Friday, April 10, 2015

Heaven vs Hell - Love vs Wrath - God & Man

(Words in Italic indicate links you can follow)

I watched a documentary last night about the history of Christianity.  It saddened me as well as enlightened me. It made me painfully aware of certain realities. It makes me sad that Christianity was used to harm people groups. It makes me sad that even today, Christ is misrepresented by fake Christians as well as well intentioned but misled Christians. It happens when we take it upon ourselves to "do for God" instead of being available as the hands and feet for God to use as He leads us and directs us by His Spirit. (Being His instrument of righteousness) This is a foundational issue. Love should be the cornerstone and central theme of our lives. It should motivate us to do what we do and to say what we say. We should act out of love and not condemnation.

In watching this documentary, much of the information was not new to me. I had to appreciate the viewpoint of the author, and at the same time, I had to watch it with great discernment and objectivity so as to not fall into deception and believe lies. I was on guard as I watched it. All that to say, I was saddened by it. Then this morning, I was listening to Adrian Rogers on the radio. It reminded me of the coming judgement.  So the combination of the two is what prompted me to write this today.

It broke my heart when the documentary said that Christians are speaking hate when they say that certain people will go to hell. For those of us who truly believe there will be hell for eternity after death, we also believe everyone deserves to know how to avoid it. Even if you do not believe as I believe, please know this: I believe to the core of my being that there is a destination that exist for those who choose to not believe. That destination in my reality will be eternal agony. Now if I believe this to the core of my being, and I know an alternative to this judgement, MY LOVE is what motivates me to share this with others, not hate. It is purely that I would not want anyone to go to this eternal destination without knowing they had a choice. That is the plain and simple truth about it from my perspective. I wish there was a way to demonstrate how motivated by love this type of sharing is. I do not hate those that believe differently. I love them, but I desire to share with them the truth of what I know. I hear people say truth is relative, but in my heart and my mind, I have settled the matter. I have chosen this day whom I will serve. I have settled where I will live for eternity. I wish all would join me there. However, I will join God in respecting anyone's decision either way. It is each person's own choice.

It is my belief that there is a God who loves me, and there is an enemy who hates me. I choose to spend my eternity with the one who loves me. I believe that Jesus Christ died on the cross to pay the penalty of my sin because I could never be right with God on my own. (I could not satisfy God's wrath toward my sin - only Christ's sacrifice could do that) The God who created me and all the universe, desires to be in relationship with me. This relationship is made possible through His Son's payment for my sinfulness and by His Holy Spirit filling me. (Just as one can be filled with wine and be controlled by it "being unable to control their own behavior" - I want to be filled with the Holy Spirit and be controlled by Him "being unable to control my own behavior") Once I have accepted this wonderful gift of right standing before a holy God, I am free to live in relationship with Him and His wrath is turned away from me. I am at peace with Him, and that peace is worth more than gold. This is where He equips me to serve and live out my purpose on this earth. My main purpose is to love Him and to love others.  It is not loving to act hateful to the world because of their sin, but it is not loving to know the truth yet not share it with others.

If you are reading this and getting a sick feeling in your gut, (a feeling of guilt or anxiousness)  please do not get offended at me. Instead, confess to God your sinful estate, accept that God made a way for you to live free of your guilt by sending Jesus to die for you, confess with your mouth that He is the Lord of your life, and join me in absolute peace and liberty. I do not judge you. I don't know your heart. I know that even after I accepted Christ as my Savior, I sinned and still fall way short of the glory worthy of God. I messed up more ways than you can count. But the scripture says that there is no condemnation for those who are in Jesus Christ, and that is where I am found, in Christ. This in no way gives me permission to sin, it is just an antidote for the human condition. Praise God for that! Being free in Christ, gives me freedom to sin or not to sin. If I choose to live by the Spirit, I am a slave to Christ. Living full of the Holy Spirit (controlled by the Spirit) will enable me to live free from sin, and enable me to crucify my own fleshly desires. If I choose to walk in sin, it means I will be held captive by it, therefore I will be a slave to sin, and my own fleshly desires will control me. (but this is a topic all its own)

If there was a plague sweeping across the earth where everyone who got it, died from it, and I knew about the antidote; Should I tell others? Would it be considered hateful to tell them the plague is going to kill them? Would it be elitist or hateful to say that I have a remedy for their fatal condition? Or would everyone simply want to receive this lifesaving solution?

This is how I see my salvation and eternal destination. I see it as the remedy to what ails us. We are sin-sick, and we are dying. We are held captive and in slavery to our own fleshly demands. If you were born, then you will die. If you are flesh and blood, that flesh will decay, and the blood will dry up one day. However, I believe there is a part of you that will go on for eternity. God says in His Word in Eccl. 3 that He has set eternity in our hearts. Believe as you choose, but if I am correct, wouldn't you want to know about it. How hateful it would be of me to withhold this information from you. If this information, this antidote, could have offered you eternal life instead of eternal torture and torment; I would be the worst kind of person not to share it with you. Now I cannot speak for everyone, but I can tell you that throughout the course of history, many have known this truth and tried to get the word out even at the cost of their own life or livelihood. It is the message of the gospel. It is the good news! It is the reason for the hope I have.

There have been dark times in the history of Christianity. I do not believe God commanded Christians to kill people groups that wouldn't follow Christ, or even stripping them of their rights. Would God want these people groups to know the truth? Yes. But I do not believe He would have led the Christians to exterminate all non-converts. I do not believe that was from God!!!! That is someone taking it upon themselves to do this evil falsely in His name.

God's message remains the same. The message is a message of love, not hate. The only hate is toward that of sin. There is NO room for hate toward the sinner. NONE!!!  Hate the sin of the sinner. The hardest work of the Christian will be determining how to accomplish this task.

There have been and will continue to be wolves in sheep's clothing taking the message of the gospel, and tweaking it to their own advantage. They will use it for their own personal power grabs and gains. Many times, it has been used for behavior modification to control the masses. But I can tell you NOW, the God that I serve and love will never force you to follow Him. He is patient, He will draw you, He will discipline you because of His love for you, He will try to convince you through various avenues motivated by His desire to be with you; but He will not force you to spend eternity with Him nor follow Him in this life. Therefore, I believe His followers should follow in that same manner. However, although He is a God of love, He is also full of wrath toward our sin. His love motivates Him to pursue us, but His perfectness, holiness and righteousness makes it impossible for our sinfulness to be in His presence. That is what I believe creates the wrath in Him; that our sin breaks our connectedness to Him. That is why we need a sacrificial payment-Christ.

Christianity has been hijacked many times in history. The documentary went on to talk about how throughout Christianity's history, there have been times where the Jews have been persecuted for crucifying Christ. I think this is incredibly ironic. According to scripture, gentiles who receive Christ have been grafted into the family as wild olive shoots into the olive tree that represents the Israelites.

Truth is, ALL of our ancestors crucified Jesus. ALL!!! Pontius Pilate sentenced him knowing He was an innocent man. He was a Roman governmental leader (A Gentile). The Roman guards were guilty of ripping His flesh when they beat and flogged Him and nailed Him to the cross. They were the ones to execute the orders handed down by the Roman government. (Gentiles) The Jews were the ones requesting His death. So truly all of our ancestors are guilty of fulfilling the execution of our Lord and Savior. But had they NOT done this, we would all be without hope. So instead of pointing fingers at any people group for the crucifixion, perhaps we should be extremely thankful. Instead of despising the executioner, be thankful. Instead of turning on each other, turn toward the solution, and say THANK YOU JESUS for being willing to do this for me. Thank you God for making a way. Thanks for saving me from myself! Thank you for satisfying the wrath of God since I could not!

SO on behalf of the misguided Christians throughout history, I am sorry for the misrepresentation of the wonderful hope that we have available. Many have come and gone who have harmed the advancement of this good news. Many have done harm in the name of Christ Jesus, and to this I say "I am so so Sorry". I know that is not enough, but it comes from my heart. However, please do not use that as an excuse to reject the One they misrepresent. Any Christian you encounter is only as Christ-like as he is willing to love, surrender, obey and follow the One who saved him.

Each of us will be held accountable for the times we have turned away non-believers by our words and actions. There is a judgement for the believer where God will deal with each of us on this matter. I desire to live a life worthy of God and to not become a stumbling block for those who may come to know Him.

Believers: will you join me in living a life that draws others to Christ.  Let's not be a Christian version of bug repellent. Let's be that sweet aroma mentioned in 2 Cor. 2:14-17. See also this expanded version.

Friday, April 3, 2015

Bedrock and the Living Stones

I decided to try something different in my blog post today.  If you would like to listen to it instead of read it, there is an attachment for you to use.

I am pondering the scripture in Matthew 16 where Peter and Jesus are talking, and Jesus asked the disciples, "who do you say that I am." Peter says, "You are the Christ, the son of the living God." Then Jesus tells him that this statement is the foundation He will build His church upon. Jesus responded, “Simon son of Jonah, you are blessed because flesh and blood did not reveal this to you, but My Father in heaven. And I also say to you that you are Peter, and on this rock I will build My church, and the forces of Hades will not overpower it. I will give you the keys of the kingdom of heaven...
I looked at this scripture on Bible Gateway in the  Holman version , it can be noted that below the scripture shows some interesting definitions for Peter and for Rock.  Peter is a rock, but the rock is noted as Bedrock.

Reflect on the fact that Christ is the ROCK, the cornerstone. He is the stone the builders rejected, but He ended up being the perfect fit for the temple.  And we are His living stones, and He is using us to build his church.

I was thinking:  The cornerstone didn't require any carving or chipping away in order to fit.  But the rest of the stones had to be chipped away in order to fit into the building.  Isn't that just like us?  Christ is the only one that is perfect.  He came perfectly packaged. but for the rest of us, through the course of our lives, we have to be chipped away in order to fit into the building that Christ is building.

Food for thought.

Footnotes:  In ancient times the cornerstone was the stone at the corner of two walls that united them. It was the visible corner of the foundation of the building and the starting point of all future building above the foundation. It was the most costly stone because of its beauty and strength. It was also the largest, most solid and carefully constructed stone.

Verses about the cornerstone

What does it mean that Jesus Christ is the cornerstone?

See historical explanation in the 4th paragraph.