Saturday, August 28, 2010

All in the family

One of the consequences of liberalism, modernism, and post-modernism has been the rise of religious pluralism even in the churches. Here is a recent conversation in which I participated, which serves as a tragic illustration of the sort of ‘lostness’ endemic among us. I hope my analysis might prove helpful to others. Obviously in a written forum one can go into more detail; I would suggest distilling this significantly in conversation. Stick to basic exegesis of the text of Scripture, and keep the main point in view. This conversation shows some of the contemporary difficulties evangelists face in presenting the truth claims of the Gospel.

I wonder...you have so much to say about scripture....and the Christian Faith...sometimes knowing ABOUT God is much different than knowing God....love is ALWAYS a subjective experience....one of the heart...not singularly the intellect..."

Regarding your comment on knowing about God versus knowing God: This seems to be operating on the odd presupposition that the more someone knows about God, the less he probably actually knows or has relationship with God. I mean, you haven't seen whether I live in accord with my profession. You just simply assume that I probably lack relational knowledge of God - but on what ground? Because I know things about the Scriptures, and I'm willing to say them whether people take offense or not? That's the implication of what you're saying. So the more I know about what God has said, the less I probably know God. How does that thinking make sense? The Psalmist treasures God's word in his heart, and Jesus said that it is those who abide in His word who are truly his disciples (John 8:31). His sheep know His voice, and they follow Him (John 10). The list goes on. In Scripture, knowing what God's word says is not a bad thing. It's absurd to think that you can know someone without knowing something about him. And to the degree that you don't know about a person, that will hinder your ability to know him. Cognitive knowledge isn't sufficient, to be sure, but it is necessary. The question becomes whether my life is consistent with my profession - does my life show that I am born again? - and to know whether someone's actions are consistent with his profession, you'd have to see how he lives. Without a solid profession, one isn't a Christian. But with a solid profession, it becomes a matter of fruit-bearing. And unless you can rightly assess fruitfulness, your artificial dichotomy has no support. It may feel good to frame things this way, but it's self-deceptive to belittle knowing about God. It may give you an out, but beware of being hoodwinked. Those who love God want to learn as much as they possibly can about who He is as He has revealed Himself. They want to know what God says about Himself. For example, "Great are the works of the Lord, studied by all who delight in them." (Ps. 111:2) Apparently you aren't really considering whether this could be my motive. And don't misunderstand - I'm not saying this in defence of myself. I am saying it because it has bearing on your revelation-diminishing perspective.

Keep in mind that even if I am a raging hypocrite, that's MY problem, not YOUR excuse. If what I say is true, irrespective of my own personal state, you have to submit to it, not because it's from me, but because it is the truth. No one will hide behind another's hypocrisy on judgment day.

"Like I said...I used to believe in the exclusivity of Christ...I just have a hard time believing that at this point...I also need to trust that God loves me in my frail faith and is not going to keep me on the wrong side of His gates because I struggle with this...that would be like a parent kicking their teen out because they asked questions...problem's not with the teen for asking questions...but with the parent..for not loving unconditionally.."

I can't say whether Jesus is his only revelation...I used to say that...but just can't anymore...having been so trashed by those who say they are the only one's who have a line to the true Father through Christ.....

Second, and I say this because (1) most people won't; and (2) I fear for you. I don't think you know how profoundly rebellious this comment really is: "Like I said...I used to believe in the exclusivity of Christ...I just have a hard time believing that at this point...I also need to trust that God loves me in my frail faith and is not going to keep me on the wrong side of His gates because I struggle with this...that would be like a parent kicking their teen out because they asked questions...problem's not with the teen for asking questions...but with the parent..for not loving unconditionally.."

You're simply presuming that you have a familial relationship with God. Yet God has made adoption into His family conditioned upon relationship with Christ alone (John 1:12-13). It's those who receive Jesus who have the right to become children of God. You can't presume on the familial relation with God if you do not have the legal problem rectified first - and our legal problem is dealt with at the cross and applied by truly believing in Jesus, by believing in His substitutionary death and resurrection, and by God counting us as righteous through faith. But when you deny that Jesus is the exclusive way, you're showing that you do not believe Him and His work. If you did, you would see that it is necessary for salvation. So you do not have the right to presume on a familial relationship with God. I don't like having to say this, but you're in grave danger here.

You have great reason to question whether you've received Jesus, because you explicitly disbelieve what He says. Your metaphor pictures an inquisitive teen. Putting aside the presumption that you're in God's family, the reality is that you're not wondering HOW something works; you're denying something, namely, that Christ is the exclusive way to salvation, precisely because you understand what this means - that everyone who doesn't believe stands condemned. It's not that you don't get that or understand it, it's that you don't like it. This isn't merely inquisitive. It's rebellious. God is Father of His children, but He is also King, Judge, Creator. Those who are not counted righteous in Christ are enemies of God.

If you knew God, you would never even think of impugning God's character by saying, "the problem is with the parent for not loving unconditionally". You define love the way you want it, and then you condemn God if He doesn't match up to your standard. That's the epitome of the clay talking back to the Potter. You turn things upside down. That's rebellion. For if you loved God, you would bow the knee, no matter how He chooses to express His love.

Please, consider what you're saying. You are defining God the way you want Him, and rejecting the parts you don't like. That's by definition idolatry. A rejection of God.

Jesus spoke to some people who apparently believed in Him, but they didn't like everything that He had to say. Jesus wasn't fooled  (John 8:31-33). He tells them: "But because I tell the truth, you do not believe me. Which one of you convicts me of sin? If I tell the truth, why do you not believe me? Whoever is of God hears the words of God. The reason why you do not hear them is that you are not of God.”" If you do not believe what Jesus said about Him being the exclusive way to the Father, Jesus Himself says that you are actually not of God. That's what these Jews here were doing - they were assuming that they would be ok without Jesus, while denying that Jesus was the only way: "31 So Jesus said to the Jews who had believed in him, “If you abide in my word, you are truly my disciples, 32 and you will know the truth, and the truth will set you free.” 33 They answered him, “We are offspring of Abraham and have never been enslaved to anyone. How is it that you say, ‘You will become free’?”" They were, like you, presuming that they were in God's family.

Jesus says that to reject God's word, to reject Jesus' words, means you're of the devil. It means that your father isn't God, it's Satan. "Because I tell the truth, you do not believe me." That's Jesus speaking. Not me. I didn't make this up. Jesus said to them, “If God were your Father, you would love me, for I came from God and I am here. I came not of my own accord, but he sent me. Why do you not understand what I say? It is because you cannot bear to hear my word. You are of your father the devil, and your will is to do your father's desires. He was a murderer from the beginning, and has nothing to do with the truth, because there is no truth in him." You need to be in God's family on His terms - otherwise, you're in a very different family

Can you bear to hear God's word? Check yourself at this point, because it doesn't look like you can. Jesus says that your perspective puts you in grave danger: "But because I tell the truth, you do not believe me." These Jews He spoke to here presumed that they were in God's family just because they were Jews. But Jesus defines God's family as those who believe what Jesus says and abide in His word. And sadly that just isn't where you stand. And you would even blame God for not receiving you! I'm not saying this to hurt you, but to call you to repent and believe Jesus for your sake. Jesus extends an offer of mercy. You need to embrace it. But you need to embrace it on God's terms, not your own. It's not a plea bargain or a conditional surrender. You need to bow the knee, put your hand over your mouth, listen to Jesus, and wholeheartedly trust Him.

"Whoever is of God hears the words of God. The reason why you do not hear them is that you are not of God."

"well, then, I guess I am in rebellion...
I'm wondering if you work...
Thanks for taking the time to try to save my soul.
I have been a "good girl' all my life, and tried so hard to follow the Christian way.
I'm just tired now,
and God knows....

and if I am not of God...well...I've done my best in my life to be of Him...
now...
well...we'll see."

“28 Come to me, all who labor and are heavy laden, and I will give you rest.  29 Take my yoke upon you, and learn from me, for I am gentle and lowly in heart, and you will find rest for your souls.  30 For my yoke is easy, and my burden is light.” (Jesus, Matthew 11:28-30).

As an addendum, it would seem that my interlocutor doesn’t actually understand Christianity, that being found to be pleasing to God does not involve working for God, but receiving from God. Also, being “of God”, in a Johannine context, basically refers to being born again from above. “I’ve done my best in my life to be of Him” seems to misunderstand at a fundamental level how one becomes of God – and it is not by doing and trying:

John 3:5-8  
5 Jesus answered, "Truly, truly, I say to you, unless one is born of water and the Spirit, he cannot enter the kingdom of God.  6 That which is born of the flesh is flesh, and that which is born of the Spirit is spirit.  7 Do not marvel that I said to you, 'You must be born again.'  8 The wind blows where it wishes, and you hear its sound, but you do not know where it comes from or where it goes. So it is with everyone who is born of the Spirit."

Even though the offer of salvation is a free gift, people do not by nature want to receive it.

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