Tag Archives: love

One Choice Has Already Been Made

“He who is not against us is on our side.”  That’s what Jesus told His disciples in Luke 9:50.  Some have taken this to mean that anyone who has not chosen to deny Christ is with Him.  They push this as far as ultimate salvation, suggesting that those who die without ever acknowledging Christ as Lord are still saved as long as they haven’t knowingly denied Him.  This, in their minds, allows those who have never heard the gospel to have a chance at salvation.  In order to make this work, many of those who believe this idea suggest that there will be an opportunity after death for a decision.  (It seems a little unfair to me that those who haven’t heard the gospel would be given the chance to face Jesus personally after death.  In fact, some have suggested that we are actually doing a disservice with evangelism and missions if this doctrine is true.  How much better would it be not to tell them and make them choose here and now?  Let them die without ever hearing and then they can choose, when they have all the facts in front of them.)

But the truth is that the choice has already been made.  Whether you and I like the idea of original sin or not, the bottom line is that Adam’s sin affected our relationship with God.  And even if I were to claim that I am not guilty in Adam, I still have Dave to contend with.  I chose to sin against God.  Even if Adam hadn’t, I would have.  The Scripture (Romans 1) says that the existence of God is plain in nature and that no one has an excuse for choosing their own way. 

So no one really has to choose to deny Christ because all who have sinned have already chosen against God.  That’s the current state of the lost.  All have sinned—that’s one of the most basic concepts of our faith.  The concept that corresponds to that is just as powerful—all need a Savior.

When studying Scripture, context is so important.  One of the disciples came to Jesus to tell him about a man who was casting demons in Jesus’ name.  But the man was not one of the twelve nor among those who regularly hung out with Jesus.  Still, the man acknowledged the power and authority of Jesus.  In fact, he came to the hurting in Jesus’s name and successfully faced evil while secure in Jesus.  The problem was not this man’s personal faith.  The problem, in the minds of the disciples, was that this man didn’t walk with them.  So Jesus said, “He who is not against us is on our side.” 

You don’t have to think like me to be saved.  But you do have to come to the Savior.

Only those who come to the Savior will be saved.  It’s as simple as that.

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If You’re Saved and Don’t Know it, Clap Your Hands

Can someone be saved and not know it?

The simplest answer is “yes.”  I have known people who were never sure that they were saved.  Usually it was because someone had told them that they must act a certain way or live up to certain standards in order to be “really saved.”  Legalism almost always produces a lack of assurance even in the heart of true believers. 

But let me ask another question:  Can a person be saved and not want it?  You see the difference?  Could someone be unwillingly or accidently saved?  You know, could a person travel to a “Christian nation” and be saved simply by getting off the boat?  Could a person be swimming downstream from where a group is baptizing and be accidently saved?  Or maybe this is more realistic: Could a person grow up in a Christian home and attend a Christian church every Sunday and be saved simply by osmosis?  Could someone wake up in Heaven someday and say, “But I didn’t want this!”? 

No, no, no, you say.  A person has to want to be saved.  Why?

We say that Heaven is a free gift.  It has already been paid for, fully provided and readied for anyone.  But only the “free” part is active.  I have had the odd experience of finding a wrapped gift that was never delivered to the person who was supposed to receive it.  The timeliness of the gift was gone and it was no longer needed or appropriate.  I unwrapped the item and did something else with it.  My intention was that it would be a gift, but was it?  Just because I called it a gift, didn’t make it a gift.  My friend would not have said that I gave him a gift.  The term “gift” no longer applied to its reality; it only applied to its intended purpose. 

Many wannabe boyfriends have had similar experiences.  The gift they offered was not received.  Maybe they threw the item away or they used it for themselves, but it was not really a gift because it was never received.  God offers salvation as a free gift.  It really is free.  He has done all the work.  The cost was all His.  But if the gift is not received, not wanted, it has no effect, no reality for the intended receiver.

Like the old motivational speaker said, “Ya gotta have the want to!”

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Do I Have to Choose?

Is the act of choosing Christ necessary for salvation?  Be careful how you answer that—a great deal depends on who is asking.  You see, if you say that no personal choice is necessary, you quickly find yourself with one of two groups.  You will be either with those who say that God chooses some to be saved and others to be condemned (no matter what the individual would like) or with those who say that everyone has been chosen and all are or will be saved. 

However, if you say that personal choice is necessary, you may find yourself accused of believing that the work of the individual is required for salvation.  In the minds of some, choosing Christ is the one work that sets the saved apart from the unsaved.  The spiritual effort of repentance and acceptance becomes the way we earn salvation.  No longer is salvation fully the work of the Savior.  Now it appears to be part His and part ours.

So how do you answer that question?  You could mumble and quickly change the subject.  You could jam something into your mouth to avoid having to answer (like in the TV commercials).  You could call your pastor (after all, that’s what he is paid for).  Or you could simply admit the truth—that the sovereign choice of God in salvation and the personal responsibility of the individual are both true.  Both are taught in the Scriptures.  However, let’s be very clear: only God does the work.

It helps me to think of this as the execution of a will.  Let’s say that you are the long lost child of J. D. Moneybags.  You have lived your life without knowing this until someone arrives at your door with the news that J. D. Moneybags has died and you are his heir.  Throughout his life, J. D. Moneybags has tried to find you, to bring you back into the family, but you managed to elude him until the end.  There are other heirs who are quite happy that you have been found.  They look forward to welcoming you into the family and sharing everything with you.  There is plenty for all. 

Now, at long last, you are faced with a simple choice.  Do you acknowledge your father and receive your inheritance or do you remain fatherless and poor?  You can stay outside the family or enter in.  The choice is yours.  But you have done nothing to create the identity or inheritance that has been offered.  Accepting the inheritance takes nothing but a willingness to belong.

This analogy isn’t perfect.  In fact, it lacks in several ways.  But the idea is much the same.  Yes, you have to open your heart and want to belong.  You have to choose the Savior.  But that choosing is not a good work, not a saving effort on your part.  All the work is God’s.

The Father loved you and sent the Son.  Jesus went to the cross for you.  The work is done, the inheritance is yours, you are welcome to enter the family.  It doesn’t matter who you think you are or what you have done.  But if you refuse the love, you get nothing.  All this is yours . . . if you want it.  If you don’t want it, it won’t be yours. 

The transaction is not complete until you accept it.  You cannot be part of the family until you enter in.

Comments?  Questions?

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Love Allows Freedom

Many years ago (Ok, say thirty—to my kids, that’s many) I challenged the orthodoxy of a young man who was preparing for ordination in the denomination I served at the time.  This was a mainline denomination moving more toward the left each year and my guard was up.  The young man had said during his examination that he believed all people would eventually be saved.  The idea of universal salvation is a historical heresy in the church and I felt strongly that his views needed some clarification. 

When I raised the issue, an older man challenged me.  He believed that I had heard the young man incorrectly.  He thought the candidate had said that he would like everyone to be saved eventually.  The older man pointed out that there was nothing wrong with wanting everyone to be saved.

Well, to make a long story short, I asked for the young man to be called back and asked him a couple more questions.  I asked him who would be saved at the end, when all things were complete.  He said that all people would be saved.  I asked him if this was what he wanted or if this was what he believed to be true.  He assured us all that this was what he believed to be the eventual reality.  I asked him if he understood that was an old heresy in the Christian church.  He said he was willing to accept that.  At that point the vote was taken and the young man was welcomed into the denomination with an overwhelming majority support. 

I have learned many things through my study of grace and the love of our Lord.  One thing that has been of great significance in my life has been to begin to feel the Lord’s great love for those who are lost.  It doesn’t matter to Him where a person has been or what the person has done, He came to save them because He loves them.  Increasingly, it doesn’t matter to me either.  As the heart of Jesus becomes more and more the operative heart in me, I find myself to be ever more willing to accept people who are different from me or even outcast from most of my circles.  Homosexuals, beer-drinking rednecks, liberal agnostics, adulterers—Jesus loves them all and offers any of them the way home.  I find that I truly desire for all to be saved.

But another thing I have learned through grace is that I am not the one who gets to determine the way things will be.  From the foundation of the world, God allowed the people of His creation to choose.  Motivated by His love, He allowed Adam and Eve to choose to obey—or not—and when they chose to sin, His great plan of salvation would be available for those who would choose to return to Him.  His desire was not really that we would not sin, but that we would see and accept His love.  The choice was allowed because love, as the Scripture says, does not demand its own way.  Differences and divisions are acceptable because we are truly persons, made in the image of a creative and willful God, who wants us to be ourselves as we choose Him.  The result of that freedom, that responsibility, to choose is that not all will come to the Lord for salvation.  There is no way to avoid that fact as we understand the heart of God or the plain teaching of the Scripture.

I find often that the difference between what I desire to happen and what will happen is simple reality.  There are people in my life I want to see come to Jesus.  They need Him and He loves them.  I don’t want them to die without Him.  But I cannot avoid the fact that they must choose.  No matter how much I want it to be true, the Lord is not going to make them join with Him in eternal glory.  I can redecorate the doctrine, make it sound more welcoming; I can avoid talking about hell or condemnation; I can say that Jesus accomplished everything they need on the cross; but they still have to choose.  And, I fear, some will choose to stay where they are.  They think they don’t need a Savior and they don’t want what He offers.  Just because it breaks my heart doesn’t make it less right for them to have that choice.

To take away the most important choice of human life, the one choice that lies at the core of all that is humanity, is not love.  Grace allows us to accept that.

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What should church be like?

We have spent several days considering whether or not a believer has to attend regular Sunday worship at a local church.  Perhaps the answer would be easier for all of us if church were what it is supposed to be.  Of course, what I am about to describe is somewhere in the realm of fantasy.  It removes the human factor, or, better, the “flesh factor.”  As long as we remain here, this church will be a dream.  However, we could try….

The primary purpose of the church should be to share love.   What?  What about worship?  Well, we all know that we can worship alone, but how do we love alone?  Besides, what do you think Paul meant when he said that you could sing like the angels and still sound like clanging brass without love?  To love others is to worship God.

Remember the old song, “They’ll Know We Are Christians by Our Love”?   Some churches don’t dare sing that song, do they?  If they were judged by their love, no one would know they were Christians.  Oh, most of them think of themselves as loving, of course.  Certain people in the church are loved a great deal… and they seem to love themselves just fine.  But love can be hard to find at many churches.

Why should love be the center point?  Because Jesus is the center point.  Because He loves us, we should love each other.  Because He loves the lost, we should love the lost.  Because His heart is our heart, our motives and actions toward others should be His. 

Once you look past things like doctrine, missions, service, worship and everything else churches think they do, you see that love is really the point.  Everything flows out of love.  Even right doctrine can only be enjoyed in connection with love.  Nobody cares if you are right if being right means you don’t care.

No comparisons, bearing one another’s burdens, respecting each other’s differences, no cliques or elitism, patience, welcome, acceptance—these are the things of love.  This is what church should be like.

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It’s still about relationship

Kay wrote:  “The relationship we have with HIM is the real reason to find yourself wanting to be with others. Since the Church is His Body, He would have all of His saints to love one another within that relationship, then love and ‘draw’ the lost to HIM.”

This is so good that I just have to comment in a post. 

I believe that God is so great, so wonderful, that He knows Himself through relationship.  Without getting into the deep mystery of the Trinity, we can simply say that He has revealed Himself to us as a relationship of three Persons.  When we are told that God is Love, we get a glimpse of the fact that His essence is somehow manifested in relationship.  When Jesus told us that He and the Father are One, He simply reveals a facet of that relationship.

Because of love, He created us to share in that relationship.  Why?  I don’t know.  All I know is that it is important to Him to live in that relationship with us, that He made us for relationship.  In fact, I do not believe that the human heart can be whole and right apart from right relationships. 

So He created us for that relationship; grieved when we left that relationship (the Fall); and called us back to that relationship.  When we come to Him for relationship, He destroys anything that stands in the way and gives us His own life so that we can share fully in that relationship.

Now, if relationship is so important to our Lord, if the whole point of creation and the gospel is for us to share in that relationship with Him, then wouldn’t it be consistent for Him to invite all people to share in that same relationship?  In other words, instead of many one on one relationships with His people, He invites us to share in one great relationship with Him and with each other.  He knows each of us by name and He cares for each one of us, but He wants us to come together and live in His presence.

This is why we are allowed to see Heaven, not as some Nirvana where we are simply absorbed into the being of God but, as an eternal community of believers in the presence of their Lord.  We were not only made to be in Him, we were made to be together in Him.  We will be with other believers for eternity. 

So, the church should reflect that unity, that love, that relationship.  Next time: What should church be like?

Comments?

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No Condemnation!

Maybe I need to stay off the Internet.  I follow several blogs and sometimes jump from link to link and I am continually amazed at how much is out there.  Today I followed a link to a youtube video where a man talked homosexuals going to hell and used the recent suicide of a young man to support his point.  It was disgusting and, no, I am not going to give you the link.  From there I went to another video.  This time it was an expose on Peter Popoff, who makes huge profits on his healing ministry and was outted a few years ago as a scam artist.  These things keep my blood flowing, I guess.

Listen, no one goes to hell because he or she is gay.  That’s simple.  In fact, there is no particular sin that sends a person to hell.  Those who arrive in hell do so because of a continued state of unbelief.  The message of the Scripture is that all are on their way to hell because of their brokenness and sinful condition.  Jesus came to rescue anyone from hell: homosexuals, prostitutes, politicians, even shyster preachers. 

Somewhere some people got the idea that the gospel is bad news.  Condemnation, guilt, shame: these have become weapons for the cause of Christ.  But no one is saved by condemnation or guilt.  We are saved by the love of God in Jesus.  Condemnation is the natural state for all who remain under sin; who have not been rescued by Jesus.  It isn’t something for Christians to enjoy or employ.  It should cause us grief.

Jesus looked on Jerusalem and wept because He knew of the unbelief of the people.  He reached out to the prostitute and the tax-collector.  Today, He would reach out to the homosexual and the drug addict and I wonder if He wouldn’t weep when He looked at some churches. 

Yes, homosexuality is a sin.  That’s all it is.  And it hurts people.  We don’t have to support it in any way.  But we do have to care about those who are caught in it.  Several young people have killed themselves recently because of the conflict in their hearts related to homosexuality.  We ought to grieve for them and for their families. 

Be kind.  Love others—especially those who are not like you.  Don’t judge or condemn them.  Tell them of Jesus and His love.  Walk with them and show them the way to Him.   

dave@gracefortheheart.org

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