Grace and the Knowledge of God

I want to some the time to humble myself and admit some mistakes that I think I have made over the past few years when it comes to my own walk and presentation of grace. I also want to address some issues that I am seeing with some of the things being said in the grace circles. I aim to use my own life as an example, rather than pointing the finger at others.

Basically, I along with many others have been proclaiming the radical grace of God along with the freedom of the New Covenant and our identity in Christ. Good stuff, right? Absolutely. But some strange things, along with good things, are being said about grace these days. Rather than shrug them off while people get deceived, I think it is best to speak out about things that can be taking away from true grace in the name of grace.

Even though I have experienced the freedom and joy that comes with a better understanding of the gospel, I was sensing an incompleteness in my approach to living by grace. I couldn’t put my finger on what it was so I sought the Lord about it. That’s right, we as “grace people” still should seek God (in light of the New Covenant realities).

I feel like the Holy Spirit answered me and started revealing some areas where I needed more wisdom. As always, He had the perfect Scripture that addressed the questions of my heart. He reminded me of how Peter said we are to grow in the grace and knowledge of our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ (2 Peter 3:18).

Grace must lead to a greater knowledge (intimacy) with the living person of Jesus, not just a doctrinal understanding of grace.

I found myself getting in a trap where I was focusing on exegeting the grace of God more than experiencing and extending the grace of God (to exegete means to expound upon and interpret the meaning of).

I also saw a trend I had to write off people and movements in the church that did not line up with my interpretation of graceWe must not simply discard anyone or anything that does not line up with our own understanding of grace.

It can become easy to justify the dismissal of a message (along with the messenger) because we believe it does not contain perfect doctrine. This is something that I hate that Protestants do all the time. We disagree with something someone says and therefore throw the baby out with the bath water. But here’s the kicker. That person might have something that we legitimately need to hear from God, but we conveniently ignore it since the individual does not fit into our doctrinal mold. We are right and they are wrong, so we do not have to listen to them.

Ironically, we can become grace-legalists. I have seen many ungracious reactions to people with honest questions about what is being said about grace. If people do not say things just so, in accordance with proper grace lingo, they are dismissed or even labeled a legalist. When something that originates from the heart of God is twisted by the hands of men, it can become polluted. That is what I think is happening to the message of grace in some cases.

So what is the answer to this sticky situation of wanting to dive into the grace of God without getting weird? Going back to the Scripture, we are told to grow in grace AND in the knowledge of God. We must realize that knowing God is only possible because of grace. We must also emphasize that grace should lead to the knowledge of God. We will then have the fruit of the Spirit in our lives and the true discernment of what is God and what is not.

There have been times in my walk with the Lord where I have emphasized one and not the other. Early in my Christian life, I remember striving to know God. I was passionate and zealous but needed to be rooted in the grace of God. I would seek out hidden keys and principles to get higher into the glory. I would compare myself to those I deemed spiritual giants and feel bad about my apparent lack. Thankfully, God showed me that the gospel qualifies me and that it is only through amazing grace that anyone knows Him and grows in Him.

But when focusing on grace, we should not stop pursuing a deeper relationship with God. One thing that I emphasize in this blog is our completeness in Christ. But it is not a completeness which dismisses a need to grow and experience more of God. It refers to the position of being in Christ and being qualified to experience all of the riches found in Him.

Jesus said that those who believe in Him will never hunger and thirst again. But He did not say they will never eat and drink again. I believe He is saying that once we find the Source, we need search no longer. We do not need to go around looking for wells, the well is within us and springs forth with eternal life (i.e. experiential relationship with Father, Son and Holy Spirit).

But I realize that at times, I would be turned off by someone saying that we should hunger and thirst for God and pursue more of Him. So I would argue away what they were saying in the name of being complete in Christ rather than admitting that I needed to deepen my personal interactive relationship with the Lord.

What I see in some grace oriented social media and messages is that catch phrases are being thrown out quite a bit like, “We already have it all in Christ”, “I don’t need to pursue God, He pursued me”, “I’m already filled with God, I don’t need more.” But what I have not seen is talk of a growing experiential knowledge of Him where we encounter Him, hear His voice and step out into His calling.

Please hear my heart. I am all for resting in our identity in Christ and in His finished work (just read practically any of my posts). I am all for realizing that we are not in the requirement meeting covenant, but the grace covenant where we benefit from what Christ did. But what I am saying is that there is a danger of only getting head knowledge or doctrine about grace without seeing the manifestation of grace in our lives which leads to knowing the living God more and more.

As has been said many times, grace is a Person not a doctrine. His name is Jesus. We come to know grace because of Jesus. But we do not come to know Jesus merely by an intellectual understanding of grace. Through true grace, we can grow in a true knowledge of the person of Jesus Christ. We will then have someone to manifest, not just something to argue about on social media. Bless you all. Thank you for hearing my heart. Hope this makes sense and brings some clarity.

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God is Just and the Justifier

I’m sure that many of you who read the Bible have come across passages that don’t really make sense to you. But you have heard and read them so many times that you don’t tend to ask questions about them. Then, all of the sudden, it either makes sense or you say, “Hey, I have no clue what that means and no clue why I never bothered to look into it!”

Well one day I had a moment like that with a verse I had heard off and on my whole life. If we confess our sins, He is faithful and just to forgive us our sins and cleanse us of all unrighteousness (1 John 1:9).

Why does it say God is faithful and just when He forgives our sins? Now I can understand if it were to say He is merciful and kind to forgive us. After all, a judge is not being unjust when they convict a guilty party, right? They would be just in doing so.

Furthermore, Proverbs says, He who justifies the wicked and he who condemns the righteous are both alike an abomination to the Lord (Prov. 17:15).

Yet in Romans, it says the following about being right with God:

Now to the one who works, his wages are not counted as a gift but as his due. And to the one who does not work but believes in him who justifies the ungodly, his faith is counted as righteousness… (Rom. 4:4-5)

Without a knowledge of the gospel and the New Covenant, it would seem that these two scriptures contradict each other. The key to understanding this is found here:

for all have sinned and fall short of the glory of God,  and are justified by his grace as a gift, through the redemption that is in Christ Jesus, whom God put forward as a propitiation by his blood, to be received by faith. This was to show God’s righteousness, because in his divine forbearance he had passed over former sins.  It was to show his righteousness at the present time, so that he might be just and the justifier of the one who has faith in Jesus (Rom. 3:23-26).

God had a plan to redeem us from sin by providing Himself as the sacrifice that would pay the penalty for the transgressions of the law as well as break the power of sin itself.

When Jesus suffered for us, He drank the cup of sin and thus became sin for us (2 Cor. 5:21). Did you ever wonder why Moses put a snake on the pole in the wilderness in order to heal those who looked at it? We know that this was a type of Jesus on the cross.

And as Moses lifted up the serpent in the wilderness, so must the Son of Man be lifted up, that whoever believes in him may have eternal life (John 3:14-15).

Why a snake then? Why wasn’t a lamb put on the pole, since Jesus is the lamb that was sacrificed? It is because Jesus took our sins upon Him and became sin for us.

 He himself bore our sins in his body on the tree, that we might die to sin and live to righteousness. By his wounds you have been healed (1 Peter 2:24).

In drinking the cup of our sins and taking them into Himself, He actually trapped sin so that it could be destroyed. He captured that which had captured us! Only His sinless body could be the perfect sacrifice. Sin was condemned on the cross in the body of Jesus. This is how both justice towards sin and mercy towards us were satisfied. This is the wisdom of God that saves us.

For God has done what the law,weakened by the flesh, could not do. By sending his own Son in the likeness of sinful flesh and for sin, he condemned sin in the flesh (Rom. 8:3-4).

God is now completely just in forgiving all who come to Christ (for all time, I might add). He is being faithful to the covenant that He made with His Son. He actually would be unjust to judge the same sins twice. God is both just AND the justifier.

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Did God Make a Mistake When He Gave Man a Will?

It seems that a popular idea in some of the grace crowds is that having a choice is a bad thing. I have heard things about how grateful we should be that God overrode our choice and decided to save us.

Now, I am very grateful that, as the Message Bible says, saving us is all God’s idea and all His work. I am glad that I did not need to become willing enough before He came to me. However, the idea that our choice is not involved in salvation at all is completely unbiblical.

I would say that our choice is still a passive yes to God’s active grace, but even in being overwhelmed by His grace, our will is in agreement with God’s workings. We do not pull ourselves up by our own bootstraps to get saved, but we can still choose to accept or reject Jesus.

He came to His own, and His own did not receive Him. But as many as received Him, to them He gave the right to become children of God, to those who believe in His name (John 1:11-12).

The extreme Calvinist view of the gospel pretty much does away with our choice when it comes to accepting Christ. It says man is like a dead corpse on the bottom of the ocean and God reaches down and pulls us up, then raises us from death. While it is true that we are dead in sin in Adam, it does not mean that we cannot make a choice for God when faith comes through the preaching of the gospel (see Rom.10:14-17).

The inclusionist doctrine that is being proclaimed in grace circles also does something weird with the concept of man’s choice. They say God basically saved everyone against their will; they just don’t know it yet. The weird thing is, they can choose to reject the salvation they have and then lose it, although not everyone that preaches inclusion goes through these implications.

The main argument used by those who preach this is that just as all mankind was affected by Adam’s sin, all mankind was saved through Jesus’ work on the cross. When you try to tell them that salvation is not automatic, they will sometimes argue that you are implying that Adam’s work is greater than Christ’s work.

This sounds like a pretty convincing argument, but it becomes clearer when we actually read the text. In Romans 5, Paul does NOT say that the work of Adam and the work of Christ are to be compared but rather, contrasted.

But God’s free gift is not at all to be compared to the trespass [His grace is out of all proportion to the fall of man]. For if many died through one man’s falling away (his lapse, his offense), much more profusely did God’s grace and the free gift [that comes] through the undeserved favor of the one Man Jesus Christ abound {and} overflow to {and} for [the benefit of] many (Rom. 5:15, AMP).

With the curse that came through Adam’s sin, people had no choice but to be subjected to sin and death. On the other hand, God respects man’s choice and offers life to all. It is as if all of man is in the garden again and can choose life or death because of the glad announcement of the gospel. He reversed the curse and we no longer have to accept a life of sin and curses!

I am not claiming to have all of the answers to these deep theological mysteries, but am just trying to say that the idea of choice being a bad thing is weird. Some talk about grace in a way that pits choice at odds with our freedom. It is as if God just does stuff in our lives and we just sort of observe, since we could never do good things.

Again, I agree that it is God’s life and power in us that energizes our being and grows our new nature. But choice does not restrict our freedom, it provides the way for it. There cannot be a yes without the possibility of a no.

As an example of this, I find it extremely freeing that I can choose not to sin now that Christ has set me free from sin. I am not saying I set myself free from sin or cease sinning because of my will power. I am saying Jesus did set me free and I can walk in that freedom since I am united with Him now. Is this not clearly spelled out in the word?

Likewise you also, reckon yourselves to be dead indeed to sin, but alive to God in Christ Jesus our Lord.

 Therefore do not let sin reign in your mortal body, that you should obey it in its lusts. (Rom. 6:11-12)

But if we have no choice and God just does things that we have no say in, then we can make excuses for living below our birthright. “Well, Jesus hasn’t helped me get free from this bad habit, so what do you expect me to do about it? I’m only human.”

This does not only apply to matters of Christ-like character, but power stuff as well. “Well, God hasn’t saved Bobby or healed Susie so not much I can do about that. If it be His will, then maybe it could happen…”

My mom grew up in a Calvinist church where everything that happened was just because of God’s predestined will. She wondered then, what the role of prayer was. By the way, God answered her questions supernaturally. You can read about that in this post.

To sum it up, love cannot be forced, else it is no longer love. God created us for relationship, not robot-ship. He wants to dialogue with us, not monologue at us. What joy there is in being able to say yes to God and what joy the Father takes in those who choose Him. God did not make a mistake when He gave us a will.

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To Him Who Survives??

In the modern American church, we emphasize the God who meets our needs and gets us out of difficult situations. Now before you hear what I am not saying, I am not saying God does not take care of His children.

What I am saying is that we tend to emphasize God coming through for us by helping us get needs met and getting us out of difficulties, but the question remains: WHO are we?

If we see ourselves as helpless orphans, then we think that God does these things for us to help us achieve the end goal of survival. Under this mindset, the church is not expected to be the victorious bride but simply a damsel in distress that needs rescued all the time. But those who are born of God don’t just survive in the world, they overcome the world through the nature of their Papa!

For whatever is born of God overcomes the world; and this is the victory that has overcome the world—our faith (1 John 5:4).

Faith is where the victory lies. I think part of the problem is how we have portrayed faith. We make it a faith in our ability to have faith. We think only a select breed of super Christians could achieve the faith necessary to live in victory. This makes it into distant elusive thing, rather than something closer than the air we breathe.

True faith involves NOT trusting in our abilities but in the object of your faith. Faith says, “I give up and am resting in Him” not “I must work it up to get er’ done”.  The Bible talks about faith like this:

Now to the one who works, his wage is not credited as a favor, but as what is due. But to the one who does not work, but believes in Him who justifies the ungodly, his faith is credited as righteousness (Rom. 4:4-5).

Whenever we are tempted to go into survival mode and hold down the fort rather than advance in the kingdom, we must go back to faith. Faith comes from hearing the gospel over and over again. We then can feast on the riches of Christ and bring His favor into the harsh world in which we once simply survived.

Beware of well meaning “honest” brothers and sisters that say things like, “Well, you’re always going to struggle and sin. You’ll always miss it while in the flesh.” These words are hammered into us our entire Christian lives by (as I said) well meaning believers who are placing faith in and identifying with experience rather than the resurrected Christ and His Word.

I’m not saying I don’t have things I’m battling, but think about it. Even if we are overcoming just some of the time, is that not the work of Christ in us? What about when we start seeing a little more victory? Is that our reward for our excellent law keeping? Don’t be crazy, that’s the grace of Christ working that in us. So can He not do a good job in us and empower us to walk free from the things that used to enslave us?

Now to Him who is able to keep you from stumbling, and to make you stand in the presence of His glory blameless with great joy… (Jude 24)

Since it all comes from faith, then when we think we are helpless orphans that just have to do our best and hang in there because we know we can’t win em’ all, then we are not tapping into faith and thus, not seeing victory. We are actually giving ourselves permission to fail. I’ve found faith in Him and faith in flesh yield very different results.

What if we started thinking that Jesus really can get the job done in us since He has already finished it all for us? What if we retreat back into faith and continually get fresh grace and perspective while basking in His love rather than believing the lies of this fallen world and defaulting to old mindsets that do not spring from our new identity?

We must not water down “He always leads us in triumph” and turn it into “He helps us maintain our survival.”

In fact, He not only helps us to overcome but shows off His glory (His nature) through us.

 But thanks be to God, who always leads us in triumph in Christ, and manifests through us the sweet aroma of the knowledge of Him in every place (2. Cor. 2:14).

We are His perfume bottles in the midst of rotten circumstances. The unrenewed mind is bent on retreating into self-pity and complaining, but we have a victory that was secured already. No bad day, nasty person or fearful report can take Jesus off of the throne or take away from His finished work. There He sits at the right hand of our Father as our brother and representative. He is the One who overcame and is absolutely committed to making us just like Him.

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Consider Him Who Endured For You

I’m sure many people who read this blog and Christians in general feel the need to live an awesome life in God. I always have envisioned the Christian life as the greatest adventure on Earth. It is called “a race” in the book of Hebrews.

How we run this race is where it can get confusing. A slave and orphan mentality can cause us to seek out a magic formula for how to run effectively. If we master this discipline, pray this prayer, go to the next revival meeting or get the most cutting edge revelation, then maybe we can run faster to please the master.

The Word tells us the only way to run with endurance.

Therefore, since we have so great a cloud of witnesses surrounding us, let us also lay aside every encumbrance and the sin which so easily entangles us, and let us run with endurance the race that is set before us, fixing our eyes on Jesus, the author and perfecter of faith… (Heb. 12:1-2a)

It is not by fixing our eyes on ourselves (both our strengths and weaknesses) or fixing our eyes on the other racers, but on Jesus. He is the life and strength of our faith. He is the author of faith as He Himself lived a life of faith in the Father and demonstrated that we can run well and win.

The Scripture also describes this Jesus, on whom we are to gaze. It says He is the One, who for the joy set before Him endured the cross, despising the shame, and has sat down at the right hand of the throne of God (Heb. 12:2b).

He ran His race with a joy set before Him. The incomprehensible good news is that you and I were that joy. He endured the cross for us, despising the shame. I studied that word (despised) and it means to disregard or make light of. To me, this means that He loved us so much that the shame of the cross was not worthy compared to the joy He had over us. He disregarded it as unimportant compared to the glory that would follow the suffering. Its kind of like if someone were to congratulate you on the great sacrifice you make to provide for your children. You might say, “Sacrifice? Of course I do what it takes to care for my own children. I would do anything for them.”

In the next verse, it talks about what this race we run while on the Earth is all about.

For consider Him who has endured such hostility by sinners against Himself, so that you will not grow weary and lose heart (Heb. 12:3).

This great adventure does not just involve outward exploits such as missionary efforts but overcoming the fallen ways of the world that make it all about us. It is about becoming the expression of the selfless love of Christ in the Earth.

The way we do this is not by considering how you should love the person who hurts you or by considering what they did and how it is not that big of a deal. The strength to love comes from considering Him who ran before us.

As Dan Mohler says, “Jesus never let sin against Him produce sin in Him.” Consider Him who bore patiently with you and absorbed your curse of death that the old master of sin dealt you as your portion. Consider Him and the love with which He loved you will flow naturally and freely to others.

Can you imagine Jesus saying to you, “You know that cross was really awful. I can’t believe I did that for you sometimes.” Of course that sounds foolish when we put it in the mouth of Christ. We were the joy that was set before His eyes as He looked through time while enduring such hostility from sinners (we whom He came to save).

Likewise, we run with endurance with the joy set before us of others being born into His family through Christ living through us. It is only when we stop gazing upon and considering Him that we slip into the ‘tit for tat’ mentality of legalism. We then value our good deeds above the evil deeds of the one next to us. Or, we admire a super saint while considering how undisciplined and disobedient we are.

Let us perfect our gaze, looking away from all that will distract and onto Him who endured hostility from us and won our hearts; swallowing our rebellion in the fire of His redemption. Consider Him!

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Why Both Universalism and Hyper-Evangelicalism Just Don’t Work

A popular view that is influencing many people today is the idea that everybody will eventually make Heaven their home, which is commonly referred to as Universalism. In some circles, this is even being mixed in with the fresh revelation of grace that is sweeping the church. It is important that we address this issue from a biblical viewpoint that places both God’s heart for humanity and His plan of salvation in the light of the truth.

To begin, let me so bold to say that you do not want everybody to go to Heaven. What you most likely want is for everyone to be saved. Would you want terrorists, rapists, and tyrants in Heaven in their un-renewed state? Do you suppose that St. Peter sprinkles magic dust on those who enter them pearly gates, turning them into “good guys” against their will?

What God wants, what I want, what we all probably want, is for all to be saved. Saved from the hell within and therefore, from external hell (I do not plan on going into depth about what hell is or is not in this post). This is an act of grace that involves repentance (a change of mind about God that leads to God changing the heart).

We read in Scripture that we must be born again into Christ to see the Kingdom of God, whether that be involvement with the kingdom now or after we pass. The problem is, when we do not view this in a positive light, we end up with people who twist the Scriptures and therefore, people who hear a twisted message.

I am not trying to take away from the severity of eternal matters. But I think that if we the church demonstrated a life of freedom in Christ and made a difference by way of demonstrating the fruits and gifts of the Spirit, perhaps people might want to be like us. Perhaps we should ditch the ministry of judgement and take on the ministry of reconciliation that we have been given (see 2. Cor.5).

There is a Robin Williams skit where he imitates a street corner preacher threatening the listeners with hell. “If you do these things, you won’t end up in the kingdom of God!” He then asks the preacher, “Well, are you going to be there…?” (the crowd roars in laughter)

The problem is, we have actually created a self-centered gospel that says it is all about whether we end up in heaven or hell. Rewards and punishment become the emphasis rather than putting off the false self and living the life we were created to live. At the same time, we simply preach heaven and hell in terms of destination as opposed to realms that effect the here and now. Jesus preached, “repent, for the kingdom of Heaven is at hand” and then demonstrated the reality of the kingdom. He did not say, “Repent so you end up in Heaven one day.” He basically said it was show and tell time, it was His turn, and He brought His Father’s world with Him to class.

The problem becomes compounded when we throw in the mindset of culture today (at least in the West). We think it extremely unfair that someone could go to hell (again, not going into detail about whether hell is about everlasting torment or final annihilation, but let’s agree that it is bad). I recently read a comment on the interwebs that simply said, “If hell is real, then God is not good.” Wait a minute, oh accuser of God. You say God is not good without even mentioning the actions of people. Do you really think people should be forced to be in Heaven regardless of the choices they make or their state of being? This would be controlling and manipulative on God’s part (even though we don’t see it like that). And yet, some of these same accusers completely balk at any hint of controlling religion. I would agree with them that religious control and manipulation is not of God, but this is the exact thing they are promoting; the idea of men who do not want to be with God, who have chosen to remain in darkness, forced to be with Him instead of the gods they have chosen.

On the other end of the spectrum, we have this warped way of presenting the gospel in the Evangelical church. In this message, you have a God with mixed agendas. On one hand, He wants to kill us out of anger towards us due to our sin, but on the other hand, He offers mercy to those who pray the right prayer and repent the correct way (and then who do all the right things afterwards). The key words here are “correct” and “right”.

We say that Christians have made “the right choice” and that people who have made the wrong choice, i.e. not converted the way we deem proper, will be sent to hell.

The problem is, this mindset tends to make it all about our works and makes God out to be the bad guy. “Believe in our God or face His wrath!” Its no wonder that some people are drawn towards a Universalist view.

I’m not saying I agree with the Universalist or Unitarian views, but neither do I agree with brow beating non-believers into the kingdom with threats of the after-life. Both of these views stem from falling short of the wisdom of God in the matter.

Someone once pointed out that there is a ditch on either side of the path of life. Some fall the way of the Universalist and think that God would be unjust to send people to destruction. Others fall in the trap of preaching a harsh dictator God who will fry you if you don’t believe or behave the right way.

“But brother, does it not say in the scriptures that whosoever believes will be saved and whosoever disbelieves will be damned? ” (Mark 16:15)

Yes, but a false mindset of the nature of God can turn this into a threatening statement rather than a hopeful invitation to be rescued from the true enemies of sin and self.

Here is where the rubber meets the road. Both the Universalist and the hyper-Evangelical fail to understand the goodness of God. He does not have goodness, which He can choose to exercise on those who are acceptable. He does not have good, He is good. He is goodness Himself!

It is not that there are many paths to God and God will reward those who answer the multiple choice question correctly and punish those who answer incorrectly. There is one God and one way to Him. To choose or reject God is to choose or reject life.

There was a bumper sticker that said God is too big to fit into one religion. In my opinion, that misses the point. God is bigger than religion period! We can try to craft our own realities and our own religious paths to find Him, but we cannot change the Person of Reality who holds the universe together and in whom all things consist. He is the One who finds us in our weakness (Rom. 5). The gospel is the glad announcement that God has made things right. The only thing left for us is to say yes to Jesus being our Lord and even that is something the Holy Spirit helps us with.

No matter where we end up after death, we already would have had either heaven or hell on the inside. We simply go “to be with the lord”, depending on who that may be. We simply go home, wherever that may be. To know Jesus IS eternal life (John 17:2) and unbelief IS a state of hell in and of itself. Just as the hymn talks about our faith becoming sight one day, unbelief will also become sight.

We live in a society with people who have fallen into both ditches. The hyper-religious crowd is not effective in snatching souls from the hellish torment they are already in due to trying to live apart from Life Himself. So they abandon the ministry of reconciliation to threatening people with eternal hell and looking forward to their own eternal heaven as a means of escape from a world in which they feel powerless.

In the other ditch, you have those bound by spirits of self-pity and the fear of man whose most awful fear is offending someone. So they try and make God into their own image of niceness instead of trusting the all powerful, wise and loving God who does a much better job at giving mercy to the undeserving than we do. He cares more about the souls of men than we do and will empower us to reach them.

The people in either ditch often throw stones at each other. But we who have embraced the true gospel, the integrity of the Word, and the power of the Spirit should not throwing stones at either group. We should instead, through our lives and our love demonstrate the true nature of the Father. May He open our eyes to see who He is and have His eyes and heart for the souls in bondage who need help right now as opposed to a theory or argument about the after-life.

For the Kingdom of God is not a matter of talk, but of power (1 Cor. 4:20).

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The Truth and the Lie

Then Jesus said to His disciples, “If anyone wishes to come after Me, he must deny himself, and take up his cross and follow Me. For whoever wishes to save his life will lose it; but whoever loses his life for My sake will find it (Matthew 16:24-25).

To those who would follow Jesus, the first thing He says is to deny yourself. Many think of this as a call to a lifestyle of endless self-denial and misery whilst we try to do the right thing. But we miss the higher truth that man was never created for self. So Jesus is asking us to deny something we were never made for in the first place so we can get back to the life God originally had in mind.

See, you were not created for “self”. Self is the language of fallen humanity, which is tuned in to station WIIFM (What’s in it for me). You were created for relationship and oneness with God. This is why the idea of a self-centered and self-seeking life is so foreign to our created purpose and therefore, something that needed to be removed.

God created you in His image and knew you before the foundation of the world. God is not asking you to deny that. Why would God ask you to deny God’s image? But all have been born into Adam and need the salvation the Second Adam brought to mankind. The main purpose of that salvation is to “seek and to save that which was lost”, meaning the image of God in man.

…who exchanged the truth of God for the lie, and worshiped and served the creature rather than the Creator, who is blessed forever. Amen (Rom. 1:25).

Romans tells us that the downward spiral of the human condition involved man exchanging the truth of God for the lie. Many translations say “a lie”, but it is actually “THE lie” in the original language. This is because God IS the truth, which in the Greek means reality. Everything outside of that is considered a lie. Therefore, THE lie is the idea that life outside of God (the self-life) is possible.

Jesus said He was the way, the truth and the life. Many have wanted to make Jesus into “a path, a good teacher, and someone that can help your life” instead.

But the truth remains that life is in God. To reject God is to reject life. Many people view the Christian life as a set of morals, beliefs, and principles that should be followed as opposed to a different set of morals, beliefs, and principles. This is why many do not see the need to accept Jesus as they think He is simply a figure in one of many different paths to life.

Rather, Christianity is the announcement of the true God (who IS life and truth) to His creation that all can know Him because of Jesus. Sure this involves morals, beliefs and principles, but these come as a result of encountering and knowing God. We come to know these things because of our relationship with God; we do not come to know God because of these things.

As I mentioned earlier, life outside of God just does not work. Sure people may think that they are living a good life or even living in their purpose outside of the knowledge of God. But they simply need to meet life Himself to see that what they have is based on a lie. How can we have reality apart from the person of reality (Truth)?

For this reason, I think it is futile to try to convince people that their standard of morals is wrong and ours as Christians is right. Rather, if we show them life, if we give them Jesus and not just talk about Jesus, perhaps His goodness will lead them to repentance. I am not saying we should not speak up about God’s standards, but we must never divorce them from the reality of a relationship with God. After all, the kingdom of God is not a matter of talk, but of power according to 1 Corinthians 4:20.

Something I have heard is that Christianity to too exclusive. I would say that is inaccurate. To address the issue of whether or not it is inclusive or exclusive, the first question that must be addressed is “who do you say Jesus is?” Is He THE truth or is He not? To say He is exclusive is to suggest that He is the correct answer in a biased multiple choice quiz. But when we see Him as the only One who is true, the only Giver and Redeemer of life, we realize He is wanting to include everyone in His life as He already tasted death for everyone (Heb. 2:9).  There simply are no other choices. There is only the truth and the lie.

To those living outside of this reality, it looks like a narrow way since THE lie has manifested itself in so many forms. There are so many religions, so many philosophies and self-help methods that promise life and peace. In that sense and under that mindset, broad is the way that leads to destruction (Matt. 7:13). But to those who have tasted and seen that the Lord is good, we actually realize how big He is since all life and truth are in Him. The heavens cannot contain Him. He made Heaven in the first place. In Him all things consist.

Yes there is only one Source, but it is a never-ending fountain of pleasure and purpose whereas every other well will dry up, leaving us thirsty again. This is because the self-existence is based on a lie.

And we know that the Son of God has come and has given us an understanding, that we may know Him who is true; and we are in Him who is true, in His Son Jesus Christ. This is the true God and eternal life (1 John 5:20).

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