think the answer is “yes.” Inherently we love ourselves. Even the heathen love their friends and family, even they know how to give gifts.

But I do think it is impossible to love your enemy, who may be your neighbor, without loving the Lord.

We love Him because He first loved us. When we see that while we were yet sinners, Christ demonstrated His love to us, we see that loving your enemy is something God does regularly and we were that enemy.

If we are at all impressed with this, it will show in our ability and desire to love even those who hate us, just as God did/does. Just as forgiveness is to be demonstrated by the forgiven sinner, so to is love.

You can surfacely love your neighbor apart from love of God, but I do think loving your enemy is purely Spirit-filled territory.

Wrong Loving of Neighbors

We all know that believers are to love their neighbor. We know the passages and parables that illustrate the point and we can even give examples of the times we perfectly fulfilled this command.

How much of our perceived love of neighbor is truly love of neighbor though? When I shovel the driveway for the old lady, is it really out of love or is it duty? Or is it to get $10? And do we get ticked off when she doesn’t pay us again? And if we do was it really loving our neighbor?

Here’s an example from Scripture that looked like loving the neighbor but was indeed very far from it. Ezekiel 23 compares Samaria and Jerusalem to two sisters who are whores. About Samaria it says:

“She doted on her lovers,
on the Assyrians her neighbours.”

Neighbor Assyria became her lover! Hey, she’s just loving her neighbor, why is she getting judgment from God? Picky, picky.

The love that God speaks of is a true love, not a true love as in a Princess Bride romantic true love, but a love in the truth. You are not loving your neighbor if it involves fornication or any other violation of God’s law.

Don’t let human definitions of love throw you off of God’s definition of love. Loving your neighbor means something specific and frequently does not look at all like love to the casual observer.

The Point of the Anti-Itch Meditation

What is the “Anti-Itch Meditation?”

It is clever, I’ll give you that! When I first thought of it I almost died laughing. But it’s not just clever, it also means something. Under my blog title it says: “2 Timothy 4:3. Doing my God-given duty to not tell you what you want to hear.”

2 Timothy 4:3 in the KJV says, “For the time will come when they will not endure sound doctrine; but after their own lusts shall they heap to themselves teachers, having itching ears.”

Eventually, church will become a place of entertainment, a place to get our itching ears scratched, just tell us what we want to hear.

A prophet doesn’t tell people what they want to hear, nor what he thinks they need to hear, but rather, a man of God tells people what God wants people to hear.

The only way to do this is to constantly use the Word of God, the Bible, to confront mankind. Jesus was great at this. He was always quoting Scripture and frequently bringing up the most annoying verse He could possibly come up with.

It does not surprise me that people disagree with me on my blog, it’s kind of my point. However, it is not my point to get people to agree with me! I may not be right. It is my point to make sure people know what they believe.

I poke things, I listen to the response. I doubt I’ll change your mind, but I bet I can get you to think about stuff! That’s my hope and I trust that getting you to think about stuff leads you to God’s Word.

I love God’s Word and I want everyone to love it too. Especially because the Word is living and is Jesus Christ! He’s the only way to the Father. Think on the Word. Base everything on that.

Visiting Old Ladies

My father, who was a pastor, took me visiting when I was a child. I spent many an afternoon in an old lady’s living room sipping warm Diet Coke while my dad and old lady talked incessantly.

I hated every minute of it and I can’t stand Diet Coke. But it also taught me that it doesn’t matter if I like it or not, it’s the right thing to do. I’m glad my dad made me go.

All these years later I enjoy visiting the older folks (“older” is a relative term). Dread is not a word frequently associated with visiting any more. I do still hate Diet Coke, however.

Old ladies are plentiful and talkative once they get comfortable with you. Since there’s not much new going on with them, you will hear the same stories over and over, but get over it.

One thing I’ve noticed is that old ladies do not get visited much, even by their kids. They want to be, but they know they are a burden. I can’t even count how many times an old lady has told me her kids are too busy to come visit.

All of the excuses about being busy are just as true of me, yet I’m there and I’m not even related. They defend your absence and they defend you and it’s sad for both of us.

One lady tells me her son doesn’t visit because he’s allergic to cats. This lady is well aware of the fact that I’m allergic to cats, too. Yet I’m there pretty much every week petting her cat who has, of course, taken a liking to me.

Grow up kids! Especially you men. Visit your mother. If I can visit your mom, there’s no reason why you can’t. If mom lives too far away, then visit some other old lady and still find a way to talk with your mom.

And, while you’re there. put some real Coke in the fridge, some pastor will appreciate it.

Vanity, Vanity

I am reading Ecclesiastes with my 8-year old son. It’s funny. He’s trying to figure out why everything is meaningless, how can the Bible say that? “Who wrote this book again?” is his frequent question.

Ecclesiastes is one of my favorite books. I believe it presents the question that the rest of the Bible answers. If we just die and are forgotten, what’s the point?

Solomon’s answer is that nothing on this earth is the point. Everything on earth falls apart, dies, and melts away even out of our memory. Enjoy the good bits, but understand that even they are meaningless.

This is mind-blowing to an 8-year old. Life is open before him, there are so many things to learn and do. Then he’s told that all of it is meaningless.

Some Christians attempt to say that Ecclesiastes cannot be the mindset of a believer. I disagree whole-heartedly. be not conformed to the world; if all things will be dissolved, what manner of life ought we to live; no man can serve God and mammon, etc. It’s kind of a huge point in the Bible.

My son, growing in a culture that tells him to succeed, get educated, be a star, go for it, dream big, etc, needs to hear that all this is blather. Eternal things are the only things that matter, go after these.

Eight-year olds are not the only ones who need to hear this message.

Merry Christmas Anti-Itchers

Christmas is the time when we remember that God took on Himself human flesh and dwelt among us. The primary focus of Christ’s coming was to die, but too often we skip from birth to death with Jesus.

Take, for instance, the Apostle’s Creed. Mark the words:

Who was conceived by the Holy Ghost, born of the virgin Mary, suffered under Pontius Pilate, was crucified, dead, and buried

Notice anything about the life of Christ according to the Apostle’s Creed? He was born and then boom, there He is suffering before Pilate as if nothing else happened. As if none of His life has any import at all whatsoever.

Which begs the question, why do the Gospels contain so much other information about Him? Mark and John even skip right over Christ’s birth. Why do we make so much over the beginning and the end and drop the middle?

Christ tells us why He came, why we have all that other information about Him:

*”I came not to send peace, but a sword.”
*”I came not to call the righteous, but sinners to repentance.”
*”I came down from heaven, not to do mine own will, but the will of him that sent me.”
*”I came not to judge the world, but to save the world.”

Jesus Christ came and lived to show us what it was like to obey the Father’s will, to give your life for others, to demonstrate the cost involved in truly doing God’s will.

We skip this part because it hurts. We don’t mind Christ being hurt for our sins, but us getting hurt? We’d rather not.

Christ came to be an example that we should follow His steps. Paul says to follow him as he follows Christ. We are to be built up into Christ with His mind dwelling in us. Hard to do that if you don’t know where He went or what He thought.

There are many reasons why Christ came. Ultimately it was for salvation to be offered to the whole world. But Christ also demonstrates how to live post-salvation.

Our fixation on the act of salvation far overshadows the life of salvation and I believe this distorts our view of the life of Christ. Celebrate the whole thing, not just the part where He’s a helpless baby or a helpless one being crucified.

What do You Want to be When you Grow Up?

“What are you gonna do when you grow up?”

This question is foisted upon kids for years, increasingly as they get closer to graduation. Inevitably, this question is answered with a career of some sort.

This is how we’ve come to understand the question and we’ve told our kids that the whole point of education is so they can get a job. Kids are just potential moneymakers.

“When you’re on your deathbed no one ever wishes they spent more time at the office” is the cute bumper sticker we all agree with and few live by.

Leading our kids to believe that jobs and careers define them is a travesty of the first nature. Find me one verse in the Bible that says what you do as a job is what defines you and shapes your life.

Next time you’re talking to kids and ask this question, push them past the career answer, really ask them who they want to be when the grow up. Use it as an opportunity to talk about being like Christ.

OK, corny sermonizing now done.

Not “Instead Of” But “For”

If Substitutionary Atonement is for real then Christ could only die for the elect. If Christ literally took the place of each of the elect then salvation is not actually available for all.

This is Calvinist error that is so blatantly contradictory to Scripture it’s mind-boggling to me.

A better way to view it is to see a substitution of punishment, rather than a substitution of persons. Faith is always the issue. When faith is placed in the substitutionary punishment–a lamb did not die instead of a person, but dies for a person; Christ did not die instead of a sinner dying, He died for the sinner–salvation is procured.

Christ died, not in place of the elect but for humanity. Therefore, each human has the choice to put faith in Christ. You can take eternity in hell or you can apply the blood of Christ and the wrath of God passes over.

Christ dying instead of a person means only the people Christ died for are saved, which removes all option or choice. The offer of salvation to all is a sham and God sending His Son because He loved the world is meaningless. Calvinists are good with this. I am not.

I am now done picking on this issue of Calvinist error for the time being.

Justice Over Love–Why I’m not a Calvinist

What did God the Father feel when Christ was on the Cross? Some of the answers I’ve heard:

*ANGER–God the Father was filled with wrath, so mad about sin He had to kill someone. Jesus stepped in and took the wrath even though He never sinned. This shows just how out of control angry the Father was.

*PLEASURE–The Father was happy about Christ’s death and it satisfied an inner longing to avenge sin. Isaiah 53:10 says so–God was happy about all this.

*IGNORE–The Father turned away, couldn’t even look at what was happening and ignored the pain of His Son.

There may be truth to these ideas, but I think, when stressed out-of-place, they give the wrong idea. He may have felt all these things, there is a biblical case for each perhaps, but I think there is one word that sums it up, that if we make sure to include in our explanation of what went on, it clarifies a lot.

“Therefore doth my Father love me, because I lay down my life.” If love is not the center of what we see going on at the cross then we’ve missed the boat.

Many boil it all down to justice, which makes God cold and hard, uncaring and outrageously consumed with anger, an abusive father who enjoys beating his kid. The chart below is borrowed from a Calvinist reader of the blog and demonstrates my disagreement.

Many make love an element and justice the main thing, it’s the foundation of Calvinism, in fact, and is why Calvin burned people at the stake–justice trumps love. There are a few verses that say Christ died for justice, but many more that link Christ’s death with love.

We must be careful of these things. Our beliefs shape who we are. Emphasizing justice over love is one of the main reasons I’m not a Calvinist. The Calvinist God is not loving. Calvinists’ attempt to convince me he is, but their doctrine disagrees with their sentiment.

Limited Atonement’s Need for Subsitutionary Atonement

Limited Atonement is the reason the theory of Substitutionary Atonement was invented. It goes like this:

Limited Atonement says that Christ only died for the elect, therefore atonement is not really for sin but for the sinner. If it were for sin then all sin could be atoned for, but if it’s for the sinner it can only be for those who get saved.

If Christ literally took the exact place of a sinner, then when Christ died, all sinners who benefit from atonement were died for and no others.

If a person has a problem with Calvinism, as I’m sure you’re aware I do, that person will also have a problem with Substitutionary Atonement. The Bible says Christ died for the sins of the whole world.

John affirms directly that Christ did not just die for the elect, “he is the propitiation for our sins: and not for ours only, but also for the sins of the whole world.”

However, Calvinism, which frequently views scripture as bein allegorical even in places where it’s not contextually obvious the Scriptures are being allegorical, does not take 1 John 2:2 literally.

They either fudge with what “world” means or they say this is a very general thing, or they’ll admit that Christ actually did die for the sins of the world and thus deny Calvinism while continuing to hold to it.

However, if you see that Christ’s substitution was not a substitution of the sinner for Jesus but a substitution of the punishment for sin–the shedding of Christ’s blood in place of eternal hell–the dilemma is solved nicely.

Sin, Sacrifice and Faith

How did sacrifices suffice to forgive sin?

I have no idea.

Why can Christ’s sacrifice take away sins?

I have no idea.

I can’t explain it. I can try. I can give you nice sounding answers about mercy, love, justice, blood, etc. I can quote what theologians say about it so I don’t have to think any further on it. But honestly, still, why does it work?

The best answer I can come up with is this: because God said so.

Faith comes by hearing and hearing by the word of God. If God says to do animal sacrifices, then do animal sacrifices. If He says to place faith in the blood and resurrection of Jesus Christ, then do that.

Faith is the main issue behind it all. I know there is no other solution for escaping hell than to fully trust Jesus Christ in all He is and all He did.

Bringing thousands of dead animals may not mean anything. Making lofty pronouncements about happy Jesus thoughts may not avail. But faith secures the grace that saves.

Misplaced Emphasis of Substitutionary Atonement

Substitutionary Atonement is an attempt to explain what God accomplished through the death of Christ. It’s a fine attempt to explain a deep subject, but I do think it misses the point.

Substitutionary Atonement is a theory of atonement. As we know from bashing evolution, theories are not laws! It’s an attempt to explain waiting for verification.

The point most get from substitutionary atonement is this: Christ died in my place all I do is enjoy the bennies. (For those of you who don’t read the NIV, “bennies” is slang for “benefits.”)

Christ did not “die in my place so I didn’t have to.” This can be proven by the fact that all people die. The wages of sin is death; the gift of God is eternal life. “Death” here must refer to eternal death, separation from God, eternal torment.

When Christ died on the cross He did not go to hell for eternity for me. He did not “take the punishment I deserved” as is often said. The punishment I deserve is eternal hell, Christ did not take that for me.

What Christ did is offer me the opportunity to escape eternal hell by faith in His blood and resurrection. Christ died for our sins and upon faith in Him, we die too! Observe the Pauline language on the subject:

“our old man is crucified with him, that the body of sin might be destroyed, that henceforth we should not serve sin.”

“I am crucified with Christ.”

“they that are Christ’s have crucified the flesh with the affections and lusts.”

When Christ died, by faith, I identify with His death and die with Him. He did not die in my place but rather He died that I might join Him there. When I was crucified with Christ, I was put to death to sin, I am dead to sin but alive unto God.

The problem with most explanations of Substitutionary Atonement is that it leaves out the fact that believers died there too, not just Christ for me. Perhaps this is what has led to such ineffective Christian living.

First we emphasize His death way over His resurrection life. “Christ died for me” is oft quoted, certainly more than “Christ lives for me,” yet both are equally emphasized by Paul.

Secondly, if we put as much emphasis on our death with Christ as much as we emphasize Christ dying in our place, perhaps we would see that we can indeed have power over sin, not because of us, but because us is dead and Christ is life!

Reactionary Atonement

So, why did the Reformers call Christ’s death an “atonement” when the Bible says Christ’s death was way better than atonement?

The Reformation was a reaction against Catholic error. This was a good thing, and yet all movements that are reactionary tend to be built against something rather than for something.

Catholicism taught that sin must be worked off, either by penance, purchase of indulgences, or in purgatory. Either way, sin was a debt to be paid.

The Reformers, seeing the error in this thinking, said that Christ paid the debt, He satisfies God’s payment for sin. Christ’s death was seen as a legal operation in which an offended God is now bought off and made happy.

But using sacrifices as our picture, these did not pay for sin, they did not pay a debt to God. The amount an animal cost was not what forgave sin. Israelites offered many sacrifices that God did not accept. Faith was the issue.

God said to do sacrifices, people of faith did sacrifices, and only then did these sacrifices atone for sin. Christ’s death is now the point of reference for our faith. We should not view this as Jesus buying off God, but rather as self-identification with Christ’s death and resurrection.

“Christ died for our sins so we don’t have to” is often the idea, which denies the particular reality that all die. The wages of sin is death and we all die! Christ’s death does not remove our death, His death invites us to die early!

Christ did not “die in our place;” rather He died that we might join Him in that death. All believers die with Christ and are raised up with Christ. His death is not an abstract, judicial theory, but rather a new reality. Don’t cheapen it.

Christ’s Death is Better Than Atonement

Christ’s death was not an atonement and the New Testament never speaks of it this way. The blood of bulls and goats covered sin, but those sacrifices had to continually be offered because atonement wasn’t enough.

Christ died once and He did not cover sins, He removed them. The classic text to grasp this distinction is Hebrews 10. Here are the highlights:

10:1–those sacrifices can never make the comers thereunto perfect
10:4–it is not possible that the blood of bulls and of goats should take away sins
10:6–God had no pleasure in burnt offerings and sacrifice
10:10–we are sanctified by the body of Christ once for all
10:12–Christ offered His body one time as a sacrifice for sin
10:14–by one sacrifice He perfected forever those that are sanctified
10:17–God will not remember sins and iniquities any more
10:18–where remission of sins is there is no more sacrifice

Christ’s death is not an atonement, it is a removal of sin, which is completely different and, in fact, the whole point of Hebrews 10! We are placed in Christ, sanctified to Him, and are thus free from sin as He is.

The fact that we go on calling His death “Substitutionary Atonement” is merely one more example of theology gone bad. Words mean things. Why do we use a word to describe Christ’s death that the Bible does not use in that context and goes to great lengths to prove is way better than that word?!

We need to think rightly. To understand God, we must understand Him according to what He has revealed of Himself. Don’t mess with what has been revealed.

Atonement is Not New Testamentish

Atonement is not a New Testament word. The KJV accidentally translates it one time in Romans 5:11 in place of reconciliation.

The question is then: is atonement a NT concept at all?

Our immediate answer is, “Well yeah, of course, duh.” We all know about substitutionary atonement and we’ve heard it so often we assume it’s in there. Is Christ’s death an atonement?

My answer is “no.”

Atonement means “a covering.” It was applied to the sacrifice of animals which could never take away sins, they merely covered the sins. Romans 3:25 speaks of Christ accomplishing the remission of sins that are past.

The sins of the past refers, in my opinion, to the sins of the OT, which were atoned for, covered by, the blood of animals, but ultimate deliverance was in the blood of Christ.

Furthermore, if Christ was accomplishing atonement one would think that His death would occur on the Day of Atonement, Yom Kippur. But it does not, instead it happened on The Passover.

The point of The Passover was that the blood allowed the Israelites to get out of Egypt alive and escape bondage. This is the picture of what Christ’s death is, not the Day of Atonement.

Christ does not cover sin as OT sacrifices did. No, Christ’s death is our deliverance from slavery to sin and death. When we believe we are placed into the Body of Christ, we are identified with His death and resurrection, we rise up to new life.

Atonement doesn’t do this; death and rebirth do.

The Point of Faith is To Know God

What’s the whole point of faith? From my reading of Scripture it seems that knowing God is the whole point.

Old Testament faith is usually proved by sacrifices, so we think. Yet the prophets repeatedly tell people God is tired of your sacrifices, they aint workin. “I desired mercy, and not sacrifice; and the knowledge of God more than burnt offerings.”

Eventually God destroys His people with judgment, why? “6My people are destroyed for lack of knowledge.”

Abraham made some mistakes, yet he was the friend of God. Moses blew it, yet God talked to him as one speaks to a friend. David stumbled, yet he was a man after God’s own heart. Seeking God covers a multitude of sins.

“The fear of the LORD is the beginning of wisdom: and the knowledge of the holy is understanding.” Faith comes by hearing and hearing by the word of God. Faith means hearing God’s word and one who has “heard the words of God” knows “the knowledge of the most High.”

Paul’s greatest desire is “that I may know Him.” One of Peter’s parting thoughts was, “grow in grace, and in the knowledge of our Lord and Saviour Jesus Christ.”

What is the point of your “faith?” To know thyself? To know how to love your wife, or know how to balance your checkbook, or to know how to get out of debt or to know how to prayerfully scam your way to a BMW or to know some guy’s theology?

Or is your faith about one thing and one thing only: to know Him? God is a rewarder of those who diligently seek Him.

Scholarly Blather and Theology

Last week I listened to a scholar talk about the Gospel and Paul and what it all “really means.” I find him to be a bit wacky, but wacky gets attention.

His take is that the Church, meaning “you, you idiot,” have been warped by a “post-enlightenment mindset” causing you, you idiot, to miss the point of the Gospel and Paul.

What we need to do to truly understand Paul and the Gospel, is to go back to the first century Jewish mindset when these things were spoken. It is only by doing this that we can truly see what the Gospel means.

The main problem I have is that he too has been influenced by a post-enlightenment mindset, which quite frankly, is the basis for him deconstructing the Gospel and being the sole brain who has figured it out.

Furthermore, why is it that his understanding of the first century Jewish understanding should be my understanding? Was he there? Is he a first century Jew?

Seems to me, “what the Gospel really means from the first century Jewish mindset” are his words that actually mean what the Gospel means according to me. How can I verify his take with a first century Jewish mind? But I suppose the need for evidence is just another dark mark of post-enlightenment thinking. Shame on me.

Furthermore, the first century Jewish mindset rejected Christianity, that’s kind of the main point of Acts. Why is their mindset the best then?

Anyhow, soap boxes are fun. I’m irritated. Irritated soap boxes are more fun. Peace I leave with you.

The Temple of God, Propitiation, Reconciliation and You

Biting off a large chunk today, hope I can chew it!

Romans 3:21-26 is perhaps the most important passage in Scripture about “the atonement.” It brings up the word “propitiation.” This word has to do with the Mercy Seat, the covering of the Ark of the Covenant in the Holy of Holies.

It was the place where blood was sprinkled and where God promised to meet with His people. It is the place of propitiation. It was in the temple.

Believers are in Christ and His Spirit is in us, therefore, are you ready? Chewing along with me? We are the temple. Therefore, the place of propitiation is now in us.

Chew and swallow. Review–atonement is propitiation. Propitiation has to do with the mercy seat in the temple. We are now the temple.

Therefore, we now become an integral part in bringing people to God in right relationship. One might even say that God is “entrusting to us the message of reconciliation.”

And perhaps further that “Therefore, we are ambassadors for Christ, God making his appeal through us. We implore you on behalf of Christ, be reconciled to God.”

Again, our being placed in Christ has some weightiness to it! We, Believers, the Body of Christ, are part of the mercy seat’s operation, we are part of the place where the world meets God. Wow.

Ye Are Gods

“I have said, Ye are gods; and all of you are children of the most High.” That’s Psalm 82:6. Know what to do with this one? Neither did the Jews! Jesus pulls this one out and death threats ensued.

Let’s examine this though, maybe come to an understanding better than the Jews of Jesus’ day. Psalm 82 is about the “congregation of the mighty,” God’s people. He tells them to do justly and to take care of the poor, this shows you are one of God’s kids–ye are gods because you have God, hear God and act like God.

Matthew 10 says that if you receive one of Jesus’ guys you receive God. Matthew 10 ends with giving a drink to one of these little ones, looking out for the despised, similar to Psalm 82.

No doubt, whatever I say from this point forward will be misinterpreted and viewed as heretical. I feel somewhat heretical saying it, in fact!

Our identification of God is so complete that we become Him, ye are gods. If we are received; God is received. The Jews didn’t like that either. When Jesus explained this one “they sought again to take him: but he escaped out of their hand.”

There is a union with Christ in faith that is more vital then we ever hear about. Do we dare believe it and act on it?

Receiving His Is Receiving Him

Being in Christ is a cool thing, often minimized because we’re too busy talking about whether Christ is in us. Here’s an aspect of the coolness.

If we are in Christ then we are identified with Him, which is cool! Jesus saw this union very practically when sending His disciples out:

“He that receiveth you receiveth me, and he that receiveth me receiveth him that sent me.”

To receive a follower of Christ is to receive God! I didn’t say it, Jesus did!

But to be one of these followers one must, as the verse before says, “He that findeth his life shall lose it: and he that loseth his life for my sake shall find it.”

Your life is lost in Christ. It’s cool to be a follower of Christ, a representative of His, but unfortunately, this means you can’t be a representative of yourself.

But what would you rather have–your finite, whiny self or the infinite, all-supplying God? Careful now, the answer has implications.

The Gospel and Being In Christ

There is much talk in evangelism of “inviting Jesus into your heart.” This seems to mainly be taken from Revelation 3:20.

Certainly there is an aspect of the Gospel that relates to Jesus being in believers, but another aspect is the believer being in Jesus! When was the last time you heard a Gospel invitation that invited you into Christ, rather than inviting Christ into you?

I think we gravitate toward Jesus being in us because it makes more of us. Hey, I have Jesus in me, how cool am I? Whereas being placed into Christ sort of makes more of Christ, we might just get lost there, how can I brag about that?

When presenting the Gospel, people want to feel better, or at least those who share the Gospel assume people want to feel better. “You can have God in you” sounds better than “You can disappear in God.” Who knows if humanistic narcissists would hear that!

Getting lost in Christ is a beautiful picture, one our flesh will struggle rejoicing in. Both elements are there–Christ in us/us in Christ–one does not cancel the other. But let’s make sure we emphasize both, not just the one that makes people feel better about themselves.

Biblical Reasons to Evangelize

Evangelism is a given in Christian thinking. We all know that we’re supposed to evangelize and most guilt for not doing it more.

Yet when one looks at Scripture about evangelism, it’s amazing how little is said. Let me begin by saying I think that’s because evangelism is assumed by Scripture. But let me also add that there isn’t much there about it.

There is the “Great Comission,” but even this is general in scope, directed at the group of believers rather than an individual, meaning I don’t think each individual is called to go to all the nations.

There are those gifted to be evangelists in Ephesians 4. Paul tells Timothy to do the work of an evangelist. Romans 10 says people won’t believe unless someone tells them. There is a blessing for those who save souls. The man who pulls the soul from fire covers sins.

What verses encourage you to evangelize? There aren’t many there, in my opinion. There sure are more verses about how we live our faith more than how we talk about it.

Agree? Disagree?

Church-Goers and Grace

One thing that should make church-goers tremble, even if just briefly, is that Jesus was most gracious to heathen scum sinners and basically insulting to faithfully religious folk.

Skipping church is not the answer, by the way. Nor is the answer to run out and sin quick so you can be humbled by God. Although I will maintain that certain religious folks could use a good dose of sin to get off their self-righteousness.

There is a common theme running from the prophets, through John the Baptist, through Jesus Christ and the apostles: God hates self-righteous people. There is no group of people who gets more venom from Scripture than them.

Makes it seem that one of the last places on earth you’re likely to encounter grace is among a group of “believers.” Indeed. Been there.

“I came not to call the righteous, but sinners to repentance.” Self-righteous people can’t repent, they don’t see the need for it. To counter that, Jesus confronted them, boldly showing that they were missing the mark.

Their answer? Kill Him! Meanwhile, sinners flocked to Him, gladly gulping down His gracious words. Which are you? What message do the folks around you need to hear? Got enough faith to pull that message off?

Repentance, Grace and God

“Repent,” when used in the Old Testament, is largely related to God not going through with judgment. He was on the brink of destroying someone and then changed His mind.

As we know, Israel eventually got God’s judgment. Jeremiah witnessed the final destruction and lets the people know the reason why it finally came is because God said, “I am tired of relenting!”

There’s only so many times God could make Himself not judge, to not give them what they deserved. The next verse then says he is going to destroy them because, “They did not repent of their ways.”

Here’s the deal, God got tired of repenting while the people never once repented! This sort of thing, when dragged on for an amazing amount of years, finally wore God out, so to speak. He’s done now, He’s had it up to here.

God does repent, when repentance refers to judgment. People are supposed to repent, when repentance refers to sin. When people refuse to repent of sin, God refuses to repent of judgment.

Next time you live an entire day in Godless living and sin, and then put a verse on Facebook about God’s grace, remember this truth. God is indeed gracious, but even He, the Infinite One, has His limits.


* Huffington Post, of all places, has an article on how to shrink your church through dropping pragmatism and sentimentalism. I think he’s on to something but disagree that the church is here for the life of the world rather than for the saints (read Ephesians 4).

* List of saddest and happiest cities in America. Guess which one has the most cities in the Sunny South!?

* Hallelujah Chorus disasters.

* Great music video about the government’s meddling in my lightbulb choice. Word. Here’s one legally blind guy not happy about not being able to see well once incandescents are banned.

Smoothing the Gospel

Preached about John the Babdist last Sunday from Luke 3. John’s job was to prepare the way for the Messiah, to bring the mountains low and the valleys high to level the way, so the “rough ways shall be made smooth.”

This is a quote from Isaiah 40. John makes things smooth so the Messiah is accepted. Smoothness showed up in Isaiah ten chapters earlier too: “Prophesy not unto us right things, speak unto us smooth things, prophesy deceits.”

The people of Israel prefer to hear smooth words rather than the words of true prophecy because that stuff is mean. John, the greatest prophet, comes along smoothing the way for Messiah. Is this the smoothness they had in mind?

Judging by the fact that John ended up in prison shortly after he began his ministry and the Messiah he was smoothing the way for was crucified, I’m guessing not.

John’s smoothness was preparing the way for God’s work; the smoothness Israel desired was for their benefit, so they could do what they wanted without guilt and unpleasantness.

Today’s evangelism and Gospel proclamation, which is it more like? Evangelism books are more about sales and communication than they are about the Gospel. The Gospel is an offense, to smooth it for easier swallow is to change its inherent nature.

Man wants a smooth Gospel, one that doesn’t hurt, one that has no cost, no strings, no pain, and you might as well forget repentance and all that talk about dying to self and sin.

John’s smoothness was service to God, not a service to man. He didn’t make it smooth to get followers, he made it smooth for God to deal with souls. John’s smoothness is the smoothness we should aim for.

Unfortunately, John ended up in prison and soon lost his head, which is why today’s Christians settle for the deceitful smoothness of the modern humanistic Gospel.


* Joel Osteen is to get his own reality TV show following him and some people around the country on mission’s trips. “It turns (mission trips) into an entertainment model, where you feel good watching it, people feel good doing it and Joel Osteen gets exposure.” Entertainment, feeling good and getting a man exposure, everything the Church was founded to do. Amen

* Ten quotes Mark Twain did not say.

* Theological arguments drive many people to the Catholic Church, which maintains a semblance of authority, a resting place for all arguments to be settled. This article maintains that our evangelical arguing is a testing of the spirits to rest in the Spirit, not a human institution.

God and Mercy Killing

Psalm 136 repeats “for His mercy endures forever” in every verse, which seems to be making a point of some sort, not exactly sure what.

This phrase makes sense after saying that God is good, He gives us food, He saves us and happy things like that. But then there are other phrases, some of which make you pause when the next phrase is “His mercy endures forever.” Phrases like:

“To him that smote Egypt in their firstborn:
for his mercy endureth for ever
“To him which smote great kings:
for his mercy endureth for ever:
“And slew famous kings:
for his mercy endureth for ever.”

It reads funny that God wiped out bad guys, His mercy endures forever. Unfortunately, it reminds of Monty Python and the holy hand grenade, reading from the Book or Armaments 2:9-21:

“‘O Lord, bless this Thy hand grenade that, with it, Thou mayest blow Thine enemies to tiny bits in Thy mercy.”

I know, I know, that’s not funny.

Seldom do we consider judgment to be a demonstration of God’s mercy, yet obviously it is. Salvation’s flip-side is judgment for someone; both are necessary and evidence of God’s mercy.

Dead sinners are one more blessing to righteous people.

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