An Unlawful God

Christianity is not about law.

This post is going to collate a few things that have been running through my head lately which culminated a while back for me over the course of Baxter Kruger’s book Jesus and The Undoing of Adam (which is a wordy-but-wonderful short book that sums up the gospel as believed by the early church, and following through with Saints in the Arms of a Happy God by Jeff Turner (a much longer but also very good book as far as I have read).

One of Kruger’s main focuses is, of course, that Christianity is not about legality – the plan of salvation was not a court room drama. And he speaks so brazenly about the fact that today’s Christianity has got God so wrong. 

(It’s a good book, you should check it out)

And it only continued to confirm what I’ve come to believe – that Father is not really all that interested in law and retribution, that the gospel message was not about Jesus taking our punishment primarily and sin didn’t put us out of legal standing with God that we had to be atoned for before God could have an interest in us again, but that the gospel message is about a God who met us where we were, made himself vulnerable to the weight of the wrath of our sin, buried it in the grave and took his life back up to lift us up with himself to Father’s right hand.

The heart of the Father has always been relationship. The primary goal of the Father has always been to adopt us in to the relationship He shares with Jesus and Holy Spirit, through what Jesus did at the cross. It was planned from the beginning, before the beginning, before Adam was even a twinkle in Father’s eye, Father said ‘Let’s make man…and let’s invite him into our relationship.’

And then Adam fell.

Which means sin was only ever a side-note on Father’s already-eternal plan to adopt us, and Jesus’ primary goal has always been to raise us up to the Father’s side with him. That happened when he himself ascended to Father’s right hand – and he rewrote Adam’s history to bring us back from our anguished separation and into the family. There was no holy standard standing in our way, no wrath or vengeance, no anger, no; Jesus didn’t come to set our legal record straight or change Father’s attitude about us, he came (indeed, Father himself came in Jesus) to change our situation as Adam’s sons so that we could be adopted–so that our hearts would once more cry out “Abba! Daddy!” And maybe you don’t think that’s such a big deal but you’re living post-cross post-Adamic nature and Holy Spirit is poured out on all flesh which means your heart has already been turned toward Father; imagine having only total animosity in your heart and inherently believing you are an enemy of God and God is an enemy of you. It’s always been about restoring relationship by restoring the heart for Father we were created with–a heart which sees only the eternal proclamation, “It is Good!” over all creation. It is good, there is no evil but that which we created in our perceptions as soon as we ate the fruit that told us there was such a thing as ‘not good’.

And you know, I grew up with a legal-based view of God. I always had some kind of idea that when the prodigal son spent his inheritance, that was it, there was nothing else for him–I mean, how could there be, really? Legally it would’ve been a mess, everything left should have gone to the older brother. (Maybe that’s part of why he was so ticked when little brother came home – you mean now I have to share what’s left with this boy?) And who really knows, I mean it was a hypothetical story, after all. But it wasn’t really about the physical inheritance, was it. It was about the inheritance of the Father’s love for his children. It was about his deepest desire being to have his boys with him, to give them everything he had. There simply wasn’t any place for a legal reconciliation when that boy appeared on the horizon because Father’s attitude toward his son had always been for him, and for relationship, and for his son’s homecoming. And so the son was reconciled to his father; he was welcomed with open arms back into his place within Father’s household.

And I know I said that story wasn’t about salvation–the more I mull it over in my mind the more I’m convinced of that because there was no re-adoption when the son came home, he was already a son – so maybe that isn’t as good an example. But what about the lost sheep, or the lost coin? They were never about anything remotely legal; the good shepherd didn’t bring his lawyer along looking for his lamb. He didn’t bring his little boy along to kick in his anger so he wouldn’t kill that lamb with his wrath. Was there a transformation required after Adam? Absolutely. But it wasn’t about a legal dispute, or Father dishing it out on the Son. I find the idea so twisted that a just God would kill his innocent son to satisfy his anger for us. “Why would a god do that?” Young Piscing Patel asks, “Why would he send his only son to atone for the sins of the whole world?” A just God would put us all on death row and start over, but Father is not only just but he is intimately in love with us–with you–the crown jewel of his affection, and justice is wrought differently out of love.

I mean…read 1 John. It’s all about love. Love. Love… God is love and we know we are his children if we love others because there is no love outside of Father. Do you love? Then you are a child of God, it’s that simple because He did it all so that now our nature is his nature. He is over all and in all and through all. [ephesians 4] Love. That’s why the good news is so good! 

And so Jesus (and Father in him) not only laid his own life down for us, he laid it down before us and let us dish out our wrath on him. Because remember, in our minds, we were enemies. He let us dish out all the animosity and wrath sin had nurtured in us to the point of his brutal death–and in the midst of it all, he forgives us.

If you read my last article, maybe you remember that God took pity on Nineveh, 120,000 people who he said didn’t know their right hand from their left. He opted not to destroy them. Jesus, before he died said ‘Father, forgive them; they don’t know what they are doing.’ The irony of the tree of knowledge of good and evil is that it left us even more clueless. But Father forgave, the last thing we expected.

And all those people, God didn’t throw down his stone tablets on their heads in divine wrath. It is so easy to ignore what Jonah knew all along–that Father is merciful, compassionate, slow to anger, eager to turn away from even a justified wrath, abounding in love for people. In fact, I never once heard that part of the story when I was growing up. No one ever talked about the motive behind God’s unwillingness to destroy Nineveh. And so I was left with a picture of a bi-polar God, angry and vengeful one moment, loving–or perhaps more accurately, tolerating–the next with little a care to the woes of man, merely bent on insuring that evildoers repent or die. But Jonah was sent on a mission of mercy, and he knew it.

And it’s re-emerging. Knowledge–revelation–of who Father truly is, what the gospel is really about, the true values at the heart of Christianity as it was at its birth. A generation is rising up that won’t be satisfied with the inconsistencies of Christian culture both new and old versus the truth. And I can only wait in expectant imagining how this revolution will change the world.

Church, Unite

“If we had more young people around here we’d get smarter,”

As the technical brain behind the system, I’d been asked to take a look at my previous church’s presentations computer to work some bugs out of the interface with the projector. It was a simple enough job, but the prospect of going back even for it was…awkward. I spent most of the day thinking about times gone, mulling things over in my head I thought I’d had settled a year ago. And then the comment that really got me thinking.

“If we had more young people around here we’d get smarter,”

Oh, you have no idea.

But what really got me going was this: the same people that trust me to know what’s going on with the hundreds of micro electrical circuitry inside a computer don’t seem to trust me to know anything they wouldn’t about, say, the Bible. Or God.

And you know something? There are a lot of people that have a lot of years on me when it comes to God. But I’ll tell you. the gospel isn’t as complicated as troubleshooting a computer, never mind the dabbling in hardware and software modifications I’ve done here and there. It just isn’t. So how is it that my belief counts reliably on one thing but not another when I’ve spent equal amounts of time studying and practicing both? Do you really want to get smarter with what I have to show you?

Bear with me – this is not a rant article.

I only ask one thing. Stay open. Keep your ears open, keep your mind open, and don’t let someone’s age or experience determine the value of what they may have to teach you; God talks to babies.

When I was removing myself from my previous church I was strongly encouraged to break ties with everyone. And for the most part, I was ready to. But I don’t agree with that anymore. I was talking to Jesus a few days ago and thinking about the underlying issues that caused me to make up my mind about leaving, and he just said something to this affect: “Son, don’t concern yourself with politics,” And he reminded me that he doesn’t use perfect people because there are none. And I just felt all my thoughts finalize right there.

I don’t regret leaving; I still know it was right for me. But I would have done it differently. Because the truth is I was cutting ties when I should have been building bridges to people. It’s not about breaking ties, it never was, and that’s not even in my nature.

What I wish is that people would see the truth, and decide to change direction.

What I dream is to see the young and the old sit down together and learn from each other; the young have valuable insights into the Word of God, too. What I dream is to see the church unified, learning together, resting in the strength of Jesus.

So who wants to be with me?

Love

What I do, have or say doesn’t mean anything unless I Love you.

Love is patient with you

Love is always kind

Love is not jealous

Love is humble

Doesn’t compete

Love doesn’t have an ego

Love lets You go before Me

Love cares more about You than Me

Love doesn’t keep score

Love defends your true cause

Love doesn’t give up

Always trusts God

Always looks for the best in you.

Love doesn’t look back to regret, but always endures to the end.

If I know all the big words, and say all the right things, but don’t Love you, my words are empty.

If I can explain God’s Word to you powerfully, and explain His mysteries to you,
and if I have the faith to declare God in your life but I don’t have the courage to
stand in front of you and choose to Love you, I have nothing to offer you.

If I give my life away for you, but I don’t Love you, I’m self-defeating, and I do not have what it takes.

Love Never Fails

1 Corinthians 13

Heed the Yeast

While scrolling through the Bible app on my phone during church today I came across a number of passages that blew me right out of the water (and I thought I knew it all, aready?). One passage in particular totally affirmed what I’ve been struggling with these months, which has been initially doubt. Not doubting God but doubting myself and the decisions and choices I’ve made in the last 6-8 months that have brought me here, out of the religiousBecause I have to be honest; I’ve been taking opposition, and while the feeling of knowing truth is so powerful, this stuff has been wearing on me.

Anyway, I was skimming through 2 Timothy 3 and verse 5 leaped off the page at me, so I just had to go back to the beginning of the chapter and find out what was going on here:

But know this, that in the last days perilous times will come: For men will be lovers of themselves, lovers of money, boasters, proud, blasphemers, disobedient to parents, unthankful, unholy, unloving, unforgiving, slanderers, without self-control, brutal, despisers of good, traitors, headstrong, haughty, lovers of pleasure rather than lovers of God, having a form of godliness but denying its power. And from such people turn away! 

– 2 Timothy 3:1-5 [emphasis mine]

Did you catch that? Paul is warning Timothy (and all of us young men) about perilous times and perilous people: “For men will be lovers of themselves, lovers of money, boasters, proud, blasphemers, disobedient to parents, unthankful, unholy, unloving, unforgiving, slanderers, without self-control, brutal, despisers of good, traitors, headstrong, haughty, lovers of pleasure rather than lovers of God …” this description sounds like it came right out of his list of the fruits of the flesh over in Galatians 5; this is heavy stuff.

But do you know what kind of people he’s talking about? It isn’t the world, it’s the religious! It is the religious. He says in verse five, “[they have] a form of godliness…” Is it a reputation? A name? A claim to a church pew? These people probably appear quite godly.

Just let that sink in a little. And what is the danger?

For of this sort are those who creep into households and make captives of gullible women loaded down with sins, led away by various lusts, always learning and never able to come to the knowledge of the truth.

– 2 Timothy 3:6-7

Making captives out of the gullible to lust, loading them down with sins, always chasing knowledge but never able to grasp the real substance of the knowledge of the truth. Doesn’t that sound like the religious? It sounds a lot like some of those I’ve seen and heard speaking from behind the pulpit. And I think these two verses are key, because this is what the religious is full of–church is full of this! Everyone looking for the next new piece of wisdom as though their salvation and their usefulness to the kingdom depends on how much they can learn. To the religious of his day Jesus said something to the affect of “You search the scriptures because you think knowing them will save you, but you miss completely that they’re all about me!” (John 5:39, my paraphrase). Always hearing, never understanding. Loading sin after sin onto their fellow captives, because what else can you do with a system based off works and sin-consciousness?

I think back on my recent encounters, some with peers, others with older, more respected leader figures; I’m thinking about how perfectly my experiences and the feelings I’ve gotten from some individuals fit Paul’s description perfectly. I’m thinking about the people who had reputations in my eyes as great leaders on solid foundations.

Having a form of godliness.

This sort creep into households and make captives of gullible women loaded down with sins.

“Beware of the yeast of the Pharisees and the Sadducees,” Jesus warned his disciples (Matthew 16:6) The infectious beliefs of those who believe no righteousness exists out of your perfect observance of the Law, and those who believe there is no resurrection life. Righteousness at the cost of death and no resurrection hope. And you can hear an awful lot of teaching and preaching in church today about what you must do to meet the requirements for salvation, in various forms and flavors. Having a form of godliness.

“Perilous times and perilous men will come,” warns Paul, “But it’s okay; you’ll know them by their fruit. They appear godly, but they bring devastation. Turn away from them!”

Turn away from them.

Now as Jannes and Jambres resisted Moses, so do these also resist the truth: men of corrupt minds, disapproved concerning the faith; but they will progress no further, for their folly will be manifest to all, as theirs also was.

– 2 Timothy 3:8-9

Are you in a dead movement? Faith in the finished work of Jesus will always promote progress. Jannes and Jambres were among the people that left Egypt; Moses delivered them. A form of godliness. What more can I say? Paul gives us the answer to remain steadfast in a time when false Christians and the religious will encroach us with doubt:

10 But you have carefully followed my doctrine, manner of life, purpose, faith, longsuffering, love, perseverance, 11 persecutions, afflictions, which happened to me at Antioch, at Iconium, at Lystra—what persecutions I endured. And out of them all the Lord delivered me. 12 Yes, and all who desire to live godly in Christ Jesus will suffer persecution. 13 But evil men and impostors will grow worse and worse, deceiving and being deceived. [And here comes the one-two punch:] 14 But you must continue in the things which you have learned and been assured of, knowing from whom you have learned them, 15 and that from childhood you have known the Holy Scriptures, which are able to make you wise for salvation through faith which is in Christ Jesus.

16 All Scripture is given by inspiration of God, and is profitable for doctrine, for reproof, for correction, for instruction in righteousness, 17 that the man of God may be complete, thoroughly equipped for every good work.

– 2 Timothy 3:10-17

But you must continue in the things which you have learned and been assured of, knowing from whom you have learned them, and that from childhood you have known the Holy Scriptures, which are able to make you wise for salvation through faith which is in Christ Jesus! Amen! How do you keep from faltering in the face of those who would question, deride and shame you for the truth of the gospel? Continue in what you know, know who you learned it from, and be confident in the Scripture where your 100-percent-faith-based salvation is found! I’m not going to stop believing in the finished work of Christ, I know I learned this gospel straight from God, and I know that I’m not only on a solid scriptural foundation, but I’m on the foundation of Christ himself! And I’ll tell you something, not only have I found confidence in the gospel by Scripture, but I’ve been able to respond to the naysayers with the truth straight out of the book itself; what better feeling than to know that you know that your foundation is Christ the Solid Rock, and all other ground is sinking sand.

As I began with, this passage just totally blew me out of the water, affirmed my whole understanding and put such a peace-enabling reassurance over me–I know I’m on the right track, I don’t need to be intimidated or put off by anyone regardless of who they are or what their reputation or standing is, and the danger in the religious culture is real, and it’s alive and well.

16 All Scripture is given by inspiration of God, and is profitable for doctrine, for reproof, for correction, for instruction in righteousness, 17 that the man of God may be complete, thoroughly equipped for every good work.

– 2 Timothy 3:16-17

I’ll end off with this: I’ve thought for a long time that I had to be learned to be able to carry any authority in the Christian culture. Now I realize, Christianity shouldn’t even be defined in a culture. All the so-called Christian Culture is, I think, is modernized religion. So I don’t need to be educated to be completely equipped, I just need to allow the Word of God to be alive in me–that’s all you need in order to be able to stand up to religious bullies–I don’t need to be learned, I just need to be listening to the voice of Jesus in me.