None Righteous, No Not One


MOTORCYCLE_COPAccording to the Bible, none is righteous, no, not one. I think we might all admit it’s a hard truth. The problem is, we measure Man with Man, and as such we see that there’s a wide range—from Jeffery Dahmer and Joseph Stalin to Mahatma Gandhi and Bill Gates.

From our perspective, the man willing to die to bring peace is a good man. The one bent on giving away his massive fortune to those most in need is a good man. The cannibalistic serial killer, not so good. The murderous paranoid tyrant, not so good.

But reality is, God does not measure us one against another. He Himself is the standard and we, all of us, no matter how we compare against each other, fall short, far short.

The sad truth is, we are all deserving of hell.

Again, our cultural thinking makes this fact hard to grab hold of. Our inclination is to think, if everyone is doing it, then no one is guilty. Like speeding. Cars whip by going eighty when the speed limit is sixty-five. So if I go seventy, I’m really doing good, aren’t I? And none of us will be ticketed because all of us are exceeding the limit.

None of us may be ticketed, but the truth is, all of us breaking the law deserve to be ticketed.

For some reason we expect God to act like a traffic cop and let us all go, either because He’s off somewhere else and doesn’t see us breaking His law, or He doesn’t care, or He’s just such a nice guy, He’s decided to give us all a break.

But God is not the traffic cop. He’s the just judge.

Funny how we all want a just judge to preside over the trial of a heinous criminal or one who has wronged us. But do we really want a just judge to preside over our trial regarding the crimes we have committed against God? Wouldn’t we rather have a merciful judge?

The truth is, God is both, just and merciful. He will not violate His justice to extend mercy and He will not violate His mercy to exercise justice.

I think understanding this point is at the heart of understanding hell.

God’s actually very up front. He lays out for us what His standards are and He tells us the consequences for falling short. There ought to be no surprises.

Yet some people kick against these basic parameters. God’s standard (perfection) is too high, His punishment (hell) too harsh and too long lasting (for eternity).

But it’s this very kicking that is the problem. Who is Man that he should try to tell God how to run things? That’s like a three-year-old trying to tell Sully Sullenberger how to land a plane.

God, by nature of … well, His nature, is the only one who gets to make the rules. He is perfect so He knows what real righteousness looks like. He is good, so He knows what true goodness looks like.

We’re operating in the dark from a collapsed mine a half-mile deep, and we’re trying to direct our own rescue efforts. Or more accurately, telling everyone how we’re planning to pull ourselves out.

We’re telling the One Who provides the only way of escape we have no intention of confining ourselves in such a restrictive capsule for a twenty minute ride to the surface. We don’t deserve such ill treatment. In fact, come to think of it, we don’t really need rescuing at all. We’re fine where we are, thank you very much.

How is it we are so shortsighted? so unwilling to let God tell us what’s what?

The great, great news is, He not only wants to tell us how far short we are of His standards and the horrible consequences for that condition, He also wants to tell us about His love and mercy. Of course, only guilty people need mercy, which means all those people confident in their own goodness will turn down God’s offer. They’ll harden their hearts and go their own way—the way that leads to destruction.

This post first appeared here in October 2010.

Published in: on February 17, 2016 at 6:01 pm  Comments (1)  
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Yep! It’s God


A_courtroom_scene_with_a_judge,_a_pregnant_woman,_a_guilty_l_Wellcome_V0039186

At the end of “The Great Divide,” I asked

Is Man righteous or is God? We can’t have it both ways because God has said Man is not righteous. So if God lies, He’s not righteous. It’s one or the other, Man or God. And there is the great divide.

So the answer is, God is righteous.

Of course, the great complaint against God—by atheists and Progressives alike—is that God is not righteous. In fact, I’ve heard from people in both camps say that God is a tyrant. Some claim He orders genocide and that His wrath, if it were true about Him, would be in direct contradiction to His love.

The atheist uses these charges as evidence that the God of those who claim to believe the Bible simply does not exist. The Progressives use these charges as an excuse to dump the Old Testament and the wrathful God it reveals in favor of the New Testament and the loving God they see in Jesus.

In truth, I believe atheists have more intellectual honesty here than do the Progressives, though they are unfortunately just as incorrect in their conclusions.

Because the atheist starts from a Man-is-good position, it is logical to conclude that a god who would order the destruction of a race of people (the Amalekites) or nearly an entire generation (Noah’s contemporaries), must be evil—who else would destroy so many good people?

That position is intellectually honest but wrong because of the starting place.

Progressives make the mistake of hanging their belief about God on an erroneous view of Jesus. Apparently they also start with a Man-is-good view and dismiss the wrathful god of the Old Testament for similar reasons as atheists do. However, they choose to embrace Jesus as the god of love.

This is not intellectually honest. Rather, it demonstrates a shameful lack of knowledge about the one they claim to worship—both what he did and what he said.

Jesus was no pushover, acting as a pacifist who would simply love, love, love and never correct anyone. His decision—twice—to cleanse the temple by chasing out the people who didn’t belong and who were conducting business which they shouldn’t have done, involved turning over tables and chasing people out and taking a whip to move them along.

Time and again Jesus, knowing full well what He was doing, healed people on the Sabbath—almost as if He were baiting the Pharisees who He knew wouldn’t approve.

In His direct confrontations with the sect, He called them names—vipers, whitewashed tombs, hypocrites—and used scathing language in accusing them of breaking God’s law. At one point He even told them Satan was their father.

I doubt very much if a single Pharisee would have thought “loving” when they looked at Jesus.

In addition, no one talked more above hell than did Jesus. He told parables in which the ungodly were thrown out into outer darkness, or into eternal fire or unquenchable fire or a furnace of fire. He also talked about praise for the righteous and punishment for the wicked, about choosing a narrow gate versus a broad gate, about separating goats and sheep. In other words, Jesus was not an advocate for some kind of universal happily ever after which His love would provide.

Both these two camps—atheists and Progressives—are mistaken. God is righteous.

First, God’s nature puts things into perspective. He is, among other traits, holy. Think of a surgeon who is masked, gowned, scrubbed, and gloved. He must not pick up any instrument that has not also been sterilized and made pure. To do so would contaminate him. In a similar way, God’s purity does not allow for relationship with those stained by sin. All of humanity, in other words.

The only hope for relationship, humans with God, is for us to become pure—something we have no way of accomplishing. Enter God into the world in human flesh to do for us what we cannot do for ourselves.

In addition, God is omniscient. He knows the heart of each person—the hidden thoughts of selfishness or hatred or lust or greed or jealousy or pride or covetousness or whatever other sin resides inside us. We can clean up on the outside and we can pretend, even to ourselves, but God knows the truth about us.

Then, too, God will judge between the afflicted and the oppressor. Granted, He provides a refuge in time of trouble. He hides and helps and delivers. But the oppressor isn’t the one receiving God’s protection and care. The oppressor is receiving God’s judgment.

This passage from Psalm 11 spells out God’s role as judge:

The LORD tests the righteous and the wicked,
And the one who loves violence His soul hates.
Upon the wicked He will rain snares;
Fire and brimstone and burning wind will be the portion of their cup.
For the LORD is righteous, He loves righteousness;
The upright will behold His face. (vv 5-7)

Clearly His authority to test the righteous and the wicked is connected to His righteousness. No profit comes from pleading before a corrupt judge or one who disregards truth or loves evil instead of good. Judgment only brings justice if the judge is unbiased and adheres to the law.

That’s God. He is righteous. We, on the other hand, are not.

Published in: on December 30, 2014 at 6:27 pm  Comments (2)  
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A Master Demon’s Advice


Facebook_logo_(square)With a nod to C. S. Lewis, I am once again revisiting a Master Demon’s advice to his young lieutenant:

Wormbottom, er, Tonguetape is it, or Tapeworm—whatever you’re called—I’ve had some additional thoughts about our fight against the Enemy.

You’ve done a credible job of late suggesting to your charges that the Enemy is nothing but their fan, standing on the sidelines cheering them on to greatness.

His highest goal is their success, you’ve told them. Bravo! I heard three or four of the weaklings repeating that line at work, and one posted it on Facebook. With any luck we can get several of them to share it on Twitter, too, where someone is bound to retweet it.

Be that as it may, the next phase of your work is to shift your charges’ focus so they begin to think it their responsibility to evaluate the Enemy. You can prompt them to ask such questions as, Is He really as kind as they are? Is His plan for Humankind fair? Don’t all people everywhere deserve better?

256px-JUDGE_PARKER'S_COURTROOMOnce they start asking such questions, they have slid toward the role of judge.

Above all, keep them away from the Enemy’s playbook because there are some clear statements that will ruin this plan—things like, “There is one Lawgiver and Judge, the One who is able to save and to destroy.”

Our Master claims the line is written about him, but of course the Enemy says otherwise, and it is His playbook. At any rate, if any of your charges are thinking at all, they’ll realize that line is not talking about them, that in fact they are not the judge, and therefore they are wrong to usurp that role.

You must not let them consider the possibility they are wrong. Rather, encourage them, Bottomtape, er, Tongueworm, whatever, to think that they deserve to know and understand the Enemy’s every move.

Once they have reached this conviction, move them to the next phase: they deserve to approve of what the Enemy is doing. Of course you must also convince them that the Enemy’s plans are not up to the standards of today.

Tell them morality has improved over time, that people everywhere now know slavery is wrong, for example, or that prejudice is intolerable. Tread carefully here, though. You must lead them to a prejudiced opinion without realizing that they are condemning the thing which they have embraced.

Once you have appealed to their pride, the rest should be easy. They will see their advanced state and the Enemy’s archaic standards, and conclude it is only right for them to make corrections of His plan, and even reinterpret His handbook. The net result will be that they end up saying the opposite of what the Enemy intended.

narrow_pathFor example, when He said, the way is narrow, they’ll think it’s too narrow and can’t possibly be an accurate picture of the way the world is unfolding. In fact the Enemy either was mistaken or His followers who wrote those words were exaggerating for effect.

Granted. That will be a hard one, but I have faith in you, and and foot soldiers in the past have had some success with this plan of attack.

You might try another tact in these postmodern times. Get them to think the narrow way is for people today who have copies of the handbook. Those who embrace its philosophy are on the narrow way—which actually is true. But here’s the key. Get your charges to adopt a second narrow way and a third, if you want to, maybe even a fourth.

For example, the weaklings the Enemy created can be sincere about what they believe and that will put them on another narrow way. Or they can do their best with what they had, and that will put them one a third narrow way.

Only don’t let your charges think these are actually separate ways. Convince them that they are different manifestations of the same path.

And whatever you do, don’t let them realize they are standing in disapproval of the Enemy. Rather, convince them that He came up with the “many narrow ways which are simply different manifestations of the same path” idea. Let them think they are actually ferreting out His meanings and intentions, because, after all, He would certainly be fair.

Fair, of course, in their understanding means giving everyone, no matter what they think of the Enemy, the same chance to live with Him forever.

What nonsense! As if most of your charges can even stomach to talk with the Enemy for five minutes, let alone offer Him praise throughout eternity.

More ridiculous still is their false belief that they deserve to live with Him, since He’s the king and all, and they are surely good company for a king to keep.

You’ve made a good start, Wormbottom. But there’s lots yet to do. Nevertheless, I’m confident you can sway your charges to hold the Enemy in contempt for His exclusivist views and bigoted plans. You’ll have them working for you then. So keep at it.

Published in: on May 5, 2014 at 6:31 pm  Comments (7)  
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Jury Duty And The Presumption Of Innocence


courtroom_4As some of you may have guessed, last week when I wrote about being censured—rightly so—I was alluding to jury duty. Once a jury has been selected, the judge gives instructions that members are not to discuss the case with one another, with the lawyers or the judge himself, with any members of the media, with family, friends, or spouses. And we are not to share it on Facebook, blog about it, or put any information onto the Internet.

None of that last part of the instructions was in place the last time I had jury duty. It’s necessary and appropriate, surely, and not hard to follow for a short, two-day trial. I think I’d find it much more burdensome if I was serving on a jury for a case that ran for weeks.

All that aside, the judge of the case for which I was impaneled brought up the issue of the presumption of innocence, which is standard practice in a criminal proceeding in the US. The judge explains that the jury must not assume guilt simply because the defendant has been arrested or because he does not testify on his own behalf. In fact, he is to be considered innocent of the crime until the prosecuting attorney presents evidence beyond a reasonable doubt to prove guilt.

I understand this provision in our judicial system. It was intended to protect innocent people from falling victim to mob mentality. If the evidence doesn’t prove the defendant committed the crime, he must be declared not guilty.

The problem is that this approach has led to our present day adversarial system. No one is actually trying to find out the truth of a matter. Rather, the prosecutor is trying to produce enough evidence to convict and the defense attorney is trying to create enough doubt to acquit.

Consequently, defendants with bad lawyers might go to jail even if they are innocent, while others with good lawyers might escape punishment, though guilty.

Beyond that, I started thinking today, that perhaps this approach to jurisprudence has undergirded society’s belief in the goodness of humans. If we are innocent until proven otherwise, doesn’t it seem reasonable that we are therefore good?

In fact, Scripture states the opposite–humans are guilty from birth. Oh, not guilty of breaking some law created by human institutions, but guilty in a much larger sense. We are guilty before God because our thinking, our nature, is anti-God.

That’s really what the sin nature is. From birth we are in rebellion against God. We ignore Him, refuse to accept His authority over us, choose to elevate ourselves in His place, and willfully go against what He tells us to do.

The thing about our guilt is that we don’t need someone to prove us guilty. We have the testimony of omniscient God who knows our thoughts and words before a single one makes it to our tongue.

It’s sobering to realize that God holds us accountable for our thoughts. I was talking with a friend recently about what we write. Both of us admitted to times we have put down mean, spiteful, flippant, unkind things–then deleted them. Ah, it’s as if we never had those thoughts, to the eyes of those who read the revised version. But not to God. He knows what we deleted. Those are the thoughts He holds us accountable for.

We can whitewash our behavior for other people, but there’s no whitewashing our insides which God sees and knows.

Innocent? Good?

Not when the first command is to love God with our entire life–mind, strength, heart, and soul. Who reaches to that lofty aspiration?

We know we don’t because if we did, we’d also keep the second command–to love our neighbors as we love ourselves. We love ourselves so much that we make sure we have a roof over our heads and food on our table. Then why are there homeless in the world? Why are there people who don’t have enough to eat? If we were good as a people, innocent, we’d take care of other people the same way we take care of ourselves.

But we don’t.

Because we are not good or innocent.

And that’s why Jesus came.

He was the one person who didn’t have the bent toward sin. The one person who could stand before God and be declared innocent. The one truly good person who was qualified to sacrifice Himself for the rest of us guilty ones, if we but believe.

Published in: on March 10, 2014 at 7:49 pm  Comments Off on Jury Duty And The Presumption Of Innocence  
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Kind And Merciful Or Harsh And Cruel?


Mural_painting_celebrating_Pol_PotIn yesterday’s post, “A Look At The ‘Nicer Than God’ Position,” I discussed one aspect of the “a good God wouldn’t do that” accusation leveled by atheists and some progressives against the God of the Bible. The main thrust of my article is that God isn’t guilty of condoning sinful acts or thoughts or wishes simply because those appear in the Bible.

But what about the acts God not only condones but orders which seem unduly harsh, even cruel? Most often those making this accusation have in mind something like God’s command to Saul to wipe out all the Amalekites.

For someone who thinks Hitler or Jeffrey Dahmer or Pol Pot should not face judgment for their acts against their fellow man, I have no answer. For those who believe it’s right to hold people accountable for the harm they perpetrate, then it’s simply a matter of looking at history to understand God’s command.

The Amalekites were the people who harassed Israel on their way out of Egypt, sniping at the stragglers who were “faint and weary.” We can surmise the people under attack would be the elderly, the sick, and perhaps the young. For this act, which was also connected to their dismissal of God’s authority over them (see Deut. 25:18-19), they were judged.

In fact, there are two primary reasons God gives for judging a people: 1) they are oppressing others; 2) they have taken a stand against Him.

Psalm 146:7-9 illustrates the former.

[God] executes justice for the oppressed;
[God] gives food to the hungry.
The LORD sets the prisoners free.
The LORD opens the eyes of the blind;
The LORD raises up those who are bowed down;
The LORD loves the righteous;
The LORD protects the strangers;
He supports the fatherless and the widow,
But He thwarts the way of the wicked.

Clearly God is for the oppressed, which means He stands against the oppressor. For this, people today judge Him. In part it’s in ignorance, but it’s also an assumption–Man is good, so these ancient peoples were innocent victims of a God wanting to wipe them out.

They were not innocent.

Of course, none of us is innocent. None of us deserves to live, and in fact we won’t keep living. We will pay with our lives for the guilt that clings to us. Apart from God’s mercy, we will also pay with our souls. (But thanks be to God who sent His Son to rescue us).

Which brings up the second reason God judges people: He repays those who hate Him (see Deut. 7:10). Their hatred is most often shown in their idol worship, but also in their treatment of other people–orphans, widows, strangers on one hand and God’s people on the other.

Interestingly, God most often gives those who are against Him what they want. He lets them experience the consequences of their own actions:

Behold, the wicked man conceives evil and is pregnant with mischief and gives birth to lies. He makes a pit, digging it out, and falls into the hole that he has made. His mischief returns upon his own head (Ps. 7:14-16a, English Standard Version – emphasis added)

The bottom line, I believe, is this: those who hate God can’t accept the fact that He is their judge. They don’t want a judge, any judge, but particularly one who is righteous, as the Bible reveals God to be. See the following, for example:

  • “God is a righteous judge” – Psalm 7:11a
  • “In righteousness He judges and wages war” – Rev. 19:11b
  • “[Christ] kept entrusting Himself to Him who judges righteously” – 1 Peter 2:23b
  • “For I, the LORD, love justice . . . and I will faithfully give them their recompense” – Isaiah 61:8a

Those of us who accept God as the one who rightly and righteously judges all He has made, trust His judgment.

Of course, God’s judgment gets muddled with pain and suffering. Suffice it to say for the sake of this discussion, that not all pain, suffering, and death is a particular judgment handed down by God, as opposed to the general and natural consequences of sin. Job’s children, for example, didn’t die as a result of God’s judgment of them.

So the question, is God kind and merciful or harsh and cruel, hinges upon the understanding of Him as a just judge. Someone being oppressed who He rescues, someone lost who He finds, sees Him clearly as abundantly kind and merciful.

Published in: on February 12, 2013 at 6:23 pm  Comments (54)  
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God as Father


Not so long ago, a group of people sparked a lengthy discussion in the comments section to one of my posts, “Attacks on God from Within.” Our differing views served as the catalyst for at least three additional posts.

Our basic point of disagreement was on the authority of the Bible and our understanding of God. Their contention (though I realize they were not in accord on all points) was that Jesus actually reveals who God is whereas the Old Testament is sadly out of step, painting him as wrathful and judgmental.

So it dawned on me today. I think I understand where this view of God is coming from. I think of God as my Heavenly Father, and they might too, but our idea of “father” may be colored by our cultural experiences.

Could it be that a generation of Americans who have been raised to think that a parent should not spank; who rarely hear the word “no”; who have, in essence, been spoiled into a worldview of entitlement cannot grasp the concept of a loving Heavenly Father who disciplines and even punishes?

But here’s what the Bible says:

And you have forgotten the exhortation which is addressed to you as sons, “MY SON, DO NOT REGARD LIGHTLY THE DISCIPLINE OF THE LORD, NOR FAINT WHEN YOU ARE REPROVED BY HIM; FOR THOSE WHOM THE LORD LOVES HE DISCIPLINES, AND HE SCOURGES EVERY SON WHOM HE RECEIVES.”

It is for discipline that you endure; God deals with you as with sons; for what son is there whom his father does not discipline? But if you are without discipline, of which all have become partakers, then you are illegitimate children and not sons.

Furthermore, we had earthly fathers to discipline us, and we respected them; shall we not much rather be subject to the Father of spirits, and live? For they disciplined us for a short time as seemed best to them, but He disciplines us for our good, so that we may share His holiness.

All discipline for the moment seems not to be joyful, but sorrowful; yet to those who have been trained by it, afterwards it yields the peaceful fruit of righteousness.

– Hebrews 12:5-11

Discipline yields the fruit of righteousness. I wonder what spoiled entitlement yields. Anger toward God, perhaps? Denial of His right to judge? Rejection of His Word as authoritative?

I should have seem the connection sooner, I think.

Published in: on June 4, 2010 at 12:46 pm  Comments (8)  
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