Tuesday, March 24, 2015

Oh How He Loves You And Me!

I hold what I know are some unconventional views on what the Bible teaches. I don’t think I’m off standing in a field alone (I have read many books and listened to many sermons by believers who hold thoughts such mine), but I know, among my peers, some of my thoughts are unconventional, and perhaps viewed as somewhat heretical (if there is such a thing). 

I do, though, think that my view is based in what I read in God’s word. I think it is “biblical”, if unconventional. 

This post sort of picks up in mid conversation with a friend on Facebook, but is far too long for a FB post, so I made it a blog post.

As always, these are my opinions and my thoughts. I do not claim they are “Truth” with a capital “T”, but they are how I am trying to process a relationship God. We all can confess, faith in God is not easy, and there is NO truly concrete answers to any theological question, and there is no one way to view the Work of the Cross. I am a firm believer in having an open mind on such things, and having a willingness to examine new thoughts and revelations one has as we study the Bible and pursue God. 

We also, in humility, must acknowledge that no one thinks exactly the same as another thinks about such things. I cannot know your inner thoughts, nor do you know mine. There is no lock-step uniformity in “doctrinal belief”, only unity and harmony in the Spirit as we follow Jesus. 

To that end, I am simply laying out some of the biblical reasons for what I believe. 

So…..here we go. 


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Satan has always been the accuser. Revelation 12, Zechariah 3, and Job 1 all mention Satan as the accuser. Satan accuses us before the Throne of God day and night, according to Revelation. And God rebukes Satan’s accusations, as in Zechariah 3, declaring the priest Joshua sinless, signified by a gleaming white robe, just by the simple will of God. There was no sacrifice for the forgiveness of sins involved. God simply did it. 

But Satan is also the deceiver, and the tempter, and a roaring lion without teeth (2 Cor 11:3, Rev 12:9, 1 Pet 5:8-9a). His strategy has always been to deceive mankind about the nature of God, and the nature of God’s relationship to man (Daniel 8:25). His accusations and deceptions have never had any real authority, other than those we allowed him to have by believing the lies (John 8:42-47). 

Satan began his work of handicapping and deceiving mankind in Genesis 3 when the relationship with God was new and perfect, by asking “Did God really say……?” That question alone instantly cast doubt in the minds of Adam and Eve on the true nature of who God is. Their sin was their unbelief, which led to disobedience, and the descent into darkness had begun. 

But God’s covenant with mankind never changed. His love for even Adam and Eve never changed.  Did God provide for Adam and Eve’s salvation? I believe He did. 

Romans 5:13 “ sin was in the world before the law was given, but sin is not charged against anyone’s account where there is no law.”

To be sure, Adam and Eve suffered the effects of sin, of their disobedience, and death became a reality because of it. But God was not holding a charge of sin over their heads, demanding spiritual death. Death is the wages, the consequence, of sin, not something God demanded because of sin. They reaped the consequences of the illness of sin, but salvation (restoration, healing, eternal life) has always been provided by the grace of God alone (Romans 3:25-26). Even at the beginning.

The story of the Bible, if anything, is the story of God revealing Himself, through Israel, to a mankind that had become so sick and blinded with sin they no longer recognized or had any idea what God was like.  

Consequently, Abraham came to believe the gods required a sacrifice to forgive sins.  What I see is God stepping into that culture, where Abraham lived and breathed, and reorienting Abraham by his experience with Isaac on the mountain (Gen 22). Abraham was willing and ready to sacrifice his son, in obedience to the god he understood, and Jehovah revealed to Abraham that He was not a God like the god’s he knew before. Jehovah began to teach Abraham and the Israelites about Himself. The sweet aroma of a sacrifice that pleased God was not the death of an animal or the spilling of blood to represent judgement on sin, but the obedience and repentance on the part of he who offered the sacrifice. That’s what God honored in Abraham. That’s what made a sweet aroma before the Lord. It’s always been about faith in God, and His grace (Heb 11).

As the Israelites progress in their understanding of God, the prophets began to challenge the Israelites and their understanding of God. The Israelites had been going astray. Micah 6 and Hosea 6, the prophets began telling the Israelites that God doesn't really want sacrifices, in the sense they understood. God wants spiritual sacrifice – covenantal sanctity. God wants us to seek justice with one another (wholeness, rightness, reconciliation, shalom – not retributive justice), to love mercy, and to simply walk humbly with Him, in His ways.  

God has always desired mercy, justice, humility and a relationship with His people. He’s always wanted that. He has always offered His covenant relationship to Israel (and by association, anyone who wanted to join Israel in the covenant with Jehovah) regardless and apart from any sacrifice for sin. God simply wanted Israel to love him. He desired it, because He loved them. In fact, He loves the entire world (John 3:16). But the Israelites (and, let’s face it, every other person on earth Rom 3:10) were so captive by their illness of sin that they constantly turned back to their own ways. Constantly. 

God said, very clearly in several places in the Old Testament what He wanted, and what He was providing. Isaiah 1 is a good example. God laments over Israel and their refusal to follow God’s ways. God says He wants no more of the false worship of ceremony and meaningless sacrifice. He says simply - Learn to do good. Seek justice. Help the oppressed. Defend the cause of orphans. Fight for the rights of widows (v.17). Then God says, in the next verse 18, “Come now, let’s settle this….Though your sins are like scarlet, I will make them as white as snow. Though they are red like crimson, I will make them as white as wool.” 

God was forgiving sins from the beginning, and beseeching mankind to obey God’s ways, not out of fear of punishment, but because they are good for mankind! In verse 18, God makes that clear. After declaring sins washed clean, God observes in verse 19, “If you will only obey me, you will have plenty to eat. But if you turn away and refuse to listen, you will be devoured by the sword of your enemies.”

God provided for our sins and our relationship with Him from the beginning of time. It’s always been by the grace of God alone.

But mankind never quite understood the message of God, or who God was (Rom 1, Job 36:26). We were constantly deceived and lied to, by Satan, and our own sinful will, and refused to listen to God, or hear him. Their sin, just as in Jesus’ time and in ours, has always been that they - the world - does not believe in Him (John 16:9). Even so, God promised to open the eyes of the blind, to set captives free, and release those in dark dungeons (Isa 42:6-7).

Consequently, believing the lie that obeying the Law of Moses was the way to please God, the Israelites developed a system of laws and applications that belied a truly warped image of who God is. Jesus said when the Pharisees made “converts” to their system, they “make them twice as much a child of hell as you are” (Matt 23:15).

God’s grace and mercy was already at work long before Jesus died at the cross.  Jesus forgave sins while He was alive, prior to His crucifixion (Mark 2:5, Luke 7:48, Matthew 9:2). He had mercy on people, compassion, and refused to condemn sinners even when someone was rightly accused of sin under the law. 

In John 8, the accusers demanded that Jesus rule on the adulterous woman. The law said she should die. Clear cut. So, the one who stood in the place of righteousness, and had all authority and right to judge the woman, refused to do so.  After confounding her accusers, and they had wandered away, Jesus asks the woman “Where are your accusers? Didn't even one of them condemn you?”  “No, Lord,” she said. And Jesus said, “Neither do I. Go and sin no more.”

He did have harsh words for the powerful elite, those rich, wealthy, powerful leaders who deceived and mislead the people under them. Jesus had harsh words for their sinful systems and ways of life that harmed people and twisted God’s good message. He called “Whoa to you……!” to many Pharisees and leaders during His ministry – never an accusation to personally condemn them, but always an invitation to repentance.  Jesus did point out their collective sins, instructing them where they were wrong and misguided and had allowed evil to overcome them, but never accused them individually before the Father. When they came in repentance and humility, such as Nicodemus, Jesus was gracious and forgiving to a fault. As He is with everyone. 

Jesus is never the accuser, God is never the one holding sin over our head. Jesus came to provide healing, like Moses healed the people by holding the bronze serpent aloft for all to look at (John 3:14-15), not to condemn us (John 3:17). I believe sin is mainly an illness in need of a cure (Mark 2:17). 

All of this because God loved us so much (John 3:16).

But in order that we may believe God’s love, God sent His son, or came in the form of one of us (Phil 4), to enter into our sinful culture, society, systems, and lives, and live with us, confronting the sinful systems of violence, coercive force, greed, and selfishness. 

And when God revealed Himself to us in person, and came to be with us, our sick hearts were so clouded and blinded to the truth that we didn't even recognize Him, and our sinful ways and darkened hearts colluded in a spasm of darkness to murder God!

God’s way of redeeming us was to disarm the powers of the world by cancelling out any charge that Satan brought against us (1 Cor 2:14-15), going so far as to allow himself to be killed by those very sick and sinful systems.  He allowed the collusion of the Pharisees with the Romans, in their desperate ploy to retain power and privilege, to kill the very God that created them (Acts 2:22-24). This act glaringly highlights the inhumanity and sinfulness of a world deceived by Satan, the Prince of this world. 

And God allowed it. God chose it. Chose to endure it. Willingly. 

“Greater love has no one than this: to lay down one's life for one's friends.” John 15:13.

“Being disguised under the disfigurement of an ugly crucifixion, Christ upon the cross is paradoxically the clearest revelation of who God is."

It is by his wounds we are healed. 

God is love. God is not wrath. God is not retribution, or vengeance, or anger.

God. Is. Love. 

He has always been our savior, our advocate, our rock, our fortress, our deliverer, even when we did not recognize Him, or even believe in Him. We hear wonderful testimonies in our churches of God’s provision in our lives, long before we ever knew who God was. We look back and see God’s hand on our lives. 

Because He has always been there, and like a mother who has given birth to a child, like a father who cherishes his beloved, God will never forsake us. The verses speaking to God’s faithfulness are too numerous to even try to note.  

“For since our friendship with God was restored by the death of his Son while we were still his enemies, we will certainly be saved through the life of his Son.” Romans 5:10.

At the cross, I see God unilaterally stating – 

“This is how much I love you. I don’t care what you've heard before, what you've believed or what you've been told before. My son Jesus is the Word made Flesh, He is Emmanuel, Me with you, and in Him is all authority. He speaks truth. (That’s why Jesus taught saying “you've heard it said….. but I say…..). When placed in context on the mountain with Moses and Elijah, the Law and the Prophets, I said ‘This is my son, listen to Him, and what He has to say about me!’
“My beloved people, you have been hopelessly confused and lost, deceived into thinking that I am a wrathful, angry God, who must punish sin. I am not the punisher, but the Savior! Let me show you. I will take whatever punishment you think you deserve, that you have been deceived into believing, and free you once and for all from the bondage and blindness you have about me. This is how far I will go to demonstrate my love for you. I will give myself completely for you, even though you are already my beloved, so that you can see My love in action, and believe!”

God confounded the schemes of Satan to keep mankind blind through deception and lies about God. God Himself came among us to set the record straight. In this way He disarmed the powers and authorities. In this way He showed the magnificent depths and heights of His love that we can never escape (Romans 8:38-39). 

We can’t escape God’s love if we tried!

We are never beyond God’s love.  We've never been beyond God’s love. We will never be beyond God’s love. I am convinced this is true from the foundation of the world (1 Pet 1:20). God has always provided our salvation. Our life has always been hidden in Him (Col 3:3).  

We didn't always understand that, but that’s what the cross is about: understanding God’s love for us. 

God’s “death” on the cross may have appeared foolish, choosing to endure suffering on our behalf when, in reality, He didn't need to. God is a forgiving God, and has always been Our Savior. (1 Cor 1:18).

The deep, immense, immeasurable, incalculable, and unbelievable love that God has/is for us was that, as a perfect innocent person – one that Satan truly had no accusation against – Jesus willingly endured death on the cross to prove – through the resurrection – that the claims of Satan are indeed lies!

In Luke 4, Jesus tells us why He’s come, and what His mission is. 

“The Spirit of the Lord is upon me,
for he has anointed me to bring Good News to the poor.
He has sent me to proclaim that captives will be released, that the blind will see,
that the oppressed will be set free, and that the time of the Lord’s favor has come”

The time of the Lord’s favor has come. Jesus came to set the captives free! 

There’s a saying that I think is true. 

“God is like Jesus. God has always been like Jesus. There has never been a time when God was not like Jesus. We haven’t always known this, but now….. we do.” 

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So, I ask, is this the best way to think about these things? I don’t know. In humility I’d say – maybe not. Probably not. I don't know. I confess there are many ways to view the cross and the atonement that Christ accomplishes. 

Can anyone truly know the mind of God? Of course not. 

But I was asked if my view is Biblical, and I think it is. 

I know this for certain: I think this view glorifies God, and I know it motivates me to seek Him better. 

Blessings upon you. 

Mike

1 comment:

llib said...

I mentioned to you at church that I have taken your questions as ideas that are to be studied and evaluated. I my self am open to challenges on my beliefs or are they understandings?

1. Is my Faith enough?

2. So far I have not totally accepted that I can be saved and know it.

3. I read that we are to come to Jesus as little children. I have a better chance at salvation as a child.

4. of the things we tell others can challenge their thinking and may cause them to lose Faith.

5. The church (you and I), sell state that sound good but lead to questions like, "why does God let good people suffer?" "why doesn't God heal all sick people?" Many of these are questions we can't answer. But some times we try to answer in order to win over a convert. Them they have a bad experience and quit.

If you sin there is a price to pay. God offers salvation from our sins after we die. While we are still on earth we pay for our sins right now in some way. It is not necessarily an eye for an eye. I should stop now because this discussion will go on until Jesus returns. Thanks for the opportunity to vent Mike. As you said your views are your views..