Friday, February 12, 2010

The Jonah Factor

I find it amazing that many Christians, when presented with the idea that God might eventually save all of his creation, are shocked to think that God would be so "unfair" to them. "Do you mean to say that my ghastly neighbour or Hitler or Idi Amin might be in heaven with me? They don't deserve that."

Such Christians are like a modern day Jonah.

Jonah was so disappointed that God would forgive the citizens of Nineveh, whose behaviour had been so bad that God had previously threatened to destroy them, that he went away and sulked.  Because Nineveh repented, God forgave them and withdrew the threat of destruction, and Jonah became angry.

What is there in us that makes us want justice so badly that we have no room for mercy or grace? To become Christ-followers we must first receive God's grace ourselves, as Jonah did after first being so rebellious towards God.  Why are we then so determined that others not receive it also?

When people we know, and especially those we have been praying for, come to receive God's grace and forgiveness, we rejoice, even if their past behaviour has been horrendous. But the thought that someone who has not received God's grace and forgiveness within their few years on this planet might eventually be reconciled to God is unacceptable to us, especially if that person has been really bad.

Some Christians invent ways of accommodating a good future for unborn and very young children, or the mentally handicapped, or other special groups who have not come to faith in their lifetime, but to expect a "real" sinner to have a good future is just not right.

These Christians are certain that Jesus, who loved and accepted all-comers when he was here on earth, has now totally changed in character and has a very different attitude toward sinners when they move out of their earth-suits and into the next stage of their lives.

How do we explain that attitude?

Most Christians believe that "Jesus Christ is the same yesterday and today and into the ages to come", but are not prepared to extend that sameness to his love for sinners.  If he loved, welcomed and accepted sinners while he was on this planet, will he not continue to do that, regardless of where they are or he is?

Where do we get the idea that a person's location changes God's love for them or his desire for them to be saved?

I prefer to be growing toward a God-like attitude to the eventual salvation of all, than to revert to my old Jonah days.

Tuesday, February 2, 2010

Salvation Basics

HI Guys
I recently received the following question from a lady in Brisbane .......
"What does it mean to be saved? Is it possible for a Christian to lose his/her salvation and if so, can they return to God?"

Here is the gist of my first email back to her. Please give it a good look over and, although I have already sent this (and various subsequent emails), I think a series beginning this way might be a good start for the website..........

You will gets lots of answers to these questions, some quite different to each other. However, all of them will include being saved from the penalty of sin.

We are all sinners, people who have "missed the mark" as far as loving and respecting God is concerned, and living the way he wants us to.
Some people live by rules and strict disciplines and work hard at serving God in order to overcome this and to become acceptable to him. However, how do we ever know we have done enough to win his favour? God, being perfect, would have such high standards and be so hard to please.

Because God loves us so much, as any good Father loves the children he creates, he solved this problem for us.  He came to earth in human form (and was called Jesus) and paid the death penalty for our sin at Calvary just over 2000 years ago.

In this way, we are saved from the consequences of our sin - I am, you are, everyone is (although many churches would not agree with the "everyone", even though it is clearly stated in the Bible). So that is fixed and can't be "lost". It is something God has done and doesn't depend on us or our decisions in any way.

Although the consequences of our sin have been dealt with (and we have been saved from them) we do not have a relationship with God, our heavenly Father, unless we get to know him and begin to live in relationship with him. (It is now possible to live in relationship with a perfect God because our sin no longer stands as a barrier between us.)

As we get to know him and to discover his plans for us and what he has done (through Jesus) to make living in relation with him possible, we also discover the Holy Spirit. The Holy Spirit is the spirit of God who is available to live in us, giving us spiritual life, intimacy with him and the power to live life God's way.

When we invite God to live in us and empower us in this way, is clearly up to us. God will be a "co-tenant with us" in our bodies whenever we decide, and can be kicked out whenever we decide. In this way our relationship with him can be "lost", but also regained. There is a story Jesus tells about a wayward son (recorded in Luke 15) describing a lost then regained relationship between the son and his father, which gives us some insight into this possibility.

So there are two aspects of the question you have asked - being saved from the consequences of our sin and living in relationship with God. Some people use "being saved" to describe the total package, not just the first part as I have above. Needless to say, both parts of the package are needed if we are to fulfil God's purposes for us and for us to live in fellowship with God, both now and in the future.

Obviously I don't know anything about you, or where you are on your spiritual journey. But I do know that your sin has been paid for by Jesus on the cross, and that cannot change. I also know that God loves you and wants you to live in fellowship and harmony with him for the rest of your years on this planet, and beyond. When that relationship begins is up to you.

I have subsequently finished corresponding with this lady and have connected her with a good lady in Brisbane who is going to journey with her.

If we can use the bones of this to start a series on Salvation or some such on my proposed website, that would be good, but I need your fierce feedback to make sure that what I publish is Biblically sound.

Looking forward to reading your comments below.

Getting Started 2

Hi Guys
Have started thinking about how to proceed with the writing project and have some ideas to float with you.

Using this blog spot, I will write some ViewPoints and some Bible Studies for you to critique and comment upon. (Others might discover this blog also as it can turn up in Google searches once we have a few posts which have a common theme, so we might get some other helpful advice as well.)

If you also want to write some VP's and BS's we can easily arrange that by having you sign in as co-authors.

Once we are perfectly happy with a VP or BS, we will transfer it to is permament home on the website (still to be developed).  Eventually a collection of VP's on the same theme or BS's on the same theme can become chapters in a book that can be published on that theme.

All that sounds like a long journey, but whose concerned?  The journey will be the most enjoyable part for us - others can enjoy the destination.

How does that sound to you?  Barry