Tuesday, January 7, 2014

Was Jesus more loving than today's Christians?

What is More Loving, Compromise or Truth?

In this day of relative truth and compromise of the word of God in the name of making it more palatable to the world there is a gross misconception.  It is that "a loving God would never destroy sinners for desires that seem to be so natural."  
That somehow God's love and Jesus' kindness that was so often exhibited in scripture must somehow mean that some truths in the bible don't apply. That if it feels natural, God must mean for us to enjoy it.  Even if it directly contradicts scripture.  So by that thought process, in today's culture, any Christian that calls sin, sin even if done lovingly, is still considered a judgmental, hatemonger and not acting as Jesus would have.  Is that true?  I would not dare suggest that all Christians deliver the truth appropriately all the time.  This however, does not change the truth.  Let's see how the bible connects God's love and Jesus' kindness in relationship to our repentance.

In our day, this discussion is most often had in relationship to homosexuality, but before that the same discussion was had about fornication, adultery, and even divorce.  All of these sins have ben justified at one time or another based on an unbiblical understanding of love.

A Key Text
In Romans Ch. 2 the Apostle Paul is speaking regarding judgment.  God's judgment of sinners and sinners' judgment of each other.  In speaking to people's judgment of each other, Paul is condemning hypocritical judgment.  He is condemning those who judge others for sin that they themselves are guilty of. In the grander scheme of the chapter Paul is making it clear that all are guilty of sin and that those who are impenitent (without repentance), are not followers of Christ and will be judged.
My primary text is Romans 2:4(ESV) in which Paul states, "Or do you presume on the riches of his kindness and forbearance and patience, not knowing that God's kindness is meant to lead you to repentance."
A Misunderstanding
I have heard this scripture stated this way, "God's kindness leads us to repentance".  You will notice that this is a misrepresentation of that text.  The verse states that, "God's kindness is meant to lead you to repentance".  Thus, if you believe that God does not expect you to change biblically sinful behavior just because it feels natural, you have a misunderstanding of the purpose of God's kindness.

So What Is Repentance?

Repentance means to recognize actions, thoughts, or attitudes of disobedience as rebellious acts against God, to feel remorse for them, and to intentionally change directions. It means we must move away from disobedience and toward acts of biblical obedience to God and His word.

This should not be done out of biblical duty, but from the desire of a changed heart.  If this is not the desire of our heart we have a problem.  If we do not feel remorse and desire change when we become aware of sin in our lives, then we have reason to question our eternal destiny.  A heart that has truly been captured by God will make itself evident through acts of repentance.

What Does Jesus's Kindness Look Like?

Does kindness in the scriptures suggest a compromise of truth?  Let's look at a scripture that many use to suggest that Jesus tells us not to judge each other.  The presumption being that Jesus did not judge the sin of the adulterous woman in the following scripture reference.
In John 8:7(ESV) Jesus says, "And as they continued to ask him, he stood up and said, "Let him who is without sin among you be the first to throw a stone at her"
Now, it should be noted that most bibles have a notation stating that John 7:53-8:11, which encompasses the whole of this story, is not included in the earliest manuscripts.  Whether you agree with this or not, and I am not saying that I do, the fact remains that many use this scripture as an argument against judging sin.

What this scripture is actually dealing with is two fold.  One is the fact that the Pharisees are trying to test Jesus and catch him in something that they can hold against him.  Second is that Jesus is effectively ruling out our right to punish sinners in a corporal punishment sense.  Just as Jesus does at the end of this text, we are to lovingly call sinners to repentance, not beat them up or personally kill them.  (Corporal punishment is given to the government later in the New Testament, not to the individual).

Jesus' kindness does NOT manifest itself in condoning the woman's adulterous ways.  He shows his kindness by providing the grace of another chance to "go and sin no more".  In saying this, He indirectly makes it clear that the lifestyle she was in was sinful and needed to be repented of.

What Does God's Love And Kindness Look Like?

As evidenced in the quote from Romans above, God's kindness manifests itself in loving patience and forbearance.  You see, if God acted merely out of His justice and wrath, and His love and mercy did not play a role, He would be well within His rights to destroy every sinner right now and send them to Hell.  In view of His holiness and our rebellion against Almighty God, that would be a righteous and just response to our sin.  However, He does not do that.  Romans 3:23(ESV) tells us that
 "all have sinned and fall short of the glory of God, and are justified by his grace as a gift, through the redemption that is in Christ Jesus, whom God put forward as a propitiation, by his blood, to be received by faith.  This was to show God's righteousness, because in his divine forbearance he had passed over former sins.  It was to show his righteousness at the present time, so that he might be just and the justifier of the one who has faith in Jesus."
Jesus came to take the punishment for our sins.  He satisfied God's wrath toward the sin of, and removed the guilt that was due to, every believer that has ever been and ever will be.  All who believe will receive the redemption that was bought for us by the blood of Christ on the cross.  That is what it means that God put Jesus forward as a propitiation. 

2 Peter 3:9(ESV) tells us that,
"The Lord is not slow to fulfill his promise as some count slowness, but is patient toward you, not wishing that any should perish, but that all should reach repentance."
So What Does All Of This Mean?

It means that God's love and Jesus' kindness should not be understood as a license to do whatever feels right. It means that God has allowed us to live in spite of our sin and rebellion and sent His son to take the punishment for our sins so that all who, by His grace would believe, will be saved.

It means that Christians must not only call out sin, but continually recognize that even they, are simply sinners saved by grace.  This realization should create an appreciation for their own salvation that fuels compassion in their hearts toward the lost.  If that is happening then their approach to sinners or believers, whom they are calling to account, should not be one of contempt, but of grace.  We as believers should be calling sinners, and believers who are sinning to repentance with all the grace by which God calls us to repentance.

It in no way means that if we are truly loving, we will say nothing at all and let people do what makes them happy.  If we truly believe that people who are living in unrepentant sin, which manifests itself as a lifestyle or an attitude of disregard for biblical truth, are headed for Hell; then the least loving thing we could do is say nothing at all.

What we must help them realize is that we understand that we were lost sinners as well, just like them, until God saved us.  And, that we want them to know God's saving grace in the same way that we do.  We must help them understand that this life is a vapor and that they must appreciate the full weight of the eternal consequences of sin in order to appreciate their need for Jesus.  We must help them understand that we do not speak the truth of God's word because we think our way is better.  We do it because Jesus commanded this of His disciples before He returned to heaven(Matthew 28:18-20).

Wrap Up.

If you are reading this and everything in you is screaming, "HE'S FULL OF IT!  HE IS TWISTING SCRIPTURE!"  or anything else that feels angry about what I have stated here, I pray that you will go back and read it again.  Read the whole of John and at least the first eight chapters of Romans.  Get a real solid feel for what the bible says about sin and it's consequences.  Also, for who the bible says Jesus is and why He came.  If your going to reject these truths, at least know that you have studied enough to know what you are rejecting.

If you are reading this and you feel a stirring and tugging at your heart that is uneasy, not because you hate it, but because you are starting to feel as if you might actually believe it then please, read more.  Cry out to God to save you.  You don't need a formulaic prayer or to do anything else first.  God can save you right where you are and then He will give you the continuing hunger for Him and His word and He will enable the clarity needed to do everything else.  As I said before, read the Gospel of John and Romans.  Get in a church that teaches through books of the bible.  Meet with the Pastor and discuss your thoughts and feelings.

As always, if one life is changed by this post or any other in this blog, then it is worth the effort.  I pray it will be so.

In Jesus name,

Amen.

1 comment:

  1. good post Joshua. I'm glad I stopped by to read it.

    ReplyDelete