Friday, July 25, 2014

Imputed Righteousness - God's Exit Strategy


In my last post, we examined the Biblical term "justification." In short, justification refers to one's legal standing before an authority, not the state of one's character. When God justifies someone, He declares them to be legally righteous in His sight. Justification is a one-time step in the process of human redemption. It is distinct from sanctification, which is the way through which God makes us more and more like Christ (with our cooperation). Justification paves the way for sanctification, but sanctification is not what makes us right before God. So now that we understand what justification means, how exactly can we be justified?

Galatians 2:16 clearly states that man is justified by faith in Jesus, not by works of the law. The COGs, however, equivocate on this point. They acknowledge that we can never do anything to earn salvation, but then add that, going forward, we are responsible for maintaining the  justification through which we receive salvation. UCG specifically covers this erroneous concept of ongoing justification on pages 90 and 91 of its booklet, The New Covenant: Does it Abolish God's Law?

The problem is, this theory unequivocally ties our salvation to our works, which contradicts Ephesians 2:8-9. Furthermore, if we must maintain our forgiven state through obedience and repentance, the only logical conclusion is that we must achieve a perfect record of both in this life. Otherwise, our record will be tarnished, our white garments soiled with sin. There is no other exit strategy.

Ironically, just a few weeks after I made this point, UCG's  Beyond Today program posted a daily video segment entitled "Exit Strategy." Early in the clip, host Steve Myers cites Hebrews 11 as the model exit strategy for our lives. What does he say this model is? Live as the heroes of faith did - realize this life isn't what it's all about, embrace God's promises, put your trust and faith in God's promises, His plan and in God Himself.

Guess what? I agree with that! Surprised? Remember that COG teachings often seem to agree with Protestants up front. They only diverge further down the road, maligning evangelical Christianity to their followers using proof-texts and cognitive dissonance. For example, when discussing justification, UCG agrees with Protestants in stating that believers are justified or aligned with God upon repentance and faith in Christ. (The New Covenant: Does it Abolish God's Law?, p. 91). However, UCG then claims that, even after their "initial" justification, Christians must be continually justified or reconciled when we fall "out of alignment through sin."

"Every sin is a very serious matter - requiring renewed repentance," UCG tells us on page 90 of the New Covenant booklet. "In fact, neglecting to repent over an extended period can eventually lead to rejecting God and losing salvation. Thus, each occasion of seeking and receiving God's forgiveness is essentially a renewed salvation - salvation from rejecting God and the terrible end that would lead to." (page 90 of the booklet).

Again, this sounds good in theory. Who would say that sin is acceptable? Who believes that failing to repent doesn't damage our relationship with God? Not me. Again, the problem comes when we follow ongoing justification to its logical conclusion. If every sin requires renewed repentance, then logically we must repent of every sin or risk losing our eternal life. If the COGs claim we can lose our salvation through our actions, then by default they must also endorse the opposite - that our actions can earn us salvation.

What's worse, JUST having a perfect record of repentance isn't good enough, according to some COG literature. Do you remember our imaginary courtroom in my previous post? Well, the COGs have a courtroom too, which UCG aptly describes on page 16 of its booklet,  Transforming Your Life - The Process of Conversion. The difference is, in these proceedings, we are found guilty each time we sin and are subsequently pardoned by God. "If a judge pardons someone of a crime, he expects that person to cease his criminal acts. He doesn't pardon him so he can continue his life of lawbreaking. Likewise we are to turn away from sinful acts and thoughts."

So are we to cease from sinning, or just turn away from our sinful acts and thoughts? Anyone I've asked in the COGs claims it's the latter, but logic dictates it must be the former. And UCG backs this logic up with its own definition of true repentance: "repentance is to cease from sin - to quit transgressing God's laws." (Transforming Your Life,  page 9). How can this definition support anything but a perfect record?

If that's not enough pressure for you, consider how many pardons you should need if you are sincere about your repentance. After all, "godly sorrow produces repentance leading to salvation, not to be regretted, but the sorrow of the world produces death." (2 Corinthians 7:10). Most human judges would doubt your sincerity after a certain number of pardons. Regardless, if you're overcoming your sins, you certainly won't be asking for pardons at age 75 for the same sins you were committing when you were 30.  According to the COG salvation model, we are growing and maturing until we have overcome a vague, undefined percentage of our sins at the end of our lives. But James 2:10 reminds us of the true standard - if we stumble on even one point, we are guilty of breaking the whole thing.

Only one person has ever left the courtroom the COGs describe with a righteous verdict. Trust me, you won't be the second. But in the courtroom of biblical Christianity, the highest power in the universe has promised to declare you righteous, or innocent, when you acknowledge your sin, repent and place your faith in the shed blood of Jesus. Your condemnation has been placed on Him, and there is no one who is able to appeal God's decision.  "Who shall bring a charge against God's elect? It is God who justifies. (Romans 8:33)."

Let's consider our chances in each courtroom as we visit Jesus' teachings in Matthew 5. We'll start in verses 21-22. We can all agree we're guilty of sin if we murder someone. But what if we're just angry with a brother over something petty, or call him a fool when we're fighting? Look ahead to verses 43-45. Are we sinning when we don't show love to someone who has persecuted us? Ignore their physical needs if they are destitute? What if we don't pray for them? At what point does our action or inaction become sin?

It's only when we multiply these instances to include everyone we've ever met and every private thought we've ever had that we fully comprehend the mountain of sin under which we are buried. And we're just talking about repenting, not overcoming. At least for now. To assert that we could somehow repent of each and every sin is laughable. Is UCG really teaching that a perfect record of repentance is possible, and furthermore, necessary for salvation?

Like it or not, that's the only logical conclusion of UCG's teachings. Steve Myers' video might get high public relations points with its strong references to faith. But when you look beyond the sound bites, his own church teaches - in writing - that each time we sin, we fall from God's grace, and each time we repent, we are renewing our salvation. In short, we must maintain our justified state through our works.

And really, that's what Myers hints at near the segment's end. He concludes that "our exit strategy has to be living that exit strategy, living by the way of God now, so we can look forward to the true Kingdom of God." In this same segment, he defines an "exit strategy" as an objective to get out of a situation once something's been achieved. So if I understand correctly, our objective (our plan) to get out of a situation (this life) is by living according to that objective. Our plan is to live by the plan? Tell me how I do that. What does that even mean? When you boil things down, once again, we're back to hoping we have tried hard enough, been good enough, gone over our checklist closely enough (never mind determining what's actually on the checklist.) Just hoping we've been good enough is a far cry from having full faith in God for salvation, as Myers seems to claim.

This is not just a matter of semantics, according to evangelical Christian theologian John Piper. Misunderstanding this issue can undermine our entire Christian walk. If our struggle against sin is made part of our justification, much of the foundation for successful warfare has been removed, and we are fighting a battle that we cannot win, Piper says.

"The battle will be engaged differently without this faith, and the fallout cannot be a happy one over the long haul," Piper explains on page 50 of his book, Counted Righteous in Christ. Our unity with Christ (Romans 6:5) through justification establishes the relationship with God we need to make progress in sanctification. This assurance of our favor with God and our reconciliation to Him are the foundation for our Christian walk. Security in His love and acceptance give us joy and peace as we honestly face our sins. Without this confidence, we are locked in a constant struggle to maintain our salvation by our performance. This daily battle results in a spirit of guilt and fear, not power, love and a sound mind (2 Timothy 1:7).

My list of examples from Matthew 5 is intended to show just how short of God's standards we fall, not to give you a new checklist. If you've read this blog recently, you already know what I think about checklists. You see, the COGs have programmed in us a righteousness checklist the size of a bingo card, when God's actual standard is more the size of a billboard. We put down our chips for things like Sabbath-keeping and abstaining from murder, believing we'll get BINGO by the end of our lives and win a trip to the first resurrection. When it comes right down to it, many of us feel like we have little need for forgiveness, which is why we are so willing to embrace errant doctrines like ongoing justification. In the back of our minds, we devalue the magnitude of Jesus' sacrifice. We are in a catch- 22 situation where we've reduced God's requirements for salvation through righteous living to a level that almost seems achievable. But when we reject the doctrine of imputed righteousness, in reality, we embrace "doing it on our own." (I know, we say we are using the Holy Spirit as a tool. But we put the cart before the horse and spin our wheels when we "use" the Spirit instead of letting the  Spirit "use" us.) Sure, Jesus died for our past sins, but, hey, we did a lot of work, too! If we realized just how great our need for forgiveness really was, we would be like the woman weeping at Jesus' feet, not Simon the Pharisee (Luke 7:36-50). I suspect this is exactly why God disconnected our salvation from our works - so that no one may boast (Ephesians 2:9).

The Sinai Covenant - sometimes referred to as the Law - was never intended as a means to salvation, according to Romans 4:14. Many scriptures indicate God knew that Israel would fail, and that a New Covenant would be necessary. Instead, its purpose was to show what constituted a violation for Israel (God's chosen nation which was under that covenant), and to show us that righteousness could never, ever be attained by following it (Romans 3:20-21). Following it is helpful if we keep the whole thing - all of it - 100 percent (Romans 2:25). But if we stumble at just one point, we are guilty of breaking the whole thing (James 2:10). Most importantly, the Sinai Covenant was intended to demonstrate mankind's desperate need for a Savior. If God's chosen nation - which witnessed countless miracles and was richly physically blessed for obedience to its covenant - couldn't succeed, who on earth could? This is what Paul meant when described the law as a tutor to bring us to Christ, so that we could be justified by faith (Galatians 3:24).

Quit trying to obtain, maintain or cling on to your salvation through your own actions. Be honest with yourself about your life, your heart, your motivations. It's vitally important to recognize the magnitude of our sinfulness and see our efforts to maintain our righteousness for the filthy rags they are Isaiah 64:6).  Only then can we understand that our only hope for salvation is to fully place our faith in Jesus. And yes, I know that scripture symbolically associates righteous acts with clean, white linen. It's important to note that this passage is talking about people who have been justified and are being sanctified by the Holy Spirit. And to remember these works serve as evidence that a person has been saved, not that they could ever save them. Nothing can. Not striving to keep the Sabbath better, exhaustively researching Doritos ingredients or calculating the Holy Days by lunar observation. Even if we followed them as well as Old Testament heroes like Isaiah, it wouldn't make a difference. In Isaiah 64:5, the prophet states that God is angry even with the righteous man that He meets. The context indicates Isaiah includes himself in this statement. So even the righteous ones in Israel - those who faithfully observed the Sabbath and Holy Days and other tenets of the Sinai Covenant to the best of their ability - are included in that statement. Is there any chance that we do these things today better than Isaiah did? Polishing the outside of the cup is futile when the inside is filthy.

When we renounce any confidence in our own goodness or actions and fully place our faith in Jesus, the penalty for our sin is credited to Him. And His righteousness is credited, or imputed, to us, as it was Abraham (Romans 4:4-8; 20-25). He who wrote this passage gave up everything to follow Christ, but regarded all of it as worthless trash, "that I may gain Christ and be found in Him, not having my own righteousness, which is from the law, but that which is through faith in Christ, the righteousness which is from God by faith (Philippians 3:9)."

  And this, my friends, is why Paul was confident enough to write: "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 (Romans 8:1)." When God looks at one who has trusted Christ, He looks at us with Jesus-colored glasses, so to speak. Our sins are covered in His righteousness when we are justified. We are not to use this grace as an excuse to sin, as this same apostle instructed. We have been bought at a price, and we have a responsibility to obey the commands Jesus and His apostles gave once we have been redeemed. But when we fully comprehend the magnitude of the sacrifice Jesus made for us, our response will be one of love, gratitude and obedience to His teachings. One with a regenerate heart understands the folly and futility of a checklist mentality.

Imputed righteousness was not Plan B when Israel went astray. Jesus was slain for your sins and mine from the foundation of the world. Repent of your sins, place your full faith in Him, pledge to follow Him and accept the free gift of salvation. This is God's exit strategy, and it always has been.


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It is important that you understand; Everything on this blog is based on the current understanding of each author. Never take anyone's word for it, always prove it for yourselfit is your responsibility. You cannot ride someone else's coattail into the Kingdom. ; ) Acts 17:11
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Wednesday, July 16, 2014

Thank You For The Response

There was a good response during the 5 days the book "Bible Prophecy - God's Agenda and Your Part In It" was available free on Amazon. Books downloaded all over the plane; besides the USA, some went to the UK, Germany and India etc. I couldn't be more pleased. ABD writers don't write to get anything other than a sense of being of some help to some one. So I can legitimately say thank you to those who read ABD articles or take a free e-book. When my wife first started this blog, I had never intended to write anything for public consumption, but she asked me to help her and I couldn't say no. There are readers from every continent, and not too infrequently from non-Christian nations. 
 
With what is now occurring in Israel, it is time for people everywhere to make themselves aware of where we are in prophecy, as well as get right with God by joining in with Christ in the New Covenant. No we can't know when the hour of Christ's return is, but we can know the season. It's interesting how the person who reviewed my book got the idea that I set dates. I appreciated the review, but I stated clearly that various future schedules are speculative. I'd just like to make that point clear. It's the setting of dates (and other such nonsense) that precipitated the creation of ABD in the first place. We are surely in the season, but the purveyor  alarm fatigue have been very successful in dulling receptivity to prophecy. My hope is that we all resist this and do similarly to what the Jewish people did for so many centuries and say: "next year with Christ Jesus in his kingdom."

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It is important that you understand; Everything on this blog is based on the current understanding of each author. Never take anyone's word for it, always prove it for yourself, it is your responsibility. You cannot ride someone else's coattail into the Kingdom. ; ) Acts 17:11
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Tuesday, July 8, 2014

Bible Prophecy – God's Agenda and Your Part in It – is again free



Bible Prophecy – God's Agenda and Your Part in It – is again free on Amazon for five days, from July 9, 2014 to July 13, 2014, Bible Prophecy-God's Agenda And Your Part In It.

This book began as an article on ABD but kept getting bigger to where it made more sense to put it on Amazon as a unit. This meant I couldn't use my pen name, in case the "Glen Paul Erickson" instead of 'Luc" on the cover pic is confusing.

2Tim 4:8 says: "Now there is in store for me the crown of righteousness, which the Lord, the righteous Judge, will award to me on that day--and not only to me, but also to all who have longed for his appearing." This makes it clear that we aren't to forget about the coming of Christ as is so often the case.

The Jewish people ended their Passover Seder (and said among themselves at other occasions) “next year in Jerusalem.” This was a hope built on a promise. And though it seemed like it would never happen, it did. The Jewish nation was reborn, however impossible the world said it was. Interestingly, they never let the hope interfere with their normal activities and responsibilities. Those who believe in Jesus as Lord and messiah have a similar promise: Luk 21:28When these things” (Jesus had been describing) “begin to take place, stand up and lift up your heads, because your redemption is drawing near."  Christians, to the largest extent, seem not to consider this important. Not that I blame them. I told my wife's eldest daughter about what my book was about and she said that she and her family were no longer interested in such things. She was kept informed about the whole Ron Weinland charade of prophet-hood and was told to expect the Lord with urgent appeals for her recognition of the man as legitimate. Now she doesn't want to hear such “nonsense.”
      
I wrote an article at the time to make the point that such deception, as Weinland was trying to lure people into, had just the above described effect. I compared it to the dropping of loads of aluminum foil by the allies during WW2 to confuse German radar. The Christian's radars have indeed been confused. The season has arrived for the bride to gather her maidens and become vigilant for the arrival of the bridegroom. The deceivers have won a victory. Many like Ron Weinland have won a victory for the enemy, rather intended or not. Some no longer say: next year with Christ, and a relative few appear interested in prophecy. It has, to so large an extent, become the sphere of the mentally ill and paranoid; at least this is how popular media presents people who pursue such interests.

I never bought what Ron Weinland was selling because of having studied and pondered the prophetic writings for 40 years. Because I didn't arrive at my eschatological conclusions based on any accepted line of reasoning, most of which have been highly influenced by the paradigm of the reformation period which sought to demonize the Catholic Church.  I do see things differently. For example: I see the prophecy of twenty-three hundred evenings and mornings as specifying the exact date of the Jewish regaining of the Temple mount in 1967 because the word translated 'reconsicrated' in Dan 8:14  merely means to make something right; (He said to me, "It will take 2,300 evenings and mornings; then the sanctuary will be reconsecrated."). The word translated 'reconsecrated' is H6663  tsadaq  tsaw-dak'a primitive root; to be (causatively, make) right (in a moral or forensic sense). The word sanctuary actually means holy place: H6944  qodesh  ko'-desh from H6942; sacred place or thing; rarely abstract, sanctity. Out of 168 times the word is used in scripture, it only refers to the “sanctuary' 4 times; 98 time it simply means “holiness,” 

The timeline of 2,300 evenings and mornings begins in 333 BC when Alexander the Great defeated the Persians, and if the symbolic increment of time is intended to mean years, all we have to do to test this is to do some addition and see if the results are biblically significant. So add 1967 to 333 (1967 + 333 = 1967), and the result is the year the Jews regained the Holy Mount. Something was made right at the holy place, but not completely. The book I offer has this and numerous other observations with more background and detail to make the case. The book ends with a look at the Jewish marriage customs as they relate to the words of Jesus and the resurrected body, which is the “Your Part in It” aspect the books title refers to.

Amazon won’t allow me to make the book free with the exception of a few days every 90 days, but I set the price at the lowest possible. I extend my thanks to those who purchased the book as that paid Amazon for their services. Graphics from the book don’t show up well on small screens so have been posted here http://bp-ga.blogspot.com/

Remember the words of Paul 2Ti 4:8 Now there is in store for me the crown of righteousness, which the Lord, the righteous Judge, will award to me on that day--and not only to me, but also to all who have longed for his appearing.”
 


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It is important that you understand; Everything on this blog is based on the current understanding of each author. Never take anyone's word for it, always prove it for yourself, it is your responsibility. You cannot ride someone else's coattail into the Kingdom. ; ) Acts 17:11
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Tuesday, July 1, 2014

Antinomianism and Motivation of Heart

Antinomianism has become more of an accusation; a perjorative aimed at those who prescribe to the belief that salvation is a matter of faith only where religious “moral” law is of no consequence when it comes to salvation.

Critics, while often agreeing with the basic “salvation through faith only” rationalize that one cannot be a murderer, adulterer, idolater, (and even sabbath breaker) without compromising salvation. It sounds rational. However, it begs the question, does a person, who is in receipt of the Holy Spirit, continue in a custom of sin, or does a person abandon a former lifestyle of sin? Both sides of the debate would agree. Where the divergence occurs is in the definition of “sin” and a person's motivation.

Legalists, with a heavy emphasis on sabbatarians, insist on defining sin as translated in the KJV, found at I John 3:4, sin being translated as: “the transgression of the law”. This translation is found in the earlier Geneva Bible, borrowed in whole by the KJV translators. The problem is, this is not what the Greek says or means, but rather is an extrapolation or interpretation that goes beyond translation. Another example is how the same translators translated “Passover” into “Easter”-- an Anglicized interpretation.

The transliteration states that sin is “anomia” ('a' – against 'nomia' law) What is important to understand when translating languages is to seek and understand how a particular word was used in the time and place it is found. In the first century AD, “anomia” was the word one used to convey the concept of iniquity. Therefore, sin is iniquity, and iniquity is sin.

Legalists prefer the KJV translation, flawed as it is, simply because it fits in so nicely with their theological model. What they shut their minds to are the examples that demonstrate the translation to be untrue. David ate the show-bread that was unlawful for him and those with him to eat, yet he was blameless, according to the Words of Christ.

One could even be iniquitous without actually breaking a law in the letter. Hatred is the spirit of murder. A person could hate another person, yet refrain from murdering them, yet Jesus points out that one is just as guilty of murder should they hate another just as much as someone who actually commits a murder. The same with lusting after someone sexually in regards to the prohibition against adultery.

The result of holding to the mistranslation of sin is that much of what Christ said and taught is relegated to the theological trash heap in favor of a pet flawed belief. Judging righteous judgment as contrasted to judging according to appearance genders lip service only. Jesus is actually re-created in the legalist's image, and attributed with teaching law, even as the prophets of old did. Jesus taught the law alright, but not in the way the legalist insists. Jesus' examples regarding the law demonstrated the utter impossibility of anyone truly keeping the law, telling people to go to drastic measures, such a plucking out eyes, or cutting off hands in an attempt to avoid the clutches of hell. Yet, even without eyes to see, a person can still find themselves thinking about lusting sexually.

There are two most likely scenarios that play out in relation to the law; the first is the realization that a person can never truly live up to that standard and be judged free of sin, thereby hopefully driving the person to Christ and His mercy and salvation based on faith. The other extreme is an act of denial, believing that the self can indeed keep the law, with the help of God of course, but keep the law nonetheless. There is a “faith” in Christ in that He will enable them to keep the law. Salvation ends up being a partnership deal of sorts. Jesus paid the penalty for sin, so that, should the “believer” sin due to human weakness and lack of spiritual growth/maturity, it is forgiven and this striving to overcome continues. As long as one is actively engaged in overcoming sin by keeping the “law”, all is well. It also sounds reasonable. The problem is, there is no real biblical support for this entire concept. Even ancient Israel suffered from this blindness when it came to the law, as attested to in Psalms chapter 44. Israel collectively cries out to God over their being punished, claiming all the while that they are in compliance with the law, keeping the law. God however was judging their hearts. Their hearts condemned them. God declared that their works were evil, even from their youth. Evil works come from evil intent of mind.

What goes unperceived by the legalist is that God Himself set up the conditions as they are, with that law, knowing full well that the egocentric nature of people would attract them to the law and the self-righteousness they would seek through the law. A proud person wants to demonstrate he or she is better than others, and what better way than to comply with a law set others “give up on”? So the proud and boastful set off on their journey on self-improvement, as taught also by the false religions of the world. Some seek nirvana, through their own efforts. Some seek enlightenment, through their own efforts. All false religions are based on improving the self through whatever personal means. True Christianity is about what God/Christ has done for us, due to our sinful nature that we come to realize we cannot alter on our own. A gorilla may aspire to be a human, and mimic a human and human behavior, but at the end of the day, he is still a gorilla. At the end of the day, a son of Adam is still a son of Adam. A person MUST be born again, of the Spirit. Whatever alteration is necessary, God will perform it through the workings of the Holy Spirit.

Scripture is full of traps waiting to snare the unwary; those who are careless with the written Word of God. Scripture “weeds out” the proud and arrogant. The law is one of those traps. On the surface, it appears attractive and as something to impart wisdom and understanding, which it can, up to a point. But, its fruit is still death. For to transgress in even one point of the “whole” law is to be guilty of the entirety.

You can spend all day long, extolling the virtues of the law, but in the end, the law ends up condemning the law breaker, and rightly so.

God wants no more Satans. Satan thought to himself that he could be like God. He took his faith off of God, and placed his faith on himself. The legalist also declares that he too can be like God, and he is going to prove it by keeping that law. The legalist cannot and will not believe that he is abandoning total faith and reliance on Christ in favor of striving to keep the law, so much so that he believes God will actually help him keep that law whose purpose was to bring all under sin. Some however refuse to admit defeat.

Now we know that what things soever the law saith, it saith to them who are under the law: that every mouth may be stopped, and all the world may become guilty before God. – Romans 3:19

The legalist points to the law and states it is a sin to murder; that no murderer shall abide in the kingdom of Heaven. The one walking in faith will point out that the Spirit of God that now dwells within him motivates him to have love for even an enemy, and to do good to an enemy, and not evil. One is motivated by law; the other is motivated by the Spirit. One is motivated by the law not to do evil. The other is motivated to “do” good.
Which then demonstrates the greater morality? The one who insists on being led by the law, or the one being led by the Spirit?

Which is a demonstration of righteousness? The one who refrains from murder, or the one who has love for others, including his enemies?

The written “moral” law would be better described and defined as the “immoral” law, seeing as those points of law deal with man's immorality instead of man's morality. It is immoral to murder. Do not commit an act of immorality. Does refraining from murder demonstrate a man to be moral therefore? No, for a man can still harbor hatred while refraining from murder. The law proves no one righteous; the law proves men to be unrighteous and immoral. The “righteousness” of the law indeed is self-righteousness, where one merely believes himself to be morally upright, despite the heart that God describes that we are all born with:

The heart is deceitful above all things, and desperately wicked: who can know it? – Jeremiah 17:9

The real problem is not law versus “antinomianism”. The problem is the heart. You need a new one. You cannot develop it yourself, by your own actions and deeds. God must place it in you. It is an action that only He can do, and He will only do it for those who have surrendered themselves to Christ, confessing themselves to be sinful by nature and in need of His intervention in their lives, taking hold of Christ in faith.
If you believe you have to keep the law for the sake of salvation, you missed the point here. The law is not there to prove you worthy, or keep you worthy. The law was designed to prove men sinners and sinful so as to drive you to Christ and the salvation found in Him ONLY. You don't get to participate in your salvation beyond surrendering to Him. You don't get to brag or stroke your own ego. You are the clay; He is the potter, and He will make of you what He wants.

If you are of those who insist on keeping the law and sabbath, then you get that veil before the eyes Paul wrote of in II Corinthians chapter 3 regarding those who hold to the law, regardless of how you define it. You will continue to be held in darkness until such time you finally come to realize that you cannot keep even a fraction of the law (the ten commandments) and that God is not going to help you do so. I have challenged you people time and again to step forward and proclaim to me and others how God has enabled you to now keep the law, perfectly, as He required, so that you are now without sin. You never have a lustful thought. You never have a thought of hatred. You even keep the sabbath perfectly as prescribed in Scripture, preparing your meals the day before, and not performing “any” work on that day. You are now without sin.

God did not dumb down the law for you. Christ magnified the law, showing that the heart you were born with ultimately condemns you as a sinner, for God judges the heart. He said that if your eye offended you; made you sin by what you saw and by the thoughts of lust that followed, to pluck it out rather than find yourself cast into hell as a result of the lust of the eyes. If your hand made you to sin, to cut it off also. Let's take the idea and concept one step further. If your heart of stone causes you to stumble; if you find yourself thinking evil thoughts of lust and hatred, then maybe you need to rip out your heart in a last ditch effort to overcome sin.
Through mistranslation and misinterpretation, you have chosen a “path” you cannot walk down. You cannot keep the law, perfectly, as was required. You will always stumble and fall on that path.
You have chosen the wrong tree; the tree of the knowledge of good and evil, that represents the law. The law taught one sin and evil. The law teaches good and wisdom. But its fruit is still death.

You need to fully grasp the other tree; that tree of life that is Christ. You either follow Christ and serve Him, or you follow and serve the law; no man can serve two masters.



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It is important that you understand; Everything on this blog is based on the current understanding of each author. Never take anyone's word for it, always prove it for yourself, it is your responsibility. You cannot ride someone else's coattail into the Kingdom. ; ) Acts 17:11
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Sunday, June 29, 2014

Faith Versus Law -- The Example of Naaman

II Kings chapter 5 gives the story of Naaman the Syrian; a high ranking officer in the Syrian army who was a leper. His wife's servant girl, captured in a raid into Israel, related how there was a prophet of God in Israel who could heal Naaman of his leprosy.

This claim is related to the king of Syria, who in turn sends Naaman to Israel in order to be healed should the claim be true as related by the Israelite girl. There was some political intrigue also attached to the situation, but that is not the focus here. The king of Israel sees the act of sending Naaman to him as a provocation, but the prophet of God hears about it and instructs the king to send Naaman to him.

Naaman shows up at Elisha's door, and Elisha does not even so much as come out to face him. Elisha sends his servant out to inform Naaman to go and dip himself 7 times in the Jordan and he will be clean.
Naaman is outraged. He expected at the very least the prophet to come out and perform some ritual and incantation along with the attendant hand waving and all. His expectation was that he would have to pay a hefty price for his healing, hence the silver and gold he brought, along with expensive attire. Another expectation was to be required to perform some mighty deed or deeds in order to secure his healing.

All he was required to do was something simple, and easily accomplished: Go soak your head in the Jordan and wash away some of that ego.

Naaman relents, does the simple task that went against the grain of ego and pride, and was healed. He tries to pay for his healing, only to be refused. Naaman then makes an interesting declaration:
And Naaman said, Shall there not then, I pray thee, be given to thy servant two mules' burden of earth? for thy servant will henceforth offer neither burnt offering nor sacrifice unto other gods, but unto the LORD. – 2 Kings 5:17

Naaman put the pieces together. This God of Israel is the One to serve and believe in. What a contrast to the false gods of Syria, who demand much, and give nothing.

Now the curios twist in the plot:

In this thing the LORD pardon thy servant, that when my master goeth into the house of Rimmon to worship there, and he leaneth on my hand, and I bow myself in the house of Rimmon: when I bow down myself in the house of Rimmon, the LORD pardon thy servant in this thing. – 2 Kings 5:18

Naaman was expected to attend his king when his king went in to pay homage to this false god Rimmon. Naaman now knew this god was nothing, but he was duty bound to attend his king, and go through the motions.

This action on the part of Naaman was a case of directly violating the commands found in the ten commandments!

Thou shalt have no other gods before me. Thou shalt not make unto thee any graven image, or any likeness of any thing that is in heaven above, or that is in the earth beneath, or that is in the water under the earth: Thou shalt not bow down thyself to them, nor serve them: for I the LORD thy God am a jealous God, visiting the iniquity of the fathers upon the children unto the third and fourth generation of them that hate me; And shewing mercy unto thousands of them that love me, and keep my commandments. – Exodus 20:3-5
Poof! Naaman's leprosy returns to him, seeing as he violated one the the most important commands in the Bible, which, according to some, applies universally to all mankind for all time.

Not quite.

God showed mercy to him, despite the fact he let it be known he would be violating this law, whether he knew about this law or not. According to this command, his actions would be seen by God as iniquity.

What then was Elisha's response to Naaman?

And he said unto him, Go in peace. – 2 Kings 5:19a

You would think that the prophet would have informed Naaman not only was he to not bow down to a false god, he was responsible for keeping all of the ten commandments, including the sabbath, seeing as they are universal in application; the eternal, moral precepts of God.

Nope. Didn't happen. Quite the opposite.

The servant of Elisha figured Naaman got off cheap for his healing. He felt Naaman should have surrendered something in return for his healing, and so ran off after Naaman in order to extract something of value from him.

But God required nothing of substance from Naaman. It was a lesson in faith, with no real strings attached. What was “required” of him was to humble himself; an act of humility.

Jesus weighed in on this story to the Jews of His time, pointing out that there were many lepers in Israel when Naaman was healed, yet none of those lepers in Israel, who had the law, were healed. The Jews responded to Jesus' observation by trying to kill him. His words were an affront to them and the law.

So, we have the example of Naaman, an enemy of Israel, who intentionally let it be known he was going to violate the ten commandments, healed by God as an act of, and example of faith, as contrasted to Israelites who had the ten commandments/law and were trying to live by them, yet deemed faithless by Christ.





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It is important that you understand; Everything on this blog is based on the current understanding of each author. Never take anyone's word for it, always prove it for yourself, it is your responsibility. You cannot ride someone else's coattail into the Kingdom. ; ) Acts 17:11
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Monday, June 23, 2014

Just What Do You Mean... JUSTIFIED?

In my last post, I discussed some of the weaknesses with the COGs' doctrines on attaining eternal life. Their teachings on salvation look good on paper, but when you carry their doctrines to their logical conclusion, there is no exit strategy besides achieving perfection. Overcoming sin - all of our sin - is our only option.

What would it be like to stand before God and answer for your righteousness, on trial for your eternal life? With your salvation at stake, and no appeals? We know our accuser brings our sins before God night and day (Revelation 12:10). Can you imagine watching hours of your most shameful moments on the HD screen seated at the witness stand between God and Satan? As you check out that video from your rebellious teenage years, you blush a little. But really, it's not THAT bad, you think. Everyone's reckless when they're young. Then a clip pops up from last week. Oops.

As he wraps up his accusations, Satan turns and asks if you think you've achieved a level of righteousness sufficient for salvation. It's obviously a rhetorical question - you just sat through a feature presentation of all your failures. Despite some areas of growth, there is no way anyone could describe you as making significant progress toward "overcoming" sin.

Then your Defender, Jesus Christ steps forward (1 John 2:1, Hebrews 7:25). He announces that He has only one question for you - have you put your faith in Him for salvation? Not just as insurance in case you're not "good enough" by the end of your life, but as the very means by which you can be saved from the punishment you rightly deserve?

"Yes," you answer, humble and broken. After viewing the montage of your sins, what other path could you possibly take?

There is silence. Then, from behind the bench, the Father swings His gavel and renders His verdict: righteous.

You are stunned. After seeing all that, how could He possibly declare YOU righteous? Believe it or not, this is exactly what God promises to do the moment someone repents and puts his or her faith in Jesus Christ. This is what evangelical Christians call the Doctrine of Justification.

In the Churches of God, we know that sin entered the world through Adam and that salvation is possible through the sacrifice of Jesus Christ. But when it comes to explaining the mechanics of that salvation, things get a little muddy. Our ministers quote scripture and emphasize our vital need to grow and overcome. And these things should be happening in our lives, although the process the COGs teach puts the cart before the horse. But anyway, what percentage of our sin do we need to overcome before we die to qualify for eternal life? Is it 80 percent? 95 percent? Remember, violating just one point of law makes us 100 percent guilty (James 2:10). The law is like a plate glass window -if we hit it one corner, we shatter the whole thing. So we are talking about an all-or-nothing proposition here.

From the foundation of the world, God saw that He couldn't make our salvation dependent on our own limited capacity to obey Him. We would either become self-righteous and boast in our own performance (Ephesians 2:9) or drown in despair over our failures (Romans 7:18-25). So He offers salvation through a means that forces us to place our trust in something outside ourselves: the righteousness of Jesus Christ.

Justification: Our Legal Standing

When most in the evangelical Christian world discuss "justification," they are talking about an instantaneous legal act of God, in which He (a) thinks of our sins as forgiven and Christ's righteousness as belonging to us, and (b) declares us to be righteous in His sight (Wayne Grudem, Systematic Theology, page 723).

The apostle Paul demonstrates this concept through the example of Abraham: (Romans 4:1-5) "What then shall we say that Abraham our father has found according to the flesh? For if Abraham was justified by works, he has something to boast about, but not before God. For what does the Scripture say? 'Abraham believed God, and it was accounted to him for righteousness,' Now to him who works, the wages are not counted as grace, but as debt. But to him who does not work but believes on Him who justifies the ungodly, his faith is accounted for righteousness."

By comparison, in its booklet, The New Covenant: Does it Abolish God's Law?, the United Church of God defines justification (on page 90) as being "made just, right or righteous. Literally, it means being made straight - perfectly lined up (with God)."

UCG's definition hints at a typesetting analogy, but the Living Church of God fleshes out the traditional COG explanation further: "One easy way to understand justification is to see how it is used in word processing. The margins on this page, for example, are lined up on both the right and left sides. This is called full justification. In the theological sense, justification involves being 'lined up' with God." ( "The Greatest Love." Living Church of God.)

Sounds plausible, except for the fact that the typesetting term originated in the 1500s, a few decades after the printing press was invented. Now, it's reasonable to assume the Renaissance-era meaning has some roots in the first-century etymology. But it's problematic to use a relatively modern metaphor to determine the meaning of a term that originated more than a thousand years earlier. Plus, the typesetting term came from a phrase meaning, "to make exact," not "to line up.", according to the Online Etymology Dictionary. But the end product doesn't sound too far off, so I'll let it go. For now.

Oh wait. There's more. On page 91 of its booklet on the New Covenant, UCG adds that Christians must maintain their justification through their deeds, a concept they believe is supported by scriptures such as James 2:24. "Ongoing justification - through Christ-empowered obedience and Christ's atoning sacrifice when we fall short - corresponds to the current process of "being saved."

In its extended definition, UCG erroneously combines two separate steps in the process of human redemption - justification and sanctification. Sanctification, which follows justification, is the progressive work of God (and man, to some extent) in our hearts that makes us more and more free from sin and like Christ in our everyday lives (Wayne Grudem, Systematic Theology, p. 746). James 2:24 is a great example of a scripture discussing sanctification that the COGs misread to support their explanation of justification. Evangelical Christianity believes this passage warns that a lack of works and the fruit of the Spirit in our lives could indicate that a true conversion - and therefore our justification - might never have occurred in the first place.

Massaging scriptural terms to fit their doctrines is where the COGs typically go awry. Herbert W. Armstrong had a long history of this, and his disciples carry on his legacy. Consider that within the same page of text, UCG defines justification as both being in a state of alignment with God and AND the process of repeatedly becoming reconciled to God when one falls out of alignment. Logic says it cannot be both. Let's stop playing word games with matters of salvation.

I'm not just picking on UCG; their literature on the topic is just more detailed and readily available. A quick website check shows LCG and COGWA both teach ongoing justification. COG-AIC and PCOG hold their literature too close to the chest for me to check. But the first article on PCOG's "The Virtuous Life" subsection is titled "Achieve Spiritual Perfection," which paints a pretty clear picture. As do decades of sermons warning us that we won't "make it" if we don't get our act together. Works undeniably play a pivotal role in justification in the COGs, and Ephesians 2:8-9 clearly contradicts this flawed doctrine.

Justification by grace through faith in Christ alone - which was at the heart of the Protestant Reformation - is its own distinct step in the process of human redemption. Blurring the lines between justification and sanctification opens the door for the distortion of the core gospel message - that we are all sinners, that we can be justified and receive the gift of righteousness by God's grace through faith in Jesus Christ.

This distortion usually ends up manifesting itself in a situation where the "free" gift God promises depends on certain obligations of obedience we must meet to maintain that gift. In Romans 4:4 Paul calls this obedience "works," which incurs a "debt" that must be paid as wages are paid to a laborer. This is the opposite of grace, which is a free gift that does not depend on the merit or work of the recipient.

The distinction between justification and sanctification is not trivial, says John Piper, a prominent theologian and Chancellor of Bethlehem College and Seminary. In his book, Counted Righteous in Christ, Piper explains "Our only hope of progress in gradual sanctification (growing in likeness to Jesus) is that we already have a right standing with God by faith alone. By this justification we are accepted into God's favor and enjoy a reconciled position. This right standing establishes the very relationship in which we find the help and power to make progress in love."

There is scant Biblical support for the concept of ongoing justification. The Greek word dikaiosis and its variations, dikaioma and dikaioo - (from which the English words justification, justify and justified are derived) do not appear to include an ongoing individual component, according to Vine's Complete Expository Dictionary of Old and New Testament Words. UCG interprets Romans 3:24 to mean that individual Christians are being justified on an ongoing basis throughout their lives (on page 90 of the New Covenant booklet). But evangelical commentators explain that the word is used in the present continuous tense, which means that God is in a constant state of justifying a succession of individuals.

Likewise, when the King James Version renders verbiage in Romans 5:1 as "being justified," it is in the aorist tense, meaning it refers to individual Christians being justified on an ongoing basis, according to Vine's. In other words, one man was justified at this moment, another was justified at 3:52 p.m. last Tuesday, and a third was justified three Mondays ago at noon. All were justified at specific points in time, not at multiple points in time throughout their individual lives as the UCG and many other COGs teach.

Several Old Testament examples demonstrate that justifying someone changes their legal status at a point in time, not their internal moral condition. Consider Deuteronomy 25:1-2, which details laws governing disputes between Israelites:

"If there is any dispute between men, and they come to court, that the judges may judge them, and they justify the righteous and condemn the wicked, then it shall be the wicked man deserves to be beaten...". These judges are charged with justifying the just party in a disagreement and punishing the one in the wrong. Neither action determines the internal state of the parties' character.

Proverbs 17:15 makes it even more clear."He who justifies the wicked and he who condemns the just, both of them alike are an abomination to the Lord." If justifying an evil man meant improving his character, it would not be an abomination to God! It would be great!

Isaiah 5:23 pronounces woe on he who would justify the wicked for a bribe. This too indicates a legal declaration in a specific incident.


Now that we have established what justification does and doesn't mean, in my next post, we will examine how the Bible tells us we can become justified before God.


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It is important that you understand; Everything on this blog is based on the current understanding of each author. Never take anyone's word for it, always prove it for yourself, it is your responsibility. You cannot ride someone else's coattail into the Kingdom. ; ) Acts 17:11
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