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On Facebook someone posted the most irreverent question I’ve seen in a while.

How can a God who Commands us to love our neighbors as ourselves be so limited in His own ability to love that He could love only some enough to elect them for salvation and then be able to hate some even lesser to reprobate them.

I’d add a comment here about how I felt about it but I’m very tired. That said, here’s my response:

In brief, here’s the way it works. God makes the rules. He’s God. He describes himself in scripture as the potter whose creations complain that he’s made them as he has but he’s still the potter. He can do what he wants. To presume anything else is to presume that you know better than he does. Why does he allow kids to die from cancer? Why does he even allow cancer in the first place? It’s because he’s God. I won’t understand every thing about what he does and I’m glad for that. If he’s a truly holy and pure God, my corrupted mind won’t be able to understand all of it. When I look at all of the things that took place in my life when he converted me – all of the people and experiences involved that shaped me into the man I was, all of the struggles I endured that led me to the place where all I could do was finally surrender my life into the hands of my creator, despite all of it that I’d normally claim as terrible, I thank God for all of it. He is my creator. He is my king. Who am I, as a creature under his control to take in his air that he owns and allows me to use to give me life and use it to attack him or belittle his authority over me?

If left to our own devices we’d never “choose” him, because to do so would be to violate the core of the sinful man. Ask any atheist if they feel they’re forced to hate a God that they swear doesn’t even exist? God chooses, in his love, to save some so he can demonstrate his communicable attributes of grace and mercy. He allows others to go to hell, where they’d rather be, because of their own desire to be as far from him as they can manage. Read Romans 1:18-32. Time after time it’s not God forcing anyone to do anything – it’s him, loving them enough to allow them to have what they want. They WANT this. The wrath of God is revealed from heaven against ALL ungodliness and unrighteous of men, but they don’t care. They suppress the truth of who God is and willingly choose to walk in sin. His attributes are made clear to them and they choose to abandon all of it in pursuit of the lie that they can be their own gods and determine what is right and true by their own volition. So he gives them up to their desires time and again. God doesn’t throw people into hell, he allows them to proudly walk in and lock the door behind themselves. The right question here isn’t “how does God choose to punish anyone”, but ” why would God choose to save anyone?”. I’m a failure. I screw up all the time. I willingly sin because I want that temporary freedom that I think I’ll get and I only receive the reminder that it was not only bad for me, but that it violated the one who died in my place to save me. I should be incinerated where I stand every moment of every day. Even on my best moment and with my best intentions I’m still a thousand miles from anywhere near where I need to be. The fact that God chose to save me boggles my mind every moment of every day. But here’s the fact – he did this by his own power and to his own glory because I know that I’d never do it on my own, and I thank him for it because that’s literally all I can do. I can’t work it off and I’ll never be good enough to be worthy of his saving work on my behalf. And for that I praise him.

This is something that has come up a few times on Facebook and it seems to keep coming up so I figured I’d write about it here for easy access.

The term “peccability” is from the Latin term, “peccō”, which means “to sin”, or in this case, the capability of sinning. This is where we get the term that Martin Luther used, “Simul justus et peccator”, which describes the state of man in the “already and not yet” of our sanctification – we are “simultaneously justified, yet a sinner”. The peccability, or impeccability of Christ as it’s commonly stated, is where we have this discussion. The impeccabilty stance simply stated declares that Jesus is God and therefore incapable of sinning as it would violate his nature. Therefore Jesus is merely totally incapable of committing sin and any other view is negated. I think that this is a little naive. Don’t get me wrong – Jesus IS God. As God he cannot violate his own nature and, as that nature is the one which embodies perfect justice, and as the law giver for all of his creation, it would clearly violate that nature if he committed sin. My point is that his ability to sin is necessary to our salvation. Let me explain…

Jesus contained the moral breadth to sin and the physical capability to sin but chose not to at every moment of every day. As Adam’s selfish sin (to be like God) led him to sin, breaking his ability to choose not to sin (as the only person who could do that outside of Christ), we all are lost by his sin in the inheritance of our sin nature. Jesus, born without an earthly father, is the last man in this chain who could make that decision on his own, and as God he had the moral capability to keep from sinning. This is why not only Jesus’ death on the cross matters, but also why his perfect life does as well. It’s not merely enough for Jesus, as a robot who is incapable of sinning to merely exist, but his day by day, moment by moment choice not to sin is what grants his perfect life credence. Jesus’ life of perfect obedience on my behalf is transferred to me on the cross and my life of perfect disobedience is transferred to him. So Jesus had to have the capability to sin, but because he is God and therefore of a perfect moral character, he could choose at every moment to do that which honored God the most in each situation – in exactly the way that I can’t. Therefore, the peccabilty of Jesus is what makes my salvation possible, because he is the perfect lamb, the last Adam, and the end of my striving whose sacrifice on my behalf makes it possible for God to save a man like me.

To quote Charles Hodge:

The Mediator between God and man must be sinless. Under the law the victim offered on the altar must be without blemish. Christ, who was to offer Himself unto God as a sacrifice for the sins of the world, must be Himself free from sin. The High Priest, therefore, who becomes us, He whom our necessities demand, must be holy, harmless, undefiled, and separate from sinners. (Hebrews 7:26.) He was, therefore, “without sin.” (Hebrews 4:15; 1 Peter 2:22.) A sinful Saviour from sin is an impossibility. He could not have access to God. He could not be a sacrifice for sins; and He could not be the source of holiness and eternal life to his people. This sinlessness of our Lord, however, does not amount to absolute impeccability. It was not a non potest peccare. If He was a true man He must have been capable of sinning. That He did not sin under the greatest provocation; that when He was reviled He blessed; when He suffered He threatened not; that He was dumb, as a sheep before its shearers, is held up to us as an example. Temptation implies the possibility of sin. If from the constitution of his person it was impossible for Christ to sin, then his temptation was unreal and without effect, and He cannot sympathize with his people.

Hodge, C. (1997). Systematic theology (Vol. 2, p. 457). Oak Harbor, WA: Logos Research Systems, Inc

I’m not saying that Jesus would ever have sinned, nor that his nature would have allowed it, but just that it was possible from the sense that he made conscious decisions to only ever honor God first in all that he thought, said, and did. The implication here is that, as I mentioned before, his actions were real actions and not some pre-scripted process which would eliminate the depth of his compassion for mankind or his ability to relate to us in our struggles. Jesus’ active obedience hinges on his ability to disobey, and because he never sinned at all, we can reap the benefit of this, whereas in our own lives, we try to do our best and fail at every turn.

If, at mid-day, we either look down to the ground, or on the surrounding objects which lie open to our view, we think ourselves endued with a very strong and piercing eyesight; but when we look up to the sun, and gaze at it unveiled, the sight which did excellently well for the earth is instantly so dazzled and confounded by the refulgence, as to oblige us to confess that our acuteness in discerning terrestrial objects is mere dimness when applied to the sun. Thus too, it happens in estimating our spiritual qualities. So long as we do not look beyond the earth, we are quite pleased with our own righteousness, wisdom, and virtue; we address ourselves in the most flattering terms, and seem only less than demigods. But should we once begin to raise our thoughts to God, and reflect what kind of Being he is, and how absolute the perfection of that righteousness, and wisdom, and virtue, to which, as a standard, we are bound to be conformed, what formerly delighted us by its false show of righteousness will become polluted with the greatest iniquity; what strangely imposed upon us under the name of wisdom will disgust by its extreme folly; and what presented the appearance of virtuous energy will be condemned as the most miserable impotence. So far are those qualities in us, which seem most perfect, from corresponding to the divine purity.

Calvin, J. (1997). Institutes of the Christian Religion. Book 1, Chapter 1, Section 2. Bellingham, WA: Logos Bible Software.

So, a good friend of mine posted a link on Facebook to an article about the remake of the Left Behind movie. The review was as good as I could have hoped when a desire is made by Hollywood to remake a “Christian classic” so that people in the movie industry can line their pockets. You can find the review here.

That said, it brought up something that I’ve often talked about and thought it was a real thing but, it appears, it is not. I speak of the “apology gospel” or the “gospel of apology”. See, the crux of the first movie (you’ve seen it, right?) is when the lead role comes to faith in Christ. If you’ve read any of my posts you know how I feel about this and that it’s important that people understand what they’re saying when they say they have faith in Christ. Jesus himself placed a lot of emphasis on this in Luke 14:20-30, where he makes the point that no one jumps into something without first counting the cost to see whether or not they can complete what’s before them. People who do so are, in the eyes of the creator of all eternity, unworthy to enter into his rest.

So, what is this “apology gospel” then? I know you’ve all heard this. It starts off as a great conversation about Jesus or a great sermon about any number of topics but at the end there’s a bit of an odd transition, and you can see that everything before was all fluff – filler to get to the point. They say that Jesus is the son of God and that is important for you to know. They say that there are these things called “sins” and that everyone has committed them, and then apologize for having to tell you this, but you (even YOU) have maybe committed one of them as well. Maybe. Probably. BUT THERE IS GOOD NEWS! See, Jesus represents his Dad and has come here to save you from him. And there are some great benefits to this as well! See, he can fix your marriage. Financial woes? Man, we used to drive an old beater, but now we have a new Lexus! You know how my wife, Nancy, had that horrible accident, or you know how Joan couldn’t have kids? Now that she’s found Jesus my wife is all better, and Joan now has 7 kids! Praise God! So, would you, you know, consider Jesus too? He’s just up in heaven right now, waiting for you to choose him over porn, or that movie with an “r” rating, or, I don’t know, Pepsi. All you have to do is to close your eyes and follow along with this prayer thing. What? You don’t want to say it? That’s alright, just listen to what I say and “really mean it” and squeeze my hand, or raise your hand, or wink your eye for Jesus. That’ll be his queue and he’ll rush in the door to your heart and you’ll be a Christian forever! Yay Jesus!

Those reference? Heard them all. The Lexus one? Yup. The sickness one? Totally. Even the one about being barren. All of the “wink your eye” or “squeeze/raise your hand” as well. It’s all well and good, and churches and even people have little notches in their mind that they carve out to show how many ppl they’ve “brought to the Lord”, but it’s all for nothing. Absolutely nothing. Remember what I said before about Jesus and “counting the cost”? Every one but one of Jesus followers were murdered for their belief. Murdered. Their families were bereft of them because of their belief. John, the only one who didn’t die that way, had been placed inside a cauldron of boiling oil and emerged unharmed, so they banished him to an island to stop him from talking to people about Jesus. Further converts were dipped in wax and set on fire to burn alive at parties for the Roman emperor. Many were tossed to the lions or simply murdered in the street. Even today we have Christians in other countries who are murdered for their faith, stalwart defenders of their belief in Christ, even to death. Children of Christians are raped and murdered, their Christian parents crucified after watching their children violated before their eyes. Yet none of them recant their faith. This is pretty far from the “daddy got a new Lexus” and “every day is a Friday” mentality of the common American gospel of apology mentioned above. So, what is this message by which we have to count the cost of our discipleship, understanding that those who “put their hand to the plow and turns back are unworthy of the Kingdom of God (Luke 9:62)”.

The word “gospel” means “good news”. While it could be “good news” to have a new Lexus, that really means less than nothing in the grand scheme of God’s design. This goes all the way back to the Garden, where life first erupted on this planet of ours. God created the entire universe for the purpose of displaying his communicable attributes like longsuffering, mercy, and grace. He created everything and it was “very good”. The only thing that wasn’t very good was that man was alone. He created for him a helper, out of his side. He was incomplete without her and she without him. They worked together in union to glorify God. They then broke God’s only rule at the time and ushered in an entire history of pain, disappointment, and death. Pain in that we all equally share in the knowledge that we cannot ever please God on our own anymore. Disappointment in that we all know that what we see here is a fraction of the perfection that was available before the fall. And death since the consequence for sin (violation of God’s commandments), the just due for our crimes before him, is death. God, being perfect and the creator of all things, has the authority to define the rules and we, his creation, are to follow them. We have free will and choose of our own volition to disobey, though it’s not that we can even do it on our own, because our very nature – the who and what we are – leads us to divorce ourselves from dependence on him.

God, knowing this, promised to Eve, our first mother, that he would send a savior to save us from His wrath. He required that we have faith in him that this savior would come, and that we do our best to follow his commandments, but that it is the faith that God not only will send a savior but that he would be sufficient to exonerate us from our sins before him that is the main thing. Days turned into weeks, weeks into years, years into centuries. Things got so bad at one point that God erased the history of the Earth that was in a flood, destroying and burying all life outside of those whom he chose to save in the Ark.

Life began again, and, as before, people started off well and quickly went after their own desires despite what they had just witnessed God do to the world. People had families, families begot cities, cities begot nations, nations begot kings and monuments. God, again, chose a fledgling nation so he could showcase his glory through them. Promised people beyond number but the founding father of this nation never saw any of this develop outside of a life in the wilderness, where the only land he owned was where he buried his wife, despite having been shown the land that his descendants would inhabit. He had 2 sons, one because he was frustrated that God didn’t act when he wanted him to, and the second was the child that he had promised to him. His son, likewise, had two sons – not exactly the grand nation that was promised, but he, as did his father, had faith. His second son had 12 sons and they entered Egypt shortly before his death. Those 12 sons had their own children which begat more and more until the number reached about 2M at the end of 400 years. Then God stepped in and brought them into their own land through more miracles and promises fulfilled. Just as before, they fell back into old habits. New laws were given and broken, promises and covenants were made and within a generation merely forgotten. No one, it seemed, would care about the God who had saved them so many times before. Eventually they were even completely removed from their capital city and it was razed, though, as he had promised, he kept a few who trusted in him who were able to inhabit the land but their sovereign nation was removed.

Then 400 years of silence.

Suddenly a star, a birth to a young teenage couple, and a promise is fulfilled. God has entered the universe as a man. Jesus is born to this couple, is raised in relative obscurity, living among the people he intends to save. He sees their pain, feels their loves and experiences their disappointments. He eventually begins his ministry with the same message as was relayed in the garden, “Repent and believe” but now starts with something new “for the Kingdom of God is at hand!”. No more prophets, no more confusing messages, God himself is here to proclaim the good news. God is going to take the punishment that we deserve for our sins. God, acknowledging our inability to save ourselves, has revealed that his plan was to do it for us, on our behalf. His authority is challenged and, as we do with all things we don’t understand or that threatens our power, we murdered him. The only good person to ever walk the earth and we murder him because we’re afraid of his message. God uses this, knowing that it would happen (he spoke about his impending crucifixion numerous times before his eventual arrest and conviction), used it to not only show what he had said was true, but in his resurrection, confirmed to all that the sin debt of all who trust in him have their sins likewise forgiven through him.

That is the gospel. That no matter what you’ve done in your life, you will never, ever be able to meet God’s holy standard (never lie, never steal, always trust that God will give you want you need, never look at another person to whom you’re not married with lustful intent, always keep God at the forefront of your mind, never trust in something else to meet all of your needs, etc), so he took it upon himself to do it for you, and in the end all you need to do is to trust that he has done so.

Wait, isn’t there some magic formula? Where’s that sinner’s prayer? I can tell you this, it’s nowhere in the Bible. God never gave us a specific way to pray because he knows our hearts, that we’ll turn it into an idol and worship it. Have you ever been to a Southern Baptist revival? It’d be a lot like that. John Calvin was dead on with that – that our hearts are factories for idols. See, it’s not about the method but the intent. In trusting in Christ we’re admitting a lot of things here. We’re admitting that God exists and that he has not only an interest in our lives but wants to be directly involved. We admit that everything we know about the universe is wrong. We admit that we are incapable of determining the right path for our lives, but are instead are dependent on an outside force to direct us and to determine that for us. We freely acknowledge our own sinfulness and that we are untrustworthy, even to ourselves. We also admit that we are the worst judge of others since we can’t even be certain of our own intent most of the time. But the end of it all – knowing that this is the cost for admission, we clearly understand that it is not us who keep ourselves in his good graces but him alone who holds onto us. Even when we sin. Even when we do horrible, stupid things, he holds onto us. That’s how we can handle losing family members, and children, and cancer, and death, and accidents, and shootings, and natural disasters, and on, and on. Because Jesus endured this as well, and overcame them all. It’s not about tricking someone into saying some stupid speech or squeezing your hand for Jesus, it’s about knowing the creator of the universe, knowing that he suffered in ways we could never imagine, all for his love for us, and us living our lives in a manner where we try to bring him glory. We read his word because we know he wants us to know about himself, and we learn about who he is through what he’s shared with us. We love other people who hate us or our message, not because it’s a way to be better than them, but so that we can extend to them the same love that he extended to us. We tell people about Jesus, not to get another notch in our belt of glory, but because we were as they are, lost and confused – blind to their own sinfulness and seeking to justify themselves, and we want to show them that, despite their often angry and spiteful retorts, God loves them through us, and wants to save them from their own body of death. That is the gospel.

All this false gospel of apology does is to create people who think they’re saved but inoculated from hearing more about it because “they’re good” and they “did that”. It creates a whole army of people who never really trusted in Jesus outside of participating in American Religiosity who say that they were “Christians” but who are now atheists or Hindu or any of other counterfeit religion that exist today. They have no need for repentance because they believed the lie that their acceptance of a false message bought them into the body of Christ. As Paul said, though, those who have left us reveal that they were never part of us to begin with. Why not? Because we are secure in Christ because of Christ. He will allow us to falter and even to fall from grace, but only to show us our dependence on him and never release us from our salvation within him. What a sad world we live in where this needs to be hidden behind an wall of idols to make people want to come in.

It breaks my heart.

May he grant you your heart’s desire
and fulfill all your plans!
May we shout for joy over your salvation,
and in the name of our God set up our banners!
May the Lord fulfill all your petitions! (Psalm 20:4-5, ESV)

Many people hold closely to verses like this in the Bible, despite the chapters that tell a different story. There are many, many people over the years that have prayed to God expecting them to give them what they want, when the very things they desire are ungodly. But, the idea that you can force God to do things still persists. The problem with this mentality where you can command God to give you good things because there are statements like this in the Bible is that there are conditions on everything. God doesn’t grant all of my desires, because many of my desires are wicked. God doesn’t fulfill all of my plans because some of my plans are bad for me and worse for others. I don’t even want to imagine what it would be like if God did everything that said when I spouted off in anger at someone because my pride was hurt or because I was just in a crappy mood.

So the focus changes then, and people who use text like this for their “life verse” (For the atheists, a life verse is a cherry picked verse that you have chosen to model your life around which is usually pulled from all context so it makes sense for your specific needs at the time) tend to use this as a spring board to statements like “God wants everyone to be happy and healthy and wealthy”. Well, if everyone were happy then “happiness” would cease to exist and we’d just have varying levels of joy and those who had more joy than others would be envied by those who have less and it would fall back into the same scenario. Same with health, I’ve grown closer to God through my own illnesses and the illness of others that I love so I wouldn’t give that up for anything in the world. Lastly, and this is a big point for our government, if everyone is wealthy we still fall back into the same scenario with the “happiness” mentioned a second ago, but with more fighting. Money isn’t the way to fix all the problems in the world. A heart change is. Once you are content with what you have you don’t want anything else and you can begin to pay down your bills.

Finally, finishing any prayer “In Jesus’ Name” is not the fix for everything. I’ve heard over and over when I was a kid that “prayers don’t exit the ceiling if you don’t pray ‘In Jesus’ Name'”. That isn’t a secret code word to make it work and it’s not the way to force God’s hand to your will. It’s not like God is up and heaven listening to your prayer and he says, “Well, I know that you keep asking for a Porsche and I was initially going to say ‘no’ but you did say ‘In Jesus’ Name’ so I guess I’ll have to…”. The term “In Jesus’ Name” is a reference to the character and nature of God and a statement that you’re asking God to align your desires with those of His Son. Yes, the Bible states, “Whatever you ask in my name I will do” (Jn 14:13-14; 15:16; 16:23-27) but the term “name” means “in accordance with my desires and will”. If my son goes to the store and signs for something in my name he’s doing something that I’ve asked him to do and approved of. Asking God to do something that’s in conflict with His character and nature and then slapping “In Jesus’ Name” on it is like telling yourself “I’m a vegan” before you eat a 1lb steak just to soothe your own conscience.

If you’re going to ask anything of God, learn his character and nature and then ask things that are in accordance with what He’s likely to do. Read your Bible, seek to know him more, and he will convert your heart and your ideals to his plans and desires and once that happens then you He will grant every desire and fulfill all of your plans because you want the same things he does. I can’t say that I understand why God does everything he does, but what I do know is that he’s right in every situation, even in those where I’ve experienced the deepest emotional or physical pain. Glory to God alone.

So, this whole thing bothers me. As someone who was once firmly in the MacArthur camp where dispensationalism and legalism ruled the day and when I could tell if someone was a real Christian by looking at what version of the Bible they carried to church and whether or not their pastor came from MacArthur’s seminary, I am disheartened by the conference that he held last week. I’ve come a long way but it seems that, because I’m willing to admit that God can choose to work in ways that we can’t explain or understand in order to reach people for His kingdom and His glory, that we are outside the body of Christ.

Here’s where I stand on this whole thing. I can’t say that the gifts have all ended. I’ve seen and experienced things that I can’t explain and as a result the only thing I can say is that it’s possible that it was from God. For me to say that it’s not is to put myself in the shoes of the Pharisees against the works of the Apostles, stating that it is an act of Satan. I’m by no means a charismatic but I can’t say that I could side with MacArthur and say that a whole swath of people who call themselves Christians are heretics and outside the body of Christ. God has worked in many ways throughout history to reach many people and if He desires to use charismatic gifts today to reach people, then fine. I’m not going to stand before God and tell him what He can or cannot do.

Carrying this forward, there are far greater issues in the church today than this one alone. The health and wealth lies that are flooding the world, and yes, even Africa, need to be addressed. They teach a gospel that focuses on the man, and not the God who died to save them from His own wrath. If I were to have a conference, that is where I would place my focus, not on things that must be argued from the silence of Scripture.

Is MacArthur able to do whatever he wants? Sure. Was Driscoll being petty and lashing out at the Evangelical Pope? Yup. Do I think that MacArthur has the right to try to weed out the false Christians in the church? If he wants to, go right ahead. I have to find a new Bible though because when I read Mt. 13:24-30 I don’t see the secret ending to vs 30 where Jesus says, “until my servant John MacArthur arrives for he can rightly divide between the roots of the wheat and the weeds and save all my children from the Charismatic Chaos”.

Then again, I’d probably be ejected from any heaven that MacArthur envisions for failing to see dispensationalism as one of the core tenets of Christian theology.

There has been a resurgence of pastors preaching the real gospel. Not the gospel of health and wealth, that Jesus somehow died on a cross 2,000 years ago so that you can live in “victorious living” which amounts to you basically having a Bentley for each day of the week and never being sick again. Most of the world now understands that this is nothing but a lie perpetuated by schemers and charlatans. Joel Osteen and the like.

No, the real gospel – that Jesus is God in the flesh, that the God who we sinned against, has taken the initiative to reconcile us to Him, literally bringing peace on earth between God and man. Jesus was born into a poor family, lived a normal life outside from the fact that he never sinned. Never lied, stole, cheated – he was just like us and wholly different from us at the same time. Ultimately, he was murdered by the people that he came to save because he didn’t fit the model that they wanted. They were looking for a conquering ruler to crush the Romans and Jesus was there to crush their real enemy – idolatry and self-salvation. His substitutionary death on the cross paid the price for their sins so that they would be forgiven before God and the only requirement was that they believe in him – in his diety, purpose, power, and that his death in their place was sufficient to pay the price for their sins. 3 days later, as he predicted, he emerged from the tomb – wholly resurrected. His resurrection is the seal on his promise and power that he is the messiah sent from God the Father to atone for the sin in the garden.

Churches and pastors have done a much better job overall in proclaiming that message to the people. I would like to say that the death knell has been rung for people who proclaim that salvation through Christ is available to those who work for it, but I know that people who try to make a dollar at the expense of people who are hurting will always be present. For those people I am glad that God doesn’t bypass the sins of those people and that he says that they are deceivers and the “anti-Christ” (2 John 1:6-8) who betray God’s people for a profit (Titus 1:10-11) and that it would be better in the end for them if they were tied to a heavy stone and tossed into the deepest part of the ocean than to receive the wrath of God that will come upon them (Matthew 18:6; Mark 9:42; Luke 17:2). God will punish them more than we ever could imagine.

But, if there is any area that needs to be improved, I think, it’s that there needs to be some emphasis on a life change. Not that we do it but that our salvation is not a simple decision but a commitment to allow Jesus to invade every facet of your life and to radically alter not only your worldview but your entire life – throwing out your idols, maybe even stripping you of your personal dreams and aspirations so that you can be used for His purpose, not your own. A radical surrender, if you will. Too many people in this world are being sold a “purpose” for their lives and a “plan” from God that includes church membership and a promise not to be a jerk to people but the are missing out on the best that God has for them because they are too tied to their own idols of self fulfillment and are missing on the greater purpose that God would like them to achieve through His actions on their behalf. That, however, is uncomfortable. It means caring for the poor, and meeting the needs of others. It means that the money you’ve been saving up for a boat may better be spent helping a young couple in your church who just lost their only car to buy a new one with no expectation of that money coming back to you. It means that you may need to open your home to people from church when a pipe breaks and they need a place to stay or adjust your schedule to spend time with people who need help learning from you and your past experiences to focus their lives more closely to that of Christ.

Remember when Jesus said “If anyone comes to me and does not hate his own father and mother and wife and children and brothers and sisters, yes, and even his own life, he cannot be my disciple (Luke 14:26)” and “I was hungry and you gave me food, I was thirsty and you gave me drink, I was a stranger and you welcomed me, I was naked and you clothed me, I was sick and you visited me, I was in prison and you came to me” and the respondents asked “when did we come to you and help you” and he responded “Truly, I say to you, as you did it to one of the least of these my brothers, you did it to me. (Matthew 20:31-46)”? In the first part he is saying that we must be so focused on Him and His purposes that it is as if we hate our own families and our own life (desires, dreams, etc) in comparison, and in the last section he is talking about our love for others in that our love for those “his brothers” (meaning the adopted brothers and sisters who are one with Him in His salvation – literally, those in the Church). Jesus Himself commands us to put our own lives on hold and, in some cases, to even abandon our own plans and dreams to serve the greater needs of his Church.

So, as I said, I think that the Church as a whole and especially new converts, would be good to see this as a model. Not something for them to emulate right off the bat but to know that it’s something that God will bring about in their lives through the process of surrendering ourselves to Him and His will in our lives.

IF God is good, how can he allow bad things to happen to good people.”

That’s the question that everyone asks. Though ppl don’t like my answer – that God IS good but it is we the people who are wicked at our core. God, as creator of all, has the right and authority to give us rules and requirements for living on the planet that He supplied for us to provide for us. It is our sinful nature that separates us from Him in thought, word, and deed. Whether actively or passively, we are all at odds with Him and it is He who has acted to bring us into the fold with Him. Therefore, it is God alone who is good. The question of whether or not God is good because he allows bad things to happen to good people is irrelevant – it’s really why he allows good things to happen to bad people, who live their lives in constant opposition to His purposes.

They refuse to acknowledge him, blaspheme his name, mock his followers, live their lives by their own rules and laws, forsaking any authority outside of what they determine to be good enough to allow them to live however they want. They state that they are followers of societal law, but will quickly drop it if they can be certain to achieve whatever they desire if they think they can get away with it. They also actively seek approval for things that God finds offensive and openly accuse those who don’t agree with this process of hatred and intolerance for their views, all the while being intolerant for Christian views as a whole.

So, back to the “If God is good” question, look to Psalm 73 where Asaph asked the same question of God when he saw that the people who hated God openly have lives with little issue. They live long, are prosperous, and have few problems. The issues that they have are what are common to man so they determine that there is no God in heaven who cares one way or another as to their own actions. What comes in the end, however, is not peace for them but judgement. God allows them to have happiness and ease here because this is the only peace they will ever have. Sure they lose family members, some tragically, but we (Christians) understand that this is just life under the curse while they (non-Christians) accuse and attack God for His actions against them and use it to bolster their hatred of him, if they acknowledge him at all. Instead of looking to His return they say “Where is the promise of his coming? For ever since the fathers fell asleep, all things are continuing as they were from the beginning of creation (2 Peter 3:4)” and use it as an excuse to live lives that mock Him and His followers.

But we, who are of the spirit, know that His coming is sure which is why we pray that He would come soon, to defend Himself against their attacks and to end this relentless attack against His people.

Is god willing to prevent evil, but not able?
Then he is not omnipotent.
Is he able, but not willing?
Then he is malevolent.
Is he both able and willing?
Then whence cometh evil?
Is he neither able nor willing?
Then why call him god?
–Epicurus

See, it works like this. God created the universe and everything in it and, as its creator, he has the authority to make the rules. Most of all creation rides on its own set of rules – but mankind – we’re different. We can choose, we can think, and we can make our own decisions. Love that’s forced isn’t really love, is it? If I could flip a switch in the back of your head and make you love God regardless of your own impulses, then that’s not really love at all – you’re a machine. God created trees as machines, and livestock as machines, and even insects as machines, but us he created with the ability to choose to obey him or disobey him – to love him or reject him. At the outset we chose to reject him, despite his warning that there would be severe repercussions to come. What came from this fall from grace? Cancer and sickness, thorns and toil, pain and suffering. Is this the angry response of an angry unjust God or the result of justice being granted to the unjust? Man chooses to disregard the law and steal candy from a baby and his punishment is small – he steals from his work and he could get fired – he steals from the government and he’s looking at a long prison term, but if he steals from the president’s office and you’ll never see him again. All this and the crime is the same – why? What changed? The office changed. The authority from which the crime was committed changed. Our president can certainly do some damage to our lives here, but what if it is our creator who we’ve offended? The same one who spoke and the universe leapt into existence – who governs the laws of physics and nature, who controls wind and rain? What if, by our actions, God chooses to punish us here on earth for our actions against Him and we lose those whom we love? Or, what if He chooses to grant us safe passage on this rock until we die, despite our hatred and anger toward him through denying his existence or mocking his followers, only to secure for us the promised end of eternal punishment – the same one you say has no reign over you because you are so sure he doesn’t exist.

The point of all of this is to show us that our live on this rock has meaning and that we have a purpose – that it’s not just random actions and pulsing synapses before we take a dirt nap of meaninglessness. The point of creation is to point us to the creator so that we can stand in awe of what he has done, understand that he’s not only this grand creator, but that he is personal, that he not only cares about our lives and about our thoughts, dreams, and desires, but that he cares so much that he sent his only son to take your place for you on the judgment seat. He willingly took the punishment you deserve for your lifetime of rejecting him so that you can walk free. That’s the real gospel – it’s not the “do more, try harder” rhetoric of the world religions – it’s the “it is finished” yelled from a bloody cross as God who took the form of man to live a life similar to yours, with the same temptations, hurts, tears, and desires, but never once sinned – he took the punishment you and I deserve so that we can walk free. We repent of our sins, turn to Him and ask Him to forgive us for rejecting Him and to thank Him for taking our place.

Like I said before – you are no machine- you can choose to accept or reject this. He won’t force you to do anything, but know that the only alternative is that you hope beyond all hope that you’re right because if you are wrong – then you’ll have a long time to consider how many times people like me have reached out to you and you dismissed us as fools. All I know is that my conscience is clear.

Lastly, if God exists as he is described in the Bible, what right do you have, who are essentially his enemy, to dictate how he should respond to you? More than that, why should he listen to you at all? He rejects the proud and arrogant fool who tells him how to behave and how to act, but he listens to the humble who understands his plight and asks for direction and forgiveness. Unless you’re perfect, that is. You are perfect, right?

Something to think about: None of the people who made the Ark of the Covenant, and the golden lampstand, and the bronze sea, and the table of show bread, and the bronze altar, and the veil, and the tabernacle, and everything else that they used to praise and worship God until and through the time of the first temple that Solomon made in 964 BC (nearly 500 years) ever lived to see the promised land. Well, not entirely – Joshua and Caleb were the only two who lived to enter the land as they were the two spies who trusted in God. Even Moses, who led the Israelites out of Egypt, served as their judge and, with Aaron, as their chief priest, wasn’t able to enter into the promised land. Why? Because of unbelief. It wasn’t because of their hard work that they were able to enter into the land of promise, but because they trusted in God and when they failed to do so God gave them their wages in the form of food and safety (for the most part) in the wilderness, but it was given only to their children to receive the promised land of Canaan.

Your works can’t save you. God has delivered you from your sins and into freedom, not into the slavery of the law. There is nothing that you can do that will make you right with God, but He has provided a way of escape for you. Repent of your sins, and trust that Jesus’ death in your place was sufficient to pay the price of your redemption. Nothing more, and nothing less will grant you access to the kingdom of God.

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(e.g., John 1 or God's love)

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