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God v. The People

According to Scripture, each of us must stand before the judgement seat of God when our time on earth is done. Christians do not contend with this statement. However, there is not a consensus on what follows.

Most Christians maintain that there are only two possible outcomes. The first, of which, follows an innocent verdict: The Pearly gates. The second, which follows a guilty verdict, is believed to be irrevocable and undeniably hopeless.

Before we delve into the rationale behind what follows conviction, let’s consider what led up to this case of God v. The People. Is it God v. The People (as a whole) or is it God v. [you/me]? If it is not one or the other, but both, consider how that may effect what Jesus was sent to accomplish here on earth.

Did Jesus die for humanity or particular individuals? Now, that is a major division in the Body of Christ. Jesus died for humankind. Although Augustinian theology teaches that Jesus only died for particular individuals (the Elect), let’s tackle this question assuming that Jesus died for everyone.

If Jesus actually is the Savior of the world, we must see the sheep in his parable as an image of the world rather than a tiny predestined group of individuals. When a Christian attempts to draw the latter inference, the only thing that this achieves is a minor avoidance of a contradiction in theology. There is nothing profound about Jesus leaving 99 predestined “sheep” to find another predestined sheep that just wandered off from the flock.

When it comes to “the Judgement Seat of God”, is it even proper to view divine judgement as a modern day court case? Should we see Jesus as our defender or prosecutor? Who is our judge? According to John 5:22, that would be Jesus; which makes him our judge, jury, and prosecutor/defende .

Few Christians question the fate of those who die “unsaved”. Most believe that the lost will suffer forever, with no possibility of grace hereafter. They believe it to be a decree from the Most High. So, why question it? Although few question it by mouth, most believers question it by their inaction.

So, how do you plead? Before you make your plea, you should first determine the charge. Many assume the charge is sin. That is the route many evangelists take, after all. If they are correct, no one can enter a plea of innocence. That seems to be the gist of evangelism nowadays.

What if I told you that sin is no longer the primary charge? Has the letter of the Law ever been a means to salvation? No. Jesus has always been the only road to redemption. According to 2 Corinthians 3:6, the letter of the law kills, but the Spirit gives a life which the Law cannot negate.

Ever since Jesus rose victoriously from the grave (defeating sin and death on our behalf), there has only been one offense for which we all must enter a plea: the command to repent.

“The times of ignorance God overlooked, but now he commands all people everywhere to repent,”
‭‭—Acts‬ ‭17:30 ESV‬‬

If one’s charge is disbelief, how is justice served in that regard? It’s quite different than the whole “sin against an infinite God deserves an infinite punishment” scheme, isn’t it? What is the consequence for disbelief? Rather than attempting to reason this out, let’s first determine if Scripture has already given us a straightforward answer to this question.

Anyone who knows anything about the Bible knows that “the wages of sin is death, but the gift of God is eternal life through Jesus Christ our Lord.” Given that Jesus died and rose from the grave on behalf of the world, thereby settling our ransom, it follows that the wages of disbelief deserves the same condemnation. (Keep in mind that ransoms are paid to captors. The Father is not our captor.)

Many assume that we have a long (sometimes short) life to live; a life which determines our destiny. However, according to John 3:18, condemnation for disbelief is not some future sentence. For, “those who do not believe are condemned already.”

The faithless do not know God and, consequently, live a life of spiritual condemnation. Just like a hog wallows in the mud, so also do the lost wallow and grope in darkness. The blind do not see the light because they do not currently possess the faith necessary to have their sight restored. Which begs the question: Will some eyes remain eternally closed?

I can’t help but believe that our Heavenly Father is much better than even those closest to his heart can imagine. Yet, if I am mistaken and have failed to see God as he truly is, then although sin and death may have lost the battle at Calvary, when all is all said and done, they will have certainly won the war.

Yet, we do not need to worry about tomorrow because tomorrow is in the hands of our Maker. Rest assured. We have been promised a day with no more tears; no more pain; no more fears. A day will dawn when all will be made new. On that day, we will no longer depend on the the sun for light or warmth; for he will be our light. And where there is light, there can be no darkness!

The Light of the world shall see the travail of his soul and be satisfied. Just as the good Shepard is not satisfied with 99 sheep, neither can the Light of the world be satisfied with even a single eye left unopened.

A Cry For Justice

“When I was a child, I spake as a child, I understood as a child, I thought as a child: but when I became a man, I put away childish things.”
‭‭1 Corinthians‬ ‭13‬:‭11‬

As a child, I can remember often pleading for fairness. I should say, as a child, I often cried out regarding the obvious unfairness that seemed to prevail. Now, as a father, I see the same yearning within my own children. They crave fairness, as once did we all. Deep down, they have an insatiable need for justice to prevail.

As we “grow up”, it almost seems like our original notion of justice gradually dissipates, as we slowly come to realize that the world just isn’t fair after all. We come to accept this as a self-evident and unavoidable fact of life. Life is not fair. At least. . . that seems to be the case, more times than not.

In America, we have a justice system which appears to be our attempt to curb the injustice that would otherwise run rampant. Just below the law, we have a society that attempts to operate on a vague notion of a collective conscience. Even unreligious people seem to agree that there are certain things that you just do not do. Thereby, we acknowledge that certain actions would ruin our society if left unchecked.

When push comes to shove, we all seem to acknowledge that life is not fair; that we have to work for what we want and should, unfortunately, accept that we may not obtain the full fruit of our labor. Sometimes, that is just how the cookie crumbles; am I right?

In order to rectify what we, as children, once saw as unacceptable, many take an extreme stance on the matter and appeal to our supposed wretchedness. Many shift from the innocent stance of a child that is offended by any and all injustice to a more hardened stance: “We deserve nothing other than death, oh sinner.” Fortunately, this is precisely where Jesus comes into the picture.

It is often said: To avoid what we “obviously” deserve, we may get a pass if . . . if we believe the right things about God, if we have faith, etc. Regardless of how it is broken down, conditions must be met. Disregarding the technicalities, Jesus took what we deserve (death) and conquered it in the end. Don’t get it wrong. In Christ, we still deserve nothing, they claim; but since all is owed to Jesus, we can participate in his inheritance.

Do we owe Christ our very lives? I would argue the affirmative. Jesus defeated death on our behalf. Therefore, how can death justly hold onto what is his? The longer I swim in his grace, the more I realize the significance of what he accomplished on Calvary. We who trust in him find fulfillment in him because justice has, in some real way, been served. Jesus’ suffering was by no means just. Nevertheless, he will find justice in obtaining what belongs to him.

With God, there is no pleasure found in the death of the wicked. How much less does he find pleasure in the death of the innocent? This is precisely why Jesus was destined to defeat death and to fully secure that for which he died.

You. Jesus died for you. Your destiny in secure in that. Yet, until all have been drawn to the cross, and not a moment before, there will ever be an echoing cry calling out from eternity—a cry for justice.

Relationship Over Religion

Christianity isn’t just a religion. It’s much more than that. Many Christians understand their religion as something more like a relationship with a personal God. We see it as something that is much more meaningful than some rigid philosophy or theological system of belief.

To follow Christ–to place one’s faith and trust in him–is a significant ongoing relationship with he who crafted our souls, with precision and passion; with careful intent and purpose; with concern for not only its initial condition, but also for its condition throughout the passage of time.

It is easy to see how our relationship with God is fluid. It is not static. It ebbs and flows as the tragedy of life reaches its climax and it’s ultimate end. Yet, for one reason or another, many believers have a difficult time understanding that unbelievers experience a similar ebb and flow which precedes a reconciliation of their own.

What was Jesus’ purpose, according the the biblical account? To seek and to save that which was lost? To die for the sins of the world? Of course. In the same vein that many of us put more of an emphasis on relationship than on religion, we must also consider how Jesus’ emphasis on relationship applies to those outside of the faith.

If we believe that Jesus is the Savior of the world, why do we reject the notion that his purpose was to, ultimately, save the entire world? Although many die before they have any real chance to know what a reconciled relationship with our heavenly Father looks like, Jesus’ purpose remains the same. He came to restore everyone’s relationship with the Father. On the cross, Jesus did just that. He is the conciliator. The ball is now in our court. Reconciliation waits on we who are forgiven. The Father anticipates each of our return.

Jesus defeated sin and death. In him, we are healed. Through him, our relationship with the Father is made perfect. The gates to heaven never close; neither does his invitation—to come home.

Still Unforsaken (Another Agape Letter from Abba)

To my beloved prodigal children:

Contrary to what you may believe, you are mine. Every soul belongs to me and I love each and every one of you dearly. You are, without prejudice, loved to the full. Neither have I, nor will I ever forsake my own. You may feel forsaken, but you are not alone. You may feel lost, but you are not lost to me. I know precisely where you are and I am on my way to guide you home.

My Son understands this feeling of lostness. The feeling of abandonment is too much to bear because I designed you to be one with me. For that to be possible you must be at peace with me. Jesus once felt lost and abandoned. He could endure the physical pain of the cross, but the spiritual anguish nearly tore him in two! In this way, he carried the weight of your sins on his shoulders.

You have been told that he was forsaken because this choice, which produces more guilt, on your part, than it absolves. The guilt which comes with the idea of Jesus forsake being forsaken in your place was not my idea; neither has it ever crossed my mind. How could the resolution of sin and death infer guilt in the act of destroying it?

I did not forsake Jesus in your place. He was within my will, after all. As he became sin for you, he, for the first time, experienced its condemnation. It blurred his vision and he could no longer sense my omnipresence. Nevertheless, I was (and am) there! I would never turn from him . . . he has always known that. We laugh at that idea now.

So, although he could not sense my presence, he released himself into my hands, in faith, with his final earthly breath. All this to say, Jesus was not forsaken so that you could be forgiven. Rather, he accepted the condemnation of feeling forsaken and lost so that he could break the binds of sins deception on you. He defeated sin and, three days later, death. This is the only realization that will truly set you free.

All that remains is for you to come home. I am always here for you, but you must forgive yourself and turn back home in order to see that this is true. I will never give up on you.

With a love that cannot fail . . .

Abba.

Absent Fathers in a Digital Era

Last night, I came to the sudden realization that I was an absent father . . . and it broke my heart. I did not just come home from work. Neither did I just complete a work week only to realize that I hadn’t spent time with my children for quite some time. It hit me last night as I laid in bed thinking about going to work the following day.

The previous evening, our family returned home from a conference that we attended the previous three days. I took those days off from work to spend time with my family. Yet as I laid in bed, I realized that although I was physically with my wife and children, I was mentally absent. The more I thought about it, the more I realized that I couldn’t remember a time when I was, mentally, fully with them.

My son has actually told me on many occasions that I was on my phone all the time. Of course, he usually tells me this while I am on my phone. Last night, he told me again. Since, of course, I was on my phone at the time, I wasn’t fully hearing him. I was physically there, but mentally absent. He could see that. So, he said it several times in a row to make me here it.

How did I respond? I don’t remember exactly what I said, but I essentially told him to stop. I was annoyed by the repetition, so I missed what he was really trying to say. He wanted to play with me . . . Daddy rarely has time for that. So, most of the time, I put him on the tv or tell him to play in his room or to find something else to do. Evidently, I would rather he occupy himself.

He often asks me to play with him when he gets tired of watching tv. I sometimes do, but not nearly often enough and only for a few minutes; only to get back on my phone to watch Netflix or to play a mobile game.

Lately, CJ has been in a phase where he constantly wants to play on my phone. Sometimes I allow him to do so while I read a book. Seemingly, he has become obsessed with a game that has become an obsession of mine. When my wife and I noticed that it had become a problem, we decided to limit his activity with electronics.

The sad, very sad, thing about this entire ordeal is that it has taken me so very long to realize that I have a problem with my phone and that it has simply bled over into our children’s lives.

Perhaps his fascination with my phone stems from him attempting to connect with his disconnected father. He wants to be like his daddy, whether it be for good or bad. I have only now come to realize that if something needs to be fixed when it comes to our children, the problem likely needs to be fixed in me beforehand.

Our children know that I love them. I show them that everyday. Yet, they miss far too much of me when I am home and that is unacceptable. And if my phone disconnects me from our children, how much more does it disconnect me from my wife?

At the moment, it saddens me greatly to see how horribly I have failed our family. Yet I see it and refuse to allow it to continue. Family is everything and time is fleeting. Therefore, from this moment on, I refuse to squander another second of it. I don’t know exactly how I can make the most of my time with my wife and children, but I do know that it begins with putting my phone away while I am physically with them.

I grew up with a physically absent father. I refuse to allow my children to grow up with a mentally absent one. So from this moment on, I will strive to be present in my family’s lives. What about you? #MentallyPresent

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