"Jesus preached the Law to those under the Law so they could clearly
see that they could not keep the Law."
I will use a comment from Chaos to begin this follow-up post. I will intersperse his comments with my own in blue and then go on from there:
1) Arrogant know-it-all elitist
2) Druggie who was constantly stoned (even at work) and adding other fun things like mushrooms or opium or hash or PCP and so on for the fun of it.
3) Drunk who never went a day without alcohol in some quantity. I doubt I ever had fewer than three beers in any one day from 1976 to 1979 and except for when I turned myself in to get off of the needle in 1975 I was drunk or stoned or both every day since 1973 until the day I was born again.
4) Lead singer of a drug and sex oriented rock band.
5) Hung out with a gang of druggies and drunkards with no connections to any church or religious people in my life.
Which implies that you wouldn't be going to Heaven if you'd had the misfortune to be born in Asia and had converted to Buddhism instead of Christianity.
Well I was in a group of people to whom Jesus was as foreign as Zoroaster and yet I got saved.
I guess I'll finish up by posting a link to my very favorite essay over at Slacktivist, The Rise of the Anti-Huck. It graphically points out the difference between the exclusivist focus on salvation (as shown in the "Left Behind" books) and the universalist focus on morality (as shown in "Huckleberry Finn").
- You do greatly misunderstand the teachings of Jesus to the Jewish people and I hope everyone reads that link to Slacktivist and then comes back!
First, I do commend Chaos for his powers of observation, because he has nailed the behavior and apparent motivations of a large number of people who call themselves Christians. You make some valid points. Personally I decry the shallow and misdirected teaching in many churches and in most television preachers and evangelists. Fire insurance Christianity and casual Christianity do not glorify God nor do they fulfill His will nor do they attract positive attention. Who is going to be excited about hypocritical or mediocre Christians?
In our church we are pushing people to live up to the change within them. Not to be right with God or help guarantee salvation, but because God expects us to grow to be more like Him and do what He would do. Huck Finn's dilemma was not a dilemma for a dedicated and mature Christian. The Bible tells us to obey every law of God and man. Note the order listed here. I would expect that God would overrule slavery laws and Christians in England and the United States led the fight to end slavery. Huck was not able to understand all the choices but he made the right one, even though it was uniformed.
Second, I do agree with Slacktivist in so many areas. I think the Left Behind series is reprehensible, based on bad theology and reflects the nature of someone other than God. I am a preterist and I believe that Revelation was written to the Christians of the day, warning of the murderous intent of Nero and that the fall of Jerusalem was about to happen. When you read Jesus' predictions of a day coming of judgment He says that it is coming quickly and in Revelation the word quickly and soon are often used. Two thousand years is not soon but somewhere between five and ten in John's case and within a normal generation in the case of Christ does fit the bill. Few people who teach this doctrine understand what they are teaching and frankly find themselves abandoning the Bible to find outside resources to try to augment their case. Slacktivist rightly points out the selfish and ungodly attitudes of the main players in the LB series and the ridiculous premise that God wants to kick the Earth's butt and bring back a Temple (since sacrifices are no longer needed) and that the Jews are any longer a different animal from others. Today's Jews do not sacrifice or keep the Mosaic Laws or have a temple or do much beyond study and teach each other to practice the behavior recommended by a series of priests down through the years. True Jews follow Yahweh, God, Adonai, Christ and not a religion.
Seriously, if God has set up Hell already, what is the idea of chasing people around with monsters, turning the seas into blood, having a temporal war on Earth with a puppet of Satan and just tearing everything up while making life hellish for new believers who have been "left behind?" The prophetic language of Revelation fit in nicely with that of Ezekiel and Daniel and should be read the same way. The entire premise of a Tribulation with an Anti-Christ was thought up in the early 1800's about the time that Adventists and Jehovah's Witnesses popped up on the scene.
Third, I want to discuss the words of Christ as found in the books of Matthew, Mark, Luke and John. You will often find Christ saying something that seems extremely legalistic. Let's take the quote:
"What must I do to be saved?" the young ruler asked Jesus.
"Sell all you have and give it to the poor, then come, follow me," Jesus replied.
This is within the context of the teachings of Christ. Jesus came to a people who were depending upon the Law to save them. They did not see the Law as being a temporary covenant with God that was to be superseded by a better covenant, despite the prophetic messages of prophets past. They (most of them) were not looking for a Messiah to bring a new covenant and a solution to the sin problem, they were looking for a military and political leader to exalt the Nation of Israel to the pinnacle of all nations.
When Satan tempted Christ in the wilderness, one temptation was to present all the nations of the world to Him and give him immediate rulership over all of them if Christ would bow down and worship Satan. At that time Satan had rulership over the Earth because Adam had relinquished it to him when he sinned. Jesus of course rejected Satan but found that the people of Israel and especially the religious leaders wanted the very thing that Satan had presented to Christ - to rule over all the world. (When Christ died and rose again, having fulfilled the Law and paid the price for sin, He was also able to take the rulership of Earth back from Satan).
What Jesus did was to go about doing good - healing the sick, raising the dead, encouraging the crestfallen- while preaching the Law to those under the Law. His point was to make them understand that they could not do it, that the Law was too hard for mankind to keep perfectly and all those sacrifices of bulls and goats could never eradicate their sins. They needed to see they needed the true Messiah, the solution to sin, as their answer to the sin problem. So Jesus preached the Law to those under the Law so they could clearly see that they could not keep the Law.
Now back to that quote, which was a paraphrase and not a quote. Here is the passage in NKJV with bolded portions by me:
Matthew chapter 19 - verses included - 16 Now behold, one came and said to Him, “Good Teacher, what good thing shall I do that I may have eternal life?”
17 So He said to him, “Why do you call Me good? No one is good but One, that is, God. But if you want to enter into life, keep the commandments.”
18 He said to Him, “Which ones?”
Jesus said, “ ‘You shall not murder,’ ‘You shall not commit adultery,’ ‘You shall not steal,’ ‘You shall not bear false witness,’ 19 ‘Honor your father and your mother,’ and, ‘You shall love your neighbor as yourself.’”
20 The young man said to Him, “All these things I have kept from my youth. What do I still lack?”
21 Jesus said to him, “If you want to be perfect, go, sell what you have and give to the poor, and you will have treasure in heaven; and come, follow Me.”
22 But when the young man heard that saying, he went away sorrowful, for he had great possessions.
Don't fail to see what the real question is here. The young man asks what he can do to justify himself. Jesus tells him that in order to be perfect he will have to give up everything and be just like Jesus, following in His steps. Now this is impossible for the young man to do perfectly anyway, but he does not want to do it because he loves his money so he goes away unhappy. He wanted to be told that his good works would outweigh his bad and Jesus would not tell him that. Because it isn't true.
Jesus Christ first preached the Law so people would realize that the Law could not save them. He exposed the hypocrisy of the Priests and Lawyers/Scribes of the ruling class of Jews (guys who would literally have a trumpet sound so all would see the size of the offerings they would place at the altar...offerings made from their riches obtained from the common man and the ruling Romans alike) for the common man to see. He challenged the accepted wisdom and rejected the man-made rules (like the Talmud and the Torah) that had been substituted for the Law of God as the baseline for what was good and right.
As I have already explained in detail, Jesus lived a perfect life, became the only acceptable Sacrifice for the sins of mankind, rose from the dead to offer eternal life to those who would make the decision to believe in Him and depend on His death, burial and resurrection as the Atonement for their sins. If they would do it, He would change them into new creatures whose internal "I want" mechanism would be redirected towards God. Christians do not change in appearance but inside their spirits are renewed and reborn and they become children of God. God receives His children into eternal life and those who are not children? They are the goats. Everybody has choices, we can all choose God or not-God.
Some people think that following a set of rules and regulations will save them. Go to church and say prayers and read the Bible and confess sins and get baptized and give money and never get divorced and etc. But that is not what the Bible says.
Romans 4:1-3 What then shall we say that Abraham, our forefather, discovered in this matter? If, in fact, Abraham was justified by works, he had something to boast about—but not before God. What does the Scripture say? "Abraham believed God, and it was credited to him as righteousness."
When Adam and Eve sinned, God sacrificed animals and made them clothing of skins. Down through the ages, men who followed God believed in Him and made sacrifices for their sins. Moses did it. Isaac did and Aaron set up a system of priests by God's command to make sacrifices on behalf of the believing peoples. Now Christians who believe in God and "sacrifice" certain behaviors and monies are following an Old Testament covenant. God set up sacrifices because it required that animals die and shed blood. The people depended upon the animals for food and clothing and only killed them to survive or to atone for sins. Death is a serious thing. God wanted man to see sin as serious. God wanted man to long for a sacrifice that would end all sacrifices and actually do away with sin once and for all.
Some people believe they can follow the ways of Buddha. Hindus. Muslims. Pagans. All sorts of religions have things you must do or accomplish to reach some kind of salvation but Christianity does not! Many of my Christian brethren do not understand this completely and many of them have mixed motivations and are confused. If they ever did receive Christ their confusion may hinder them and muddle the message of Christ but it will not keep them from Heaven.
After Jesus had taught the Law to those under the Law and convicted them of their inability, He began to show them the truth. He said in John 14:6... “I am the way, the truth, and the life. No one comes to the Father except through Me."
Read John chapter ten sometime. It is true that God knows who will and who will not accept His gift of salvation. He offers it to all but, being omniscient, He knows who will accept. The choice is left up to each of us individually, however. No one makes you say yes or no. Both Jews and Gentiles can be sheep. Some of us hear His voice and follow Him. Some turn away. The cool thing about God is that He will keep calling and calling those that turn away.
2 Peter 3:9 (New International Version)
The Lord is not slow in keeping his promise, as some understand slowness. He is patient with you, not wanting anyone to perish, but everyone to come to repentance.God is probably going to be trying to get through to you until the day you die. After that, you will either spend eternity with Him or see Him just one more time. You will get a chance to present your works to Him at the time of judgment and I do not like your chances, since you will have to be absolutely perfect to avoid being cast into eternal darkness.
"That is a geek's view of salvation. You are the firewall. God has
a massive firmware upgrade for you and it is free. You simply have to accept the download. If you don't you will not be compliant."
For those of you who are computer geeks to any extent, I can give you a good analogy. Suppose you have joined a company that has made you the network administrator. You have a big old firewall, stateful inspection firewall, in front of your network and then routers and switches and servers and workstations and printers. You have software subscriptions for anti-virus and anti-spyware and anti-spam that you see you will have to renew each year. You have a rudimentary patching program in place. You have various work applications running. Typical small network.
However, you are a bank or medical office or a library so you have been confronted by the need to adhere to SOX or HIPAA or CIPA or whatever other government regulations that apply to your vertical and the cost of software to prove your compliance seems pretty high. You do not have the funds for the additional software solutions, what can you do???
Well, the firewall company has the answer. If you will agree to keep their firewall running (no additional cost to you, just agree to keep it) they will give you a firmware upgrade that includes content filtering and IPS and Identity-based Active Directory compliant logins and encrypted email and VPN ability and other bells and whistles all for no cost. The upgrade even includes a reporting tool that is crafted for CIPA, HIPAA and SOX and etc preconfigured for easy use with exportable charts and graphs and all that cool stuff CEO and CIO types like to see.
The trouble is that you do not believe in the firewall company. You do not believe there is a central office somewhere that can broadcast something and radically change the OS running on that firewall. You do not trust such a thing. So you do not accept the upgrade. The firmware remains the same. You cannot afford the other solutions to make you compliant.
Audit day comes, or a lawsuit comes, your company is found lacking in compliancy and faces a huge fine and you get tossed out into the street!
However, if you would believe that the company can truly upgrade the firmware you accept and they broadcast the update and it changes the firewall tremendously! Suddenly you have the ability to meet the government regulations, you can filter content and monitor internet and application usage and generate reports to reflect it all. Your company is compliant, lawsuits are unlikely and your job is secure. The firewall looks exactly the same on the outside, but on the inside it is a new thing entirely.
That is a geek's view of salvation. You are the firewall. God has a massive firmware upgrade for you and it is free. You simply have to accept the download. If you don't you will not be compliant.
It is not the saying of magic words or the clicking of heels, it is a decision. It is a decision that changes your inner nature.
If you refuse to believe in God, then you refuse to believe that there is a Creator who has the ability to upgrade your firmware and you will refuse the gift. You will forever be looking at the exterior of firewalls and trying to figure out why some are like me. I will never make sense to you. You will continue to believe that the Universe just happened and had no First Cause. You will continue to believe life has no great purpose and will live to please yourself until you die. You will ignore every philosophical or scientific argument that disagrees with your own and happily find a majority of people who completely agree with you.
Do you really want the truth?
Because of Jesus Christ, when it is time for God to judge all men and women for their lives I will belong to Jesus and all of His good works will be attributed to me. I will be ushered into the sheep side. In other words my place with God for all eternity is already reserved and it will be because I am His child and not because of anything I have ever done.
You who have determined to ignore God and shake your fist at Him? I tell you right now, when John and when Isaiah and when Daniel and all these other men of God, when they found themselves face to face with a vision of God they fell to their faces, sometimes passing right out, blown away by the difference between their humanity and God's Holiness. You, if you reject God now, you will not even be able to stand in front of Him before that throne. You will be cast into Hell for all eternity. Right now I hope and pray that you will not be one of the goats. But when that time comes and you pass from life to death it will be too late. No second chances.
Go ahead and ask about people you think may not have heard that Jesus saves. You who read this blog cannot say that. I have done my duty by you and I pray and write long articles trying to convince you to open your eyes and see God all around you. Especially any of you who are scientists, who know that the Universe is designed from the largest structures to the smallest. You know that virtually every creature and plant is symbiotic with other creatures. How many millions of organisms do you think live in your body right now? You are a Universe to microbes, my friend! There are plants that require insects to propagate, insects that require plants, fish that need coral and vice versa and on and on and on and on. You think the Universe created itself? You think life designed itself? You think millions of kinds of living things not only evolved but evolved together so that their lives depend on each other? You have great faith in coincidence beyond measure but cannot see the God right in front of your face. Now I find that to be amazing!
How many of you have great faith in blind chance and cannot conceive of a Higher Power? Do you understand within yourself why you choose this path? It truly puzzles me because despite my lifestyle I was driven to understand truth. Doesn't everyone have an inquisitive mind and a desire to grasp the meaning and nature of life?
I know there are great sinners who prefer not to believe in God because they wish to stifle guilt concerning their behavior. I don't get the idea that the consistent commenters here fall into that category. I will gladly answer any of your questions concerning salvation and sonship and the Left Behind series and anything that involves this post, so do not be afraid to speak your piece and ask your questions.
Titus 3:5 (New King James Version)
...not by works of righteousness which we have done, but according to His mercy He saved us, through the washing of regeneration and renewing of the Holy Spirit...