Gospel

In a discussion with someone who is a believer in infant baptism, he had the same responses which I’ve read time and time again. Basically, that Baptism is today’s Circumcision. That Circumcision was applied liberally to all who were genetic descendants of Abraham, and therefore we, as Christians, should apply Baptism to all of our genetic descendants. So, this was my response:

Here’s three things to note:

1) The baptisms of John performed before the start of Jesus’ ministry are not the same thing as a Christian baptism. It was a ceremonial rite for those in the Jewish faith to “prepare” them to enter into the sanctuary. It was a ritual cleansing, but did not symbolize Jesus’ sacrificial death and rebirth on our behalf. Those who were baptized into John’s baptism were not baptized into the family of Christ.

2) Read through the new testament. I mean the whole thing. Numerous times. Every time the “Circumcision” is brought up, it’s to refer to the “old ways”. Circumcision is a term that Paul uses to refer to the Jewish ways which were hung on legalistic following of the Mosaic law. Could they keep it? NO! The law was never intended to be kept, but to be used as a sign that pointed us to God as our savior. Men-only, in the old covenant, were circumcised to show that they were in the people of Israel. But what does Paul say?

Romans 2:29 – But a Jew is one inwardly, and circumcision is a matter of the heart, by the Spirit, not by the letter. His praise is not from man but from God.

Circumcision as a rite is of little overall value, but it points to a generalized fact that you are related to those in the chosen people of God. Nothing more. Now, in Rom 3, Paul asks “what is the value of circumcision”, again referring to belonging to the “chosen people of God” and not the actual rite, because if it did, then it wouldn’t include the women, would it? And, he says “much in every way”. They were taught the laws of God, they were brought up in the fear and admonition of the Lord, etc. But did their circumcision guarantee salvation? No.

Romans 4:9–10 – Is this blessing then only for the circumcised, or also for the uncircumcised? For we say that faith was counted to Abraham as righteousness. How then was it counted to him? Was it before or after he had been circumcised? It was not after, but before he was circumcised.

3) What is the value of baptism on your infant children? This is where it gets tricky. In the middle ages, children didn’t live that long, so they were baptized as a “salve” and the parents were told that their children would be in heaven with them, or at least purgatory, and wouldn’t be lost to Limbo (which the RCC in the last 10 years finally did away with) or cast into hell. It was used as a method to control people with fear. Moreover, as men and women were allowed to read the text of scripture on their own during and after the reformation, they started to see the same themes repeated in scripture – that unlike circumcision, which was an outward sign on men to remind them that they belong to the “people” of God, and is applied to them whether they know it and follow after the faith of Abraham or not, baptism is a ritual that links us with Christ in his death and resurrection on our behalf, and is only conferred upon his believers.

There was a lot of confusion about this in the past, and given that Jews (those of the “circumcision party”) were the first believers, they tended to carry over their old ways with them. But what does Jesus say about this?

Matthew 9:17 – Neither is new wine put into old wineskins. If it is, the skins burst and the wine is spilled and the skins are destroyed. But new wine is put into fresh wineskins, and so both are preserved.”

This is a new thing and with it come new rites.

So, I ask you. What is conferred upon the infant in their baptism? Is it that you’re marking them for God for conversion? If you believe that, then you’re as bad as my wife’s grandmother who condemns herself to this day that she only baptized 2 of her three children, and the one she didn’t is an outright atheist, unlike her other two children, which seem to worship at the altar of therapeutic moralistic deism (which itself is not Christian, though they think it is).

Infant baptism merely gets babies wet, which they are perfectly content to do on their own anyway. It’s a salve for the parents to think that their children are “in the family of God” and to presume that their children will follow after Christian principles. But you can’t expect a non-Christian to act like a Christian as an adult, nor as a child, and if you merely teach them to live that way because they’re “little Christians” then you’re teaching them moralism, not Christianity. Christianity isn’t based on rules, or moral commands, but on Christ who died in our place. His salvation is purchased for his elect and we cannot control who his elect will be. If God saves me, my wife, and both of my kids, then God is to be praised in this, not me for baptizing them, and not me for training them properly, and not me for keeping them saved. God is the one who does this, not me, and it’s not on me to keep them there.

Your salvation must be your own. That’s what’s meant by Paul in Philippians 2:12 – that we must “work out” our own salvation – we must do the work of believing, and acting in faith upon that belief, on our own. We are not catholics, who believe that you may be a son of the devil, but if you were baptized as an infant, and after you died, your holier aunt or uncle can make a payment or perform some penance and get you sprung into heaven.

To that end, your baptism must also be your own. Read throughout the new testament. Baptism is performed on believers. What about those in the Cornelius’ “household” (Acts 10)? “Household” must also include infants, right? If it did, it was wrong. More than likely, it meant those who were in the house at the time whom Cornelius had brought together (Acts 10:24) to hear the word of God. Those whom, God placed outward signs
of this revelation on them so that these Jewish Christian could see that God had given to them the same thing that he had done with others (Acts 10:44-45). Now, it’s also likely that if there were infants there, that those same infants would have had manifested the outward signs of the Holy Spirit. So, I ask, would you wait for an outward sign of the Holy Spirit’s manifestation on those infants, as Paul did in withholding baptism from those in the “household” of Cornelius until they also had this same manifestation (Acts 10:47-48)?

As you can see, the process is simple. We are to repent and believe, then we are to be baptized. There is no different formula based on age or size. Scripture is clear.

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.

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.

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?

In reading Jesus + Nothing = Everything by Tullian Tchividjian, I started to realize that the core motivation behind my penchant to gauge my walk with Christ based on my perception of the righteousness of others is based in nothing more than the graceless, moralistic legalism that my heart desires. I want to know that my hard work for Jesus is valued and that my ability to keep myself from sinning is something that’s of value to God and that he will be pleased with me when he sees me standing upright on my best day, free from the sins that kept me bound and separated from Him for so long. That view, however, completely misses the point of the gospel.

The gospel says that I am wholly broken, unable to help myself. It is not my own ability that keeps me from sinning, but it is God’s work on my behalf that has redeemed me. My self-righteous attempt to justify myself by judging others and their walk with God based on my own standard of holiness is not bringing God glory, but it is sullying the name of Christ by implying that my ability to save myself is the real source of my salvation and that Jesus’ death on the cross is nothing more than a bus pass to the outskirts of glory but that my own works are the real binding factor that keeps me in God’s good graces. That view is sickening to God and it should be sickening to me. Who am I to stand before the king of all creation and tell him that my worth and my actions are of value to him? Who am I to judge another man’s servant? My value before God is imputed to me by God through His sovereign choice to save me from damnation. I am no better than anyone else and I deserve an eternity in Hell far more than others who trip through life only to pass through death’s door without acknowledging the God who created them.

My righteousness is worthless if it weren’t based on Jesus’ active obedience. Because Jesus lived a perfect life, I am seen as perfect before God. The passive obedience of Jesus death on the cross merely paid for my sins – cleared my record of wrongs, but Jesus’ active obedience brought me into the throne room of God and placed on me the glory that He deserved. Hallelujah, what a Savior.

“I used to think that growing as a Christian meant I had to somehow go out and obtain the qualities and attitudes I was lacking. To really mature, I needed to find a way to get more joy, more patience, more faithfulness, and so on.

Then I came to the shattering realization that this isn’t what the Bible teaches, and it isn’t the gospel. What the Bible teaches is that we mature as we come to a greater realization of what we already have in Christ. The gospel, in fact, transforms us precisely because it’s not itself a message about our internal transformation but about Christ’s external substitution. We desperately need an advocate, mediator, and friend. But what we need most is a substitute – someone who has done for us and secured for us what we could never do and secure for ourselves.

The hard work of Christian growth, therefore, is to think less of ourselves and our performance and more of Jesus and his performance for us. Ironically, when we focus mostly on our need to get better, we actually get wore. We become neurotic and self-absorbed. Preoccupation with our effort instead of with God’s effort for us makes us increasingly self-centered and morbidly introspective.

Again, think of it this way: sanctification is the daily hard work of going back to the reality of our justification. It’s going back to the certainty of our objectively secured pardon in Christ and hitting the refresh button a thousand times a day. Or, as Martin Luther so aptly put it in his Lectures on Romans, “To progress is always to begin again.” Real spiritual progress, in other words, requires a daily going backwards.”

~ Jesus + Nothing = Everything by Tullian Tchividjian.

I’ve read quite a few comments on Facebook today stating that because of this vote in NC regarding gay marriage, that “God wins”. That’s true, but totally unrelated. Had the amendment not passed, God would win. If our next president was gay, God would win. If the entire country were to become the most god-hating, wicked, immoral nation on the planet – God would still win. Remember when Joshua met with the commander of the army of the Lord (many ppl believe this is a Christophany)? What did he say when Joshua asked him if he was for Israel or their adversaries? “NO.” What? That doesn’t make sense – what do you mean “no”. He then clarified the answer by saying that He’s for the Lord. (Joshua 5:13-15) God is not “FOR US” but for Himself. He is “for” those who are in His adopted family – purchased through the blood of Christ, but that’s because those who are in His family share His interests and seek to glorify His name.

The beginning of the Bible opens with God creating and proclaiming what is good, and man chooses to rebel against his Creator and plunge the rest of humanity into the effects of the fall. Death, disease, hatred, malice, immorality, pain, fear, all of these things come from the fall – all of them can be attributed to the sin of the first family – and even in this – God wins. 1400 years later, the entire earth has become wicked and hostile toward not only God but to themselves. God chooses one man named Noah and his small family to build a boat so that He can judge the whole of the earth. Noah and his family build that boat, God populates it with the creatures He chooses to save, and he then brings the flood which wipes out all the land-based animals on the planet. The ensuing flood and geologic changes transform the entire landscape, creating mountain ranges, burying vast mats of vegetation which then become our coal seams. At the end of the flood, vast inland seas are created and when those inland seas finally burst their temporary constraints they create deep and wide valleys and canyons. Days turn into months, months turn into years and the water finally subsides enough for those that God has spared to walk on dry land. Even in all that destruction, God wins.

The Israelites are God’s chosen people – born through adversity from a man of deep pagan roots. God spoke to Abraham and he trusted in God, leaving his former life and following after Him in the wilderness. His son Isaac had two twin boys, one was named Jacob (meaning “he cheats”) who later was named Israel. He had 12 boys who were the heads of the 12 tribes of the nation of Israel. They, through sin and deceit sold one of their brothers into slavery and God orchestrated his path until he was the prime minister of all of Egypt. His position allowed the infant nation of Israel to find a home in a safe place. That safety only lasted for a short time and they were made to be slaves in Egypt. God raised up Moses to bring them out – provided 10 plagues on Egypt to make the Israelites (now nearing 2 million people) abhorrent to the people of Egypt and they cast them out. Through another miracle at the Red Sea God delivered them finally from the reach of the Pharaoh. God wins.

That nation, now delivered into the wilderness to learn about the proper worship of their God who had delivered them from that bondage in Egypt, saw the physical manifestation of God’s glory day and night in a pillar of cloud by day and a pillar of fire by night. At times they heard directly from God whose first premise was that they will not worship anyone or anything other than Himself and that they would not fall into idolatry. Sure enough, in the first two years with God actively interacting with them directly they not only built idols of gold to worship, but openly rejected Him, and his ability to deliver them from their enemies into the land He had promised to them, and wanted to return to Egypt, even into slavery, because they didn’t trust the God who could split the sea and who has proven His power over all of life and nature before them. All but two of those people died in the wilderness, never setting foot in the promised land. Even Moses, whom God had chosen to lead and instruct them sinned against God and was not able to enter into the land. God still wins.

The people then moved into the land, destroying the wicked nations that were occupying it. God fought for them and led them in battle, wiping out the inhabitants and setting their borders. He provided for them a fertile land that was prepared for them – a nation that they needed to merely occupy. Sure enough, one generation after Joshua and they fall into idolatry. God still wins. God allowed nations to remove them from the land and place them under slavery again, then provided deliverance for them time after time, giving them judges to rule over the people and to bring them back to worship Him. Every time a judge would die the people would rebel. God still wins.

Finally they ask for a king to be like the other nations. God allows them to have the finest looking and most worldly qualified king they could want. He rebels against God and ultimately runs a failed administration. God provides for them the man who He desires to be king – He trains him in the wilderness, sets him in power. The people flourish under him and under his son, Solomon, who was born through sin, deceit, and murder, but Solomon can’t honor God consistently and breaks God’s laws time and time again. Immediately after Solomon’s death the nation of Israel splits in two. God still wins.

Over the next 330 or so years the nations struggle with God’s rule. There are wars and troubles, and times of great restoration, but ultimately God strips them off the land due to their repeated forays into idolatry and rejection. God still wins.

God restores them to the land and then after a 400 year silence His Son, Jesus, comes onto the scene. Jesus fulfills the law, never sinning even once. He teaches the people, heals nearly every sickness and disease in the whole region, and ultimately is killed because the people He came to save wanted a conquering king, not a humble servant. God still wins.

Jesus is resurrected, proving that everything He said was true – hundreds of followers become thousands. Thousands become hundreds of thousands. Hundreds of thousands become millions. There are deep persecutions laid upon the church. Nearly all of Jesus’ inner circle of followers is martyred in one way or another and many more follow. 300 years later the Roman emperor Constantine legalizes Christianity and that’s where the church begins to encounter even more trouble as the political battles for which is the “true” church begin to take place. God still wins.

1050 years later, God’s word is finally becoming translated into common languages so the people can break free from the oppression of the Roman Catholic church. The RCC responds by killing the translators and burning their manuscripts. God still wins. This continues until a German priest finally translates it into German and distributes it. The protestant reformation of the church begins and, along with it, the birth of thousands of Christian sects. Each one thinks it to be the “one true church” and many are good but even more are very, very bad. Numerous sects become whole religious institutions. Today we see that present in the main bodies of the church -Lutheran, Presbyterian, Baptist, etc. Due to issues associated with denominationalism numerous “non-denominational” churches erupt. Christian “nations” like France, England, and Germany become post-Christian and their influence wanes. America is born and now its Christian influence is waning. Other countries like China and India are beginning to eclipse the USA in their Christian influence – to the point where Christian missionaries from China are starting to hit the US borders. God still wins.

This up coming election has no influence on whether God wins or not. He is the alpha and the omega – he controls all of nature and all time. He controls nations and laws and weather and even our personal situations. God owns it all. God always wins.

For we ourselves were once foolish, disobedient, led astray, slaves to various passions and pleasures, passing our days in malice and envy, hated by others and hating one another. But when the goodness and loving kindness of God our Savior appeared, he saved us, not because of works done by us in righteousness, but according to his own mercy, by the washing of regeneration and renewal of the Holy Spirit, whom he poured out on us richly through Jesus Christ our Savior, so that being justified by his grace we might become heirs according to the hope of eternal life.
~ Titus 3:3-7 ESV

Remember that prayer that you prayed, or the time you raised your hand during an “altar call”? Yeah – that didn’t save you. Jesus saved you. You’re not good enough to save, you’re not smart enough to have God look at you and say, “I HAVE to have THAT GUY with me in Heaven!” There’s no amount of “good deeds” that you can do to warrant God’s saving work to be applied to your life. If anything, everything you do to “work off” your salvation or make yourself worthy is just an affront to God and mock Him for His work on your behalf. It’s not you who hold onto God, but God that holds onto you. You can’t be lost – you can’t “walk away” from your faith because it’s not “your faith” to begin with. God is the one who started the ‘good work’ of salvation within you and He will not lose a single one whom the Father has given Him. You are secure because of God’s love for you, not because of God’s love of you.

How to tell when you can begin hating someone or separate them from the flock, follow this simple flowchart:

Get it? Love bears all things, even when someone is behaving really, REALLY badly. Love believes all things, even when the evidence shows exactly the opposite. Once they start living in unrepentant sin or are a disruption to the body of your local church you can follow church discipline guidelines and work on the process of reconciliation. Let’s look at this in detail: Let’s say that when you were struggling with pornography, wrestling with this between you and God, someone was watching over your shoulder and reporting all of your failings to the church. If your pastor responded to you the way that you respond to the failings of others, would there have been any hope of reconciliation between you and those in your church?

Carry this over to Perry Noble and his actions as a pastor. He has stated that he did not intentionally seek discord in his choice to play the song “Highway to Hell”, and then, when speaking with his church, he said that they thought it would be hilarious to do it because it would piss off the religious people. Paul, in 1 Corinthians 13, says that we should believe all things. We should put the best construction on this and trust that his actions and intent, from start to finish, were to glorify God and make His gospel known to the flock that God has provided to him.

Now, there are other revelations that make him, by all accounts, a bad servant. It could be that what he said was true and that he won’t visit the sick in his flock until they die. Again, putting the best construction on this, we need to trust that God will handle the situation and regardless of the outcome that we see, we can know that He is in complete control of this whole scenario – from start to finish.

There are three things we know about Perry Noble. First, he claims to be a Christian and to adhere to the core doctrines of our faith. Second, he is a passionate pastor who was chosen by God and placed into his role as lead pastor of the church that God has given him. Third, we are not his judge. Anyone who is within the body of believers is the servant of God and not us – who are we to judge another man’s servant? His actions, however, are going to cause a rift within his church. Those soundly saved believers are going to put up with it for only so long before they leave to find something else. Those who are drawn to controversy and publicity will seek him out and fill the remaining seats.

Let me finish with this – In my church, I would never start a sermon with “Highway to Hell”, I would never seek to piss off the “religious” people outside the church or within, and I would not want to sit under his headship. Is God using Perry Noble for His kingdom and His glory? Of course – Romans 8:28 confirms it. But to those who seek the controversy and can’t find a way to forgive them, I ask this simple question: Because Jesus suffered and died on the cross in your place to forgive your sins, when can you stop forgiving Perry Noble? Any answer other than “never” is an indication that you don’t understand the gospel.

Love is patient and kind; love does not envy or boast; it is not arrogant or rude. It does not insist on its own way; it is not irritable or resentful; it does not rejoice at wrongdoing, but rejoices with the truth. Love bears all things, believes all things, hopes all things, endures all things. Love never ends.

~ 1 Cor 13:4-8

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