Archive | January, 2011

Question: Would you rather receive justice or grace from God?

17 Jan

Most common answer: Grace.

My answer: Both. Why? I’ll tell you.

This question was posed recently in our BSF (Bible Study Fellowship) study questions, and it bothered me. First of all, at it’s core, this question is an indication of a fundamental misunderstanding of Divine justice. Secondly to set justice and grace at opposition to each other is to undermine the integrity of God’s character. God’s justice and grace are neither mutually exclusive concepts nor are they polar opposites.

For an expanded study of Divine justice and it’s implications, please read A.W. Pink’s treatise “The Justice of God”, which can be found here: http://www.eternallifeministries.org/awp_justice.htm .

I will simply provide a short overview from what the Lord has been teaching me lately in His Word.

Common myth: Unbelievers get justice, believers get grace. Let me emphasize this is NOT a Biblical concept, despite how prevalent it seems to be!

The opposite of grace is not justice. Unbelievers get justice. Believers get justice. Unbelievers get condemnation. Believers get grace. Romans 8:1-4 says, “Therefore, no condemnation now exists for this in Christ Jesus, because the Spirit’s law of life in Christ Jesus has set you free from the law of sin and of death. What the law could not do since it was limited by the flesh, God did. He condemned sin in the flesh by sending His own Son in flesh like ours under sin’s domain, and as a sin offering, in order that the law’s requirements would be accomplished in us who do not walk according to the flesh but according to the Spirit.” And John 3:18 says, “Anyone who believes in Him [the Son] is not condemned, but anyone who does not believe is already condemned, because he has not believed in the name of the One and Only Son of God.”

GOD –>

offended by sin –>

Justice–>              Justice–>

Wrath–>                  Wrath–>

            No mediator (for unrepentant)          Christ (mediator for those who repent)

 ( Unrepentant) Sinner–>                   (Repentant) Sinner–>

                                    Destroyed.                   Saved/Redeemed.

[Demonstration of Condemnation]                 [Demonstration of Grace]

As the diagram above illustrates, both the unbeliever AND the believer receive justice. One one hand, the believer’s justice is mediated by Christ, so that the wrath of God is absorbed by Christ and the believer is saved, which is a demonstration of grace in action. On the other hand the unbeliever’s justice is unmediated, which results in the full cup of God’s wrath descending upon him to his ultimate destruction. If God did not accomplish justice on both accounts of the believer and unbeliever, He would compromise His character of holiness, which demands that justice be done. God would be unjust (not accomplishing justice) as well as injust (devoid of justice). He is neither, but fully just and fully accomplishing justice.

Christ came to accomplish justice: BOTH now as Savior for those who believe in His work on the cross, AND ultimately, as Judge for those who refuse to believe. But here’s another twist to understanding the justice of God in Christ: He (Christ) accomplished justice on the cross for those who believe – both for us who have believed AFTER His historical atonement, and for those who believed BEFORE His historical work. Jesus isn’t only “the Way, the Truth and the Life” for New Testament believers and us, He is that for all those who believed God before He came. Think on that for a while and see if it doesn’t blow your mind, like it does mine!

Romans 3:23-26 says, “For all have sinned and fall short of the glory of God. They [those who believe] are justified freely by His grace through the redemption that is in Christ Jesus. God presented Him as a propitiation through faith in His blood, to demonstrate His righteousness, because in His restraint God passed over the sins previously committed. He presented Him to demonstrate His righteousness at the present time, so that He would be righteous and declare righteous the one who has faith in Jesus.”

In otherwords, in light of God’s forbearance with saints in the Old Testament, Christ MUST come, in order to not only justify those of us who believe with a historical Jesus in mind, but also those who by faith believed the Word of God, as much as it was revealed to them in their day (i.e., Abraham, David, etc. Paul in the next chapter of Romans talks about Abraham being justified by faith), though they could not yet point to a place in time where the Messiah was. God PASSED OVER the sins previously committed, like the sins of Abraham who believed God and it was credited to him as righteousness — not just because Abraham believed God, but because God looked past Abraham’s day to JESUS! What Romans is saying here, is that unless Jesus had come, God would not have been righteous in declaring Abraham’s (and other Old Testament saints) faith justifying! God presented Jesus at a certain time and place in history, so that He could show Himself truly righteous in dealing with sin, and be able to remain righteous in justifying sinners who believe God, put their faith in Christ and repent from their sins. Apart from Christ, God has no grounds to justify any of us – we would have no hope of redemption or salvation, because justice demands the satisfaction of God’s wrath against sin. Allow me to “split” a few theological “hairs” here: Our faith in God does not purchase for us salvation from wrath – Christ’s work purchases that for us. Yes, we are saved by grace through faith (Ephesians 2 says so), but that faith only justifies us not because of it’s merit as faith, but because of the grace that undergirds that faith: essentially, the grace demonstrated through Christ’s atonement. The order of salvation, if you think of it in linear terms, is not “faith” + “grace” = “salvation”. It is “grace” + “salvation” = “faith”. By this I mean, faith in God does not procure for us His grace to give us salvation. He had already purposed to demonstrate His heart of grace by providing a means of salvation, and this provision is what makes faith even possible. Without something in which to place our faith, there would be no such thing as faith. God’s salvation came first, even in the case of Old Testament saints who lived before the time of Christ – in God’s eyes, it was already planned, determined, a done deal. That’s what made it possible for them to have faith. God had a plan to save, and therefore they believed Him for it, as much as He revealed to them, which was a great deal, though certainly not the full picture we have post-cross.

SO. God’s justice is demonstrated to us in Christ – where He not only preserves His integrity and Holiness, but also demonstrates His Grace. As believers, we are to desire God’s justice as well love His grace, because without His justice, His is not only NOT God (He would compromise His character), but we would have no hope of salvation. An unjust and injust God is not a good God, and therefore is not a God who would give us any hope of salvation nor any assurance of the possibility of salvation.

Here are some of my favorite scriptures that show we are to love God’s justice, even as believers, and that help us to see just how tied up with justice His love and salvation are:

Ps. 101:1 – I will sing of faithful love and justice; I will sing praise to You, LORD. –Here the Psalmist shows us that we are to love God’s justice so much, we should sing of it as praise to Him.

Is. 1:27 – Zion will be redeemed by justice, her repentant ones by righteousness. –Zion is used in Isaiah not just as a reference to the idyllic state of the nation of Israel, but to the gathering of true believers from all nations and all ages, the Church Invisible. Justice here is shown to be the means of our redemption.

Is. 51:4-5 – Pay attention to Me, My people, and listen to Me, My nation; for instruction will come from Me, and My justice for a light to the nations. I will bring it about quickly. My righteousness is near, My salvation appears, and My arms will bring justice to the nations. The coastlands will put their hope in Me, and they will look to My strength. — Again, in context, this is a future Messianic prophecy both refering to the work of Christ as well as the culmination of all things at the end of time. Here, justice is the light to the nations, and closely associated with righteousness and salvation. Salvation appearing is linked with God bringing justice to the nations, and they will hope in Him.

Is. 46: 12-13 – Listen to me, you hardhearted, far removed from justice: I am bringing My justice near; it is not far away, and My salvation will not delay. I will put salvation in Zion, My splendor in Israel. — Here again, justice and salvation are closely linked.

Jer. 9:24 – But the one who boasts should boast in this, that he understand and knows Me — that I am the LORD, showing faithful love, justice, and righteousness on the earth, for I delight in these things. This is the LORD’s declaration. — Love, justice and righteousness go hand in hand here. The LORD Himself tells us He delights in these things. If He delights in them, should we as His people not also delight in them? We must LOVE His justice.

Hosea 2:19-20 – I will take you to be My wife forever. I will take you to be My wife in righteousness, justice, love, and compassion. I will take you to be My wife in faithfulness, and you will know the LORD. — Here God declares His sovereign will and purpose to make His people completely His, and in doing so, He declares it will be done in righteousness, justice, love, compassion and faithfulness. Justice is here demonstrated to be essential to this being accomplished.

Micah 7:9 – Because I have sinned against Him, I must endure the LORD’s rage until He argues my case and establishes justice for me. He will bring me into the light; I will see His salvation. — I really love this verse, because it deals with sin, and instead of throwing up the typical concepts of grace and mercy as grounds to hope in God’s salvation, justice is used here. The prophet hopes in God because God will argue his case, establish justice for him, and bring him into the light and he will see His salvation. Justice, light, salvation. This is a beautiful description of exactly what Christ does for us.

With all this talk of God’s justice demonstrated in Christ, let me dispell a possible problem that may arise in the minds of some. Was God unjust, or did He demonstrate injustice, in laying all of the wrath and punishment for our sins upon Christ? You hear a lot of talk in the evangelical world of the perfection of Jesus, the innocence of Christ, the flawlessness of the Lamb of God. Would it not then seem unjust to punish someone who didn’t sin for the sins of those who committed them? Isn’t that like sending Mother Teresa to death row for the attrocities committed by Adolf Hitler before and during WWII? Wouldn’t that have been unjust? Well, yes. IF. IF, IF, if… If it had been involuntary. If Jesus had been strong-armed into dying on the cross, or if he had just been unwittingly thrown upon it by the Father’s decision, then YES. Absolutely, unquestionable UNJUST! But. Jesus died WILLINGLY on our behalf. That’s the difference. If your child breaks a jar at the grocery store, and you pay for it, justice has been served, just as much as if your child had to pay for it himself somehow (now if you or your child didn’t pay for it, then the company or other consumers absorb the cost and this penalizes the unwitting or unwilling innocent). Your child didn’t pay for his transgression. You did. But you did it (hopefully) willingly. On his behalf, you absorbed the cost. JUSTICE at work. Jesus said of Himself, in John 10:15 and 17-18, “I lay down My life for the sheep…This is why the Father loves Me, because I am laying down My life so I may take it up again. No one takes it from Me, but I lay it down on My own. I have the right to lay it down, and I have the right to take it up again. I have received this command from My Father.” There is no injustice in Christ WILLINGLY absorbing God’s wrath for our sins – rather, justice is fully served, so righteous grace can be fully demonstrated.

Beautiful. God’s justice is beautiful.

©2011 Reformation Lady and Chandra E. Wellman. All rights reserved.

An email about being born in 1925-1975, God, the Pledge of Allegiance and Jay Leno: My response.

10 Jan

No matter what our kids and the new generation think about usWE ARE AWESOME !!

OUR Lives are LIVING PROOF !!! 

 To Those of  Us  Born1925 – 1975

At the end of this email is a quote of the month by Jay Leno. If you don’t read anything else, pleaseRead what he said. Very well stated, Mr. Leno. 

TO ALL THE KIDS WHO SURVIVED THE 1930s, ’40s, ’50s, ’60s and ’70s!!

First, we survived being born to mothers who may have smoked and/or drankWhile they were pregnant!They took aspirin, ate blue cheese dressing, tuna from a can, and didn’t get tested for diabetes. 

Then, after that trauma, we were

 Put to sleep on our tummies

 In baby cribs covered

With bright colored lead-based paints.

We had no childproof lids on medicine bottles, locks on doors or cabinets,

And, when we rode our bikes,

We had baseball caps,

Not helmets, on our heads.

 As infants and children, we would ride in cars with no car seats, no booster seats, no seat belts, no air bags, bald tires and sometimes no brakes.

Riding in the back of a pick- up truck on a warm day was always a special treat.

We drank water from the garden hose and not from a bottle.

We shared one soft drink with four friends, from one bottle, and no one actually died from this. 

We ate cupcakes, white bread, real butter, and bacon. We drank Kool-Aid made with real white sugar. And we weren’t overweight.

WHY?

Because we were always outside playing…that’s why!

We would leave home in the morning and play all day, as long as we were back when the streetlights came on.

No one was able to reach us all day.

–And, we were OKAY.

We would spend hours building

Our go-carts out of scraps

And then ride them down the hill,

Only to find out we forgot the brakes.. After running into the bushes a few times, we learned to solve the problem.

We did not have Play Stations, Nintendo’s and X-boxes. There were

No video games, no 150 channels on cable,

No video movies or DVDs,

No surround-sound or CDs,
No cell phones,

No personal computers,

No Internet and no chat rooms.

WE HAD FRIENDS

And we went outside and found  them!

We fell out of trees, got cut,

Broke bones and teeth,

And there were no lawsuitsWe would get spankings with wooden spoons, switches, ping-pong paddles, or just a bare hand, and no one would call child services to report abuse.We ate worms, and mud pies

Made from dirt, and

The worms did not live in us forever.

We were given BB guns for our 10th birthdays, made up games with sticks and tennis balls, and -although we were told it would happen- we did not put out very many eyes.

We rode bikes or walked to a friend’s house and knocked on the door or rang the bell, or just walked in and talked to them. 

Little League had tryouts

And not everyone made the team.

Those who didn’t had to learn

To deal with disappointment.

 Imagine that!!

 The idea of a parent bailing us out if we broke the law was unheard of. They actually sided with the law!

These generations have produced some of the best

Problem solvers, and inventors ever.

 The past 50 to 85 years have seen an explosion of innovation and new ideas.

 We had freedom, failure, success and responsibility, and we learned how to deal with it all.If YOU are one of those bornBetween 1925-1970, CONGRATULATIONS!

You might want to share this with others who have had the luck to grow up as kids before the lawyers and the government regulated so much of our lives  for our own good.

 While you are at it, forward it to your kids, so they will know how brave and lucky their parents were.

Kind of makes you want to run through the house with scissors, doesn’t it ?

The quote of the month By Jay Leno: With hurricanes, tornados, fires out of control, mud slides, flooding, severe thunderstorms tearing up the country from one end to another, and with the threat of bird flu and terrorist attacks, are we sure this is a good time to take God out of the Pledge of Allegiance?

 MY RESPONSE

This is a clever and inspiring email being passed around to remember that things haven’t always been as they are now. I think we tend to lose sight of perspective when we forget what life was like for the preceeding generations, and that in the midst of hardships or circumstances much different than ours, God was still faithful to bring them through. I have the utmost regard for my parents’ and grandparents’ generations, who weathered through incredibly challenging days with a great deal of good-heartedness and tough-minded persistence.

That said, I do find this email somewhat misleading. It seems to look back on preceeding generations and paint their times (albeit, with a great deal of tongue-and-cheek humor) in rose-colored hues (I admit to being guilty of doing this often myself). We forget that each generation has its ups and downs, pros and cons, benefits and shortcomings. As the writer of Ecclesiasties said, “There is nothing new under the sun.” Each generation of people in history has produced some real good and effected some great evils. Generally speaking, no matter how bad things may look to us now, it’s not as bad as it could be, nor necessarily as bad as it has been (it doesn’t get much worse than a worldwide flood that catastrophically drowns all of humanity and wipes out nature, except 8 people and an oceanliner full of critters. Think Tsunami times a billion! This is NOT a cute little story to use to decorate children’s nurseries. It was a mind-blowing, heartwrending destructive judgment from an Almighty God against His precious, hand-shaped creation that persisted in evil and refused to repent of it).

As for the Jay Leno quote, while I do appreciate that he is able to look around at the circumstances of our times and recognize that we need something or Someone bigger than ourselves to carry us through, keeping God in the Pledge of Allegiance is not a saving grace for America, nor is it necessarily even a virtue. The problem with keeping God in the Pledge of Allegiance is that we have to mean it. There is no virtue in saying some oft-repeated words with our mouths no matter how traditional and patriotic, especially if they are directed at the Divine Creator, unless our hearts are behind it. To pronounce “one nation, under God” is a great, and holy thing, if we really are acknowledging that we are under the supreme guidance, care and authority of the Sovereign God. But it is nothing short of hypocrisy to pronounce those words and go on doing (as a nation and as individuals) what we jolly well please with little to no regard for His laws, His authority, His commanding presence in our lives. That is no virtue at all, it is a bold-faced lie and it is something God does not regard lightly in the lives of nations or individuals. The Bible (His recorded Word and Will) is chock-full of just what He thinks about words, and motions and practices of people that merely keep the outward show of religions acknowledgement but lack the true heart of faith and repentance to motivate them. Those who practiced such things and did not repent of their failure to acknowledge Him truthfully were eventually judged dramatically and drastically. It is a fearful thing to fall into the hands of an angry God, who is perfectly just and righteous (Jonathan Edwards – Sinners in the Hands of an Angry God). The only escape we have from the wrath of a God we have dismissed so lightly is Jesus Christ, who being God Himself absorbed the wrath and punishment of sin for those who will repent. A righteous, holy God cannot overlook any wrong either in heart or action toward neighbor or nature, because ultimately it is treason against Him as Creator to whom belong the very atoms of neighbor and nature. Just punishment will either be eventually unleashed on the perpetrator, or it is absorbed by Christ Himself for those who repent and acknowledge God in all of life. He can overlook no wrong and must give full due punishment or cease to be God. Here are a few of the better known examples of what He thinks of those who masquerade allegiance but dismiss Him easily:

Psalm 50:11-21

11 I know every bird of the mountains, and the creatures of the field are Mine. 12 If I were hungry, I would not tell you, for the world and everything in it is Mine. 13 Do I eat the flesh of bulls or drink the blood of goats? 14 Sacrifice a thank offering to God, and pay your vows to the Most High. 15 Call on Me in a day of trouble; I will rescue you, and you will honor Me.” 16 But God says to the wicked: “What right do you have to recite My statutes and to take My covenant on your lips? 17 You hate instruction and turn your back on My words. 18 When you see a thief, you make friends with him, and you associate with adulterers. 19 You unleash your mouth for evil and harness your tongue for deceit. 20 You sit, maligning your brother, slandering your mother’s son. 21 You have done these things, and I kept silent; you thought I was just like you. But I will rebuke you and lay out the case before you.

Mark 7:6 He (Jesus) answered them, “Isaiah prophesied correctly about you hypocrites, as it is written: These people honor Me with their lips, but their heart is far from Me.

Isaiah 29:13-16

13 The Lord said: Because these people approach Me with their mouths to honor Me with lip-service- yet their hearts are far from Me, and their worship [consists of] man-made rules learned [by rote]- 14 therefore I will again confound these people with wonder after wonder. The wisdom of their wise men will vanish, and the understanding of the perceptive will be hidden. 15 Woe to those who go to great lengths to hide their plans from the Lord. [They do] their works in darkness, and say, “Who sees us? Who knows us?” 16 You have turned things around, as if the potter were the same as the clay. How can what is made say about its maker, “He didn’t make me”? How can what is formed say about the one who formed it, “He doesn’t understand [what he’s doing]”?

Micah 6:6-8

6 What should I bring before the Lord when I come to bow before God on high? Should I come before Him with burnt offerings, with year-old calves? 7 Would the Lord be pleased with thousands of rams, or with ten thousand streams of oil? Should I give my firstborn for my transgression, the child of my body for my own sin? 8 He has told you men what is good and what it is the Lord requires of you: Only to act justly, to love faithfulness, and to walk humbly with your God.

Revelation 3:15-17

15 I know your works, that you are neither cold nor hot. I wish that you were cold or hot. 16 So, because you are lukewarm, and neither hot nor cold, I am going to vomit you out of My mouth. 17 Because you say, ‘I’m rich; I have become wealthy, and need nothing,’ and you don’t know that you are wretched, pitiful, poor, blind, and naked.

It is very easy to use traditions and patriotism and religious feelings to produce a veneer of pious acknowledgment of God to hide the fact that our hearts and minds are turned toward anything but Him. Let us not be guilty of this charlatanry, either as individuals or as a nation. If we truly do recognize that we are “under God”, then by all means, let us say it heartily and often. But if we simply pronounce rote words, without an inkling to even glance heavenward, let us at least be honest that we are anything but “a nation” or a person “under God” but more like “one nation, under _______”, fill in the blank (self, money, materialism, consumerism, government, the will of the majority, free market, capitalism, you name it).

I for one would be sorely grieved to have God removed from the Pledge of Allegiance. But this is not because I would feel that a great national motto had been tampered with, but rather that the travesty of our hearts as a people against the Almighty would be so widespread that the boldness of it found expression even to this point.

Peace to you! And may you truly know what it means to believe and live “under God” when you have opportunity to say it, in any time or place or circumstance.

©2011 Reformation Lady and Chandra E. Wellman. All rights reserved.