You are a sinner. You have broken the rules of God Most High, and His wrath will punish you forever, all of eternity, if you do not say this prayer and declare Him LORD.
For many, that is all they know about Jesus’ ministry. It’s also all they think God in their lives is to do. The whole thought of God, for them revolves around “saving them.”
It is incredulous and makes me sad, that we think of an Omnipotent God, who created all we can conceive, from nothing, in a place where time holds no definition, and the sole objective of that God is to save us from a threat HE imposed upon us. It seems rather self focused, doesn’t it? That we are SOOOOOOoooo important, that not only did the God we are to call LORD create us and this glory we live in, but He also wants to serve us, save us, and give us eternal life.
I think people lose focus on He is LORD and we serve Him. I think they don’t consider Him LORD, but rather lord themselves over Him. They have Him serving us. Picture King Henry the VIII’s reaction, when a serf who had been stealing from the royal treasury for 2 generations comes to the King and says THANK YOU FOR YOUR PARDON, now make me some tea! Really, that’s how many people describe this relationship we hold with God.
That is often all of the message of Christ and God in people’s lives, they will ever be exposed to. Discipleship is gone, or misguided at best. The Christ came with a message of God is love, and there is a plan for your life to be changed and be in sync with Him. But people are taught two words, sin and salvation. That’s it. That’s as far as they get. That God gave us this gift of Life, to live, with each other, is overlooked. That Jesus taught us things, to make this life, with each other, a better experience and even MORE of a gift, is never considered in a practical way.
Fire and clouds, sin and salvation, fascism and love, Heaven or Hell — God; Descriptions of God create a very duplicitous picture. I would suggest its a more harmonious image than that. That we look to our self preservation so much, we only see that small piece of the picture, and miss the overall message.
The “Gospel” is often presented in such a way to invoke fear of sin, and provide an answer, “God” through Christ, but not provide a meaningful map to get there. Like any destination in life there is a path, a set of directions you must travel to arrive at a destination.
Many people reading this will think that the Altar call (sinner’s prayer), a Baptism, and Communion maybe, are all there is to the journey. From that point forward, they are saved, NO MATTER WHAT, and it will never be taken away. So, God has fulfilled their expectations at this point. They have fled away from sin and they will be saved from eternal, fascist, hell.
The hexagon in the center is where a person stands when they hear this Gospel of be saved or go to hell. Sin is bad. They want to get away from sin, sin equals hell. They have 360 directions to run and escape where they stood before salvation. But, only one of them is the path to God. The hell fire or salvation, create fear to move people to the sinner’s prayer, Way of the Master approach to evangelizing, may very well run people away from God, not to God, by giving people the wrong focus.
There is a deliberate, and specific path to find God, and it does not include a fear of sin. Directing people to fear sin to call on God is actually antithetical to the message of Christ. [I realize I have just instantly become heretical to many who will read this, but please, hear me out.]
People try to be the architect of their faith. They are “saved” on a Sunday, so they try to “act Christian”. They stop drinking, stop smoking, and stop saying words that are deemed “cuss words” but can be played in Prime Time, PG 13 television time. They start going to Church more regularly, (not just Christmas and Easter), ((Which is a type of regular come to think of it)), and speak in a soft voice; like Jesus did in the movies. They may, if they are real serious, start trying to understand and study their Bible more. If they are of a Protestant denomination, there is an emphasis on their faith, and you study to learn what your faith is. As if what you knew, was more important than how you lived. You start working harder at not sinning, forgetting that there is only one who can judge if you sinned or not in the first place. Paul tells a story of two men eating meat. For one it’s a sin, for the other it isn’t.
One who could eat it without sinning, could do so because he had more faith, and thus he had more liberty. Rom 14:2 One person has faith that he may eat all things, but he who is weak eats vegetables only.
I find it interesting that the one with more faith, had more liberty. It reminds me of another verse… 2Cr 3:17 Now the Lord is the Spirit, and where the Spirit of the Lord is,there is liberty.
Since sin is bad, they know they must stop sinning, so they start grabbing anything they feel guilty about, label it a sin, and go to stop doing it. They want to build a stronger spirit to resist sin. If you make someone afraid for their lives, whatever the threat is, they will try to beat it and stay alive.
Which is the next question, what is alive that they want to keep alive? Well, when they hear about sin, before they make their altar call/sinner’s prayer moment, the part of them that is alive is what Paul labels the Sarx. (Sinful Nature or Flesh) And, this flesh, that has created the survival and pleasure instincts in you from birth, does NOT want to lie. A good friend of mine used to say, “I’m not much, but it’s all the me I have!” So trying to build a stronger spirit, we are trying to make that Sarx entity inside of us, stronger and teach the part that can only sin, how not to sin.
And THAT, is antithetical to Christ.
I just lost most of the people who made it this far. I”m sorry, but really there is a thought here. Our life that could not please God because we were self focused and put self first may get sneakier about how it puts self first, but it will always put self first. The more you work at out thinking and out disciplining it, the more you fool your self that you can have some control.
Jesus had a Rich Young Ruler or Businessman come to him and ask for spiritual advice. The conversation went something like this… (many will call this another heresy.)
RYR: Rabbi Rabbi, how do I get eternal life.
JC: Keep the Commandments, you know, the Decalogue, here are some examples.
RYR: Well, I have done those from my youth. What am I still lacking.
JC: If you would be complete (or perfect) sell all you have.
Become a Pauper, have no means to provide for yourself. Have no place to live. Be totally devoid of value, and come follow me. Follow me in a way you can’t turn back, that you depend on me for EVERYTHING, and be totally at my mercy.
(NOTE: at this point in the chat, one of the Gospels it is mentioned that Jesus loved this man. One of only a few specifically noted as such.)
NOTE 2: (There are now two questions from the RYR, how to get eternal life [answered] and What else am I lacking… separate question.)
Jesus took the question, much like He did with Nicodemus and turned it into a lesson. He explained there is more than eternal life. If you would be perfect/mature/complete or to quote an American Icon, “If you want the rest of the story”; that which comes after eternal life, the rest of my plan for you on Earth, here is what you must do.
People see the word perfect, and think of a Utopian type perfection with no flaws. The word has only had that meaning for a hundred years or so. It has more of a flavor of “full grown” than it does “Utopian”.
A similar sentiment can be found in the Beatitudes. Mat 5:3 Blessed are the poor in spirit, for theirs is the kingdom of heaven. That Greek word for “poor”…
reduced to beggary, begging, asking alms
destitute of wealth, influence, position, honour
That’s exactly what the beatitude is asking for.
So, doing nothing, can make us stronger? That seems crazy, no? Consider some examples from the History of the Jewish peoples. Gideon, gathered an army to fight for God. God sent them home and had the remaining 300 attack with crock pots and Kazoos. Do you think that made sense to Gideon? I bet not, but He trusted God and it was done.
Abraham was of an age men don’t think of having children. His wife was known to be barren. Do you think He expected the promised child? And yet he arrived.
He later was told to sacrifice the child, and went obediently to do such a thing. But he believed even if he did God would deliver on a previous promise. Do you think he understood what was going to happen before hand? I bet not, but he went anyway.
God wants to be in control. The more you fight sins, the more you fight Him for control.
2Cr 12:9 And He has said to me, “My grace is sufficient for you, for power is perfected in weakness.” Most gladly, therefore, I will rather boast about my weaknesses, so that the power of Christ may dwell in me.
Who makes the changes in you? Your abilities, or His?
Eze 36:26 “Moreover, I will give you a new heart and put a new spirit within you; and I will remove the heart of stone from your flesh and give you a heart of flesh.
So, how is this going to work? Surely we must do something, right? What are we to do? We do as Moses did. Who parted the Red Sea, Moses, or God? Why did Moses do any work, if it was God?
How does God bring a person through Spiritual Growth to Spiritual Maturity? I grew up being taught that I needed to understand more and more of the Bible. My faith was measured by my understanding. The more I knew, the bigger my faith was.
Scripture gives me a different view. And this is how I get an organic faith out of the relationship with God.
Two questions to focus our minds on images that represent how the Maturity is attained.
1) Can you get pregnant, reading a “How To” book? Or do you have to “do the work”?
1) Can you change from a right hand pitcher to a left hand pitcher watching films and reading Kinesiology books? Or, do you need to throw the ball a million times?
In Ephesians 4:11-16, we see God appoints some people with the spiritual gifts of leadership, teaching, and such in the Church. Those people are to lead the people to works of service and through those works the Church grows Unified and understands Christ better. This continues until ALL THE PEOPLE are perfect/mature/complete (same word to the RYR above).
How perfect/mature/complete? Scripture says that if Jesus’ spiritual maturity was measured with the image of a glass, our glass would be as full as His, and the same size as the fullness of His.
for the equipping of the saints for the work of service, to the building up of the body of Christ; Eph 4:13 until we all attain to the unity of the faith, and of the knowledge of the Son of God, to a mature man, to the measure of the stature which belongs to the fullness of Christ.(NASB)
Works don’t save you, but through works, after atonement, the church grows bigger, stronger and more unified, until all the members are perfect, that is mature, to the measure (just as full as…) of the stature (same size as…) the fullness of of Christ.
And you can see we even gain knowledge of the Christ through works. “Epignosis” Epi gnosis. Gnosis where gnostic and knowledge come from. Epi meaning to cover, upon, above… A cover of knowledge. A more complete knowledge. In other words, an understanding that is more than rational and reasoned information. A complete understanding. R.A. Heinlein used the word GROK in A Stranger in a Strange Land, that is similar.
Pretend you join God’s Baseball team. You were an outstanding right handed pitcher and batter. But when you join God’s team, He tells you that you must change. As good as you are, you must learn to throw and bat left handed. This is God, the ultimate coach/skipper/captain so, of course you trust Him and agree.
If you watched film, and read every book there was on the topic, would you be as good a pitcher as the person who read no books, but threw the ball to the coach a billion times? The repetition is what creates the muscle memory. Muscle memory is that instinctual, reaction, trained response, knowledge that judges how good the pitcher will be.
It’s the same with God, who is Love. To learn how to love as He does, can’t be learned through reasoning and book studies. We are discussing a real and substantial change, not just an understanding of change. It requires repetition, repeated attempts at love, until we learn how to do it right.
Paul explained that the most important theological discussion of his day, circumcision and law keeping, wasn’t important, but faith working through love was. Paul was so vitriolic about the circumcision teaching people, he wished they would mangle their genitals in the operation. That should explain the importance and impact of this statement. A theological study/teaching that made him that distraught, was not as important as faith working through love.
You have a life time of habits that made you the person you were up to when you start/started a life with Christ. That starts the race, and begins the change. Just as Moses had to hold a staff over his head, but God did the Red Sea parting work, you must run the race, and HE will change you through the works of love along that path. You’ll throw some strikes, and make some wild pitches, but with good coaching, that is, God’s leadership in your life, you will learn from the mistakes.
The end result is what is the natural you, will not be what WAS the natural you. Your free will decisions will be in line with HIS desire and with no direct hand on your daily walk, your walk will be changed and under His Will.
It’s a process of Growth, quite literally. The only question is, will you run the race, or assume it’s finished when you made the Altar call?