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Hell in a Nutshell: The Mystery of His Will (Audiobook)

It has been a year or so since I published my book in paperback. Ever since the day of publication, I have been asked when it would be available in audio. Well, that day has arrived! I have partnered with a distinguished professional in the field of audio book publications (Kevin O’Connell) and have finally delivered what many have been waiting for.

My book is now available in paperback, ebook format, and audio format (Audible, Amazon , & iTunes). If you are in the blogging business and would like a free copy for review, we can definitely make that happen.

To those who partner with me in spreading the message of the greater hope, I would greatly appreciate a tweet, or any other kind of mention that is within your capabilities.

Enjoy!

God’s Ten Commitments

Historically, religion has always been based around a works-based philosophy. Yes, even Christianity, which supposedly stands apart from every other religion due to its grace-based foundation, easily slips into a works-based philosophy disguised as the former. It takes “you reap what you sow”” to preposterous lengths.

Jesus paid it all . . . BUT . . .

For some reason, many assume that our sowing of faith allows us to reap grace even though grace requires nothing beyond the giving. Granted, we may miss the benefits of grace apart from faith, but God never intended to cast us away when some metaphysical clock hits zero.

Christianity has long been understood as the younger brother of Judaism. Being of the same heritage, it makes sense that the two would have many commonalities. The most obvious of such has to do with The Ten Commandments.

Long, long ago, after Israel was finally freed from her slavery in Egypt, she made a covenant with God that was based on a set of Laws which required her to abide by a certain standard. Although this standard was and is positive, in and of itself — seeing how there is nothing wrong with the original commandments that she was given — those commandments gradually grew from ten liberating truths to hundreds of unmanageable burdens; it became something that brought Israel right back under the harsh task-master from which she was delivered.

The original Ten Commandments were basic. Much like love, sin could be avoided if they rested in the basics; rather than struggling with the dos . . . or shall I say, the “do nots.”

Jesus stated that out of the Ten Commandments, two were of the utmost importance: to love God with all of our being and to love our neighbor as ourselves. If we would but focus our attention primarily on those commandments, there would be no need to worry about sinning against God or man.

Works-based religion takes our focus off of Christ and places it on ourselves. We becomes so obsessed with not doing this or that that we forget about Christ and his triumph. We forget to rest in him as we weep and gnash our teeth in works-based religion.

Jesus came not to compile the religious do’s and don’ts, but to demolish our carnal paradigm of God. He came not to grind the Law into our souls, but to reveal that the Law was designed to point out our need of him and, ultimately, to write his law on our hearts. We need Christ; not to help us keep this law or that one, but to help us understand that the Law is good news in him. Outside of Christ it is a curse. Yet in him, it is his commitment tous.

On one glorious day, all the world will have no other god but God; we will not steal, neither will we covet; we will not kill, neither will we commit adultery; we will simply love and everything else will fall into its rightful place.

Our sinful condition must be treated through a proper perspective of the disease itself; it must be cured rather than quarantined. Would the Lover of our souls settle for anything less?

The Mystery of His Will

Ephesians 1:9–11 is one of my favorite passages in the Bible. In fact, I favor it so much that I wrote an entire book around this passage. 

In my book, I explain how this mystery is no longer hidden from the world. Until Christ came to show us what God was really like, man and angel alike have long attempted to decipher this mystery. Praise be to God that he has finally lifted the veil from our eyes!

In my book, Hell in a Nutshell: The Mystery of His Will, I usually quote Scripture from the English Standard Version (ESV) of the Bible. Consider the wording of the New Living Translation (NLT):

“God has now revealed to us his mysterious will regarding Christ—which is to fulfill his own good plan. And this is the plan: At the right time he will bring everything together under the authority of Christ—everything in heaven and on earth. Furthermore, because we are united with Christ, we have received an inheritance from God, for he chose us in advance, and he makes everything work out according to his plan.” —Ephesians‬ ‭1:9-11‬ ‭NLT‬‬

Let’s carefully consider the NLT’s wording of this passage. 

“God has now (finally, after hundreds of years of us attempting to work it out in our heads) revealed to us his mysterious will (the mystery of his will) regarding Christ—which is to fulfill his own good plan. (The mystery of his will was primarily to fulfill his good plan for all of creation through Christ, but how?) And this is the plan: At the right time he will bring everything together under the authority of Christ—(to clarify “everything” for those who may try to limit that word:) everything in heaven and on earth. (Again, his good plan was to unite everything in Christ; not just some, but all.) 

”Furthermore, because we are united with Christ, we have received an inheritance from God, for he chose us in advance, and he makes everything work out according to his plan.” (Everything works our according to his plan. It was his plan for some Jews to believe first and for some gentiles to follow in the faith. Furthermore, it is his plan to unite everyone and everything else in the fullness of times.) —Ephesians‬ ‭1:9-11‬ ‭NLT‬‬

God has chosen us: the human race. For far too long, we have been told that God has chosen some and abandoned the rest. Does that sound like a good plan? His plans are much better than that.

If you would like to look deeper into this mystery, which has been revealed through Christ, this is a good place to start!

If you would like to read more, check out my previous blog posts. Feel free to subscribe if you would like to be notified of future articles. 

Shalom.

The Faith OF Christ

For the vast majority of my Christian life, I attended a devout southern baptist church that taught strictly from the King James Version (KJV) of the Bible. Although I never heard anyone say that it was the only preserved translation of the Scriptures, I can now see that, although that was not stated and likely not even realized as such, we lived as though the KJV was just that. It took me more than ten years to realize this. Needless to say, I have been set free from this shackled way of thinking.

Today, I tend to shy away from reading the KJV. However, I am, by no means, anti-KJV; my tastes have simply shifted over the years around gradual realizations. I admire its poetic nature today just as much as I ever have. 

Recently, I was perusing the KJV when something pretty interesting caught my eye and, perhaps, tugged on my heartstrings. 

Ever since I can remember, there has always seemed to have been some theological notion missing from what is taught by most churches, regarding the Atonement. There has always been some dot that just did not seem to connect—one thing or another that just did not click. Could it lie here?

For one reason or another, most modern translations of the Bible (even the NKJV) do not mention the faith of Jesus Christ. Why is that? Has no one thought it strange that no one mentions that Jesus epitomized a life of faith? 

Since most churches read from modern translations of the Bible, this may partially account for why many pastors never preach on the faith of Jesus and why it is virtually unspoken of in Christian circles. I have yet to account for why it is not spoken of in KJV-only churches, though.

Although our faith is vital to the reconciliation of all things—which has also been infrequently spoken of in the church—Jesus should always be the epicenter of every doctrine that is good and true. Many attempt to claim that he is the center of our faith since we are saved via our faith in him, but, at the end of the day, according tomodern-day  orthodoxy, our faith is ultimately what saves any of us—our faith takes center stage; it has become the epicenter of our religion. 

As you consider the following passages, keep in mind that modern translations use “of” rather than “in” as noted. I would first like to consider each verse from a philosophical standpoint and to finally wrap things up by examining the Greek from which the New Testament is translated. I am no scholar, but I like to think I specialize in the small portion of Greek that is critical to my theological niche. You could call me a generalist, if you must call me anything at all.

Christians, for the most part, tend to appeal to the masses in defense of modern translations of the following passages by stating that most translators have chosen one word over another. In other words, they are suggesting that we should blindly trust their authority. Although I do not deny the authority of scholars, we must acknowledge that even translators have presuppositions, which affect how they translate certain terms. Scholars disagree with each other all the time. Why should we blindly follow the masses opinions, when other scholars, at times, disagree with them?

Scripture instructs Christians to “test all things and to hold onto what is good and true.” I am attempting to do just that; nothing more and nothing less. Never let anyone discourage you from questioning what doesn’t sit right with you. We have a God-given conscience. Unfortunately, many chalk their conscious up to human reasoning; as though there is godly reasoning that is beyond our reach. If that were true, why would God instruct us to test all things and to come and reason with him?

“Knowing that a man is not justified by the works of the law, but by the faith of Jesus Christ, even we have believed in Jesus Christ, that we might be justified by the faith of Christ, and not by the works of the law: for by the works of the law shall no flesh be justified.” —Galatians‬ ‭2:16‬ ‭KJV‬‬

“yet we know that a person is not justified by works of the law but through faith in Jesus Christ, so we also have believed in Christ Jesus, in order to be justified by faith in Christ and not by works of the law, because by works of the law no one will be justified.” —Galatians‬ ‭2:16‬ ‭ESV‬‬

The first rendition states that we believe in Christ so that we may be justified, primarily, by his faith, rather than by the faith of another. The second suggests, of course, that we are justified by our own faith. However, if we are justified by our faith, it follows that we justify ourselves when we decide to place our faith in Jesus. It seems to me that Calvinists have long seen this dilemma and have therefore clung to determinism in order to sidestep it. 

Calvinists believe that if our faith has been given to us, by God, apart from our individual will, faith would then not be a work on our part, but a work of God—which is true enough. Yet, if anyone is to be held responsible for a lack of faith, then it only follows that we must have something to do with acquiring it. Otherwise, the uncommitted are damned for not possessing something that God has chosen not to give them. This is, primarily, why I reject hard-determinism. Yet, this whole way of thinking assumes that justification comes primarily through our faith and fails to consider the faith of Christ.

If our faith in Christ is only a means to be justified in and by Jesus’ faith, rather than it being treated as the mode of justification, perhaps Calvinism and Arminianism would never have formed. 

“I am crucified with Christ: nevertheless I live; yet not I, but Christ liveth in me: and the life which I now live in the flesh I live by the faith of the Son of God, who loved me, and gave himself for me.” —Galatians‬ ‭2:20‬ ‭KJV

“I have been crucified with Christ. It is no longer I who live, but Christ who lives in me. And the life I now live in the flesh I live by faith in the Son of God, who loved me and gave himself for me.” —Galatians‬ ‭2:20‬ ‭ESV‬‬

The first rendition states that the life we live in the flesh is lived through the faith of Christ, rather than through primarily our faith. In the second, there is no mention of Jesus’ faith. Therefore, it suggests that the life we live in the flesh is lived through our faith. How feeble and unreliable is one’s life if it relies on the waning and flowing of one’s own faith? Jesus and his faith should be our cournerstone, but we have become self-dependent beings to our demise.

“But the scripture hath concluded all under sin, that the promise by faith of Jesus Christ might be given to them that believe.” —Galatians‬ ‭3:22‬ ‭KJV‬‬

“But the Scripture imprisoned everything under sin, so that the promise by faith in Jesus Christ might be given to those who believe.” —Galatians‬ ‭3:22‬ ‭ESV‬‬

The first rendition states that the promise is a bedrock because its reality hinges on an unshakable foundation—the faith of the Only Begotten. Could it be that we share in Jesus faith when we place our faith in him, just as we share in his death and resurrection? Just think about that for a moment!

“Even the righteousness of God which is by faith of Jesus Christ unto all and upon all them that believe: for there is no difference:” —Romans‬ ‭3:22‬ ‭KJV‬‬

“the righteousness of God through faith in Jesus Christ for all who believe. For there is no distinction:” —‭‭Romans‬ ‭3:22‬ ‭ESV‬‬

The first rendition states that the righteousness of God is unto and upon all that believe. Moreover, it, once again, acknowledges that it is by the faith of Christ rather than by, primarily, the faith of man that we share in his righteousness. 

The second rendition omits a few details in order to place emphasis on our faith. Righteousness is then attained through our faith, rather than through Jesus’. Does belief produces faith, or is that a bit redundant?

And finally:

“and be found in him, not having mine own righteousness, which is of the law, but that which is through the faith of Christ, the righteousness which is of God by faith:” —Philippians‬ ‭3:9‬ ‭KJV‬‬

“and be found in him, not having a righteousness of my own that comes from the law, but that which comes through faith in Christ, the righteousness from God that depends on faith:” ‭‭—Philippians‬ ‭3:9‬ ‭ESV‬‬

The first rendition seems much clearer than the first. Both admit that our righteousness is not of ourselves, but of Christ. Yet the first states explicitly that it is imparted through Jesus’ faith, rather than through our own. It states “not having mine own righteousness, which is of the law . . .” 

Granted, it was speaking of a righteousness that supposedly came through keeping the law, but is a righteousness that comes through our own faith amy better than a righteousness that comes through the faith of Christ?

Jesus’ faith is of utmost importance because without his faith, ours is without worth.

Seeing the end from the beginning, Jesus will be satisfied. Could he be satisfied with saving fewer than was lost through Adam? Will the sacrifice of the second Adam’s life be less effective than a single sinful/selfish act of the first’s?

We can rest assured in the following:

“He shall see of the travail of his soul, and shall be satisfied: by his knowledge shall my righteous servant justify many; for he shall bear their iniquities.” —‭Isaiah‬ ‭53:11‬ ‭KJV‬‬

Is it by his knowledge or by ours that we shall be justified? Our faith plays an important role in salvific process, but our faith cannot justify us from our sins. Only Jesus’ faith can do that. He is the Author and Finisher of our faith, after all.

~

*Now I would like to remark on a grammatical aspect of the matter.

The Greek word for “in” is “eis”. 

According to the Englishman’s Concordance, the KJV, NAS, and INT translate the passages above correctly as “of Christ” rather than “in Christ”.

If you look closely at the Greek phraseology, whenever those passages use the phrase “in Christ”, “eis” always precedes the noun that is translated “Christ”. 

Whenever they have chosen to use “of Christ” rather than “in Christ”, “eis” does not precede the noun (Christ). In fact, nothing does. When Christou stands alone, “of” is used to precede the noun. “Of Jesus Christ” (]Ἰησοῦ Χριστοῦ without εἰς) is the genitive (i.e., possessive) case. It is therefore the more accurate translation.

“Christou”, without the term “eis”, is also the word that is used in the gospels when it speaks of the works and resurrection of Christ. Why shouldn’t the same standard follow with it speaks of faith? 

Feel free to share your thoughts below. If you enjoyed this article, I would greatly appreciate a “like” or “share”. If you’ve enjoyed my blog, you can easily subscribe below. 

Test all things; hold onto what is good and true. 

How to Receive God’s Love?

I was recently listening to a Christian music station on the radio when I heard the testimony of some famous Christian musician that pertained to us asking more of God than we generally ask. This particular Christian musician mentioned how she had asked God to show himself in such a way that would open the heart of a particular friend of hers. 

This all sounded great until I heard the following: 

Three months later, my friend gave me a call and asked, “What do I have to do to receive God’s love?”.

For many Christians, this testimony may open the floodgates and cause them to admire God all the more. Yet, for me, this made my heart cringe.

“What do I have to do to receive God’s love?”

Really? 

Must we discover some secret act that prerequisites our receiving of God’s love? Does he refuse to love us until we do this or that? Or is he unable to love us until we choose to do something in particular? 

I certainly hope not!

A good father does not withhold his love until his child, whether prodigal or not, does this or that. Praise be to God that he loves us in spite of our works or lack thereof; anticipating our eventual return. 

Some may claim that we are not his children until we possess faith in Christ. What a cop out! Many may be known as children of the devil, but that is by their choice; not by his. Many may be children of the devil through their actions, but all of creation is the child of its Maker.

God loves us throughout our rebellion. He loves us in spite of our hostility toward him. This is precisely what draws us to the cross. Such a love will never end until all, in heaven and on earth, are reconciled by the blood of the cross. 

What must we do to receive God’s love?

Nothing.

You are loved.

His love has always been there and it always will be there; it will always be here. Whether you choose to come home now or not, you are loved. Yet, until you come home, you will not feel that love; neither will you thrive because of it until then.

You should not return so that you may receive his love. Rather, you should return because you are loved. Don’t let anyone tell you otherwise . . . regardless of where you may be on you way to him.

If you are interested in learning more about how God’s love will not fail for the least of us, my book is available here. Feel free to comment below and share this blog and others with those who need to hear it.

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