For years I taught what had been taught to me- “When God looks at you, He doesn’t see you, He only sees Jesus.” That may sound sweet in some religious way but it is just plain wrong. And what it really says is that if God did see you, as you really are, He wouldn’t like you at all! The good news is the Bible actually teaches the exact opposite.
This mistaken belief is often coupled with the statement that God is so holy He cannot “look” upon any unholiness. Of course, this is not true. If it was true, God could not see any human being on earth nor the very creation itself which has been plunged into a fallen state, groaning in travail, until the “restoration of all things”. (Acts 3)
But what does the scripture actually tell us? (Remember, this is in the New Covenant)
Heb 4:12-13- “For the word of God is living and active and sharper than any two-edged sword, and piercing as far as the division of soul and spirit, of both joints and marrow, and able to judge the thoughts and intentions of the heart. And there is no creature hidden from His sight, but all things are open and laid bare to the eyes of Him with whom we have to do.” NASB
This passage, and many others, tells us that God sees everything!
This should be tremendous news to us because it also says that He sees our thoughts and hearts! This means we are not judged by our actions but the intent, or faith, of our heart. Jesus paid for our sins, all of them, and God sees the faith of our hearts as we trust in His free gift of righteousness based on the actions of Christ.
This is why the very next verse says…
“Therefore, since we have a great high priest who has passed through the heavens, Jesus the Son of God, let us hold fast our confession.” (Heb 4:14) NASB
Our confession must be that we are made righteous through the action of our high priest, Jesus, the Son of God. God sees us, everything about us. He understands our present weaknesses and loves us completely because He also sees us completed in eternity through the work of Christ.
So what must we be doing now?Listen to the final statement of this passage in Hebrews…
“Therefore, let us draw near with confidence to the throne of grace, so that we may receive mercy and find grace to help in time of need.” (Heb 4:16 NASB)
What should we be doing now?Drawing near to Him with confidence because He sees us and loves us; AND He is completing the work of sanctification in us. He who has justified us is the One who is presently sanctifying us from the inside out. This is the work of true grace!
“For I am confident of this very thing, that He who began a good work in you will perfect it until the day of Christ Jesus.” (Phil 1:6-7) NASB
For much more on this subject see Mark’s book, “God’s Brilliant Cure…for fear, shame and condemnation”.
“If My people, who are called by My name, will humble themselves and pray, I will hear from heaven and heal their land.”
2 Chron. 7:14 is used so freely today without even asking ourselves, “Who was God speaking to, what was He referring to and how should it effect us now?"
Huge prayer gatherings are based on the idea that if we will just pray hard enough, long enough and with enough people, God will “heal” America and somehow the Kingdom of God will come here (or into whatever country the praying believers currently live in). But we must ask if this is actually a New Covenant concept or if we have missed the point completely.
Why Is This Important?
This is an important question because it deals with the very foundation of understanding the shift from the Old Covenant to the New Covenant. What actually makes the New Covenant, new? In the Old Covenant, the land was literal and the kingdom was visible. In the New Covenant, Jesus said, “My kingdom is not of this world” and “The Kingdom of God is within you“; not matter what nation you live in.
So this question deals with how the Old Testament “shadow” of the natural Kingdom of God through the literal people of Israel, has changed to the “substance” of the spiritual Kingdom of God within everyone who has made Jesus King of their lives…no matter what country they live in.
We are told in passages such as Col. 2:17, and Heb. 10:1, that the Old Covenant, and everything pertaining to it, are shadows of what would be fulfilled in Christ. The Word says He is the substance of all Old Testament shadows. This truth is what makes the New Covenant actually NEW.
How Should We Read The Old Testament?
Whenever we read the Old Testament we must always ask ourselves, “How is this fulfilled in Christ?” Remember, Heb. 1:1 tells that in the Old Testament, God spoke His words and gave revelation of His will through the prophets; but now He has spoken through His Son.
2 Chronicles 7 talks about the temple, the land and the throne of David. So what does this mean in the New Covenant? Why didn’t any of the New Testament writers, all Jewish men, instruct the believers to follow the command of 2 Chron. 7:14? My suggestion is that they knew it was already fulfilled.
The New Testament clearly tells us that Jesus is the true temple; and because He lives in us, we are the temple of God on the earth. The land is a shadow of what Jesus clearly defined as His kingdom within the hearts of people from every nation, tongue and tribe. And one of the most important truths about the Christ is that He is the heir to the throne and kingship foreshadowed in David. This is why the New Testament writers called us strangers and pilgrims in this present world.
The Promise Has Already Been Fulfilled!
The promise of 2 Chron. 7:14 has already been fulfilled in Christ. God has fulfilled His own promise through His own Son by bringing His Kingdom into human hearts; and promising that His Kingdom will one day rule over all the earth. Now, anyone who receives Him as king, receives the healing of 2 Chron. 7:14. We are His Kingdom, we are His land.
God shows no respect to genetics, racial heritage or geography. In Christ, He has made one new man out of every Jew and Gentile who believe. And one day He will return and establish a literal kingdom that will cover the earth by making all things new. (2 Peter 3:13)
Isn’t it good for people to come together and pray? It is, if we come together and pray according to the will of God. There is no model in the New Testament of praying for the healing of individual nations or individual lands. But there are several models for praying for “doors to open for the declaration of the mystery of Christ” (Col.4:3). 1 Tim 2:1-4 gives us an excellent model.
“First of all, then, I urge that entreaties and prayers, petitions and thanksgivings, be made on behalf of all men, for kings and all who are in authority, so that we may lead a tranquil and quiet life in all godliness and dignity. This is good and acceptable in the sight of God our Savior, who desires all men to be saved and to come to the knowledge of the truth.”
Who Was This Written To?
This was written to people who were being severely persecuted by the Roman government; in many cases, they were being hunted down like animals. And this was not a call for some large gathering but instruction for each believer as part of their everyday life.
Rather than pray for some kind of “healing of the literal land“ now, we are told to pray for His Kingdom to come into the hearts of more and more people, now. And the King wants to use us to fulfill that prayer every time we share the Gospel, which is “the power of God for salvation to all who will believe, the Jew first and also to the Gentile” (Rom. 1:16).
So, What Do We Do Instead?
We will be far, far more fruitful if we spend more time with people, sharing the Gospel of Grace (Christ wants to live in you) and demonstrating His goodness, since it is His goodness that causes people to repent and brings healing into the “land” of human hearts. (Rom. 2:24)
Instead of spending so much time, effort and money in so many large prayer gatherings, perhaps we would be better served if we spent far more time, effort and money to “Go into all the world and make disciples in every nation…”
Bono of U2 Speaks about “Grace over Karma”This is a very interesting article taken from an interview with Bono of the band U2. Of course, it’s not entirely accurate in it’s definition of true grace since it speaks more of mercy than true grace.
However, I found it to be extremely interesting…and a great way to talk to the world about the Gospel and the most important question of all- Who is this Christ?. He clearly makes no apology for what he believes!
Bono Interview: Grace Over Karma
(Excerpt from the book Bono: In Conversation with Michka Assayas ) (Taken from the web site- The Poached Egg)
Bono: My understanding of the Scriptures has been made simple by the person of Christ. Christ teaches that God is love. What does that mean? What it means for me: a study of the life of Christ. Love here describes itself as a child born in straw poverty, the most vulnerable situation of all, without honor. I don’t let my religious world get too complicated. I just kind of go: Well, I think I know what God is. God is love, and as much as I respond [sighs] in allowing myself to be transformed by that love and acting in that love, that’s my religion. Where things get complicated for me, is when I try to live this love. Now that’s not so easy.
Assayas: What about the God of the Old Testament? He wasn’t so “peace and love”?
Bono: There’s nothing hippie about my picture of Christ. The Gospels paint a picture of a very demanding, sometimes divisive love, but love it is. I accept the Old Testament as more of an action movie: blood, car chases, evacuations, a lot of special effects, seas dividing, mass murder, adultery. The children of God are running amok, wayward. Maybe that’s why they’re so relatable. But the way we would see it, those of us who are trying to figure out our Christian conundrum, is that the God of the Old Testament is like the journey from stern father to friend. When you’re a child, you need clear directions and some strict rules. But with Christ, we have access in a one-to-one relationship, for, as in the Old Testament, it was more one of worship and awe, a vertical relationship. The New Testament, on the other hand, we look across at a Jesus who looks familiar, horizontal. The combination is what makes the Cross.
Assayas: Speaking of bloody action movies, we were talking about South and Central America last time. The Jesuit priests arrived there with the gospel in one hand and a rifle in the other.
Bono: I know, I know. Religion can be the enemy of God. It’s often what happens when God, like Elvis, has left the building. [laughs] A list of instructions where there was once conviction; dogma where once people just did it; a congregation led by a man where once they were led by the Holy Spirit. Discipline replacing discipleship. Why are you chuckling?
Assayas: I was wondering if you said all of that to the Pope the day you met him.
Bono: Let’s not get too hard on the Holy Roman Church here. The Church has its problems, but the older I get, the more comfort I find there. The physical experience of being in a crowd of largely humble people, heads bowed, murmuring prayers, stories told in stained-glass windows
Assayas: So you won’t be critical.
Bono: No, I can be critical, especially on the topic of contraception. But when I meet someone like Sister Benedicta and see her work with AIDS orphans in Addis Ababa, or Sister Ann doing the same in Malawi, or Father Jack Fenukan and his group Concern all over Africa, when I meet priests and nuns tending to the sick and the poor and giving up much easier lives to do so, I surrender a little easier.
Assayas: But you met the man himself. Was it a great experience?
Bono: We all knew why we were there. The Pontiff was about to make an important statement about the inhumanity and injustice of poor countries spending so much of their national income paying back old loans to rich countries. Serious business. He was fighting hard against his Parkinson’s. It was clearly an act of will for him to be there. I was oddly moved by his humility, and then by the incredible speech he made, even if it was in whispers. During the preamble, he seemed to be staring at me. I wondered. Was it the fact that I was wearing my blue fly-shades? So I took them off in case I was causing some offense. When I was introduced to him, he was still staring at them. He kept looking at them in my hand, so I offered them to him as a gift in return for the rosary he had just given me.
Assayas: Didn’t he put them on?
Bono: Not only did he put them on, he smiled the wickedest grin you could ever imagine. He was a comedian. His sense of humor was completely intact. Flashbulbs popped, and I thought: “Wow! The Drop the Debt campaign will have the Pope in my glasses on the front page of every newspaper.”
Assayas: I don’t remember seeing that photograph anywhere, though.
Bono: Nor did we. It seems his courtiers did not have the same sense of humor. Fair enough. I guess they could see the T-shirts.
Later in the conversation:
Assayas: I think I am beginning to understand religion because I have started acting and thinking like a father. What do you make of that?
Bono: Yes, I think that’s normal. It’s a mind-blowing concept that the God who created the universe might be looking for company, a real relationship with people, but the thing that keeps me on my knees is the difference between Grace and Karma.
Assayas: I haven’t heard you talk about that.
Bono: I really believe we’ve moved out of the realm of Karma into one of Grace.
Assayas: Well, that doesn’t make it clearer for me.
Bono: You see, at the center of all religions is the idea of Karma. You know, what you put out comes back to you: an eye for an eye, a tooth for a tooth, or in physics; in physical laws every action is met by an equal or an opposite one. It’s clear to me that Karma is at the very heart of the universe. I’m absolutely sure of it. And yet, along comes this idea called Grace to upend all that “as you reap, so you will sow” stuff. Grace defies reason and logic. Love interrupts, if you like, the consequences of your actions, which in my case is very good news indeed, because I’ve done a lot of stupid stuff.
Assayas: I’d be interested to hear that.
Bono: That’s between me and God. But I’d be in big trouble if Karma was going to finally be my judge. I’d be in deep s—. It doesn’t excuse my mistakes, but I’m holding out for Grace. I’m holding out that Jesus took my sins onto the Cross, because I know who I am, and I hope I don’t have to depend on my own religiosity.
Assayas: The Son of God who takes away the sins of the world. I wish I could believe in that.
Bono: But I love the idea of the Sacrificial Lamb. I love the idea that God says: Look, you cretins, there are certain results to the way we are, to selfishness, and there’s a mortality as part of your very sinful nature, and, let’s face it, you’re not living a very good life, are you? There are consequences to actions. The point of the death of Christ is that Christ took on the sins of the world, so that what we put out did not come back to us, and that our sinful nature does not reap the obvious death. That’s the point. It should keep us humbled . It’s not our own good works that get us through the gates of heaven.
Assayas: That’s a great idea, no denying it. Such great hope is wonderful, even though it’s close to lunacy, in my view. Christ has his rank among the world’s great thinkers. But Son of God, isn’t that farfetched?
Bono: No, it’s not farfetched to me. Look, the secular response to the Christ story always goes like this: he was a great prophet, obviously a very interesting guy, had a lot to say along the lines of other great prophets, be they Elijah, Muhammad, Buddha, or Confucius. But actually Christ doesn’t allow you that. He doesn’t let you off that hook. Christ says: No. I’m not saying I’m a teacher, don’t call me teacher. I’m not saying I’m a prophet. I’m saying: “I’m the Messiah.” I’m saying: “I am God incarnate.” And people say: No, no, please, just be a prophet. A prophet, we can take. You’re a bit eccentric. We’ve had John the Baptist eating locusts and wild honey, we can handle that. But don’t mention the “M” word! Because, you know, we’re gonna have to crucify you. And he goes: No, no. I know you’re expecting me to come back with an army, and set you free from these creeps, but actually I am the Messiah. At this point, everyone starts staring at their shoes, and says: Oh, my God, he’s gonna keep saying this. So what you’re left with is: either Christ was who He said He was the Messiah or a complete nutcase. I mean, we’re talking nutcase on the level of Charles Manson. This man was like some of the people we’ve been talking about earlier. This man was strapping himself to a bomb, and had “King of the Jews” on his head, and, as they were putting him up on the Cross, was going: OK, martyrdom, here we go. Bring on the pain! I can take it. I’m not joking here. The idea that the entire course of civilization for over half of the globe could have its fate changed and turned upside-down by a nutcase, for me, that’s far fetched.
Bono later says it all comes down to how we regard Jesus:
Bono: If only we could be a bit more like Him, the world would be transformed. When I look at the Cross of Christ, what I see up there is all my s— and everybody else’s. So I ask myself a question a lot of people have asked: Who is this man? And was He who He said He was, or was He just a religious nut? And there it is, and that’s the question. And no one can talk you into it or out of it.
The most basic truth of the Gospel is that the righteous judgment and justified wrath of the infinitely perfect God was fully exhausted at the cross. All judgment and wrath was placed upon Jesus when “He made Him who knew no sin to be sin on our behalf, so that we might become the righteousness of God in Him.” (2 Cor. 5:21)
When Jesus said, “It is finished”, He declared that the judgment of God was fully satisfied and the full penalty was paid. Is. 53 describes in great detail how God poured out His righteous anger upon His Son. The New Testament says repeatedly that all judgment and wrath was “nailed to the cross”. (Col. 1:20, Col. 2:14, 1 Pet. 2:24) This freedom from wrath is for all who will believe.
In Jesus’ explanation of God’s brilliant plan to the highly educated doctor of the Law, Nicodemus, He makes it simple and clear that God was going to free everyone through giving the Son. To qualify for this freedom from wrath, a person must believe in the sufficiency of the offering of the Son.
John 3:36: “He who believes in the Son has eternal life; but he who does not obey the Son will not see life, but the wrath of God abides on him.”
The requirement to obey here cannot mean “keep all the rules/laws” since the scripture says no one can perfectly keep them all. He says here that we obey by “believing in the Son” and then we receive the free gift He spoke about back in verses 16-17, “God so loved the world that He gave His Son…he who believes in the Son is not judged”.
Free From the Wrath to Come
The apostles repeatedly declared that this freedom from the judgment that must come at the end of this age is the very heart of our hope.
Rom 5:9-10: “Much more then, having now been justified by His blood, we shall be saved from the wrath of God through Him.”
1 Thess 5:9-10:“For God has not destined us for wrath, but for obtaining salvation through our Lord Jesus Christ,”
1 Thess 1:10: “…and to wait for His Son from heaven, whom He raised from the dead, that is Jesus, who rescues us from the wrath to come.”
So, Is There No More Wrath of God?
Do these promises mean God put away His wrath forever, for everyone? Sadly, no.
The scripture is clear that the justified wrath of the holy God must be revealed against all who reject His free gift through the cross. Make no mistake, there is a day of judgment coming at the end of this age. If we reject Christ’s free gift of righteousness (unearned rightness with God) we are left to defend our own self-righteousness in comparison to God’s perfect righteousness…and we will always lose.
This judgment is not based on God’s desire to punish but on the free choice we all must make.
Paul says that those who reject God’s free gift are “…storing up wrath for yourself in the day of wrath and revelation of the righteous judgment of God…” (Rom 2:5) Take note that we do this for ourselves.
God must respond in righteousness and justice to our choice. God is not an all-powerful tyrant who is just “itching to pour out punishment”. On the contrary, “God loves the world so much that He gave His Son…any who believes in Him is not judged”! (John 3:16-17)
Jesus goes on to say “…he who does not believe has been judged already, because he has not believed in the name of the only begotten Son of God.” (John 3:18) The issue of judgment and wrath which people will bring upon themselves is not “sins” but the sin of choosing to not believe in the free gift provided by a loving God.
Love and Justice
Remember, God is completely love…and completely just. Because He is the infinitely perfect God, is both completely love and completely just…at the same time. Because He is completely love, He has provided the free gift of righteousness through Christ and He is waiting patiently until the end of this age.
Because He is completely just, He will then judge all based on His perfect righteousness. Those who have received the free gift of Christ’s perfect righteousness are justified. Those who do not, will have to justify themselves with their own grossly inferior human self-righteousness. Sadly, they will fail.
Rom 1:18: “For the wrath of God is revealed from heaven against all ungodliness and unrighteousness of men who suppress the truth in unrighteousness…”
Rom 2:5: “But because of your stubbornness and unrepentant heart you are storing up wrath for yourself in the day of wrath and revelation of the righteous judgment of God…”
The context of this passage shows us that the “you” Paul refers to here are the people who have rejected the knowledge and requirements of an almighty God who is clearly revealed in all of creation.
The “Wrath” Question Has To Do With “Son-ship”
Eph 2:1-3: “And you were dead in your trespasses and sins, in which you formerly walked according to the course of this world, according to the prince of the power of the air, of the spirit that is now working in the sons of disobedience. Among them we too all formerly lived in the lusts of our flesh, indulging the desires of the flesh and of the mind, and were by nature children of wrath…”
Eph 5:6: “Let no one deceive you with empty words, for because of these things the wrath of God comes upon the sons of disobedience.”
Paul makes it clear and simple. It is based on believing, which produces “son-ship” by being “born again”. Or, choosing not to believe and remaining a “child of darkness”. He says there are “sons of God” or “children of God”; and there are “sons of disobedience” or “children of wrath”.
The word of God clearly and boldly declares that God reveals Himself through creation, by His Spirit and by His word. Any who desire a relationship with Him from their heart will find Him. He guarantees it. Those who are His through new birth, through spiritual regeneration, are forever free from judgment and wrath. This is truly good news.
All Are Not Children of God
But not everyone will choose to accept God’s free gift and become sons of God. Sadly, eternal judgment is a terrifying reality for all who reject His free gift of righteousness through the offering of Jesus on the cross.
Jesus spoke about judgment and hell on several occasions but always with a deep sadness of heart. Even when speaking harshly to the Pharisees about their hypocrisy and their refusal to hear the truth, He followed with, “O Jerusalem, Jerusalem, the city that kills the prophets and stones those sent to her! How often I wanted to gather your children together, just as a hen gathers her brood under her wings, and you would not have it!” (Luke 13:34-35)
And again, “When He approached Jerusalem, He saw the city and wept over it, saying, “If you had known in this day, even you, the things which make for peace! But now they have been hidden from your eyes.” (Luke 19:41-42) This is a God of love who does not force Himself on people but has given people free choice…and grieves over the terrible choice that people, who should know better, are making. He knows the terrible consequences of their choice.
We who believe are empowered to live free of the fear of judgment for ourselves. But we must be moved to action by the eternal reality of the coming judgment upon others and we must sow the “word of His grace” to all we can…while there is still time.
Reach out to people, build relationships, demonstrate the hope we have in Christ, love the least among us, give generously to the mission of the Kingdom and help sow the word of His grace. Let’s passionately help grow His kingdom and help rescue people from the “wrath to come”!
I can relate to always wanting to do more for the Kingdom but not having the resources to do it all. I am experiencing more of that right now than ever before in my whole life. Our ministry brought in less than $200,000.00 last year; the lowest in several years.
And yet, we trained hundreds of leaders around the world who lead over a million people. We gave away thousands of DVDs, CDs, books and study guides that are now being used daily in several countries. That’s a lot of “bang for the buck”!
But we could have done more, trained more, reached more…if we just had more money. And God could have provided more money if He wanted to.
There can be a great frustration in knowing that we all could do more if we just had more and knowing that God could easily provide more…but He doesn’t.
I look to Paul’s writings and see a man who said he always hungered to go to places where the gospel had never been preached. And yet, he spent many of the most profitable years of his life (from any natural point of view) locked up in prison by Nero, the man John called the beast/anti-christ in Revelation.
How frustrating could that have been knowing God could have easily gotten him out at any moment…but didn’t?
Paul’s peace and life-fulfillment did not come from all he accomplished, the number of churches he planted or the volume of people he reached. It came from his absolute assurance that “all things work together for my good” (Rom 8:28) and “having been predestined according to His purpose who works all things after the counsel of His will” (Eph 1:10-11) .
Clearly, Paul was constantly pushing ahead to reach more and do more; and that desire was good and it was from the Lord. But he did not allow that desire to pressure him, drive him or make him feel guilty when God did not provide the means or opportunity.
Paul rested in the knowledge that God could open any door and provide any resource…when He chose to…because He does work all things after the counsel of His own will. At the same time, he never used the material blessings that came or the influence he had over other people to lavish on himself. In fact, he constantly warned “the rich of this world” to be very careful, to be very generous and always ready to give.
1 Tim 6:8-10- “But if we have food and clothing, we will be content with that. People who want to get rich fall into temptation and a trap and into many foolish and harmful desires that plunge men into ruin and destruction. For the love of money is a root of all kinds of evil. Some people, eager for money, have wandered from the faith and pierced themselves with many griefs”.
Wow, doesn’t this sound like a severe warning to the current push among so many charismatics today that we should all be rich? How does this measure up to the popular message that we show the world how much God is blessing us by enjoying the best material things of this world?
Listen to the command Paul gives to Timothy in the next few verses-
1 Tim 6:17-19- “Command those who are rich in this present world not to be arrogant nor to put their hope in wealth, which is so uncertain, but to put their hope in God, who richly provides us with everything for our enjoyment. Command them to do good, to be rich in good deeds, and to be generous and willing to share. In this way they will lay up treasure for themselves as a firm foundation for the coming age, so that they may take hold of the life that is truly life.”
Look at that last line- “Take hold of the life that is truly life!” That’s what I hunger for!
So I want to always hunger to do more, reach more, bless more…without feeling guilty or fruitless when God doesn’t open the doors of opportunity or provide the resources to walk through them. I want to live in peace and rest, fellowshipping the Lord, as I wait to be led by the Spirit.
Here is a critical truth I am learning the hard way:
Knowing what you are supposed to do and become does not give you the ability to do and become. But it does create great frustration.
I am also learning that this often confusing, and frequently painful, frustration is a gift from God. It drives us to search for something different, something new, and to look for something that really works. This frustration with our inability is designed to drive us to Him in search of His ability. This is the very frustration the Law was designed to produce!
One of the main purposes of the Law was to cause people to run out of their own ability and run to Him. When sin shows up in our lives we must admit we are not trusting in God’s grace. God wants the law to force us into saying, “Lord, if this is what You require, I am not able do this by myself”. This frustration with our inability was meant to drive us to the source of true ability; the true Grace of God.
The Law clearly defined what it would take to live righteously before God. The Law pushes us in the direction of our only hope; true grace. And the frustration the Law produces in honest seekers is what brings us to God’s goal for all life, the New Covenant in Jesus.
The promise of the New Covenant is transformation by the power of the indwelling Spirit. Change is the evidence of true grace working in our lives. The commands in the New Testament help diagnose where we are not interacting with true grace. Our responsibility to confess where the Word tells us we are falling short, where we are sinning. We must put our faith in the Spirit who lives within us; in our heart, mind and body. Then we must interact with the Spirit as He changes us from the inside out.
This is both the hope and Good News of the true New Covenant!
Question – My brother called me to tell me he was getting married today. I tried to show my support by telling him nothing would ever make me stop loving him but that marriage is a huge commitment and something he should be certain of before entering. While I gave my blessing I still have concern. He is 19 and has various issues surrounding him. I know we are to love people through all circumstances but I still worry even though I know the Lord does not worry about His creations. Was I wrong to show my support? He did not choose to have us present for fear of what we thought.
Answer – This a great question we all face in different ways throughout our lives with the people we love.
It’s always a difficult thing when people we love make choices that we believe are not good for them. If we didn’t love them we wouldn’t care. Because we do love them, we are concerned and we hurt for them because we know the odds are they may reap bad results from their choices.
To worry means we are not sure of the outcome and we are concerned it will be bad. God does not “worry” because He knows everyone’s outcome, but He is certainly “grieved” at our destructive choices…because He does know the bad outcome and the pain we bring upon ourselves.
It is true that God loves us no matter what we do, but because He loves us He cannot bless our bad choices…that would not be love at all. As a parent you will not stop loving your kids but you cannot bless their disobedience. If one hits the other because they are angry, runs into traffic or touches the hot stove, you can’t support or bless that and neither can the Lord.
But remember, if a person has not committed themselves to the Lord and been born again, they are not children of God and sadly, they are on their own. God has created all people but He is Father only to those who have chosen Him. And because He loves us He gives us the choice to be His child. He does not force His love on us because that would not be love but control and violation. He will lovingly deal with everyone through circumstances to give them the opportunity to call out to Him. And the Word says whoever calls on the name of the Lord shall be saved.
Of course, other people are not our kids so we have no right to force our choices upon them unless they want to know what we think…it’s the same with God. What do we mean and what do they think we mean when we say we “support” them in what the have chosen to do? We don’t really want to “support” bad choices because that means we agree with something that we actually think will really hurt them.
If someone is just telling us what they are going to do (or have done) but they are not asking for advice, then the best we can do is say, “I love you and I want your life to go well. If this is what you feel is right for you then I am praying that it all works out well for you.”
We don’t want be critical or rejecting (since they are not asking for our input) and we want to try and keep the door open for them to come to us if they see they have made a bad mistake. They may never choose to see it but we don’t want to become their enemies.
The prodigal son and his father are the perfect example. The son made up his mind to leave and the father didn’t fight him but let him go. But the father didn’t keep blessing or helping him either. When the son finally saw the bad choice he had made, he went home and the father fully received him. Since the father was very wealthy, he no doubt heard regular news about how badly the son was doing but he did not go get him or send money to him or talk bad about him to his neighbors. He loved him by waiting for him to see his error and turn around.
So keep praying for you brother, stay kind to him and stay quiet about his choices unless he asks. If it all goes badly, he may turn to you for advice since you have kept the relationship intact. Then you can point Him to the Lord for His help.
The amazing promise of Biblical grace is not behavior modification but true transformation. In fact, the Bible makes it clear that we must fight against “conforming” to the image of this world but we must passionately pursue “being transformed” by the work of the Spirit into the image of Christ. So before we examine the process, let me give you the punch line:
Conforming is something negative I do.
Transforming must be done to me!
The Scripture uses two different words to describe what we do (conform) and what the Spirit does to us (transform). 1 Peter 1:14 warns us to “not be conformed to the former lusts which were yours in your ignorance”. Paul says the same thing in Rom. 12:2, “Do not be conformed to this world”. In each of these verses, the word used for “conform” means to “fashion yourself”. It means to outwardly imitate or mold yourself to the behavior we see in the world. This is something we often do and it is destructive.
But the promise of true grace is that the Spirit will do something to us that will change the very essence of who and what we are. We don’t stop conforming to the world because we decide to stop conforming, but because we are being changed at the very core of who we are. The Bible refers to this as “transformation”. The Greek word used for this “transformation” literally means “metamorphose“.
Every grade school student comes to understand the process of metamorphosis by watching a tadpole change into a frog or seeing a caterpillar spin a cocoon and come out a butterfly. This is not behavior modification; this is true transformation.
Getting my dog to stay in the yard by shocking him every time he steps over an invisible line, now that’s behavior modification. And it can save a dog’s life. But a caterpillar into a butterfly? That is true transformation. The very essence and character of the being has been changed. It no longer looks the same; it no longer acts the same; it no longer is the same; it has been transformed. Some amazing chemical process which I cannot understand has been occurring inside that causes a complete change on the outside. This is metamorphosis; change on the inside that, over time, shows up on the outside.
Metamorphosis (transformation) is the promise of true grace; an on-going interaction between us and the Holy Spirit that causes miraculous change in the very essence of who we are, what we are, how we think and how we behave. There is instantaneous change; being born again of incorruptible seed, freely reconciled to God and made to be children of the Father. And there is progressive change; being increasingly sanctified and growing into the image of His Son. This progressive change is the miraculous process of “spiritual tadpoles becoming Christ-like frogs”.
The New Testament makes it clear that this type of life does not happen automatically simply because we “believe in Jesus”. It becomes a reality only to the extent that we:
1) Believe that His plan is to actually live through us,
2) Humble ourselves and stop pretending we can do it, and;
3) Interact with the true transformer, the Holy Spirit.
For a larger discussion of this true “Good News” order Mark’s book, God’s Brilliant Plan: Searching for the Easy and Light Life Jesus Promised.
I fall short of my expectations in many ways. But one thing I have learned is how to regularly enter into, and enjoy, the presence of God. I do regularly encounter God by the Spirit. I can’t always encounter Him exactly when I want or exactly how I would like; and I certainly can’t get Him to do all the things I would prefer He do at the time I would prefer He do them…but I am regularly able to truly enter in and deeply enjoy His presence.
It’s certainly not because I am so special or so wonderful, but it is because I have learned something important about the role of the Holy Spirit. One of the primary jobs of the Spirit is to “pour the love of God” into the hearts of people who draw near to Him. I have come to expect Him to do that job on a regular basis, and I position myself through worship so He can regularly pour the Father’s love into me.
Paul tells us the most important foundation we must have for our lives is to be rooted and grounded in the revelation of God’s unconditional love for us.
“May your roots go down deep into the soil of God’s marvelous love. And may you have the power to understand, as all God’s people should, how wide, how long, how high, and how deep His love really is.” (Eph. 3:17-19 NLT)
Do yourself a huge favor: Enter in and enjoy His presence often...at home, in the car, when you exercise, when you get up, when you lay down…present yourself to Him and enjoy His love for you!
Usama bin Laden is dead; Republicans and democrats are fighting over the debt limit.
So how should a Christian react to civil government?
This is a very important question in our current political, religious climate. I believe the New Testament clearly gives us answers from a time when the government the early believers lived under, Rome, was extremely hostile to them.
Firstly – The New Testament contains no teaching about how a civil government should conduct itself.
Jesus and the apostles taught about the Kingdom of God. The New Covenant Kingdom of God cannot be governed by any man made laws because the King lives and rules within the heart of each “citizen” and there is no land or territory to rule over outside of the human heart. One day the whole earth will be His literal territory and He will literally rule it. But in this present age, we cannot apply any of the teachings of Jesus to how a civil government should act.
Are there right principles in the New Testament that would be good for all people to live by? Yes, but the principles only truly work when the individual hearts are ruled by the King. If you doubt that, just look at how often the Body of Christ is broken, fighting and divided against itself because we do not allow the King to rule within us now. The apostles only address civil government by saying, “Honor the king, Honor Caesar, honor all men with gentleness and respect”. And though they were often mistreated, persecuted and many were “legally” killed, they trusted God to take care of them under any form of earthly, civil government.
Secondly – How we should act as citizens living under any earthly government is clear- “Render to Caesar what is due him”.
In saying this, Jesus saw there was a clear difference in civil governments and the internal Kingdom of God, which is designed to flourish under any type of civil government.
As I travel around the world training leaders in Asia, Africa and South America, I am constantly reminded that most of the world (and most of God’s people) lives under hostile, corrupt governments. Or at the very least, these governments are inapt and self-serving. But the Kingdom of God and its citizens are equipped to flourish under any form of civil government.
Paul tells us in Rom 13:1-7- “Obey the government, for God is the one who put it there. All governments have been placed in power by God. So those who refuse to obey the laws of the land are refusing to obey God, and punishment will follow. For the authorities do not frighten people who are doing right, but they frighten those who do wrong. So do what they say, and you will get along well. The authorities are sent by God to help you. But if you are doing something wrong, of course you should be afraid, for you will be punished. The authorities are established by God for that very purpose, to punish those who do wrong. So you must obey the government for two reasons: to keep from being punished and to keep a clear conscience. Pay your taxes, too, for these same reasons. For government workers need to be paid so they can keep on doing the work God intended them to do. Give to everyone what you owe them: Pay your taxes and import duties, and give respect and honor to all to whom it is due.” NLT
Paul understood the role of civil government and how a citizen of the Kingdom of God should relate to it.
He exercised his lawful right as a free born Roman citizen to appeal to Caesar when he was beaten unlawfully; he did not turn the other cheek. Clearly, he knew of Jesus’ teaching but had a very different interpretation of it then we seem to have today.
Some have taught that Paul was wrong to object to his unlawful beating and that is why he was imprisoned out of the will of God and his ministry cut short. That is a very poor, and dangerous, reading of the Scripture. Paul made it clear over and over that his chains were the work of God’s will and that they were for the “furtherance of the gospel”. And he never felt God let him down by not getting his freedom.
Nor did he ever pray that God would curse Nero for jailing him. He certainly could have cursed Nero or called for the judgment of God against this mentally deranged, demon-possessed Caesar who despised believers and delighted in finding new ways to make them suffer (lions come to mind here). In Acts 13, one leader who withstood him was smitten with blindness!
Rather, he gave thanks for every situation because knew that God was the ultimate authority who was in complete control of his destiny.
Thirdly – When the law went against clearly defined instructions from God, the apostles disobeyed the law, obeyed God…AND… took the painful, and sometimes deadly, consequences without cursings or threats. They trusted God in all situations without anger or revenge.
Jesus did use His power and stopped the Pharisees from hurting Him or killing Him on several occasions because it was “not yet His time”. When it was the Father’s time, He surrendered His life and allowed them the ultimate power, without anger or revenge, but instead He said, “Father, forgive them”. But this was for what they did to Him, in God’s timing, not what they did to others, wrongfully. He had choice words for the rulers when they took advantage of others, wrongfully.
The Old Testament teachings gave instruction on how a civil government should rule itself because Israel was an actual earthly government with a geographical area and borders to rule. Although we must remember that God’s desire was to be their King, He did bless them when the demanded a king and allowed them to reap some bad things from their choice. However, He led them to have an army and defend themselves. He led them to make and keep agreements with other “pagan” nations. Even when it came to war. They were a literal earthly nation. The Kingdom of God is not a literal earthly nation.
Lastly – As citizens we have legal civil rights but we must exercise them with humility of heart and love for all, knowing we are “pilgrims and strangers” on this earth.
And we must not mistakenly try to apply the values of the New Covenant to any literal nation. America is not now nor has it ever been a “Christian nation”. There is no such thing. It is a nation that has had much Christian influence and I am deeply grateful to have been born here. But there is no such thing as a Christian nation. When He returns He will restore paradise on earth and it will be a “Christian universe” because He will be all in all and God over all!!! I grieve over the unholy mixture of politics and Christianity when it seeks to do what only He can do at His return. At the same time, I do believe that humanly righteous, just values exalt any nation.
I believe abortion is wrong for any nation because it devalues life and is destructive to any people, regardless of whether they believe the Bible or not. I was brokenhearted when the abortion doctor was murdered under the horrible guise that the killer was “doing God’s will”. If that were true, the first century would have been awash with Christians killing lots of people who treated them horribly. The apostle Paul would have continued his role as a killer. It would been just been against the Romans instead of the Christians he killed before his conversion.
I believe capital punishment is humanly just, not because it is “Christian”, but because civil nations must protect their people in the best way humans can do that. Though human justice will always be far less than perfect, in Old Testament Israel, it was based on just the testimony of two or three people. We have far better ways to ascertain the truth about a crime today. Until the Kingdom fully comes and divine righteousness reigns, civil governments must strive to do the best humans can do. I have twice been the foreman on juries and took my role as a citizen very seriously, knowing we could not do our job perfectly, but we had to do it, nonetheless.
I was greatly relieved when I heard Bin Laden was dead. I didn’t “rejoice” that a human being was dead but I was glad that human justice came to one who had years of opportunity to respond to the call of God on his heart, rejected it, and caused such horrible injustice to so many around the world.
How do I know that he had ample opportunity to respond to the call of God? Because Romans 1 says all of creation declares the reality of the one true God and anyone who responds to the message of God’s reality in creation will find God responding to him with greater revelation of Himself. And God has never been restricted to human help in revealing Himself to any who sought Him, thank God! And God is the one who is ultimately in control of life and death.
Mark Drake is an internationally known author, teacher and leader. He focuses on equipping leaders around the world in New Covenant Grace.