Friday, January 9, 2015

Section 8: Spiritual Dynamics: The Church

It's Not The World’s Rocks

The final major player to consider in the Redemptive Drama is the Church, and more specifically, the modern Church – the Church of this present day.  Seemingly, it has been very easy for the world to boo the Church and “throw rocks” at it in any age.  And many have, indeed, relished the opportunity to do so in every age.  But, that is merely the Darkness doing what the Darkness does. 

However, it is not the accusations of the Darkness which most trouble the present day Church.  It is the accusations of our own conscience.   

In our heart of hearts we know the truth about ourselves.  We often suppress it.  Or, we attempt to cover it with our pomp and pageantry.  Or, we try to skirt it by focusing on our religious busy work or wrapping ourselves in the fog of religious thought.  But, still the truth gnaws at us.

So, we employ still other tactics to escape a confrontation with that truth.  We try to worship the truth of our condition away, or program it away, or pretend it away.  But still, it endures like a maddening song in our head that won’t stop.  Until finally, in a surrendering moment, we find ourselves mouthing the painful lyrics out loud:  “We have become largely irrelevant in the present world.” 

                        A Qualifier

Obviously, the Church, i.e., all the followers of Christ under all of their various labels, is an absolutely huge, complex, and a very dynamic organism.  Thus, it is not easily generalized in statements like the one above. 

And, in fact, it is true.  Often, what may be a reality for one branch of the Church at any given moment, is not necessarily so in the case for another branch.  And that is true all the way down to the level of local congregations, and even down to the level of individual believers within those congregations.

And certainly, even in the worst of times, there have always been, and there will always be, selfless and devout lovers of Christ.  The Church always has some who remain absolutely faithful to God, and to His larger purposes, and to His purpose for their life, specifically.

Even now, I know and rub shoulders with many such people across a wide segment of the Church. I am very aware that there are devoted Church leaders, missionaries, ministers, and laymen who daily give themselves to Christ in a deeply devoted friendship.

But, in this section, we are really looking at the condition and influence of the composite Church, the Church as a whole group. We are not really dissecting it down to its various levels. Our purpose here is to see the big picture, so we can identify the defining larger trends of our time.

And, in light of the immense complexity of the Church and my own limitation to be truly tactile on such a scale, I must also offer this. While I am about to say some things which are intended to be restorative to the whole of the Church, I am primarily drawing on and speaking most particularly to the American Evangelical Church, the segment of the Church with which I am most familiar. But hopefully, the more extended Church will also be able to interpolate these ideas to benefit the more extended whole.

The Portrait Jesus Paints

Now, with all of that said, it, nevertheless, remains true that the Church does, indeed, sometimes share in a broadly common condition.  Such a condition can be noted in the book of The Revelation, the last book in the Holy Bible.  Especially in chapters 2 and 3, Jesus spoke prophetically of the primary issues of the various Church ages which were to follow His physical departure. 

Certainly, in these two chapters, Jesus was addressing some very real local church congregations which existed in Asia Minor at the time he dictated His sentiments to the Apostle.   But, far beyond the scope of those local churches, he was also speaking to the Church as a whole, and again, to the historical ages through which the Church would pass in times to come.  Indeed, in the last letter of chapter 3, the letter to the Laodicean Church, He was speaking directly to us – the Church of this present day.

And this is what Jesus said to that last Church, in the last Church age: "And to the angel of the church of the Laodiceans write, 'These things says the Amen, the Faithful and True Witness, the Beginning of the creation of God: I know your works, that you are neither cold nor hot. I could wish you were cold or hot.

“So then, because you are lukewarm, and neither cold nor hot, I will vomit you out of My mouth. Because you say, 'I am rich, have become wealthy, and have need of nothing'--and do not know that you are wretched, miserable, poor, blind, and naked-- I counsel you to buy from Me gold refined in the fire, that you may be rich; and white garments, that you may be clothed, that the shame of your nakedness may not be revealed; and anoint your eyes with eye salve, that you may see. As many as I love, I rebuke and chasten. Therefore, be zealous and repent.”
(Ref. Rev. 3:14-19 NKJV)

The Greater Tragedy

Many before myself have pointed to the fact that the trademark issue which Jesus was raising with the Church in this prophetical letter was that of widespread apathy within its ranks. And, to any objective mind, that has now undeniably come to be the identifying attribute of the modern American Evangelical Church as a whole, especially at the grassroots level.

And certainly, there is no minimizing the seriousness of this condition or the consequences to which this high level of relational laziness leads.  Jesus makes all of this very clear in the letter. 

But, in fact, there is a greater tragedy revealed in His letter.  It is the utter lack of awareness within the Church of its true condition and its real standing before God.  Jesus describes a Church which, as a whole, believes itself to be doing very well – and yet, the true reality is that it is poised on the verge of widespread rejection by God.

And certainly, this prediction of cluelessness has found its fulfillment in the modern Church – and especially, in the more recent generations of the modern Church.  The present Church has broadly disconnected from an actual serious embrace of God’s values through the Spiritual baptism into Christ as we have discussed.  Yet, we remain largely oblivious to our depleted condition and to the consequences of that condition. 

Instead, we are doing exactly what was described in Christ’s letter to us.  We are widely embracing a simplistic delusion of well-being.  And, indeed, we are largely unaware of our imminent peril. 

  Like Message – Like Church

So, when we are courageous enough to view the modern Church objectively, we can see that we have largely come to the situation which Jesus forecast.  Indeed, that dark, downward spiral of apathy has, set up within the Church in these more modern times. 

And, this degrading trajectory is driven by the simple reality which Jesus described.  The grassroots membership of the modern Church has generally become obsessed with their own comfort level.  And, this “comfort-lust” has broadly blinded us to our real condition before God – just as Jesus described.  

Nevertheless, we have, in fact, been very successful in this consuming pursuit of personal comfort.  So, the modern Church is, indeed, now, as a whole, materially and numerically well-fixed, and thus, widely relaxed.  And predictably, this widespread lethargy has left us, very “anemic,” both within the body of the Church, itself, and in our influence upon the larger world. 

Indeed, we have become largely insignificant to our times.  But, rather than address this condition, as Jesus advised, we have, thus far, chosen only to wrap ourselves in the delusion of well-being – the very thing Jesus warned against in His prophetical letter.

                 The Change We’ve Leveraged

And now, in order to accommodate our delusion, we have leveraged ourselves into an action which should be absolutely unthinkable to the Church.  Nevertheless, the majority modern Church has chosen to make this very egregious move.  So, on a widespread basis, in order to make our delusion of good standing before God seem plausible, the modern Church has engineered and embraced a deeply flawed revision of the original redemptive message.

The Basic Ideas

So, let's begin at the beginning to expose this revision. Here are the two essential views of redemption which have actually been competing for many centuries now within the Church.

In simple, descriptive terms, the first view of redemption is what might be called The Non-responsibility Plan. The second is what might be called The Shared Responsibility Plan.

      Door Number One:  
                       The Non-responsibility Plan

The Non-responsibility approach to redemption is an approach which leaves the believer entirely (that's right) non-responsible for anything after his or her initial statement of faith.  After this declaration of their belief in Christ as their personal Savior, there are no other binding requirements placed upon the believer regarding the maintenance of his or her relationship with God.  Good character – bad character, godly lifestyle – ungodly lifestyle, it simply doesn’t matter after that initial statement of faith.

The logic is this.   Christ’s death on the Cross is so magnificently effective, that it absolves those who simply name Christ as their personal Savior of all consequence of sin – past and present.  And this absolution remains in place throughout the believer’s lifetime, regardless of his or her level of investment in a relationship with Christ – or even the complete lack thereof. 

Thus, any subsequent involvement with Christ, at whatever level of devotion, is left entirely to the discretion of the believer.  But, in any case, her lifestyle realities, good or bad, in no way impact her basic good standing before God.  After her statement of faith, the believer simply becomes non-responsible for her actions.

As you might expect, the result of this non-responsible approach is to vastly diminish any impetus for a thoroughly life changing encounter with Christ.  And, how could it not be so when a higher level of relational investment is viewed as entirely optional and completely irrelevant to the basic well-being of the believer’s soul.

       Door Number Two: 
                   The Shared Responsibility Plan

Confronting and competing with this shallow approach is the authentic, God designed, redemptive approach.  And again, this genuine redemptive plan might very appropriately be described as, The Shared Responsibility Plan.  This is the approach we have been explaining throughout this writing. 

Under this divine plan, the forgiveness of the believer still entirely flows out of the magnificence of the Cross of Christ.  But, this is where any similarity between the two plans stops.

Unlike The Non-responsible Approach, The Shared Responsibility Approach requires the believer to remain seriously invested in the quality of their relationship with God.  And, as discussed earlier, Christ eventually empowers this effort by connecting them to both His value system and His enabling energies through the Spiritual baptism.  

Thus, the believer’s responsibility to actually become consistently faith-expressive, in both character essence and lifestyle reality, becomes entirely underwritten by Christ.  And, through this shared daily endeavor, both the believer’s profound personal renewal, and his intimate and durable friendship with God are forged. 

           The Only Legitimate Plan

Obviously, it is the Shared Responsibility Redemptive Plan which actually implements God’s true redemptive agenda.  It is this plan which offers a complete restoration of the believer’s ability to be consistently faith-expressive toward God. 

Only this plan, effectively employs and relies on both the Dying and the Living Christ in a balanced way – as God intends.  And, only this approach results in that consistent and sensitive obedience which God always has, and always will, expect from those who would know His friendship.

                           Easy, But Errant

Certainly, no one could deny that The Non-responsible Plan of Redemption is far less demanding of the believer. But, the problem is, it is also completely errant.

Its great failing lies in the fact that it touts the possibility of an enduring absolution for the believer outside the bounds of a truly meaningful relationship with God. In doing so, this approach entirely undermines the ultimate purpose of the Cross and the Resurrection of Christ.

In fact, however, the whole purpose of Christ's Death and Resurrection was to re-establish an intimate, reality-based, and consistently faith-expressive friendship with God - made durable by a true like mindedness to Him. In truth, only the Shared Responsibility Approach enables such a friendship.

A Careful Comparison:
The Revised vs. The Authentic Gospel

So, that's a quick description and comparison of these competing redemptive plans. But, now let’s get very specific about this bogus non-responsible plan, this “revised gospel.” Let's see, precisely, what are the devastating changes which have been made to the authentic redemptive message? And, what is the subterfuge behind these revisions?

The Answers

The answer to the first question is this. The fundamental change which, in turn, changes everything else, lies simply in the way this revised gospel views the believer.

The foundational mistake in the revised gospel is that it desperately clings to the idea that the believer remains impotent – even after conversion. The main contention of the revised gospel is this. When faced with the sin motive, the believer is powerless to consistently resist it.

And that great error is then extended to this one. So, if the believer has not the capacity to consistently resist the sin motive, then God, being a just God, cannot and does not absolutely require us to do so.

Now, The Nitty-Gritty

Obviously, to substantiate this idea that, even in Christ, we are powerless against the sin motive, demands a radical and extensive revision of the original redemptive plan. This is true because the genuine redemptive plan holds absolutely no expectation that a believer will peacefully co-exist with ingrained sin in an atmosphere of non-responsibility.

Rather, God’s true expectation is the complete conquest of the sin motive through the work of the Dying and the Living Christ, as noted earlier. So, when we subscribe to the idea of a defeated co-existence with daily sin, it most certainly necessitates a change to all of the major ideas of the authentic redemptive plan.

In order to thoroughly grasp the profound impact of this errant view in the mind of the modern Church, we need to, once again, briefly compare a brief overview of the authentic redemptive plan and this “non-responsible” idea of redemption.

So, let’s, again, briefly place this view of the un-empowered believer side-by-side with the view of the believer who is thoroughly empowered by the Living Christ through the Spiritual baptism.

By doing this we can quickly and easily contrast the two views and expose the fallacies of this “delusional gospel.” This time, let's start with the genuine redemptive message.

The Authentic Redemptive Design

The Original Message of Redemption begins with the truthful reality that God always has and always will hold the expectation of a sensitive obedience from those who would know His friendship. Mankind, as a whole, failed that expectation, of course, when Adam and Eve chose to become self-determined. God then mercifully offered a one-person-at-a-time way back. It was an offer for a thorough personal renewal, through Christ.

Indeed, as we have already discussed in some length, Christ is the whole substance of that reclamation. He is the full means to meet man’s need for the restoration of a loving friendship with God. And, He absolutely is, by His empowering Spirit, the means to enable man’s consistency in meeting God’s expectation of sensitive, faith-expressive obedience. (Ref. Romans 8: 1-4)

And again, as noted earlier, Christ serves these redemptive purposes through His two distinct roles. As the Dying Christ of the Cross He brings forgiveness, reconciliation, and imputed righteousness. And, the Living Christ of the Resurrection enables God seekers, through the empowerment of the Spiritual baptism, to meet God’s expectation of a reality-based righteousness in the believer’s life.
Thus, “the saved” will be those who are not only reconciled to God by Christ’s death, but empowered by His life to meet God’s expectation of consistent and sensitive obedience. The New Testament writer put it this way.  For if when we were enemies we were reconciled to God through the death of His Son, much more, having been reconciled, we shall be saved by His life. (Ref. Romans 5:10 NKJV)

This is an accurate overview of the ancient and authentically redemptive Gospel.  It is the message of a profound, Christ-empowered renewal for the believer.   It is a message of vanquished sin and enabling faith.  This is the real message originally passed to, and then passed on by the early Church.

                           But That Was Then

But, that was then; and, this is now.  Now, we do, indeed, have this ascendant, alternative approach to redemption which, again, touts the powerlessness of the believer.  And this claim of powerlessness is merely a covering subterfuge aimed at substantiating the even darker idea that we have been discussing:  the non-responsibility of the believer.  Thus, this “Impotency View” allows the believer to see himself as entirely released from all accountability for his lifestyle realities – past, present and future.

                         The Prime Tenet

So, the prime tenet of this revised gospel becomes this.  “Because the believer is impotent, and therefore not capable of consistently rising above the sin impulse, then a just God cannot and does not require him to do so.”  And, starting from here, many other revisions to the Authentic Plan of Redemption are made necessary to support this errant foundational idea.       

                       Cascading Errors

So what follows, is the cascade of errors which are forced by the revised gospel’s foundational error of non-responsibilityThese errors compose the larger body of this errant belief system which has so decimated the vitality of so many modern believers.  It goes like this:

“Because I, even as a believer, am powerless to consistently live above the motive of Sin, then I must sin every day in some form.  So, Grace has to mean “mercy” (unmerited favor).  And my Righteousness can be only an Imputed Righteousness (merely assigned by God with no basis in reality).  And, God’s love must be always unconditional.  And, Faith can require of me no expression in real terms beyond my initial statement of faith

“All of this has to be so, in order that I might be non-responsible before God and thereby become released from accountability for my chronic sinfulness.  Only in this way can I possibly survive the divine scrutiny of my life.”

  Revisiting The Key Concepts Of Redemption

So, that is the widely accepted redemptive thinking of our time. But, to really grasp the devastating impact of this errant approach, let’s now briefly revisit the major redemptive concepts mentioned in the above summary.

And, let’s specifically look at how the ideas of Sin, Grace, Faith, Righteousness, and God’s love have been changed to accommodate the prime tenet of the revised gospel: the believer's powerlessness in the face of the sin motive. And, let’s begin with the impact of that prime tenant on the concept of Sin.

The Nature Of Sin

In order to really grasp the sin issue, let’s first look more precisely at the true nature of sin.  We have generally referred to and discussed sin throughout this writing.  But, perhaps this would be a good time to get very specific about its nature.  If we want to understand how the believer can remain responsible regarding sin and yet be able to survive the scrutiny of a holy God, it is essential that we understand the precise workings of sin.

                 The Tree And The Root

A good understanding of the nature of sin begins with this very simple idea: Sin is binary in its nature. We typically think of sin as an action. And it is that.

But, it is also important to understand that sin, before it finds any expression in our actions, is an internalized value. As we have previously noted, it is a deeply placed motive within us which drives us to do what we want to do. We have previously referred to this motive as that of self-determination.

So, an act of sin is just the visible expression of this inner motive. Thus, the act of sin is the “visible tree,” but the sin motive is the “invisible root” of it all. This is that engrained instinct which exists on the subconscious level. The New Testament writer described this inner sin motive as “the law of sin in my members.” (Ref. Romans 7:23 NKJV)
                     A Careful Difference

When we discuss sin in these terms, as a value within the heart, it is also important that we be specific about even the nature of the sin value.  We must make a difference between what can be appropriately called the “Primary Sin Value” or “Essential Sin” and the more secondary sin impulses.

In other words, the primary sin value is the source motive from which all sin springs.  The Primary Sin Value is essentially that motive for self-determination which exists on the deepest, most primary level, of the heart.  And, in essence, that motive goes something like this:  “My first allegiance is to myself.  So, I will always seek first to be and to do what seems good to me.”

This is the essential sin motive which exists on the deepest subconscious level of the human psyche. This is the essential motive which chronically infected the human species through that first temptation.  And it is this most primary sin value then gives rise to the more secondary sin impulses and ultimately the acts of sin which follow. 

So, this primary sin motive is the real “headwaters” of the more secondary sinful impulses which lie down stream of it.  These more secondary urgings would include such things as pornography and adultery (including sexual fantasizing and cheating on your spouse), lust (rampant selfish desires), lying (shading and spinning the truth), stealing (such as falsifying time cards and expense and tax reports), and murder (including abortion), etc.  

                         The Primary Target

So, one does not have to be God to be able to recognize the root source of man’s problem.  It is this primary sin value, this deep-seated motive for self-determination which then gives rise to subsequent levels of evil.   

And, if it’s that easy for us to see, one would certainly expect an all-knowing God to be immediately and keenly aware of this fact.  So, it is this Essential Sin Value, the root source of all sin in the life of His creature, at which God’s redemptive work is first aimed.

Obviously, eliminating this compelling heart value of self-determination, which is essentially, “my will be done,” is key to mankind’s restoration to a friendship with his Creator.   This is true because this value is in direct opposition to the faith value, which is one of influential humility, expressed generally as “God’s will be done in my life.”  And that is just another way of saying, “I will make my influence entirely subject to God’s,” – which is a perfect expression of “redemptive faith”

                               The Sin Voice

So, within the human species this “sin instinct” resides at the deepest subconscious level.  It is an ever present “inner voice” which constantly demands to take the self-determined course.

Sometimes, this “inner sin voice” expresses itself as an ugly and openly antagonistic opposition to the divine influence and purpose, as in the case of an intentionally nefarious person.  When the sin value expresses itself toward God in this, “Just stay out of my way, because I intend to do strictly as I please!” way, it is easily recognized for what it is.

However, most of the time, the sin instinct does not express itself in this obviously ugly way at all.  Instead, it is far more frequent that the sin value simply expresses itself as a quiet, but resolute and pervasive, independence.  Mostly, it shows itself as simply a quiet, but self-contained decision making process regarding good and evil, right and wrong.

In this far less obnoxious form, the subconscious sin motive may actually allow us to acknowledge God for who He really is.  It may even allow us to enter into a casual encounter with Him.  But, what this more docile “inner demon” will never do, is allow us to move beyond the range of our own self-protective ways to truly entrust our self to God in real faith (influential humility).

And, we should be careful to emphasize that this quiet, more attractive form of the sin essence is still the sin essence.  And, as such, it is still completely devastating to a real friendship with God, and thus, to the human soul.  So, even in this more attractive form, this primary sin essence has the same separating effect and draws the same stern judgement as the more obviously ugly expression of the same.

Now, Back To That Prime Tenet: Powerlessness

So, now that we have looked more specifically at the nature of sin, the pressing question does, indeed, become, “Can the believer rise above this sin impulse?” The revised gospel of non-responsibility would answer that question with a resounding, “No way!”

And, in the previous section, “You, and The Other You,” where we looked at The Roman Dilemma, we saw a perfect example of what the non-responsible gospel holds to be this normal defeated condition of the believer. And, truly, the divided heart that we first encountered in chapter seven of Romans did, indeed, show the believer in an un-empowered condition.

But, what we first saw there was merely a picture of the believer in that early, “in-between,” carnal stage of his or her development in Christ, as we discussed.  It was that time just after conversion and in advance of their baptism into Christ, when the conscious and subconscious minds of the believer are still divided in their “faith intention.”  

Again, Paul described this deplorable condition this way.  “For we know that the law is spiritual, but I am carnal, sold under sin.  For what I am doing, I do not understand. For what I will to do, that I do not practice; but what I hate, that I do.

“If, then, I do what I will not to do, I agree with the law that it is good.  But now, it is no longer I who do it, but sin that dwells in me. 

“For I know that in me (that is, in my flesh) nothing good dwells; for to will is present with me, but how to perform what is good I do not find. For the good that I will to do, I do not do; but the evil I will not to do, that I practice.

“Now if I do what I will not to do, it is no longer I who do it, but sin that dwells in me. I find then a law, that evil is present with me, the one who wills to do good. For I delight in the law of God according to the inward man. But I see another law in my members, warring against the law of my mind, and bringing me into captivity to the law of sin which is in my members. O wretched man that I am! Who will deliver me from this body of death?”
(Romans 7:14-24 NKJV)

So, this incomplete state of the believer is what the “non-responsible gospel” holds to be our final redemptive lot in this life. It holds that this description of powerlessness against the sin motive is the normal picture for believers.

But recall, we also saw, in this same place in the book of Romans, a complete and durable rescue of the believer from this feeble state. Chapter eight went on to celebrate the empowerment of the believer by the Living Christ through the Spiritual baptism.

Indeed, through this Spiritual merger with the Living Christ, the Faith motive is firmly established as ascendant. It becomes dominant over the Sin motive, so that the believer becomes consistently faith-expressive, as discussed earlier. And this becomes the case on both the conscious and sub-conscious level.

Again, the apostle described this magnificent rescue of the believer in this way. “There is therefore now no condemnation to those who are in Christ Jesus, who do not walk according to the flesh, but according to the Spirit. For the law of the Spirit of life in Christ Jesus has made me free from the law of sin and death.

“For what the law could not do in that it was weak through the flesh, God did by sending His own Son in the likeness of sinful flesh, on account of sin: He condemned sin in the flesh, that the righteous requirement of the law might be fulfilled in us who do not walk according to the flesh but according to the Spirit.”(Romans 8:1-4 (NKJV)

An Almost Laughable Gospel

Nevertheless, in spite of these and other easily evident scriptures, which speak of the empowerment of the believer, the modern Church has widely embraced the prime tenet of this impotent gospel. Many really have come to believe, "I can't resist sin, so God doesn't actually require me to be faith-expressive."

However, to embrace this impotency idea inevitably brings one to an almost laughable (except for its deadliness) reversal of thought. It is this: “When it comes to living our life in Christ, sin must have an everyday expression, but faith need not be materially evidenced at all.

This then, has become the twisted outflow of believing in the dominance of sin and the impotency of the believer. This ridiculous reversal is the new, ascendant gospel, the pervasive perspective of the modern Church on redemption.

So, this so-called “gospel,” fails to make any substantial character difference between a the believer and the non-believer. Instead, it repeatedly and vehemently denies even the possibility of a thorough and profound personal renewal - even in Christ. 

In truth, this revised gospel of impotency is the Devil’s very effective prescription to defeat the unsuspecting believer. And this errant view fully fits the expose´ of the New Testament which says, “By this you know the Spirit of God: Every spirit that confesses that Jesus Christ has come in the flesh [initially His own, and now in the devout believer’s – through the Spiritual baptism]  is of God, and every spirit that does not confess that Jesus Christ has come in the flesh is not of God. And this is the spirit of the Antichrist, which you have heard was coming, and is now already in the world.

So, is it any wonder that the modern Church has come to have such a hugely diminished vitality and relevancy?  This up-side-down drivel of a “Like sinner, like saint” redemptive message simply offers no serious and substantial hope of newness and positive change in this present life.   And, the larger world instinctively knows it. 

Thus, the modern Church has largely become like a deluded salesman, hawking a product that actually does nothing.  And, everybody knows it – except the salesman. 

                 But, Still More Twists

But, the twists and turns of this revised gospel don’t stop with these failures.  The basic error of its prime tenet, as noted earlier, impacts all of the major concepts of redemption. All are misshapen by this errant belief in the believer’s impotency.  So, let’s continue to briefly visit those major impacts as we proceed next to consider the damage inflicted on the idea of "Grace."  
   The “Non-responsible Burden” On Grace

When it comes to Grace, the revised gospel clings desperately to the idea of “unmerited favor” –which is really just another way of saying “mercy.”  And, pop-theology and witless preaching have caused grace to be widely understood as nothing more than this in the practical, every day mindset of the modern evangelical Church.

Obviously, as discussed earlier, mercy is a vital part of redemption.  But, “Grace” is not “Mercy.”  The two terms are not equally interchangeable as we saw in our earlier discussion of Grace as a naturally occurring or innate goodness within the character

So again, mercy is born of grace; but, grace is so much more than mere mercy.  Nevertheless, the revised gospel is forced to cling to that diminished idea in order to accommodate its more central themes of the impotency and non-responsibility of the believer

But, in the authentic redemptive message, grace does not have to be restricted to mean merely mercy.  Rather, it is free to become the glorious thing that it is – a Christ endowed, naturally occurring goodness which very intuitively guides and governs our hearts daily.

Thus, within the context of the authentic redemptive plan, grace ceases to be burdened with the responsibility to enable the delusion of powerlessness in the believer.  Rather, real grace flies in the face of that idea by expressing itself daily as a very empowering natural goodness which empowers believer responsibility (as opposed to non-responsibility) and enables a reality based righteousness in the believer’s life.

                The “Faith Revision”

Now, let’s briefly look at the concept of Faith to consider the impact of the non-responsible redemptive message on this central concept.  Like sin, faith also has a two dimensional nature.  It also involves the internal dimension:  the value or motive.  And, it involves the external dimension:  the act.

The New Testament writer introduces us to this two dimensional nature of faith when he writes, “What does it profit, my brethren, if someone says he has faith but does not have works? Can faith save him?

“If a brother or sister is naked and destitute of daily food, and one of you says to them, ‘Depart in peace, be warmed and filled,’ but you do not give them the things which are needed for the body, what does it profit?  Thus, also faith by itself, if it does not have works, is dead.

“But someone will say, ‘You have faith, and I have works.’ Show me your faith without your works, and I will show you my faith by my works.

“You believe that there is one God. You do well. Even the demons believe--and tremble!
But do you want to know, O foolish man, that faith without works is dead?”
(James 2:14-20 NKJV)

So, the inspired writer indicates clearly that the faith motive is not meant to be “bottled up” and frustrated, held only to its inner dimension. The idea is that faith is meant to have its completing expression in our actions – as God-directed good works.

It becomes easy, in the context of the authentic redemptive view, to see how faith actually generates an expression of itself in our actions. Certainly, if one truly has a Christ empowered faith (influential humility) before God, what else would he or she do but respond to God’s values and directions in obedience, and thus – do good things. If we are empowered by the Living Christ to be consistently humble before God, then obviously, the natural result is going to be God-directed good works.

Indeed, the true New Testament teaching regarding faith is that it is inappropriate and incorrect for those who would embrace God, not to be faith-expressive. So, faith (influential humility before God) is, indeed, first a heart value. But, that value (humility), by definition, then enables obedience to the divine leadings which result in God-motivated good works. (Ref. James 2:14-20)

And this is exactly the process which the Living Christ empowers as we are baptized into His strong and consistent faith.  So again, in the New Testament we read, “For by grace you have been saved through faith, and that not of yourselves; it is the gift of God, not of works, lest anyone should boast.  For we are His workmanship, created in Christ Jesus for good works, which God prepared beforehand that we should walk in them.” (Ephesians 2:8-10 NKJV)
           The Non-responsible Twist On Faith

So, that’s how things work within the authentic redemptive process – but not in the non-responsible process. There, we must continue to substantiate the impotency and non-responsibility of the believer.

So, the revised gospel simply ignores the reality of our access to the empowering faith of Christ and holds that the believer is under absolutely no obligation whatsoever to express her faith in the concrete terms of God-directed good works – simply because she lacks the power to do so consistently – even in Christ.

This thought, of course, is the logical extension of a belief in the dominance of the sin value, even within a true believer’s heart. And certainly, in a sin dominated condition, there can be no expectation that the believer can consistently express his faith in the real terms of righteous works.

Thus again, God must not and does not require him to do so. This must be so in order that believer may be able to maintain God’s approval. So is the greatness of this errant gospel.

A Helper To The Error

Typically, another similar idea is also used to bolster the non-responsibility belief system.  It is actually an  over extension  connected to the faith motive.  

It is the idea that the believer is condemned or exonerated in God’s eyes only by the presence or absence of the faith motive. The thought is that, before any expression in works are generated by the faith motive, the believer is entirely pardoned by the motive, itself. And, in fact – so far, so good. This idea is absolutely correct. (Ref. John 12: 33-35 // John 3:17-18)

The “First Issue” Of The Judgement

So, it’s true, the First Issue of God’s judgement of the human soul is the prevailing attitude of the heart toward God.  Before any works, good or bad, are generated, what determines the ultimate destiny of the human soul is merely this primary attitude of the heart.  Whether it is one of faith (influential humility before God) or of sin (the intent to be self-determined), the prevailing internal motive alone will determine the fate of our soul.

Thus, contrary to popular belief, there will be no set of divine scales where our good works are weighed against our bad.  There will be only one consideration which will determine our final outcome:  it will be our primary heart value:  whether it is one of faith or one of self-determination. 
               A Truth, Poorly Extended

But, while all of this is true concerning the primary motive of the heart and the judgement, it is a completely errant extension of this idea to hold, as the revised gospel does, that, “therefore, God requires no faith-expressive good works of those who would know His friendship.”

Again, the Bible writer makes it clear that, in Christ, indeed, we are empowered for good works. So again, he writes, “For we are his workmanship, created in Christ Jesus unto good works, which God hath before ordained that we should walk in them.” (Ref. Ephesians 2:10 KJV) The Real Blueprint

So, God’s authentic redemptive plan, absolutely holds the clear expectation that the mature believer will be empowered by Christ to be always faith-expressive in heart (motive) and actions (good works). But here, again, we see an example where an important concept of redemption has been forced to revision in the prevailing mind of the modern Church. And it has been done merely to accommodate this errant belief in the impotency and non-responsibility of the believer.

Nevertheless, in truth, the divine redemptive blue print remains unchanged. It still calls for a Christ-empowered faith which naturally expresses itself in the form of God-directed good works. And, these real-life faith-expressions then yield meaning, fulfillment, and affirmation to our new, Christ-empowered faith. – exactly as the apostle said. (James 2:14-20 NKJV)

So, we come to this simple explanation. The Faith Actions (good works) which naturally flow out of the Faith Motive are not the means of our redemption – but rather, the wonderful result of our redemption – just as God intended all along. (Ref. Ephesians 2:10 KJV)

And Now, The Impact To Righteousness

According to the authentic redemptive plan, the believer actually experiences two kinds of righteousness in the redemptive process. The first is the imputed righteousness, mentioned earlier. And the second is a reality-based righteousness.

For us to expose the believer’s Christ-expanded potential for righteousness is really just a matter of continuing our discussion from the last few paragraphs on the nature of faith and the good works which true faith naturally spawns.

So now, let’s re-approach the believer’s Christ-renewed capacity for goodness. But, this time, from the standpoint of the two kinds of righteousness that he or she will experience in a true friendship with God.

The Revised Version

To continue to substantiate the non-responsibility of the believer, as you might expect, the revised gospel also holds that a believer’s righteousness must be always and only an imputed righteousness. This has to be, of course, since, in this view, the believer has no dependable capacity for a reality-based righteousness – he is, after all, impotent. Thus, the revised gospel insists that God, then, can only assign righteousness to the believer as a benefit of the forgiveness found in the Cross of Christ.

Sounds great, right? But, in fact, this is a very twisted version of the redemptive truth. The mistake is one of degree.

The error lies not in the existence of imputed righteousness. Indeed, God does make such an assignment to the believer. But, the error lies in the degree to which the non-responsible gospel takes that idea.

Because of its whole-hearted belief in the impotency of the believer, the revised gospel simply cannot logically see any possibility of a reality-based righteousness for the believer. So, it is forced to this like sinner, like saint position. Thus, even after conversion, there is simply no dependable material difference between a rank sinner and a believer in Christ. Save for the believer's statement of faith in Christ as the Savior they remain materially the same.

And, to what other place could one come if you fail to properly factor in the believer’s empowering Spiritual merger with Christ. Obviously, to subtract this pivotal empowerment from the redemptive process does, indeed, profoundly devastate one’s view of the human possibility. And, indeed, this is exactly what happens to those who subscribe to the idea of the believer’s impotency.

The Authentic Version

The authentic redemptive message, on the other hand, makes a distinct difference between the believer’s initial impotency (before his Spiritual baptism into the vitality of Christ) and his later Christ-empowered state – as we have already seen. Thus, the real gospel speaks of the initial necessity of an imputed righteousness. But, it also exposes the development of a later, reality-based righteousness. It is a real righteousness produced and sustained by the Living Christ as he comes to life within the believer through the Spiritual merger. (Ref. Romans 8:1-4)

So, in the workings of the true gospel, the idea of imputed righteousness does not have to be forcefully over-extended to prop up the idea of the believer’s impotency. Rather, the righteousness which we are assigned through the Cross, can simply be the safety net that it is intended to be. And it can remain that, as Christ begins to produce a vibrant reality-based righteousness in the believer through His empowering Spirit.

And, No Apology Required

And, this reality-based righteousness is a no-apology-required proposition. For, this is not self-righteousness. Rather, it is exactly what God designed it to be. It is a Christ-generated righteousness flowing directly out of the believer’s Spiritual integration with his empowering Savior.

This is a reality-based righteousness which entirely owes its existence to, and finds its legitimacy in, the believer’s symbiotic connection to Christ. This real-life righteousness is just the outflow of that Spiritual connection doing what it was designed to do – enable faith-expressive obedience. And, very contrary to the false claims of the non-responsible gospel, God does, indeed, still require this reality-based relationship of those who would know His friendship.

And Finally, The “Non-responsibility” Impact

On God’s Love

The revised gospel has also had a great impact on how the rank and file of the modern Church view God’s love. This non-responsible gospel holds, and has generally taught the modern Church to believe, that God’s love is always “Unconditional.” And, by now, the reader can probably see the connection between this position and the non-responsible idea.

So, here we go again with a very forced view, this time regarding God’s love. This is just one more example of the ingrained pattern of desperation within this bogus gospel to prop up the non-responsibility idea.

Thus – just as sin is to be expected and accepted. And faith cannot require real expression. And, grace must be restricted to mean only “mercy.” And, righteousness can never have any basis in reality. So too, must God’s love be always unconditional. In this way, God’s love can also be made to fit into and help legitimize the delusion of the believer’s non-responsibility before God.

But, in this, as in all of those other cases, this errant gospel is, once again, entirely blinded to the truth by its prime tenet. In truth, God’s love often involves a very significant level of accountability – as we shall see.

First, The General Nature Of Love

But, let’s begin by first looking at the general nature of true love. When we do that, even a casual parsing of love’s chemistry makes it easy to see that authentic love is simply a truth-based commitment to the well-being of others. Whether we’re talking romantic love, parental love, or brotherly love, ultimately, genuine love is simply this truth-based relational “buy-in” to the welfare of others.

And, indeed, love must be truth-based (based in a correct assessment of reality); or, it is not really love at all. Separated from a context of truth, love becomes perverted and, ultimately, altogether lost. Substantial love only ever issues from the larger moral context and the higher good of truth (the correct assessment of reality). And these things, ultimately, only ever issues from God’s authoritative interpretation of reality, as mentioned earlier.

A Truth Disconnect

Kermit Gosnell, was a notorious serial killer / abortionist, who was given life in prison for the brutal and heartless murder of fully viable after-birth babies. But, even after his convinction, he continued to maintain the righteousness of his hideous actions.

He could do this for only one reason. It was because he had severed the larger view of truth (the correct assessment of reality) from his consciousness. He chose to disconnect from that larger view and, instead, see only a hideously contorted view of his actions.

And, in fact, in order to maintain the illusion of “love” toward desperate mothers, Gosnell (and all pro-abortionists, for that matter) must necessarily do that. They must disconnect from the larger moral reality.

True love, on the other hand, always lives in the broad and bright light of truth. Substantive love always insists on remaining plugged into the larger context and the higher good which truth exposes.

Thus, when abortion, for example, is exposed to the light of this larger, truthful reality, two things become easily obvious. First, and foremost, it instantly becomes abhorrent to think of the life of a baby as anything but absolutely sacred. And, second, it becomes starkly obvious that when we disconnect love from truth, it ceases to be.

The Nuts and Bolts Of Love

So, again, it comes to this. True love is that which is truth-based. Authentic love is willing to be entirely shaped by the largest and most accurate interpretation of reality.

And certainly, it is typical that we grow, over time, into this larger view. And, it’s probably safe to say that, as we do so, most of us tend to first conceive of love as simply an emotion.

In truth, however, the emotions surrounding love are really more its usually delightful effect, than its actual composition. The real composition of love is formed from two much more substantial things.

Like the elements of sin and faith which we discussed earlier, love, too, has a duality to its nature. And, as was the case with those previous ideas, love is also, first, a value within the heart. And then, as that value seeks expression, love becomes an action.

So, while the emotions surrounding love are, indeed, often an enjoyable effect, nevertheless, the essence of real love is composed of a moral value in the heart. It is a deep-seated principle which values the well-being of others.

And simultaneously, love is also the real expressions of that value in the form of truth-based behavior which seeks to implement the good of others. That is why the New Testament writer would say, “My little children, let us not love in word or in tongue, but in deed and in truth.” (Ref. 1 John 3:18 NKJV) 

The Shortfall Of Emotions

Certainly, it is true that love’s emotional outflows can be very exhilarating. And, they often make our devotion to the well-being of others very easy and very gratifying. But, problematically, emotions can also be as fluid, and as short-lived as the circumstances into which they are born.

True love, however, must never be so. According to the divine prescription, our commitment to the welfare of others should be always stable and un-changing. So, true love could never find a consistent identity in the fluidness of how we feel, emotionally.

Rather, love, if it is to be consistent and enduring, must find its identity in the more solid substance of our value system as a deeply held principle. Then, anchored in that more substantial place, love is able to rise above the ebb and flow of circumstance and emotions to consistently express itself.

Therefore, to really understand the nature of love, we must understand that its emotional effects, spectacular though they may sometimes be, are not the actual essence of true love. The real substance of true love is always composed of that deeply held inner value, and the truth-based expression of that value in pursuit of another’s higher good.

Thus, ultimately, the composition of true love comes to be about who we are, within (our values), and how we actually behave, without (our actions). This is the real and more substantial compound of love which enables it to prevail, even when the emotions which normally surround love may fail.

So, Jesus would say, “You have heard that it was said, ‘You shall love your neighbor and hate your enemy.' But I say to you, love your enemies, bless those who curse you, do good to those who hate you, and pray for those who spitefully use you and persecute you, that you may be sons of your Father in heaven; for He makes His sun rise on the evil and on the good, and sends rain on the just and on the unjust.” (Ref. Matthew 5:43-45 NKJV)

Truth Exposes Pretentious Love

So, it is this more substantial dichotomy of love, as a moral reality within and without, which exposes the pretense of the wife beater who later claims to love his wife. In his later remorse, he may feel a fleeting emotion of affection, but, in reality, he knows nothing of substantive love. Again, real love is always much more about what you do, than what you feel, emotionally.

Doting parents, who spoil their children rotten, are also in the same boat. They may be completely overtaken by the emotion of affection. But, they are not truly loving their children, as they have not truly embraced the well-being of the child. They are really just gratifying themselves – the exact opposite of true love.

And religious pretenders, who continue to look to their own pleasure rather than God’s, know nothing of truly loving Him. They only pretend love. But, ultimately, a truth-based reality will always expose such pretense.

                        Let’s Plug In  

Now, let’s plug these general ideas regarding love’s true nature into what the New Testament has to say on the subject of love.  In the most notable place, the divinely inspired writer said this.  “Though I speak with the tongues of men and of angels, but have not love [am not truly invested in the well-being of others], I have become sounding brass or a clanging cymbal.
"And though I have the gift of prophecy, and understand all mysteries and all knowledge, and though I have all faith, so that I could remove mountains, but have not love, [but remain self-concentric] I am nothing.

 "And though I bestow all my goods to feed the poor, and though I give my body to be burned, but have not love, [but my actions are not truth-based] it profits me nothing.

[But, because authentic love is always involved in truth-based actions, it can be seen doing such things as this] "Love suffers long and is kind; love does not envy; love does not parade itself, is not puffed up; does not behave rudely, does not seek its own, is not provoked, thinks no evil; does not rejoice in iniquity, but rejoices in the truth; bears all things, believes all things, hopes all things, endures all things.

"Love never fails [it is stable and consistent]. But whether there are prophecies, they will fail; whether there are tongues, they will cease; whether there is knowledge, it will vanish away.
For we know in part and we prophesy in part.

"But when that which is perfect [mature and completing] has come, then that which is in part will be done away. When I was a child [immature and self-concentered], I spoke as a child, I understood as a child, I thought as a child; but when I became a man, [when I matured to a more sophisticated view which takes into account the condition of others] I put away childish things.

"For now we see in a mirror, dimly, but then face to face. Now I know in part, but then I shall know just as I also am known. And now abide faith, hope, love, these three; but the greatest of these is love" [a truth-based value which moves us to respond to the well-being of others]. (Ref. 1 Corinthians 13:1-13 NKJV) [Brackets added]

The Pivotal Questions

So, this is the general nature of love.  But now, let’s come back to God’s love, in particular.  Because the revised gospel has become, in practical terms, the ascendant gospel of our time, it follows that most would (and, indeed, do) presently believe that God’s love, is always unconditional – as this errant gospel teaches.  But, the truth is, God’s love is sometimes unconditional and sometimes very conditional.

But, before we get deeply into that discussion, we should note this.  When we are talking about conditional and unconditional concerning God’s love, obviously, what we really have in view is His capacity to approve or disapprove us.  We would see conditional love as having the capacity to disapprove.  And, we would see unconditional love as being entirely void of that capacity

So, we should begin our discussion of the nature of God’s love with this clarification in mind; because, this brings us to the pivotal questions.  Can a God, whose very nature is one of never-ceasing love, sometimes disapprove – and even entirely reject us?  And, if so, how can this be?  These are the important questions that we will answer shortly. 

         A Primary Motivational Apparatus

But now, just before we get to the precise nature of God’s love, let’s also glimpse the role love plays as one half of God’s Primary Motivational Apparatus. We have actually already touched on these ideas before, in our discussion of the Trinity. But now, let’s expand them a bit.

As mentioned earlier, even with casual observation, we can see that God often uses love in league with respect for authority (what the Bible calls fear, as in, “the fear of the Lord”) as His mechanism to move us toward refinement and maturity in our character essence.

Indeed, these two motives, love and fear (respect for authority), are the most basic motives involved in human development. And, taken together and operating in balance, they do, indeed, bring real improvement to the human condition. Thus, we see this primary league of motives repeated over and over at strategic places in our psychological environment.

    Love & Respect:  In The Nature Of God

For example, consider the nature of God, Himself.  Without question, he is a molding influence upon His creation.  And, we can easily see these two aspects within the divine make-up. 

God, the Father, very much represents the authority figure who commands our respect.  While Christ, on the other hand, as God the Son, clearly conveys God’s tender love to mankind.  So, these two images of God, balanced and blended together, then become shapers of both our character, and, in turn, our correct response to Him.

         Love & Respect:  In God’s Word

 We can also see this dichotomy in the nature of God’s word.  Note that the Old Testament clearly conveys the idea of respect for God’s authority.  While, the New Testament, on the other hand, conveys the primary image of God’s truth-based love for us. 

  Love & Respect:  In The Family Structure

Also, note that God has established this same balance of shaping motives in the family unit as the ideal means of molding the character essence of our children.  In general terms, fatherhood typically brings an awareness of respect for authority.  And motherhood generally conveys an embracing love.

So, very obviously, this tandem of motives is employed by our Creator in very strategic places to impact the human psyche and thus our character essence.  And, this motivational cross-connection between love and respect to serve God’s refining process is not the only impressive alignment of these two motives.

      Also, Some Impressive Parallels

There are also some very impressive parallels between the nature of love, and the nature of respect.  In fact, we can easily notice that there are actually three distinct types of respect which we typically encounter in relationships.  And, the nature of these different kinds of respect are clearly mimicked by three corresponding types of love.

So, let’s briefly consider these parallels.  They go a long way toward accurately defining for us, the true nature of divine love.
        Parallel 1:
             Love And Respect Based In Essence

Respect Based In Essence:  There is an essence-based respect (belonging to our core nature) generally held by and universally extended to human beings – simply because they are.  This is not a respect which is earned in any way.  It is just the innate reverence for human life which is normally and naturally occurring within a healthy human environment. 

This is the kind of respect which causes us to always ascribe at least a base level of dignity to the human species.  And, it is this type of respect which decrees that we thus always act humanely toward our kind, no matter how disappointing their behavior may be.

God’s Love - Based In His Essence:  Now, let’s consider this essence-based type of love as it occurs in the divine nature.  Like the respect described above, this essence-based love also occurs very spontaneously in the divine nature – as it also does in the human nature, for that matter. 

This essence-based love is what good parents feel when they gaze upon their infant child.  And similarly, it is this same kind of simple, instinctive, very visceral love for humanity which God feels when He gazes upon His human child.  It is a love which simply emanates from within His basic essence.

And, it is probably safe to say that this type of love does, indeed, fully fit the present popular perception of God’s love for mankind.  And, that includes its capacity to be “completely unconditional.”  However, it is also true that, again, modern, pop-preaching and shallow theology have vastly over-extended this view of divine love to accommodate the non-responsibility idea. 

In the modern Church, witless preaching almost always portrays the New Testament, Greek word, “Agape´,” as meaning, “God’s unconditional love.”  In fact, the word is now so often used in this connection, that the grassroots Church, of all stripes, has largely come to believe that it actually means “unconditional love.” 

But, in fact, the word, Agape´, actually has a much broader and more basic meaning.  The word simply specifically identifies the divine love.  That is, it differentiates the love which exists within the nature (or essence) of God – without regard for whether it is conditional or unconditional – as being a distinctly unique.  Thus, in truth, the word, Agape,´ simply denotes the “divine love, as a whole” – with all of its various facets included.

Nevertheless, it is also true that the divine love does, indeed, sometimes express itself in a completely unconditional way – as in God’s redemptive invitation to mankind.  Certainly, the “whosoever” invitation of John 3:16 is a completely unconditional expression of God’s loving character essence.  And it is this unconditional expression of God’s loving essence which initiates the redemption of our soul.

So, the first love of redemption is, indeed, a completely forgiving love, a welcoming love, a non-condemning love.  It is the entirely unconditional love of God’s open arms.

And, again, it is essentially this same kind of love which we enjoy from our parents in our infancy and early childhood.  And, it is this kind of love that we naturally extend to our children in their earliest years. 

                Beyond The First Love

And obviously, this is a type of love that is very basic to and deeply engrained in a healthy parental nature.  But, it is not this love that entirely raises and matures our children.  No parent can raise their child employing only this kind of non-requiring love without damaging the child.  And, neither does God bring His “children” to maturity using only this unconditional kind of love. 

Rather, the parental process, the loving responsibility of presiding over the growth and refinement of a child, requires of both God and man that we employ a different kind of love in order to be truly loving throughout our child’s growth and development. 

So, we are brought to an additional aspect of God’s love.  But again, let’s understand this second aspect of divine love by first resorting to its parallel in the nature of respect.

     Parallel 2:
            Love and Respect: Based In Position

Respect Based In Position:  The second kind of respect that we often encounter in human relationships is the respect that is based in position.  This is the kind of respect which is accorded to a parent, a president, a teacher, a police officer, or a referee. 

We typically render this position-based respect for a very important reason.  We do so because we understand that these are people, charged with the disposition of important responsibilities.  We understand that they are entirely obligated and authorized to discharge those responsibilities. So, we respect their preeminence in that regard.  And, these same dynamics also exist in the larger reality where we encounter the position-based love of God as the Governing Creator.

God’s Love – Based In His Position

As previously described, within God’s nature, there is certainly that enduring, tender, essence-based love for His human “child” which never goes away, or even diminishes. But ultimately, there is also a superseding love which comes into play. This is God’s molding and refining love. And, this type of divine love is easily and accurately described by simply continuing the analogy of God as our Divine Parent.
So, this follows.  All good parents have a view of what they consider goodness in their child’s character.  As well, they have a more complete view of what society and ultimately life, itself, requires, and will require, of their children.  This is a view that the child simply does not and will not have for many years. 

So, the parent assumes a truth-based responsibility for the well-being of their child in this regard – they love them through the necessities of the maturing process.  And, as an indispensable part of that love, they assume and employ the authority required to protect and guide their child to a maturity which meets these character and societal requirements.  This is the essential nature of the parental position

Thus, as the early innocence of the child begins to give way to willfulness, the correction and refinement process of their rearing begins.  And, it is always a confrontational process – sometime more, sometimes less – but it always involves some conflict.

               A New Facet Of Love

So, to manage this conflict, again, the good parent employs a different kind of love.  The parent employs a governing love which has the requirement of respect for their parental authority blended into its nature.

And so, in this position-based love, we can again notice the operation of God’s basic duo of refining motives:  love and respect for authority.  Thus, this governing love does, indeed, clearly differentiate itself from that initial, less demanding love of a child’s early years.

This new governing love does not, of course, replace that instinctive, essence-based love which ever bonds a good parent’s to their child.  Rather, it supplements it.  And, sometimes it supersedes the leniency of that less demanding, essence-based love.    

This new positional love also extends well beyond the limitations of that early love.  And, it is certainly a love which places requirements and expectations upon the child. 

               Loving Obligations

But, again, notice that these requirements are made necessary by two obligations of the parent’s love.   First, they are made necessary by the parent’s obligation to mold the character of the child.  And second, they are made necessary by the parent’s obligation to the well-being of the larger and higher order.  Thus, the love of good parents, as they raise their children, is not merely about the child.  It is also about the larger human economy. 

So, this love which is based in their position as a parent, is “a love with a much larger view.” And, this molding and refining kind of parental love is a perfect picture of God’s “Position-based love” for humanity.

           God’s Love With A Larger View

As with any good parent, it is God’s position-based love, which causes Him to assume the larger view of love’s obligations. And this position-based love can be succinctly captured in one simple statement.  It is this.  Beyond our infancy, God always loves us within the context of His larger responsibility to the whole of His creation.  

In other words, God’s position-based love does not merely take into account His responsibility for the well-being of His individual child.  Rather, it also takes into account the obligation He has to the whole of His larger creation.

Thus, the insistence of God’s position-based love is that His individual children will fit well into His larger creation.  His intent is to insure that the goodness of His creation is preserved and perpetuated through them, and not in the least diminished by them. 

So, this type of God’s love is very much a conditional type of love.  It has an insistence.  And, that insistence must be satisfied in order for this type of divine love to approve us.  Thus, again, this requirement aspect makes this type of God’s love quite different than the unconditional love given in our early childhood before Him. 

And, again, while this position-based love does not at all diminish that tender love for His child which is basic to God’s nature, it does, nevertheless, supersede it.  So, as God begins to raise and refine His human children, it is this condition-laden, position-based type of divine love which begins to practically govern and define our relationship with Him. 

         The “One Dimensional” Struggle

The non-responsible gospel struggles with this kind of divine love.  Again, to support the premise of the impotent believer, the non-responsible view is forced to see God’s love as one dimensional, always and only unconditional.  But, in fact, this simplistic view of God’s love doesn’t even come close to explaining the love of the God with whom we really have to do. 

As a prime example, always unconditional divine love is really at a loss to explain the God of the judgement.  It simply cannot account for a Governing Creator who sits on the throne of judgement, carefully guarding the integrity of His creation.  And yet, God has clearly revealed Himself to be that God in the Bible.

On the other hand, God’s position-based love easily accounts for this aspect of the divine role.  It simply allows for God’s larger interest which reaches beyond merely the good of the individual to the good of the whole of His creation.

So, absent the very forced non-responsible interpretations, it becomes easy to recognize the love of God which attends appropriately to both the well-being of His individual child and that of His larger creation – simultaneously. And, when we embrace the reality of this divine love of the larger view, it brings us to a truthful perception of God which actually matches the God of the Bible and true reality.

              The Love Of The Higher Good

So, it is this love which is based in God’s position as the Governing Creator, which causes the Divine Parent to hold real expectations of His children.  Thus, it is this love which sometimes says “no” to us – for our own good and/ or for that of His larger creation.  

It is also this – for your own and/ or the larger good – kind of love which causes God to correct, and even punish, His children for their wrong doing.  And it is this love with a larger view, which refuses to allow His children to ever assume a position above the divine principles of truth which govern His creation. 

            The Childish Mistake

Children often have trouble understanding and embracing the love which flows from their parent’s larger view of life and their more extensive responsibilities.  A parent’s requiring love remains, nevertheless, a true love which truly looks after the child’s well-being in the context of that larger picture. 

Such is the child-like struggle of the non-responsible gospel.  It refuses to recognize this more adult reality regarding God’s love for mankind – for fear that mankind cannot rise to its requirements. 

But again, the sad truth is this.  This fear, which constantly torments subscribers to this errant gospel, is only able to do so because this grotesque redemptive view totally underestimates the role and the power of the Living Christ within the devout believer.

Parallel 3: Love and Respect:

Based in Performance

Now, let’s look at a kind of divine love that is even more impossible to reconcile with the non-responsible gospel. It is the type of God’s love which is based in performance. But, as before, let’s begin with the parallel idea regarding respect.

Respect Based In Performance: And, indeed, there does also exist this third kind of respect which is based solely in one’s performance. The positional respect which we previously discussed may or may not be earned or materially deserved. A parent, a policeman, or a military officer may or may not be good at his positional role, nevertheless, his position still affords him or her the necessity of respect.

The military actually has a saying which speaks to this idea.  It is this.  “You don’t salute the man; you salute the uniform.” The idea is, of course, that you may not respect the actual person, but you certainly must respect the rank (the position) he holds in the military.

But, that is not the way performance-based respect works at all.  Performance-based respect absolutely does require good performance. This type of respect must always, without exception, be earned and deserved. 

We can insist that our children always give us the respect that is based in our position as their parent – even when we are a really bad one.  But, when it comes to the respect which is based in our actual performance, we simply cannot gain that in any other way than by performing admirably.  Whether it’s our child, a co-worker, or our team mates, they cannot give this performance-based respect except in response to true merit. 

The unalterable reality is that this performance-based type of respect can only be generated by the perception of true virtue.  Performance based respect simply doesn’t exist until it is inspired by meritorious behavior. So, it is just not possible to obtain this kind of respect by simply demanding it. 

              Now, The Parallel In Love

In this same vein, there does also exist a performance-based love in both man and God.  Indeed, there is a type of love which only expresses itself in response to our approvable performance.          

God’s Love – Based In Our Performance: 

So, let’s briefly consider this performance-based type of divine love. This is the love that is exhibited in the Gospel of John, for example, in the New Testament of the Bible. 

In chapter 14, the apostle quotes the words of Jesus who says, “If you love Me, keep My commandments [the admirable performance].  And I will pray the Father, and He will give you another Helper,[the performance based expression of God’s approving love] that He may abide with you forever – the Spirit of truth, whom the world cannot receive, because it neither sees Him nor knows Him; but you know Him, for He dwells with you and will be in you.

“I will not leave you orphans; I will come to you. A little while longer and the world will see Me no more
[because their actual life performance is disapproved], but you will see Me [the privilege of God’s approving, performance-based love]. Because I live, you will live also. At that day you will know that I am in My Father, and you in Me, and I in you.

“He who has My commandments and keeps them, it is he who loves Me
[approvable performance]. And he who loves Me will be loved by My Father, and I will love him and manifest Myself to him [the response of God’s merit-based love to that approved performance].

“Judas (not Iscariot) said to Him, ‘Lord, how is it that You will manifest Yourself to us, and not to the world?’ 

“Jesus answered and said to him, ‘If anyone loves Me, he will keep My word; and My Father will love him, and We will come to him and make Our home with him [the divine love responding to approvable performance by granting intimate access].  He who does not love Me does not keep My words [the disapproved performance which results in the withholding His expression of performance-based love, thus, no intimate access to Him]; and the word which you hear is not Mine but the Father’s who sent Me.”  (Ref. John 14:15-24 NKJV)

So, obviously, there is type of divine love which is given only in response to merit. We can actually see this love in many places in the New Testament. The notable, Parable Of The Talents, becomes another example where this type of divine love is on display. In this parable, Jesus clearly contrasts the expression of God’s approving, performance-based love as opposed to the withholding of the same due to disapproved performance.

In this passage from that parable, Jesus says of the approved, “His lord said to him, ‘Well done, good and faithful servant; you were faithful over a few things, I will make you ruler over many things. Enter into the joy of your lord.’” But, of the disapproved, He says, “And cast the unprofitable servant into the outer darkness. There will be weeping and gnashing of teeth.” (Ref. Matthew 25: 14-30 - NKJV)

Also, in the New Testament explanation which Jesus gave of the Final Judgement of Mankind, again, He exposed God’s performance-based love. There, He described how the “goats” (the disapproved souls) would be separated from the “sheep” (those who are approved by God’s performance-based love).

And again, Jesus exposes this merit-based divine love.  He says, “When the Son of Man comes in His glory, and all the holy angels with Him, then He will sit on the throne of His glory. All the nations will be gathered before Him, and He will separate them one from another, as a shepherd divides his sheep from the goats.

“And He will set the sheep on His right hand, but the goats on the left.  Then the King will say to those on His right hand, ‘Come, you blessed of My Father, inherit the kingdom prepared for you from the foundation of the world:
[the response of God’s merit-based love to approved behavior]  for I was hungry and you gave Me food; I was thirsty and you gave Me drink; I was a stranger and you took Me in; I was naked and you clothed Me; I was sick and you visited Me; I was in prison and you came to Me...’ [the approved performance]

“Then He will also say to those on the left hand, ‘Depart from Me, you cursed, into the everlasting fire prepared for the devil and his angels: [the withholding of performance-based love due to complete disapproval]  for I was hungry and you gave Me no food; I was thirsty and you gave Me no drink; I was a stranger and you did not take Me in, naked and you did not clothe Me, sick and in prison and you did not visit Me’… [the disapproved performance] “And these will go away into everlasting punishment, but the righteous into eternal life.” [note the contrast in God’s reactions to performance owing to His performance-based love]  (Ref. Matthew 25: 31-46 NKJV)

                     Sophisticated Love

So, the truth regarding God’s love is that it really is a very sophisticated, multi-dimensional love.  And it is this sophistication which explains the capacity of God’s love to be both conditional and unconditional at the same time.

And, to recognize the sophisticated nature of God’s love is to easily answer the pivotal questions posed earlier. “Can a God, whose very nature is one of never-ceasing love, sometimes disapprove – and even entirely reject us?  And, if so, how can this be?”

Indeed, as we have seen, God’s Essence-based love is absolutely never ceasing.   But, at the same time, He retains a capacity for disapproval, and even outright rejection, in His Positional and Performance-based love.   These are the superseding facets of His love which absolutely insist upon the higher good of both His individual creature and His larger creation.

Thus, to portray God’s love in a simplistic, one-dimensional way, as being always and only unconditional, is to completely dismiss its real sophistication. Nevertheless, the revised gospel of non-responsibility is very willing to do that very thing in order to substantiate the delusion of the believer's absolute non-accountability before God’s after a verbal statement of faith in Christ.

But, here is the very succinct answer of the Savior, Himself, to that delusion. "Not everyone who says to Me, 'Lord, Lord,' shall enter the kingdom of heaven, but he who does the will of My Father in heaven.” (Ref. Matthew 7:21 NKJV)

The Bogus Re-write

So, we have now seen, very specifically, the impact of this bogus, non-responsible gospel on the major concepts of our redemption. Indeed, this errant message has very broadly rewritten our concept of Sin, Faith, Grace, Righteousness, and God’s Love in the mind of the modern Church at the grassroots level. And more than any other single factor, the practical embrace of this errant message across all quadrants has produced a wayward and anemic modern Church.

Truly, this dark gospel has all but entirely succeeded in stamping out the modern Church’s awareness of the real, here-and-now import of the Resurrection of Christ.  Thus, now, we are left largely ignorant of even the possibility of personal empowerment and the real renewal of our character essence through the divine Spiritual merger

Thus this delusional approach to redemption has broadly subverted the spectacular opportunity offered to humanity by the Living Christ for a true personal newness.  And, it has replaced that wonderful opportunity with the absolute emptiness of the “legitimized apathy” described in the letter that Jesus left for these times in The Book Of The Revelation.

                        The Real Author

In reality, this revised gospel is not God’s Gospel, at all.  It is a satanic doppelganger.  It is a smooth, conscience numbing, sound-good, feel-good gospel, specifically designed by the Darkness to subvert the souls of men. 

This devilish gospel is intended to do nothing less than rob the modern Church of its vitality, undermine its effectiveness in the larger world, and set the stage for the appearance of Satan’s antichrist. And, indeed, it is presently succeeding in all of those purposes.

Again, the New Testament writer says this, “… and every spirit that does not confess that Jesus Christ has come in the flesh [first, in His own, and now in that of the devout believer – through the Spiritual baptism] is not of God. And this is the spirit of the Antichrist, which you have heard was coming, and is now already in the world." (1John 4:3 - NKJV) [Brackets Added]

In fact, however, Jesus Christ has, indeed, come in the flesh and even now lives in the fleshly form of devout believers to empower and renew them. But this counterfeit gospel, devised by the Darkness, not only demands, but expends every effort to make sure, that humanity overlooks this most spectacular facet of God’s authentic redemptive plan: a thorough personal renewal in the power of the Indwelling Christ.

And why is the Darkness so very afraid of this reality? Because this Christ brokered renewal of the believer is the ultimate truth which finally sets us free, once and for all, from the oppression of the Darkness. And, it brings us, once again, to a deep and enduring friendship with our Creator.

A Succinct Final Analysis

So, in the final analysis, this is the truth. That magnificent Cross is, indeed, designed to secure our forgiveness and open the way for our reconciliation to God. But, in fact, the redemption of the human soul is not singularly based in the magnificence of the Cross and its merciful forgiveness.

Our redemption is also based in the magnificence of the Resurrection. It is the Resurrection which furnishes the believer with an imminent, thorough, and entirely Christ-empowered renewal of his or her character essence – in the here and now.

And, here is the very simple progression of that renewal. It begins with the Resurrection by which we gain the Living Savior. And, because our Savior lives, we are afforded the opportunity of a personal merger with His divine character essence through the Spiritual baptism.

And it is through this personal integration with Christ’s character essence that we gain access to His value system, as well as His empowering energies. And it is through these Christ-supplied resources that a durable, fulfilling, reality-based, and consistently faith-expressive relationship is enabled between God and the believer. 

What The “Revisionists” Are Missing

So, indeed, we are deeply indebted to the Dying Christ for the forgiveness that we find in His Cross. But, taking the believer far beyond mere forgiveness, is the Living Christ of the Resurrection.

It is the Living Christ to whom we are indebted for the thorough personal renewal which restores a strong and enduring friendship with God. And, it is this immediate benefit of the Resurrection, this Christ-empowered, imminent renewal which the non-responsible approach entirely fails to correctly account for.

So, the “Non-responsible gospel” falls far short. It is, essentially, a “Forgiveness Only Gospel.” Whereas, the Authentic Gospel actually excels as a “Forgiveness and Renewal Gospel.”

The New Testament writer beautifully captures this wonderful duality of the divine redemptive intention with these succinct words. “Much more then, being now justified by his blood, we shall be saved from wrath through him. For if, when we were enemies, we were reconciled to God by the death of his Son, much more, being reconciled, we shall be saved by his life.” (Ref. Romans 5:9-10 KJV) Nevertheless, We Have Surrendered

Thus, our reconciliation to God is not enabled by some reality disconnect and the embrace of a delusional sense of well-being. Rather, through both the Dying and the Living Christ, God has designed, a very effective, reality-based, and very imminent renewal of the believer.

Nevertheless, something very sad has broadly occurred across the Church in these more modern times. Even among those segments of the Church who have traditionally held to God’s authentic redemptive plan, a widespread surrender to this much easier non-responsible belief system has happened.

But note, this widespread collapse of redemptive truth in recent times has not occurred in a formal theological way. We have not formally rewritten our theology book. Indeed, they remain pretty much as they have always been.

Oh no, our widespread abandonment of the true redemptive path has occurred in a much more subtle and much less sophisticated way than that. We have merely, in our minds, broadly given in to the pressure of “easy.”

So now, it has come to be that, across the modern Church, on a practical level, the rank-and-file are no longer actually defined by the theology of their respective denominational divisions etc. The new reality is this. Regardless of lip service to their formal theological banner, the real operational theology in the mind of the rank-and-file, of the modern Evangelical Church, has largely become this “statement of faith and we’re done” approach.

Indeed, this approach has now resoundingly carried the theological day. And, it has done so where it really counts. Not among theology professors and denominational leaders, but again, it has won in the daily operational consciousness of the rank-and-file.

The Driving Forces

Obviously easy is, well – easy. And that certainly accounts for a lot of the success of this non-responsible approach in the mind of the now typical modern believer.

But again, an equally important motive is this desire to legitimize our own unwillingness to deeply invest in a truly redemptive relationship with God. These two strong forces, working in concert, have become the powerful impetus which has driven the modern Church, in huge numbers, to this broad informal subscription to this bogus re-interpretation of the divine redemptive plan.

There Is A Way That Seems Right

And, we have, indeed, managed to put together a really workable delusion. It is one which absolutely allows us to be psychologically exonerated while simultaneously removing the need for a real relational involvement.

Sadly though, something else is also true about this non-responsible approach. When we insist on retaining this "investment optional" approach, another certainty kicks in.

At that point, we clearly identify ourselves as being still self-determined, and non-faith-expressive. And, there should be no mistake, we will be judged accordingly at the end. (Ref. Matt. 7:21)

No Wonder

Nevertheless, it’s really no wonder that this "E-Z" form of redemption has become such a fast-spreading infection to the rank-and-file of the modern Church. How could it not become so? It is so very appealing on the surface. And it is so very compatible with the general “Lighten up!” ethos of these more modern times.

Thus, indeed, this revised redemptive plan now effortlessly leaps over the theological walls which have, in times past, somewhat protected the diversity the Church. But now, no matter what theological banner a segment of the Church may be flying, this “non-responsible virus” has, indeed, broadly infected the day-to-day rationale of its rank-and-file.

A Huge Contributing Factor

And too, there is a very stark contributing factor which has been key to the Church’s failure to recognize the repulsiveness of this revised gospel. It is the very faulty learning process which the modern Church has come to embraced.

Today, it is not common for believers to pursue God’s truth and their own character maturity in Christ as they would an important vocation. For example, if we want to be a doctor, or a physicist, or an engineer we absolutely embrace the necessary learning process which begins at square one and proceed, very carefully and methodically. And, we continue this careful pursuit of knowledge and skills until we thoroughly understand our field of endeavor and can function very successfully within it.

And, indeed, true discipleship, the pursuit of our own renewal in Christ, should employ that same passionate and methodical embrace of the discovery process. And it should do so to achieve those same essential goals.

Obviously, none of us would want to be under the knife of a surgeon who chose to party, skip classes, and pay little attention during med-school. So why would we think it will turn out ok to “phone it in” when it comes to the redemption of our eternal soul. Fact is, “tain’t” so – not by a long shot.

What is really required by the authentic redemption plan is, indeed, an intense and orderly pursuit of the truth directly under the tutelage of the Holy Spirit. But, the overwhelming tendency in the modern Church is, again, to choose a much easier method of personal development – and this includes most ministers.

The Predominant Process

The present learning process typically goes like this. We simply listen to various views from various secondary sources – the seminary professor, the pastor/ preacher, the Sunday school teacher, or the devotional writer. It’s just much easier and quicker to casually consider these second-hand interpretations of life, and scripture, and God’s ways. So, we now widely prefer to simply listen and read after others– who have usually done the same, themselves.

Then, from this warmed over soup of second-hand ideas, we fashion our own preferred interpretation of what it takes to save the soul, and experience God’s friendship, and understand His ways. We merely pick and choose, from these exposures, what we like, what sounds good to us.

And then, as time goes along, we cobble together all of these not necessarily well matched pieces of information. And, this hodge-podge of disjointed information eventually becomes our personal belief system.

And, when we’re done, typically, such a system amounts to little more than a jumble of mismatched clichés which have more “sound good” than substance. And how could we realistically expect better when we depend on nothing more profound than widely opinionated Sunday School discussions, shallow pop-preaching, the 15 Minute variety of devotional books, and our own “emotional druthers” to produce our views?

                          On Balance

And, all of this is not to say that good teachers are not good.  Indeed, they are, and ordained by God.  I’m attempting to be one of those even now.  And certainly, theological discussions with others are good.  And encouraging and thoughtful writings are good. 

But, the teaching whispers and providential life lessons of the Holy Spirit are inestimably better than all of those things when it comes to obtaining and confirming the dependable truth of the divine perspective. Thus, the Holy Spirit’s secluded and very personalized, one-on-one, classroom, where a significant-personal investment of time and heart are the requirement, must always remain the believer’s primary source of truth and verification.

Jesus said this about the role of the Spirit in this regard, “Howbeit when he, the Spirit of truth, is come, he will guide you into all truth: for he shall not speak of himself; but whatsoever he shall hear, that shall he speak: and he will shew you things to come.” (John 16:13 KJV)

A True Process

Obviously, we are speaking of a real, Spirit-led discovery process here. We are advocating what the Bible advocates across the breadth of the New Testament: a true Spiritual connection to the heart (character essence) and mind of Christ which, in turn, begins to yield an accurate awareness of divine truth. (Ref. 1 Corinthians 2:16)

But, what we are not suggesting is that the believer just off-handedly begin to trust whatever perspectives might flow from the depths of his or her own self-contained intellect or emotions. When you think about it, while this approach might, indeed, reprioritize the use of secondary teaching sources, it would not, however, change the overall result. If we simply become our own, introverted “truth source,” that too would only yield a mishmash of shallow and ill-connected ideas.

Rather, the simple encouragement here is to first experience the Spiritual merger with the Savior. And then, truly invest in and rely on this genuine Spiritual connection to the mind and heart of God, as your primary source for durable, truthful interpretations of life. The simple idea is to move away from this practice of exaggerating the use of secondary sources and make better use of the Holy Spirit as our primary teacher (Ref. - John 15: 1-8 /1 Corinthians 2:16 / John 14:6 / 1 John 1: 5-7) 

Our First Teacher

Christ, in the person of the Holy Spirit, has chosen to be our First Teacher. Thus, it should be His voice, His values, and His life-lessons which first interpret life’s circumstances, the scriptures, God’s ways, and one’s true relational standing before God. These things absolutely deserve and require a first-hand interpretation and confirmation from God, Himself.

And, beyond all of that, we can only accurately assess the real worth of what the “second-handers” may offer, after we are well-equipped with the divine perspectives. Bottom line, a well-informed friendship with God is never based in hearsay, before it is based in “He say.”

The Sad Results

Nevertheless, this exaggerated use of often shallow, and even entirely corrupted, secondary sources has absolutely led to the widespread cluelessness of the modern Church. And, just as Jesus described in His letter, the modern Church is, indeed, now largely oblivious to its own serious jeopardy before God. Nor, do we see the hideousness of how we have disrespected the beauty of God’s true redemptive plan. And, it's all because we have been insulated from those perspectives by so many talking heads.

The Better Way

Jesus had a better way. He said, very simply, “My sheep hear My voice, and I know them, and they follow Me.” (John 10:27 NKJV)

It’s Still Christmas!

So, the reality is this. The modern Church is struggling, even to the point of entering into what Heaven’s historians may eventually be forced to describe as a “dark age.” This could become a time when the Church actually lost touch with what it once so clearly knew.

Nevertheless, the whole point of that Revelation Letter which Jesus wrote to this present Church so long ago was to preclude such an outcome. And, indeed, there is still time and opportunity to reject the error filled message of the underworld and return to authentic redemptive path.

Ebenezer's Passion

When Ebenezer Scrooge, was the main character in Charles Dickens’s novella, A Christmas Carol. Most will remember that when he finally awakened from the sleep of his Christmas Eve visions, he and one burning question. "What day is it?!”

He asked this burning question because he was desperate to know something else. He wanted to know if there was any time left to him to amend the dismal forecast of his own tragic end which he had foreseen in those visions.

And, when he found that all had happened in but one night he was absolutely elated. It was still Christmas Day!

That meant that there was, indeed, still time. There was still the opportunity for a grand do-over. And, do everything over, He did - and a thousand times better, to the very end of his life.

Again, in the Revelation letter to the present Church, Jesus said, “I counsel you to buy from Me gold refined in the fire, that you may be rich; and white garments, that you may be clothed, that the shame of your nakedness may not be revealed; and anoint your eyes with eye salve, that you may see. As many as I love, I rebuke and chasten. Therefore, be zealous and repent.”

The final sentiment of the letter clearly indicates that the love of Christ has also left to this wayward modern Church, the space for an alternate and better ending. It is, still “Christmas Day!” for us, too, so to speak.

Indeed, it is not too late. And, if our own desperate gratitude drives us to respond with abandonment, as did Ebenezer's, we too can write a better ending to our story.
                         Continue to Section 9