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.

What is the One Prerequisite to Salvation?

Truly my soul finds rest in God; my salvation comes from him. (Psalm 62:1, NIV)

Lots of people talk about salvation, but the question is salvation of what?

“Your soul.”

OK, my soul. But what am I saving my soul from?

“An eternity without God; eternal damnation!”

OK, but why do I need to save my soul from eternal damnation or an eternity without God?

“Because you’re a sinner!”

OK, but what makes me a sinner?

“You were born that way!”

The prerequisite to salvation is that we have to believe that we need saving in the first place! In order to believe that we need to be saved from anything, we have to understand who we are, who God is, and what awaits us in the future. Well, obviously in order to believe in all that, we need to also believe in God, but if you don’t already, stay tuned – we’ll get into that a little later on.

So, here we are. We’re told, “You need to be saved – from an eternity without God!” Many say, “From eternal damnation and hellfire!” Some would say, “No, from annihilation!” but I’ll go into that at a later point also. Either way, for now, let’s just say that it won’t be pretty and you won’t like it.

So, we’ve now heard that we’re not on a good path. A path that will be very ugly and terrible should we choose to remain on it. Maybe we don’t believe that we are on that path. Maybe we believe that we are on a good path.

Well, that depends. In order to understand what path we are on, we have to first look at who we are. We are sinners. That means, we have all committed some wrong, at some point in our lives. Now, keep in mind, that means any wrong. This applies even if we were hypothetically entirely good – except that one time when we did that one thing that we knew we shouldn’t or weren’t supposed to do . Well, that’s still one wrongdoing. Maybe somehow that was the only flaw ever, but that’s still “missing the mark”. Now, I don’t honestly think there is anyone out there who could say they have done only one thing wrong in their entire life, but even if there was, they would be included in this.

More so, one outward wrong isn’t the only way we can “miss the mark”. Let’s say that someone never outwardly lied, cheated, stole, murdered, cheated on their spouse, etc. But let’s say that they got really angry at some coworker and they thought, “Grr, I could just bash their face in!”  But he/she didn’t actually do that. Never lays a hand on the other person.

Or, maybe a married man sees a beautiful woman walking down the street and starts fantasizing about sleeping with her. But, he never physically goes after her in any way or even so much as speaks to her. Maybe some woman living in a small rambler, with an old beater car had a neighbor who had a large, lovely house. It was just beautiful. She also had designer clothes and a nice car. The woman was always cordial with her neighbor when she would visit her, but always went home frustrated and thinking, “I wish I had a house like hers, a car like hers, and all the money she has to throw around!”

Well, those are also examples of “missing the mark”.

One might at that point say, “OK, but that’s awfully extreme.”  Well yes, yes it is quite extreme.

One might also say, “Well, maybe I’ve done something like that, but so does everyone else! We all do stuff like that!” Well yes, yes we all do.

So, this is an awfully high standard that we have to achieve, right?

Well, who says we have to achieve that high of a standard? Why can’t the standard be a bit lower, more feasible? Well, that’s where God comes in. God is the standard of purity, holiness, truth, faithfulness, righteousness, and perfection. But, because He is that standard, He also requires that standard of us.

Well, shoot. We are in a real bind, here. We can’t meet that standard. We can’t achieve that level of perfection! We can only try to be “better than the next guy”.

OK, so we realize that we aren’t at a good level . . . but we can’t meet that standard. So what?

Well, according to the Bible, these people won’t go to heaven:

Do you not know that the unrighteous will not inherit or have any share in the kingdom of God? Do not be deceived; neither the sexually immoral, nor idolaters, nor adulterers, nor effeminate [by perversion], nor those who participate in homosexuality, nor thieves, nor the greedy, nor drunkards, nor revilers [whose words are used as weapons to abuse, insult, humiliate, intimidate, or slander], nor swindlers will inherit or have any share in the kingdom of God. (1 Cor. 6:9-10, AMP)

Well, at that point, you might say, “Well I don’t do any of those things!” Well, that’s good. It’s still better to not be like that than to be like that. But, did you ever do any of those things? To any degree? Remember, a little white lie is still a lie! Have you ever been greedy? Have you ever been verbally abusive to someone? The point is, we have all done at least one of these things at least one time in our lives, if not multiple times, if not every day! And even if you don’t believe you have, the list gets longer.

So, we must concede that all of us have done at least one of these things, at least once in our lives, if not multiple of them all the time!

Well, at this point one might say, “I can’t help it! It’s in my nature. God will just have to accept that. I’m trying.”

Well, if you are one to say that, you are right about one thing. It is in your nature. It’s in mine too! But, I have bad news. He won’t “just accept that”. We’ll talk more about that later also, but remember that God requires His standard from each of us. Yet, we’re stuck with this awful state that we’re in.

This is why, we need a Savior. We can’t save ourselves from eternal darkness, eternal separation, eternal damnation – any of it! We can try our best but it simply isn’t good enough to meet God’s incredible standard.

See, we deserve a terrible punishment. We don’t always think that we do, but that’s because we are always prone to compare ourselves to other people. We have to compare ourselves to the standard of God, and then we realize just how badly we fall short. Also remember that not all sins are against other people, but all sins are against God. So even all the times when maybe we didn’t even know we were doing anything wrong, maybe we knew but we didn’t think it was that wrong, maybe we didn’t do anything but we had a defiant attitude… and even when we were younger, and we were disobedient or defiant to our parents! All of these are wrongdoings against God Himself.

However, there is one Person who meets that standard, fully. And, He already died in your place, and in my place. He chose to suffer a horrendous death on the cross for anyone who would choose to to their belief and faith in Him. Who is He? Jesus Christ. Only Jesus can satisfy the demands for God’s perfection because He Himself is not just fully man, but also fully God. He never committed a single sin, He never did anything wrong, in fact – He was perfect in every way. Yet, He humiliated Himself in every way (starting with taking on human nature!), and then suffered terribly in every way. He suffered humiliation, mockery, slander, betrayal, starvation, temptation, mental anguish, extreme stress, and excruciating physical pain – because He loves you and wants that badly for you to be with Him in eternity. 

Jesus Christ does not desire that anyone should spend eternity apart from Him. No one. Nada. Even the worst imaginable wrongdoings He is willing to forgive. Even if you’ve been sinning all your life, even if you’ve done some incredibly terrible things – Jesus will still forgive you, if you humbly ask Him to. If you admit that you’ve done some bad things – maybe a lot, maybe a little, maybe not even so much outwardly but you’ve had a lot of terrible thoughts – He is willing to forgive you of all of that if you will just confess it all to Him and ask for His forgiveness. The Bible clearly states how simple it is to have eternal life:

For this is the will of My Father, that everyone who beholds the Son and believes in Him will have eternal life, and I Myself will raise him up on the last day. (John 6:40, NIV)

And we know that the Son of God has come and has given us understanding, so that we may know him who is true; and we are in him who is true, in his Son Jesus Christ. He is the true God and eternal life. (1 John 5:20, ESV)

For the wages of sin is death, but the free gift of God is eternal life in Christ Jesus our Lord. (Romans 6:23, NIV)

Now that it is clear what we are facing, and now that it is clear how badly we miss the mark, and how ready and willing Christ is to accept you, there is only one question left to answer:

Will you accept Him as your Savior?

A Brief Note on Christian Jargon

When I first thought to start this site, I initially thought about just sharing some of the invaluable lessons I’ve learned from great speakers and teachers. They aren’t speakers on TV, and I believe that between the lot of them, they have only a handful of books. However, much of their teaching is bar-none.

Shortly after initiating the website, I started studying other things and discovered a Mr. J. Warner Wallace of Cold Case Christianity, amongst a few others. He is an atheist-turned-Christian, which is always heart-warming to hear about.

I started listening to some of his podcasts and he mentioned something that intrigued me. He mentioned that while he was an atheist, he was turned off by people that talked with a lot of religious terms.

Despite being a Christian all my life, I could really understand his point and in fact, I’d thought that to myself before. I understand what people mean because I’m familiar with the lingo. But, what about unbelievers?

I would not go up to someone who barely understands how to turn a computer on and start trying to explain to them the intricacies of say, coding and syntaxes. They would look at me like a deer in the headlights and probably zone out completely. When I was done explaining, they’d be likely to tell me, “Well, I didn’t understand a word you just said!”

In the same way, I am not sure that a believer can come at an unbeliever with a mouth full of religious sayings. Now, it’s not to say that the words, phrases, and sayings wouldn’t be true. But rather, what good is it to explain it all in detail if someone won’t understand what you’re saying – or worse, will stop paying attention altogether?

I do realize that many people have heard “the Good News” (or what they perceive to be the alleged Good News) so much that they zone out. The danger is not so much that people will zone out (some will do so anyway because they simply don’t care to hear it regardless of how it’s explained). The danger rather is that they will tune you out with an assumption that they already know what you’re going to say and what you mean.

That is, if they’ve heard what they think is the same message, said the same ways, 200 times, they probably won’t feel compelled to hear it again.

In this site, I’m going to attempt to minimize (or at least, clearly explain) my use of popular Christian words and phrases as best possible. To some extent it simply isn’t possible in the same way that you can’t explain how to use a computer without referring to some aspects of it in those terms, which also further educates the user. In the same way, I intend to keep my use of specific words to a minimum not to downplay what I’m saying, but rather to keep it clear for a broader audience.

Hopefully I will be successful in this endeavor. Perhaps for now, I should just focus on rambling a bit less.