God’s Pursuit Of Humankind – The Cliff Notes In Video

God2-Sistine_ChapelI don’t post a lot of videos here at A Christian Worldview of Fiction–slow Internet connection discourages me from watching many, and therefore I don’t have many I want to pass along. Today a friend of mine asked my opinion of this one, so I took the time to download it and watch (only a little over four minutes long.)

It’s interesting and I think a good one for those who don’t believe in God to think about. But for those of us who do believe in God . . . Well, I should just let you experience it. Tell me what you think.

Published in: on June 6, 2013 at 7:39 pm  Comments Off on God’s Pursuit Of Humankind – The Cliff Notes In Video  
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Perfect People Aren’t Saved

No Perfect PeopleAlong with an erroneous view of the Bible, some people also have misconceptions about salvation. One of the most common is that it’s the good people that come to Christ–the people who like church and gospel music, who think a good time means going to a prayer meeting. Those are the people that become Christians.


For one thing, there are no “good people.” If someone is devoted to religious expression but has not believed the claims of Jesus Christ, he’s using his religion to get something he wants. In other words, religious expression can be an evidence of our selfishness, our desire to manipulate–either other people or even God Himself.

Good people aren’t saved. Sinners are saved. The lost are found, the broken are healed, those at the bottom of the pit are rescued. Jesus Himself said, “It is not those who are healthy who need a physician, but those who are sick” (Matt 9:12b). In context it’s clear he was referring to messed up people–“tax collectors and sinners.”

Even today, I think some Christians have the idea that a person needs to clean up a bit before coming to Christ. Jesus seems to say the opposite. He first encountered people where they were at, and knowing Him then brought about change. In some instances, such as His conversation with the woman caught in adultery, He told her to sin no more. In other instances, such as with Zaccheus, the sinner himself volunteered to clean up his act after his encounter with Jesus.

Either way, Jesus saves sinners, not because they get rid of sin but because they can’t get rid of sin and they know it. They repent but it is Jesus who takes away the sin of the world. It is His Spirit that gives each sinner the desire to live in newness of life.

By our nature, none of us wants to worship God and serve Him. We want to worship ourselves and serve ourselves. We do unto others so that they will do unto us. In other words, we largely look at relationships as trade-offs. I’ll scratch your back if you scratch mine. And woe to the person who doesn’t follow through on his promise. Revenge awaits! Justified revenge, because people are supposed to come through for me (even though I don’t always come through for them).

The interesting thing is, those who think they are good don’t see any need for God. Why would they? They don’t think they need saving.

So it’s ironic that people falsely think good people come to Christ. People good in their own eyes are too busy with their perfectionistic ways to pay attention to what Christ is all about. They are making sure that they recycle, give to the charity of the month, teach their children to be tolerant of all lifestyles, and do their fifty percent of what it takes to have a good marriage (thank you Dr. Phil).

Don’t get me wrong. When a person comes to Christ, he changes. A thief like Zaccheus doesn’t want to keep stealing. Just the opposite. He has a passion for making right the wrongs he’s done. But his new life is a result of his relationship with Christ, not a cause of it.

He doesn’t come to Christ because he stopped stealing. He stops stealing because he came to Christ.

We Christians don’t really understand this new life we experience. We’d like all the old desires to be gone and for some people, they are. For others, it’s a fight to the death, or so it seems. The old desires seem to raise their ugly heads at the least opportune times. Some people experience gradual and constant improvement. What they used to do, they hardly do any more. What they want to do to please Jesus, they find delights them now, too.

The process, we’re told, is sanctification–growing up into our salvation, becoming like Jesus through the supernatural transformation of His Spirit. Most of us think it’s a long process that doesn’t show a lot of results to most of those who are close enough to us to see our warts.

And because we fall down so often, because lots of people think only the good come to Jesus, we give Christ’s name a bad reputation–because clearly, Christians sin. When we think about it, it grieves our hearts because we’re dragging Jesus’s name into the mud. We’re letting people think poorly of our Savior because we wallow in the sins we say He saved us from.

Christians aren’t good people. We’re saved people, and it’s important that we let others see who we are: a people who have received mercy, who have been pardoned, redeemed, cleansed, forgiven, and who one day, when we see Jesus face to face, will be like Him. It’s just that we’re not there yet.

Tears Of The Messiah

Most people know that Jesus wept at Lazarus’s tomb before He raised him back to life. It’s a touching scene, one that has produced any number of sermons.

Fewer people, I tend to think, know about Jesus weeping over Jerusalem on his final entry into the City of David. Luke records the scene, as well as the build up to it. Clearly Jesus cared deeply–not for the walls and the buildings, but for what Jerusalem stood for. This was the place God intended to be central to His worship. His people were there, the temple known as His house was there.

37 As soon as He was approaching, near the descent of the Mount of Olives, the whole crowd of the disciples began to praise God joyfully with a loud voice for all the miracles which they had seen, 38 shouting:

    “Blessed is the King who comes in the name of the Lord;
    Peace in heaven and glory in the highest!”

39 Some of the Pharisees in the crowd said to Him, “Teacher, rebuke Your disciples.” 40 But Jesus answered, “I tell you, if these become silent, the stones will cry out!”

41 When He approached Jerusalem, He saw the city and wept over it, 42 saying, “If you had known in this day, even you, the things which make for peace! But now they have been hidden from your eyes. 43 For the days will come upon you when your enemies will throw up a barricade against you, and surround you and hem you in on every side, 44 and they will level you to the ground and your children within you, and they will not leave in you one stone upon another, because you did not recognize the time of your visitation.” (Luke 19:37-44)

Earlier, when Jesus was on His way to Jerusalem, He had similar thoughts:

O Jerusalem, Jerusalem, the city that kills the prophets and stones those sent to her! How often I wanted to gather your children together, just as a hen gathers her brood under her wings, and you would not have it! (Luke 13:34)

Jesus was deeply moved by the rejection of His rebellious people. He wanted them to receive their King, to experience the peace with God He offered.

Scripture makes it clear that God’s desire is still for rebellious people to repent and turn to Him. Jesus said in Matthew, “It is not the will of your Father who is in heaven that one of these little ones perish” (18:14) The in 1 Timothy, Paul wrote

This [prayer on behalf of all men] is good and acceptable in the sight of God our Savior, who desires all men to be saved and to come to the knowledge of the truth.

I’m in awe that Jesus unabashedly wept for those who would turn their back on Him, that God, loving the world so much, paid the price for our sin just so we could enjoy peace with Him:

you were not redeemed with perishable things like silver or gold from your futile way of life inherited from your forefathers, 19 but with precious blood, as of a lamb unblemished and spotless, the blood of Christ. (1 Peter 1:18-19)

I’ve never thought about it much before, but might not Jesus weep for each person who walks away from Him?

Jeremiah is sometimes called the weeping prophet because in a number of places Scripture mentions him weeping for Judah and their stubborn, rebellious heart–well, more precisely for the destruction of the nation which he foresaw.

At one point he prophesied that the people who had been taken to Babylon in the first wave of captivity would be better off. They would prosper in their new land and one day be restored to Judah. But those who stayed or who fled to Egypt would bring destruction on their heads. I’m sure the people who heard him thought he was nuts. Captivity good, freedom bad, he seemed to be saying.

The problem was, they had limited sight. Jeremiah was speaking the words given him by omniscient God.

So, too, Jesus knows we are in desperate need of His life-giving blood–more dramatically than if we were in need of a transfusion. What’s more, He bled out for us. Why, then wouldn’t He weep over those who wave Him off and walk on by to destruction?

Published in: on March 26, 2013 at 7:27 pm  Comments (2)  
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The Difference Between Religious People And Christians

horse_and_carriageThis is not rocket science. In fact, I’ve written about the difference between people of other religions and Christians on other occasions, but I’ve generally left the door open when someone professes to be a Christian. I mean, I can’t look into their hearts. I don’t know what their relationship with God is. If they say they have been redeemed by the blood of Christ, then who am I to say they haven’t been?

But today on the radio broadcast Truth for Life, Pastor Alistair Begg gave the clearest, simplest way of identifying the difference between religious people and Christians.

Someone who is religious believes and obeys in order to be accepted by God. A Christian on the other hand believes in order to be accepted by God, and obeys. Put in slightly different terms, a religious person works to be justified with God, whereas a Christian works because he is justified with God.

The differences seem small and even hard to tell apart, but the two positions actually are diametrically opposed to one another. It’s the cart before the horse idea. One man has a cart and a horse, the other man has a horse and a cart. What’s the difference? Everything. The first man goes nowhere. The second has a wonderful conveyance that takes him wherever he wishes to go.

So too the religious person is stuck with his own inadequate efforts trying to make himself acceptable to God. It will never happen, in the same way that a cart will never pull a horse. The Christian, on the other hand, confessing his inability to measure up to God’s standard, and accepting the completed, redemptive work of Jesus Christ, receives a full measure of God’s grace and is accepted by the Father. As a result, he obeys God in the strength and through the power of that grace.

So who’s a Christian? Not the person who believes his work is in any way meritorious in bringing reconciliation between him and God. It really is that simple.

Published in: on December 7, 2012 at 6:59 pm  Comments (4)  
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Is “Christian” A Tainted Brand?

From the start, “Christian” was hurled at those of The Way so as to degrade and humiliate them. It was not a compliment, not a name to proudly put on your resume. Things changed when the Roman emperor became a Christian and mandated that all his subjects follow suit.

I don’t doubt that he had good intentions, but telling people they have to believe in Jesus hardly means they actually do believe in Jesus. It was the same problem the (few) good kings in Judah experienced when they tore down idols to Baal and reinstated worship of Yahweh with appropriate sacrifices and observances of the Jewish Holy Days. No sooner had those kings passed on than the idols were back up and the worship instituted by the Mosaic Law in disrepute.

Still, the effect of the emperor’s decree was to elevate the standing of Christians. No one in the Western part of the world, under Rome’s influence, was any longer ashamed to bear the name Christian. In fact, it was expected.

Today Christian has again begun to take on a derogatory meaning in many circles, but I tend to believe that’s because few people–even some in the church, some who are fighting to “reclaim” Christianity–actually know what a Christian is.

First, what Christianity is NOT:

  • Christianity is not a default position that an American claims because he isn’t Buddhist, Muslim, Hindu, or atheist.
  • Christianity is not the religion of the political right.
  • Christianity is not a religion requiring members to adhere to a particular set of rules to qualify.
  • Christianity is not exclusive.

Sadly, these are all things that some group of people believe to be true. Reality is quite different.

  • Christians are first and foremost sinners. If we did not recognize ourselves as sinners we could not become Christians.
  • Christians recognize we can never do enough to earn God’s favor. We must rely on His grace.
  • Christians accept God’s grace through faith.
  • Finally, Christians accept that God in His justice punished His Son so that in His mercy He could redeem us.

Becoming a Christian changes a person; a person doesn’t change in order to become a Christian. Hence, a drug addicted prodigal doesn’t have to clean up his act so he can become a Christian. Rather, he needs to become a Christian so he can, through Christ’s power, learn to clean up his act.

Living as a Christian is really the secret of Ephesians 4:

Therefore I [Paul], the prisoner of the Lord, implore you to walk in a manner worthy of the calling with which you have been called, with all humility and gentleness, with patience, showing tolerance for one another in love, being diligent to preserve the unity of the Spirit in the bond of peace. (vv. 1-3)

We are to walk in a manner worthy of the great sacrifice Christ made on our behalf, and that walk puts us in right relationship with other Christians, even those who are different from us. Paul said in Colossians 3:11b

there is no distinction between Greek and Jew, circumcised and uncircumcised, barbarian, Scythian, slave and freeman, but Christ is all, and in all.

Unfortunately, not everyone who is a Christian acts like a Christian one hundred percent of the time. This is due in part to our immaturity. We are a work in progress, starting out as babes, newborns. We need to grow up in respect to salvation, Peter tells us.

It’s also true that Christians sin. We have a renewed nature, but we hearken back to our old way of thinking all too often. We enter into a battle within our own hearts, as Paul described in Romans 7, and too often we lose. We believe what God says, but it’s hard, so hard to actually live what we say we believe.

We believe in grace, but fall back on legalism; we believe in holiness, but fall back on sensual living; we believe in dependence on God, but fall back on self-effort. On and one it goes.

Anyone looking on can easily find something to criticize. Christians don’t get it right all the time. Even saying that, I’d like to justify myself and my brothers and sisters by saying, we get it right more often than not. But that’s a meaningless statement. We don’t live up to God’s holy standard. Ever. What separates us from anyone else are two things: we are forgiven and we are being renewed.

The forgiven part we celebrate. The renewal part is painful, embarrassing, slow, hard. We hold up Christ and say, I’m not fit to tie His sandals.

And sometimes, sometimes when we’re trying to figure out how to walk in a manner worthy of the Lord, to please Him in all respects, we fall and fail. In public. Where everyone–even other professing believers–can start hurling invectives at Christians.

So is the brand tainted? No, we are. If we adopt a new brand–born again, evangelical, Christ-follower–it will quickly suffer from the same problem: it’s attached to imperfect people who make no bones about following a perfect Master. If we’re compared to Him, we fall short.

People expect us to be perfect and rail at us when we aren’t, though they also accuse us of sanctimonious behavior when we come close or closer.

We won’t win, and we ought not try. Instead, we should gratefully accept the free gift God has given us, and go about living for Him, trusting that He will use us, imperfect as we are, as light in the dark world, as a beacon of love in a sea of hate.

The Inexplicable Sacrifice

With Christmas less than a month away, it’s appropriate for us to think of the sacrifice of Jesus. After all, He didn’t come to earth to look all cute and cuddly in a manger, wooden or otherwise. He came for one primary purpose: to give His life as a ransom for us all.

A song I learned many years ago, when I taught MKs in Guatemala and we sang a chorus each day before dinner, came to mind this morning.

For there is one God and one Mediator
Between God and man.
For there is one God and one Mediator,
the Ma-a-a-an, Christ Jesus,
Who gave Himself, a ransom for us all,
Who gave Himself, a ransom for us all,
Who gave Himself, a ransom for us all,
Oh, what a wonderful Sa-a-vior!

The thing is, that chorus is straight from Scripture:

This is good and acceptable in the sight of God our Savior, who desires all men to be saved and to come to the knowledge of the truth. For there is one God, and one mediator also between God and men, the man Christ Jesus, who gave Himself as a ransom for all, the testimony given at the proper time. (1 Tim. 2:3-6)

So I began to think about this “giving Himself” in conjunction with John 3:16: “For God so loved the world, that He gave His only begotten Son, that whoever believes in Him shall not perish, but have eternal life” (emphasis mine). God gave the person He loved most to redeem dying sinners. But because in Christ all the fullness of deity dwells in bodily form, God was just as surely giving Himself for our ransom.

The idea then came clear — Jesus, the Mediator, the bridge between God and man — is the bridge to Himself. It is the ultimate picture of God stooping to reach man, incapable of reaching God because our sin created a separation. Jesus, however, had no sin. He, being God, has perfect access to God. He being man could die the substitutionary death His justice as God required.

I did mention that this sacrifice is inexplicable, didn’t I? 😉 I mean, really. He’s the sacrifice He Himself required?

Why not simply do away with the requirement?

That’s basically saying, why not make green, red? The requirement is a result of God’s character. He is just and holy. To pardon sin, with no penalty paid would be mercy without justice.

I suppose most of us would like mercy instead of justice, as long as God offered that to us and not to rapists or murderers … or even to the guy at work who is constantly taking advantage of others to get ahead, to look better in the eyes of the boss. Him, we’d like to see God give justice to, not mercy.

In truth, we don’t want criminals getting away with harming others and we don’t want selfish people getting away with using people. We long for a just world. Why else are there protest movements such as Occupy Wall Street — in a land of great plenty and generous people? We don’t think it’s fair for some to get rich at the expense of the many.

Over a hundred years ago, anti-trust laws were passed in the US for the same reason. Railroads held the exclusive means by which ranchers could get their beef to market, and they took full advantage of their monopoly to get rich and richer. Other businesses did likewise, and the people cried for justice. Not to God, but to the government, just as the Occupiers are doing.

The truth is, the government — any government — isn’t able to provide perfect justice. Only God can, but that doesn’t bring us comfort because the severity of sin means, I too must face His justice — if it weren’t for His great kindness and mercy that led Him to stoop, to bridge the gap, to mediate, to ransom, to give His Son, to give Himself. How great is our God! Oh, what a wonderful Savior!

Published in: on November 30, 2011 at 4:54 pm  Comments (4)  
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Redemptive Violence

I have to paint the scene. Actor Jim Caviezel is starring in a TV program called Person of Interest. It’s the first thing I’ve seen him in, which means I did not see The Passion of the Christ.

Author and blogger Karen Hancock posted about him today and included a link to an article about how playing Christ in Passion affected Caviezel’s career. Karen mentioned at the end of her post that the comments were eye-opening.

Dutifully I took myself over to the Huffington Post, read the article, and started in on the comments. About ten in I came to the one that sparked the thoughts for this post. An individual identifying as a liberal Christian veered away from the subject of the article to discuss The Passion of the Christ and said in part:

My second objection to this film is I take issue with the doctrine of substitutionary atonement (Jesus dying and shedding blood for our sins). I find it hard to believe that a loving God who me and many others call Father would ever will for the death of an innocent Jesus to serve as a sacrifice for people’s sins. It turns God from the loving Father and savior of all into a bloodthirsty monster who is incapable of forgiving people’s sins or reconciling the creation peacefully. This doctrine teaches that violence is redemptive, and violence inspires faith. This type of thinking was developed in the middle ages to justify hatred against Jews and inspire violence in God and Christ’s names. Finally, I object to this film because it focused on Jesus’s death to the exclusion of his teachings or the events that led to the cross. I vomited during this film and I think it was a snuff film. (emphasis mine)

Well, how about that? Is violence redemptive?

I have to work through this concept from the inception of violence. What brought it about in the first place? The first act of violence recorded in the Bible, by implication, was God killing some animal in order to make skins with which to clothe Adam and Eve.

But before that came God’s clear warning to Adam,

The LORD God commanded the man, saying, “From any tree of the garden you may eat freely; but from the tree of the knowledge of good and evil you shall not eat, for in the day that you eat from it you will surely die.” (Gen 2:16-17 — emphasis mine)

In fact, the man did not die in the day he ate and yet he did die. Was the blood God shed on his behalf the reason Adam did not die at once?

We know because of what happened with Cain and Abel that sacrifice became a part of life and that apparently blood had to be shed.

But as with Abraham and his son Isaac, as with the people of Israel and the angel of death that passed over their homes, this killing of an animal was a means of saving human life.

God institutionalized animal sacrifices in the Mosaic Law, something the Christians of the first century understood.

And according to the Law, one may almost say, all things are cleansed with blood, and without shedding of blood there is no forgiveness. (Heb. 9:22)

With all this background, the commenter seems to be right — redemption is violent.

But that’s only the back end of the issue. Violence came into existence through Adam’s disobedience. Sacrifice is the means by which God stays His hand from meting out the deserved punishment.

In other words, from the beginning, sacrifice was an indication of God’s kindness and His desire for reconciliation despite Man’s waywardness.

In some respects one could say that God redeemed violence. Man brought on death by his disobedience, but like He does so often, God used the very thing that was so horrific, that looked like Defeat, and made it the instrument of Life.

Of course His ultimate act of redemption was taking on death Himself.

The commenter seems unaware that Jesus is God. His idea that our loving Father was doling out punishment to innocent Jesus as if He were a separate entity, a perfect man, an example of what we all can become, perhaps, shows the real problem in his understanding.

Here’s the truth about Jesus from Scripture:

For in Him all the fullness of Deity dwells in bodily form. (Col. 2:9)

God didn’t deliver the punishment to someone else. He took it on Himself. God punished God.

Hard to grasp, I know. Right up there with God praying to God and God seated at the right hand of God. Let’s face it. We cannot understand how our transcendent triune Creator “works.” We can’t take Him apart and see how He fits back together. He is beyond our scrutiny.

Which isn’t to say we can’t know Him and what He did for us — that act of stepping in and accepting the violence we deserve, taking it on Himself that we might be free of guilt and sin and death.

Christ’s act was the preeminent act of redemption because by His death He defeated death so that those who believe in Him now have Life. What was intended to be a crushing blow became a means to victory.

There’s so much more I could say about that one comment. How sad that such a person considers himself a Christian, and yet he doesn’t know or understand the One whose Name he’s chosen to identify with.

He’s missed the point that yes, the crucifixion was horrific — undoubtedly more so than the movie showed — but because of the joy set before Him, Jesus endured the pain and the shame.

The joy? Each of us who accepts His substitutionary work and is redeemed, we are His joy. What an amazing God we have!

Published in: on October 13, 2011 at 5:50 pm  Comments (2)  
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CSFF Blog Tour – North! Or Be Eaten, Day 2

Great tour going for Andrew Peterson‘s young adult Christian fantasy North! Or Be Eaten.

As a result of the “Attack on God” threads here, I decided to take a closer look at this novel in that light. Please know that I’ll be giving spoilers, so this serves as your ***SPOILER ALERT***

One of the Igiby children, Tink, is actually the High King of Anniera. As he and his family flee north to escape pursuit from Gnag the Nameless and the Fangs of Dang terrorizing the land of Skree, he begins to change.

First he admits to his brother that he doesn’t want to be High King. Next, when they encounter the Stranders, clans of murderers and thieves living in Glipwood Forest, he shows fascination, even admiration for the head of one clan.

Later a girl who befriends Tink tells him he would make a good Strander. He saves his family by doing a little pickpocketing, only to learn that he’s earned the place as head of the clan.

His reaction is horror at the possibility that he’ll have new responsibilities, but he learns instead that a clan leader “ain’t in charge of anything. He does what he pleases, and the rest of the clan has to do what he pleases too.”

When Tink and his brother are later separated from their family, instead of going to the meeting place as they’d said, he sets off to find the Stranders and take his place as clan leader.

The old lady who tells his brother what happened explained his decision like this: “He made a choice … Because whatever it is inside a man that calls him to the edge of things, calls him to the shadows and away from the light, must have been loud in his ears” (p. 225).

I think this story gives a snapshot of temptation. Ironically Tink’s brother unfairly accused him of selfishness, but in the end he was right. Tink didn’t want responsibility. He wanted a life in which he could do what he wanted, not what was expected of him.

I can’t help but think the same holds true today. How many people reject Christ because they don’t want to do what is expected of them but what they want to do? In the end, it’s a spirit of disobedience, whether it comes from Richard Dawkins or Christopher Hitchens or one of the nice people commenting in the previous threads about how God could never exercise eternal judgment or he would be a tyrant.

It’s a resistance to “ought” in favor of “I.” (Actually it’s a resistance to God and to the perception of “ought” but that doesn’t come out in the story). For Tink, his decision took him to a terrible place.

Ah, but the story didn’t end with him there. North! Or Be Eaten is, after all, a story of redemption.

Don’t forget to check out the blog posts by the other CSFF participants. You’ll find the list, with links to the posts I know are already up, at the end of yesterday’s article.

Published in: on January 28, 2010 at 4:41 pm  Comments (7)  
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Fantasy Friday – Slogging through the Swamp

We have a winner! 😀

If you think I’m referring to America’s Favorite Dancer, you’re off. Yes, I watched the finale, but no I did not vote. As entertaining as that bit of pop art is, I’m more concerned with who won the July CSFF Top Blogger Award. And we have a winner! Congratulations to Rachel Starr Thomson, now a two-time recipient of the award.

And what does that have to do with slogging through the swamp? Nothing. That was an important announcement, is all, so it had to go first. 😉

Swamp slogging has to do with my writing, and particularly with The Lore of Efrathah. Twice I’ve taken my character into a swamp, and wouldn’t you know, both times, my writing has bogged down.

But here’s the thing. The first time I had a group of friends pray for me, particularly that I would figure out how to get my character out of the swamp. The scene that developed is the climax of book two, Journey to Mithlimar, and is probably the strongest writing I’ve done (at least I think so, though whether an author can ever accurately discern such things is a topic for another day).

The point is this, and it applies in writing or in our daily lives, slogging through a swamp is not pleasant and sometimes feels hopeless, but by prayer, God can move us out of the swamp, though He generally doesn’t do so miraculously. It’s usually one step at a time, which can often seem like a painfully long journey, with little progress visible.

But one day you realize the trees are thinning and the mud isn’t quite as deep. It’s a little easier to move forward, and you’re not quite as tired today as you were yesterday. Progress. Hope.

Which is where my character is with this second encounter with the swamp.

Here’s the capper: the end result is often far better than we thought possible. 😯 I don’t know why I am still shocked by answered prayer, but that’s the unfortunate truth.

The thing is, when it comes to slogging out of the swamp, God has already promised that He will take the muck of my life and work that around to my benefit. Redeeming is what He does.

He redeems sinners and makes us part of His family. He redeems time and gives us eternity. He redeems hurt and heartache and gives comfort and joy. He redeems difficult writing and transforms it into memorable scenes.

How great is our God! 😀

Published in: on August 7, 2009 at 11:37 am  Comments (4)  
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Christ Died for … ?

When I was young, I thought it was clear who Christ died for. In fact, most of my adult life, it never crossed my mind that this was a controversial subject. Rather, it was fact … that some believed and others did not.

But the world of the internet has put me in touch with lots more people, and suddenly the things I thought were clear, plain, easily understood from Scripture, I now realize don’t appear the same to everyone. Some professing Christians believe one thing and others believe a quite different thing, all based on the Bible. 😕

When it comes to some topics, I don’t think it’s all that surprising that Christians hold differing positions, simply because the Bible isn’t all that clear. End times comes to mind as a topic that can stir debate. Some have studied prophesies in the Old and New Testaments and believe they can create a time line, with the only missing piece the actual date of Christ’s return to rapture His church. Others don’t even think there will be a rapture. And among those who do, there is disagreement as to whether this will occur before, during, or after the Great Tribulation.

And so it goes. Other topics that generate similar disagreements are creation, the ecstatic gifts of the Spirit, church government, baptism … and so it goes.

But to the question at hand, Who did Christ die for? Isn’t that sort of … the foundation of what it means to be a Christian? So how can there be debate about this question? But there is.

Here are the positions I’m aware of (doesn’t mean there aren’t more):
1. Christ died for the whole world—literally, which means that no one will go to Hell (the view espoused by The Shack).

2. Christ died for the whole world—literally, which means that Man’s sin nature has been forgiven, but he will be judged for the specific sins he commits, the sins of believers covered by the blood of Christ and the sins of unbelievers bringing down judgment upon them.

3. Christ died for the elect, those He predestined to be His from the foundations of the world.

4. Christ died for the whole world, but only those who believe in Him appropriate forgiveness.

5. Christ died for the whole world, but only those who believe in Him, chosen from the foundations of the world, appropriate forgiveness.

The latter is my view, and the more I study Scripture, the more I believe it to be true. This position, as I see it, takes into account all of Scripture, not just a handful of proof texts. I came across a verse, one of a number, that shows this tension between God’s work, through His predestination and redemption, and Man’s faith, though it actually addresses the lost.

In I Peter 2, the Writer declares Jesus Christ to be the corner stone, who also is a stone of stumbling and a rock of offense, and then says “for they stumble because they are disobedient to the word, and to this doom they were also appointed.” There it is, in one verse: men’s response to God and God’s appointment of men to their destination, given equal weight with the conjunction and.

Too many people want to make salvation a chicken-or-egg discussion (which came first, God’s foreknowledge or God’s predestination?) Does a person have faith because he’s predestined or did God predestine those He knew would have faith?

Those are unanswerable questions, though people seem quick to pull out Scriptures to support their view. The fact is, Scripture clearly says God foreknew. And it just as clearly says He predestined. So can we know which He did first? Many will look at Romans 8:29 (“for those He foreknew, He also predestined …”), and say, Yes, foreknowledge first. But those from the predestination camp can just as easily point to election verses.

Which is why I say the entire Bible needs to be taken en toto.

In the end, I think only the first view skewers God’s nature and distorts His work (and therefore is false teaching). As I see it, the last position best accounts for the varied statements throughout Scripture—passages like I Peter 2.

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