Friday, January 9, 2015

Section 8: Spiritual Dynamics: The Church



  Reader Notice: 

 The reader should know that this upcoming section probably falls well below even the most charitable idea of tactfulness in its composition.  Please understand in advance that this approach was not taken lightly. 

 

It is done in service to a simple idea.  That idea is this: “Truth, even when it is very challenging truth, should never be held hostage to less noble preferences.”  We cannot and must not allow the emotional difficulty or the social consequences, big or small, to keep us from confronting any reality as it actually is.  

 

Tactfulness, political correctness, or momentary social or relational expedients simply have no right whatsoever to cause the Church to ignore, or shade, or spin, or forsake the correct interpretation of reality.  Thus, Jesus expressed this sentiment for the Church of every historical age, “You are the salt of the earth; but if the salt loses its flavor, how shall it be seasoned? It is then good for nothing but to be thrown out and trampled underfoot by men.”

 

Nevertheless, this writer would like the reader to know that what follows was no easier to write than it will be for the reader to read.  But, writing it was, indeed, much easier than facing a failure of my own intellect and conscience to present what might arguably be a more euphemistic but less accurate view of the Church’s contemporary reality.  


Act 3

 

So, one more time we come back to the “program” of the redemptive drama to discover a thumbnail of the final major character role that we will look at as part of the basic story line.  It is the role of the Church.  

 

It has been said often that the Church is not a building, it is a people.  And, it must be clearly restated, one more time here.  Indeed, the Church is a people who are not merely the passive recipients of the redemptive blessing.  But, in fact, we are also active participants in the process, both individually and corporately. In both cases, we actually have a very sophisticated and highly nuanced role to play in redemption. 

 

For example, in Act 1, of this drama, as individuals within the Church, believers enter the redemptive scene as a neophyte to the faith. The “biblical script” actually has Jesus describing it this way where He says, “Verily, verily, I say unto you, except a man be born again, he cannot see the kingdom of God.”

 

Then, by Act 2, the script calls for a gradual change to the individual believer’s role.  As the divine drama unfolds, not only around, but also in the believer, his or her role begins to morph into that of a mature, well-equipped confirmer of the faith. 

 

Again, in this excerpt from the script, Jesus says of this character enlargement, “But you shall receive power, after that the Holy Ghost is come upon you: and you shall be witnesses unto me both in Jerusalem, and in all Judaea, and in Samaria, and unto the uttermost part of the earth.”

 

And finally, in Act 3, still another change occurs as we begin to observe the Church in its more incorporated role.  Now, we start to see a league of heart-bound brothers and sisters of faith, drawing on the power of the Living Christ. Now, we can notice the Church start to become a real force in the larger world, a mighty army, but with a single heart to convey and defend divine truth and the one truly redemptive faith, that faith which is founded solely in the dying and the living Jesus Christ.

 

Once again, an excerpt from the biblical script says it beautifully.  Again, Jesus is speaking when He says, “…All power is given unto me in heaven and in earth. Go ye therefore, and teach all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father, and of the Son, and of the Holy Ghost: Teaching them to observe all things whatsoever I have commanded you: and, lo, I am with you always, even unto the end of the world. Amen.”

 

Now, Let’s Break It Down

 

Now, as literary types are so well known to very passionately do after a dramatic presentation, let’s carefully parse this infinitely interesting character role of the Church.  And actually, we have already done so regarding the individualized role as it played out in Act 1 and Act 2. 

 

So now, let’s complete our discussion of the Church’s role in the redemptive drama by looking specifically at the Act 3 Church, the more corporate and missional nuance of that role.  We will limit our scrutiny and discussion, in this case, to the contemporary Church, as that discussion has a more up-close relevance than does a discussion of the historical Church, for now.

  

It's Not the World’s Rocks

 

However, as we begin, one relevant awareness that we can bring forward from the historical Church is this.  Seemingly, in any age we might choose to look at, it has been very easy for the larger world to boo the Church and take aim at her with its destructive “rocks.”  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 and oppositions 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 theological gobbledygook.  But, still the truth gnaws at us.

 

So, we employ still other tactics to escape a confrontation with our true reality.  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 an occasional unconscious moment, we may find ourselves actually mouthing the painful truth, “We have become far too complacent regarding our pursuit of God and His grand redemptive purposes.

 

 A Qualifier

 

Obviously, the Church, i.e., all the followers of Christ, under all of their various banners, is an absolutely huge, complex, and a very dynamic organism.  Thus, it is not easily generalized in a summary statement like the one in the paragraph 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 of 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, faithful and devout lovers of Christ who pursue Him with all their heart.  The Church always has some who remain absolutely faithful to God, 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.  We want to identify the defining larger contemporary trends, and thereby adjudge how well we are actually portraying our divinely assigned Act 3 role in these present times.

            And, in light of that immense size and complexity of the Church, and my own inability to be truly tactile on such a huge 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 also benefit the more extended whole.

 

          

The Portrait Jesus Paints

 

Now, with those allowances made, 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 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, more specifically to the historical ages through which the Church would pass in times to come.  His seventh and last letter was to the Laodicean Church, which I believe to be the Church age of this present day.  In any case, this is what Jesus said to that Church.


            “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 a very common attribute across 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 own 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 copious cluelessness has found its fulfillment in the present day Church – and especially, in the more recent generations of the modern Church.  The present Church has broadly disconnected from a deeply intimate embrace of Christ as we have been discussing.  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 the letter which Christ left for us.  We are covering this failure with a simplistic delusion of well-being, making us largely unaware of our imminent peril. 


A Downward Spiral 


            So, when we are courageous enough to view objectively, the modern Church as a whole, we can see that we have largely come to the situation which Jesus forecast.  Indeed, that dark, downward spiral of apathy is actually occurring now.

 

And, this degrading trajectory is driven by the simple reality which Jesus also noted - an obsession with our own material comfort.  And, this “comfort-lust” has broadly blinded the contemporary Church to its real condition before God – the cluelessness described in the letter.  

 

Nevertheless, we have, in fact, been very successful in this consuming pursuit.  So, the modern Church has now, largely relaxed into a posture of complacency.  And predictably, this widespread lethargy has left us, very diminished in power and prowess, both within the body of the Church, itself, and in our influence upon the larger world. 

 

But, rather than confronting and addressing this condition, as Jesus advised, we have, thus far, chosen only to wrap ourselves in that delusion of well-being – which He described.

 

The Change We’ve Leveraged

 

And now, in order to accommodate the delusion, we have leveraged ourselves into an action which should be absolutely unthinkable to the Church.  Nevertheless, a large swath of the modern Evangelical Church, at the rank and file level, and cutting across all denominational lines, has chosen to make this very egregious move.  So, on a widespread basis, in order to make our delusion of apathetic good standing before God seem more plausible, the modern Church has widely embraced a deeply flawed revision of the original redemptive teachings.

 

Widespread Surrender

 

But note, this broad collapse of redemptive truth in more recent times has not occurred in a formal way among individualized segments of the Church.  Nor have we formally rewritten our theology books.  Indeed, they remain pretty much as they have always been among the various denominations.  


            No, this widespread abandonment of the true redemptive path has occurred in a much less formal way. We have actually just broadly surrendered to the pressure of “easy” at the grassroots level across all denominational lines.  

 

The new reality at the street level is this.  Regardless of their labels and theological lip service, the real operational theology in the mind and heart of the rank-and-file, of the modern Evangelical Church, cutting across all traditional theological lines has largely become this shallow ”statement of faith and we’re done” approach.

  

Indeed, this approach has now resoundingly carried the theological day among rank and file believers. And, it has done so where it really counts. Not in our theology books, but in the daily operational consciousness of our grassroots membership.

 

And How Could It Not

 

It’s really no wonder that this “E-Z” form of redemption has become such a fast-spreading infection to 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 of the Church.  But now, no matter what theological banner a segment of the Church may be flying, this “easy virus” has been able to broadly infected the day-to-day rationale of its rank-and-file membership.                                

 

So, let’s begin at the beginning to expose this devastating revision of the authentic redemptive teachings.  In short, there are two leading views on redemption which have actually been competing for several centuries now within the Evangelical Church.  In simple, descriptive terms, the first view is what might be very descriptively called The Non-responsibility View. The second is what might be accurately understood to be The Cooperative Responsibility View.

 

 Door Number One:  The Non-responsibility View

 

The Non-responsibility approach to redemption is an approach which leaves the believer entirely (you guessed it) “non-responsible” for anything after his or her initial statement of faith in Christ.  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, present, and future.  So, this absolution remains in place throughout the believer’s lifetime, regardless of his or her level of investment, or even the complete lack thereof, in their relationship with Christ going forward. 

 

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, for better or worse, in no way impact her basic good standing before God.  After her statement of faith, the believer simply becomes non-responsible for her life choices.


As Expected

 

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 Cooperative Responsibility View

 

Confronting and competing with this shallow approach is that “Cooperative” redemptive approach.  This is the approach we have been explaining throughout this writing. 

 

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

 

Unlike the Non-responsible Approach, the Cooperative Approach requires the believer to remain seriously invested in the quality of his or her relationship with God.  And, as discussed earlier, Christ eventually empowers this effort by connecting them to both His divine value system and His enabling energies through the Spiritual merger.  

 

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

 

A Careful Comparison: The Revised vs. The Authentic Gospel


            So, that's a quick description of these two competing redemptive ideas. But, now let’s get very specific about what are the devastating changes which have been made to the authentic redemptive message in this “revised gospel.” And, what are the elements of the subterfuge behind these revisions?

The Authentic Redemptive Plan

            The Original Message of Redemption begins with the truthful reality that God always has and always will hold an expectation of consistent faith-expressiveness in 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 in Christ. And, as noted earlier, it was an offer which involved not only forgiveness, but also a thorough personal renewal.

            And, 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 forgiveness and restoration by His Cross.  And, his Resurrection furnishes mankind with the power and all resources necessary for the thorough renewal of his character essence and, in turn, his lifestyle reality.  So, as both the Dying and the Living Christ, the Savior is absolutely capable of enabling mankind to be consistently faith-expressive, thus creating a completely durable friendship with God.  (Ref. Romans 8: 1-4)


            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 summary of the ancient and authentic redemptive message.  It is the message of a profound, Christ-empowered newness for the believer.   It is a message of vanquished sin and a Christ substantiated 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 more recently ascendant, revised approach to redemption.  It does not proudly proclaim to the world the availability of a glorious, Christ-enabled empowerment for the believer to make him consistently faith-expressive.  But, instead, this revised redemptive teaching tenaciously clings to and puts forth the idea of the absolute powerlessness of the believer as its foundational belief.  


The Prime Tenet


            And this claim of powerlessness becomes the covering subterfuge aimed at substantiating the even darker idea of the believer's non-responsibility.  So, the prime tenet of this revised gospel becomes this.  ”Because the believer is entirely 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.”  Thus, starting from this fundamental error, then many other revisions to the authentic redemptive teachings are made necessary to support this errant foundational idea.       

 

Cascading Errors

 

So, what follows, is the cascade of errors which are forced by those foundational errors of this revised “gospel.”  And, it’s these cascading errors which then come to compose the larger body of this errant belief system.  These are the errors which have so decimated the vitality of the modern Church as a whole and so very many individual 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 a divine scrutiny of my life.”

 

  Revisiting the Key Concepts Of Redemption


            So, this is the generally accepted theological virus of our time, which has now irreverently jumped most all denominational bounders to become the accepted pop-teachings at the grassroots level of the American Evangelical Church.  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 this revised “gospel.” 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 can be that – eventually, as we will see. 

            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 being that of Self-determination.

            So, an act of sin is just the visible expression of this inner value or motive. Thus, the act of sin is the “visible tree,” but the sin value embedded in the heart (the character essence) is the “invisible root” of it all. This is that intrinsic instinct which exists on the subconscious level. The New Testament writer described this inner sin motive, the desire to be self-directed, 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 even about the nature of the sin value.  We must make a difference between what can be appropriately called the ”Primary Sin Value” or the ”Essential Sin Value” and the more secondary sin impulses.

 

In other words, the primary sin value is the source motive from which all other sin springs.  The Primary Sin Value is essentially that motive for self-determination which exists on the most primary governing level, of one’s character essence.  And, 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 which then gives rise to the more secondary sin impulses (to lie, to steal, to commit adultery etc.) and ultimately,  to the actual expressions of those impulses which follow as actions.  So, in short, this primary sin motive is the real “headwaters” of the more secondary sinful impulses which lie down stream of it.   

 

 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 motives and expressions of evil in one's life.   

 

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 most rudimentary 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 ever and 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!” kind of 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, personal independence.  Mostly, it reveals itself as simply an unobtrusive, but self-contained decision making process. 

 

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 the real terms of an all-in, 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, Jose'!”

            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 metaphysical merger with the character essence of the Living 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 life-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 merger. 

            Indeed, through this mystical metaphysical integration with the Living Christ, the Faith motive is firmly established as ascendant in the devout believer’s heart. It becomes dominant over the Sin motive, so that the believer becomes consistently faith-expressive, as discussed earlier. And this then 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 that revised gospel which touts the impotence of the believer.   A great many believers have now come to believe, “I can't resist sin, so God doesn't actually require me to be consistently faith-expressive.” 

            However, to embrace this impotency idea inevitably brings one to an almost laughable reversal of thought (except for the deadly consequences). 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 grassroots modern Church on redemption.  It is essentially just a belief in the believer’s peaceful co-existence with dominant sin.

 

So, this so-called “gospel,” fails to necessarily make any substantial character difference between 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 merger] 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.”  [Brackets Added]

 

So, is it any wonder that the modern Church has largely 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 the believer's present life.   And, the larger world instinctively knows it - even if the duped Church does not.  

 

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, everyday mindset of the modern believer.

 

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 of grace 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 truly is – a Christ endowed, naturally occurring goodness which very intuitively guides and governs the devout believer.

 

Thus, within the context of the authentic redemptive plan, grace ceases to be burdened with the need to enable the delusion of powerlessness in the believer.  Rather, real grace then flies in the face of that idea.  


            It does so by expressing itself daily as an instinctive goodness in the believer's heart which easily and naturally produces believer responsibility (as opposed to non-responsibility).  And this naturally occurring goodness in the believer, in turn, then easily 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 of redemption.  Like sin, faith also has a two dimensional nature.  It also involves the internal dimension:  the faith value or motive.  And, it involves the external dimension:  the act of faith.

 

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, real 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, truth, and daily directions in obedience, and thus – do good things at God's behest.  


            If we are empowered by the Living Christ to be consistently faithful (influentially 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 always faith-expressive.  And the end of that is genuinely good works. 


            So, faith is, indeed, first a heart value. But, that value (a true and profound humility before God), by definition, then enables obedience to the divine urging’s 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 [God’s innate goodness] you have been saved through faith, and that not of yourselves; it is the gift of God, [through the Living Christ] 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.” [Brackets Added] (Ref. 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. 

            So again, God must not and does not require him to do so. This must be so in order that the powerless believer may be able to maintain God’s approval.  Thus, we note another of the great flaws in 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

 

It is 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 (the humility of genuine faith which is founded in Christ, as opposed to the great arrogance of self-determination).  For every person, at the final judgement bar of God, that ascendant governing motive of one’s heart, alone, will determine the fate of their soul.

 

Thus, contrary to the oft lingering notion in some minds, there will be no great set of divine scales where our good behavior is weighed against our bad behavior.  There will be only one consideration which will determine our final outcome:  it will be that superseding heart value which genuinely governs the heart:  whether it is truly one of faith or one of self-determination. 

 

A Truth, Poorly Extended

 

But, while all of this is true concerning the ascendant governing motive of one's heart, 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

            But here again, we see an example where an important concept of redemption has been forced to revision in the mind of much 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)

Now, The Impact on 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 empowered by the Living Christ living within the believer. 

            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 generates. 

            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 Teachings on Righteousness

            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 assignment. 

            Because of its whole-hearted investment 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 need be 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 essentially the same.

            And, to what other place could one come if you fail to properly factor in that empowering metaphysical integration 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 unavoidably 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 merger with the character and 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, both in the believer's heart and lifestyle reality, produced and sustained by the Living Christ living within the believer's character essence. (Ref. Romans 8:1-4) 

            So, in the workings of the true gospel, again, 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 a self-generated 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 and consistency 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 a faith-expressive obedience. And, very contrary to the false claims of the non-responsible “gospel,” God does, indeed, still require this reality-based fruitfulness in the character of those who would know His friendship. (Ref. Galatians 5:21)

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 teaching holds, and has largely convinced 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 the nature of the divine love. This is just one more example of the ingrained pattern of desperation within this bogus belief system which are, again, always intent on propping up the non-responsibility of the believer.

            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-responsible well-being 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 for the believer – 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 conviction, 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 view of the larger moral reality from his consciousness. He chose, instead, to see only a horribly 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 correct interpretation of 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 love. 

The Nuts and Bolts of Love

            So, again, it comes to this. Authentic love is that which is truth-based. True 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 mature view of love.  But, it’s probably safe to say that, before we actually arrive there, 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. As mentioned, 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, 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 unchanging. So, true love could never find a consistent identity in the fluidity 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 correctly.

            Thus, ultimately, the composition of true love comes to be about who we truly are within, and how we actually behave, without. 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, true 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.


Now, Let’s Plug It All 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, and enduring]. 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 larger moral reality of the well-being 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 Mechanism. We have actually already touched on these ideas earlier, 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 linked 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 duality of motives repeated over and over at strategic places in our psychological environment as pointed out earlier.

 

Also, Some Impressive Parallels

 

But now, with regard to God's love, we should note that 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 divine 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: Respect and Love Based in Essence

     First, Respect Based in Essence:  

 

There is an essence-based respect generally held by and universally extended to human beings – simply because they are human beings.  This is not a respect which is earned, really.  It is just an innate reverence for human life.  It is naturally occurring within the healthy human psyche.  It is this type of respect which causes us to spontaneously ascribe at least a base level of dignity to other human beings simply because they are.  

 

God’s Love Based In Essence: 

 

Now, let’s consider the divine love which is simply based in essence.  Like that brand of respect, this essence-based love occurs very spontaneously in God's heart.  And, it is this kind of simple, instinctive, very visceral love for humanity which God feels when He gazes upon his human creature.  And, this type of love is, indeed, completely unconditional.


            Thus, so far, so good.  But, in fact, contrary to the revised “gospel,” the divine love is not always this one dimensional, ever unconditional love which so nicely supports the non-responsible teaching.


Beyond The First Love

 

God’s unconditional love is obviously very reflective of the love which we give our children in their infancy and early youth.   But, it is not this kind of love which 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 be 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: Respect and Love Based in Position

     First, 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, 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, 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 later 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 Kind 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.  Thus, this governing love does, indeed, clearly differentiate itself from that initial, much 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 heart to their child.  Rather, it supplements it.  


            And sometimes, it also necessarily supersedes the leniency of that less demanding, essence-based love. And, it is certainly a love which places requirements and expectations (conditions) 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 well-being of the larger community. 

 

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 a 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 as a whole 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 this insistence.  And, that insistence must be satisfied in order for this type of divine love to approve us.  

 

The “Multi-Dimensional” Problem

 

Nevertheless, the non-responsible “gospel” simply cannot give recognition to 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 always unconditional.  But, in fact, this simplistic view of God’s love doesn’t even come close to explaining 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 conditional, 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 well-being of the individual to also simultaneously include the well-being of the whole of His creation. So, when we embrace the reality of this divine love of the Governing Creator, 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 maintain authoritative and necessary expectations of His children.  Thus, it is this position based love which sometimes says “no” to us – for our own good and/ or for that of His larger creation.  

 

It is also this governing love which causes God to correct and even punish His children for their wrong doing.  And, it is this position based love 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 disciplinary 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 “theology.”  It refuses to recognize this more adult reality regarding God’s love for mankind – in order to escape the weight of its requirements (conditions).

 

But again, the sad truth is this.  This fear of divine conditions, which constantly torments subscribers to this errant revised “gospel” is only able to do so because this errant belief system totally underestimates the role and the power of the Living Christ in the devout believer's life.

Parallel 3:  Respect and Love Based in Performance


            Now, let’s look at the kind of divine love that is even more impossible to reconcile with the non-responsible belief system. 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.  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 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. 

 

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 response of God’s truth-based 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
, but you will see Me. 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 virtuous performance by granting intimate access].  He who does not love Me does not keep My words; and the word which you hear is not Mine but the Father’s who sent Me.”  (Ref. John 14:15-24 NKJV) [Brackets Added]

            So, this type of divine love 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, is 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.


            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).

 

In Truth, God's Love Is Sophisticated 

 

So, in truth, God’s love is actually 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.

 

So, to portray God’s love in a simplistic, one-dimensional way, as being always and only unconditional, is to completely dismiss that sophistication. Nevertheless, the revised “gospel” of non-responsibility boldly does that very thing in order to remove and legitimize the removal of all accountability from the believer.

Grotesque Distortions


            So, we have now seen, very specifically, the impacts of this bogus, non-responsible “gospel” on the major concepts of the legitimate redemptive plan of God.  Indeed, this devilish redemptive counterfeit plan has very methodically introduced grotesque distortions of the key issues of redemption.  


            The concepts of Sin, Faith, Grace, Righteousness, Good Works, and God’s Love have all been deeply corrupted in the minds of many across a huge swath of the modern Church. And, the practical embrace of these errant ideas, within all denominational quadrants at the grass-roots level, has introduced a widespread apathy into the modern Church.

 

Truly, this dark “gospel” has greatly succeeded in diminishing the awareness of the here-and-now import of the Resurrection of Christ in the contemporary Church.  Thus, many are now left largely ignorant of even the possibility of personal empowerment, and the real renewal of our character essence and life circumstance through the devout believer’s merger with the Living Christ. 

 

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

 

 A Huge Contributing Factor…

 

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

 

 The present learning process of the contemporary Church often exaggerates the use of secondary sources of information and minimizes the use of the Primary Source – the Divine Spirit.  So, in this day of plentiful media – we simply use it.  And, we casually listen to the seminary professor, the pastor/ preacher, the Sunday school teacher, or the devotional writer, all secondary sources, and just call it good.  It’s just much easier and quicker to use these second-hand sources than to make the somewhat greater investment in a first-hand learning and verification process.

 

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, with this writing.  And certainly, theological discussions with others are good.  And encouraging and thoughtful writings, videos, etc. 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 a dependable, first-hand understanding 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 deeply validating requisite, should always remain, far and away, the believer’s primary means 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.”  

 

So, the encouragement here is not to eliminate all second-hand resources, but simply to first experience the Spiritual merger with the Savior, and then maximize the benefits of that connection to the divine mind and heart. The uncomplicated suggestion is to move away from exaggerating the use of secondary sources at the great expense of the more authoritative and dependable primary source – the Divine Spirit. (Ref. - John 15: 1-8 /1 Corinthians 2:16 / John 14:6 / 1 John 1: 5-7)

 

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 “counterfeit gospel,” specifically designed by the Darkness to subvert the souls of men. 

            This devilish fabrication 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 widely succeeding in all of those purposes. 

            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, these counterfeit teachings, devised by the Darkness, not only demand, but expend every effort to make sure, that humanity overlooks this most spectacular facet of God’s authentic redemptive plan - the thorough personal renewal of the believer in the power of the Living Christ. 

            And why is the Darkness so very afraid of the possibility of a Christ brokered renewal of the believer? Because it is that final redemptive piece, Christ in you, which sets the believer free, once and for all, from the oppression of the Darkness. And, it brings us, once again, to a deep and completely durable friendship with our Creator.

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 and 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.”

It’s Still Christmas!


            So, the reality is this. The modern Church is presently struggling under the weight of its widespread delusion and resulting apathy.  Nevertheless, the whole point of that Revelation Letter which Jesus left for this present Church was to preclude such difficulty. And, indeed, there is still time and opportunity to reject the error filled redemptive message of the underworld and return to authentic redemptive truth. 

Ebenezer's Passion


            When Ebenezer Scrooge, the main character in Charles Dickens’s novella, A Christmas Carol finally awakened from the sleep of his Christmas Eve night visions, he had one burning question. “What day is it?!” 

            He asked this urgent 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 Christ's letter to us clearly indicates that His love has left the space for an alternate and better outcome for this present day Church than that attached to the revised “gospel.” 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-thousand-times” better ending to our story, as well. 


A Happy Ending 


            God's redemptive script obviously calls for a very happy ending for the Church if we but faithfully fulfill our intended character role in the divine drama.  At this late hour in history, it should be very obvious that God has zero interest in a judgement, well-attended by the faithless.  Rather, His ever cherished desire is a truth-based, loving, and mutually meaningful friendship with His beloved creature, made safe and enduring, not by some reality disconnect, but by the surpassing sufficiency of the Living Christ.

                         Continue to Section 9