Why Should We Go to Church?

Be on guard for yourselves and for all the flock, among which the Holy Spirit has made you overseers, to shepherd the church of God which He purchased with His own blood. – (Acts 20:28, NASB)

In this modern day and age, there are so many different types of churches and denominations that the actual Word of God can get lost very quickly. We are in a day where churches do everything to interest newcomers: some have espresso carts in the lobby, some have full musical performances for their “worship” services, and others just try to entice you with friendly faces and special programs.

group of people inside disco house
Hopefully your church doesn’t look like this. (Photo by Thibault Trillet on Pexels.com)

Isn’t Church Just a Big Hangout Spot?

When I first started this blog, I didn’t actually go to church. My family attended church when I was much younger, and I attended private school for kindergarten into 1st grade but, not long after that, we stopped everything. I do recall attending church (or at least, sunday school and AWANA) with my neighbor when they babysat me, and I didn’t like it  at all. When I got older, I knew that the Bible said that I should go to church, but I held a great distrust of many churches for the type of material that they teach. My favorite “church” was really just a conference of speakers, elderly men, that was almost antiquated in its simplicity.

Why would that have been my favorite? I trusted what they were preaching. I don’t like churches that do not proclaim the Word of God. I don’t like churches who partially portray the Word of God. I don’t like churches who sugar coat what they are saying to make it pleasing to the ears.

So, perhaps it is out of a general distrust, perhaps it is secretly underwritten by a dose of pride, and perhaps it is just out of a lack of availability that I hadn’t found a church that I actually wanted to attend. But more so, apart from the actual biblical command to go to church, I didn’t see a reason for it. One of the churches I briefly attended prayed before the offering, as most do, and the whole prayer sounded like a plea for donations. Right or wrong, this led me to think, “If you truly trust God to provide, why are you begging your congregation for money?

This brings me to a few days ago, when I was sitting in church during the graduation service. Not the graduation where diplomas are handed out, but a special service congratulating the high school and college graduates and giving a special prayer for their lives going forward.

At that moment, it dawned on me that I finally understood what church is for.

Now, anyone should immediately know that church is for coming together, honoring God, worshipping Him, and fellowshipping with other believers. That part never alluded me.

Then, what more is there? – You may be asking.

Understanding Church

I had an entirely wrong attitude about church, as I think many other Christians or would-be Christians (let alone, atheists and agnostics) have. Many people, myself included, viewed church almost as this place where you go and put on a front for other believers.

It’s the place for people who call themselves Christian to go hang out and gossip with and about other people who call themselves Christian (or not). They pass around the offering plate, maybe they do some social programs, a few youth group activities, and perhaps the pastor lives in a nice house.

architecture bricks buildings bushes
And if you’re Joel Osteen, you live in a really nice “house”. (Photo by Mikes Photos on Pexels.com)

All the while, I was missing the fact that this is not what church is all about. Not even close. And it definitely isn’t about “becoming the best you”, “diversity” or “tolerance”. Before you shake your fist at me or write an angry comment, it’s not to say that none of those things have a place within any given church, but that’s simply not what the church is for

My dad and I went to an organ restoration concert at a church we’d never gone to before that is part of a denomination whose churches we never attend, but we didn’t really know a whole lot about either. Needless to say, I don’t feel inclined to know any more than what I learned that day.

img_1319

Amidst the beautiful organ music, played by accomplished organist Dan Miller, they sang a few hymns. One or two of them were well known, classic hymns such as Holy Holy Holy, and I was fine with that. Towards the end though, the songs started becoming about diversity, acceptance, and even singing multiple times about the organ itself. There’s nothing inherently wrong with true diversity, true acceptance, true tolerance, or the instrument that all this music was being played on. But apart from the fact that this was not about true diversity, acceptance, love, or tolerance, we were supposed to be singing worship songs! Why on earth would we want to worship any of these social issues, regardless what you believe about them?

img_1317

The True Purpose of Church

A while back, I was listening to the radio and there was a woman’s program on, and she was talking about a woman who had brought concerns to her about not having time to minister. Basically, the woman’s predicament was this –

I have to be a wife to my husband and a mother to my children, I just don’t have the time to go out and minister to people and be a good witness as I’m called to be. What do I do?

The woman hosting the show gently advised that the woman was already being a witness for God, through being a good wife and mother. Remember, as we’ve talked about before, everything not done in faith, is sin. Doing something in faith doesn’t automatically make it good, but doing something not in faith automatically makes it sinful. Hence, why we need Christ in the first place!

In essence, as long as the woman with the dilemma was being the best wife and mother she could be, by the grace of God, depending on Him, and raising up her children to know and love God, she was being a witness for Him.

Whatever you do, work at it with all your heart, as working for the Lord, not for human masters,Whatever you do, work at it with all your heart, as working for the Lord, not for human masters – (Colossians 3:23, NIV)

OK, but what does that have to do with church?

Do you remember how Jesus said, “the Sabbath is for man”? Well, church is for man too, to the glory of God the Father.

Are you still with me?

A Community of Believers Worshipping Jesus

I realized, while sitting there at the graduation service, that the church body wasn’t just a group of people from the same city as me who liked taking time out of their Sunday to sing some songs and hear a guy speak.

That isn’t to say that no one who attends church is attending for those simple reasons, but it’s not the true, core meaning.

Church is about a community of believers, worshipping Christ together, and supporting one another in faith and in life. It was when it hit me that we were sitting here, having a separate graduation service from the one their school held for them, to congratulate all these kids and pray for their future.

  • Someone had taken the time out to write up interview questions for each of these kids.
  • Someone had taken the time out to make record each of these kids walking around and partaking in their favorite activities.
  • Someone had taken the time out to edit each of those videos to make them professional-looking.
  • Someone had taken time out to make a separate flyer to hand out with the bulletin.
  • Someone had taken the time and money to purchase books to give as gifts to each of the graduates.
  • Someone had taken the time out to compose a prayer for these graduates and write up a few words to say to each of them personally.
  • And lastly, the whole congregation was together as a church family to watch the videos, hear the words, pray the prayers, and congratulate each of these kids.

A whole separate graduation program for the church body to show their support for these kids!

It wasn’t necessary – they already had or would have a graduation ceremony from their school. They were the kids of one of the parents, but they weren’t my kids, or the pastor’s kids, or the kids of the other deacons, or the kids of the music director. . . Really, outside of church I didn’t know any of them. The majority of the church was not technically related in any way.

Yet, we were all sitting together, in support of them.

Although, biologically, I have no relation whatsoever, they are brothers and sisters in Christ. They are children of brothers and sisters in Christ. The whole church body is related through Christ.

Working Together for God’s Glory

As a church family, as a church body, as a church congregation, we are like our own separate community. We are a community of believers, working together to support other believers. We are working as the hands and feet of Christ. We are loving each other in Christ. As the body of believers, we make up the bride of Christ.

In an almost twisted way, it’s kind of like what people envision “real” communism or socialism to be. We are supposed to pay in (tithe) because it’s all God’s money anyways, and the church uses it to redistribute the wealth to those in need and pay the pastoral staff for their services.

It’s not communism or socialism because, first and foremost, no one is forced to give up their wealth or possessions. Biblical tithing can only be done as a willful act of faith based on the promise that God will provide for your needs.  Biblical tithing is also a minimum of 10% whereas communism or socialism would forcibly take whatever percentage they chose up to 100% with the promise that the government would then provide for your needs, which generally results in poverty for all.

The Real Reason for Church

Church is where all the believers commune together to benefit and support each other as a community, to the glory of God the Father. We learn about Christ together, we worship Him together, and we support and love (including holding accountable) each other because of faith in Him. God is glorified when we do that.

If you are skeptical towards attending church, or have attended church before and were turned off by the experience, I would urge you to pray and try again. Seek out a church that puts Jesus Christ first and foremost. Pray for guidance in finding that church. God didn’t give us the gift of the church body so we could get free coffee. God didn’t give us the gift of the church body so that we could listen to fun music, or learn new skills in church that we didn’t have an opportunity to learn elsewhere. We have the gift of the church body so that we can work synonomously together as the bride of Christ to ultimately become one with Him.

Taking the Bible a Little TOO Literally

I apologize for the extended absence. I have had a few things going on lately – including illness and depression. I think I’m over the illness, but if anyone is willing to pray for me for what God knows that I need most right now, I’d appreciate it.     ~Heather

Then Joshua spoke to the Lord in the day when the Lord delivered up the Amorites before the sons of Israel, and he said in the sight of Israel, “O sun, stand still at Gibeon, And O moon in the valley of Aijalon.” So the sun stood still, and the moon stopped, until the nation avenged themselves of their enemies. Is it not written in the book of Jashar? And the sun stopped in the middle of the sky and did not hasten to go down for about a whole day. There was no day like that before it or after it, when the Lord listened to the voice of a man; for the Lord fought for Israel. (Joshua 10:12-14, NASB)

The general principle or hermeneutic of reading the Bible is as follows:

  1. Read it in context of the surrounding passages. Don’t cherry-pick verses and use them out of context.
  2. Read it in the context of the entire Bible. Don’t cherry-pick individual passages or even chapters to mean something contrary to the rest of teaching of Scripture. (“Scripture interprets Scripture.”)
  3. Read it in the “common sense” and generally literal meaning.
  4. Don’t read meanings into Scripture that aren’t there, although there may be multiple applications of a portion of Scripture.

Now, that’s a very general way to go about reading the Bible, but it’s safe and I think that is how most pastors, scholars, and Christians in general go about it. Most of all, I don’t think anyone would specifically suggest otherwise, even though many people do otherwise, as is evidenced by the wide variety of interpretations. (Not Bible versions, but how people interpret what they read.) Any time a text out of context – even for books other than the Bible – misunderstandings and confusion are inevitable.

Now, that is the primary means of interpreting the Bible and will generally help to gain understanding without ending up with a wildly different interpretation. But, there is still another place where people get fouled up in reading it.

When people assume that the authors of the Bible were too primitive to write decently, then they run afoul of the wordplay that is actually included in the Bible. There are metaphors and similes in the Bible (i.e. Jesus is not a literal door) as well as word-pictures, poetry and other wordplay that is lost on an English-speaking audience.

One of the clearest evidences that I see of this is when people believe that the Bible teaches that the earth is flat or that the sun revolves around the earth.

Now, when I originally learned that people inferred this from the text of the Bible, especially the flat-earth idea, I was amazed. I kept thinking to myself, “Is there something I missed? How do people come to this conclusion?” I’ve even seen where scholars mention this as a point having to be dealt with scientifically! So I researched what some of the verses are that supposedly teach a flat earth or the earth revolving around the sun, and the verses that I opened with are some of those quoted.

What’s the Problem?

Clearly the above verses from the Book of Joshua describe Joshua instructing the sun to stop in the sky, and that certainly makes it sound like Joshua believes the sun is what’s moving while the earth remains still, right?

So, why do I insist that doesn’t support that the Bible teaches that the sun revolves around the earth? Isn’t the Bible inspired and inerrant? How can it teach something that we’ve seen scientifically isn’t true?

Well, let’s take a closer look at this.

  1. The Book of Joshua describes Joshua instructing the sun to stop in the sky.
  2. Joshua clearly appears to believe that the sun moves around the earth.

So, is there really just something I’m missing?

Taking a Closer Look

To better understand this situation, we have to consider who Scripture is being written for and to. It’s being written for everyone and to everyone. Everyone – throughout decades, centuries, and even millenniums! That means it had to be understandable to the people who were reading it back when it was first written, as well as to people reading it 2,000+ years later.

In God’s omniscience, He knows all those people throughout all of time and what will work best. Because He knows literally everything (and everyone), He also knows what His chosen writers would write, how they would write it (their personal writing style) under His inspiration and oversight, and how that would impact current and future people.

First off, we have to notice that what is written is a description. This is describing what Joshua sees. Joshua did not say that the sun is revolving around the earth. He said that the “sun stopped in the sky”. This is an observational statement.

If the Book of Joshua said, “The sun stopped revolving around the earth,” we would be dealing with a substantially different issue and it would be fully justifiable to question the inerrancy of the text. But, that isn’t what it says at all.

Secondly, if Joshua believed that the sun revolved around the earth – so what? If all the people believed that the sun revolved around the earth because they didn’t know any better at that time – so what? The problem here isn’t that the Bible actually teaches that the sun revolves around the earth, the problem is that people infer that based on what Joshua observed.

What About a Flat Earth?

We’ve taken a look at the idea of the sun revolving around the earth, but what about a flat earth?

After this I saw four angels standing at the four corners of the earth, holding back the four winds of the earth, that no wind might blow on earth or sea or against any tree. (Revelation 7:1, ESV)

I was somewhat astonished to learn that this is one of the primary texts that people use to support their claim that the Bible teaches that the earth is flat. I think there is another (besides Psalms 75:3), but I have heard of this one the most.

For starters, the entire Book of Revelation uses a great deal of symbolism and imagery. For example, there is a woman, and a dragon, and neither refer to an actual female or an actual dinosaur or other reptile. They are symbolic of Babylon and Satan, and even Babylon is used symbolically itself. So, to say that the “four corners of the earth” implies a flat earth is, to me, already a stretch.

As detailed in the Got Questions page on the idea of the Bible teaching a flat earth, this merely represents the compass points of North, South, East, and West. Furthermore, it again does not state, “The earth is flat.” If that statement was made, we’d have fully justifiable reasons to question the Bible’s inerrancy and teachings.

Instead, we’ve got an inference that is not supported by other texts in the Bible and is far more symbolic, descriptive, and observational than it is a scientific statement of facts.

Another TOO Literal Inference

There is one other “too literal” part I wanted to bring attention to. I was listening to a podcast where the guest speaker was a “Textual Expert”. I’m not trying to lessen his expertise or education in any way, but he said something that I was surprised by.

He said that one of the words that was used to imply deep feelings or deep love was, in the original language, “entrails”, but it was translated as something like “heart”. Though I can’t recall the exact verse or even words he was speaking on, I do clearly recall him saying, “Your translators were helping you!” That is to imply, the actual word used was entrails and the translators corrected it to a more appropriate word to signify what it meant.

The interesting thing about that is that in the King James Version, the English word “bowels” is used much more often than I have seen in other versions. Well, it certainly looks like what he said is true, and it very well might be, but there is something to note.

When looking into the ancient Hebrew, it’s interesting to note how broadly any individual word (and even letter) is used. Take a look at the variety of meanings! So, it seems to me that the word may be “entrails” but has a broader, multi-use meaning to express “deep down inside”. That is, perhaps the word literally is entrails, but it has other meanings that do not come through in the English when using the most literal translation of the word.

The Hypocrisy in Taking It Too Literal

Taking the Bible too literally clearly causes us to infer things that aren’t clearly expressed, and it can cause misunderstandings in abundance. However, there is something more shameful about this behavior – specifically the behavior of taking portions of the Bible too literal and then rejecting it on the notion that the entire book must be nonsense. Not only is that basically creating a straw man argument, it’s also total hypocrisy.

Don’t believe me?

Think with me about a hypothetical 1,000 years into the future, and somehow looking back into texts from our current day. Let’s imagine that we are able to be a fly on the wall at some future researcher reading about the culture of our day. 

Let’s imagine that this researcher is reading some of our news articles, weather reports, email communications, etc. What would they think that we thought with phrases like this?

  • “The sun rises in the east, and sets in the west.”
  • “I am speaking to you from the bottom of my heart.”
  • “My gut tells me to buy it.”
  • “The sun is at high noon.”
  • “My heart is breaking.”
  • “Listen to your gut instinct.”
  • “Just follow your heart.”

Now, anyone in this day clearly knows what these statements mean and has most likely used one or more, if not all, at some point. However, we never stop to think about what we are actually saying.

  • When is the last time your gut literally spoke to you?
  • Why did the sun last move high up over the earth?
  • Has your heart ever literally broke?
  • Does the sun actually rise, or for that matter, set?
  • Don’t you think with your brain, and not with your heart (or your stomach)?

How come we don’t say what is really happening? Why don’t we say, “Well, the earth has rotated to the point where our specific location is aiming at such and such an angle to the sun at this moment, indicating 12pm”?

Who would ever understand it if we did?

We don’t frequently stop to think about it, but we all use this kind of descriptive and observational language to explain the world around us, and even our own feelings. We use “gut” and “heart” to describe our “deep down” and “innermost” feelings. Even saying, “deep down”, and, “innermost”, aren’t accurate in a literal sense because our emotions don’t come from say, our pancreas or our small intestine.

The point is, we use the exact same type of language as they do in Biblical texts to mean the exact same types of things as the Biblical authors did. The difference is that we hold them to an entirely different standard. Or, we view them as being so primitive that they couldn’t possibly use the same type of descriptive language that we do.

It ultimately doesn’t matter if Joshua did literally think that the sun revolved around the earth or even if people thought that the earth was literally flat. The important thing is that we look at what the Bible actually says, not what we read into it and infer from it. The important thing is that we interpret what the Bible says in the context of all of Scripture.

The important thing is that we understand that when we overcome these hurdles, we can see the truth in Scripture, and that is the truth about our Lord Jesus Christ. All of Scripture is about Him, and He is all that matters – not all these misunderstandings.

Who Would Make This Stuff Up? – Part 2

Listen, my son, accept what I say, and the years of your life will be many. I instruct you in the way of wisdom and lead you along straight paths. (Proverbs 4:10-11, NKJV)

We started this by talking about how lots of people want to claim that the Bible is made up. This has huge implications, in both ways. That is, if it is made up, then there are millions of people who are investing their time, their money, their entire lives – in a piece of fiction.

On the other hand, if it wasn’t simply made up then that leaves only one other option. We can’t pick and choose pieces of the Bible and say, “Well, those are true, but those aren’t.” Because of what it claims to be, then we are limited to only two options – either it is made up, or it is the truth. If only parts of it are truth, then it’s man-made and no different from any other man-made book. And if that’s true, then we are all free to respond to it how we please and treat it however we feel is best. What difference does it make?

Now, some people already treat the Bible like that. They have an ironically God-given right to do so, but it says nothing of whether or not they should. So, are they right in doing so? Should we just abandon the Bible as a piece of man-made fiction? Or is there evidence that it is not actually made up?

The point of this series of posts is going to be to show that it is a common sense conclusion to determine that the Bible is actually not made up. And rest assured that if someone had conclusive proof that the Bible was all made up, they would have brought it up before now and made their living off disproving it.

Our first consideration was to describe what we feel God would be like if we were deciding the ideal terms and characteristics. What sort of traits would God have? What actions would He do if we were dictating?

If you haven’t read that first post or decided that, go back and take a quick glance, come up with your answer, and then come back here. We’ll be waiting patiently!

OK, ready? Now I want you to keep your personal ideals in mind as we go further. Let’s start with Genesis.

Genesis

Now, there’s nothing particular about the creation event that would be cause for alarm. The number of days of creation and the age of the earth are hotly debated topics that I’m not going to get into right now. I will, however, say that there are people who read the creation account as a literal 6 days of creation and say the earth is under 10,000 years old and then there are people who read the Bible differently and manage to fit millions of years in there. I say that because the Bible cannot be discredited automatically for the age of the universe regardless of how old or young someone thinks it is. For my purposes right now, we’re questioning whether or not the Bible is a work of fiction, not whether the universe is old or young and that really has very little impact on my overall argument.

Adam and Eve

So, moving right along, we get to the account of Adam and Eve. Even hardcore atheists are, I’m sure, very familiar with the account of Adam and Eve’s original sin. The forbidden fruit, the tree of the knowledge of good and evil, the fig leaves… Now, the gist of the story is that God says to Adam and Eve that they can eat of every tree except the one. If they eat of that one tree, they’ll die. The serpent comes in and convinces Eve that no, she won’t die, instead she’ll become like God! So, Eve bites and gives to her husband, Adam who takes a bite also. Soon thereafter, their eyes are open and they realize they are naked and they hide from God. Now, read this next part:

They heard the sound of the Lord God walking in the garden in the cool of the day, and the man and his wife hid themselves from the presence of the Lord God among the trees of the garden. Then the Lord God called to the man, and said to him, “Where are you?” He said, “I heard the sound of You in the garden, and I was afraid because I was naked; so I hid myself.” And He said, “Who told you that you were naked? Have you eaten from the tree of which I commanded you not to eat?” The man said, “The woman whom You gave to be with me, she gave me from the tree, and I ate.” Then the Lord God said to the woman, “What is this you have done?” And the woman said, “The serpent deceived me, and I ate.” The Lord God said to the serpent, “Because you have done this, Cursed are you more than all cattle, and more than every beast of the field; On your belly you will go, And dust you will eat All the days of your life; And I will put enmity Between you and the woman, And between your seed and her seed;
He shall bruise you on the head, And you shall bruise him on the heel.” To the woman He said, “I will greatly multiply Your pain in childbirth, In pain you will bring forth children; Yet your desire will be for your husband, And he will rule over you.” Then to Adam He said, “Because you have listened to the voice of your wife, and have eaten from the tree about which I commanded you, saying, ‘You shall not eat from it’; Cursed is the ground because of you; In toil you will eat of it All the days of your life. “Both thorns and thistles it shall grow for you; And you will eat the plants of the field; By the sweat of your face You will eat bread, Till you return to the ground, Because from it you were taken; For you are dust, And to dust you shall return.” (Genesis 3:8-19, NASB)

Take a look at that curse! Now, let’s go back and think about this for a moment. Let’s stop and think about our own ideals. Lots of people say things like, “If there is an all-good, all-loving God, then why does He allow evil?” Well, let’s pose this question instead – why did He allow the first sin that paved the way for all the rest? Why didn’t He just swish His hand and poof their sin away? If this is merely a story, then why didn’t someone write it differently? If someone wrote this in order to persuade people to follow their lead, their example, or put them in power – why not appeal to the desire of the people? Why wasn’t it written to say “And God said, I’ll let you off the hook this time, but don’t do it again, OK?”  Or, “And God said, Because you disobeyed, you’ll have to do hard labor for a year so you learn your lesson.” If this is just a writing of fiction, then why is God’s curse so extreme? Why is the punishment for all the people all throughout history?  Most of all, why did God tell them not to eat off the tree of the knowledge of good and evil to begin with? Since man always wants to be his (or her!) own god, why wasn’t this written that Adam and Eve should have eaten off the tree? Why wasn’t the serpent right?

Now, if this is just a fictional tale, then how did the author manage to throw in a bit of prophecy from over a thousand years prior to Jesus walking the earth? We must keep in mind that the Bible is a collection of books to create one big book. But the individual books were written in many different centuries and by many different authors. So it’s not possible that Moses is also the author of the New Testament, but the New Testament authors were also not the author(s) of the Old Testament.

Cain and Abel

As we keep going in Genesis, we encounter the same thing with Cain and Abel. Again, the gist of the story is that Cain is jealous of Abel, murders him, and tries to hide his sin from God. God calls him on it, and puts a curse on him but also sets a seal on him to keep others from killing him.

He said, “What have you done? The voice of your brother’s blood is crying to Me from the ground. Now you are cursed from the ground, which has opened its mouth to receive your brother’s blood from your hand. When you cultivate the ground, it will no longer yield its strength to you; you will be a vagrant and a wanderer on the earth.” Cain said to the Lord, “My punishment is too great to bear! Behold, You have driven me this day from the face of the ground; and from Your face I will be hidden, and I will be a vagrant and a wanderer on the earth, and whoever finds me will kill me.” So the Lord said to him, “Therefore whoever kills Cain, vengeance will be taken on him sevenfold.” And the Lord appointed a sign for Cain, so that no one finding him would slay him. (Genesis 4:10-15, NASB)

Now, let’s go back to our ideals. Why didn’t God just wipe him off the face of the earth as punishment? Or why didn’t God come down and stop him from killing Abel? Or why didn’t God just raise Abel from the dead right then and there and tell Cain, “Don’t do that again…” ? Or why didn’t He relocate Cain and tell him, “I am moving you over here so that you can’t do that again”? If this is just a fictional, man-made tale, then why wouldn’t God have done something that would have been more appealing to human nature? More appealing to man’s sense of justice? Why would He have A) cursed him and B) shown mercy to him at the same time?

Noah’s Ark

Now what about Noah’s flood? God told Noah to build and ark and take animals onto the ark to preserve them because He was going to flood the world because it was overrun with evil and He was grieved. Now, let me ask this – if this was a fictional tale, why didn’t it start here? I’m not saying that it’s impossible, I’m saying it’d be pointless. Why would anyone write about creating the entire world only to then follow up with how it was all messed up and it had to be washed away? What purpose would it serve? This can’t be a threat story to invoke fear because it ends with God promising never to do it again and providing the rainbow as proof of His promise. It doesn’t add anything particular to the story if it’s a piece of literature, so why is it in there if this is a piece of fiction?

Canaan, Nimrod, Babel…

Now, Noah is one of God’s “superheroes” of the faith, right? So then, how come his sons become some of the most notoriously awful nations? “Canaanites” covers a lot of different groups of people, but the Canaanite people became one of the most notorious groups in the whole Bible. Why wasn’t there another group that came onto the scene? If this is just fiction, especially to try to persuade people for the sake of acquiring power and prestige, then why would the son of someone notable become the beginning of such a terrible nation of people? Same goes for Nimrod and the entire fiasco with the tower of Babel.

Now the whole earth used the same language and the same words. It came about as they journeyed east, that they found a plain in the land of Shinar and settled there. They said to one another, “Come, let us make bricks and burn them thoroughly.” And they used brick for stone, and they used tar for mortar. They said, “Come, let us build for ourselves a city, and a tower whose top will reach into heaven, and let us make for ourselves a name, otherwise we will be scattered abroad over the face of the whole earth.” The Lord came down to see the city and the tower which the sons of men had built. The Lord said, “Behold, they are one people, and they all have the same language. And this is what they began to do, and now nothing which they purpose to do will be impossible for them. Come, let Us go down and there confuse their language, so that they will not understand one another’s speech.” So the Lord scattered them abroad from there over the face of the whole earth; and they stopped building the city. Therefore its name was called Babel, because there the Lord confused the language of the whole earth; and from there the Lord scattered them abroad over the face of the whole earth. (Genesis 11:1-9, NASB)

In man’s perspective, having all one language and being able to work together is great, so what sort of author would incorporate something like this? What sort of author would want to say, “This is bad, we are going to have to work this out of our story”?

Sodom and Gomorrah

If there is any part that humans should have no problem with, it’s Sodom and Gomorrah. Why would the author have God be against Sodom and Gomorrah, instead of appealing to human desire? If this is about power, what difference does the sin of Sodom and Gomorrah make to the author? Given how human nature is, given the fleshly lusts and desires most all people have, then why isn’t this written that people should give in to their desires maybe, say, as long as it doesn’t seem to hurt anyone else?

Abram (Abraham) and Circumcision

There is a lot more that could be written (especially since Genesis is so long with so many events), but I’ll end on this one. Why would anyone decide to circumcise someone and then mandate that for others? God tells Abram to circumcise himself as a means of keeping the covenant, but why would any human author have instituted such a decree? Why would any man want to do that to himself or others? And if it is argued that the author is actually female, there are many other questions to be asked.

Consideration

The final consideration for today is just to go back over the events listed above and view them from a purely human perspective. Check out some of the other events in Genesis and view those from a purely human perspective as well. After thinking about these events from a personal, human standpoint, think about how you would write it if you were writing the story. Would your human nature have driven you to follow the same? Or would you prefer that God be more lenient? More understanding?

Our God is exactly what we need Him to be most – merciful. Our merciful God saw the failures of His first humans and provided an animal sacrifice and skin to cover their shame. The first son murdered his brother, and God provided mercy to him by protecting him from possible vengeance. The whole world became corrupt but God did not punish those that were still willing to listen to Him. Sodom and Gomorrah were completely perverted but God promised that He would not destroy the city if even as few as ten righteous were found.

In our evil, warped, fleshly selves, we want God to give us a pass on all the awful things we may want to do. We want to pervert justice, pervert good, pervert holiness and get a pass. We don’t want to be subjected to consequences for doing what we want to do. What we really need most is a just God who is  also merciful and forgiving of our persistent evils, and that is exactly the God we have.

 

Who Would Make This Stuff Up?! – Part 1

All scripture is given by inspiration of God, and is profitable for doctrine, for reproof, for correction, for instruction in righteousness: That the man of God may be perfect, thoroughly furnished unto all good works. (2 Timothy 3:16-17, KJV)

Every so often, someone who does not believe in the Bible will want to claim that it is all just made up. Some man, woman, or group’s fantasy writing – to be categorized along with all the other legends and lore. Sometimes they will imply that by saying that people have added to it or changed it, therefore how can we trust it?

Take notice that in that particular accusation, the implication isn’t even  that it isn’t originally God’s Word, which then opens the door for a host of other questions to the accuser! But, that’s for another time.

The thought we are exploring today is the idea of it being all made up. After all, plenty of people have made up stories and tried to convince others of something being true, in order that they might have some personal gain. Think about all the propaganda touted throughout the years. If someone stands to gain power, control, authority, money – one can bet they will do whatever they can to make sure the needful happens!

So, why do we think that there’s just no way that the Bible was made up? Isn’t it the stuff of legends? Aren’t there many other legendary stories of a similar nature? What makes us so sure that the Bible isn’t just another book in the same vein?

Well, although there isn’t a hard, set way to confirm it (since we weren’t there and can’t go back to check), there is a variety of good evidence for the Bible. And we can look into that evidence another time, but right now I’m going to take an adventure down a different path. The evidence supports the idea that this is truly the inspired Word of God that He breathed into existence, but I’m going to take it a step further and say common sense tells us that this is truly the inspired Word of God. When I say that it is a common sense conclusion to make, I’m contrasting that to say otherwise is nonsense.

This isn’t a circular, “I believe the Bible so therefore the Bible is true because it says it is,” argument. I’m going to try my best to take it step-by-step to make various points, and we’ll see where it takes us. Bear with me, this is a bit of new ground for me. May God give me the words to write as He did while I was driving in the car the other day, having these thoughts originally!

Our First Consideration

Before we get deep into any sort of discussion, let’s start with a very simple imaginative exercise. Now, feel free to keep this entirely to yourself. Be as honest with yourself as possible, and for the sake of argument, give it more than a moment’s thought. Here’s our question:

What do you think that God should be like?

Now, I left this question very open-ended because I want you to take this in whatever way(s) you think it should mean, and in all the ways you think it should mean. What should God be like, according to you? What would be ideal to you?

As I said, start by mulling over this as this will be the base that we build up from. While we’re pondering though, I will say that many people have already gone on this adventure in their imagination and I think that’s where a lot of the misconception of our God stems from. But, I will reiterate that the purpose of this is not to say that this is what we think God is like, but what we hypothetically would want God to be like if it were somehow our decision.

If you are reading this and you are a believer in Christ, then hopefully you love Christ precisely as He is and for all that He is. However, if we are honest with ourselves deep down, then we know that hiding under all the outside “goodness”, there lies a lot of evil. It’s evil that only Christ is able to contend with.

And this is the judgment, that the light has come into the world, and men loved the darkness rather than the light, for their works were wicked. For everyone who is practicing evil matters hates the light and does not come to the light, lest his works should be exposed. (John 3:19-20, ISR)

So, what do you think God should allow, or disallow? What sorts of character traits do you think would be ideal?  Even go so far as to say what would your personal preference be? We’ll investigate this further next time, but meanwhile, feel free to share this in the comments if you’d like.  Most importantly,  give it some thought and honest reflection for when we come back to this discussion, God-willing, next week or so.

But, I’m a Good Person!

And Jesus said to him, “Why do you call Me good? No one is good except God alone.” – (Luke 18:19, NIV)

There is a belief that has been around probably since the beginning of time, that generally goes as follows:

I should be able to go to heaven because overall, I’m a good person.

It seems logical enough, doesn’t it? A good many people seem to believe this, if the internet is any indication. I’d like to hope that isn’t the reality, but the internet spans quite a number of people so I’d be inclined to wonder…

The idea is that if we are generally “good”, then we ought to be allowed entrance into heaven. We shouldn’t be turned away, and we certainly shouldn’t be subjected to an eternity of torment. The question is, how do we determine what qualifies as “good”, and what then qualifies as “good enough” – to get into heaven?

Well, so far we’ve touched on this point in a roundabout way a few times now, but I figured I’d do one more post to really spell it out, just in case.

There are a couple problems with this line of thinking. It’s easy to see how many people struggle with it because of all sorts of methodologies devised to avoid it. For example, many believe that everyone can work their way into heaven with enough good deeds, or maybe enough good deeds to outweigh the bad in a sort of 60/40 mindset. Others believe that God sent Christ to die for all people, therefore everyone who isn’t evil or wicked will be saved. You know, not the really bad guys but – everyone else. Some believe that Christ died for all people and therefore everyone will be saved regardless.

It’s fascinating to me that many people hold a strong objection toward the idea of needing to believe in Christ in order to be saved. That is, they will accept that He saved them – as long as it applies regardless of whether or not they choose to believe in Him. Oftentimes, it goes back to an argument such as this: I am a good person, so Christ’s death should save me also, even if I don’t believe in Him, if God is all-loving.

Now, I have never heard any one person use that specific argument. However, I’ve known of many people who have a general belief that if God is all-loving, He must save them too regardless of what or who they do or don’t believe in. He must save everyone, except those really evil people!

Well, we are again brought back to a point of, “Who determines what is good?” and, “Who determines what is evil?” and furthermore, “Who determines what qualifies as good enough to enter heaven?” This is where it comes back to the original argument – Well, I’m better than these people, or these people, or even most Christians I’ve met! Should I rather be like you – bigoted and hypocritical?? 

Ouch.

I haven’t heard that particular argument said to me directly, but I’ve seen a variation of it and heard the gist of it before. Sometimes not with the last part, but almost always with the first.

Now, sometimes people will go back to the 10 Commandments, or the golden rule. That is, don’t murder, don’t steal, don’t lie, treat others the way you wish to be treated… So if they keep those, they are good, right? They overlook all the other commandments, but that is not the point. Some people will also throw in other characteristics that aren’t listed – ones that they may even accuse many Christians of being, but that they don’t consider themselves to be – bigoted, judgmental, sexist, homophobic, etc. So what’s the problem with that person? He or she is clearly a “good” person, and may even be a better person than me! I should be the one ashamed and they should definitely be the one to enter heaven.

But, again. What qualifies as “good enough”? Why is it that we Christians think we are somehow good enough to be qualified to enter heaven, yet we think that these other people who are maybe even more morally upright than us, somehow aren’t? How can we be so utterly arrogant as to make such an implication?

Well, we aren’t “good enough”.

But, how then can we claim that we will go to heaven? How can we possibly claim that we are going to go to heaven and everyone else will go to an eternity of torment?! That’s ludicrous to suggest, right? What arrogance!

Now on the other hand, someone might see a Christian who is truly a living witness. They are living as Christ lived. Meeting them is almost as though you are meeting Christ face-to-face. Well, they should be good enough, right? Granted all Christians are called to be living witnesses, yet not so many are – and I do not exempt myself from that at all. I am absolutely not the living witness I should be. But, I and many people can see that my dad is like that. He is still goofy and silly, but at his heart he has many Christ-like qualities. And everyone who knows him, loves him, and appreciates all he does. So, going back to the idea of being good enough, am I suggesting that my dad would not even qualify? Is he not good enough to get into heaven??

No. He’s not.

How can I say that? How then do I qualify what is good enough?!

Well, that’s the question at hand, isn’t it? What is good, and what then is good enough? Well, I don’t decide what is good, let alone what constitutes good enough. God does. It’s His heaven. I am not the judge of who goes in, He is. That said, none of us are the judge of who enters, only Him. Only He can say who is good enough to enter heaven. But, this brings us back to the original argument, “Well, He should think me good enough since I am not like all these other people!”

Do you know the real heart of the matter? It’s pride.

Pride tells us that we should be good enough, pride tells us that we should be able to work our way into heaven. Pride tells us that at some point, we should be deemed good enough unless we know we’re really bad. Now, I can’t say, “And that’s fine,” but I can say that it’s understandable because we are all proud.

Now, with this idea one might be inclined to say, “I’m not proud! I don’t walk around all cocky like so-and-so! I am not a narcissist!” I know that I would certainly be saying that myself if someone just claimed that I was proud! I would say there’s no way. In fact, I’m largely self-defeating – isn’t that the polar opposite of pride? I put myself down and see where I fail more often than I build myself up and see where I succeed. How can that be prideful?

Well, this is where our human definition is different from God’s definition. And deep down, we are all proud. We don’t want to admit it, and we, like myself, often may not even see it. But it’s there. Pride is what makes us want to be like gods. Not in the fashion of Zeus or some other false god, but rather in the characteristics that God holds. He is not accountable to anyone. He is not dependent on anyone. He is (literally) better than everyone else. He makes the choices. He has the final decisions. He says, “This will happen this way,” and it does. He is worthy of respect, glory, honor, and praise. He issues rewards and punishments. He knows literally everything.

What God says goes, every time.

Now, think for a minute with me. Regardless of how mopey we might feel at times, regardless of how self-loathing we might feel at times, or regardless of how good we feel about ourselves at times, let’s look at these characteristics.

  • When was the last time you wanted to be treated with respect, if not demanding it?
  • When was the last time that you wanted to be or feel independent of others?
  • When was the last time that you thought, in some way, that you were better than someone else?
  • When was the last time that you wanted to have the final say on a particular decision?
  • When was the last time that you – secretly or openly – wanted recognition or praise for something you’d said, done, or even just how you are?
  • When was the last time you wanted to tell someone what to do?
  • When was the last time that you thought you knew how to handle a particular situation better than someone else did?

Is it possible that you wanted one or more of those…today? Yesterday? Within the week? Have you ever felt like that? This is where pride really rears its ugly head, because even when you seem the opposite of proud, you can almost certainly agree with one or more of those above points. This is where I am convicted! I frequently use self-defeating humor and often I feel what seems to be the opposite of proud. And yet, when it comes down to it – boy, do I ever get angry when someone cuts me off in traffic, or tailgates, or when someone gets recognition for something good that I said or did at work!

How dare they?! Who do they think they are?!

Have you ever had a thought like that? What follows that line of thinking? We sometimes stop there – accusing the other person of thinking that they are so high and mighty. Yet, underlying that is frequently, if not always, a thought that they are doing it to us. We “do not deserve“to be treated that way!

Consider when we see someone cut someone else off in traffic. Or speed excessively. Or run a red light. What’s our reaction then? When it isn’t happening to us directly, we might have a similar reaction of “Who does that person think they are?” or “Gee, they think they own the road, don’t they?” but we typically won’t get fuming mad if it is happening to someone else. Why is that? Why don’t we get just as mad to see it happening to someone else as we get when it happens to us? Or, alternatively, why don’t we stay as calm when it happens to us as we do when it happens to others?

More so, why don’t we hold ourselves to the same standard? If we are getting tailgated, we might get furious at the person doing it. We might do things like slow down to make them angrier (guilty…) or make a (hopefully not) obscene gesture at them, depending on how well we can keep our calm. But, if we are tailgating someone, well, we have a reason for it. We are trying to get somewhere! It’s important! THE BANK CLOSES IN 10 MINUTES, CAN’T YOU GO ANY FASTER?!

Again, it’s because when it happens to us, the perception is that we are being slighted. It is almost like a sort of personal attack, offense, or insult against us! But when we do it to others, we justify our behavior. We have reasons for it. And if someone gets mad at us for the same behavior that we get mad at, well, they’ll just have to deal with it. Or, if they would just hurry up, or move over at least!

OK, I went off on a pretty big tangent, but you can see where it goes. Traffic, incidentally, is a great illustration for our pride. We get behind the wheel and often morph into someone vastly different than who we are face-to-face. But it all boils down to the same thing – we think we’re important! We think we are important and that we deserve respect. We take disrespect personally and it angers us.

Now, how did Christ feel?

This is a very tough pill even for a believer to swallow. We get so angry about petty things because we think ourselves of high value. We think ourselves worthy of respect, and maybe even praise.

We think that we are good people. Yet, we’re not.

We all sin and we all do embarrassing, faulty, shameful, reprehensible, perverted, deceptive things. If we are truly honest with ourselves, we can admit that we have all done things like that. Maybe we haven’t done all those things. Maybe we don’t do them that much or maybe not that bad. That doesn’t matter – we still do them.

We think that we are good because we want to be like God. We want to be so much like God that we want to act as our own god. I am not exempt from this behavior and likewise, other believers aren’t either. We all have the sin nature, and we all have the desire to act as our own god. We all have the desire to be like God, not to know God. We want to make the decisions, we want to show we are better, we want to be worthy of praise and respect, and we want to think that we are good.

Well, it’s not an easy think to accept, which is I think why so many don’t. Again, there are so many methodologies and theories to try to get around this because our pride blinds us to the fact that we even have it! We think we are good people, so we don’t want to see that we are, in fact, vile. Job, a man “proclaimed blameless and upright” by God Himself was overtaken with self-righteousness. When God confronted him on it, he said:

Behold, I am vile; what shall I answer you? I will lay my hand on my mouth. (Job 40:4, AKJV)

I think that one of the biggest things that keeps people from believing in Christ is accepting that they are actually not “good” people. But, Christians are no different. None of us are “good people”.  The reason we turn to Christ is simply that we don’t see ourselves as being good enough to enter into God’s presence out of anything that we can possibly do. We can’t say enough, do enough, serve enough – nothing that we do or say could ever possibly be enough to deem us worthy to enter God’s presence. There’s only one Person who is. His Son. His Son, who lived a perfect life on earth only to sacrifice Himself in our place. Because He knows we aren’t perfect, and He knows we aren’t good enough – and never could be. He knows that the only way that He can bring us into His presence is to provide the only worthy sacrifice – that is, Himself.

God’s Dictionary vs. Man’s

Peace I leave with you; My peace I give to you; not as the world gives do I give to you. Do not let your heart be troubled, nor let it be fearful. – (John 14:27, NASB)

Do you ever notice that the things of God don’t mean quite the same as the things of man? Christ spoke about what He had to offer, and specifically, as in the verse above, how it wasn’t like what the world had to offer. For example, worldly peace and worldly joy is based almost entirely on circumstances and events. The peace and joy that Christ gives we can have in all times and in all situations.

Not only that, but when He gave His interpretation of some of the ten commandments, they were quite different from what we typically have in mind. In fact, He proclaimed that getting into heaven was basically impossible – without God. Evidently, His interpretation was also quite different from that of the Jews of His day.

Now, I can’t say I know His whole dictionary or anything, but I would say that a huge part of coming to understanding the Bible, etc is to understand God’s definitions in contrast to our human definitions.

I personally speculate that some of the biggest misunderstandings with unbelievers starts merely at the definitions. It seems so basic, and yet if we miss it, it can change our entire perspective. This would be merely a problem in getting people to believe, if it weren’t that some who claim to be Christian also have these same problems! I think this is partly where a lot of cultic beliefs and false religions come from. I would definitely say that some come from intentional malevolence (desire for power, money, etc), but some could also come from misunderstandings. Even those that don’t originate from misunderstandings seem to be well fueled by them. A person may be confused about a particular issue, and if a group has an appealing solution, the confused person might be very drawn to join that particular group.

Even if someone doesn’t fully join a cult group, I think many people develop a similar way of thinking but minus a specific doctrine. For example, someone may decide that they believe in annihilationism, but not become a Jehovah’s Witness or Seventh Day Adventist or any other group that adheres to that belief. I disagree with annihilationism, but we’ll discuss that another time.

So, what is the difference God’s dictionary and man’s? Well, let’s first understand that man only knows what man knows! It may seem that I’m stating the obvious, but pride makes it very easy to overlook that. When we give thought to things that we are well aware we know nothing about, it’s easy to admit. For example, I could not even begin to tell you how to build a car. I know it. I only have vague knowledge of the parts that are even in a car, let alone how they all go together. I am not ignorant enough to try and tell anyone how to put a car together as though I have any knowledge or understanding myself. That’s no problem.

It’s a whole different story, however, if it comes to something that I do know, such as how to drive a car. I can’t drag race or drift around corners, but if someone starts telling me how I should drive, or implying that I can’t – we might exchange some words! (And if we did, that would be my pride showing its ugly face.)

I personally think that the same thing comes up with the definitions of God. We know how to love, we know how to trust, we know peace, and joy, and faith. Right? We know all these things. “Been there, done that.” I suspect that was roughly also the attitude of the Pharisees and Sadducees. Yes, they wanted to hold their power over the people, but Christ was also treading on their teachings themselves. He wasn’t just saying they were hypocrites, He was saying they weren’t good teachers, either. Now, that’s not all He said that was inflammatory, but even if He didn’t also claim He was God, His statements would have still been offensive to them.

So let’s get on with it, shall we? Let’s take a look at a few words that don’t quite mean to God what they mean to us.

Pride

Webster’s Definition:
: a feeling that you respect yourself and deserve to be respected by other people
: a feeling that you are more important or better than other people
: a feeling of happiness that you get when you or someone you know does something good, difficult, etc.

Man’s Definition:
Pride is something good, as long as it doesn’t lead to narcissism or someone too cocky. We typically say things like, “You should be proud of what you’ve done.” And we say, “Take pride in your work,” and, “Be proud of who you are.” Generally speaking, we value pride in ourselves and others, as long as it doesn’t go too far. We feel we deserve respect and we like to feel important. We know we are better at certain things than other people, and we enjoy showing things off and receiving the admiration that results. Many people don’t think they are prideful, except maybe when they’ve done something particularly great. Independence and self-sufficiency are sought after and valued amongst all.

God’s Definition:

This is what the LORD says: “Let not the wise man boast of his wisdom or the strong man boast of his strength or the rich man boast of his riches, but let him who boasts boast about this: that he understands and knows me, that I am the LORD, who exercises kindness, justice and righteousness on earth, for in these I delight,” declares the LORD. (Jeremiah 9:23-24, NIV)

Pride is sin. This isn’t true every possible application of the word (as shown above), but the vast majority. Pride is at the heart of pretty much every sin, and it’s what tells man that he doesn’t need Christ. He doesn’t need God at all. He can do everything himself, why does he need God? Pride says that man doesn’t need salvation, he is a good person, so God should accept him as-is. Pride tells man that he worked for this, he obtained this, he did all the work and should take all the glory. Pride doesn’t acknowledge God having any part in anything. Pride is not thankful to God for anything because pride completely removes God from the picture. Pride tells man he can do all things – but doesn’t include, “through Christ who strengthens me”. Pride says that if you need God, you must be weak, but “I don’t need God.” Pride drives people towards independence and self-sufficiency and keeps them from God. Pride robs God of glory that only He deserves by proclaiming that we did everything ourselves. God hates pridefulness in man.

We should instead be proud of the God whom we serve, and the wonderful things He does. We should be proud of Christ our Savior, and the miraculous works He’s done for us, in providing the sacrifice for our sins.

Love

Webster’s Definition:
: a feeling of strong or constant affection for a person
: attraction that includes sexual desire : the strong affection felt by people who have a romantic relationship
: a person you love in a romantic way

Man’s Definition:
Love takes various forms. There’s love between a man and a woman, love between a parent and child, love between siblings, love between friends, love of pets, etc. There is the loose form of “love” which really means, “like very much”. For example, one might “love” their coworkers or even “love” a particular meal. There is also the misapplication of love, which is actually “lust” or “infatuation” and some even misapply it to mean “obsession”. Generally speaking, we use the word “love” to mean we care very deeply for someone. However, it’s often conditional in the sense that we may love someone we are dating, or a spouse, or even a child/parent, but if they do something to hurt us or hurt us too often, we may stop loving them.

God’s Definition:

For if ye love them which love you, what thank have ye? for sinners also love those that love them. (Luke 6:23, KJV)

God is love. Many people know “what love is according to God” via 1 Corinthians 13:4-8, which states:

Love is patient, love is kind and is not jealous; love does not brag and is not arrogant, does not act unbecomingly; it does not seek its own, is not provoked, does not take into account a wrong suffered, does not rejoice in unrighteousness, but rejoices with the truth; bears all things, believes all things, hopes all things, endures all things. Love never fails… (1 Cor. 13:4-8, NASB)

As Dr. Benjamin says, you can replace “love” with “Jesus Christ” in the above verses and get a better picture of who Christ really is. That said, He died for us while we were sinners. It’s not that we stop sinning and then He starts loving us, He loved us from the beginning and loves us despite all the ways in which we have, do, and will wrong Him. God pours out His love on all people, even those who continually reject Him. As Matthew 5:45 says, He gives rain and sun to both the just and the unjust.

Sin

Webster’s Definition:
: offense against religious or moral law
: an action that is or is felt to be highly reprehensible
: an often serious shortcoming : fault
: transgression of the law of God
: a vitiated state of human nature in which the self is estranged from God

Man’s Definition:
Sin is basically anything immoral or unethical. Theft, murder, adultery, lying to cover something up – the big stuff. “Little white lies” generally aren’t considered wrong. Eying another man/woman while married often isn’t considered wrong (“look but don’t touch”) depending on the couple, taking pens from work, those generally aren’t considered “sins”. Gambling may or may not be deemed a sin depending on the person, and sometimes people will imply other things as “sinful” behavior. Largely, if someone is talking with a Christian they will refer to the ten commandments as “what is sin”.

God’s Definition:

He [Jesus Christ] went on: “What comes out of a person is what defiles them. For it is from within, out of a person’s heart, that evil thoughts come—sexual immorality, theft, murder, adultery, greed, malice, deceit, lewdness, envy, slander, arrogance and folly. All these evils come from inside and defile a person.” (Mark 7:20-23, NIV)

We are born into sin. Sin is of separation from God and results in physical dying and spiritual death – that is, separation from God for all eternity. Jesus said that our thoughts alone make us sinful, not merely our outward physical actions. Having evil thoughts but not acting on them is still sin, because it is representative of our overall sinful nature.

Of course, this list of sins does not include the most important commands Jesus gave, which is:”You must love the LORD your God with all your heart, all your soul, all your strength, and all your mind. And, Love your neighbor as yourself.”. According to Jesus, we are to love God with our whole being and love those around us to the same extent we love ourselves. So, if we are not doing that, it’s also sin. Not all sins are against other human beings (even though the majority are), but all sins are against God.

Time

Webster’s Definition:
: the thing that is measured as seconds, minutes, hours, days, years, etc.
: a particular minute or hour shown by a clock
: the time in a particular area or part of the world

Man’s Definition:
Well, there’s “that time of day”, “that time of night”, hours, minutes, and seconds on the clock, or days, months, and years. Time is what ticks by and we have to try to make the most of it before our time runs out. There’s the time in which we do things, and the time in which we rest. A time for work, and a time for play. Time causes us to age and time is “what heals all wounds”.

God’s Definition:

For a thousand years in thy sight are but as yesterday when it is past, and as a watch in the night. (Psalm 90:4, KJV)

God is outside of time, in eternity. We as humans can’t fully comprehend eternity because we have only ever been within the realm of time. God created time in Genesis 1:3-5, so that is all we know. He is not restricted by the time He created for us, and He operates in every instant and moment. That is why a thousand years for God aren’t the same as a thousand years for us. God doesn’t age (except when Christ was in human form on earth and limited by his human nature). He is timeless.

Spirit/Soul

Webster’s Definition:
Spirit
: the force within a person that is believed to give the body life, energy, and power
: the inner quality or nature of a person
: a person
Soul
: the spiritual part of a person that is believed to give life to the body and in many religions is believed to live forever
: a person’s deeply felt moral and emotional nature
: the ability of a person to feel kindness and sympathy for others, to appreciate beauty and art, etc.

Man’s Definition:
The spirit or soul is the life within you that makes you You. We use the words in different ways as well such as, “spirit of independence”, “Christmas spirit”, or “soul food”, and often use them to simply characterize the emotions behind a particular action or thing. Many don’t believe that there is a spirit, or soul. Or, they believe that when someone dies, their spirit/soul dies also. Many atheists believe there is nothing besides the material world we live in consisting of atoms, molecules, and chemical reactions.

God’s Definition:

And the very God of peace sanctify you wholly; and [I pray God] your whole spirit and soul and body be preserved blameless unto the coming of our Lord Jesus Christ. (1 Thess. 5:23, KJV)

God is Spirit, and we each have a spirit/soul. Sometimes the words are used interchangeably, and other times they are not. For example, here is a verse referencing our soul:

And fear not them which kill the body, but are not able to kill the soul: but rather fear him which is able to destroy both soul and body in hell. (Matt. 10:28, KJV)

And here is a similar verse that instead references spirit:

Then shall the dust return to the earth as it was: and the spirit shall return unto God who gave it. (Eccl. 12:7, KJV)

The soul, as it pertains to human beings, can refer to the entire person or just his or her actual soul. And spirit, can be used in a way similar to soul, or it can be used to describe how we connect with God. There are also evil spirits, as in demonic forces. But all spirits and generally, souls, are immaterial.

When we are born into our sin nature, we are born “spiritually dead” but when we come to Christ we are made “spiritually alive”. That is, we are born spiritually separated from the Life Giver, and when we come to Christ we are joined to the Life Giver and thus only then do we have life.

Good

Webster’s Definition:
: of high quality
: of somewhat high but not excellent quality
: correct or proper

Man’s Definition:
Good is the opposite of bad. Sometimes we describe things as good to mean “not great”. We say things “taste good” to mean they taste pleasant and appealing. Sometimes we say “good job”, to mean that someone has done well. People say they are “good” to mean that they don’t think they are “bad”.

God’s Definition:

And Jesus said to him, “Why do you call Me good? No one is good except God alone.” (Luke 18:19, NASB)

God is the source of all goodness. Good is of course the opposite of bad, and that is true of God as well, but to a much higher degree than it means to us in human terms. He is the pure, complete form of all goodness. However, the word translated as “good” in Hebrew also has a sense of purposefulness and functionality. When God created the heavens and the earth and “saw that it was good”, it is to say that He saw it functioned as it was intended. It wasn’t merely unspoiled and pure, it worked as it was designed to. God created us for a purpose so to say that we aren’t good is, in part, to say that we don’t fulfill the purpose for which God designed us. Christ on the other hand is good, being God the Son, and having perfectly fulfilled the purposes of His human presence on earth.

Justice/Fairness

Webster’s Definition:
Justice
: the process or result of using laws to fairly judge and punish crimes and criminals
: a judge in a court of law

Fairness
: agreeing with what is thought to be right or acceptable
: treating people in a way that does not favor some over others
: not too harsh or critical

Man’s Definition:
We perceive that justice should be fair, but sometimes when people are as we perceive to be “monsters” we no longer think about what is or isn’t just and fair. Fair means that everyone gets treated equally. Justice means that everyone gets their “just reward” – the good guys are rewarded, bad guys are punished.

God’s Definition:

Yet the children of your people say, ‘The way of the Lord is not fair.’ But it is their way which is not fair! When the righteous turns from his righteousness and commits iniquity, he shall die because of it. But when the wicked turns from his wickedness and does what is lawful and right, he shall live because of it. Yet you say, ‘The way of the Lord is not fair.’ (Ezekiel 33:14-19, ESV)

God is the source of all justice and fairness. He is the ultimate authority by which all will be judged, but He is 100% fair. However, he’s actually not fair in one way – His incredible mercy and grace. His grace gives us what we do not deserve at all. We all deserve the intense wrath of God for our wrongs, yet God gives us His incredible mercy instead, should we choose to accept it. If we do not choose to accept His salvation by way of Jesus Christ’s sacrificial death on the cross, then we are instead accepting His judgment. However, in His salvation, He is completely fair because Jesus died for all people, that all would choose to accept Him as their Savior. He knows that there are a great many who won’t, but He loves us all with His incredible love and pours out His grace, showering us with His mercy, thereby giving everyone the incredible gift of Himself. For everyone who chooses not to believe in Him, they will be responsible for their lack of response for as the Apostle Paul says:

For the invisible things of him from the creation of the world are clearly seen, being understood by the things that are made, even his eternal power and Godhead; so that they are without excuse: because that, when they knew God, they glorified him not as God, neither were thankful; but became vain in their imaginations, and their foolish heart was darkened. (Romans 1:20-21, AKJV)

God makes it clear that He has provided ample evidence of Himself through His creation and His moral Law, therefore to not turn to Him requires a willfulness on our part. If we have heard the Gospel and rejected it, it will be on our heads come Judgment Day. If we have not heard the Gospel, but rejected any knowledge of God by His creation, then it will be on our heads according to what we have heard and have known and to what extent we have rejected Him. That said, He will be entirely fair in His dealings and no one will be able to say to Him, “That’s not true!” or, “That isn’t fair!” No one will be able to say, “Why should I be punished?” or “I didn’t know!” because He’s already made it perfectly clear in His Word. And few things will we be able to claim to not know were wrong because we all know His Law:

They demonstrate that God’s law is written in their hearts, for their own conscience and thoughts either accuse them or tell them they are doing right. (Romans 2:15, NLT)

Now, I realize that is a very short “dictionary”, but you get the idea. Our ways of defining things aren’t like the ways that God defines things. It’s not that we are consistently wrong, it’s that we are consistently limited. We only know what we know, we don’t know what we don’t know, and we don’t know how much we don’t actually know! We have limited understanding based on our restricted human nature, and at times even a tainted understanding based on our sinful nature.

It’s easy to see how people can get so confused about things of God, but once we understand some of the fundamental meanings of things as God defines them, we can better understand where some ways of thinking have gone astray.

Most importantly, we should look to our Lord and Savior, Jesus Christ, for the true understanding of God and all things of Him.

All things have been entrusted and delivered to Me by My Father; and no one fully knows and accurately understands the Son except the Father, and no one fully knows and accurately understands the Father except the Son and anyone to whom the Son deliberately wills to make Him known. (Matt. 11:27, AMP)

Why Does Salvation Have to be by Grace Alone, Through Faith Alone, in Christ Alone?

Whoever has the Son has life; whoever does not have the Son of God does not have life. (1 John 5:12, NIV)

These days, there are a lot of different views on salvation. Which one is correct? Maybe all of them are correct? Why can’t it be this way or that way? What makes one person or one group wrong, and the other group or person right? Why does any “one” have to be right – who says we all can’t be?

Can’t all religions just find God and eternal life through whatever way they deem necessary? Do you even have to ascribe to a specific religion? Don’t they all lead to the same God? What if you are a good person – why should you even have to believe in God?

Can’t we all just get along?

Well, the thing that sets Christianity apart from all the other religions is our way to get to God – though, many have tried to distort even that. So, here is the purely biblical way to get to God:

Salvation by grace alone, through faith alone, in Christ alone.

It’s that simple! Now of course, that assumes the prerequisite (that you need saving in the first place). But, why does salvation have to come by grace alone?

Salvation by Grace Alone

Being justified as a gift by His grace through the redemption which is in Christ Jesus. (Romans 3:24, NASB)

Well, salvation comes by grace alone because that is what glorifies God, and because we need His grace. We use “grace” in a lot of different ways, and God’s grace is abundant in a variety of ways, but for this way the word is equivalent with a pardon. God’s grace for our salvation is like a pardon. It’s an act of forgiveness. It’s an act of mercy. Grace is receiving something good that we don’t deserve, and mercy is not receiving something bad that we do deserve. He is pardoning anything and everything we’ve done wrong – forgiving all our sins no matter how insurmountable they may be. He is pouring out both His grace and mercy on us through His love for us as a free gift to us. This glorifies God, and humbles us. This also ties in completely with the next step…

Why does salvation have to come by faith alone?

It’s funny (not in a ha-ha way!) how these 3 steps seem to be the most controversial, dicey ones for people. People often want to argue on steps 1 & 2 with almost the same argument. Other people want to twist the wording a little to suit their purpose. For example, some people have been known to say things like, “Well, God’s grace is what saves us through faith in the beginning.” The rest isn’t always immediately clear, but the implication is a lot different from grace alone, through faith alone, in Christ alone. There are many people who will say that they believe in Christ, and that they accept His method of salvation, or they accept Him as their Savior – but they won’t mean it the same way that I mean it here. We’ll get into that more another time, and I’ll link back to it here whenever I do.

In the meantime, why does this saving grace have to come by faith alone?

Salvation Through Faith Alone

I do not nullify the grace of God, for if righteousness were through the law, then Christ died for no purpose. (Galatians 2:21, ESV)

I think most people are probably familiar with Ephesians 2:8-9, which ends with “lest any man should boast”. Salvation comes through the free gift of the grace of God through faith in Jesus Christ. If God demanded that we earned our salvation, then His grace would be lessened. It would not glorify Him. To top of all that, people could walk around confidently proclaiming “I’m going to heaven because I’m righteous,” and God would, unthinkably, have to then honor that if they were. When I think about that even just to type it, it can’t sound any more ludicrous. And yet, people do believe like that.

Perhaps they wouldn’t be so confident about it. Perhaps they wouldn’t quite say it that way. Nevertheless, people all around the world say things like, “I’m a good person,” thus implying that they don’t do too many bad things or even things they consider very bad. They feel that their lack of bad behavior should qualify them to stand in front of our Almighty, Holy, Perfect God and be credited as at least “good enough”. This is where many people also get into that attitude of, “God’s grace is what allows us to do the works that will get us into heaven,” or some similar variety of that statement.

Going back to Ephesians:

For by grace are ye saved through faith; and that not of yourselves: it is the gift of God: Not of works, lest any man should boast. (Ephesians 2:8-9, NKJV)

Here’s the simplest way to say this – no amount of our good works could ever be enough to save us. As previously mentioned, we need God’s grace which we receive by faith. Grace, by definition, cannot be earned or it is not grace. We cannot do it on our own and to say otherwise is preposterous.

So, why is it that we can only receive grace through faith in Christ?

Salvation In Christ Alone

Now the blood shall be a sign for you on the houses where you are. And when I see the blood, I will pass over you; and the plague shall not be on you to destroy you when I strike the land of Egypt. (Exodus 12:13, NKJV)

The verse above is from the final of the plagues on Egypt. God’s instruction to Israel was that each household was to take a young male lamb without spot or blemish. The lamb was to be killed before the whole congregation. Each household’s lamb would be then roasted and eaten with bitter herbs and unleavened bread, but first they had to paint the doorway with its blood. God said, “When I see the blood, I will pass over you.”

Now, there is nothing within all our human logic to say that this should make sense. People often don’t seem to view this as a “miracle”, but it is. There is no way to explain why some blood on a doorway would serve any purpose other than look strange to those around you. But this is a picture of Christ and His death. He is the Passover Lamb. He is the Lamb of God who takes away the sin of the world.

In the same way that it makes no sense within our own way of thinking that some blood over a doorway would “cover us”, it doesn’t always make sense to people that the blood of another Man would save us from our own wrongs. But, God’s holiness requires death for sin. There’s no way around it. However, as Dr. Benjamin frequently points out, God doesn’t specify whose death that has to be! He is free to provide a substitute as He did for Adam and Eve in the Garden of Eden. Every individual of humanity has “spot or blemish”, but not Christ. He is perfect, and sinless, and therefore He is the only one qualified to provide the acceptable sacrifice.

Now think back for a moment. What did the Israelites have to do in order to be saved from the plague? Did God tell them, “Now, be on your best behavior and find a lamb…”? No! In fact, remember, they didn’t get the Law until after they left Egypt. The Israelites had already complained against Moses and therefore, against God, for the Egyptians becoming harder on them after the plagues began. That was a sin, so it wasn’t that God was saving them because they were sinless. And Moses himself had murdered an Egyptian, so that was a sin – yet he was the one who was talking to God!

So at this point, we can see that all they had to do was believe what God was saying and act in faith by obeying God’s commands in that situation.

That’s it! In order to receive God’s grace, they had to believe what God said and act in faith, and then they were covered (saved) by the blood of the lamb.

Summary

Since Jesus Christ is the Lamb of God, and He was sacrificed for us, we have to believe in Him, and accept His death in our place. He is the only acceptable sacrifice since only God can meet God’s standard – therefore God Himself had to come down to take the punishment that we deserve. We don’t have to believe in Him, but if we choose not to accept His pardon then we are choosing to accept the punishment we rightly deserve.

The method of salvation has not changed – in order to receive God’s grace, we have to believe what God said (that we are sinners in need of a Savior) and act in faith (by acknowledging that we need to be saved and accepting Jesus Christ as our Lord and our Savior and our Sacrificial Lamb), and then we are saved by the blood of the Lamb.

The first Passover was a picture of the Passover to come, and that’s why we as Christians don’t need to celebrate the Passover feast as Israel was instructed to. The Passover is Christ. Everyone throughout history has been saved by grace through faith. They believed God, and they acted in faith, thereby receiving His grace and mercy.

At that time, the blood of the lamb was covering the doorway for the whole household. At this time, the blood of the Lamb covers us. At that time, it was to save their firstborn sons. At this time, it is to save ourselves.

This is why salvation must be by grace alone, through faith alone, in Christ alone. As Pastor Mac Sauerlander said:

Nothing I did, said, will do, or will say can earn or improve my salvation.

As Pastor Sauerlander said (paraphrased), “If I give you a great, expensive gift, and then allow you to mow my lawn for a year as thanks, is it really a gift?”

Anything that we contribute would leave us unsure of our salvation and would rob Christ of His glory and the act of immense suffering He endured. God’s already given us the free gift of salvation in Jesus Christ, so why would He turn around and lessen His own act by requiring us to earn it in part?

Salvation by grace alone, through faith alone, in Christ alone is what glorifies God and humbles us, as we realize that it can be no other way.