The Gospel Is Not About You

This hit me the other day and I think I should share it with the blogosphere: The Gospel is not about us. It’s natural to think of everything as revovling around us, and our best interest. I’ve heard a well-known Midwestern pastor say, “When God says ‘don’t’ He means ‘don’t hurt yourself!'” Another one I’ve heard, this time from out in California, “God saw the value in you” in terms of why He died for our sins.

Both of those sound very good. They appeal to me. I like the thought of viewing God’s Law in terms of whether it is hurtful to me. It’s appealing to think that God saw a value in me that, honestly, I don’t see in myself much of the time.

The problem is this: If it appeals to the comfort of our flesh, if it affirms what we really want to believe, it’s probably wrong, Biblically.

That’s not to say there isn’t a bit of truth to these statements. After all, all lies stay pretty close to the truth, or contain a grain of it. That’s why we believe them. It’s true that when we violate God’s Law, we’re hurting ourselves. It’s true that we have value as the pinacle of God’s Creation, His image bearers!

The danger in taking those ‘truths’ too far is that we begin to nod our heads and say, it really is about me!

Instead, we need to remember that God’s Law is designed for us to do one thing, primarily: Honor the Lord your God with all your heart, soul, mind, and strength!

If you don’t, you’re not only hurting yourself, you’re affirming your rebellion against God and will be the subject of His wrath. I guess saying, “When God says ‘don’t’ He means ‘Don’t earn my wrath!'” wouldn’t play so well.

Although we’re created in God’s image, we’re fallen. We’re born in the image of Adam, like Seth. We are in need of a new nature. Our sinful nature is abhorrent to God. His Holiness cannot abide sin.

The beauty of Grace is that He loved us when we were completely unlovable, even hateful. While we were yet sinners, He died for us. Think about that. Would you die for the person you find most detestable? Do you love the person who irritates and angers you?

God’s definition of love is so vastly different than ours. He didn’t need something in us to like in order to rescue us. In fact, He did this for Himself. For His Glory. He has called a people for His Name (think Nature). It is who He is, and that’s why He did it. God is absolute Goodness and Love.

This is why the Gospel is all about God and our salvation was purchased because of the immense value of God’s nature, not ours. The Gospel restores our value, it doesn’t find it in us.

One last remark: God is also perfect Justice. This means that those who reject His perfect Love in the Gospel and go on living their lives the way they want, thinking they are good and don’t really need His sacrifice, then they must be punished.

If you’ve read this far and have not turned from running your own life, gotten on your knees before Jesus and acknowledged Him as Lord and Savior, I urge you to do that today.

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Matt Chandler — The Gift of Prophecy

I mentioned this in my last post, but I don’t want anyone thinking I’m just making stuff up. Here’s the video (audio, really) of Matt with his hokey “prophecy.” I’ll wait while you watch/listen, then we can talk about it.

 

 

First off, he misquotes scripture: “If that same power that raised Jesus from the grave …” Let’s just stop there. He gets it from Romans 8:11. Only, Paul doesn’t use the word “Power,” he writes “Spirit.”

“If the Spirit of him who raised Jesus from the dead dwells in you, he who raised Christ Jesus from the dead will also give life to your mortal bodies through his Spirit who dwells in you.”  Rom 8:11 ESV

Okay, so Matt goes on to say, “…why don’t I get to see it? Why don’t I get to walk in it? Why don’t I get to taste it?” This is the typical sales pitch. We’ve left the Bible and are now in the experiential realm of marketing and deceit.

See, faith is not about experience. We are to walk by faith, not by sight (or feeling, tasting, etc.).

He says, “like so many others do … in the Bible…” That’s something we could test right there. Do ‘so many’ in the Bible taste, experience and see this “power” that raised Jesus from the grave? What did their experience resemble?

I’m sure most charismatics will point to the day of Pentacost when 200 people witnessed the Spirit descend like a flame. They might point to the miracles performed by Peter, or Paul.

They’re not likely going to point to Elijah running for his life and wishing he was dead. They will ignore the fact that being a bond-slave of Christ left Paul, the once great Pharisee, reduced to a trembling, blind, stuttering man in rags and chains. They gloss over passages where Jesus promises persecution, false accusations, imprisonment and death.

So, do we experience the “power?” I hate that term. Paul wrote Spirit for a reason. God isn’t a “power.” He’s Spirit and Truth. The New Age speaks of Power that we can tap into and experience.

Anyway, back to the video … here comes the fraud.

We’ve been given a twisted verse, a challenge of our experience based on that twisted verse, now comes the proposition of what we’re missing.

He throws a curve ball, frankly. Many pastors used to use this as a chance to say, “you’re not giving me enough of your money!” That still happens, by the way. But here, he suggests we’re not living lives that would warrant this mystical power.

He goes on to say how he then engaged in an occult practice known as automatic writing. I’m fairly certain that the Lord, in all the verses condemning occult practices, didn’t secretly want us to engage in them. Nonetheless, Mr. Chandler’s “experience” would tell us otherwise.

We need to expend risk and faith to experience the power of God. I’d like to see a verse for that. So, his example is a challenge by some guy to ask God what He’s doing through automatic writing (an occult practice, mind you).

He suggests that if he doesn’t tell people about this, he’ll be in “trouble with God.” This would suggest that God has told him to tell everyone about his dabbling in witchcraft.

Sure.

His story proceeds and he gets snippets of words from his god (small ‘g’ is intentional). He does admit that this sounds like Voodoo. He says he had to clear his mind, like “The Force.” All of these admissions should have rung some bells for this guy.

He then writes down three things: W Burger, Black guy in grey pants, pink pigtails.

He then goes to a fast-food joint, Wataburger, sees a black guy who had a daughter who wore pigtails.

Wow. Really? This is amazing! The power that raised Jesus from the grave now gives us mental charades through occult practices.

Now, the story comes together with the man’s daughter–that very night–getting saved. That would be the work of God. The story, however, is a work of fiction.

I flat-out reject this story. It’s based upon twisted scripture and serves to elevate the speaker to a level of one who is getting messages from God. Guess what? I get messages from God every day when I open my Bible. So would you. God has not ordained a secret, special group of men who condescend to us. He’s revealed Himself in His son and we read about this in the Bible.

He recognizes that the story “elevates” him, and he tries to deflect that. But, it’s like those who are “so humbled” by the large groups of people wanting their autograph. It’s false.

This sort of story is told like a ghost story, only with Christian goosebumps. Would it have the same effect if he said a man came in and asked them to pray for his daughter, then they find out she got saved? Would that be less miraculous? No. It would simply be more realistic. And boring.

I do believe God is working every second. He is in sovereign control of every atom in His Creation. We are never far from God’s power. We don’t have to “take risks” to see God work. We don’t have to engage in witchcraft to hear God speak to us.

Rather, what we need to do is be obedient. God may lead us through a land He’s promised us (hypothetically speaking) and never let us own it (Abraham reference). He might lead some to die as a martyr, while another lives out their days as an exile (Peter and John). In all these things, what He’s called us to do is submit to His authority in our lives. That means we put away the things of the flesh, the sins of our culture and give glory to Him.

Let’s get back to the verse Matt mangles. How does this verse end? “… will also give life to your mortal bodies through his Spirit who dwells in you.” This isn’t the same as experiencing power. No, it’s about receiving true life. Romans 8 is about not being condemned for our sins because we belong to Christ. It’s not about experiencing some personal impression of what power should be. 

This strikes me as Christian adrenalin junkie behavior. Instead of sky diving or bungee jumping, the Christian adrenalin junkie will clear their mind and wait for God to give them images, or go around asking people if they have pains, then pretend to heal them. These lunatics go around acting like kids who just found a cool toy and they want to use it. They’re like the guy in Acts who got all excited seeing Paul heal people and wanted it for his own use. For the record, the guy was reprimanded.

Matt Chandler’s story disregards what faith really is in favor of what you could find in New Age circles. He’s just Christianized it. He’s bringing strange fire before the Lord. We should be very careful about such men.

The “Big Price” in Trump’s Tweet

It’s true, there’s a ‘Big Price’ for what happened in Syria. It is also true that what happened is evidence of a big price we all face.

It’s tempting to see the horrors in the world, or even the misfortunes, pain and struggles we face in our daily lives as being ‘of the devil.’ We see wrong and we cast a judgment. There are three groups:

Those who acknowledge (the Judeo-Christian) God will often say, “this isn’t from God.” This group sees the horror that happened in Syria as evidence of Satan working in the world.

Those who do not confess there is a God (Judeo-Christian or otherwise) will see this as supporting evidence that God does not exist. After all, how could a “good” God stand by and let this sort of thing happen?

The third group–which also acknowledges the Christian God–sees this not only as evidence to prove God’s existence, but as support for the Gospel, and our dire need for it.

As I’ve said already, I agree that there is a big price for what has been done. No one commits evil and gets away with it. It may seem that someone sins with impunity. After all, our very own President has allegations of immoral behavior, yet he sits in the chair of one of the most powerful offices in our modern world. Though many hope to see “justice” served according to their own agendas, there is no indication that their version of justice will be served.

Likewise, the election that Trump won had a true “lesser of two evils” dynamic unlike any we’ve seen in my lifetime. No candidate wore the “white hat” here.

The people in Syria who ordered and carried out the chemical attack on its citizens will not go un-punished. They face a God who has commanded that we treat life as sacred. More importantly, those people–long before they ever had the ability to carry out such genocide–have been gnashing their teeth at God in open rebellion against Him from birth.

It’s natural for a child to view a broken toy as the worst thing in the world. Likewise, it is natural for us to view the chemical attacks and the brutality committed as the more heinous crime. And yet, that’s not how God sees it.

And do not fear those who kill the body but cannot kill the soul. Rather fear him who can destroy both soul and body in hell.”  Mat 10:28

In Matthew, Jesus tells the people not to fear those who can only kill the body, but cannot kill the soul. And do not fear those who kill the body but cannot kill the soul. Rather fear him who can destroy both soul and body in hell.”  Mat 10:28. 

This anticipates the martyrdom of Christs’ followers. Indeed, the annals of the world drip with the blood of Christians. The deaths of Christians do not get the tweets and condemnation of the world as other deaths and atrocities do. Today, there are Christians in hiding throughout the world. They are prohibited from gathering and studying God’s word. They are imprisoned under false pretenses. They are brutally killed. No one takes notice. It’s as if it doesn’t happen.

These Christians have paid a ‘big price’ in gratitude for the ‘big price’ that was paid on their behalf.

And that’s the ‘Big Price’ that President Trump, the leaders of Syria, and every human on the planet owes. It is the price for our rebellion against God. And we’re born that way. From the moment we open our eyes and with every breath thereafter, we believe we sit on the throne of our lives. We focus on what’s good for ME. I have RIGHTS. No one talks to ME that way.

Such is our main view of justice. When something happens that appears to trample on personal rights, we demand that payment be made. If we trample on someone else’s feelings, rights or person, they probably just got in our way. I’m quite sure the people who dropped the barrels of toxic poison on the women and children in Syria can justify their actions. We’re pretty good at explaining how what we do is justified.

Just like we excuse ourselves from the first, and most important commandment: Love the Lord Your God with all your heart, soul and strength.

If that is the first, and most important commandment, the one from which all others flow, we fail. And it is that commandment–or the breaking thereof–for which we all must pay a big price.

In Syria we’ve seen the power of those who can kill the body. But, one day, we will see the power of Him who can not only kill the body, but also has providence over our souls. It is this judgment that should cause us all to tremble in fear.

I’ll admit, I don’t tremble as I should. I have more of an intellectual fear of it than an experiential fear. I remember the time I started an outboard motor while it was in gear. It started up and threw me back, over the rails. Somehow I flipped around, my feet dangling in the water, reached up and managed to shut off the motor. Afterward, I trembled as I realized my feet were probably inches from the spinning propellor and that I could have fallen over and been chopped up. That was experiential fear and trembling.

We don’t have that because we are enjoying God’s common grace. We experience His mercy, which tempers the judgment we deserve. No matter our condition in life, we are experiencing far better than what we deserve.

It is tempting to say, “but I’m a Christian! I have stepped forward in faith and should be blessed!” And yet, the Bible never extends us the promise of material wealth or honor in this life. It’s actually the opposite. Psst. That’s how you can tell a false prophet, by the way–they usually promise earthly prosperity and health.

God’s favor and blessing on us is based solely on Jesus’ perfect life, death and resurrection. I can make no claim to God’s favor on my own obedience. He paid the ‘big price’ for me. My obedience–such that it is–is in thankfulness and love, not out of paying a debt.

I read that Mother Teresa lived her simple, austere life because she believed that in doing so, she removed some of the suffering of Christ on the cross. While some may offer a little happy frown and say, “that’s so sweet,” it’s actually blasphemous. Remember Peter who told Jesus that He shouldn’t die, and Jesus responded, “Get behind me Satan, you savor the things of men!” Or when Peter said that He would die before he would deny Christ, and Jesus said, “Would you die for me?”

We are not God. Our hands are covered in the worst guilt–our own–and we cannot remove the suffering Christ paid on our behalf. To suggest this is lowering the sacrifice, the big price, to something far less than what it was. When we do that, we lower our offense to something like a misdemeanor rather than the death penalty we owe. This effectively tells God, your honor and glory is a small thing and you shouldn’t be upset. In other words, we become the judge of God, rather than the other way around.

When we understand that God is not absent in the horrors of this world. He’s not asleep at the wheel. He directs all things, including these atrocities. We see death of ‘innocent’ children as appalling, and we should. But, instead of shaking our fist at God and saying, “Where were you?” we should humble ourselves and give Glory to God and say, “how could we?”

How could we blaspheme and neglect honor to God? How could we run off to violate His moral law? How could we usurp His role in our lives, setting ourselves up as the ones in charge?

When we see sin on display in the world it’s a cop-out to say, “that’s evil” and yet exempt ourselves from that indictment. That is evil. And our failure to glorify God for His pure, righteous, holy, good, faithful and powerful character only contributes to the evil in this world. How does it contribute? Because we’re feeding the enemy. We’re allowing the wound in creation to fester. We’re believing that our little, selfish ‘good deeds’ are able to pay what we owe.

Like the master in Jesus’ parable about the servants, we have been given a way to have our debt canceled out. We’ve been forgiven. Yet, when we assume that those around us are worse than us, and demand that they ‘pay us what they owe us,’ we essentially reject the gospel and forfeit the forgiveness we can have.

Let me explain that lest you think I’m suggesting there shouldn’t be consequences for sin in this life: There should be. A murderer should be brought to justice. The people responsible in Syria should pay a hefty price.

What I’m pointing out is that we shouldn’t regard evil, demand justice, and think we’re doing okay. There should be justice carried out in this life. We should ‘do justice’ in reverence to God, who is just. But we should examine ourselves and recognize that we fall far short of giving God glory. We are in need of His payment on the cross every day, every hour, every minute, every second. We cannot contribute one blink of an eye toward our own salvation. Any attempt to do so (with that as its goal) is actually evil (like a bribe).

We have a big price. But the beauty of the Gospel is that it has been paid. Our response should be humility and devotion to the Lord, as much as we can offer, knowing that it is less than a penny in the offering plate to God, but more than all the riches of the self-righteous who believe they are earning their way to Heaven.

Is Tragedy From God?

A week and a half ago my family was given devastating news: my oldest daughter was diagnosed with inflamed Bowel Disease. This encompasses Crohn’s Disease and Ulcerative Colitis. Both are auto-immune diseases that are considered chronic, meaning they’ll stay with her for her whole life.

When someone receives such a diagnosis it is hard to imagine that God ordained it. In fact, the common response is: This isn’t from God!

They can go into remission, or they can cause damage that could require removal of parts of her intestines. While there’s a spectrum, there are “horror stories” that no one without the disease can truly fathom. When someone receives such a diagnosis it is hard to imagine that God ordained it. In fact, the common response is: This isn’t from God!

In my Bible study I’m in Isaiah 53. This is one of a number of passages that directly point to Jesus Christ. Verse 10 stands out to me: “Yet it was the will of the LORD to crush him…” 

It made me think of another who was crushed by God: Job. I just did a study in that book, as well, and noticed a few things:

  • God pointed Job out to Satan: “And the LORD said to Satan, “Have you considered my servant Job, that there is none like him on the earth, a blameless and upright man, who fears God and turns away from evil?” 1:8 ESV. Satan, of course, claims that Job’s only incentive to praise God and turn from evil was due to God blessing his life. Satan challenges God to “stretch out [His] hand and touch all that he has” and then Job will curse God.
  • God pointed Job out to Satan a second time in chapter 2, “”Have you considered my servant Job, that there is none like him on the earth, a blameless and upright man, who fears God and turns away from evil? He still holds fast his integrity, although you incited me against him to destroy him without reason.” Here, God confirms that He struck Job, though He had given Satan permission to take certain things and set limits.
  • Job never attributes his suffering to Satan. He confesses that it comes at the hand of God. In chapter 13, verse 15 he says, “Though He slay me, I will hope in Him…”

The hard part of faith is recognizing that God is the primary mover in all things. Some quibble that God permits evil, he doesn’t cause it. And, there’s truth in that. God is not the author of evil, but evil serves at the sovereign will of God.

Before I tie this up, I’d like to point out why Job is a significant book to understand in terms of God inflicting suffering on the righteous man. Job is a type of Christ. His character is descriptive of the true righteous one who always turned away from evil and glorified God perfectly: Jesus Christ.

When Christ was born, Satan sought to kill him through Herod. He sought to destroy his sinless nature through temptation. Finally, Satan sought to destroy Christ through pious, religious people accusing Him of blasphemy. Yet it was God who ordained all of these sufferings. God appointed Judas as the son of perdition who would betray the Christ into the rulers’ hands. God appointed the suffering on the cross, though Pilate had been inclined to let him go free. Jesus confirms that it is the cup prepared for Him by the Father.

She urged Job to let go of his worship of God as the benevolent, righteous and true God to whom our worship is due. She urged him to truly blaspheme God’s nature by turning his back on God and conclude that He must be a horrid being, devoid of love.

Do you see the parallel with Job? Job lost his family, his wealth and his health. Satan was prevented from killing him, though he likely wanted to. The righteous are an offront to Satan because they offer true worship to God, which is right. Then, Satan sought to disrupt Job through his wife and his friends. His wife urged him to curse God and die. It wasn’t merely a word of cursing that she advised. We like to think that a momentary curse is what is meant, but it is much worse. She urged Job to let go of his worship of God as the benevolent, righteous and true God to whom our worship is due. She urged him to truly blaspheme God’s nature by turning his back on God and conclude that He must be a horrid being, devoid of love.

Job’s response was that she spoke as the foolish women. He challenged her, “Shall I take good from the Lord, and not evil?” Job 2:10 ESV.

Both Job and Jesus suffered under the hand of God. Certainly, there is suffering in the world because of sin. Suffering offers powerful testimony to the existence and pervasiveness of sin. Without sin, Jesus would not have suffered on this earth and had to die on the cross. Since Job is a type of Christ, without sin, Job would not have had to suffer under the hand of God. There would have been no evil to deal out in God’s sovereign plan.

The difference between Job and Jesus lies in the sinless perfection of Jesus. While Job admits that he’s sinful, he contends that he didn’t do anything against the Lord (such as harbor blasphemy and rebellion) that deserved the suffering he endured. Jesus, on the other hand, was sinless, yet endured 32 years of suffering within a sinful world in rebellion against Him. He then endured the hateful words, the beatings, the spitting, the whipping and the humiliation of the cross … for our sin.

When we suffer a chronic or terminal illness, or when we suffer tragedy in one form or another, we have a choice: Do we say with Job, “Blessed be the name of the Lord?” Or do we side with Job’s friends, and the Pharisees that evil events and tragedy in this life are evidence of God’s displeasure at us?

Do you see that when we view God as one who weighs our good and bad deeds, then deals out in sudden retaliation, or seems to “catch up” with a wicked person, we’re saying something about God’s Name, or Nature. We’re suggesting that God is punishing sin through cancer or heart disease, or tragedy instead of dealing with us according to His mercy and offering us His grace.

As with all of these topics, this line of logic comes with a caution. There are instances where God does inflict suffering on people for their sin in this life. But that serves His purpose and His glory. For instance, the people of Israel were hauled off to Babylon and suffered at the hands of their enemies more than a few times. This was to turn their hearts toward God. And when they called out to the Name of God (that He is good, righteous, perfect, loving…) He would restore them and heal them.

The trial of Job, and the suffering of Jesus hold lessons for us. Job came through the suffering and learned greater humility than he had before, thus glorifying God. Jesus suffered for the sin of the world, purchasing a people for God’s glory, confirming God’s righteousness, justice, love, mercy and grace.

The Gospel is about God’s glory, not our value. If suffering speaks loudly to the presence of sin, the Gospel shouts even louder for the presence of God’s love. We read in Hebrews about how Abel’s blood cried up to God regarding sin (11:4), yet Christ’s blood speaks louder for Grace (12:24).

Our suffering in this life serves God’s glory. When we suffer thorns in the flesh, we learn to endure and confess the Lord’s greatness while others would abandon the faith. Though others may urge us that our suffering is some random thing that God didn’t send, we can say, “though He slay me, I will hope in Him.”

And Jesus was poor, a man of sorrows, stricken and despised during the years of His life. Anyone who tells you differently is reading from a different Bible and you should avoid them.

By God’s grace, He can heal any sickness that’s given. Like the man born blind from birth (not due to sin of his own, or his parents, see John 9:1-3). Though, as in the case of Paul, some thorns are not removed. They’re given to us that God’s grace might be more fully shown to the world.

There are plenty of “life coaches” or motivational speakers who meld the Bible to their positive, empowering platform for success. But they’re false prophets. The world loves them. People speak well of them and they’re sought out for counsel because they give good words. Jesus doesn’t play that game. Jesus speaks of a comfort that rests in the glory of God, not our material comfort.

God controls the afflictions we suffer and designs them for our good. That good is to be conformed to the image of Christ. And Jesus was poor, a man of sorrows, stricken and despised during the years of His life. Anyone who tells you differently is reading from a different Bible and you should avoid them.

Does this mean we don’t pray for my daughter’s restored health? No. I pray that daily. We are encouraged to bring our requests before God. And we wait on Him for our provision. He’s blessed us with great medical care. We have been blessed with an early diagnosis and prompt attention. We’re blessed to live in a country that has access to a lot of food. There are those who go into complete remission of the disease. I believe that, too, is the work of God for His glory. But if we relegate bad things to some random evil over which God is helpless to change, we’d be maligning His character and disparaging His name. We must take the good from the Lord, as well as the evil. Blessed be the name of the Lord!

 

What Is The Fear Of The Lord?

If your friends all jumped off a bridge, would you do it too? That’s a gem everyone has heard at least once in their lives. Rhetorically, I hope. The answer is obvious–“Heck no!” Because we’d be crazy to leap to our deaths. We fear death.

For some reason, though, Christians want to re-define “fear” when it comes to fearing God. I’ve heard it said that the fear of the Lord is “reverential awe.” Which is fancy for saying, “really amazed.”

Some believe that at His return, the world will tremble in fear–or amazement– at the goodness of God. It’s a nice thought, but the Bible doesn’t support that view.

I won’t get into a deep study of all the uses of fear in the Bible, but the Greek word (NT) is phobos or phobeo. Not too hard to see where we get our word phobia or phobic. In Hebrew the word was yira, or mora. Regardless of the language, the words convey an emotional response ranging from unease to stark terror, or trembling reverence. Context around verses provides whether it is someone “striking terror” or someone “filled with dread,” or someone “falling on their face in fear.”

One thing is certain, if we experienced any of the fear associated with God, we wouldn’t be talking about it in a den with cups of joe.

Here’s something interesting, though. In doing this word study I found that the Old Testament was filled with “fearing God.” God asserts His omnipotence and men are taught their place in Creation. I’m brushing with broad strokes here.

When we get to the New Testament, there are more verses telling us to “fear not.”

Those opposed to the whole “fear thing” might be cheering and high-fiving right now. But not so fast.

Those verses are correcting God’s people’s view of fear. Since the whole Bible is good for instruction, reproof and godliness, we need to take it as a whole. We tend to fear things in this world. We fear the unknown. We fear dark corners, under our beds, or the lump of monster that’s slithering from our closet at night. We fear a bad review at work. We fear sickness or car repair costs.

Yet God tells us not to fear for what we should wear, or what we will eat, or where we will live. God knows our needs!

Yet, we’re also told to fear the one who has power over not only our body, but also our souls! We are reminded in Hebrews that it is a terrible thing to fall into the hands of the living God! Paul tells us in Philippians to work out our salvation with fear and trembling.

We should fear … but we should fear rightly. If you make a practice of sinning, you should fear (but you probably don’t). If you have turned from a life of sin, accepting God’s grace in Jesus’ sacrifice, you should NOT fear condemnation, or death. Rather, we should fear offending God’s love for us.

To use a simple, yet relatable example, imagine a husband is out with the guys. He’s having fun at a restaurant, or bowling alley … and a girl he knew in high school sees him and they start chatting. Suppose the husband’s wife–who realizes he forgot his wallet–heads to the restaurant/bowling alley to deliver the billfold. Just as she walks in, the little tramp puts her dainty little hand on her husband’s chest, tosses her frosted locks back and laughs through her pearly white teeth, batting her eyelashes.

Just then, the husband catches sight of his wife at the periphery of his sight and feels heat race up his neck to his face, the other woman’s hand burning a hot spot on his pectoral muscle.

At that moment, the husband’s mouth dries up, his eyes widen and he stammers with cold, tingling fingers, trying to explain the innocent coincidence that resulted in this scene.

The fear he feels is not terror of condemnation because he wasn’t unfaithful. Being fully devoted to his wife, he just happened to bump into a woman he knew. Being polite, he engaged in small-talk. But, being sensitive to the love-bond between he and his wife, he realized how it could look, and the pain it might cause.

Granted, this is a bit embellished. In a healthy relationship, there wouldn’t be such melodrama. But, using absurdity to illustrate a valid point, we should have the same fear with God. For us, however, we could fill in the story. We’re often caught texting someone we shouldn’t (using the example above). Or we get as close as we can to flirting with another god, if not starting to go steady. We grow disillusioned with God since he doesn’t fit what we’d like Him to be, and we play the field of worldly ideas.

We should fear. And that fear should drive us away from those other gods and back toward the One who loves us.

For those who have rejected God’s love, they’ve rejected His rightful claim on them. And they should fear condemnation, which is coming at a time they won’t expect.

All You Need is Love

Love is the universal language, right? I suspect everyone would agree that it is what we need most. Love. It conquers all. Men will know us by our … love. The most important thing for a child’s development is … love. By a show of hands we could call this meeting to a close, all agreed. Except, we’re so bad at it. If we know the answer, why can’t we solve the problem? Maybe because we don’t actually understand what love really is.

To understand love, we can turn to Romans 13, or 1 Corinthians 13, both of which address deep love. In Romans Paul shows that true love is demonstrated by obedience to the Law of God. We cannot commit adultery, kill, steal or covet if we love God and love those around us. Such love will guard us from breaking the commandments. In 1 Corinthians, the Apostle Paul expands on all the things love will and will not do: It’s patient and kind, it doesn’t envy, it doesn’t boast, it doesn’t get prideful, it doesn’t think the worst of people. It seeks good for those around us, even our enemies.

In 1 John, the book’s whole emphasis is on love. We must abide in love, which demonstrates we abide in Christ. This is demonstrated in that we love other Christians (our brothers). Ultimately, though, the love of God is defined by John in that we keep God’s commandments, and His commandments are not a burden to us (1 John 5:3).

These statements from Paul and John relate back to the teachings of Jesus. He taught that if we love God, we will keep His commandments. One commandment is to love the Lord Jesus Christ. Those who loved Jesus, loved God. Those who rejected Jesus as Lord, rejected God and had no love.

Perhaps this is why our world lacks true love. It has rejected the Lord Jesus Christ. Since we need love, we turn to the imitation and counterfeit love. We turn to winsome, self-gratifying love. This is charity, good deed doing, hugging and expressing nice sentiments.

There’s nothing inherently wrong with that. Except that it is the superficial love of a world devoid of the real thing. The divorce rate is high. Couples who once professed love for each other end up on the edge (if not over it) of hating each other. The phrase is, we fell out of love.

This is a sign of the rot that is in us from birth: Sin. The symptom is unfaithfulness. Because of it, we leave our first love and give ourselves to emotional (if not physical) prostitution. Spiritually we do this by seeking another word from God apart from the Bible. Or we start elevating a pastor or Christian celebrity above Christ. In essence, we deny Christ. Some deny Christ on the cross, claiming He was never crucified, or that he died as a man–with the spirit of God no longer on him, or that His death wasn’t payment for sin, but an example of sacrifice. All of this pulls us away from the truth, and away from real love.

The Bible has a couple of terms for love: Agape and Phileo. Agape love is an action. It is the love personified by Jesus on the Cross, paying the penalty for His enemies while they spit upon Him. It is a love that we’re called to as Christians toward God first and toward other Christians and all those around us. Phileo is a brotherly affectionate love. It is the bond between David and Jonathan. It joins with agape in providing the feeling.

We like feeling. TobyMac has a song, “Feel it” in which he declares “That’s. How. I. Know.” Unfortunately, that’s not found in the Bible. 1 John doesn’t have a verse that says, “by this will you know that you are saved, you’ll feel it.

We know we’re of God because we love the Lord with all our heart, soul, mind and strength. That’s first. In obedience, we love all those around us, particularly Christians, as we would love ourselves. Don’t misunderstand that last part. God isn’t slipping in a “You gotta learn to love yourself, child!” It means that we would provide for ourselves, seeking safety, food and shelter, so we should do the same to all those around us. Even our enemies.

But, if we seek the welfare of those around us, but do not love Jesus Christ, our love is self-centered and odious. If we sacrifice our lives in service for others, but we’re not loving God and abiding in Him, we’re like a banging gong.

All we need is love. God is love. So, really, all we need is God. And He has been revealed to us in Jesus Christ whom we should love above all others, obeying all He said.

What Must I Do To Be Saved?

Salvation is so easy, even a caveman could do it! Salvation is so easy, what are you waiting for? Just believe. Right? Get your fire insurance. It’s free. Well–actually–it’s not. I can hear the ‘just believe’ crowd chambering rounds … let me explain. Your life literally depends on this.

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