Dear Children

Letters From A Father's Heart

Archive for the category “Theology”

God Is Love, And Perfect Love Casts Out Fear

Dear children

You, being human beings, have a propensity to see what you want to see, and to not see what you don’t want to see.  We all have this fault to one degree or another.  I know I do.  The singer Paul Simon wrote a popular song many years ago with the lyrics: “All lies and jests, Still a man hears what he wants to hear, and disregards the rest.”  I think Paul got this one right.  But also, like most of our faults, we can more easily see this in others than in ourselves.  But see it in ourselves we must, by looking beyond our assumptions to find truth; which is easier said than done.  In fact, much more than that, we must ask God, indeed earnestly beseech Him, to show us truth.

So why do I say such things?  We, being human, also have a propensity to see God the way we want to see Him, and to disregard those things about Him that we don’t want to see.  We in fact must resist turning the God of the scriptures into a god of our own making.  We’d sure rather have a god that we don’t need to fear more so than one that strikes fear in us.  But our desires don’t dictate reality.  If the Bible says over and over again that we ought to fear God, ignoring all those verses by misinterpreting one verse that would, on the surface, seem to suggest that we need not fear God, would not be wise; as in, “The-fear-of- the-Lord-is-the-beginning-of-wisdom” not wise.  (Prov 9:10)

To help us ignore most of what the Bible tells us about fearing God, there is a go-to verse that we often hear quoted.  “Perfect love casts out fear”.  Here is the passage from which it is taken in its entirety:

7 Beloved, let us love one another, for love is from God, and whoever loves has been born of God and knows God.8 Anyone who does not love does not know God, because God is love. 9 In this the love of God was made manifest among us, that God sent his only Son into the world, so that we might live through him. 10 In this is love, not that we have loved God but that he loved us and sent his Son to be the propitiation for our sins. 11 Beloved, if God so loved us, we also ought to love one another. 12 No one has ever seen God; if we love one another, God abides in us and his love is perfected in us.

13 By this we know that we abide in him and he in us, because he has given us of his Spirit. 14 And we have seen and testify that the Father has sent his Son to be the Savior of the world. 15 Whoever confesses that Jesus is the Son of God, God abides in him, and he in God. 16 So we have come to know and to believe the love that God has for us. God is love, and whoever abides in love abides in God, and God abides in him. 17 By this is love perfected with us, so that we may have confidence for the day of judgment, because as he is so also are we in this world. 18 There is no fear in love, but perfect love casts out fear. For fear has to do with punishment, and whoever fears has not been perfected in love. 19 We love because he first loved us. 20 If anyone says, “I love God,” and hates his brother, he is a liar; for he who does not love his brother whom he has seen cannot love God whom he has not seen. 21  And this commandment we have from him: whoever loves God must also love his brother. (1st John 4)

This raises a couple of questions.  First, are we suppose to fear God or not?  Second, why do we need to fear a loving God?

The answer is yes, we are supposed to fear God.  And second, yes, we need to fear Him because He is Loving.  We fear Him, not because of His love, but because of our lack of it, as this passage beautifully points out.  So let us look more closely.

As it turns out, the Bible has a lot to say about love and fear.  The word Love is mentioned often in the Bible, and more often than not–actually most often–it refers to us loving God, and us loving our fellow man.  Read the passage above and you’ll see a microcosm of how the word “love” is used throughout the entire Bible.  Out of all the times it’s used, only one is a proclamation of God’s love for those who are His.( verse 10)

Also, in a passage like this with such a rich emphasis on love, it would behoove us to understand what is meant by that word.  That, in itself, will be a life long project for you.  Grasping the love of God is no small feat.  But this passage gives us a good hint, as is similar to most others that proclaim God’s love.  Right next to the proclamation of God’s love for us is an allusion to the cross.  (…and sent his Son to be the propitiation for our sins.)  It is a rare thing actually to see God’s love proclaimed in the New Testament without an allusion to the cross nearby.

So, if we can look past our biases and assumptions we can see that this passage is about two things: 1)our love for God, 2) and mainly, our love for our fellow man.  But key to understanding the point I’m trying to make using this passage is the word “perfect”, for that word has caused many a soul to set this verse against what the entire rest of the Bible teaches.  In verse 12 we see the first use of the word “perfect, which has to do with our love for others brought about by His love abiding in us.  The second use (perfected) is in verse 17, and again it refers to our love, not Gods.  And in the next verse we see it (perfected) for the third time.  “Perfect love casts out fear“.  After the semicolon the same point is restated, “…whoever fears has not been perfected in love”.  The “whoever”, by the way, is not referring to God, but us.  So this ought to raise a question.  Do you love God perfectly?  Are you perfected in love?  If you can answer yes, then you need not fear God, and the entire rest of the Bible can be ignored by you because you have already been perfected.  I, on the other hand, still fear God, and until I am removed from this sinful body, and stand before the judgement seat of Christ clothed in His righteousness, I don’t see that changing.

In the end, pulling a Bible verse from the context of the rest of the Bible, and then using it for the purpose of–in the words of Paul Simon–disregarding the rest,  is unwise.  If you study this passage you will see that it is in complete agreement with the rest of scripture’s command to fear God, so we should, therefore, fear God.  We ought not, by the command of scripture, create a god in our minds that need not be feared.

I pray for you my dear children, that you would understand who God is, and that you would love and fear him, for that is right.  I pray that you would worship Him in spirit and truth, the true Him, and not a made-up version of Him that you find more appealing.  May our Father in heaven bring this about in your minds and hearts as you grow in revelation and love for your Father and Savior.

Your father

 

A Familiar Story Of Apostatizing Youth

Dear children,

As you might imagine I am keenly interested in any advice that would help me to help you develop a stronger faith.  So when I see an article entitled 3 Common Traits of Youth Who Don’t Leave the Church, it gets my attention.  It is but one of many appropriate articles that express concern at the number of today’s youth who are abandoning their Christian faith when they leave home.  But what caught my attention, and what I would like to discuss in this letter, was a comment left by a young woman, fresh from her parent’s home herself, who explained why she abandoned her “faith”.  The first half:

These articles keep popping up all over the place in my feed and I find it so interesting. You see I am one of those kids. I am one that was raised in a very Christian home and now am definitely not a believer. I was very involved in my church. I sang up front many many sundays. I helped out in the nursery. My entire social life was wrapped around the church. That was all I knew. I loved God. I read the Bible cover to cover many many times. I prayed fervently on the constant. I witnessed to those around me. I published a Christian girl’s online magazine/newsletter. I served at the nursing home about once a month. I went to Africa with the Jesus Film. I was the definition of “youth that don’t leave the church.” You say it’s not a formula and yet you basically endorse it as if it is. 

As a father I can say that I would be encouraged by these things; encouraged yes, but not persuaded.  Your mother and I do the best we can to examine your hearts.  We don’t just assume that your conformity to the surroundings that we’ve immersed you in is evidence of a regenerated heart.  For all we know, a different environment will bring about a different conformity. We can see that this has been the case with this poor soul.

When she continues with her comment she transitions from herself as the topic to accusations against the Church.  She explains why not any of the external evidences that she manifested earlier mattered in the end:

I’ll just say in my case, I am a naturally very curious person. And I had questions about Christianity that apparently are not really encouraged to be asked. I found a huge gap between Christianity and authenticity. I left because it wasn’t real to me anymore. I left because I saw how it’s all a show and fear tactics. I left because I had discovered what real love looked like. I left because I honestly can’t believe in a God that created us so he could enjoy us and yet send most of his creation to Hell for eternity. I left because I FINALLY found peace….Instead of writing articles on why the youth are or aren’t leaving the church, why not just ask us? You may be really surprised at our answers. 🙂  

I’d like to respond to this part of her comment for your sake.  So let’s look at each statement individually.  She starts:

I’ll just say in my case, I am a naturally very curious person. 

Curiosity is a human trait. No one need deny it in order to be a Christian, nor does having more of it keep anyone from being a Christianity.  But we do begin to pick up on a veiled arrogance as we read this sentence in the context of the rest of the comment.  It is but an arrogant assumption that curiosity and Christianity are not compatible, which is an unsubstantiated assumption.  That arrogance will become more blatant as we continue with her comment.

 And I had questions about Christianity that apparently are not really encouraged to be asked.

You will hear this accusation often, but is it true?  Does “Christianity” really discourage the asking of questions?  While I can’t speak to her personal experience, I can speak to Christianity in general.  But before I do, I’d like to speak to her–unwitting I’m sure–sleight of hand in this statement.  She makes a general indictment against a very large, old and encompassing thing, Christianity.  And she bases it on a narrow and limited thing, her experience.  Where was her curiosity?  If she felt discouraged from asking questions in her limited experience, why didn’t she go elsewhere for answers?   She is, after all, living in the age of the internet, with lots of answers at her fingertips available to anyone with just a little bit of curiosity.  But man is a blame shifter by nature, and he is quick to shift blame from self to others, and I think that’s what’s happening here.  I’ve never been discouraged from asking questions.  That’s been my experience.  And I certainly haven’t discouraged you from asking them.  But even if I had been discouraged I would not have been thwarted, I have more curiosity than that.

But there is another side to this equation.  Some of the answers will necessarily be, “I don’t know.”, which is the truth.  And that is the rub for many I think.  There is so much that we don’t know.  But remember that this will be true regardless of whether you are an atheist, Muslim, Buddhist or whatever.  It is not as if this poor soul has moved into a system of thought that has all the answers.  We can know she hasn’t.  But as far as Christianity is concerned, God promises to save us from our sins.  He doesn’t promise to make us all knowing.

I found a huge gap between Christianity and authenticity.

Here I’m sure she has a point.  She herself was obviously not authentic.  But even had she been authentic, she would have still been surrounded by inauthenticity within the Church.  Jesus tells us that weeds are planted among the wheat.  So it should not have surprised her.  But even if she were surrounded by “wheat” only, she would have still been surrounded by inauthenticity.  This raises a serious question that demands an answer.  If others had looked at her life alone, and judged Christianity on it alone, would they have seen a “huge gap between Christianity and authenticity”?  I know the answer because I know humans.  The answer is yes, they would have seen a gap.  So have grace my dear children on your brothers and sisters in the Lord.  They are running a race and fighting the fight just as are you.  True authenticity is the admission to each other that we are not authentic.  The believer understands this.  The unbeliever can’t.

But I will chalk this up to her youth, which is naturally idealistic.  She will in time discover that no matter what she pursues, the lack of authenticity will be a part of it.  Even if she pursues lawlessness, she will still be inauthentic, because she will be offended when others steal from her, harm her, lie to her and so on.  Should she become an environmentalist, a secular humanist, an activist, it won’t matter.  She will still be in the midst of inauthenticity, and I can say this with the utmost confidence.  Why?  Because man is fallen.  He can’t be authentic in anything. There was only one authentic person to ever live, and she has rejected Him.  She will eventually have to either accept this fact, or shut down her curiosity altogether.  She will have to lie to herself, which might finally, after all, allow her to exist in an authentic, if unreal, world.  Man is most authentic when he is deceiving himself.

I left because it wasn’t real to me anymore.  I left because I saw how it’s all a show and fear tactics.

Given the rest of her comment this makes sense.  But it raises yet more questions.  What is real?  If she was so convinced all her life that Christianity was the real thing, and then it suddenly becomes unreal, what then?  How can she ever trust herself in judging “realness” again?  She will necessarily discover, with even a tiny bit of curiosity, that this lack of realness will follow her wherever she goes, unless, again, she deceives herself.  Christianity confronts the lack of realness head on.  It provides answers concerning our purpose, evil, pain and suffering.  That is real.  She won’t find these answers elsewhere.  At best she will only be able to expend herself attempting the impossible task of rebuilding Eden.  And she will fail like the millions who have attempted it before her.

I left because I honestly can’t believe in a God that created us so he could enjoy us and yet send most of his creation to Hell for eternity. I left because I FINALLY found peace.

The vail has been removed now and she is revealing her true reason for leaving, which is that she hates God.  She hates Him because He is Sovereign, and she is at war with Him, hence no peace.  But most of all she hates Him because he is Just.  She, like all people, has broken God’s law.  She, like you and I, have lied, and stolen, and have hated–which Jesus equates to murder.  We are all guilty, and there is a just reward for us all in our guilt.  But God, in his love, sent his Son to die on the cross.  He has reconciled us to Him through His Son.  He has made peace with us.  Jesus said, “Peace I leave with you; my peace I give to you. Not as the world gives do I give to you.”  Sure, there is a measure of peace that can be found in living in self-deception.  Whistling in the dark can gain a measure of peace I suppose.  But it doesn’t change the reality that not only will she sin against those around her, those around her will sin against her.  And while her sin might not seem all that bad to her, we can know that the sin of others, who do not buy into her way of thinking, will steal back what peace she might muster, and then some.

I left because I had discovered what real love looked like.

This is arrogance completely unveiled.  Can she really believe that she, a young person in the 21st century, has figured something out that 2000 years of scholars, martyrs and devouts missed?  Evidently so, and there is the arrogance.  Those lovers of God would be in tears to “learn” that the whole thing has been nothing but a hoax, perpetrated on hundreds of millions of people over thousands of years.  But not her.  Oh no.  She’s smarter than all that, and in her thinking herself smarter, she exudes pride.  She knows what real love is, and all those who have gone before were fooled, lacking perhaps the curiosity to not be fooled.  They had no idea what real love was.

Her curiosity ought to have led her to the realization of her ignorance.  Real love was Jesus dying on the cross for those who hated God, and then reconciling them to Himself while they were in the very act of warring against Him.  That’s real love.  Real love has nothing to do with feelings.  It has nothing to do with what’s in it for me… like achieving a few temporary and fleeting warm and fuzzies.  Dear children, please understand, you do not want her “real love”.  The love of self, and how others, or things, make the “self” feel is often mistaken for love.  But in reality it is only self-centeredness.

 

So what do I, your father, think about this?  I think that she is the victim of her times.  You will notice that she rejected a religion, and not the Gospel.  It is a religion that preaches grace without justice.  And, “God loves you unconditionally”  is a religious message devoid of the Gospel, and devoid of a need for the Gospel.  But you will hear it preached time and again.  And it will be preached to unsaved people who are already convinced that God loves them.  And some of them, with a little more curiosity, will know that the threat of eternal Hell fires make the message of unconditional love seem ever so slightly… inauthentic. In fact it is this very thing that she is pointing to in her statement: “I left because I honestly can’t believe in a God that created us so he could enjoy us and yet send most of his creation to Hell for eternity.” 

You will live in a time that has confused social service and unreal love with the Gospel, which removes the power from Christianity and relegates it to just another religion.  The Gospel is key, but the Gospel is not about how great you are in God’s eyes, but rather about what a sorry state you are in, in God’s eyes.  That is an extremely unpopular message in this day.  But once you understand it, the Gospel, and grace, are beautiful; much too beautiful to trade in for a worldly counterfeit.

I came out of the world that this poor girl has fallen in love with.  I know what lies ahead for her and can only hope she will be “very curious” after all.  But for me, I will never forget the words of Peter in John 6.  Jesus had just preached what seemed to those present to be a bizarre message, that one must drink His blood, and eat His flesh to have eternal life.  Most abandoned Him on hearing this, but not His disciples.  After all were gone, Jesus looked at them and asked, “Are you going to leave Me too?”  Peter responded, “To whom shall we go?”   If this girl had received the Gospel, if she had understood justice, and then mercy, she would have asked the same question.  “To whom shall I go?”  She would have known that that question is the question of the ages.

I pray that God would arrest you.  That you would understand justice too, and then mercy.  I pray that you would understand, in the great scheme of things that extend outward, far beyond your being, what a great salvation the salvation offered us through the cross is.

Your father

The Reality Of Man’s Basic Goodness, Or Not So Much

–Continued From previous post–

Reality number 4, Man is not “basically good”

Years ago, while watching the evening news, I saw something that I’ll never forget.  A woman in a courtroom had just received a verdict for something she’d been accused of concerning her children.  I can’t remember what exactly it was, only that is was pretty rotten.  But what struck me was her outburst in response.  As they were taking her out of the courtroom she was in tears crying out over and over, as if defending herself against the real charge, “I am not a bad person, I am not a bad person!”  Had she been living in reality it would have already been settled in her heart and mind that not only was she not a good person, the fact that she wasn’t was probably one of the few things that she had in common with every other person in the room.  That word “good”, in her judgement of self, called forth a standard.  This is true for all of us.  Without first accepting that our judgments demand a basis, it is quite impossible for us to reside in the land of reality.  This is certainly true if we are making moral judgements, and especially true if we are making them about ourselves.

When we are exploring the condition of man, you see, we are not so much attempting to answer the question, “Is man basically good?”, as we are attempting to define an all too common word in the English language.  Man is by his nature quick to run to his own defense when his basic goodness is in question.  He will in general declare it as a self-evident-truth in the same way the convicted woman did when she insisted that she was, in spite of and after all the evidence to the contrary, a good person.  But is this reality?  Is man really basically good?

When we hear someone assume man’s goodness, or appeal to it in defense of a popular sin,  we can know that “good” was generally defined loosely by a bunch of assumptions that are as common as the word itself.  But don’t you make those assumptions.  Know that the word always necessarily refers to a standard.  So to answer the question concerning our goodness, we must first seek the standard to which the word refers.  The standard we humans usually appeal to is no standard at all but rather an emotional opinion, our own.  “I am a good person.  Why you ask?  Because I think so, that’s why.”  But the Bible presents us with another standard, the very standard as it turns out that God will measure us by, and so therefore the same standard by which we ought to measure ourselves while we can.  And that standard is nothing less than perfection.

So if we use God’s standard, it is safe for us to realistically conclude that we, as human beings, are not basically good.  So not only does reality match up with this truth, so does history; not to mention the last 2000 years of church doctrine, all of which are good indicators that we are on the right track for living in reality.  And Indeed, not only does the Bible proclaim this truth once in some obscure passage, but throughout it drives the point home like a hammer driving a nail.  The scriptures insists that man is fallen, that he is not basically good, that he is a law breaker, that he is at war with God and that he is inclined toward evil at all times.  Unless we are masters of denial, it is impossible to read the Bible and conclude that man is basically good.  We must therefore either reject the Bible, or confess what it says, which is that we not only need a savior, we are in a horribly desperate situation and in dire need of a savior.  This truth, as you might guess, is not a popular one–not even among those who claim to love and know God.  But that should be expected I suppose.  Anyone, after all, even if  they’ve done something horrible to their children, can appeal to the sliding scale of their social counterparts and come away content that they’re doing just fine, thank you very much.

So the reality of man’s true condition is an unpopular one, which is probably why the Bible, with all of its talk about love, is still very much hated and despised.  Take Hell for instance.  The Bible paints awful pictures of this place, and Jesus says Himself that, without an intervention,”good” demands that we are all condemned to go there.  Now why would God respond so over-the-top harshly to people who are basically good?  He doesn’t.  If we think He does, then we don’t understand “good” in such a way that sheds true light on our “bad”.

The truth concerning our condition is a stark one.  The standard against which we must begin our judgments of ourselves is a one that only Jesus has ever achieved.  And that was what made Him worthy of a sacrifice on the behalf of those who are inherently bad. If I could never get you to understand anything else about the Gospel,  I would that you understand this:  It is in His righteousness, and in His righteousness alone, that any claim by anyone can be made to goodness.  It is folly to compare ourselves to others for a basis of declaring ourselves good.  It is worse than folly to appeal to our bearing of God’s image.  It is also folly to define good according to a standard that we create for the express purpose of declaring ourselves good.  No, the reality is that man is not basically good.  To deny this is to deny reality.  But to accept it is to open the door to the gospel, the very door that leads to repentance.  We truly are in a bad way, but it is in the depths of our despair that we are finally able to, not only hear the good news, but to embrace it with great praise and thanksgiving.

I pray that you would never lose sight of these few of the many realities that you must accept and which you cannot change, that you would grow in righteousness, and be saved, and renew your mind.  These are starting points; a place to begin.  You need to know that you are living in a society that every day ventures further from reality, so it is of the utmost importance that, as you go out into this evil world,  you not only have a place to stand, but that you are able to stand, and after you have done all, to stand.

Your father

Start With God. Work To Man. Not The Other Way Around

Dear children,

I’m sure you will remember a common question that I’ve asked you, and the answer that I’ve taught you to give.  “Are you smart/fast/handsome/pretty?” and so on.  I’ve taught you to answer “Compared to who?”  There is a reason for this silliness.  Indeed such questions demand a reference point.  All of us are smarter, faster, and so on, than some, but not others.  It is my hope that you would always realize the need of a reference point outside of yourself for making determinations about yourself.  In other words, I want you to think objectively and not subjectively.

Objective thinking will be an indispensable concept for you to grasp as you form the lense through which you will ultimately see and interpret your world.  If you become subjective you must put yourself at the center of the universe and be the measure of all things.  But to think objectively you must look for a higher standard, a standard outside of yourself, and a standard that has proven itself by withstanding the test of time and assault.  That standard is your very creator, God.  He has given it to us though His Word, the Bible.  So, as we interpret our world we must begin with God and not Man, and then work our way to man.  So here are two examples of starting with man.  One was written by what appears to be a fine young Christian man.  And the other example is from a God hating atheist.

The first I found in an article that was addressing an often quoted scripture,  Isaiah 64:6., which says: “We all have become like one who is unclean, and all our righteous deeds are like a polluted garment.”  The writer wanted to make the case that not all of our righteous deeds really are as “filthy rags”.  He does a good job of appealing to the context of the passage and to good Bible believing theologians.  Whether or not his claim has merit is not my point in this letter.  What is my point is that he uses one argument that starts with man and then works to God.  Here is an excerpt:

“What father do you know looks to his children and says, “Your works are worthless, and they are nothing but complete trash in my eyes?” Hopefully none. Or maybe some earthly fathers are like that, but our heavenly Father isn’t one of them. “

He is correct.  I do not know of a father who would do such a thing.  But that’s the very reason that this argument has such an appeal.  It has a good feeling to it.  But the argument starts with man, and then attempts to work its way to God, and that is a mistake that I hope you will avoid, and here’s why.  While I don’t know a father who would do such a thing, I do know that all fathers are men.  And in being men I know that they have sinned horribly.  If they are true Christians then it is safe to say that their minds are being renewed.  But it is not safe to say that their minds have become renewed.  Their view of perfection and righteousness is still tainted.  The bottom line is that they are in no position to say whether anyone’s righteousness is actually righteous or not.  So do we really want to look at what an earthly father would do and then impose that standard on God? Of course not.  Better to start with God, who is holy, righteous, perfect, and oh, by the way, sinless, then work our way to man, who is corrupt and fallen in his nature.  God’s holiness and righteousness is the objective standard.  And we have all fallen short of that standard.

The second example is from a video which attempts to challenge the Biblical concept of eternal punishment of mankind for the sins of Adam, as well as Jesus’ payment for those sins on the cross.  It does so in the context of a make-believe family of five.  The story centers around the youngest brother.  He lives in fear of the horrible punishment he’s going to receive because his older sister disobeyed her parents before he was even born.  She had eaten some chocolate that she was forbidden to eat.  The video goes on to talk about a third brother whom the parents punished horribly because of the sister’s disobedience.  In short, the video presents a caricature of the Gospel message, and then it attempts to refute that messagel by appealing to man’s sensibilities.  The narrator asks, “Can you imagine if this story was true?  Wouldn’t the parents be labeled as psychopathic and be locked away somewhere for child abuse?”

Can you see it?  He is appealing to what man would do, and then he is judging God by those standards.  But what if he were to start with God?  What if he started with the fact that God is holy, righteous, perfect and just? All of a sudden disobeying God is not a small thing but a very large thing.  Add to this that, because of Adam’s sin, it is the very nature of man to rebel against God, to actually be at war with God, and to hate God.  When we see things the way they really are, the innocence of man sinks into an ocean of sin.

But let’s continue our analysis.  Imagine that God still loves His creation anyway, and wants to save some of those who hate Him, and who are at war with Him.  So He uses a means that allows Himself to remain righeous and just while still foregoing the punishment of those who hate Him and are at that very moment in rebellion against Him.  So He he pours out His justice on His Son, even while the recipients of God’s grace are still warring against Him so that He can make peace with them.  Can you see how that is starting with God?

Now let us continue as we work our way to man.  We do this by attempting to see things from God’s perspective rather than seeing God’s from ours.  Suppose therefore that you are surrounded by people who hate you with a passion, and who want you dead.   Now suppose that you could kill all of them in a flash, but instead you loved some of them in spite of their hatred of you.  And suppose also that to simply forgive them would be unjust and therefore wrong, and so therefore against your nature.  But suppose that your love was so great that you decided to punish your own son, who had never broken even one of your laws, and who loved you more than any of those people out there could even imagine, so that you could forgive them and call them into your own love and protection.  This is more like the real Gospel.  And think about it, would not those on the outside then also hate those whom you had brought in to be with you?  Would not those on the outside call you insane?  Yes, they would.  But that’s just it.  If you are in Christ, God’s love for you is rooted in His love for His Son.  It actually is an insane love.

So, dear children, it is my desire for you that you would pick up on it immediately when man makes appeals to what man would do to determine what God would do.  It is better to understand the attributes of your Father in Heaven, who He is, and what He’s like, and start there, then look at man in light of those realities.  And I pray you would do just that.  I pray that God would give you the discernment to differentiate between man’s vain wisdom and the God’s truth.

Your father

To Be Ashamed Of God Is To Judge God

Dear children,

God is real.  He is the creator of everything, and He is the creator of you.  God is also good.  But he is not good according to man’s judgement of what good is.  He is good according to His own standard.  And in that God is good, he is necessarily just.  He judges all things rightly.  And there we, his creation, find ourselves in an overwhelming predicament, for we are not good, according to God’s judgements.  God’s justice rightly condemns us because all have broken His law.  But there is good news!  God loved this world in such a way that we do not have to abide in God’s wrath.  He sent His son to pray the price for our sin.  That, dear children, is the best news you will ever hear.

Yet, here is the problem for sinful man, even in light of God’s Gospel.  Here I will let the Bible speak, for I do not want you to think it is me saying this:

What shall we say then? Is there injustice on God’s part? By no means! For he says to Moses, “I will have mercy on whom I have mercy, and I will have compassion on whom I have compassion.” So then it  [salvation] depends not on human will or exertion, but on God, who has mercy. (Rm 9:15-16)

This is, in my own opinion, one of the most difficult passages in the Bible.  But whose opinion is my opinion?  Am I in a position to judge God?  Of course not!  Should I be ashamed to serve a God who has mercy on some and not others?  On the contrary, I have but one question that matters more than any other.  Did He in fact have mercy on me?  Like the old Hymn, which was sung as a prayer, says: “Just as I am without one plea, but that thy blood was shed for me…”  But the writer understood that there was more, and that “more” is of the utmost importance.  So he adds to his one plea another: “…and that Thy bidest me come to thee..”  This is the question that you ought to be asking also, and pleading to God that He grant to you His mercy so that you may come to Him.

So here is the objection that causes many Christians to be ashamed of their God.  It normally goes something like this:  “What about the man who has lived his whole life in some remote tribe, and who has never heard the Gospel?  What happens to that man when he dies?”  I admit that this is one of the most difficult questions that you will ever be asked.  I think Paul answers the question in this same chapter, Romans 9, albeit not an answer that anyone likes.  And while probably millions of pages have been written in attempts to answer this very old question, the only point I want to get across to you now is to not ever be ashamed of your God for not having mercy on some, for to be ashamed of your God you must first judge your God… and that will never do.  God is our creator.  He can do with us as He pleases, and in the end He will still be good according to the only standard that matters, His.

We must begin all of our thinking with God, and then work our way from Him to man; not the other way around.  We start with God, who is good, holy, righteous and perfect.  Whatever He does, regardless of what we think, does not change that fact.  What we think doesn’t matter because our thinking has been corrupted with sin.  We, as mere men, are in no place to judge God for his decisions.  He can do as he pleases, even if it doesn’t please us.  But then again, that is the very thing that we have to be thankful for.  For it pleased God to send his Son to die on the cross so that we can escape His wrath.  He poured out that wrath on His sinless Son!  We, as sinful man, are in big trouble without this sacrifice.

I saw a bumper-sticker once that said “Born Ok The First Time”.  Born OK?  According to whose standard?  God says that we were born not OK and that we need to be born again.  That was His decree.  We must put our faith in His mercy, and plead with Him that His blood was shed for us, and also that He bid us come.  We must be born again.  We must not be ashamed of God because He does not measure up to man’s–read, our own–ideas of justice.  Look about you, man’s justice is corrupt.  You don’t need a magnifying glass to understand that.  The last thing in this world that we should desire is that God would live up to our views of “justice”.

I believe that both of you are born again.  But so many children in this day get caught up in this world.  Troubles come and they fall away.  The cares of this world and the deceitfulness of wealth can choke out your faith.  And many young abandon their faith when they are older.  I pray that you would grasp that, no greater love is there than the laying down of one’s life for another.  I pray for you daily that God would bid you come.  I pray that God would grow you up into people who are according to the Spirit, and not the flesh.  I pray that you both would become mighty warriors in God’s army, and that you would not be lost to God’s wrath. I pray that he would overcome my failures and weaknesses as a mere man, and direct your eyes and your minds to Himself.  It is my number one prayer for you.  And again I pray that God would grant me this one desire, Amen.

Your father.

 

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