Tuesday, April 5, 2011

Surely A Loving God Would Never Condemn Us

It really gets on my nerves when people purposely turn our spiritual condition around and look at it backwards. So many naysayers have totally misunderstood God and his relationship with us and it is the Church's fault. We have tried so hard to make the gospel relevant and acceptable that we have robbed it of its power to effect people. When I hear people say, "A loving God would never condemn people to hell", I want to pull my hair out and scream. I want to jump on top of a table and start explaining the truth to people. God does not condemn us; we condemn ourselves.

The problem is that people have twisted the truth around so that they are looking at it all wrong. They have twisted a basic truth that lies at the foundation of our understanding of our relationship with God. He created us to have fellowship with him. It was a free and innocent relationship where creation adored the Creator and the Creator enjoyed the company of his creation. But then we blew it by disobeying his command, our innocence disappeared and we stood in the naked truth of our rebellion. No longer did we enjoy the relationship we were created for, instead we were distant from God, unable to approach him because of our changed character, and dying in this condition meant that eternity would also be spent separated from him.

God was not pleased with this, felt compassion for us and launched a plan he had prepared in case this happened. He had given us freedom and this was always a possible result of that freedom. It took some time to lay the foundation, choose a people to whom to reveal the Law, a nation where the dramatic events would have to take place. God had no interest in seeing us condemned to eternal separation from him so he had to open a door, an opportunity for us to have a choice once again. He needed to give us our freedom again to choose, but that meant freeing us from the rebellion that had enslaved us, freeing us from the consequences of our rebellion, from the power of our sin nature.

This meant that God had to pay the price for us. He had created some things in the law that would allow a sacrifice to be made that would cover our rebellion and set us free from its effects so that we would have the freedom to choose again between God and our rebellion. Jesus came to set us free so that we could make that choice. He came with the good news of this plan and to put it into effect by meeting all the requirements of the Law and paying the cost thereof. Jesus came as the agent and sacrifice of reconciliation. So understand his words:

For God so loved the world that he gave his one and only Son, that whoever believes in him shall not perish but have eternal life. For God did not send his Son into the world to condemn the world, but to save the world through him. (John 3:16-17)

This is where most of the world stops and says "See, I am not condemned", leaving off the whole point of needing to believe. Of course by believe God is referring to loving him and Jesus said that such love demands obedience. Obedience is the opposite of rebellious but rebellious is what most of the world remains, despite God's great sacrifice in giving us the opportunity to choose again. But that's the point. In choosing not to believe, to love, to obey, we have made our choice again to remain in our rebellion and separation from God. The world needs to continue to read to understand that it is not God who has decided to condemn us but it is us who have condemn ourselves by our choices:

Whoever believes in him is not condemned, but whoever does not believe stands condemned already because he has not believed in the name of God’s one and only Son. (John 3:18)

We were already condemned because of the rebellious nature that everyone is born with. This was not God's design and because it wasn't he wove into his Law a means to overcome this condition. Far from condemning us, he paid the price for our salvation. He has given us a way out and he weeps over those who decide not to take it. We cannot blame the rescuer if we refuse to follow him out of the burning building. If we choose to stay there in that condition there is nothing that anyone can do for us. There is an open door before us but we have to walk through because that is the freedom we have been given.

That really is the point we need to understand here; Jesus died to give us freedom of choice. He broke the power of our nature so that we could have the freedom to choose between rebellion and fellowship. In fact, the only way it can work is that through Jesus God recreated us into something new, as his children, so that we would be covered by his grace. I don't think many of us appreciate the full ramifications of what Jesus did for us, so we accept it with limited understanding, but accepting it is the most important thing. God has not condemned us. Please let that sink in. God has given us an opportunity to get out from under the condemnation we were born into. He is trying to rescue us because he loves us but that love will not keep us from our destiny if we choose to find our own path. The only exit from the burning building is Jesus Christ who told us that there is no other way. There are not multiple choices found in multiple religions. There is only one choice and his name is Jesus. Only Jesus rescues us from the condemnation we brought on ourselves.