Are Your Thoughts And Ways God’s?

Is there any relation between what you think and what God thinks? Let’s plunge into the Deeper Waters and find out.

One of the problems in our age with Biblical interpretation is many times we can get so centered on one way of interpreting a passage and we hear it so often that we never consider that that could be a wrong interpretation. The danger of a wrong interpretation is twofold. First off, we will believe the text says the wrong thing. Second, we will miss the truth that the text is giving us.

Isaiah 55 has one such spot. Let’s go to the text.

“For my thoughts are not your thoughts,
    neither are your ways my ways,”
declares the Lord.
“As the heavens are higher than the earth,
    so are my ways higher than your ways
    and my thoughts than your thoughts.

So what is going on here? A lot of Christians will look at this and say that it means the thoughts of God are totally foreign to us. You cannot think what God thinks. It’s entirely different. Some use this to say that God can even be illogical. God can make a contradiction true for instance. Is that what is being said?

No. In fact, I have deliberately left out the surrounding context. If you think anything that is true, you agree with God. You say God exists? God agrees. You say that Jesus is the Son of God who rose from the dead? Assuming you’re properly understanding what those terms mean, then yes, God agrees. While there are aspects of the mind of God we cannot know, we can know what He has revealed to us.

So if that is not what is being said here, what is being said? The reality is that this is a beautiful passage on grace and forgiveness. Our bad interpretation has caused us to miss the truly good one.

Let’s look at what comes before it.

Seek the Lord while he may be found;
    call on him while he is near.
Let the wicked forsake their ways
    and the unrighteous their thoughts.
Let them turn to the Lord, and he will have mercy on them,
    and to our God, for he will freely pardon.

Many of us have a mindset that we fear God will judge us for some big sin that we’ve committed or something that we picture as a big sin. We also have a hard time accepting forgiveness. “I just can’t forgive myself for what I’ve done.” In this way, our thoughts are not God’s thoughts and our ways are not His ways. We are treating God like a common man and saying that this is what we would do, so this is what God would do.

God says it’s not. His way is to forgive. If the wicked will come, they will not be condemned. They will instead receive the mercy and grace of God. This passage isn’t making a claim about the mind of God being totally foreign to us. It’s making a claim that God does not act like we do towards the wicked or dare I say it, even ourselves.

We can all seek to know the truth and be in further agreement with God, but one truth we should accept is grace. We all when we sin are the wicked. Our ways with ourselves are not God’s. His ways are higher.

In Christ,
Nick Peters

Book Plunge: Ministering In Honor-Shame Cultures

What do I think of this book published by IVP? Let’s plunge into the Deeper Waters and find out.

Jayson Georges and Mark D. Baker have done us a great service by producing this wonderful book. If I could give any encouragement right now at the start, it would be simple. If you want to have an impact with most of the world and learn to understand the Bible in the world it was written in, here’s my advice.

Buy this book and read it right now.

Seriously. I found myself reading this book and wishing I could put it in the hands of everyone in ministry. I would be thrilled if more Christians would learn about the honor-shame culture. Most Christians are shocked when you tell them that most of the world doesn’t work with the idea of a guilty conscience like we in the West do. We have become so focused on ourselves that we are aghast that the rest of the world could be any different from us.

The danger here is we are not only able to give the Biblical message to people in other cultures, who are living among us here in the West more and more and still thinking in the same way, but we are unable to give the Biblical message to ourselves. So many misunderstandings about the Bible would be cleared up if we realized the text speaks in honor-shame language.

On page 28, the authors say something I wish we could all hear and when I speak about honor and shame to Christians, I point this out:

As we have taught Christians about honor-shame in theology and ministry, students note the degree to which shame influences their own identity and relationships. Shame is a defining aspect of human existence, but rarely addressed in churches or ministry. When is the last time you heard a sermon addressing shame? Most people have never heard such a sermon. (p. 28. Bold mine. Italics theirs.)

Indeed! We are so saturated in our culture with our own thinking that we think everyone must be just like us. They are not. Many people all over the world struggle with shame. In reality, we know we do too. How many victims of especially sexual abuse struggle with shame? You can tell them about forgiveness all day long. Forgiveness is great and wonderful, but it won’t help them. They haven’t done anything wrong and telling them they’re forgiven won’t deal with their shame. Forgiveness is indeed part of the Gospel, but if we make the Gospel be just about forgiveness, we severely limit it.

We also do have aspects of honor-shame here and most of us don’t realize it. What happens in high school where a lot of students think they need to where X brand of clothing and not Y? (Something I have no recollection of, but many do.) What happens on Facebook where we talk about people liking and sharing our posts? Everyone wants to be thought well of by good people.

To help us with the task of the book, the writers do explain how honor and shame work and then show it in the Bible. Hopefully, Christians reading this will go back and look at the text through new eyes. I encourage Christians to go to the New Testament and use a site like Bible Gateway. Do a search of terms like innocence and guilt. Note that when they’re used, they speak of it in legal terms and not feeling terms. See also where the terms do not show up. Romans, for instance, does not talk about guilt. Many of the Pauline epistles do not. Then look for terms like honor and shame. See how often they show up. Why is it we have so many sermons on guilt and innocence and none on honor and shame?

From there, the writers show how this all works out when dealing with people in these cultures, especially using their own experience. A lot could be said about this, but I think it’s better for you to get the book and read it yourself. The content is exceptionally thorough and easy to understand. It left me looking at matters differently and striving to think more in terms of honor and shame.

I think if there was one aspect I would have liked some light shed on, it would be what is a worship service like in an honor-shame culture? We in our culture have so much that is focused on application and dealing about how we feel and helping us be better individuals. We also greet each other for about a minute (The time we introverts refer to as torture aside from that I greet my wife with a holy kiss) and then sing the same worship songs which are often very self-focused as well.

So then, final advice.

Get this book.

Read it.

Share it with everyone else you can.

This is that important.

In Christ,
Nick Peters

Book Plunge: The Day The Revolution Began

What do I think of N.T. Wright’s latest book published by HarperOne? Let’s plunge into the Deeper Waters and find out.

N.T. Wright is one of my favorite authors to read. He is a deep thinker and he seems to have a vast knowledge of the Old and the New Testaments. There is also no isolation as he shows the interplay between the two very well. These are not facts just hanging in the air. These are part of a large and grand story. He makes me come to the Bible with fresh eyes seeing it incredibly different and leaves me with a greater love of the text.

This book is no exception. In it, he looks at the cross as the day the world changed. Of course, this wasn’t really known until the third day when Jesus rose, but the cross was something that changed the world. He also has a full-frontal attack on the idea that this is all just because Jesus died for our sins so we could be good people and go to Heaven. He does believe Jesus died for our sins. He does believe we should be good people. With Heaven, he holds, and I think rightfully, that God’s Kingdom is indeed to come on Earth and God is not going to destroy this world but rather to redeem it. The parts about dying for our sins and being good people is true, but it is missing a lot.

For Wright, the world was created and our vocation in it was to rule on behalf of God. When man failed, the task went to Israel to be a kingdom of priests for God to get all humanity back to where it needed to be. We know how that turned out. Israel needed to be rescued and redeemed often more than the people they were meant to rescue and redeem. God knew what to do. The Son, who has the very nature of God, came and died in order to redeem the world. Through death, He disarmed the power of sin and broke its hold over us. Through this, we were sent out then to be the people that we ought to be.

Wright then argues that our being good people in this world is not because we have a contract with God that He does something good for us and we do good back, but because our task now is to be those priests for a dying world. When we sin, it’s not just that we broke a rule that is out there. It is that we are violating our very being. We were meant to be holy and when we do something wrong, we give some power back to those powers that enslaved us and that Jesus came to break us free from.

We have too often read Paul and the Gospels with the idea that the Gospel is all about Jesus dying for our sins so we could go to Heaven. It can be as if this world doesn’t matter. It’s just an accident in the story. That’s also why so many of us having a hard time finding our place in this world. Yes. We’re meant to be good people, but to what end? We too often think “If we are good people, then others will ask us what makes us so different and then we tell them about Jesus so they can be good people too.” Unfortunately, this rarely happens, and second, it makes it so that we are the end result of all God does.

We are not the end of what God does. God is the end of what God does. His glory is supreme. When we live transformed lives and work to bring about the Kingdom of God on Earth as it is in Heaven, then we are giving the glory to God. Of course, this doesn’t mean that we establish a theocracy. That is not ours to do. It does mean that we live like Kingdom people knowing that while in many things, we submit to our governments, that when our governments contradict with God, we hold to the higher authority.

Wright’s book is engaging and scholarly and it leaves one with a greater appreciation of the New Testament text as well as a greater appreciation of holiness. It’s wonderful to go through a book like this and say “Hey. This makes sense.” All the ideas start clicking and falling into place. Our New Testament faith is not just ideas hanging in the air unrelated to Israel. They are entirely connected to Israel. We cannot give a full Gospel presentation without mentioning Israel and yet so many of us skip that part.

I really recommend you go through Wright’s latest book. It will leave you with a new way of looking at the cross and at your own life. I eagerly look forward to the next book by N.T. Wright.

In Christ,
Nick Peters

What is the Gospel?

When we talk about the Gospel, what do we mean? Let’s plunge into the Deeper Waters and find out.

Yesterday after my post, I went back to David Wood’s page where there was a debate on ecumenism and whether Catholics are brothers and sisters in Christ or not. Now I am not Catholic of course, but I do ministry at times with Catholics and with Orthodox as well, but Catholics are usually the favorite target. We have no problem accepting one another as brothers and sisters in Christ. Normally, I don’t enter this debate at all, but this time, I figured I’d do it since it involved the defense of a friend.

So when the charge comes up and the Gospel is mentioned, I notice that it looks like we all think we know what the Gospel is, so I ask first if Jesus and Paul preached the same Gospel. I know where I’m going and I think this is problematic for some of these and I get told yes. I ask what that Gospel is and I get told the message of justification through faith. Wonderful. So I ask, where exactly do you see Jesus teaching this? After all, in Mark 1:15, Jesus shows up on the scene telling people to repent and believe the Gospel. Is He telling them to repent and believe that they are justified through faith?

Of course, if you know the Gospels, this isn’t a central theme of Jesus’s. Of course, Jesus does point to internal realities more than external ones, but the main teaching of His life is the Kingdom of God. In fact, I’m told that the words of Jesus aren’t just limited to red so you go and look at Paul and you see that this is what Jesus taught. I find this problematic. If we want to understand the Gospel, shouldn’t we start with Jesus? I don’t disparage Paul after all. Paul is immensely valuable and sacred Scripture as well, but isn’t Jesus the original teacher we should look to first?

I found it sad that no one could point this out to me. Here I am supposed to be told that justification by faith is the Gospel that Jesus taught and yet nowhere do I see this being His teaching. Nowhere do I see this being a point of debate between Him and the Pharisees. Of course I know about “I desire mercy and not sacrifice” and I know about the tax collector and the Pharisee, but you don’t see an out and out soteriology in Jesus. In fact, we all know he has some statements such as “Sell all you have and give to the poor.” We also know he has “Believe on the one whom God sent”, but the whole Pauline emphasis is not really there.

So finally after having these guys who were all about the Gospel being unable to answer enough, they finally turned to ask me. Interestingly, I was also asked such questions as if do I believe Jesus is God. After all, if you fellowship with Catholics, well your whole doctrine entirely needs to be called into question. (And I don’t even like “Is Jesus God?” That could be easily mistaken for modalism. I prefer to say Jesus possesses fully the nature of God and man as the second person of the Trinity, but I understand the theological shorthand.)

So what is the Gospel?

God created Adam and Eve to live in union with Him. He would be their God and they would be His people. Unfortunately, they decided to go it their own way and partook of the fruit of the tree of the knowledge of good and evil. In response, God kicked them out of the garden and they were separated from Him.

Then Jesus came and……wait….that sure seemed to skip a lot didn’t it? I mean, do we really need all that stuff from Genesis 4 to Malachi 4? Is that really relevant to the story of Jesus?

Maybe, just maybe, maybe it is.

Tell you what. Let’s go through and see.

After Adam and Eve fall, mankind gets wickeder and wickeder. Their own children have a case of one brother killing the other. Eventually, God decides he will flood the world save for one man and his three sons and their wives and start anew.

After this, mankind decides to build a tower. Can’t have that happening again. God decides to confuse their languages and send them out as different peoples then. He chooses one person from one group of people and makes a covenant with him. That man was Abraham. God promises that all the peoples on Earth will be blessed through him.

Through miraculous means, this old man has a son and he is promised that through his son the promise will be fulfilled. God then tells Abraham to sacrifice this son named Isaac. Abraham is willing and God stops him. Abraham showed that he believed God would fulfill the promise even if he had to kill Isaac. God showed Abraham meanwhile how different He is from all the pagan gods. They would have demanded child sacrifice. YHWH puts a stop to it.

Isaac does grow up and have descendants and the story of Abraham is passed on until eventually, the people arrive in Egypt due to a famine. 400 years later, the people are in slavery and cry out to return to the land of Abraham. God hears them and sends them Moses. Moses delivers them through the Red Sea and takes them to Mount Sinai where they form a covenant relationship with YHWH through His Law. The Law will be how the people show the world that they are a unique people of God.

The people enter the land, but soon become unfaithful. God sends judges to them to return them to YHWH, but that is not enough. Eventually, a king is installed. The first one is a failure, but the second one is David, who is seen as the best king Israel ever had. God makes a covenant with David that one of his descendants will sit on his throne forever. This is in response to David wanting to build a house for God. God says David will not do that, but that his son will.

David’s next descendant, Solomon, does indeed build a temple. This is where God dwells with His people again. The temple becomes a symbol of the presence of God with the people, but the people grow arrogant and complacent about it. They think that God will never abandon it, as if He needs His temple. God sends them prophets when they neglect His Law, but they do not listen. Eventually, the people are sent into exile and the temple is destroyed.

About seventy years after that, the people are allowed to return to the land and build a new temple. The people are back and they have a temple, but something is wrong. Foreigners are in charge of the land. At the time of Jesus, it is Rome. How could it be that God is with His people and yet He lets pagan people rule the land? When is the Kingdom of David going to return? The people might be in the land geographically, but they do not have the charge of the land. It is still incomplete. Has God abandoned His people? Will He return?

Then Jesus came.

When Jesus shows up, He speaks about the Kingdom of God and even says it is right there. He asks people to believe the Gospel. What is the Gospel? God has returned to His people. God is present in Jesus. Even more startling, Jesus does signs to show that He is the Messiah of Israel and the one who will sit on the throne of David and through whom God will reign.

The rulers don’t like Jesus coming in on their turf and they fear a revolution. In a series of political events, they crucify Jesus. This will silence the claims of Him being a Messiah. If He is the Messiah, He will not be crucified. God will rescue Him. Unfortunately for His followers watching, Jesus dies. He is not rescued. He is buried in a tomb. Done. Kaput. Game Over. Let’s move on with our lives now.

But the game is not done. The story is not ended. The tomb is found empty and Jesus is alive again. What does this mean? If true (And it is), it means that God has vindicated Jesus. Jesus is indeed the Messiah. He is the one through whom God will reign.

This is why resurrection is so central to Paul. The resurrection is how God has shown who Jesus is. It’s more than “Jesus is alive and therefore He’s the Messiah.” It’s just as much about what Jesus did before the cross as what happened after. After all, as N.T. Wright says, if one of the thieves next to Jesus had been raised the Jews would say “YHWH is doing some strange things.” They would not say “The Messiah has come!”

This is why Paul does preach the same Gospel. The good news is God has come to be with His people. Jesus says it beforehand promising He will be that one. Paul says it after showing that by His resurrection, Jesus is the promised Messiah. God has returned to be with His people through Jesus. It was not just the land that was to be redeemed. It was indeed all the nations of the world.

Okay. So what about justification through faith? What does that have to do with it?

As I said earlier, in the past, you obeyed the Law not to be justified, but to show that you were. We often have this idea that Paul wrestled with the Law. Not at all. Go read his autobiography in Philippians 3. He was faultless before it. Yes. But what about Romans 7?

I don’t see that as autobiographical. I see that as Paul playing out a part. This is not a new view. Even Origen held this view. How would Paul describe himself as alive apart from the Law for instance? He never knew a life apart from it. I also think it’s problematic if you interpret this text as the Christian struggle. If you identify yourself with Romans 7, you will likely miss out your real identity in Romans 8.

Here’s the real deal then. Paul never wrestled with the Law and then said “Oh! Following Christ! I’m free from this burden!” No. Instead he said that he was blameless before the Law, but he counted that all as rubbish. The Greek word here is Skubalon and I have even been told that that can be translated as if it were something I would not say on this blog. That is how strong Paul’s language is.

The new marker then for showing you’re one of God’s is not keeping the Law. It is if you trust in Christ. Of course, this trust will result in good works. No one should oppose good works, but those good works are not done to obtain salvation but because you have already been given it. This is where justification comes in. It is not the faith that saves you so much as the object that you put your faith in. If you say “Justification by faith” I have to ask “Faith in what?” Then we get to the meat of the Gospel.

Now some might think this went long. It should. Israel was not something God tried for awhile and then said “Forget this. I’m going with the church.” Israel is part of the Gospel just as much. It is essential to know that Jesus is the Messiah. It’s so essential that Paul references it so much that some people, ignorantly of course, have thought that Christ was a last name as if Jesus was born to Mr. and Mrs. Christ. Today, we treat it as an afterthought. Oh yeah. Jesus is the Messiah. Paul didn’t treat it that way. Paul saw it as central.

And for that to be central, Jesus has to be the Messiah of Israel. For that to matter, we have to know Israel’s story. We dare not leave it out. Israel’s story is ours. We are just as much the people of God.

This is the good news. This is the Gospel. It reaches its full fulfillment in Revelation, but we are ambassadors of this good news for now. Jesus is not just the savior. He is not just the forgiver of your sins. He is the Messiah. He is your King. He is THE King.

In Christ,
Nick Peters

Book Plunge: Political Church

What do I think of Jonathan Leeman’s book published by IVP? Let’s plunge into the Deeper Waters and find out.

It’s said that there are two things that should never be talked about and that’s politics and religion. If so, then Jonathan Leeman has stepped into dangerous waters by writing this book. Churches can often have their own share of squabbles and religion can have a bad reputation today with new atheist soundbites running throughout our culture. Now you tie that in with politics, which comes from the word poly, meaning many, and ticks, referring to blood-sucking organisms.

Leeman points out that politics is unavoidable and we all come into the arena of debate with gods. The difference is the Christian comes with a big one and the secularist comes with several little gods that aren’t metaphysical claims and thus pass the muster. It could be then that when we argue on the grounds of appeal to conscience, we’re setting ourselves up for trouble. Whose conscience will win the day? If we say our conscience is tied to our God, then our opinion will be cast aside in the end and the more “objective” person will be the ones whose gods aren’t so readily apparent.

Leeman wants us to see what the making of covenants means for us today and that politics has been with us from the beginning. As soon as you have relationships going on, you have politics. People have to learn to live orderly in a society somehow. Unfortunately, we’ve often gone with a more pragmatic approach instead of an approach rooted in truth.

Leeman also brings this to how it affects our Christian relationships and I think this is the most important part of the book. This gets to the doctrine of forgiveness. What does it mean to forgive and how does that relate to politics? Forgiveness is in fact all about our relationships with one another and much of the material here can be quite convicting, especially if you have a hard time forgiving someone.

The book also comes from an approach that I think is gently Calvinistic and presuppositional, but the good part is if you don’t agree with that perspective, you can still accept the conclusion which is where many of us will end up about God being necessary for the good society. I found myself disagreeing with how Leeman reached some conclusions, but I agreed with the conclusions. I suspect many readers would be in the same boat.

Also, I thought criticisms of the New Perspective on Paul were not that strong. I don’t think they offer anything that would go against justification in the sense that we usually see it. The difference is more about what it means to be justified. I myself lean towards the New Perspective and I did not see the problems that I think Leeman thinks he sees.

Still, this is a good book to read and certainly thorough. It’s difficult to think about how a book could be more thorough on the topic. The experiential aspects are also quite helpful as you can learn to see forgiveness in a whole new light and really think about how you relate to your fellow man.

In Christ,
Nick Peters

Being Like Jesus

How is it we are supposed to live? Let’s plunge into the Deeper Waters and find out.

I’m someone in ministry, so I’d like to think I get it right a lot of the times. I mean by that not just intellectually as in having my doctrine all accurate, but also the way I live. Sadly, there are too many times that I don’t. There are too many times that I lose sight of what’s important. There are too many times that it’s easy to fall into the “It’s all about me” trap.

Sometimes it can be with thinking about people who I seek to do good for and then in the end, it looks like it goes unnoticed and my efforts don’t matter. In some cases, when my efforts don’t seem to matter, I can ask myself if what I’m doing really matters at all. I can easily enter into a “why bother?” stage. This stage woke me up in the middle of the night last night and I ended up praying seeking to deal with it.

“God. How is it you can do so much good for some people and they end up placing their focus elsewhere?”

Now keep in mind, I don’t believe that God normally speaks to us today. I have written on that elsewhere here on this blog, but that’s neither here nor there now. Still, I can often try to picture what God would say. In this case, I could picture it clearly.

“You mean like you’re doing right now?”

Ouch.

There are times I think God takes His proverbial two-by-four and whacks us upside the head. I think this was one of those times and it was just the whack I needed. As I sought to regain sleep again, I thought of a time when it would have been easy for Jesus to lose focus. If there was any time, I think the cross would be the greatest.

Let’s start with the facts about this. For one thing, Jesus was betrayed. Many of us know what betrayal can be like. Jesus did. We can look at the obvious case of Judas. Yes. Judas betrayed Jesus. In that betrayal, Jesus still had love for Judas. While Scripture doesn’t record that Judas repented, would Jesus have forgiven Him if He had? I have no doubt. I have no reason to think that Jesus delighted in the death of Judas.

Judas wasn’t the only betrayal. How about Peter? Remember Peter? Peter was Jesus’s right-hand man. He was one of the people who had got to go on the miracle tour of casting out demons. He had been at the Mount of Transfiguration. He had done many miracles and seen many miracles of Jesus and seen Jesus best His opponents in debate time and time again.

In some ways, Peter’s cowardice could have been harder than Judas’s betrayal. Peter had been in a great position being part of the inner three and had been the unsaid leader of the group. If anyone should have known Jesus and what He stood for, it was Peter, and yet when the moment came, Peter lost sight of Jesus entirely and thought more of saving his own hide.

It was betrayal.

Yet when we get to the cross, what do we see? Jesus is pronouncing forgiveness for those who had crucified Him. Forgiveness. Now before you say “Sure. It’s easy for Him. He’s the Son of God.” keep in mind that Stephen when stoned in Acts 7 does the exact same thing.

When we see Jesus on the cross, we don’t see Him uttering one word of condemnation. In fact, He’s practically still doing evangelism on the cross. Jesus is making sure His mother is taken care of and providing salvation to a thief.

“But didn’t Jesus say ‘My God, my God. Why have you forsaken me?”

Indeed He did, and yet that’s Psalm 22 He’s quoting. It starts in sorrow but ends in tragedy. Jesus is still maintaining His focus on God. In the midst of His worst suffering, Jesus is not complaining. Jesus is not focusing on what others have done to Him. Jesus is focusing on His Father.

It was then that I thought about how we’re to be like Jesus and how in my own thinking I had lost the focus and was placing it elsewhere. We can all easily be assured, the more we lose our focus on Jesus, the harder our lives will be. The more we focus on Him, the easier our lives will be.

Now I want to be clear on that last point. I am not saying with that things will automatically work out for you. They won’t. Paul described many of his sufferings in 2 Corinthians 11 and let’s keep in mind he wrote of great joy from a Roman prison cell. Those weren’t the best places to be in. Am I saying his life was easier because he focused on Jesus?

Yes I am. Because Paul had that focus, he was able to bear suffering. Just look at his writings and see what he says about suffering. Suffering will happen. There is no avoiding it this side of eternity. The question is what are we going to do with suffering? How are we going to handle it? Are we going to treat it like the enemy itself, or could we look at it as the tool of the Father to make us more like Jesus if we will let it? Could it be that if we do not do that, that we will have to keep repeating the lesson? I can say for my part that when I did remember to focus on Christ last night and started that looking again and the prayer to be like Jesus, it was amazing how quickly the internal mental anguish vanished.

I also do think that this has some great apologetics value. Not only is living like Jesus a powerful motivator for the life-changing power of Christ in our society, but keep in mind, it’s not about us but about Jesus. Jesus in the Gospels is such a powerful and awesome figure in how He handles Himself that as I thought about it last night, I remembered the claim that it was preposterous to think that someone would invent Jesus. There is just something about Jesus that is so unique and amazing in His presentation that none of us could invent Him. Those who see Jesus as a myth I think have never taken the time to consider how Jesus is in the Gospels and I mean not just in His doing miracles, but the very way He carried Himself and presented Himself.

There’s a reason Jesus is the figure that our calendar is built around. There’s a reason that churches have His name in them. There’s a reason we bear His name in us. There’s a reason most every religion after Jesus still wants to do something with Him because He’s such an amazing figure. It was this that got me thinking back to an argument Tom Gilson made. You can read that here and I highly encourage you to do so.

Once again, I’m reminded that in my suffering and whatever I’m going through, I should look at Jesus and see if He went through likewise. Are there any parallels? If so, I am to walk as He walked. It’s not easy. It’s a battle. It’s going to involve constant dying to the flesh and I can’t do it in my own strength of course. Thankfully, we have the Holy Spirit to help with that. The question is simply going to be am I going to do it and if I try, Jesus will help me as I walk in the right direction, no matter how many times I stumble.

In Christ,
Nick Peters

The Struggle of Forgiveness

Is the way of Christ sometimes what you don’t want to do? Let’s plunge into the Deeper Waters and find out.

It’s no secret I’m a Christian. I think the claims of Christ are true and that He did rise from the dead. I think His way is the way of Wisdom. I uphold all that I believe that the Bible teaches. I try to be as staunch as I can in my moral stances on issues. If you follow the Christian path, you are following the right path.

And sometimes, I don’t want to follow it.

You see, I’ve written before on forgiveness such as will your murderer be in Heaven, a view on justice, and just forgiveness in general. We all think forgiveness is a really great idea. We do. The problem is we think it’s a really great idea for everyone else. It’s not so great when we have to do it ourselves.

I’m going to be a bit revealing in this blog, but I will not give names or details on the people involved and please do not ask for them. These are my struggles though I welcome you coming alongside of me in them. Generally, I tend to be an easy-going guy. If you say something that is hurtful to me, oh well. It doesn’t really bother me. I can take it. I can handle it. In fact, I will often take it as a compliment in the long run. Go ahead and try to say your worst. It really doesn’t get to me.

If you say something about my wife Allie, well that’s something different.

My wife does happen to be a very sensitive person to what people say. Of course, this is something she needs to work on, but it does not change the reality. The biggest way someone can hurt me honestly is to do something to hurt her. It doesn’t matter if the person intends it or not. If they hurt her, you can find my rage immediately increasing. Allie, a Dragonball fan, would tell you that she thinks I go Super Saiyan at that point.

You see, my wife is the most precious human being in my life. She is the one I have built my life with. She is the one I sleep next to every night. She is my confidante, my companion, my fellow traveler on this journey. There is no human being on this Earth that I have a better relationship with than my wife and there is no person on the planet who means more to me than she does. When I see in Scripture that we are one flesh, I think it includes what happens in the bedroom, but it goes beyond. Marriage has been described as one soul in two bodies. I can relate to that.

So to go after Allie is to go after me. Some of you have seen that happen on Facebook. Some of you have seen that when someone insults her, that I immediately jump in and start to deal with the problem. This is one time I break my rule about not posting on Facebook on Sundays.

As it stands right now, I have been thinking about some people who have done things to hurt Allie. This hurt has been severe and it is hurt that Allie is carrying with her to this day and when I see Allie in pain, I am tempted to enter my rage state once again. My Princess is in pain after all and she does not deserve that pain. I am not going to say my wife does everything perfectly. Of course not. I am going to say that I hate seeing her carry pain from other people in the past that she should not have to carry.

When this happens and I’m her husband and protector and the one who is supposed to take care of her, my tendency is to go out and rain down justice on the people who hurt her. I think this is the natural way men think and while I know that’s not really doable, the anger is still there. What happens then when I open my Bible? I see Jesus telling me I ought to forgive, and the standards are serious.

Matthew 6:14 For if you forgive other people when they sin against you, your heavenly Father will also forgive you. 15 But if you do not forgive others their sins, your Father will not forgive your sins.

1 John 4: 19 We love because he first loved us. 20 Whoever claims to love God yet hates a brother or sister is a liar. For whoever does not love their brother and sister, whom they have seen, cannot love God, whom they have not seen. 21 And he has given us this command: Anyone who loves God must also love their brother and sister.

Matthew 18: 32 “Then the master called the servant in. ‘You wicked servant,’ he said, ‘I canceled all that debt of yours because you begged me to. 33 Shouldn’t you have had mercy on your fellow servant just as I had on you?’ 34 In anger his master handed him over to the jailers to be tortured, until he should pay back all he owed.

35 “This is how my heavenly Father will treat each of you unless you forgive your brother or sister from your heart.”

These are serious passages.

Mark Twain said years ago that it wasn’t the passages in the Bible that he didn’t understand that bothered him. It’s the passages that he did understand. This is the same situation. In many ways, I honestly wish that these texts were not in the Bible right now. I wish I could pull a Thomas Jefferson in some ways and remove them. These texts go against everything that I experience when I’m angry at someone hurting Allie and challenge me on a route that I do not want to go down really.

Which means in some cases that no, I don’t want the way of Christ in my life.

And I think it’s important we be honest and admit that.

Anyone of us who says he always wants the way of Christ I think is a liar. They’re a liar because they go against it quite regularly in their own lives. We have all manner of sins in our lives that we struggle with. Greed, Gluttony, Sloth, pride, etc. Sometimes we do want the way of Christ in those. Sometimes we don’t.

So let’s get honest. Intellectually I do know the way of Christ is the best way. I do know His way works the better for my life and He works everything to my good. I know that everything that He does is meant to work towards my good. The intellectual awareness is there, but the emotional longing and the will to do so are not. In some ways, the anger is enjoyable to hold on to. Anger can be like a drug in that way. What am I to do on this case? This is my resolve.

First off, I wish to thank my friend Dr. Clay Jones for his advice in this area when I talked to him. One of the things to remember is that it’s not really bad to want justice. We should all want justice. Yet I am to think “What if I was the person in the situation? Would I want God to whack me upside the head and get my attention?” If it meant getting on good terms with God, yes I would. What’s wrong with praying that about the persons I have anger against? What’s wrong with praying that God gets their attention?

Second, the more you pray this kind of prayer, the more you will start to have some sort of empathy for the person. Even though I do not want to, I have to pray that God blesses the people who have hurt my wife in this way and in turn hurt me through their actions. Does that mean I am being insincere with my prayers? I don’t think so. It’s praying something and saying “God, my heart is not here right now, but I know that this is where it needs to be. Please help me to get my heart where it needs to be.” If we waited to do the right thing that was very difficult for us to do when we felt like it or when we wanted to, we would never do it. Part of the process of walking rightly is learning to do things when we don’t want to do them. It is denying our wants for the greater good that we know we ought to pursue.

Third, to forgive does not mean to forget. It does not mean that I treat things like they never happened. It could be that I might want to keep people that hurt Allie far away from her until they prove themselves worthy of her and earn my trust there again. If they do not, I won’t let them near her any more.

Fourth, I have to learn to really deny my own feelings and experiences on the matter. This is also where I have to trust in those who are outside of me. I mentioned Dr. Clay Jones earlier in this post. There have been others who have been friends in this journey and know all that is going on and have provided the advice. My wife and I have found that Celebrate Recovery has been quite helpful. Allie gets the help she needs from a group and I get to go to a family support group.

Fifth, I do have to realize the place Jesus is to have in my life. When I am caught in the vortex, what I am dealing with is more present in my thoughts than Christ is. This is something that I have to change in order to get past what I deal with. I have said before that one of the greatest helpers you can have when you are going through a crisis is to have good theology. If we could all realize how we are seen through the eyes of God for just one moment of time, we would never see our lives the same way.

Forgiveness is the better way however despite what I feel at the time because forgiveness releases me from the anger. The anger can be like a cancer tearing away at one’s soul ripping out some of the humanity that is there. The people involved that I am angry with don’t even have to know about the situation, but they are getting free rent space in my head and they are getting a power over me that they do not deserve to have.

And you know what? This also works out better for Allie. Allie has her own emotional turmoil. How is it going to help her to know she can handle hers if I do not handle mine? How am I going to tell her to stop giving people free rent space in her head if I don’t stop giving them free rent space in mine? How am I going to tell her to not listen to her emotions and feelings if all I do is listen to my emotions and feelings?

Ultimately, this is the way of Christ. It is to die to ourselves. Many of us would rather do anything, including go through death itself, rather than to die to ourselves. It is a constant struggle to bow down to Jesus and say He is Lord and say that come what may, we are going to follow Him.

It is a struggle, but it is not optional.

And if this is also you right now, you’re not alone. I’m a fellow traveler. If you ever read this blog and think I’m a super Christian who never has these struggles, well you’re just wrong. I have flesh and blood like you do and if you cut me, I will bleed like you will. I have to learn to walk the better way. It is better for myself, better for my Princess, and most honoring to my Lord Christ.

The Kingdom is worth everything.

In Christ,
Nick Peters

Can I Be Forgiven?

Is forgiveness out of your reach? Let’s plunge into the Deeper Waters and find out.

I’ve been meaning to write a post recently on the blasphemy of the Holy Spirit, but I think that should extend to most every other sin. When it comes to the blasphemy of the Holy Spirit, too many Christians I meet struggle with the fear that they have committed this sin. Personally, I am under the impression now that it looks like every Christian and their mother wrestles with this at times, and that includes myself in the past. There was a time in my life when I also struggled with forgiveness and interestingly, I was in Bible College at the time. I struggled with knowing if I was acceptable in the eyes of God and spent much time in the chapel at my college praying about it and trying to find peace.

What really changed all of that? I’d say it was apologetics, but it was only apologetics in part. Apologetics led to really thinking about my positions on faith issues. Until you do that, you are simply feeling your positions and if you feel miserable, well that means that God is against you. If you feel great, well that means God is for you. Truth is that you can feel wonderful and God has His wrath on you and you can feel miserable and the favor of God rests on you. Your feelings can’t tell you anything about the way of God in your life. (And this is one reason I get so concerned when I hear calls for donations at a church where we’re told to give as we feel led. We dare not give divine authority to our feelings.)

As hard as it can be, at the times in our life when we struggle with our suffering, we must go to the Scriptures. We look and ask “What do the Scriptures say?” If the Bible says X and I feel non-X, well my feeling is wrong. It doesn’t mean I don’t feel it. It doesn’t mean it isn’t a strong feeling. It doesn’t mean that the issue is immediately settled in my mind as the feeling is still screaming out loud, but it does mean I at least know the true answer and I am willing to fight to accept that true answer. If I say my feelings trump the Scripture, then at that point why even need a Bible? I can just say whatever I feel comes from God Himself. (This would be odd for many Protestants who don’t like the Pope speaking ex cathedra but want to give divine authority to their feelings.)

For me then, when apologetics came along, that led to sound theology. Sound theology is really thinking about the God you worship. Many of us claim God is #1 in our lives, but we only really know Him based on how we feel and the Bible more than anything else just tells us how we are supposed to live. Now the Bible does give tips on how to live, but it also reveals to us the nature of God, especially in the person of Jesus. We need to strive to know Him as He is. We have had too many misconceptions on the nature of God and these are not perceptions that come from Scripture and do not match the God revealed in Jesus Christ. When you have good theology, your world makes a lot more sense.

soundtheology

So how does this sound theology relate to the blasphemy of the Holy Spirit?

It’s noteworthy that Jesus never says anyone has blasphemed the Holy Spirit. There’s no indication that anyone in the crowd was permanently unforgiven. What was the danger? The danger was that they had the clear evidence right there of the work of the Holy Spirit in identifying who Jesus is and they were denying it. It’s as if Jesus is saying “If you cannot believe what is right before you, then you cannot receive forgiveness.” Now why would this be the case?

Because to receive forgiveness from someone, you must believe that they have the authority to forgive you and that they can and will forgive you. If you do not believe, you cannot be forgiven. If you believe in Christ and confess, you will be forgiven. If you don’t think that, then you are saying that you think God would rather delight in punishing you rather than forgive you. Now that doesn’t mean there might not be some consequences to your sin, but it does mean that you will be restored in the relationship to where you were before.

So let’s look at some relevant passages on forgiveness. Let’s start with Romans 4:4-8.

4 Now to the one who works, wages are not credited as a gift but as an obligation. 5 However, to the one who does not work but trusts God who justifies the ungodly, their faith is credited as righteousness. 6 David says the same thing when he speaks of the blessedness of the one to whom God credits righteousness apart from works:

7 “Blessed are those
whose transgressions are forgiven,
whose sins are covered.
8 Blessed is the one
whose sin the Lord will never count against them.”

This is talking about how Abraham was declared righteous. Please note this. Abraham’s sins are never declared righteous. That cannot be. When we speak about justification, we do not mean that sin is justified. There can be no excusing the wrong that was done. Now there are of course circumstances that can explain why you did what you did that was wrong. It’s no good to mention those to God. He knows all of them and He knows the ones you haven’t thought of. Somewhere in all of this there is still something wrong that was done. That is what must be forgiven. When God justifies you, He declares you are in the right. He does not declare that your sins are right.

So what do we see in this passage? Righteousness is not given to someone because of an obligation. That’s a wage. It is simply given because of trust. Please emphasize as well the part in verse 5. God who justifies the ungodly. This is something quite amazing because there were always people that were seen as outcasts in the time of Jesus because of their sinful lifestyles. These were the very people Jesus gravitated towards. Jesus wanted to spend most of His time with prostitutes and tax collectors and said they are making it into the Kingdom of God ahead of the Pharisees. After all, when the message of repentance came, they believed it.

If you could earn forgiveness, it wouldn’t be a gift. Forgiveness must be a gift. It must be free and it must not be forced. That doesn’t mean you don’t ask for it, but it does mean you don’t bend someone’s arm to get it. You don’t jump through hoops to get forgiven. All the hoops that were done were taken care of by the Holy Trinity.

Romans 8:28-39:

28 And we know that in all things God works for the good of those who love him, who have been called according to his purpose. 29 For those God foreknew he also predestined to be conformed to the image of his Son, that he might be the firstborn among many brothers and sisters. 30 And those he predestined, he also called; those he called, he also justified; those he justified, he also glorified.

31 What, then, shall we say in response to these things? If God is for us, who can be against us? 32 He who did not spare his own Son, but gave him up for us all—how will he not also, along with him, graciously give us all things? 33 Who will bring any charge against those whom God has chosen? It is God who justifies. 34 Who then is the one who condemns? No one. Christ Jesus who died—more than that, who was raised to life—is at the right hand of God and is also interceding for us. 35 Who shall separate us from the love of Christ? Shall trouble or hardship or persecution or famine or nakedness or danger or sword? 36 As it is written:

“For your sake we face death all day long;
we are considered as sheep to be slaughtered.”
37 No, in all these things we are more than conquerors through him who loved us. 38 For I am convinced that neither death nor life, neither angels nor demons, neither the present nor the future, nor any powers, 39 neither height nor depth, nor anything else in all creation, will be able to separate us from the love of God that is in Christ Jesus our Lord.

It’s almost as if at this point, Paul is wanting to cement your position in Christ as strongly as He can.

Start out with the beginning. All things work together for good to them that love the Lord. It is not that all things are good. They are not. Sin is not good for instance. It is that all things will work for good. That does not mean that you do evil so good may result such as Paul is accused of saying in Romans 3. It does mean that even if you do sin, and you will, that it will not be used by God somehow so you don’t need to despair. Paul then goes on to say that you will be conformed to the likeness of Christ. Which means that you will be looking like Jesus one day.

That means God is on your side. Who can be against you? Imagine going into a court trial and knowing the judge was in your corner. Why would you be afraid? What charge could be brought against you if you have such a great advocate? Not only do you know the judge, you know the judge’s son. He’s the one arguing on your behalf. What better situation could you get in a court room than to have this? What separates us then from the love of Christ? Nothing. NOTHING.

If we could get the reality of this passage sunk into our heads, we would never be the same.

Let’s also think about the Prodigal Son story here. The sad part is that we call it the Prodigal Son when really the main character of the story is not the son but the father. The father is the one that is astounding and this is not a father the elite of the day would care about. His son pretty much says to him “I wish you were dead” and the dad gives in. Then when the son returns, all the father cares about is his son is returning and then he runs after him. Yes. Grown men did not run unless they were in a race. That was shameful. He decorates him with a robe and a ring, meaning that the son was restored to his old position, one of authority, and then he has a feast for him.

Or the unmerciful servant. The servant in this case was forgiven by the king of a debt that he could never ever hope to repay. It was totally canceled and what is the response by the servant? He shows unforgiveness to another servant. Why would he do this? Chances are he didn’t really believe the king had forgiven him so he did not really receive the forgiveness. This can remind us of what was said in the sermon on the mount after the Lord’s prayer. If you do not forgive others their sins, your Father in Heaven will not forgive you your sins. As C.S. Lewis says, there is no indication he does not mean what he says. This is because this is the ministry of reconciliation that’s taking place.

We could go on and on with more and more in the Bible, but forgiveness is always given when asked for. It’s really tragic that something that God stresses so much in the Bible we do not believe, and yet we want to claim that God is love. Now of course, this forgiveness does seem unbelievable. It does seem like there has to be a catch. There isn’t. There is something asked of you. God does ask that you walk in holiness and honor Him, but you do this not so you will be forgiven, but you do this because you have been forgiven.

Imagine you lived in the world of Jesus and wanted to run a bakery. Problem. You’re a peasant. You don’t have the money for a bakery. You go to someone with the money and ask for their blessing. If the person gives it, then you have a bakery, but they have a catch. You must be telling your customers about who built the bakery for you and who supplies it and what a great benefactor that that person is. Now in the ancient world, the rich person is called a patron. You are called a client. If someone was a go-between for you, that person would be the broker. When the patron gives you a gift, it’s called charis. That’s where we get our word translated as grace. Your response on praising your patron and being loyal to him is called pistis. This is the word translated as faith.

It hasn’t changed today. God is your patron and He gives you a great gift called forgiveness. What is your great response to this? You are to go around the world telling everyone what a great patron you have. The only added part is that Jesus is your broker in this case. God forgives you in fact not because you are so special. He forgives you because He is so gracious and He receives honor by forgiving you. His glory is magnified in forgiving you. Anyone can punish an offense, but to cancel out the offense shows the real power God has in that He is the one who has authority over you in your life and can declare you righteous if He wants. Judging you is really foreign to His nature of love and is only done because of unrepentant sin. A god who does not respond to repentance is a god who delights in suffering. Ours is not like that.

Christian. You are forgiven. Accept it and celebrate it and tell the world what a great God you serve.

in Christ,
Nick Peters

On The Duggars

What are my thoughts on the Duggar happenings? Let’s plunge into the Deeper Waters and find out.

Okay. Let’s state some things up front.

I understand the Duggars have a TV show. I’ve never watched it. I don’t really care to. It doesn’t interest me at all.

I also of course know about the information about Josh Duggar molesting his sisters when he was younger. I happen to know that most people didn’t mind broadcasting that everywhere though I’m sure his sisters certainly didn’t appreciate it.

I also know that Josh Duggar had a position with the Family Research Council. I am saying nothing about them other than their being seen as a conservative organization. I also know that he had an account on Ashley Madison and was unfaithful to his wife Anna. I think everything I’ve said so far is accepted and there are no major debates on those issues.

So let’s get down to what it means.

First off, Josh Duggar has been charged with being a hypocrite. That charge is absolutely true, but there’s something interesting about it. The only way you can be a hypocrite is if you really do have some moral standards that you are expected to live by. In this case, Christians are therefore expected to honor the union of one man and one woman in marriage. We are supposed to be champions of the sanctity of marriage whether we’re married or not. We are supposed to walk as Jesus walked. If you are someone who does not have any moral standards at all, you cannot be called a hypocrite.

Second, the things that Josh Duggar has done are in fact evil. Let’s not deny that for a second. Let’s not pretend that what he’s done is no big deal. No. It is a huge deal. Molesting sisters at a younger age is a big deal. Being a hypocrite is a big deal. Engaging in sexual sin and being unfaithful to your wife who you promised to be in a sacred covenant with is a big deal. There are reasons why people do such things of course, but there can be no justification for them. When Christians speak of justification, we never mean to say that sin is justified. Sin never is. We mean that sinners are put in right relationship with God. They are forgiven, but they can only be forgiven if they have done something that needs to be forgiven and they have repented for.

So let’s get down to some major issues.

There are many critics of the marriage movement today that talk about how Christians are all for the sanctity of marriage supposedly and yet they have a high rate of divorce and adultery and any other sins in their own marriages.

Let’s not take that lightly.

Yes. I know about Shaunti Feldhahn’s research on Christian marriages that shows that marriages that attend church together, study the Bible together, pray together, and just take Christianity seriously together are far less prone to divorce. I know about this and I agree with it. That does not change the reality that Christians divorce. Whenever divorce happens, we should see it as a tragedy.

“But Nick! Sometimes women and children are being abused in marriages by husbands who are just awful and the wives end up divorcing so they and their children can be safe. Are you saying that’s a tragedy?”

Yep. Absolutely.

Why?

It’s a tragedy that two people who enter into the most sacred union between a man and a woman and make a covenant before God and men to love and honor each other until death do them part and give themselves to each other in an exclusive union reach the point where they can’t even live together and especially because of fear of serious harm to one of them. That is a tragedy. In fact, even in cases where I would have recommended the woman clear out of there and get a divorce to keep her and her children safe, I would still say that it was a tragedy because marriage should never have to come to that.

Yet at the same time, there is something highly admirable about what Josh’s wife is doing. She is working to forgive and to move on. You know what? This will take time. This is hard no doubt, but marriage should be a place where forgiveness is a virtue held in high esteem. Anna could easily leave Josh right now and frankly, she’d be biblically justified in doing so, but while divorce is an option in her case, it is not a necessity and she has indeed chosen to honor marriage. It’s easy to honor marriage when both parties are doing everything that they ought to do right. It’s not as easy when one or both is not doing so.

In marriage, you are to forgive and you are to live in grace and that is honoring the sanctity of marriage. Marriage is a union where you honor the other person. Too often in marriage, we look at what the other person is doing for us. Instead, we must always ask what we are doing for the other person. You see, if people say we were damaging the sanctity of marriage first through divorce and adultery, they’re right. We were doing that. If we weren’t, we were allowing it. Now of course, I’m not saying we shouldn’t have grace for people who sin and repent, we absolutely must have grace.

In fact, that could be part of the scandal of what’s happening.

You see, the world is starting to learn that we Christians really believe in this thing called forgiveness. When the shooting happened in South Carolina, we saw that Christians were rushing out not to condemn but to forgive. With Josh Duggar, when he repented and confessed, that was enough. Sure, he might have consequences like losing his job and such and sure, he will lose trust, but that does not mean we want to punish him. We do not delight in bringing about suffering to him. Christians actually believe in reconciliation.

We believe in it because this is what Jesus did for us.

Anything we do to one another, we know that it cannot compare to what we have done to God. Whatever we might do to one another, we have done far worse to God, and God has forgiven us in Christ of all that we do. If God forgives us, we are obligated to forgive one another. For the Christian, forgiveness is not optional. It is mandatory. Walking as Jesus walked is not an option. It is a requirement. Christians are to be people whose lives are marked by forgiveness and we can only truly do that when we realize just how much we’ve been forgiven.

Forgiveness does not mean we condone the wrong that was done. We don’t. It means we value the relationship involved more and we don’t want to focus on the wrong that was done. That doesn’t mean that we’re foolhardy. It doesn’t mean a woman immediately reconciles with an abusive husband, but it should mean they are open to taking those steps if possible. Forgiveness does not mean forgetting. It does mean that there should be change on the part of the person who has been forgiven. It means that they should go and sin no more and when we realize that someone forgives us of a great wrong, we should seek to want to properly honor that person. We should all seek then to immensely honor Christ for what He’s forgiven us.

Marriage should be one of the main places where that happens. Marriage should be a place where we seek to please each other more than we seek to please ourselves and any time any of us look to our own pleasure and don’t seek the pleasure of our spouse, we are really ceasing to do marriage. Reality is we will all do this from time to time. This is also why it’s important to know how best to love and honor your spouse. Try and find little things even you can do that will help them along the way.

The reason the world does not honor the sanctity of marriage is that we went a long way to treating marriage like something common instead of the amazing and incredible union that it is. Part of having a good apologetic for marriage is going to be our doing marriage well. The best we can realize is to know what the way is and to walk in it. We are to do what we are told. We have too many people breaking apart because they do not feel like they are in love any more or any other such reason like that. It does not matter if you don’t feel like you are in love. Your marriage is not built on you being in love but on you being in covenant. That covenant should produce love, but the covenant is the foundation of the love.

If we want to present an excellent apologetic for marriage, one of the best ways to do that would be to be living great marriages out and part of that is going to be the scandal of forgiveness that takes place and living forgiveness out. We must make marriage a place of love. It can too often look like we didn’t care about marriage until the homosexuals came for it. It looks more often like we’re more interested in chicken sandwiches and Duck Dynasty than we are in marriage.

That must change.

We must never condone what Josh did, but gosh, maybe more of us could be like his wife.

In Christ,
Nick Peters

Forgiveness

Is forgiveness really a big deal? Let’s plunge into the Deeper Waters and find out.

For those who don’t know, my wife Allie is blogging now. One of her recent blog posts can be found here. It was what she wrote yesterday on the topic of forgiveness and I figured that was something I could write on from my more apologetic perspective, and I did indeed comment on her blog to give her a brief inkling of my own thoughts on the matter.

Now I have said the Gospel is not all about forgiveness, but forgiveness is certainly a large part of it. The Gospel is first about God being king through Christ and forgiveness is the means God provides to get on the right side of Jesus. Forgiveness is God saying that He is cancelling the social debt between the two of you. You can be in a right relationship with Him again. It does not mean the consequences are removed. It does not even mean there can be no punishment given. Both of those could be removed, but forgiveness does not necessitate that that happen. (This is a problem with the shooting in South Carolina recently. People thought forgiving the killer would mean he would not go to jail or face any penalties. It didn’t.)

As we talked about it last night (After all, what couple doesn’t have theological discussion for their pillow talk), I pointed out that if we do not have our lives defined by joy, perhaps we are not really figuring out what forgiveness is. Perhaps we are taking it for granted. How many of us have ever said “Even if this is wrong, it’s a little sin after all so it’s really no big deal.” Sadly, I know I’ve said that, and it needs to stop. Chances are you have as well. Now I’m not at all saying that every sin is equal. I do think some sins are worse than others. I am saying that all sin is still serious.

When we come to God, we should realize God has the right to judge us. He has the power to judge us. He has the knowledge to know He’s right in His judgment. He has the holiness to say He is not being a hypocrite at all and is guilty of no wrong Himself. He has the omnipresence to know and be there for every sin we commit. Look. There’s no way of pulling a fast one over on Him. Any excuse you could have, He knows it already and He knows the ones you don’t even know about. You’re not going to be able to change His mind on anything because nothing is beyond His knowledge.

You’re in a tight spot with God and the penalty is severe. Eternal removal from His presence is no light matter.

And yet, God pronounces you forgiven because you simply ask for it and seek to live differently. You don’t have to do some grand feat. He already did the grand feat. Now let’s take all that you’ve heard above about the nature of God and realize this, this God who can do everything to you and would be entirely right in doing so has chosen to not only forgive you, but then in turn to give you an eternal blessing.

This is really hard for us to grasp because everything we do, we do with mixed motives. For instance, I would like every motive with my own wife to be pure, but I am sure I can do many things because there is a large part of me looking for what I could get in the bedroom later on for it. Now in my case, what I tell guys who wrestle with that is to do the right thing anyway and pray that God will help you to purify your motives. Chances are you will not reach 100% purification and husbands and wives need to realize that as much as we want to serve one another, we will in some ways end up seeking to please ourselves too.

God is not like that.

God never treats you as an object to His own end as the exclusion of your humanity. His forgiveness is total and let’s remember how great it is. If you commit the same sin several times a day and sincerely ask forgiveness and seek to change, God will forgive you. Consider also this in Romans 4:5

However, to the one who does not work but trusts God who justifies the ungodly, their faith is credited as righteousness.

God who justifies the ungodly….

Yes. The one who is wicked is said to be made righteous in His sight.

Now the question we have to ask is how should we live our lives? If we do not live our lives as lives of joy we have to ask some things. Do we see our sins as minor and thus no big deal to forgive them? Do we see the justice of God as no big deal to violate? Do we see the guarantee of being in His presence for eternity as no big deal? Or is it some combination thereof and possibly other facts I have not considered? Where are we lacking.

Then we think about our evangelism. One show I’ve come to like lately is “Fool Us.” I can enjoy magic and Penn and Teller being atheists doesn’t bother me. It’s still entertaining, although I still wonder at the end “How the heck did those people do that trick?” While I think Penn Jillette is wrong on many things, I have to agree with his words here. How much do you have to hate someone to be a Christian and not tell them about Jesus?

Am I being indicted on this? Yep. Sure am.

And maybe it’s because like you, I need to step back and realize what forgiveness is. Perhaps I need to consider Luke 7.

“47 Therefore I tell you, her sins, which are many, are forgiven—for she loved much. But he who is forgiven little, loves little.”

Do we really realize how much we’ve been forgiven?

In Christ,
Nick Peters