Jesus and Moral Issues

Can you separate Jesus from morality? Let’s plunge into the Deeper Waters and find out.

As I said yesterday, I have been reading Machen lately and something he said in a work of his was about how we have pulled away from what he calls the “supernatural Jesus.” Now I have said before about my beef with the term “supernatural“. However, I do know what he’s saying. This is a Jesus who is seen as more or less just a great moral teacher, perhaps highly enlightened, but He certainly wasn’t divine in any way and definitely didn’t rise from the dead.

However, as we have moved away from this kind of Jesus, so with that has gone much of our moral standards in society. Many people even today do not want to speak ill of Jesus. Of course, some people do, but Jesus is still by and large a respected figure in our history. (Setting aside the crackpot position that says Jesus never even existed.) Few would want to ascribe malicious intent to Jesus.

A lot of people do like the morality of Jesus to some extent, which is quite odd when one thinks about it since really, His morality is often quite difficult. I would find it easy to go through life and not commit adultery with a woman. I find it extremely difficult to go through life without looking at another woman with lust. It would be easy to go through life without murdering a brother of mine. It is far harder to go through life without anger toward him.

Jesus did change this and so you had a society soon that was changing rapidly with a people who were practicing sexual chastity, love for their fellow man, and tremendous self-sacrifice. When a plague came through the Roman Empire, the physicians fled, but the Christians stayed and tended to the sick. The Christians didn’t have the science to know how a plague worked, but they were unintentionally giving themselves some immunity to the sickness by staying and facing it to help the sick.

We have been trying an experiment to take the teachings of Jesus and somehow exclude the man of Jesus from them. Yes. This teaching is quite quaint and we like it, but we don’t need that extra baggage with it. We don’t need all this nonsense of miracles and resurrections obviously. Let’s just go with the teachings and live by them.

This experiment has been a failure.

Inevitably, Jesus’s teachings are bound up with His person, authority, and character. It’s not just that Jesus taught great truths, but He also lived them and lived them perfectly. Jesus didn’t teach these as great suggestions either. He taught them as commands and He insisted that it was only by His power that one could live them out.

Naturally, we all have strengths and weaknesses. Some of us could be very generous by nature and yet struggle with a temper. A man could be extremely peaceful and wouldn’t hurt a fly, but he struggles with the sight of the beautiful women who he passes by regularly. In our society, we have often said that we like the idea of tolerance and non-judgmentalism, which are really not the message of Jesus, but we don’t really care for messages on sexual chastity. (Isn’t it funny how those two go together also?)

However, virtue is not a buffett where you take what you want and reject the rest. You have to take all of it. Try to separate one part of Jesus’s teachings from the whole and you have the overemphasis of one trait with the neglect of another. Part of this is because of the separation of Jesus from His lifestyle as if Jesus is just incidental to His teachings.

Perhaps we can’t dispense with the miraculous Jesus after all.

Now if you have a resurrected Jesus who speaks with authority and can forgive one’s own sins so one can live out love and forgiveness in others, the system works a lot better. Jesus did not come just to teach us all how to get along. Yes. He wants us to live well and have life, but He wants us to be forgiven and free as well.

Ultimately, you have to accept the bad news of Jesus, you are a sinner in need of salvation, before you can truly live out the teachings. If you do not realize how much you are forgiven, you will be incapable of loving the way He wants you to. This can be a struggle for many of us. I see myself as the guy who grew up avoiding pornography, drugs, alcohol, staying chaste until I was married, etc. It is easy to look and say “I’ve lived a good life and don’t really have major sins to deal with”, but I need to realize that in many cases, I struggle with pride and other inner sins that could be far worse in a sense and yet, I am forgiven.

Every sin after all is ultimately divine treason. It is denying one or more attributes of God and saying that you should be on the throne. I am one who has excessive worrying and anxiety and it’s tempting to want to be in control of my own life and panic about even seemingly minor decisions. If I am guilty of divine treason, which I am and which you are as well, isn’t it a wonder we are forgiven? What person says to someone else “I forgive you for wanting me dead and acting on it.”?

If we don’t go by the strength of Christ and the Holy Spirit, then we have to do that from within. Now this does not mean that non-Christians cannot be loving people. They can be. It means that this is a struggle for all of us because our natural tendency is to love ourselves more than others. Even the suicide loves themselves more despite their thinking of how awful they are. They seek their good above that of others though trying to tell themselves everyone else will be better off without them.

The early Christians were able to love greatly because they knew that they had been loved greatly. Take that away and it all falls apart. They knew they were loved greatly not because Jesus was some nice man who was really enlightened and said they were special. It was because Jesus was the divine man who had risen from the dead and had the authority to forgive them for all they had done.

Christianity cannot be reduced to just a set of ethics. It is an entire worldview. Removing the miraculous Jesus removes the batteries and the system doesn’t work.

If our culture is to recover, the only way to do that is to return to the original system which worked fine. That is the real miracle-working Jesus who rose from the dead and forgives sins. Any other Jesus won’t do.

In Christ,
Nick Peters
(And I affirm the virgin birth)

Repeated Forgiveness

How many times do you forgive? Let’s plunge into the Deeper Waters and find out.

Yes. I know about what Jesus says with seventy times seven and still more, but there is another aspect I’m getting at here. What I normally have in mind is someone wrongs me, they come to me and repent, I forgive, then they go off and do the same thing again and come to me again. It keeps going until they finally stop overall.

As a divorced man now, I’m thinking there might be more to it than that. For instance, there’s no way really my ex can come to me now unless she does it through others. For my own personal sanity, I had her blocked. I don’t delight in saying that. In reality, I hate it. I hate that things came to that level, but I needed to keep my own sanity.

However, I do believe in having an attitude of forgiveness. Now with forgiveness, I do believe you should let the other person come to you first. However, while that does not happen, many times, when I do think about her, I have to be ready to be in an attitude of forgiveness.

It’s not easy. Now I am in seminary now and as I write this blog, I am in the student center and generally, I’m in a good mood most of the time. I do like seminary and I like the field of education gripping me and getting to know students and professors both. However, I would be lying if I said there are not still times of sorrow.

I can see a happy couple on campus and think “I wish I had that.” I can have a flashback to something of my ex and I based on something I see or hear briefly. Sometimes, I can be climbing into bed at night and regretting that it is just me in that bed, despite the fact that I have woken up to see Shiro at my feet in the morning. Sometimes there is still a tendency to want to cry a little bit over the pain.

This is what I have in mind by forgiveness. I find myself having to be willing to forgive the same offense done repeatedly not at different times per se, but still ongoing. I am still deeply hurt by what has happened to me and I understand that such hurt never goes away entirely, even if one remarries. There is still a sense of rejection.

As one who is looking to date now, and I do plan on writing about that sometime, I still feel the sorrow when I send out numerous likes and don’t get a nibble back even. The one conversation that got started ended with me being ghosted. I keep having a longing and a hope. My therapist has referred to someone who is looking for me as much as I am looking for them.

But still, I have to forgive either way. Holding on to anger towards my ex despite what she did to me does not help me at all. I have seen what bitterness does to people and I don’ t want to be one of those people who is ready to spew venom at the very mention of my ex. If anything, I pray for her repentance and for her to know God better. Her suffering won’t improve me in any way and I should certainly not take joy at it.

It’s not always easy though. Sometimes, the temptation to go the other way and hold on to resentment is strong, but that is a cancer that doesn’t do anything to her and destroys me in the process. Why bother?

So right now, I am also learning forgiveness. I also figure if I can learn to forgive this, most anything else in my life will be much easier by comparison seeing as this is the most painful rejection and betrayal of all.

And if you’re struggling, join me in the journey. It might not be an ex, but it doesn’t matter. Holding on to hostility will do you no good.

In Christ,
Nick Peters
(And I affirm the virgin birth)

Forgiving Sins and Forgiving Student Loans

Are these the same? Let’s plunge into the Deeper Waters and find out.

The big news now is student loans and who is going to have to pay for them. Sadly, I see a lot of Christians trying to compare this to the atonement. Jesus forgave me of my sins! Should i not rejoice in getting to forgive student loans?

There are three possibilities I see here.

Someone does not understand the economics of the situation.

Someone does not understand the atonement.

Or both.

Let’s consider an example with credit cards. A credit card is not a blank check such that if I want something, I whip out the card and use it and someone else pays for it. I am essentially telling the company “If you give them this money now, I will pay you back for it at the end of the month.” (I always do. No carrying over a balance.)

Suppose I wasn’t like that. Suppose I went out and bought a PS5 and a bunch of games and bought all the books I wanted and wanted to take a girl out on a fancy date and when the bill came, I just made any minimal payments. Over time, that escalates more and more. I have built up a debt and you could say that debt is “forgiven”, but you could also have grounds for saying I did not handle the card properly and wasted it and now am seeking more of a bailout.

Suppose though I have a really rich friend who says “I think you can turn your life around and get your debt under control and I am going to give you a start by paying your bill for you.” He pays it off. Now in a sense, my debt is cancelled, but he has still taken a hit in some way. If he can afford it and do so, great. If not, he and those he cares for will suffer. In either case, he has done so voluntarily.

What is going on in this situation is that this is being called forgiveness, but that doesn’t make it forgiveness. In the news, one must always watch what words are being used. He who controls the meaning of the language will have a hand-up in the game. Being opposed to what is going on can sound like you are opposed to forgiveness. What Christian would be opposed to that?

This is not forgiveness. This is transference. The government, which already has a huge deficit in a country with intense inflation, is taking on the hit. They will respond by doing nothing, which is not likely, or by increasing taxes, or increasing the price of goods and services somehow, or by decreasing benefits in other areas. Keep in mind that 80,000+ IRS agents have just been added who are told to carry a gun with them.

Also, we don’t have exhaustive records, but true forgiveness also requires repentance. If there was someone who made a mistake in taking out a loan and wasted their money and time and realized they made a mistake in that and needed help, I think the church should be willing to help. That could entail paying the debt, but not necessarily. Sometimes, one of the worst things you can do to help someone is give a handout. You can be enabling.

As an example, when I worked at Wal-Mart, I sometimes worked in the money center. I remember a customer coming in and wanting to transfer money and I could tell he was upset. I asked why and he said he doesn’t have a lot of money, but he has to keep sending money to his son. This son was constantly making mistakes and if he didn’t get the money, he would go to jail.

I told the father bluntly that one of the best things to do would be to let the son fail.

“Then he’ll go to jail.”

“So he’ll go to jail.”

What the father was doing was just enabling and the son had no reason to change his life and not live off of his parents who were eating away at all they had while their son took advantage of them. This father was not really helping the son in that case. He was telling the son by his actions to keep squandering the money and if there was a problem, he would bail him out. The father was willing to because going to jail would just be awful. In reality, it might have been just what the kid needed. Perhaps he needed to hit rock bottom so he could really examine his life.

Now there is not to be joy in that at all. However, proper boundaries means not rescuing people every time they make mistakes. Love sometimes has to be tough.

There are plenty of people also who did the hard work of paying back their loans. Why? They made an agreement to do that. Everyone of them has been slapped in the face. Good behavior has been shown to be not worth it. Bad behavior has been punished.

Of course, this will be on a case-by-case basis. Suppose someone gets a student loan and gets a degree and yet gets in a car accident and can’t work to pay off the loan. I have no problem with the church showing compassion and helping out.

In the atonement, God doesn’t transfer our debt to other people who can’t afford it. He takes it on Himself in Christ and pays it in full. He alone has infinite resources. He can do that. However, unless you are a universalist, you will agree that the only people who it applies to are those who really submit to Christ. (Those who never heard is a separate issue, though I think some of them can be saved by the light they have.)

Are Christians supposed to be people of charity? Yes, but as said, charity can be less than beneficial sometimes. Good motives does not mean good results. I recommend a book such as When Helping Hurts. This is where wisdom comes in. Are you giving to someone who will really use what you give them wisely or someone who will be enabled with a handout?

How do we personally respond? As Christians, we can still rejoice in all things because we know Jesus is still in charge of the story. If we are wronged, which most of us have been with this, we can take it and realize God will give justice someday and He still has infinite resources to provide for us. As a seminary student now, I am living out what it means to believe God can provide as is said in the Sermon on the Mount.

Ultimately, to say this is just the same as the atonement is an insult to the atonement. Something more akin would be if God took the sins of His chosen people, the Jews, and made all the Gentiles suffer judgment to pay for them. Thankfully, He did not. The debt was not transferred. It was paid.

Thanks be to God.

In Christ,
Nick Peters
(And I affirm the virgin birth)

A House On Sand

How do we treat the teachings of Jesus? Let’s plunge into the Deeper Waters and find out.

I’m almost done going through the Sermon on the Mount in Matthew!

“Wait. Are you telling me you’re a Christian apologist who has never read that?”

I have read it, but never the way I have this time. This time, I went through reading one verse at a time, except for the Lord’s Prayer, where I read it even slower. When you read through it this way, you really get a lot out of it. I am doing more to encourage people to do slow Bible reading.

So when the sermon closes, Jesus gives a final statement about His words. He says that the one who hears them and does them is like someone who builds His house on a rock. No matter what happens, the house will stand. The one who doesn’t do what Jesus says is like one who builds His house on sand. When the trouble comes, that house topples over.

First off, let’s consider how seriously Jesus takes His own words here. Can you imagine any prophet of the Old Testament saying something like this? Jesus is really placing Himself on a high pedestal. What does this say about how Jesus sees His identity?

Second, what if we really took this last part seriously in connection with everything else that was said. If you obey what Jesus says, then you are building your house on a rock. If you don’t, then you are building on sand. What do we have to take seriously then?

The beatitudes at the start. We have to believe those people will be blessed. We have to believe we should be those people and live accordingly.

We must take Jesus’s words seriously on our righteousness being greater than the Pharisees and Sadducees.

We must not hate our brother in our heart and we must seek to make peace whenever possible.

We must avoid lust. This definitely includes guys that you cannot watch pornography. If you are doing that, then you are building your house on sand and you will not last.

We must honor our marriages for life. If you are not taking marriage seriously, you are not taking Jesus seriously. This is one reason I stayed in my marriage even when it was hard and yes, she initiated the divorce.

We must do as we say and let our words be true. If we say we will do something, we do it. We shouldn’t have to emphasize that we are speaking the truth. Our reputations should show we do.

We must end retaliation for the sake of retaliation. If someone gives you a personal insult privately, be the bigger man. Don’t escalate the cycle of revenge.

We must love our enemies. Anyone can love friends. Jesus tells us to go further.

We must not glorify our giving. Be humble in what we do. Give anyway.

We must pray humbly and trust God with the outcome. We must live out the Lord’s Prayer.

We must forgive those who wrong us.

We must focus on treasure in Heaven. There is no wrong in having things, but we cannot let them have us. Greed must always be avoided.

We cannot worry about anything. Tomorrow will have enough troubles. Do not worry about it today.

We must not pre-judge someone. Make sure our own house is in order.

We must believe in the goodness of God that He will bless us and if we ask for things that are truly good, that He wants to give.

We must make sure we are on the straight path and realize there are false teachers who want to take us away.

We must make sure we are being real and not just going through the motions.

Jesus doesn’t limit this. All of this is to be followed. All of it. It’s a serious call and I could have easily gone in-depth on any of these. Look through. Where are you struggling?

Keep in mind, any listener back then would have known it was fallacious to build a house on sand. What idiot would do that? If you don’t listen to what Jesus says and follow it, you are that idiot.

I encourage you to take this seriously even if you’re a non-Christian. Consider seriously the call for Jesus. Does He really have good wisdom here to follow?

For me, this has been humbling and I plan to go through the sermon in Luke the same way.

Maybe you should try this exercise of reading it slowly as well, but for now, see if you’re living wisely or foolishly.

In Christ,
Nick Peters
(And I affirm the virgin birth)

 

 

Is Abortion Forgivable?

Is there hope if you have done this? Let’s plunge into the Deeper Waters and find out.

Yesterday, I found myself in a Facebook post on this debate on abortion and had someone telling me that God says all sin is equal in His eyes. I asked where this is and I am still waiting. All sin will exclude you from God’s presence, but some sins are worse than others. All crimes will mean you don’t have a perfect record before the law, but it’s better to have a speeding ticket than it is to be charged with murder.

Yet in all of this, there is one debate that needs to be settled. Now I realize not everyone agrees that what is in the womb of a woman is a life, but for this post, I am going to be speaking to those who believe it is and whether they believed it or not at the time, now realize that they have taken an innocent life in abortion and struggle with guilt. Indirectly, this will also be something for the men who either pushed a woman to have an abortion and have guilt or did nothing to help a woman who came to them for help and have guilt.

Can you be forgiven? Can the blood be wiped off of your hands? Can you ever enter into the presence of God with joy? Assuming you made it into the joyful presence of God, would your child forgive you?

The good news is that the answer to all of those questions is yes.

If you have done this and you confess and repent and ask Jesus for forgiveness, you will receive it. You can become a Christian or renew your Christian walk just for the asking. It’s easy for us to sometimes see God as someone who would rather punish than someone who would rather show love.

This doesn’t mean that God will remove all the consequences of your actions. You could and likely still will have a lot of healing to go through. There are other people in your life you might have to make amends to, such as maybe parents who might have wanted a grandchild. There will be a lot of work, but forgiveness should never be an issue.

You are not loved based on your performance. You are loved because God is love and God loves you and says you are lovable. Your child in the Kingdom of God will have no hatred towards you. There is perfect forgiveness there as well. No one there will have anything against anyone at all.

If you are a woman who has done this and you are seeking healing, I urge you to get it. The first place I think of is Rachel’s Vineyard. This ministry, like the next one, is not just for women but is also for men. Men can have guilt for abortion just as much as a woman can. The benefit with this first ministry is that it specifically centers around abortion.

The second one I think of is Celebrate Recovery. This ministry normally will meet at an area church and is a Christian form of a 12-step program. I have even been in it myself and I came to really treasure the guys that I was in relationship with.

Either way, please get help. Get a good church family, a good therapist, and get the healing you need. If possible, try to share your story. Keep another young mother or father from making the same mistake you did.

You are loved. You can be forgiven. You can live life with joy.

Accept it.

In Christ,
Nick Peters
(And I affirm the virgin birth)

When Your Enemy Suffers

What do you do when your opponent suffers? Let’s plunge into the Deeper Waters and find out.

Proverbs 24: 17 Do not gloat when your enemy falls;
    when they stumble, do not let your heart rejoice,
18 or the Lord will see and disapprove
    and turn his wrath away from them.

I was about to write out another blog on the next chapter of Bradley’s book when I saw the news shared in the thread on it at theologyweb.com. Bradley died earlier this year at 91. I had to pause some at that one.

Do I like Bradley’s book? No. Normally, I enjoy going through atheist material, but this one just seems same-old, same-old and is a real disappointment. My reading through Sean Carroll’s The Big Picture is at least engaging. If anything, I find reading Bradley embarrassing as he thinks he knows what he’s talking about when really he doesn’t and pulls out the same old tripe arguments that have been answered multiple times before.

However, I still had sadness when I saw this. My longing at the time and my personal prayer was that he somehow managed to get a bit of grace before he died that he turned to the Lord he had shunned throughout his adult life. Do I know that this happened or have any strong evidence? No, but a man can hope.

I have at least two vivid memories of the opposite happening in my past. One time was when Stephen Jay Gould passed away. I was on America Online then and I remember being in the chat room and hearing the people speak who were vocal creationists, whether YEC or OEC I don’t know, and saying things like “You think it’s hot where he is right now?”

Whatever your doctrine of Hell, this is something that should never be said. People who hold to conditional immortality and people who hold to eternal conscious torment should all agree on one thing. It is a tragedy when people go to Hell. We would all like in some way for universalism to be true, but I fear that it isn’t. I found it just awful thinking that some people were practically gloating that their enemy was in Hell. If it wasn’t for the grace of God, they would be too and frankly, I didn’t see a lot of that grace there.

The other incident was on PALtalk when the Pope had died. Now I do not believe Catholics are outside of the grace of God. Some people do. Let’s suppose that’s true. Even if it is, should you have the attitude that these people did that the Pope busted Hell wide open, as I remember hearing? That should be a cause of sorrow for you.

In the causes of justice, I think some exceptions can be made I was on PALtalk again when someone messaged me about Saddam Hussein’s sons being found and killed and said “Isn’t this good news?” In a sense, it is good in that they will not be able to bring about evil on this Earth anymore. In another sense though, it is sad, because now they are quite likely in a place of dark eternity where there is no escape.

The Bible does show times of celebration when the enemies are defeated, but let us make sure we are celebrating first that God acted according to His covenant and provided justice and relief and secondly, that their evil is no longer being done. If we act like we are pure and innocent and don’t deserve judgment, we’re asking for it.

As a divorced man, I have to watch myself with this. I do have times of anger every now and then, but they are rare. If anything, for my ex-wife, I pray for her well-being and blessing. I don’t know where exactly she is right now. I do not check. I do not search.

Am I saying she is my enemy? In a sense, she did hurt me deeper than anyone else ever has and she has spread untruths about me claiming that I abused her, but I don’t like to think about her that way. I prefer to see her as someone who is hurt and confused and needs to come to grips with her own issues. I prefer to think that nothing was done out of a malicious attempt to hurt me even though that is what happened.

After all, I have my own sins that God could call me to account for if He wanted to. Forgiveness was not owed to me. Now God did promise He would forgive, but it was conditional on that I repented. Had I never done that, God had no obligation to forgive and indeed I have no reason to think He would. Every moment I spend in a blessed eternity with Him will be a gift of grace. There will never be a time in my existence when I am not dependent on that grace.

I hope Dr. Bradley somehow came to Christ in his final moments before he passed on. God will do what is right and no one will say it wasn’t fair, but I can hope. May I live with grace and forgiveness to my own personal enemies throughout my life.

In Christ,
Nick Peters
(And I affirm the virgin birth)

Brothers Reunited

How does the story of Joseph end? Let’s plunge into the Deeper Waters and find out.

So Jacob has now died in the story and that leaves Joseph and his brothers. However, now Joseph is one of the most powerful men in the world. His brothers? Not so much. We all know sibling rivalry is a thing, but throwing your brother into a pit, selling him into slavery, and then telling your father he died, is somehow a step above shaking up their soda before you bring it to them at work. (Which I never ever did to my sister, of course!)

But as I said, Joseph has the power now and while his father was alive, he might have not wanted to do anything. Now, dear old Dad is gone. If anyone has the power in the family, it’s Joseph, and he does have the power indeed. He can do whatever he wants with these brothers. The only person who could really stop him is Pharaoh and somehow I suspect Pharaoh is interested in other matters besides sibling rivalry.

The brothers come up with an idea, and who can blame them? They claim that Jacob said that Joseph needs to show mercy and forgive his brothers. After all, it’s really easy to speak for someone after they’re dead. It’s not like Jacob is going to be able to say anything to him.

However, the brothers need not have worried. Joseph, if anything, is disappointed that this has happened. Do his brothers still not trust him yet? Do they not realize that regardless of what happened, that they are family?

Joseph assures them he has nothing against them. Yes. What they did was meant for evil. He doesn’t deny that. The reality is that God used it for good, the saving of many lives. This is something good for us all to keep in mind. Whatever someone intends for evil will be used by God for good one way or another.

We in the West look at this and think that this is a nice and heartwarming story. We don’t realize how important it is. For the Eastern audience, this could be the most important part of the story. Yes. Joseph has saved the world, but what about his family? No one ever forgets where they buried that hatchet. Will the brothers be reunited? If they weren’t, what would that mean for the future of the twelve tribes of Israel?

This isn’t just an epilogue. This is the story reaching its true resolution. Leave this out and there’s a mystery. Even if you see the twelve tribes together in Exodus, the audience would be wondering, “But what about Joseph and his brothers. How did that end?”

What we see here is a beautiful story of forgiveness. There’s a reason that Joseph is usually seen as a Christ figure of sorts in the Old Testament. Joseph can do whatever he wants with his brothers and he chooses to do one of the most powerful acts of all, to forgive them.

Genesis started with one brother killing another. It ends with one brother forgiving all of his when he could have been justified in killing them. That means the story ends in hope. Israel may not be in the promised land now, but they are united and at least they’re not killing each other now.

Tomorrow, I plan on a Christmas post, but then after that, hopefully, we will return to marriage and divorce.

In Christ,
Nick Peters
(And I affirm the virgin birth)

Book Plunge: The Gospel Precisely

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

I want to thank Matthew Bates for his friendship as I was one of the people he contacted in order to promote his new book. It’s an honor to be in that circle. I find Matthew Bates to be a highly informed scholar, but I am super thankful that he is not just staying in an ivory tower, but is taking advanced New Testament studies and breaking them down for the layman to understand the gospel in a whole new way.

Too often, our idea of the gospel is way too shortsighted, which is a tragedy because what we have is really good already and yet we miss that there’s so much more. We are more content with making mudpies when a day at the beach awaits us. We are pleased with what we understand of the gospel, and we should be, but we miss that there is a lot more.

So let’s start with what is the gospel. Most of the time, we make the gospel about ourselves. This is what God is doing to forgive us. With that, we are ultimately the subjects of the gospel. It is about us. The gospel is not about us. It is about Jesus. We are the ones that are being used for the glory of God. God is not to be used for the glory of us.

One aspect that we miss is the gospel is Jesus becoming king. I remember hearing once that John Dominic Crossan said about Mark 1:1 that talked about the beginning of the good news of Jesus, the Messiah, the Son of God. It’s a short little verse, but Crossan said it could be translated as “In your face, Caesar.”

If he said that, he’s not wrong.

Jesus is coming and declaring Himself to be the king who will rule on God’s behalf. This is part of the gospel. This is one of the reasons He was crucified. You don’t get crucified for just teaching good ethics and sharing parables. Jesus was a majorly political figure as well as a religious one.

Why does this matter? Because we were created to be the rulers of this world on God’s behalf. Unfortunately with sin, we all failed at that one. Jesus was meant to be fully human and fully God so that He could rule and reflect God perfectly but also be a man ruling like God intended. Part of the good news is also that not only are we forgiven, but we are to be rulers of the new creation with Jesus Christ. God saves us so we can serve.

This is however also good for non-Christians for the time being. The world is meant to be a better place with the coming of Christianity and where Christians aren’t being what they were supposed to be. Most people, Christians or not, do support the life and ethics of Jesus. I still remember a non-Christian friend saying on my Facebook wall that life would be a lot better if we all tried to live like Christ.

Oh. Let me explain something with that. When we speak of Christ, we shouldn’t treat Christ as just a name. Some people actually think that he was the son of Mr. and Mrs. Christ. I wish I was joking. I can still remember years ago someone asking “Why would a Jewish guy have a Greek last name?”

The closest idea we have to Messiah is King. In our country, that’s something that seems foreign to us, but we might not be too far from us. A friend of mine thinks we might naturally move as a society towards monarchy. Every four years, we are having “The most important election of our lifetime” which should show that we place way too much emphasis on the president, no matter who he is.

Of course, if we’re servants of God, we need to know who this God is. The Trinity is not just an add-on. If Jesus is not fully God and fully man, the Gospel is completely changed. Christians need to learn how to understand to some extent the Trinity and how to defend it.

I’m only giving snapshots here because honestly, i want you to read the book yourself. Some of you might be concerned with reading a whole book on this. Good news. The book is only about 100 pages. You could easily read it in a day or two, and it would be a day or two well-spent.

Finally, how do we share the gospel? This is where it might get difficult as Bates lists ten items that he thinks we need to remember and share. Those complaining about this might want to think about what they have memorized about sports teams, TV shows, music, or video games.

So final opinion? Get this book. It’s a great one to understand the gospel and will show you how much you are missing. It has five chapters and while I said you could read it in a day, if you wanted to read one chapter a day, you could do so easily and read it in a week and you would be blessed for doing so.

Matthew Bates is a gift to the church that keeps on giving and thanks to him for his work and being considered part of his team to help share his material. It’s material worth sharing and it’s an honor to be a part of it. And oh yes, there is one part where he does show that he does believe Jesus was born of a virgin so he does affirm the virgin birth, which I do affirm, the obvious important sign of anyone wanting to share the gospel.

In Christ,
Nick Peters
(And I affirm the virgin birth)

 

Forgive Them

Who is it that you are to forgive? Let’s plunge into the Deeper Waters and find out.

Forgiveness can be very hard. I remember several years ago when I was employed at Wal-Mart that a girl came up to me who worked there and said something along the lines of, “Nick. You seem like a really wise person. I’m struggling with forgiving someone. Can you tell me how to do it?” I immediately asked “What’s his name?”

“How did you know?”

“It’s always a guy.”

It was a safe bet that I made that turned out to be right. Forgiveness is hard, but it is really the way of Christ. We could say if it was easy, everyone would do it. It’s not. It’s extremely difficult. However, if we withhold forgiveness from someone, we are not really hurting them as much as we are hurting ourselves. If someone wrongs you, that reveals something about them. If you refuse to forgive, that reveals a lot more about you.

Now that doesn’t mean as I said that it will be easy. Sometimes, it will take work to forgive and you might have to do it again and again and again. I also want to stress that I am not saying to go to the other person and say “I forgive you.” Of course, in some cases, such as if the person is dead or it could be harmful to you to encounter the person, this is impossible. If at all possible, let them come to you. However, you should be in a position where you are in an attitude of forgiveness and ready to forgive.

Years ago, I wrote a post about “Will your murderer be in Heaven?” There are several great stories of forgiveness in there. I urge you to go there and check it out as there is no need for me to reinvent the wheel here. People have forgiven those who have done great wrong to them.

Yet you could be thinking, “Yes, but this person intentionally did something to me incredibly hurtful. How do I forgive them?” We do that by looking at our example of Jesus. Look at what happens on the cross. You hear Jesus saying “Father. Forgive them. They know not what they do.”

Now we know that they didn’t understand that Jesus was God’s Messiah and actually YHWH with skin on. However, what is understood? Whatever their reasons for doing it, they were intentionally doing it. They weren’t doing it in the sense of saying “This hurts me more than it hurts you.” This wasn’t done accidentally. This was done intentionally and with forethought to it. This was an evil act of malice.

Holding to the deity of Christ also doesn’t mean that you think He knew everything about everything in His incarnation, but being omniscient isn’t necessary to see that this was an act of evil. Christ knew that, and yet what did He do? He sought their forgiveness. He did not forgive them from the cross since they had not repented and forgiveness requires that, but He sought their forgiveness.

When He died on the cross, He died as much for them as He did for anyone else. (I realize many Calvinist readers will disagree with me. I am not interested in that debate, but if you hold to the L in the Tulip, consider that any that were Elect He died for just as much as any others.) He doesn’t love you or I any more than He loves them. That’s a love that’s hard for us to comprehend.

That’s the first point to consider, but then realize what you have done. Whatever someone else has done to you, you have done worse to Jesus Christ. You have rejected Him who has done so much for you. Years ago, a friend said something in reply to the idea that if you were the only one to save, Jesus would have come for you. He replied that if that were the case, you would have killed Him also.

I often tell people to do an exercise. Think of the person who has wronged you. Then think about standing before Jesus and telling Him what this other person has done to you. Oh wait. It’s not just that. Think about standing before Jesus on the cross and telling Him as He is being crucified what this other person has done to you.

Does that make it seem ridiculous to complain about that then? This is not to downplay what you have gone through, but to show that what you have done to Jesus is actually worse than that. This is the King of the universe here and sin is saying “I want to take your place.” We have all knowingly or unknowingly made a claim to want to be God. We have all done directly ourselves the sin that took place in the Garden.

Again, this does not mean it will be easy, but it is possible and not only that, required. Jesus says if we do not forgive others, we will not be forgiven, and as C.S. Lewis says, there’s no indication He doesn’t mean what He says. This could require a good therapist and/or pastor to work with you on this. That’s fine too. As long as you’re working on forgiving, I think Christ sees that.

There are evil people out there, and it’s easy to look at the evil in them. It’s far more beneficial to look at the evil in us. That’s the one evil that we can directly do something about.

In Christ,
Nick Peters
(And I affirm the virgin birth)

The Requirement To Forgive

How serious is the call to forgiveness? Let’s plunge into the Deeper Waters and find out.

In Jesus’s new Kingdom, forgiveness is kind of a big deal. After all, the only way anyone else gets into the Kingdom is through forgiveness and grace. If you are a recipient of that forgiveness and grace, it follows that you should show it to others.

Jesus later gives a parable illustrating this. We know it as the parable of the unmerciful servant, though perhaps we should also consider it the parable of the merciful master. The servant begs the master for just a little more time to pay off a debt that he must be deluded to think he could ever pay off. The master doesn’t give it, but instead he just cancels the debt entirely. The servant leaves and finds a fellow servant who only owes him a small amount. He demands this servant pay him immediately and when he is begged for time, he throws the other servant in prison. The master finds out and has the servant brought to him and then the same is done to him.

Jesus ends saying that if you do not forgive your brother from your heart. In other words, it must not just be the lip service that is done. It must be real and honest forgiveness. In our world, it might be easy to say something before the cameras that looks really good, but God knows the heart and won’t be fooled at all.

This is something that should give us all pause. If we are not showing mercy to one another for their sins, it is because we do not trust that we have been shown mercy. The unforgiving servant still thought that somewhere he had to pay off the debt. Had he really believed he had been forgiven, he would be able to show forgiveness.

This should give us pause because there is no indication Jesus doesn’t mean what He says. Forgiveness is not optional. It is a requirement. If your brother comes to you and asks for your forgiveness, there is no question about it. You give it. You don’t test. You don’t ask for proof. You don’t withhold. You just forgive.

The Kingdom is to be a place of grace and thus its citizens must be gracious. To not be gracious is to say one would rather inflict suffering and judgment on another instead of showing the love that is required in the Kingdom of God. This is one reason also to believe in the forgiveness of God. To believe God has not forgiven us when we come to Him is to believe that He would rather punish us than to show grace to us.

This is a big requirement, but a necessary one, and maybe if we took it more seriously we would find ourselves becoming a better people. We would be more gracious of the wrongs of others considering how much grace has been shown to us. Maybe that would be the kind of Kingdom most of us would like to live in.

In Christ,
Nick Peters
(And I affirm the virgin birth)

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