Hitler In Heaven?

What would you think of this news? Let’s plunge into the Deeper Waters and find out.

Peter Kreeft is one of my favorite writers and speakers and I plan to write a review of a book of his tomorrow, but last night I was listening to a talk of his on the nature of Heaven. Somewhere in there, he was talking about deathbed conversions and said that yes, you could live the worst life possible and still convert and be in the loving presence of God. He said that what if Hitler as the allies were closing in and before he shot himself somehow repented and came to Christ? Would he be in Heaven? His answer was yes.

Honestly, I recoiled a bit when I heard that. Then I took a moment to think about that. Why should I? We all don’t doubt that Hitler was a very evil man. Generally, the rule is that the first one to point to Hitler is the one who will lose the debate. It’s understandable. You want to talk about evil? You look to Hitler.

I could especially imagine some Jewish people recoiling at this thought. “Why, that’s the man who killed my grandparents! He tried to wipe out my people! Why would I want to have anything to do with a God who would forgive him?”

On the surface, this is understandable. Most all of us have people in this world we can’t stand. We have people who hurt us tremendously. Reality is that in many cases, it is okay to be angry with them. I’m learning this now. I don’t want to hate my ex-wife at all, but I also realize I have to allow some anger. After all, if I just try to bottle it all up, that could much easier lead to hatred. I can be angry and upset that I was unjustly hurt and I feel it every day. I still pray for her and want the best, but I can accept that something awful happened.

Chrysostom, a church father, once said that if you are angry out of proportion or wrongfully with someone, that is a sin. Most of us could agree with that. Even a skeptic might not use the word sin, but he could say “Yes. You shouldn’t be angry like that.” However, Chrysostom also went the other way. If you should be angry with someone and you are not, that is also a sin. I am not at all saying he is infallible, but it is certainly a statement to think about. Some events in life should lead to anger in you.

So now let’s get back to Hitler. What if you were presented with news that was absolutely certain that he had repented like that and he would be part of the blessed for all eternity despite what he did? Your response doesn’t reveal a lot about God. It doesn’t reveal a lot about Hitler. I contend they reveal absolutely nothing about those two. They reveal a lot about you.

After all, what grounds do you have for getting into eternity that Hitler wouldn’t have? Could you say you did more good works? Sure, but that’s not the basis for God forgiving you. Could you say you were more faithful? Yes, but again, that is not why you are forgiven. God doesn’t owe you forgiveness. Could you say you didn’t do the evil Hitler did? Yes, but God is not letting you in for what you didn’t do and He will talk more about what you did do. (Sins of omission excluded here are an exception here.)

So what is your reason for God forgiving you? Because you asked. You repented. You did not deserve that grace? You did not earn it? God does not owe you forgiveness. Apart from the grace of God, you would wind up in Hell and you would deserve it, as would I.

And God would not be unjust in a bit of it.

There will never be a point in all of eternity where you deserve to be there. Every moment you are there is still a gift of grace. You will depend on God for everything all your life, including grace. Every moment there is a moment of His love and mercy. Every moment He gives you here to repent also is such a moment.

Years ago I wrote a blog about if your murderer will be in Heaven. The reality is God can take the people who should have been the most hostile to each other on Earth and by His grace transform them into great lovers of one another. Perhaps if we sought repentance more and more now, we could see the same thing happen here on Earth.

So did Hitler repent? If I had to take Vegas odds, I’d bet against it, but if he did, we should rejoice. We should celebrate it, because were it not for the grace of God we would be like him. By forsaking God, we all have the capacity to live like Hitler, but by repentance, we all have the capacity to live like Jesus.

Choose this day who you will serve. As for me and my house, we will serve the Lord.

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

 

Thankfulness And Silence

Are we to have a Happy Thanksgiving? Let’s plunge into the Deeper Waters and find out.

I have been writing this week in response to the news of Tyler Vela about divorce and silence. Today, being Thanksgiving, I don’t have to work and there are no classes. Naturally, I turn off the alarm and choose to sleep in as long as I can.

Yet early in the morning when I start to wake up, who is right there waiting for me but Shiro. So what do I do? Stay in bed for just a little bit to hold him and pet him and get some kitty kisses from him. Starting Thanksgiving with my little kitty is certainly a great way to begin the day with thankfulness.

Honestly, Thanksgiving is not my favorite holiday of all. I’m not one for meal situations and I don’t like a lot of traditional Thanksgiving foods. The only exception for me is pumpkin pie. I am fine with not going to Thanksgiving meals at all. (Although I’m sure Shiro would be thrilled if anyone wanted to bring by a bite of turkey for him.)

Today, I was intending to just write about Thanksgiving, but as I thought about it, I realized this has relevance to the silence of God. Years ago, I read something from Tim Keller about thankfulness. It was a portion of Scripture that I had read several times and yet, a few key words in that Scripture I had never taken the time to consider.

Let’s look at Romans 1.

18 The wrath of God is being revealed from heaven against all the godlessness and wickedness of people, who suppress the truth by their wickedness, 19 since what may be known about God is plain to them, because God has made it plain to them. 20 For since the creation of the world God’s invisible qualities—his eternal power and divine nature—have been clearly seen, being understood from what has been made, so that people are without excuse.

21 For although they knew God, they neither glorified him as God nor gave thanks to him, but their thinking became futile and their foolish hearts were darkened.

We can get caught up in so many debates about this passage. It can be classical apologetics vs. presuppositionalism. It can be about the nature of design arguments. It can be questions of if someone can truly be an atheist or not.

Fine questions and worth discussion, but did you notice that part at the end? This is about people who the text says know God and they didn’t glorify Him, but also, they didn’t give thanks. They were not appreciative of God. They didn’t show gratitude.

If you don’t appreciate something and you’re not thankful for it, it can lead to a resentment or it can lead to an entitlement attitude. Here in America, if you live here, you are generally a rich person. You might think you’re poor, but compared to the majority of the world, you are rich. What do we want? More. We mourn about how little we have so often.

I also think this does contribute to divorce. Where does this idea come from that the grass is greener on the other side? As a nerd, I was amazed most every day that I was actually married and I do long for that again. If you think something is owed to you, you will not be grateful for it. There’s a reason the entitlement mindset is causing so much damage in our country.

So what about the silence of God?

Too often, it’s likely that God has already spoken and we have not appreciated what has been said. Skepticism is one thing and if it’s purely intellectual, that can be worked on, but if emotion is driving it, the most powerful intellectual arguments won’t do a thing. Why do you think I get concerned with so many of our younger generation demanding more and more and more?

However, what if we are really saying to God, “What you have done is not good enough?” If we do not appreciate the ways God has spoken, should He really say anymore? If we do not appreciate whatever God has given us, why would He bother giving us more?

The Jews have a Passover song called Dayenu. The lyrics are much longer and interspersed with a chorus, but they go as follows talking about the Passover.

Had we been taken out of Egypt and not had judgment executed upon the Egyptians, it would’ve been enough. Had judgment been executed upon the Egyptians and not upon their idols, it would’ve been enough. Had judgment been executed upon their idols, and not their firstborn, it would’ve been enough. Had judgment been executed upon their firstborn, and we had not received their wealth, it would’ve been enough. Had we received their wealth, and not had the sea split for us, it would’ve been enough. Had the sea been split the sea for us, and we had not been led through it to dry land, it would’ve been enough. Had we been led to dry land, and our enemies not drowned in the sea behind us, it would’ve been enough for us. Had our enemies drowned, and our needs not have been provided for in the desert for 40 years, it would’ve been enough. Had we been supported in the desert and not been given bread, it would have been enough. Had we been given bread and not been given the Sabbath, it would have been enough. Had we been given the Sabbath and not been brought to Mount Sinai, it would have been enough. Had we been brought to Mount Sinai and not been sent the Torah, it would have been enough. Had we been sent the Torah and not been brought to Israel, it would have been enough. Had we been brought to Israel and not been built the Holy Temple, it would have been enough.

What this is saying is that every step would have been enough. God owed nothing more. God owes us nothing more. The only thing He has to give is what He promised. It’s often asked about the problem of evil, “Why did God kill so many?” It’s never considered how many He let live. He had no obligation. It’s as if we are saying “God owes us life.” No. He doesn’t.

If you are owed nothing, and you are given everything, what is that? It’s not payment for something. It’s not God is in debt to you. It is all a gift. All is grace.

I am thankful for many things today. My family and my friends are high up there. I am thankful to be in the city of New Orleans, a city I have come to love, and working on my education at a school I love with a job that I thoroughly enjoy and meeting new people. I am thankful I can rebuild my life and remarry someday. I am thankful that I have got to be a person of influence somehow through the internet. I am thankful I am making it through my divorce bit by bit. I am thankful for the people who have donated to me through Patreon or Risen Jesus to show their support for me. I am thankful for a cute little kitty currently sleeping on my bed. I am thankful I have so many books and games here to keep my mind active. All is grace.

And I’m definitely thankful for grace. It would have been enough, but the one who said it wasn’t enough was God Himself. He looked at all the ways He had loved us so far and said “It’s not enough.” Ephesians 2 even says it’s still not enough. He will spend all of eternity showing us how much He loves us.

I don’t deserve it. Neither do you. It’s all a gift. It’s all grace.

Happy Thanksgiving.

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)

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)

 

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)

Do Protestants Have A Problem With Works?

Is works salvation really a major issue today? Let’s plunge into the Deeper Waters and find out.

Yesterday at a Bible Study at the Orthodox Church my wife attends, we were going through Revelation 14 and I heard the priest get to the verse about those who die in the Lord for they will rest and their works will follow them. He remarked that Protestants have a problem with this verse. For me, I was sitting right there as the Protestant in the room and thinking, “I don’t have a problem with it.” I don’t know how we could get statistics on how many Protestants might have a problem with it, but I figured it could be something interesting to write on.

I think those of us who are Protestants have rightly emphasized salvation by grace through faith. It cannot be earned. It is a gift. It is not wages that are given out because we are good boys and girls.

So when I see this verse in Revelation, I think it means the work that the person has done immediately is done. They themselves will work no more, but the effects of what they have done will live on. Why would that be a problem?

If we go back to the Reformation, I am convinced the Protestants had the better arguments, but their exegesis was still not the best overall. Now I think there’s more evidence that what is being discussed in Galatians is not if salvation is by works or if it is by grace. It is instead being discussed what is the identity marker of if one is a Christian? Is it keeping the Law, i.e. circumcision, or is it faith in Christ?

If we’re Protestants, we shouldn’t balk when we hear works being talked about. Works are great and wonderful things. Picture a man who goes to an altar one day next to a woman he loves and says, “I do.” Then he goes back home to his parents and stays there. He never interacts with his wife or has sex with her or provides for her or anything, but he insists that he is married. We would all seriously question that one.

If you are a Christian, then along the way you ought to show the signs that you are a Christian. If you are not producing any fruit at all, we have reason to doubt your Christianity. This shouldn’t be a problem. It’s abundant in Scripture. Christ says He who abides in Him will produce much fruit. Ephesians 2:8-9 is followed by a verse saying that we are saved by grace through faith and the very next verse talks about the works that we do. While James 2 is often misunderstood, it is certainly right in the emphasis on how important works are and I would argue that James is talking about justification before men and not before God.

While I do think the comment yesterday might have been exaggerated, we who are Protestants do not need to shy away from doing good works and we need sermons on the importance of doing good works. Again, none of this is so that we can be Christians. We do good works because we are Christians and we have a job to do. We are to do the Great Commission.

It still is a tragedy to me today that there are three branches of Christianity today and I do look forward to the unity of all three one day. Still, we should all agree on the importance of doing good works. If a tree doesn’t produce any fruit, we can rightly speculate that the tree is dead. If we do not produce any fruit in our Christian walk, people can rightly speculate that our faith is dead.

Again, I don’t know how many Protestants really do have a problem with the passage, but we shouldn’t. We should be greatly emphasizing the importance of doing good works. Those start with loving God with all our heart, soul, mind, and strength and loving our neighbor as ourselves.

In Christ,
Nick Peters

On Forgiveness

What is the big deal with forgiveness? Let’s plunge into the Deeper Waters and find out.

Forgiveness is always something we seem to struggle with. One of the most popular posts I have written concerns the issue of if someone’s murderer will be in heaven. Also, I have written about if Jeffrey Dahmer is in heaven or not. With skeptics, if God punishes sin, He’s in the wrong. If God forgives sin, He’s in the wrong.

When it comes to us, we always think there has to be a catch. No one just forgives. In reality, this is the Christian way. This is what we are all told to do. Why should we though?

To begin with, everyone of us who are Christians has been forgiven. We have been forgiven of divine treason. Whenever we have sinned, we have in essence been saying that we wish God was dead. We have denied something about Him to be true. We have called into question who He is.

That’s a serious charge.

Yet we are forgiven. Forgiveness was offered when we did not seek it. We definitely did not deserve it. We definitely did not earn it. There was no obligation to provide a way of forgiveness to us. God could have let us all go our own way and go to Hell and have it be He and His angels in eternity together and no one could have said, “You did wrong.”

Forgiveness cannot be earned. If it could, it’s not really forgiveness. Forgiveness, like love is a gift. What does it mean?

To forgive does not mean that there are no consequences to the action. There may be. There may not be. You can forgive someone who abused your kids. It doesn’t mean you’re going to hire them immediately to be your babysitter.

What it means is there is no personal debt they owe to you. The relationship may or may not return to normal. Sometimes it does, but it takes time, such as in cases of infidelity.

If we are hesitant to forgive though, it is because we do not realize what we have been forgiven of. We are the person in the parable of the unforgiving servant who refuse to show mercy despite the great mercy that has been shown to us.

If we put a catch on forgiveness, then we are not realizing what we have been forgiven of. Is that risky? Yes. Is it hard? Absolutely. Do we want to push against it? Yep. We have to let go of any desire for revenge or to teach someone a lesson.

As I said though, forgiveness does not mean no consequences. Someone can be in prison and come to Jesus for forgiveness, and they will still be in prison. Someone can forgive someone for murdering a loved one, but that doesn’t mean the state will drop charges. We can choose to forgive. We cannot choose the consequences.

Forgiveness is also freeing not just for the other person, but for the forgiver. It’s a way of ending the cycle of retaliation. It’s a way of letting bygones be bygones and work towards and restoration that can be of the relationship.

I also consider it important to wait for the other person to ask for forgiveness first. The gift of repentance is a great gift to give. That being said, one should always have the attitude of forgiveness. It is not always wise to approach someone you need to forgive. Sometimes, you might not be able to, such as if the person has died. Sometimes, it could be risky, such as if the person has hurt you in some serious way such as abuse. Have in your heart the mindset of forgiving them, but let them approach you before you pronounce forgiveness.

If someone says they forgive you also, try to forgive them, and if they bring it up again, let them know they gave forgiveness. Work on rebuilding the relationship if it is possible. It depends on how much the relationship is valued, but God is in the business of doing things like that.

In Christ,
Nick Peters

Is Love Deserved?

Can someone earn love? Let’s plunge into the Deeper Waters and find out.

There is a thought I have been pondering lately about the love of God. When I hear someone complain about the God of the Old Testament and the claims of genocide and such, I always ask what God owes anyone. After all, does God anyone any moment of life whatsoever? God can take anyone’s life and be just in doing so.

What about us today in the times since the New Testament? What are we owed? Necessarily, nothing. The only thing God will have to give us is something that He has promised us, not because we deserve it, but rather because He is a covenant God who keeps His promises.

What about love? We live in a society where love is often conditional, which makes sense since we are fallen human beings. This is a world where too often marriages fall apart. We often have a hard time thinking that there is love that is unconditonal.

There is. This does not mean some sort of universalism where everyone gets accepted into heaven in the end then because God loves everyone. God loves them and respects their choice to want nothing to do with Him in this life and be excluded from the blessings of the covenant. God being loving does not mean a warm sentimentality where everyone gets to feel good about themselves in the end.

This also puts us in a strange position since we are used to earning love. Today, we have to win someone’s heart for their affections. In a sense, this is understandable. After all, you don’t give your heart to just anyone. There are degrees of trust in relationship and love never means putting up with abuse.

With God, it’s vastly different. The love is unconditional. This doesn’t mean we get special privileges for being a Christian either. We can spend ages in the presence of God and we still will not deserve the love of God. After all, that would mean that at some point God owes us His love. He won’t. He doesn’t.

Love from God is always a gift. It is based more on who He is. The idea of Scripture is while we were enemies, God still loved us and gave His Son for us. We can never make up for it. We can never do enough good that it is owed. Love is not ever going to be a debt just as grace and forgiveness aren’t debts.

How this works out on a horizontal level is more difficult, but it is the kind of love that we should strive for. We can often put conditions on love that are needless to make sure that we are protected. There is nothing wrong with not wanting to hurt, but we can be so protective we also cut off love.

But when you pray, please keep in mind that love is not earned. God’s love for you is always a gift. You will never just be so awesome and special that you will deserve the love of God. After all the ages, you will still not deserve the love of God. God will always be giving you a gift in the gift of Himself.

Keep in mind you also never lose the love. The love is always a gift. A gift is not earned. It is freely given. Enjoy the gift.

In Christ,
Nick Peters

What Makes Grace So Amazing?

Why do we call it amazing grace? Let’s plunge into the Deeper Waters and find out.

We really don’t understand grace. For many of us, there has to be a catch. No one can be like that. It gets to be a real problem when we talk about whether grace is deserved.

Earlier this week, I wrote an article on this kind of topic. Many of us I think fear being taken advantage of. We fear being in someone else’s debt. We fear having the floor pulled out from under us when we dare give someone else our trust.

In a thread discussing the article I wrote earlier, someone talked about God giving more grace than we deserve. That’s actually a contradiction. If you deserved any of it, it would not be grace. Go to work and do your job and if your employer pays you, you don’t consider that an example of unmerited favor. You gave of yourself, He gives back to you.

Grace is never deserved. Grace is never earned. That’s a contradiction in terms. We really don’t get this today. When it comes to love, we often put so many conditions on it. The wife and husband can say “I love you” but often thought to be secretly implied in that is “Provided you keep doing XYZ or you avoid doing XYZ.” They way the love is expressed can change, but the love should still be there. (This is of course, excepting serious cases like infidelity and abuse. With the former, love can still be there for restoration and with the latter, that is still true, but one must have serious work done to make sure it doesn’t happen again.)

What I have found as a secret to doing this in my own personal walk is to remember the love that I have been shown. God has forgiven me and anything I have done to Him is far worse than anything my fellow man could ever do to me or, dare I say it, anything I could ever do to them. Should I not give that same kind of love and forgiveness? If I do not, am I not being just like the unmerciful servant in the parable of Jesus? If I really believe I have been forgiven of divine treason against God, essentially wishing He was dead so I could sit on the throne, then should I not show forgiveness towards everything else which is petty by comparison?

And yes, all sin is divine treason. When we sin, we deny either or all of the following about God:

His omnipotence because He doesn’t have the power to judge.

His omniscience because He either won’t know about it or doesn’t see how He’s clearly against me and doesn’t have my best interests at heart and doesn’t know what He’s talking about with this sin deal.

His omnipresence because He’s not present to notice the event.

His justice because He either won’t enforce it or He is misusing it.

His love because we have to go against Him to get what is really good.

His eternality because the sin will eventually go away on its own.

I could go on and on. The last one comes to me as well since Lewis said once we have this idea that time will erase wrongs. It won’t. Sometimes I’ll remember things I did wrong even back in Elementary School and it could be tempting to just say “I was young and stupid then,” and that could be true, but I ask forgiveness. There is no expiration date.

Just now, my wife brought in our cat to see me. As I held him, I thought that we’re a lot like him sometimes. Our cat doesn’t really like to be held and is quick to whine when it happens. We can picture him sometimes saying he wishes we would love him less.

We might have to ask if we want God to love us less.

Some of you might wonder why we would want a thing like that.

Because when God loves us, He doesn’t just come and forgive us. That’s a big matter, but it’s just part of it. He comes and does a work on us because He loves us that roots out the very nature that led us to give in to temptation. He does divine surgery, and most of us don’t delight in surgery.

When I was nearly 16, I had scoliosis surgery done or else in a decade, I would be walking like the Hunchback of Notre Dame. Today, I walk and even run and jump just fine, but back for about a year after the event, I was not like that. I was not lying on a couch thinking it was so awesome that I was given surgery to recover. I was in excruciating pain constantly.

Sometime after that, I went through a time of deep depression. That lasted longer and I consider it far worse. Still, that time was essential for my growth. It made me into the person I am today.

We always have to remember God has a purpose for any suffering that comes into our lives. It will help others, but it’s not just for them. That suffering is for us. If we deny that, we are making a statement to God about how we see Him. This is why we often want Him to love us less really. We’d like to just get forgiveness without the change that comes with it, or if we have the change, please make it an American change that happens pretty much instantly like popcorn fixed in two minutes in the microwave or a problem on a sitcom that is resolved in half an hour.

That’s also because of our fixation with happiness. God will give us happiness in the long run, but the goal at the moment is holiness. It’s God’s love that we must relish in and long for all the more. We must make that love and that desire central. That comes over any family love, any sexual love, any romantic love, and friend love, any love of any kind.

But to get back to grace, it is always unearned. It is always a gift. It is foolish of us to reject the gift because we don’t deserve it. Of course, we don’t! If we did, it wouldn’t be grace. Wouldn’t it be the height of arrogance to go to God and say that He owes us a blessing or forgiveness because of the good that we have done? (And most of us, myself included, have done that.)

This I also find something to keep in mind in suffering. I look at all the good I do have in my life. How much of it do I deserve? The sun comes up and shines on our city every morning. How do I express my thanks? I sit here at the desk in my office looking out the window at a world of vibrant colors and life everywhere outside and a world bigger than any video game or comic book world that I could imagine knowing even more is coming someday than I could ever fathom. What thanks do I give? Do I treat this as if it was a given and expect more? It’s not and I don’t deserve more.

This is why thankfulness is so important to us all. If we could think about the good things we have, I think most of us would have a better mood. There can still be sorrow and sadness, and that’s okay, but could it be we’d have far more joy if we had more thankfulness?

Perhaps we could.

And maybe one of the first things to be thankful for is amazing grace. If you are a Christian, every sin that you have committed is not held against you. You are clear before the throne of God. Think about that.

In Christ,
Nick Peters

Is Jeffrey Dahmer in Heaven?

Can someone who’s a cannibalistic serial killer be with God forever? Let’s plunge into the Deeper Waters and find out.

Atheists often like to talk about the atrocities of God in the Bible that they see. If God kills someone in the Bible, well He’s wicked and evil. What is amazing also is that if God is gracious, He’s also wicked and evil! Let’s consider this image.

I wrote something about a similar post once in addressing if your murderer will be in Heaven. Some atheists I have seen discussing this picture have asked what it will be like for someone who was ate by Jeffrey Dahmer to see him in Heaven. Awkward?

No. Not really.

It assumes that when people are around the throne in Heaven, they will be still in their same sinful natures. Not at all. Heaven is a place of grace and forgiveness. There are no grudges or desires for revenge and there is no hatred there. If anything, those who were victimized will be happy to see Dahmer because they want to see him get the same grace they have received.

Let’s also assume for the sake of argument that Dahmer did have a real conversion. I know some people could bicker that maybe it was a fake one, but for the sake of this discussion, I am going to assume it was real. Why is this really a problem for Christianity?

If anything, this shows how much God is willing to forgive. God loves His creation so much that He does forgive all the sins of the past. This doesn’t mean that everyone will experience Heaven the same way as I think there are degrees of reward in Heaven, but it does mean that one will at least get into the city.

If forgiveness could ever be earned, it would not be forgiven. When you forgive someone, you just forgive them. It doesn’t mean there are no consequences whatsoever, but it means there is no debt between the two of you. It won’t be used against you further.

I don’t need to repeat a lot in this post since much of it is in the earlier linked post, but this whole scenario always boggles my mind. God is a problem because He is angry at sinners and wants to kill them all supposedly, but then He’s also a problem because He will freely show grace to all sinners and pronounce forgiveness for them.

Besides, for my fellow Christians. My big amazement is not that Jeffrey Dahmer is going to make it. Many of us will happily talk about the grace given to sinners.

Our big amazement as Christians and the one we usually doubt is that we’re going to make it.

But we are, and this is mind-boggling. If we think the goal is to get people around the throne of God, the cross should show us that God is more serious about getting us there than we are. God’s ultimate goal is to include as many as possible and not to exclude. No. That’s not an inclusivism where there are many roads to God or something like that. It is a call that God has made it as simple as He could for us to come to the Kingdom by giving us the Son.

Atheists. Don’t think you’re going to make me doubt my Christianity by talking about the grace of God for Jeffrey Dahmer. I’m amazed enough that He has grace for someone like myself.

In Christ,
Nick Peters

%d bloggers like this: