August 19, 2019

What Just Can’t Be, But Is

TWO roads diverged in a yellow wood,
And sorry I could not travel both
And be one traveler, long I stood
And looked down one as far as I could
To where it bent in the undergrowth;

Then took the other, as just as fair,
And having perhaps the better claim,
Because it was grassy and wanted wear;
Though as for that the passing there
Had worn them really about the same,

And both that morning equally lay
In leaves no step had trodden black.
Oh, I kept the first for another day!
Yet knowing how way leads on to way,
I doubted if I should ever come back.

I shall be telling this with a sigh
Somewhere ages and ages hence:
Two roads diverged in a wood, and I—
I took the one less traveled by,
And that has made all the difference.

-Robert Frost

I remember coming home from college as a freshman, and bringing my Greek New Testament to show my dad what I was learning at school.

It soon became apparent that my dad was completely unable to comprehend what I was talking about. the concept of a Greek text of the New Testament from which our English translations came just didn’t register at all.

For him, the Bible was the King James Bible on the endtable. What was I talking about with this “original language” business? Translation? What translation? (My pastor had at one time actually preached against the “Greek and other translations.”)

I explained, and explained and explained. Finally, he said he understood. I don’t know if he did or not. With a little more insight into myself, I’d say he just wanted a break from my freshman intensity.

I really wasn’t trying to make myself out to be smarter than my dad. I wanted him to understand and appreciate what I was learning and enjoying. I wanted him to have some confidence that all this time, money and trouble was worth it to me. It was my journey and I wanted to share it, but he couldn’t receive it. His life and beliefs were so different, mine wasn’t registering.

My dad was an eastern Kentucky mountaineer with an 8th grade education. He’d grown up among primitive Baptists with uneducated ministers. He was never around college educated people until his children went to college. My educational journey was another world.

I tell that story just to make one point. There are some Christians that seem to be completely unable to understand or appreciate that other believers who share their faith in the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, believe the Bible and believe the Gospel have lived an experience of faith different from their own.

These are good people, just like my dad. I don’t fault them for being ignorant, though perhaps they are. I don’t know why they can’t see the journeys and the faith of others. It’s painful that they don’t.

When someone says they came to Christ and live in Christ by a faith-experience that is outside of the paths these Christians know well and suppose to be the true paths, they find it easy to deny that such experiences exist or that any true Christian can walk them.

You can’t be a Catholic (or ________) and a Christian.

You can’t believe in evolution (or the Big Bang or _____________) and believe the Bible.

You can’t have that kind of confidence in science and still believe the Bible is God’s word.

You can’t be a real Christian in one of those liturgical churches. They’re dead.

You can’t be a Christian and vote for ___________.

If you say you are tossing out your previous ideas about God, then you must be abandoning the faith altogether.

How could you not like (insert book, preacher, teacher, music, ministry)?

If you don’t know the day you were saved, you’re probably not.

If you baptize infants, you don’t believe the Bible.

How can you (read, watch, enjoy) that and still be a Christian?

I could go on. I hope you get the point.

I don’t know what to say. This happens here in the IM comment threads. It happens in the real life of many of us who read this blog.

I don’t want to be insulting, because all of us have blind spots to the realities of other lives and to many things in our own.

But trust me, there are all kinds of people who haven’t walked your road, listened to your preacher, come to your conclusions, bought into your answers or adopted your politics/science/entertainment who are STILL CHRISTIANS. Just like you.

If we could settle that one, and would speak with an awareness that no matter how sure we are, we should be less sure about another person’s life than we are our own, I think it would be a great gift to our fellowship and our corporate witness.

There are Christians with different journeys than yours, but the same Lord, the same love, the same Gospel.

Rejoice in that more. Make bold statements of what just CAN’T be less.

Comments

  1. Faithful Christians submit their sexual attractions (all of them) to the teachings of the church Jesus’ followers established and resist as best they can the urge to pick and choose which and what they follow. You don’t like that? Don’t do it. You want to believe that Jesus taught summarily that “all you need is love”? Do your best. You know that’s not true.

  2. o.h., thanks for sharing that. It was really interesting to read. Having grown up Baptist and having an aunt by marriage that is Catholic recount a similar story to me, I really appreciated it.

    I definitely think people can be gay and Christian. I think we’re getting into the morality of sexuality here (and I’m guessing you will disagree with me on the morality of it), but if as Christians we believe that God has a standard for our sexuality, then we must all be honest in admitting that we all failed in some way in living up to God’s standards of purity regarding our sexuality, whether we are heterosexual or homosexual. None of us heterosexuals are any better, more Christian or more moral than homosexuals, which I’m sorry to say I think is the message or “aroma” we tend to give off to the gay community. Some of us may manage our sins better than others, but God is concerned about our hearts, not just “sin management”.

    I don’t agree with the assertion that Jesus only taught love. I think that while that is one of the greatest ideas he taught, that there are some other very weighty matters he taught besides that. To answer the question about being able to be an atheist and a Christian, see 1 John 4:2.

    I’m not here to make a judgment on how one can be Christian and gay.

    [Mod edited]

  3. The whloe idea of judging whether or not others are believers is really just some intellectual game. It is irrelevent to following Jesus.

    If someone says they are a Christian we should welcome them into the fold. If their behavior (including their teaching) is wrong than we should correct them and when necessary out hem and stand against them, but trying decide if they are saved or not is just a futile effort.

    Ultimately, whether someone is saved or not has no bearing on how we are to serve them.

    If I believe some crazy thing or do some crazy thing and you come and correct me it will only change my behaivior or theology, it won’t save me if I am not already, so why try and make the judgemnet call in the first place? Who is it helping?

  4. Jen E:

    in regards to your post about homosexuals being Christians, I have no doubt that homosexuals can choose to accept the Christ of love and to pick up His cross as their own, but my question is this, if they do not repent, then how can they inhert “the kingdom of God” as talked about here

    ” 9 . Do you not know that the wicked will not inherit the kingdom of God? Do not be deceived: Neither the sexually immoral nor idolaters nor adulterers nor male prostitutes nor homosexual offenders” (2 Cor 6:9)

    Most of us have fallen into that category at one point or another, and that makes us just as guilty. but as far as I understand God cant go against his word, right? so wouldnt he be going against his word if he allowed them to inherit the kingdom of God.

    and for those with pro-choice views, may I recommend an essay? A humble plea by Randell Terry (www.ahumbleplea.com) is an excellent essay on the subject of abortion or “pro-choice”. I

  5. I wanted to add –

    that if I were to ever come face to face with someone who I felt wasn’t a Christian for …… I hope I would do some soul searching and leaving it up to God to convict that person or myself, if I was in the wrong.

    It isnt my place to judge where one stands with Christ, but it is my place to read the scriptures and to pray that God gives me the clarity to see his heart through them.

  6. Stephanie,
    I didn’t say they didn’t have to repent. I’m sorry you got that idea from me, if you did. The fact remains, WE ALL have to repent to inherit the kingdom of God. Not just homosexuals. The single who engages in sex outside of marriage, the married person who lusts after someone that is not their spouse, the homosexual. We all have to repent. That’s a given. That’s in the Word. My point is I think that as a whole, we tend to forget about heterosexual sins and focus solely on homosexual sins. Singles who fail in their sexual purity feel more at home in the church than homosexuals do. Have we wondered why? Could it be our message that our message somehow comes across that it’s more okay to God for us to fail in our sexuality if we’re hetero?

  7. Stephanie,
    I see where you must have gotten that idea when I said:
    I’m not here to make a judgment on how one can be Christian and gay.

    I should have said, “I’m not here to make a judgment on what a gay Christian looks like in practicality”. My bad. But I hope my 2nd post explains it.

  8. Sean:

    >What about the statement “You can’t be a member of the word-faith/prosperity gospel movement and be a Christian?”

    I’ve never said it. I never made that statement. Anywhere.

    I’ve said repeatedly that I assume Osteen is personally a Christian. He proclaims an apostate message that is without the cross.

    I said that some of these churches teach no Gospel or a perverted Gospel. But that doesn’t mean there aren’t true believers in apostate churches.

  9. Why is it that these kind of discussions almost always end up stuck on three topics – homosexuality, abortion and creationism? My wife and I both grew up in church, and neither of us can ever remember any mention of most of the sins the Bible lists – gluttony, back-biting, gossip, etc. etc. When we were kids, adultery, pre-marital sex and living together without the benefit of marriage were the biggies, but no more.

    When I asked my wife this question she said “Oh, that’s easy. Christians like to condemn other people’s sins, pretend they don’t do those things, and excuse the sins they do commit, such as gluttony and gossip.” If you’re a Bible study leader or pastor, see how fast your popularity will wane if you tell your group you’re going to spend the next several weeks studying the sins of gluttony and gossip. If instead you tell them you’re going to discuss the sin of homosexuality you’ll fill the place. I know whereof I speak.

  10. One of the most liberating thoughts I ever discovered (and I can’t remember where I heard it first-and it could be the defining pillar of the Post-Evangelical) is, I can be a decent Christian and still not have certainty in all things.

  11. Memphis Aggie says

    Hi Erin,

    You’re right I do find your reasoning incomprehensible.
    To be fair though your point that Obama might had said something I missed is entirely possible, even likely.
    Maybe I’m too cynical, because I doubt I would have believed him given his voting record.

    I am continuously amazed at how people living in much the same world given mostly the same information and even sharing some of the same core beliefs can fervently believe radically different things about the same man.

  12. My favorite was the Sunday School teacher who insisted everyone should use their conversion experience when sharing the Gospel, including how you lived life before and how it changed after.

    Well…before I believed in the saving grace of Christ, I got up and went to first grade. After…I got up and went to first grade.

  13. It’s very hard to get across one’s feelings when writing a comment on a blog, which is why I thought about not even following up, or posting initially.

    I agree with so many of you that as Christians we have this tendency to have our pet sins that are the “bad” ones and those we do that “aren’t so bad,” or, “I’m a work in progress.” I agree and have too many of them to count myself.

    I agree that it’s important to approach anyone with love and (addressing the issue of homosexuality that so many raised) I think that the heterosexual having sex outside of marriage is just as guilty as a homosexual. They’re both sexual sins.

    I think all of this comes down to repentance…for any sin. If someone is unrepentant in their sin, I still hold that it calls their Christianity into question. If there’s no fruit, how can we assume there is a tree?

    The danger I see is that so many people are so focused on judging that they excuse any behavior that comes along. Where does it end? If we don’t take a stand on issues, what do we truly believe?

    Politically, I didn’t mean to imply that voting for a certain PERSON is questionable, but more voting for and believing in an ideology. If someone stands for things that are against the teaching of the Bible, does that not imply they may not be Christian?

    I would raise a couple issues with some of the other comments:

    Obed – “Compelling pro-choice evidence in the Bible?” You can’t make a statement like that without backing it up.

    Ky boy but not now – “It would help if you understood the big bang theory. Which the above statement isn’t it. And the theory is more a concept these days than a single unified theory.” I don’t claim to know everything there is to know every theory out there. What I’m saying is that many of these theories were developed and are espoused by people to explain the origin of the universe apart from there being a God who created it. Does that not fly in the face of Genesis 1:1?

    iMonk:
    “Justified by faith by grace by Christ ALONE.

    Alone?

    Or along with approved positions on politics and science?

    Along with approved Biblical interpretations?

    Saved by Jesus or correct theology about ___________?

    We had a reformation about this. Do we need another one?”

    I don’t believe I said you have to have an approved position on politics and science. My point was that people can say they believe in Jesus, but have no evidence to show it. Does saying we have faith in Christ mean that we can ignore the other commands of the Bible?

    I just sense that what I’m saying has been widely unacceptable to most everyone here. Isn’t that in disagreement with the sentiment of the post and so many comments? The sense that, “we’re not to judge. Everyone just believe what they want to believe and it’s all ok.”

    I think we need to have some standards that are core to what we believe. I’m not saying I know exactly what they are.

    I do believe that, to say “we had a reformation for this” is a bit of a misnomer. Do you really believe that the people behind the reformation would just turn a blind eye to a politician who is for killing a baby that is born after a failed abortion? Really? So, the first attempt to kill it didn’t work, it was actually born…but now we’ll just kill it anyway? Somehow I think that misses the heart of the Reformation.

    Kevin

  14. David Waggoner says

    In re-reading my earlier message, I realized it wasn’t very nice. I apologize to Michael for the crass tone of the message. For the record, however, I did listen to a great number of Michael’s sermons. Michael, on the other hand, has never apologized to me for inflicting his Christian fundamentalist pathology on me. But I don’t expect I will ever get an apology or anything close to it.

  15. David:

    I completely apologize for inflicting my fundamentalist pathology on you. Had I known that’s what I was doing, I would have stopped immediate. I sincerely regret any damage done to you by my preaching.

    I’ll take your endorsement as a fundamentalist, because everyone in my environment thinks I am a liberal apostate.

    Sincerely,

    Michael Spencer

  16. Kevin wrote:
    Obed – “Compelling pro-choice evidence in the Bible?” You can’t make a statement like that without backing it up.

    This will be the only post I make about this; I’m not looking to get dragged into an abortion argument, especially since I’m not even pro-choice. However I will back up my statement with the most compelling passage as well as a link to an article that goes into more detail.

    In Exodus 21:22-23, when a fight between people causes an aborted pregnancy, the matter is to be decided in a civil court with a pentalty of a fine. If the fight causes injury or death to the woman, it’s a criminal offence subject to the “life for a life” principle of OT Law. I.e. the fetus does not have in God’s Holy Law legal status as a human being, but rather is treated as property or chattle.

    See http://elroy.net/ehr/abortion.html for more details and a more complete discussion on the issue.

  17. kevin,

    Do you really believe that the people behind the reformation would just turn a blind eye to a politician who is for killing a baby that is born after a failed abortion?

    No. he doesn’t believe that at all. The point is that to say that the gospel plus anything is no longer the gospel. That’s the primary message of the Reformation. Not that Rome believed in salvation by works, but they believed that faith and other things were necessary to be saved. Not faith evidenced by things, but faith plus things.

    But, faith plus anything equals a dead gospel. Hence, sola fide.

  18. *but that they believed

  19. Great blog site.

    There are some great conversations going on here. I write from another country way across the pacific. And I find it interesting how people from another country have exactly the same issues as we do “Down Under”.

    It does concern me that, for some, the issue of abortion is such a clear-cut issue. The people who brought the woman caught in adultery thought the same. I have made some pretty ordinary mistakes and decisions in my life, Lord, have mercy on me a sinner!

    For those who struggle with people who are gay or lesbian, don’t hold them accountable, after all God created them. Lord, have mercy on me a sinner!

    For those who struggle with “non-Christian” believers, I think that David Waggoner has raised a good point in quoting 1 John 4:7-8. Another story to consider is that of Cyrus (Isaiah 44:24 – 45:5), the Persian/Babylonian King. Firstly in 44:25 God frustrates the wise and makes them foolish. Cyrus is God’s anointed one (45:1) and he doesn’t even know who God is. How cool is that? That would be enough to stump a few of the wise Christians. If God can anoint someone who doesn’t even know who God is, then God might even be able to anoint, someone who does. After all, anything is possible for God, isn’t it? (Go Obama). Lord, have mercy on me a sinner!

    The USA could be considered the most powerful and wealthiest empire in the world at the moment, not much different to Babylon and Rome in their times. We, the powerful and rich, need to be so careful; God has a bias to the poor and weak. Go Obama!

    One last comment. As an “outsider” whose country, I might add, has aligned herself closely with the world’s super power, I understand that your country has a strong sense of the right to defend itself and to bare arms. (2nd Amendment to the Constitution – sorry if that’s not correct) I think we need to remember Jesus words to Peter in the garden at Gethsemane when he cut off the ear of the guard who came to get Jesus, “he who lives by the sword dies by the sword.” There are a few things that I would like you to reflect on, if Peter thought he needed to defend himself or Jesus, then Jesus says pretty clearly he doesn’t condone violence to achieve this. Maybe those who condone the baring of arms to defend themselves need to hear the words of Jesus for today, “those who defend by the gun die by the gun”. Just as slavery was considered, even by Jesus to be allowable, Wilberforce saw that things needed to change. Just as some of your country’s founders and parents thought the right to bare arms was justified, maybe it’s time for a change. Lord, have mercy on me a sinner!

    My the peace of Christ rule in OUR hearts.

  20. KMY,

    Let me try to explain the way that some, hopefully most, of us think about abortion and this year’s election.

    I am very much opposed to forcing people to have abortions, and allowing the children born from botched ones to die. I am opposed to my tax money being used for such purposes. I would like to see fewer and fewer abortions happening, and even those handled more safely.

    As far as the women who chose to abort, I have only sympathy and would do whatever I could to help them. I would never judge them for the choices that they have made.

  21. Ky boy but not now says

    Kevin
    “Ky boy but not now – “It would help if you understood the big bang theory. Which the above statement isn’t it. And the theory is more a concept these days than a single unified theory.” I don’t claim to know everything there is to know every theory out there. What I’m saying is that many of these theories were developed and are espoused by people to explain the origin of the universe apart from there being a God who created it. Does that not fly in the face of Genesis 1:1?”

    Most science ignores Genesis 1:1 mainly because it doesn’t do much in the lab to apply these scriptures. The theory of how atomic clocks work, designed, and integrated into our lives doesn’t involve references to Genesis 1:1 but they work. And all of use with our GPS systems use them all the time. And these devices are based on science which points to a very old earth.

    That doesn’t mean God didn’t create the universe and the physical laws under which it operates. Just that Genesis 1:1 doesn’t do much to explain a theory. Valid or invalid that they it may be.

    To me Genesis 1:1 is about who is in charge. Details left as an exercise for the user.

    And the Big Bang in no way shape or form says the “earth spontaneously came into being”.

  22. Memphis Aggie says

    Michael as a pathological fundamentalist LOL!

    I think this thread ties in nicely with the next one.
    When we say someone is a Christian does that entail a core set of beliefs (creed) and is belief, in the full creed or in Christ alone, enough to remain a Christian and be saved? There are a lot a ways to answer these questions.

  23. My father and mother both had sixth-grade educations. My dad was a self-made successful business man. After selling his business of fifteen years, he was the Managing Editor of the largest local newspaper. He mispronounced words. His penmanship was crude. His spelling was sometimes off. But he was one of the most intelligent men I ever encountered. He was a Baptist evangelist. His father was a Methodist evangelist who began at age sixteen as a Circuit Rider (on horseback). He had Godly wisdom. He hungered and thirsted after righteousness. He found it!

    My mother was a beautiful and talented girl. She was offered the opportunity to play and sing at the Grand Ole Opry. She never chose to do so. She was quiet and giving. Neither parent ever raised their voices to me or my sisters….or to each other. PEACE, TRUST, FRIENDSHIP WAS THE LAW OF OUR HOME. Daddy’s favorite phrase to me was, “If every person in the world is your friend…you will still be one short.”

    They were not ‘educated’ but they were EDUCATED. The most beautiful part of all…when dad died….the MANTLE literally passed to the next generation…mine.

  24. I feel that KMY has given a wise and humble response to the core issue of justifying ones own beliefs over another.

    As a biology major I see evolution as an elegant biological system mimicked by almost every human creation or hierarchy, and without a doubt demonstrated by observation, scientifically, and mathematically. I also understand that evolution makes no comment or speculation about cosmology, which is an entirely different study with no demonstrated theory at this time. As a person of faith I find it hard to imagine that the God of the Universe would put all of this false data here, I do not believe he lies.

    As a soil scientist the age of rocks,and soils and the evidence near where I live of ancient land masses colliding fascinate me; and as a person of faith highlight certain notions I have of an awesome creating God.

    As I raise two sons and hope that they will grow into young men who respect women, and who will be responsible for any children they create, I understand that I have never really personally done anything to help prevent an abortion. I’ve never invited an unwed woman into our home, and offered to pay for her medical care, the delivery of the child and offered to raise that child as my own if no one else would.

    I also understand that I’ve never had to be concerned about male pressure, aggression and greater physical strength to protect my body and the biological fact that I could not simply walk away from an unintended consequence as we men often do. If I had, it might give me a slightly different perspective.

    We Christians in this country have put a lot of stock in our way being right, and others ways being wrong; myself included. I often wonder if I would have argued from a Biblical perspective for slavery or for the erasure of indigenous people’s culture. I’m pretty sure that I would have, so I wonder what perspectives I get wrong now and simply don’t see.

    Lord have mercy on me indeed, and continue to draw towards loving others.

  25. Headless Unicorn Guy says

    I’ll take your endorsement as a fundamentalist, because everyone in my environment thinks I am a liberal apostate. — IMonk

    In my experience, when you’re taking fire from both sides you’re probably on the right track.

  26. I am humbled by your comment, John, and I thank you for the challenge of practical sollutions to an issue that is often condemned from a theoretical position. Maybe a good postscript to the text, “You will know them (Followers of Jesus) by their fruit” would be, “not by what they believe.”

    Peace and grace to you from our Lord Jesus Christ.

  27. Christopher Lake says

    KMY,

    In at least some sense, doesn’t our “fruit” come from what we believe? No one does anything without a motivating reason and context.

  28. Christopher Lake says

    Of course, allowing for the fact that our “fruit” comes out marred by our sinfulness!

  29. So, I just found out that Evangelicals aren’t the only ones to say “you can’t be right with God if you voted for _______________”

    Fr. Newman of St. Mary’s in Greenville, SC declared last Sunday that if any of his church members voted for Obama they need to repent before they partake of the Eucharist.

    Needless to say it has created quite a stir in the church complete with picket lines and dogs dressed up in “Obama suits”

    Interesting

  30. I agree with you Christopher,
    I BELIEVE we should love people and show mercy and compassion towards them, not condemn them for there actions. It seems to me that there are way too many “Christians” out there that think that condemning people to hell for their actions or even repentance because of the way they voted seems to suggest a vengeful and condemning God. I BELIEVE that any condemnation should be directed at the powers who impose poverty and oppression on people, robbbing them of dignity and hope. If my recollections are right, that’s what Jesus did. There was no condemnation of “sinners” in fact Jesus was condemned for welcoming and eating with them. Jesus also said he who welcomes them welcomes him – not he who condemns them is doing God’s will. If we truly believe that Jesus wants us to love and forgive our enemies, shouldn’t we expect God to act the same with God’s enemies?
    If we do, how does eternal punishment fit into that? If we don’t, why should I do something that God wouldn’t do?
    PS: Still surprised that no-one has commented on the guns topic, am I missing something here?
    God’s peace to you all.

  31. Headless Unicorn Guy says

    …dogs dressed up in “Obama suits”

    WTF??????????????????

    Yesterday, my writing partner delivered his “DON’T GO STUPID ON ME!” sermon for the third straight Sunday. He summarized it as:

    “This Sunday, I’m preaching on it’s been 19 days since the election and hell still has not vomited up the damned and the dead do not walk the Earth. We have a bigger problem. Our Sunday School program sucks.”

  32. Christopher Lake says

    KMY,

    As Christians, we do *not* have the right to *condemn* unrepentant unbelievers (non-Christians) for their rejection of Christ. In Matthew 5:43-43, Christians are told to love their enemies and to be merciful, because God Himself is merciful.

    Because God is not only merciful though, but also holy, just, and the *Creator* and *Owner* of all life, there is an ending point to His mercy. He alone decides when that ending point will occur. He alone has the right to make that decision. Every sin that is committed against one of His creatures is committed, first and foremost, against *Him.*

    Voting for, or against, Obama does not “make” or “break” a Christian, in terms of the Biblical definition of the word. No one becomes, or ceases to be, a Christian, based on his/her works. Works may be an *indication* of where one stands with God (I say that carefully), but in and of themselves, they do not save or damn a person.

    As for whether one is or is not a Christian, it comes down to whether one is arrogantly trusting in one’s own “goodness” and “righteousness,” as a human being, to put oneself into a right state, and a right relationship, with God– *or* whether one realizes one’s absolute moral bankruptcy, one’s personal rebellion against God in a thousand different ways, and one’s need for both a Savior from God’s wrath *against* that rebellion, and a Substitute to lovingly bear that wrath in one’s place– and then, whether one turns and puts *faith in* that Savior and Substitute, Jesus Christ. That is the key. That is what defines a Christian, not the person for whom one votes.

  33. Christopher Lake says

    Sorry, I meant Matthew 5:43-48.

  34. Kevin:

    “I just sense that what I’m saying has been widely unacceptable to most everyone here. Isn’t that in disagreement with the sentiment of the post and so many comments? The sense that, “we’re not to judge. Everyone just believe what they want to believe and it’s all ok.””

    It absolutely isn’t in disagreement. This is the argument against universalism. But no one here(that I know of) is saying that last bit. There absolutely is a standard: Jesus Christ’s righteousness transferred to your account. To me, not accepting this simple fact is more reason to question one’s Christianity than a lack of the proper behavioral evidence. This only begets licentiousness when you exchange the Christ of the Bible for an invention of your own– A Christ that didn’t suffer and die and call the faithful to do the same.

    “I think we need to have some standards that are core to what we believe. I’m not saying I know exactly what they are.”

    I do know what they are. Christ alone.

    I have cringed for a long time over believers’ inability to see the similarity of legalism and license. They are seen as two sides of a pendulum swing and the trick is to “strike a balance.” this is so unbiblical it hurts. There is no difference. Legalism is SIN. Licentiousness is SIN. The answer to sin is CHRIST.

  35. Hi Christopher,

    Where ever did you get the idea that there is an end to God’s mercy? Any suggestion that God’s love and mercy is finite would appear, to me, to be incorrect. 1 Corinthians 13:8 suggests that love is eternal, it never ends, doesn’t it? All goodness comes from God, even when it is from, as you put it an un-believer. You really must read the account of King Cyrus in Isaiah 44 & 45.
    As a follower of Jesus, I am not convinced at all that entering the Kingdom of God has anything to do with what we “believe”. Just by acting out of love aren’t we acting out of God? (See 1 John 4.) It’s through our actions that we show what we believe, isn’t it? Jesus said that he was the way to God, the way of love who is perfect in mercy and compassion. I think in our humaness we can’t comprehend fully how deep, how wide God’s love and mercy is. Jesus asked of me, love my enemies even when they don’t return that love to me, I expect the same of God, it’s only fair and just, isn’t it?

    Peace and grace to you all.

  36. Christopher Lake says

    KMY,

    To answer your straightforward question in a straightforward way, I get the idea that there is an end to God’s mercy from the Bible. These are the words of Jesus Himself from the Gospel according to John, chapter 3, verse 36: “Whoever believes in the Son has eternal life; whoever does not obey the Son shall not see life, but the wrath of God abides upon Him.”

    In this verse, obeying the Son is explicitly tied to *believing* (trusting) in Him. For those who do not do so, the wrath of God abides upon them. Hard but true. We should say it with tears, and with prayers for people to come to Christ, and certainly with an urgency to share the truth of Christ with them– but we *should* say it, because it is *true.*

    Apart from belief (faith, or trust) in Jesus Christ and His perfect life and substitutionary death in the place of sinners, one will not experience mercy from God. One will experience abiding and just wrath for personal sin against a personal God. Again, hard but true– and straight from the mouth of Jesus Himself.

  37. Christopher Lake says

    Sorry– in my above comment, the last part of verse 36 should have been written as “the wrath of God remains on him.” “Him,” in this verse, refers to the one who does not obey the Son, including by believing (putting one’s faith) in Him.

  38. Christopher Lake says

    KMY,

    Well, that’s what I get for trying to recall a Bible verse without having the Bible at hand! In the Gospel according to John, chapter 3, verse 36, John the Baptist is actually the one speaking about the Jesus the Son, and about the wrath of God remaining on the one who does not obey the Son, including by believing in Him.

    However (with Bible now at hand!), there is an even more clear statement, from Jesus, on the importance of believing in Him, also in chapter 3, verses 16-19: “For God so loved the world that he gave his only Son, that whoever believes in him should not perish but have eternal life. For God did not send his Son into the world to condemn the world, but in order that the world might be saved through him.” Sounds almost like universal salvation, in a way, doesn’t it? However, there is one more, very hard statement from Jesus about Himself and the necessity of belief (faith, or trust) in Him: “Whoever believes in him is not condemned, but whoever does not believe is condemned already, because he has not believed in the name of the only Son of God.”

    In my fallen humanness, I would love to believe that God will be eternally merciful to people of all faiths, or no faith– but if I believed so, I would be directly contradicting the words of Jesus.