Archive for January, 2010


Grace is Scandalous

Who deserves to go to heaven based on what they do, the pope or a dope dealer? According the bible, neither. If you said the pope, you may be thinking of deservedness based on a person’s merits and works, i.e. “man’s efforts.” However, the Bible teaches that salvation does not depend on “man’s effort, but God’s mercy.” The thief on the cross, although he may have been robbed of a lifetime of joy of knowing, serving and worshiping God, went to paradise with Jesus. This is a great example of how scandalous grace is. We don’t know much about the thief, but it appears only in his last moments he said to Jesus to “remember me when you come into your kingdom.”

The thief could do no good works with his wrists and feet nailed to a wooden cross; he was physically incapable to do so. That is why this illustration is so powerful. All the thief could do at that point was believe. In essence, we are all like the thief, in that, we are stuck, without God’s mercy. The thief did the work required by God: “He believed in the one He sent” (John 6:29). The thief was justified by his belief. The thief was as equally as justified as Moses, David, Paul and Peter. Consider the sins of those eminent saints in the bible: murder, adultery and arranged murder, persecution of Christians and denial of Christ. None of those four men were justified by their deeds. How could they have been?

Difference between Justification and Sanctification

In Systematic Theology, Wayne Grudem defines justification as, “An instantaneous legal act of God in which he (1) thinks of our sins as forgiven and Christ’s righteousness as belonging to us, and (2) declares us to be righteous in his sight.” Gruden defines sanctification as, “A progressive work of God and man that makes us more and more free from sin and more like Christ in our actual lives.”

Since this paper is about grace and justification by faith, it is important to point out the difference between justification and sanctification. In his book Holiness, J.C. Ryle distinguishes between the two by eight differences. These points are key to understanding on what basis we are accepted by God. It is important to point these out because some think we are justified and accepted by God on the basis of our merits (our works), which the Bible does not teach.

Difference number 1: “Justification is the reckoning and counting a man righteous for the sake of another, even Jesus Christ the Lord. Sanctification is the actual making a man inwardly righteous, though it may be in a very feeble degree.”

Difference number 2: The righteousness we have by our justification is not our own, but the everlasting perfect righteous ness of our great Mediator Christ, imputed to us, and made by our own faith. The righteousness we have by sanctification is our own righteousness, imparted, inherent, and wrought in us by the Holy Spirit, but mingled with much infirmity and imperfection.”

Difference number 3: “In justification our own works have no place at all, and simple faith in Christ is the one thing needful. In sanctification our own works are of vast importance and God bids us fight, and watch, and pray, and strive, and take pains, and labor.”

Difference number 4: “Justification is a finished and complete work, and a man is perfectly justified the moment he believes. Sanctification is an imperfect work, comparatively, and will never be perfected until we reach heaven.”

Difference number 5: “Justification admits of no growth or increase: a man is as much justified the hour he first comes to Christ by faith as he will be to all eternity. Sanctification is eminently a progressive work, and admits of continual growth and enlargement so long as a man lives.”

Difference number 6: “Justification has special reference to our persons, our standing in God’s sight, and our deliverance from guilt. Sanctification has special reference to our natures, and the moral renewal of our hearts.”

Difference number 7: “Justification gives us our title to heaven, and boldness to enter in. Sanctification gives us our meetness for heaven, and prepares us to enjoy it when we dwell there.”

Difference number 8: “Justification is the act of God about us, and is not easily discerned by others. Sanctification is the work of God within us, and cannot be his in its outward manifestation from the eyes of men.”

*Note: This paper is in no way inconsistent with the belief that works are a natural and fundamental byproduct of a union with Christ. Nor, does it demean the inseparable and consequential fruits of the Spirit (good works) that come from being “in Christ.” James 2:26 reads, “As the body without the spirit is dead, so faith without deeds is dead.” We should grow in grace. Grace captivates us, compels us- John Calvin called it “irresistible,” and it indeed prompts us to loving thoughts and actions, more godly thinking and living a more God-pleasing life peppered with good works and fruit of the Spirit. However, this paper is not about sanctification, obedience, suffering, trials, becoming like Christ, spiritual disciplines, being a slave to righteousness, living a holy life, being a servant, putting sin to death by the Spirit, growing in grace, fighting against sin, striving to take hold of what’s been given us, working hard to love others, laboring in the Kingdom, etc. The Christian faith is a giant undertaking and all the things mentioned in the previous sentences are essential to the Christian life. However, this paper is not about them, it is about justification and salvation by faith alone, by grace alone, through Christ alone. One may think that separating faith and deeds creates a false dichotomy between two things that are interwoven and inseparable however, the Bible’s teaches justification by faith alone apart from the law (following rules and having good moral conduct and good works). The Bible pays specific detail to the means by which we are justified before God, and this paper is about that.

Deceived Men and Women

“The heart is deceitful above all things and beyond cure.” –Jeremiah 17:9

C.S Lewis wrote in Mere Christianity, “No man knows how bad he is till he has tried very hard to be very hard to be good.” He continues, “Only those who try to resist temptation know how strong it is. After all, you find out the strength of the German army by fighting against it, not by giving in. You find out the strength of a wind by trying to walk against it, not by lying down. A man who gives into temptation after five minutes simply does not know what it would have been like an hour later. That is why bad people, in one sense, know very little about badness. They have lived a sheltered life by always giving in.” In short, a good man knows how bad he is and bad man does not know. J.C. Ryle wrote, “The worst chains are those not seen or felt by the prisoner.”

Perhaps people like the idea of forgiveness, redemption, acceptance and grace from God. However, those things are only necessary if there has been some kind of offense and some kind of reparation. It is important to know on what account we have offended and how reparation has been made. If we do not know about the offense and reparation we do not have depth of understanding of forgiveness, redemption, acceptance and grace- and, if we do not truly know about them, they are mere vague, non-relevant- yet positive and attractive, concepts.

The seriousness of sin and holiness of God are viewed by many as unspecific, indeterminate and non-applicable.

Two important things that a person may woefully underestimate are, the holiness of God and the seriousness of sin. Grudem defines holiness as, “The doctrine that God is separated from sin and devoted to seeking his own honor.” In Holiness, R.C. Ryle writes about the deceitfulness of sin; “You may see this deceitfulness in the wonderful proneness of men to regard sin as less sinful and dangerous than it is in the sight of God; and in their readiness to extenuate it, make excuses for it, and minimizing its guilt. –“It is but a little one? God is merciful! One cannot be so particular! Where is the mighty harm? We only do as others!” Who is not familiar with this kind of language?- You may see it in the long string of smooth words and phrases which men have coined in order to designate things which God calls downright wicked and ruinous to the soul.”

One may say, “Oh, God is forgiving and merciful, He forgives my mess ups.” Many people may have said something like that without the truly knowing the ramifications of their offense and what reparation is necessary to make amends. Those words are very cheap and very easy to say- the action that should accompany them are very difficult. Simply uttering those words does not mean that person knows and believes what they are saying. Yes, God is forgiving and merciful, but on what terms? God can not forgive a heart that is not truly penitent, and a good many have probably dismissed the seriousness of sin and the holiness of God while saying something like, “Oh, God forgives me.”

Ryle writes: “The fault and corruption of the nature of every man is naturally engendered of the offspring of Adam; whereby man is very far gone from original righteousness, and is of his own nature inclined to evil, so that the flesh lusteth alway against the spirit; and, therefore, in every person born into the world, it deserveth God’s wrath and condemnation.” We are physically born spiritually dead. Meaning, we inherit a sin nature from Adam. We are born intrinsically corrupt and in need of spiritual regeneration (resuscitation or re-birth). Jesus said in John chapter 3 that “we need to be ‘born again.’”

Ryle writes “Sin is a disease which pervades every faculty of our minds. The understanding, the affections, the reasoning powers, the will, are all more or less infected.” The Bible is specific and determinate about what sin is and that it is applicable to everyone. “Oh, God forgives me,” does not seem to get to the root of the deep problem that lies in the institution of all we do.

Ryle defines sin as, “The slightest outward of inward departure from absolute mathematical parallelism with God’s revealed will and character constitutes a sin, and at once makes us guilty in God’s sight.” Those who are blessed to see the ramifications of their sins are catching a glimpse of how God’s views it; with hatred. The deceitfulness of sin, the blindness of humanity and the influence of a Godless culture dismiss serious offenses lightly and jokingly.

If someone believes God forgave them through Jesus Christ’s death on the cross they must wonder why that had to happen. There is no greater proof of the detestability of sin than Christ on the cross. Ryle writes, “Terribly black must that guilt be for which nothing but the blood of the Son of God could make satisfaction. Heavy must that weight of human sin be which made Jesus groan and sweat drops of blood in agony at Gethsemane, and cry at Golgatha, “My God, My God, why has Thou forsaken me.” (Matthew 27:46)

More Bad News

The Bible says, “God opposes the proud, but gives grace to the humble.” (James 4:6, Peter 5:5). We must say to God, “God I can’t save myself, I need your help, I need grace.” Depending on works for salvation is the exact opposite of grace. Someone who believes they can earn their way to heaven by being good may as well say, “I am going to save myself, I can do without grace.” Our plea should be, “save me from myself,” not, “I’m going to save myself.” Jesus said in

Luke 9:24, “For whoever wants to save his life will lose it, but whoever loses his life for me will save it. What good is it for a man to gain the whole world, and yet forfeit his very self? If we have so much faith in ourselves, our control and our abilities that we think we can preserve our life (save it) we will lose it.

What a tremendous weight to bear to believe one is accepted by God on the basis of what one does or does not do. No one can live up to God’s standards. He requires perfection. We cannot earn acceptance from God based on our performance because we can never be good enough in God’s sight aside from His help. God is strict; His law does not budge. His character does not allow Him to condone sin, because He is perfect and Holy. Even the apostle Paul, who had all the reasons to put confidence in the flesh (in himself, i.e. his accomplishments, credentials and capabilities) by following the law, as he mentions in Philippians 3:4-6, put no confidence in the flesh.

Paul continued in Philippians 3:8-9, “I consider everything loss compared to the surpassing greatness of knowing Christ Jesus as my Lord, for who sake I have lost all things. I consider them rubbish, that I may gain Christ and be found in him, not having a righteousness of my own that comes from the law, but that which is through faith in Christ- the righteousness that comes from God and is by faith.” Paul says that the righteousness we have was imparted from God through faith and gifted to us. Paul’s view on grace is opposed to the belief that we attain our own righteousness apart from that which is attributed to us by faith. Paul says our righteousness is not dependent on our ability to keep laws, rituals and regulations, because the righteousness that comes from them are “filthy rags” to God (Isaiah 64:6). Therefore we have no righteousness of our own and we can put no confidence in the flesh (our works, accomplishments and strengths).

Ryle writes, “The holiest actions of the holiest saint that ever lived are all more of less full of defects and imperfections. They are either wrong in their motive or defective in their performance, and in themselves are nothing better than “splendid sins,” deserving God’s wrath and condemnation. To suppose that such actions can stand the severity of God’s judgment, atone for sin, and merit heaven, is simply absurd. “By the deeds of the law shall no flesh be justified.”- We conclude that a man is justified by faith without deeds of the law (Romans 3:20-28). The only righteousness in which we can appear before God is the righteousness of another- even the perfect righteousness of our Substitute and Representative, Jesus Christ the Lord. His work, and not our work, is our only title to heaven.”

One sin is a crime in God’s sight requiring punishment. Works do not quench God’s wrath. Good deeds do not appease His anger against sinners. We cannot be reconciled to God by our good deeds done in our strength; “For all have sinned and all fall short of the glory of God” (Romans 3:23). Everything we do is mingled with selfish ambition, i.e., out of motivation to justify ourselves, to benefit ourselves or to look good in other’s eyes. Isaiah 64:6 says, “our righteousness is like filthy rags.” Ephesians 2:3 calls us “by nature, objects of wrath.”

We know from the Old Testament that God requires bloodshed for forgiveness. This is why animals were sacrificed on the altar for the sins of the people. The animal’s blood (life) was poured out before the Lord to atone for the people’s sins. This is God’s appointed means of forgiveness. Hebrews 9:22 says, “without the shedding of blood there is no forgiveness.” A goat, bull or other animal had to be sacrificed at appointed times. This happened repeatedly because no animal sacrifice permanently atoned for the people’s sins. This is because the animals had defects, unlike the Lamb of God, the animals were not a sufficient sacrifice to atone for people’s sins once and for all.

A Wretched Goodness

Those first paragraphs contain some terrible news. So, if those things are true, how can we be forgiven?

A popular, comfortable, nonthreatening and unbiblical belief is that being a “good person” somehow merits forgiveness or cancels out any debt from sins or “wrong things they’ve done.” A person may say with false humility, “I’m far from perfect…but, overall I’m a good person. I’ve never killed anyone and I go to church.”

When Jesus was asked this question, “What must we do to do the works God requires?” (John 6:28). He said, “The work of God is this: to believe in the one He has sent” (John 6:29). He didn’t say, “Be good and kind person.” Hebrews 11:6 states, “It is impossible to please God without faith.” Note: the nature of “believing” in Christ has traditionally been understood as something that God allows us to receive, accept and undergo, subsequently, it is not a work done by us. The ability to have faith to believe is a gift from God.

The Bible teaches salvation comes from Christ’s perfect works imputed (transferred) to us one time by the grace of God through our belief- and only through our belief. We do not deserve salvation in any way. It is by sheer grace we are forgiven. Christianity is about what God has done for us, not what we can do for Him. Romans 9:16 says, the compassion and kindness we receive from God does not, “depend on man’s effort, but on God’s mercy.”

Some of the best and kindest people can discount God- they can even be adamant atheists. A person who ignores and resists God can still be very friendly, however they are not doing the work God requires; “believe in the one He has sent” (John 6:29). Some people, while disregarding God, are people-pleasers. Paul said this in Galatians 1:10, “Am I now trying to win the approval of men, or of God? Or am I trying to please men? If I were still trying to please men, I would not be a servant of Christ.” Christians are more interested in living a God-pleasing life than a people-pleasing life. At times a God-pleasing life and people-pleasing life can be incongruent because people’s wills are imperfect, and subsequently opposed to God’s perfect will. Therefore, the approval and acceptance of people does not equate approval and acceptance of God.

Some people may be smug because they don’t think they need help. They don’t like the idea of a concrete, highly personal, highly moral, judging, absolute, sovereign God- that may infringe on the way they want to live their life. As if their denial makes Him disappear.

People will not be saved if they deny the gracious means that God has so obviously provided for them in order to be saved. In His justice God can’t forgive a sin that was not punished through Christ’s death on the cross. In Systematic Theology, Louis Berkhof wrote, “The atonement was necessary, because God sovereignly determined to forgive sin on no other condition.” The cross is the only way of God, through His love and mercy, to provide a way of escape for sinners. Belief in Christ is the only appointed means of salvation.

If a person fears their destiny without Christ they would be exceedingly relieved to know He has came alongside them and they would greet Him with open arms. If forgiveness is sought for a known wrong and then forgiveness is found in Christ, they would meet Christ with jubilation. If a person knows their debt was taken away by Christ, they would feel gratitude towards Him. If a person’s despair is met with Christ’s comfort and help, they would stay near Him. If a longing for forgiveness and hope is what one seeks, they would be overcome with appreciation by Christ who supplies both. If a person knows the retribution due them and knows Christ loved them enough to take on that penalty so they could go free, they would be forever grateful to, humbled by, and happily indebted to Him. If a person knows the extraordinarily terrible place they deserve to go apart from Christ’s intervention they would gladly make it a priority to follow Him the rest of their lives.

As it is, non-Christians do not greet Christ with open arms, they do not meet Him with jubilation, gratitude, nearness, appreciation, humility, happy indebtedness, and priority. They treat Him with contempt, neglect, disobedience, and disrespect. The non-Christian, although they may be a “good person” knows none of the consolations of receiving and experiencing God’s mercy and grace. As a result, they have no reasons for celebration and gratitude towards God.

On the other hand, Christians know the vacancy, void, loneliness and desolation apart from Christ- and they know all those things are put in perspective by the personal consolations Christ gives them in a relational context. Profound Christian joy is a product of loneliness and destitution met by mercy, love and a promise fulfilled.

Christ infringes upon all the prideful person wants to be. He claims to be the only source for all deep needs that people want to get in different ways. People do not want God as the source for their needs because they seek sensational thrills, ungodly entertainment and sinful pleasures because, by their nature, their “tastes” are corrupt. James 4:4-5 says, “You adulterous people, don’t you know that friendship with the world is hatred toward God? Anyone who chooses to be a friend of the world becomes an enemy of God.” Friendship does not mean we cannot and should not enjoy God’s gifts on this earth, but that we should have a Godly perspective on them.

All a “good” non-Christian may know is that being kind and friendly always benefits them in the end. All a “good” non-Christian may know is it feels right and good to be a nice person- but they may not know why on a deep level. Their goal may be to win the approval of people, to be popular, and to be thought of as a “good person.” They need to know that God does not think like people. What is wonderful in a human’s sight may be detestable in God’s. The “good person,” may discount God. Some of the nicest people may act out of their own strength. They may do thousands of noticeable good deeds, yet God is not pleased with them, because they may not have one thing God requires: “faith in the one He sent” (John 6:29).

Although a personal trainer, a financial adviser, a doctor, and physical therapist, are willing to help their client/patient get better/improve, they cannot help if the client/patient will not let them. So it is with God and the person who refuses to relinquish lordship over their own life.

If a person doesn’t call on Jesus’ name, which is, “the only way to the Father,” (John 14:6) they cannot be forgiven. Jesus said in John 14:6, “No one comes to the Father except through me.” 1 John 5:10 says, “Anyone who believes in the Son of God has this testimony in his heart. Anyone who does not believe God has made Him out to be a liar, because he has not believed the testimony God has given about His Son.” Onto 5:12, “He who has the Son has life; he who does not have the Son of God does not have life.”

If one knows the ramifications and seriousness of their sins, they will realize their terrible position without Christ. They will see they are separated from God by consequence of their sin and need reconciliation. A person must give in, they must surrender their efforts to receive this gift of salvation. A person operating self-sufficiently and autonomously- is not a likely to seek a highly moral ruler to submit their life to. Their head is too clouded to see their sin for what it is and to see Christ for who He is, subsequently, they won’t see a need for a Savior. Perhaps, in our day, where self-rule, independence and self-sufficiency is highly valued, it is harder to see our utter dependence on Christ for our salvation.

The gospel goes against our natural inclinations to be strong in ourselves, it offends our flesh, it crushes our pride, and it has us cling to something other than hope in ourselves and our own capabilities. To receive the gospel we must yield our tendency to want to control and save our own lives. God requires a “broken and contrite heart,” (Psalm 51:17) not pride, conceit, rebellion and neglect. Brokenness and humility are requisites for repentance.

Seizure of Grace

If we were saved by what we do we could boast in what we do. As it is, we are saved by grace alone, therefore Christians boast in what God has done for us, not what we do for Him. Several religions (and non-religions) teach that salvation and rights to heaven are earned or merited by being good, but the Bible does not.

To follow are some of Paul’s emphatic teachings about grace from his letter to the Galatians and the Ephesians. Ephesians 2:9 says, “For it is by grace you have been saved, through faith- and this not from yourselves, it is the gift of God- not by works, so that no one can boast.”

Ironically, Christ’s harshest words were for those who did a lot of good works; the Pharisees. They were the most “religious” people during Jesus’ time. They put all their faith in their own good works instead of in God. This inconsistency angered Jesus because He taught that works apart from faith is legalism and arrogance.

A works based believer is more likely to compromise inward honesty and integrity for the sake of maintaining outward religious appearance. A friend of mine shared a great example. He and friend went to attend a ceremony at a tabernacle and in order to enter, one had to meet certain requirements of purity of heart. The works based believer was deceitful about his inward condition in order to partake in the outward ritual. The grace based believer did not enter because he thought it was hypocritical to do so because he had not met inner requirements either.

Ironically, a seizure of and manifestation of grace produces more righteous living than legalism. Imagine two men in a conversation- one man adamant that he is saved by grace alone the other believes he is saved by works. One would think it would be consistent that the man who is striving to justify himself by his works would “out perform” the one who believes he is justified by grace. You might guess the “works-believer” would have more respect, honor, adoration, revere, fear, conscience thought and consideration and obedience towards God. You also may think the man who believes he is saved by grace may not be as mindful or intentional about his living to please God, since, in his eyes, they are not requisites for salvation. Ironically, more often than not, the person who has a good understanding of grace will live a more godly and righteous life than the “works believer” (the legalist). Perhaps, this is because the legalist is acting from the outside in (in their own strength) and the believer in grace is being worked on from the inside out (by the Holy Spirit).

A Christian should know the seriousness of their sin, the holiness of God and the lengths God went to in order to extend grace to them. As a result of this apprehension of mercy and reconciliation, it is a Christian’s deepest joy and privilege to be devoted to God. It is not that a Christian has to obey God and submit to God’s will; it’s that we get to and want to. It is the highest honor and a privilege. Imagine the honor that would come from being the ambassador and representative of United States. Imagine being the President of the United States. If it is an honor to be devoted to a nation, how much more of an honor is it to be devoted to the creator of the universe who created us and died for our sins?

There is a dramatic difference between doing something religious because we feel like we have to and feeling like we want to. Someone who has experienced the inner peace and joy from Christ does not want to live life apart from Him, because the joy, meaning and purpose that comes from a relationship with Christ transcends all meaning apart from God. And this makes perfect sense: the created (us) were designed to be in relationship with the creator (God), and naturally, the wonderful functionality of that relationship will transcend all other reasons for solace man can create. This is why a Christian should go to great lengths, perhaps great expense to them to guard their relationship with God and do whatever it costs to make it a priority. Think of the hard work, dedication and trouble one goes to to pass an exam or train for the Olympic games. So to, maintaining a relationship with God should affect our thinking and doing in everything because we value it so highly.

A Christian’s motivation should stem from realizing what Christ has done for us, i.e., given us what we don’t deserve and cannot earn, namely, forgiveness and reconciliation to God. Christians believe the perfect work that we can’t do was done by Christ on our behalf.

Outward formalism

“Those who make religion their god will not have God for their religion.” -Thomas Erskine of Linlathen

“The disease (sin) may be veiled under a thin covering of courtesy, politeness, good manners, and outward decorum; but it lies deep down in the constitution.” J.C. Ryle

The Lord said in Isaiah 1:10 to the rulers of Sodom and the people of Gomorrah: “The multitude of your sacrifices- what are they to me?” “I have more than enough burnt offerings, of rams and the fat of fattened animals; I have no pleasure in the blood of bulls and lambs and goats.” In verse 13 the Lord said: “Stop bringing me meaningless offerings! Your incense is detestable to me. New Moons, Sabbaths, and convocations- I cannot bear your evil assemblies. Your New Moon festivals and your appointed feasts my soul hates.” Throughout the Old Testament the hypocrisy of conformity to outward rituals lacking inward faith is evident.

Jesus reiterated this righteous anger thousands of years later as Luke records in chapter 11 and Matthew records in 23:27: “Woe to you, teachers of the law and Pharisees, you hypocrites! You are like whitewashed tombs, which look beautiful on the outside but on the inside are full of dead men’s bones and everything unclean. In the same way, on the outside you appear to people as righteous but on the inside you are full of hypocrisy and wickedness.”

Like the Pharisees, our acts of obedience, offerings, sacrifices, and conformity to regulations are impure (blemished). On the other hand, the sacrificial offering of Christ, was pure (unblemished), therefore is the only thing has the power to atone for sin.

There may be good deal of people who appear noble on the outside, yet own an ugly heart that’s never repented. There may be a good amount of church members who sing songs in church with their lips, yet their hearts are far from God. They may have made public and private professions, conformed to religious rituals, and had outward show, yet their words were empty. They may have participated in religion their whole lives, but the external religiousness does not merit acceptance from God. They may use religion for political or social reasons, which may please and impress man, but not God.

Legalism, means, “practicing good deeds and conforming to rituals, regulations and ceremonies, but no inward faith or sincerity.” The Pharisees were legalists. Jesus emphasized the motive behind the deed. The same good deed done by two different people can be done for the opposite reason. Christians believe that our good works should be done out of humble gratitude (knowing we can’t earn merit) instead of pride (thinking we can earn merit). Jesus taught that good deeds are a byproduct of faith. God, through the Holy Spirit who indwells in us, produces “love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness and self-control” in us (Galatians 5:22).

In Matthew 5:27, Jesus said, “You have heard that it was said, ‘Do not commit adultery.’ But I tell you that anyone who looks at a woman lustfully has already committed adultery with her in his heart.” God sees more than how we act, He knows every thought. Therefore, someone overly concerned with outward actions, religious postures, rituals and appearance should also be concerned with the issues in their heart and mind. Proverbs 16:2 says, “God weighs the motives of the heart” and 1 Samuel 16:7 says, “The Lord does not look at the things man looks at. Man looks at the outward appearance, but the Lord looks at the heart.”

In the Parable of the Sower in Matthew chapter 13 Jesus essentially says not all who have outward show of conversion, existential feelings about conversion and practice religion have their roots in true conversion.

Jesus said, “A farmer went out to sow His seed. As he was scattering the seed, some fell along the path, and the birds came and ate it up. Some fell on rocky places, where it did not have much soil. It sprang up quickly, because the soil was shallow. But when the sun came up, the plants were scorched, and they withered because they had no root. Other seeds fell among thorns, which grew up and choked the plants. Still the other seed fell on good soil, where it produced a crop- a hundred, sixty or thirty times what was sown.”

Jesus explained the parable, “When anyone hears the message about the kingdom and does not understand it, the evil ones comes in and snatches away what was sown in his heart. This is the seed sown along the path. The one who received the seen that fell on rocky places is the man who heart the word and at once receives it with joy. But since he has no root, he lasts only a short time. When trouble or persecution comes because of the word, he quickly falls away. The one who received the seed that fell among the thorns is the man who heard the word, but the worries of his life and the deceitfulness of wealth choke it, making it unfruitful. But the one who received the seed that fell on good soil is the man who hears the word and understands it. He produces a crop, yielding a hundred, sixty or thirty times what was sown.”

Unnecessary, or Purposeful Crucifixion?

As quoted earlier, Louis Berkhof wrote, “The atonement was necessary, because God sovereignly determined to forgive sin on no other condition.” God, in His Sovereign Holiness has to punish sin.

We simply cannot please God by what we do. If we think we can, we are essentially saying Christ’s crucifixion was unnecessary. However, that is not the case. The apostle Paul said in Galatians 2:21, “I do not set aside the grace of God, for if righteousness could be gained through the law, Christ died for nothing!” Paul is saying, if we put faith in our works to earn acceptance from God we are essentially believing that Christ is of no value.

Because the innocent (Christ) suffered the penalty due us we are free from the burden of the law and are justified by grace, not adherence of the law. Christ met the qualifications of the law on our behalf because we couldn’t. Galatians 5:1 says, “It is for freedom Christ has set us free. Stand firm, then, and do not let yourselves be burdened again by a yoke of slavery.”

Paul wrote in Galatians 2:16, “know that man is not justified by observing the law, but by faith in Jesus Christ. So we, too, have put our faith in Christ Jesus that we may be justified by faith in Christ and not by observing the law, because by observing the law no one will be justified.” Paul asked the Galatians in 3:2, “Did you receive the Spirit by observing the law, or by believing what you heard?” We are regenerated and saved (born again) by believing, not by observing dates, codes, laws, baptisms, ceremonies or other religious rituals and regulations. None of those things will come to our defense on the Day of Judgment. None of those things regenerate us or change our standing before God.

Ephesians 2:3-4 says, “Like the rest, we were by nature objects of wrath. But because of his great love for us, God, who is rich in mercy, made us alive with Christ even when we were dead in transgressions- it is by grace you have been saved” (emphasis added). We were made alive by God when we were dead. It is God who regenerated us and brought us back from the dead. 1 John 4:19 says He loved us first, not the other way around. In Mere Christianity, C.S. Lewis wrote, “God does not love us because we are intrinsically good or worth loving, but because He is intrinsically love and infinitely loving.” He also said, “The Christian does not think God will love us because we are good, but that God will make us good because He loves us.”

Salvation is unmerited favor. We have not earned the privilege to be “God’s children,” or to be “forgiven” and “pardoned.” Our new standing and new position before God is a gift and an undeserved honor. “For all have sinned and all fall short of the glory of God, and are justified freely by his grace through the redemption that came by Christ Jesus” (Romans 3:23, emphasis added).

Our Only Defense

Christ is the sufficient sacrifice, made once and for all, for the remission of our sins. Christ is the atoning sacrifice for our sins. He suffered the penalty affixed to transgression so we do not have to. It is only by His blood we are saved from God’s wrath, for “without the shedding of blood there is no forgiveness” (Hebrews 9:22).

We add nothing to the work of Christ. It is the sole means for our redemption. It would cease to be grace if we could add even an iota to our salvation. As it is, we add nothing. Like the hymn Rock of Ages reads, “Nothing in my hand I bring, Simply to Thy cross I cling; Naked flee to Thee for dress; Helpless, look to Thee for grace.” John 3:16 declares, “For God so loved the world that He gave His one and only Son, that whoever believes in Him shall not perish but have eternal life” (emphasis added). The word “believes” in that verse excludes all works from contributing to salvation.

We bring nothing to draw near to Him, except that which is dear to Him. Nothing we bring to God, except faith in the one who died for sins, is valuable enough to Him to merit forgiveness. Only the precious blood of Christ is of infinite worth and can justify sinners- those who were enemies of God. Ephesians 2:13 says we are “brought near by the blood of Christ,” and nothing else, no exceptions.

Nothing, except the blood of Christ and His advocacy for us puts up a worthy defense from the wrath of God. Only Christ intercedes on our behalf and pleads the merits of His suffering for our benefit. Christ’s sacrifice is the only effective means in turning us from enemies of God into reconciled children.  We approach God’s throne with confidence for one reason: that we are forgiven through Jesus Christ. We do no approach God’s throne with confidence in ourselves or what we have done.

The hymn, Nothing but the Blood, written by Robert Lowry articulates it well: “Oh! precious is the flow. That makes me white as snow; No other fount I know, Nothing but the blood of Jesus. For my pardon, this I see, Nothing but the blood of Jesus; For my cleansing this my plea, Nothing but the blood of Jesus. Nothing can for sin atone, Nothing but the blood of Jesus; Naught of good that I have done, Nothing but the blood of Jesus; This is all my hope and peace, Nothing but the blood of Jesus; This is all my righteousness, Nothing but the blood of Jesus.” Nothing will be able defend us on judgment day except the blood of Christ that was poured out on our behalf.

If Colossians chapter 1 is true; “All things were created by Him (Christ) and for Him (Christ) and that “the fullness of God dwelled in Him (Christ),” how can we attempt to lessen His glory in saying, “salvation comes from Jesus plus something else?” Jesus did not “get us a good start” and we can do the rest. The work of Christ is finished and complete. The supremacy and adequacy of Christ is watered-down by works-oriented justification teaching. Only in our pride and sin do we try to prove our worth to God. If our worth in God’s eyes is based on anything except Christ it is woefully inadequate.

We have been indoctrinated by our culture that says, “You get what you deserve” and “You get what you earn.” Thanks be to God we don’t get what we deserve. God’s economy of grace is the opposite. With God we get what we receive, not what we earn and not what we deserve. At our jobs we work for an hourly wage- the more we work, the more money we earn, the more money we earn the more we are worth. Not so in God’s plan of salvation. God gives worth to those the world considers worthless.

1 Corinthians 1:20-21 reads, “Has not God made foolish the wisdom of the world? For since in the wisdom of God the world through its wisdom did not know Him, God was pleased through the foolishness of what was preached to save those who belief.” Verses 27-31 say, “God chose the weak things of the world to shame the strong. He chose the lowly things of this world and the despised things- and the things that are not- to nullify the things that are, so that no one may boast before him. It is because of him that you are in Christ Jesus, who has become for us wisdom from God- that is, our righteousness, holiness and redemption. Therefore, as it is written: ‘Let him who boasts boast in the Lord.’”

When we think we can take credit for our wonderful standing with God all we have to do is read the Bible. We are quickly brought low because we see we are condemnable. Only through God’s love, mercy and grace are we placed in His favor. Let’s put down our self-manufactured checklist, which may give us confidence in ourselves, and assume a posture of submission and wholly rely on faith in Christ for salvation.


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The nature of truth is that it is absolute. The truth, by its nature, excludes hypothesis opposed to it. If something disagrees with the truth it is false. For example, if my shoes are off and I say there are on, I am wrong. If you said my shoes were off, you were right. The truth does not allow for both of us to be right. The truth stands up against scrutiny and needs no testimony other than itself. Reality orders that the truth is exclusive and anything that contradicts it is false. Therefore, the truth does not depend on what one believes. The truth corresponds accurately to reality no matter what a person’s beliefs are.

The truth can exist apart from what someone believes. For example, just because we believe something with all our heart does not mean it is true. For example, the terrorists that flew the planes into the World Trade Centers believed with all their heart- to the point of giving their life- that what they were doing was right. We know what they did was horrendously wrong.

Perception, just like belief, does not equal truth. According to Webster’s Dictionary, “perceiving” means to become aware of through the senses, or through insight or intuition. “Perception” means the knowledge gotten by perceiving. “Perception” also means the grasp of mental objects through the senses. If I perceive there is a ghost in the next room and there is not, then my perception is not reality. Perception is not truth (or reality), because people can be deceived; we are fallible. If I feel like my friend is going to die in war overseas because of an intuition (or haunch) I had and he comes home safely, my perception was not accurate.

Say, for example, one person who witnessed the JFK assassination claimed that they heard 5 shots fired at the president. Another witness perceived that only 3 bullets were fired at the president. Perception, in this case, can not possibly be reality, because it is logically impossible for there to be exactly 5 shots and exactly 3 shots at the same time. (Let’s say there were 3 shots fired). The information that one of them received from their senses, (eyes, ears, sounds and intuition) was not accurate.

If our perceptions were 100% accurate then it could be said that “perception is truth.” Reality, such as in the assassination, shows us that our perceptions are not always trustworthy. The famous quote “perception is reality,” is not true.

Likewise, our subjective feelings are not always credible. It is not prudent to base our beliefs, which should be based on objective reality, strictly on how we feel about something. For example, both of the following statements are frivolous and haphazard: “I don’t feel like there is a god, so I don’t believe there is,” and “I feel like there is a god, so I believe there is.” A truth opposed to our feelings (or beliefs) invalidates our beliefs.  Our emotional response to a claim can not be trusted like the absolute truth. When someone responds to a fact opposed to their beliefs they don’t respond to the actual credibility of the fact, they respond to how they “feel” about it. For example, people’s rejection of the existence of hell is most likely an emotional response- not a response based on the actual credibility of the fact.

It’s important to note: perceptions, intuition, feelings and emotions are very valuable to us; in fact, they are the means by which we experience life. Since we are physical beings, our life is lived existentially and experientially. We are not merely programmed drones. In no way should perceptions and feelings be invalided, but they should be known for what they are: misleading and inaccurate at times. Perceptions, etc. do not always stand up to scrutiny and can be proved wrong, as talked about in this essay. Objective truth (fact), on the other hand, is always accurate and stands up against scrutiny. The objective truth always corresponds to reality- perceptions, feelings and beliefs do not.

There are several facts that Christianity affirms that Christians would prefer not to be. Such as the inherent corruption of man and our subsequent desperate need for a Savior, the existence of hell, God’s rightful Lordship over every aspect of our life. But, we don’t get to make up facts.

C.S. Lewis wrote in Mere Christianity, “If Christianity was something we were making up, of course we could make it easier. We cannot compete, in simplicity, with people who are inventing religions. How could we? We are dealing with Fact. Of course anyone can be simple if he has no facts to bother about.” If beliefs correspond with reality they are more than beliefs- they are facts. Integrity in a religion is vouched for by reality when it’s truth claims match actual historical events. Undergoing stringent, legitimate and thorough investigation will affirm the truth. A religion has no credibility if actual events in history are not compatible with its claims.

The truth exists despite our denial of it. For example, if my mother is dead and I choose to deny it, the truth is still truth despite my disagreement. The truth can also exist apart from our knowledge of it. For example, just because I don’t know of a small town in upstate New York called Ivory does not mean it does not exist. Right and wrong and true and false do not depend on what a person knows (or doesn’t know), they depend on facts.

To apply this to a more important idea: There can not “be a God” and “not be a God” at the same time. If one person says there is a God and another says there is not- one of them is wrong and one of them is right. To apply this to a more specific idea: Jesus can “not be God” and “be God” at the same time.”

If “truth claim A” and “truth claim X” are not compatible both can not be right. If person A says the Eagles won the game and person B says the Hawks won the game, one of them is right and one of them is wrong. Each asserts that they are right simply by making their statement. Say, the Hawks won the game and person B is right. Just because person A thinks the Eagles won does not make it true. This is simple logic. This same logic can be applied to the world religions and their different, contradicting views. Most religions exclude the “truth claims” of other religions. For example, anyone who says Christ was not God in the flesh (divine) and that He is not the only way to God says the “truth claims” of Christianity are wrong. Subsequently, they belief Christianity is false.

Contrarily, if someone says, “God created the physical world but is not part of it. He is above it and beyond it,” they are saying the “truth claims” of Native Americans beliefs are false. Subsequently, this person believes Native American “truth claims” are false. On the other hand, if a Native American philosopher says “God is inseparable from His creation. God is the trees and God is in nature,” they are, by implication, disagreeing with the Christian belief that God “created nature, but is set apart from it and is above and beyond it.”

This Christian belief is consistent with another Christian belief that God is deeply connected to humanity (He made humans out of dust and He breathed life into the first human), so much so He came down from heaven and He loves us so much that He died for us. This belief that God is set apart from nature is also consistent with the Christian belief that God interacts relationally with humans, hears and answers our prayers, intervenes in human history and cares deeply for each person. However, to say God “is nature” diminishes His nature (character), which is holiness and righteousness. He can not condone sin and is not a part of any sin, therefore, He is not intermingled with it and a partaker in it.  He can not tolerate sin, which is why Jesus was punished on our behalf  for it.

If there is one religion that is correct and someone still follows a different religion despite knowing they are wrong, that is irrational and foolish. If there were, today, one religion that was proved empirically correct and everyone in the world could touch, see and know it is true, it would be asinine not to follow that one true religion. If that person acknowledged they were wrong and thoughtfully accepted the implications that came from denying the facts, then their decision would at least have a small measure of reason. A person has the option to live according to their beliefs, even if they conflict with the truth. However, that is a flippant and apathetic view.

Nature of Truth Applied Specifically to Christianity

Christ claimed to be the Son of God and the only way to God, and the only one who can pay for our sins. Now, if those things were not true, Christians believe lies. Subsequently, like the apostle Paul says, our faith is futile. The crux of Christianity is dependent on the Divinity of Christ, His sinless life, His crucifixion, death, resurrection and His vicarious Atonement on the cross for our sins- not merely Christ’s moral principles and ethical teaching. Moral principles and teachings on ethics certainly are important to Christianity. But, if Christianity is reduced merely to a religion with good ideas among several other “good religious options”- it is worthless and based on fraud.

In Mere Christianity C.S. Lewis wrote, “If Christianity only means one more bit of good advice, then Christianity is of no importance. There has been no lack of good advice for the last four thousand years. A bit more makes no difference.” If Christ’s claims to be God were not true the Christian faith is empty and it is based on lies. And if that were the case, as Lewis wrote, “Christianity is of no importance.” Instead, Christianity has radically different truth claims than any other religions.

C.S. Lewis also wrote: “I am trying here to prevent anyone saying the really foolish thing that people often say about him: ‘I’m ready to accept Jesus as a great moral teacher, but I don’t accept his claim to be God.’ This is the one thing we must not say. A man who was merely a man and said the sort of things Jesus said would not be a great moral teacher. He would either be a lunatic- on a level with the man who says he is a poached egg- or else he would be the Devil of Hell. You must make your choice. Either this man was, and is, the Son of God, or else a madman or something worse.” Then Lewis adds: “You can shut him up for a fool, you can spit at him and kill him as a demon; or you can fall at his feet and call him Lord and God. But let us not some up with any patronizing nonsense about his being a great human teacher. He has not left that open to us. He did not intend to.”

If Christ was not God, as He claimed He was, He was a liar. On the other hand, if Christ is God, all other religions and people that deny His Divinity are wrong. It is either “one or the other.” If Jesus is who He said He is, the implications are staggering and they have an eternal impact on every soul.

So, if Christianity is not rooted in reality and truth it loses all credibility and it becomes damningly hypocritical, because the very crux of Christianity based on the virtues of truth, honesty and integrity. If Christianity’s principles implode “right off the bat,” and its leader (Jesus Christ) lied about who He was, then all the subsequent principles implode. No prudent or wise person would dedicate their life to someone who said he was God but was only, purely, a man. (By the way, the eyewitnesses to Christ’s life, crucifixion and resurrection dedicated their lives to Christ and were killed for their beliefs. They would not have been motivated to live, and die for something they knew was not true. It is true that people die for false beliefs, but this is different since the disciples were eyewitnesses they certainly would have known if Christ died and was raised from the dead.)

Therefore, Christian’s are either crazy and delusional or they are right and followers of the one true faith. If Jesus was not God, he was a madman responsible for drumming up the greatest hoax in the history of the world.

All Religions are not talking about the “same god”

All people who speak of “god” (or a “higher being,” or “higher power) are not referring to the same god. For example, when Muslims speak of “God,” they are talking about Muhammad. When Buddhists speak of “God” they are talking about Buddha. When Christians speak of “God,” they are talking about the Trinity (Father, Son and Holy Spirit.) When Native Americans speak of God, they are talking about the higher spirit of oneness and connectedness between the high power, nature and all people. Each religion mentioned has a book or source they refer to that “defines” who or what they call “God.” All these religions may be using the same word to refer to “god,” however, it is clear that they are all referring to a completely different being.

People attribute many false characteristics to God by projecting their own ideas of who they want God to be or who they think He should be. People often fabricate a god who condones whatever they want to do. That inclination certainly makes sense, because we are naturally self-centered and we want to define our own God rather than find out who He is and then conform to His principles, precepts and way of life.

Christians believe the bible reveals the true character, nature and “personality” of God. Christians find in the bible that He is “Triune,” a God who is 3 in 1: the Father, the Son and the Holy Spirit- who are all one and all equally God. The Christian view of the nature and character of God is incompatible with Muslims, Buddhists, and Native Americans. Similarly, the Muslims view of God is incompatible (irreconcilable) and drastically different than the Christian, Native Americans and Buddhists. And the Native Americans beliefs are incompatible with the Christian’s beliefs. The bottom line is that each view of God is drastically different. Since each religion owns “truth claims” that don’t agree, just like the basketball game between the Hawks and Eagles, not all can not be correct.

Some people say “all religions and belief systems are equally valid and true; one is not better than another,” however they make like how that statement sounds, but they don’t really believe what it actually means. The person who makes that claim may as well have said, “the beliefs of the terrorists that flew the planes into the World Trade Centers is just as right and correct as the religion that promotes loving others.

If someone believes that all belief systems are equally valid and one is not better than another, they must agree with the following statement: ”The religion that believes killing and eating babies and rapping women is OK, is just as valid and true as the one that cherishes human life.” It is clear that, all religions and belief systems are not equally valid and true. And it is clear people who claim they believe that, have not considered the implications of their beliefs or the consequences of their ideas.

Each religion mentioned has certain truth claims that the whole belief system hinges on. (Most religions, oddly enough, hinge on the fact the Jesus is not God in the flesh.) If a religion’s truth claims are not true, the religion is invalid. As mentioned, Christianity depends on Christ being God and Divine, dying for our sins and being risen from the dead. Upon investigation of any religion one will find that it depends on certain things to be true and some things to be untrue.

Any “religious” or “non-religious” view takes faith to believe. We can look at the evidence, seek facts and truth and see where it leads- a prudent person will first, follow the facts, see where they lead and walk in that direction.

Until the undeniable truth is fully uncovered and visible to everyone people’s truth claims will be incompatible. Fortunately, there is a surplus of facts and evidence to base our beliefs on. The bible says, “For since the creation of the world God’s invisible qualities- his eternal power and divine nature- have been clearly seen, being understood for what has been made, so that men are without excuse.”

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