So…What Happened?

This is a continuation of the post, Soon. In summary, the apostles all seemed to believe, based on their letters, that Jesus was returning soon, within their generation, and some of them would live to see it. This notion, as alluded to from the former post, seemed to have been instilled in them by Jesus. So, what actually happened?
There’s three ways to look at this. The first unlikely scenario is that both Jesus and the apostles were wrong. I don’t think this needs much refutation to Christians.
A second view is that they meant something else. However, the soon language is so prevalent throughout the New Testament and Jesus’ second coming seems to be alluded to, if not outright stated, in almost every letter of all the apostles, that this scenario also seems heavily unlikely.
The third view is that both Jesus and the apostles were right and something significant and literally world altering happened in the 1st century after Jesus’ ascension.
If we argue for the first view, then atheist have every right to disregard scripture. If Jesus and the apostles were wrong about one thing, how much else were they wrong about?
If we argue for the second view, then we can make scripture say anything we want by twisting the wording to our own desires. Sadly, this happens a lot in modern Christianity.
If we take the third view, and consider that something apocalyptic happened in the first century, then it better aligns with the rest of scripture.
We can skew the Bible to mean anything, but if we do that, then we in turn invalidate the Word. If we take it for what it says, relevant to the people it was written to (most of it wasn’t about us today), then we can begin to come to a better understanding of what the Bible is for and what relevance and application it actually does have in our lives today. This can be a far greater and more beautiful meaning than we ever hoped to dream by our current views.
A note, I don’t tend to write on Saturdays unless God lays something on my heart that I just can’t shake. This topic goes far deeper and I encourage research by anyone viewing this. Just what was going on in the 1st century that would have made everyone believe that Jesus was returning very soon? What type of end of the world, or age, event took place? The answers to these questions may be astounding when uncovered.
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Is any part of the Old Testament law still in effect?

There seems to be two major views of this.
1. Part of the Old Covenant is still in effect such as the Ten Commandments.
2. None of the Old Covenant is still in effect as it has been replaced with the New, better Covenant.
So which is it? What does the Bible say?
One of the most popular scriptures to both prove and refute the Old Covenant being still in effect is Matt 5:17. There are many interesting things going on in this and surrounding passages. Many only state part of this scripture as evidence that the Old Covenant, at least in part, is still in effect. “Don’t think that I came to destroy the law…” This misses the point however. We have to take all of the passage into consideration to understand what Jesus was saying.
At the end of that verse, Jesus states that he has come to fulfill the law and the prophets. Further, he goes on to state that nothing will pass from the law until all things are accomplished and that heaven and earth would pass away first (Matt 5:18). Even stranger, he goes on to say that the listeners there had to exceed the Pharisees’ righteousness (who were the strictest observers) and that even the least command was still in effect (Matt 5:19-20). From the rest of this scripture, it seems like both of the original assertions are incorrect!
So, we have to look at the timing of this. Just as the Old Covenant was established by blood (Heb 9:18), so was the New by Jesus’ (Matt 26:28). In Matt 5, Jesus was still referring to the Old Covenant because it was still in effect. It seems he was stating that no matter how strictly the old law was observed, it could never make us perfect based on our inability to fulfill it. Only Jesus could.
This fulfillment was three-fold:
1. He lived (fulfilled) the Old Covenant perfectly (Matt 5:17 as above).
2. He accepted the curse on himself for all people who weren’t able to live the Old Covenant (Gal 3:13Deut 28:15-68).
3. He gave us the blessings that he earned by living the Old Covenant perfectly (Gal 3:14Deut 28:1-15).
Once Jesus fulfilled the Old Covenant, he set it aside (Col 2:14Heb 7:18).
To these points, most might agree. However, we still have a whole lot of mixing of the Old and New when the Old has been permanently set aside. Even the very architecture of the Old was removed in 70AD (as alluded to all throughout the New Testament in passages such as Matt 24 and Heb 8:13). The law was but a shadow (Heb 10:1). The New Covenant is so much better and doesn’t need those shadows anymore!
This is also when “heaven and earth” passed away. In the Old Testament, this was a reference to Israel (such as Isaiah 1:2 ). The end of the Jewish world, or age, was often referred to (examples: Matt 12:32, Matt 28:20, Heb 9:26). Likewise, I believe this complete removal of the Old Covenant system in 70AD to be what Jesus was referencing here by the passing away of heaven and earth. This could go much deeper when delving into the meaning of the new heavens and earth, but that strays outside the scope here and deserves at least a post on its’ own.
But isn’t it okay to uphold things such as the Ten Commandments? The law was good, yes, but we as humans were unable to uphold it. If we attempt to enforce any of the old law onto ourselves or others, we place ourselves under the curse of the law thereby insulting what Jesus has already done for us. This would insinuate that Jesus didn’t do enough, that he didn’t fulfill the law in our place, and there is something that we have to do to pick up his slack. This, in effect, denies the New Covenant and is an insult to the Spirit of Grace (Heb 10:29)!
But can’t we enforce the Ten Commandments on other “ungodly” people? I would say no. First, because the new law is written on their hearts and in their minds (Heb 10:16). We all know God (Heb 8:11). Secondly, we can’t mix the old and the new (Matt 9:16-17) for reasons already stated. If we insist that God’s law isn’t written on everyone’s hearts and minds, we violate scripture. If we concede that it is, then we can certainly show people Jesus’ love through our lives, but we must trust him to work in theirs. After all, we tend to readily admit that we have no understanding of his ways and plans. Therefore, we have no understanding of how he may be working in the lives and through the situations of people we only condemn by the external circumstances we can see. This is where we pray for them and for us to just be able to love them through it.
So, if everyone already knows God and doesn’t need to be taught about him, as he states through Jeremiah, what about the Great Commission? This is simply spreading the good news of the New Covenant so others can live by the Holy Spirit and not an external set of rules or human leadership. We are free from the curse of the old law!
The covenants, old and new, can be though of as contracts. But, when did we except them, and when did Israel? Israel confirmed their acceptance of the contract three times (Exodus 19:824:3, 7), but when did we accept the New Covenant? If I may continue with the contract analogy, Israel consigned themselves to be responsible for “purchasing” their salvation by obeying the terms of the contract. However, Jesus paid the old and new contracts in full. The old contract was paid off, thereby being set aside though we get all the benefits. The new contract, with even better promises (Heb 8:6), was given to us with all the requirements already paid in full (Heb 7:22). All we have to do is accept it. It would be like if someone bought us a new car and hauled the old clunker away. All we have to do is accept and it’s ours. (Even the insurance, taxes, and tags are paid, with free gas for life!) No other requirements are necessary because the Holy Spirit directs us from there (Romans 2:14-15). Would we continue to insist that we keep our old clunker deathtrap that requires constant maintenance and threatens to kill us? Or would we just accept the new car with all the additional features and none of the hassle? The old clunker was good while it lasted, but it’s time to be placed in the compactor!
Forcing old laws onto others tends to drive them away, and rightly so, as that covenant has been removed!
This is the beauty of the New Covenant. Why would we try to implement the curses of the Old Covenant on ourselves and others especially knowing that no one has the ability to uphold it?

Are we really showing Christ to others?

How is the world seeing us as Christians?
Are we showing them the love of Jesus or are we loading them down with heavy burdens that we refuse to help them carry? (Matt 23:4)
Are we showing them into the Kingdom or are we insisting they have to conform to our standard before they’re allowed to enter? (Matt 23:14)
We readily defend and extend grace to professed Christians when their secret sins are exposed. However, we refuse to extend the same grace to those that won’t conform to the god we’ve made to resemble our politics, institutional obligations, self-righteousness, and manipulations. I can’t really blame those who don’t believe in that type of god. In a way, I’m glad they don’t because it would only obligate them to a system that stands in the way of the true and living God.
It’s so tiring to hear the same arguments that have been stitched together from out-of-context passages to bind others to an agenda rather than set them free to live a full life with Jesus in the Kingdom. Attempting to control someone by guilt, fear, and/or manipulation is NOT what Jesus is about.
Love wins a person’s heart and changes them from the inside. Guilt, fear, and manipulation only lead to a hateful form of religion. Justifying hatred for those “others” from the safe confines of a building does nothing for our call to be the salt and light of the world. It only makes us look like bigots.
I don’t write this out of anger. I write out of severe disappointment at the embarrassment that those calling themselves Christians continue to perpetuate on a hurting world.
This has gone on far too long. I’m deeply sorry if your finances are tied to ministry. I’m truly sorry if you feel you have to play the game in order to keep your livelihood. I know it’s hard and scary to admit fault and trust in God, I mean really trust in God and not just say it. I know it’s hard to watch as congregation attendance dwindles. It’s not an easy transition, but it’s a needed one for people to connect directly to Jesus without the filters that tell them they can’t.
If the institutions die, I say good riddance. I know that’s harsh, but anything that stands in the way of a direct relationship with Jesus needs to be removed. There is no excuse to stand in the way. Either trust Jesus with people’s salvation or don’t call yourself a Christian. It’s insulting.
Yes, I know that no one is perfect, but that’s not a viable excuse to stagnate and spew condemnation on others to try to appear more righteous. That’s not how salvation works and the rest of the world sees right through those ill-conceived attempts at religious superiority.
I begin to see why Jesus was often frustrated with the religious types and yes, I use to be one too.
Pray that Jesus will open your eyes and change your heart so that you can start reaching out in love instead of throwing condemnation from a distance on those you refuse to engage.
If you’re going to call yourself a Christian then suck it up and start living like Jesus. Otherwise, everyone will see right through the facade and know who your real father is (John 8:47).
It’s depressing to see a hurting world and Christianity being so obstinate and arrogant, pouring gasoline of hatred onto the fire. We could have been so much more by now, but Christians not following Christ keep tripping over their own self-righteousness.
Let’s become more than that. Let’s truly follow Jesus. Let’s no longer muck around in doctrinal quagmires that alienate us from loving others. Let’s move forward as the human race into the Kingdom that Jesus established for us through much pain and sacrifice. Let’s be THE Church!

Soon

As I mentioned in my last post, I wanted to more fully address to whom and for what reason the New Testament prophecies were written. Many today live under the assumption that they were written to, and about, us. Jesus and the apostles, however, use a lot of “soon” language in reference to the end times (aka the end of the age). Have you ever wondered why such wording was used, yet today we insist it hasn’t happened yet?
First, there has been much research done and a general acceptance that most of the Old Testament prophecies have already been fulfilled. The problem is more in the New Testament prophecies.
In this particular post, I wanted to focus more on the timeline in which these prophecies were to take place—that is, soon.
For brevity’s sake, I will only list some of the more appropriate and direct verses:
Matthew 16:27-28
Matthew 24:1-3, 34
Revelation 1:13:1122:7, 12, 20
These verses appear to be fairly straight forward if we let them speak for themselves. It’s when an external meaning is attempted to be retrofitted that they become confusing and lose their original intent.
In addition to the above, the apostles also taught this soon theology in regards to these same prophecies.
So what’s the point of bringing up this timing issue? Either the events have already happened like Jesus said they would, and the apostles reiterated, or we have to do theological gymnastics to justify our stance that these things haven’t taken place yet.
One of the verses commonly used to circumvent the “soon” terminology is 2 Peter 3:8. This verse is referencing God’s patient in bringing judgment on Israel, but now that Jesus had come, delivering a timetable (that generation), the judgment would commence, and the new age would be fully substantiated, very soon.
A second verse like this is when Jesus states that no one knew the day or time, but only Father did (Matt 24:36). How could Jesus state “soon” if he didn’t know? The question is answered from the other verses (above). Jesus knew it would be within that generation and that some standing there would in no way taste of death until they saw it. The day and hour, however, weren’t specified.
Another view is that prophecy can mean multiple things, having a double or triple meaning and fulfillment. However, this isn’t how prophecy worked in the Old Testament, and isn’t how it works in the Bible all together. A prophetic passage always related directly to the specified event or people. In addition, if a passage can have multiple meanings, we can manipulate scripture to mean whatever we want. If scripture can have any meaning, then it has no meaning at all. I believe this to be also communicated in Rev 22:18-19 as adding to or taking away from what was originally intended to be heard by those the passages are written directly to. Revelation, for example, is written to the seven churches in Asia Minor. Why would Jesus give assurances to these churches that wasn’t relevant to their lives? Why would the apostles give the same kind of false hope to the recipients of their epistles?
Yet another view is that Jesus and the apostles wanted everyone to be ever vigilant throughout all of human history. This is a bit of a stretch as it would give false hope of deliverance from oppression to those that the messages of “soon” were delivered.  This was a large part of the prophecy—that the extreme persecution would come to an end, and soon. The call was to be on the lookout for “The Great and Terrible Day of the Lord.” Great for those being delivered from oppression, terrible for those doing the oppressing. The idea, I believe, was for the sheep not to be caught up with the goats (Matt 25:32—this was part of the same prophecy), but instead, flee from Judea when they saw the signs of the judgment coming lest they be caught in the tribulation also.
So this is my view of the “soon” terminology used. Overall, the topic of New Testament prophecy goes much deeper, but I only wanted to point out how the timetable was applied relevant to those that were originally receiving these messages. I may continue deeper into this as God prompts.
One last question for thought—If that Day was to be within a generation, and some of those that heard the prophecy would live to see its fulfillment, when did it actually happen?

Understanding the Bible

From as early as I can remember, I’ve had questions. This goes all the way back to sitting in a pew when I was probably five and wondering why God was so mean. I was taught, like most seem to be, to bury these questions and just believe what I was being told. There was a lot that I did believe, but some major things that didn’t quite make any sense. For the past 17 months, I’ve been away from institutional Christianity to try to figure out just what I believe and what the Bible actually says. Even before that, I was trying to piece disjointed concepts together into something that would make sense. For me, being away has removed a lot of the external blockage to allow this process to work much faster.
So, why am I describing this?
I desire first and foremost to have a real relationship with Father, through Jesus, by the Holy Spirit. That is my primary goal (Matt 22:37-38). Secondly, I want to be able to extend that relationship to others (Matt 22:39). As of now, I’m still primarily on step one. Seventeen months should have been plenty, but God is still revealing things to me. Sometimes it takes days or weeks to process, and in that time, other questions stop. Once I can somewhat process the new epiphany, another question is presented, and I begin another round of Bible research and prayer to find out why God had the Bible commissioned to say what it does, in the manner it does. This has been a major driving force is studying the Bible along with wanting to know Father’s heart more intimately. I firmly believe that everything therein is what God wants us to know, not to be followed as a rule book necessarily, but to discover the story he has unfolded.
Over the past 17 months, and even a little before that, my outlook on the entirety of the Bible has drastically changed. Some may call it blasphemy or heresy, but I’m no longer affected by such attempts at manipulation and guilt as I once was. For me, I have to approach the Bible with the attitude of seeing what God wants to say and letting the words therein first speak directly to the situations they were addressing. I believe this is the most significant step in honest exegesis, primarily and especially of prophecy. Often we try to retrofit a prophetic meaning to our current day and situation while completely ignoring, and often annulling, the original purpose of the passage. Yes, a passage might have some similarities to our current world, but we must first understand why the words were directed to the people they were originally directed to before we try to form doctrines from scripture that wasn’t written about us.
So what’s so wrong with us applying the full meaning to ourselves today? Couldn’t passages have double, triple, etc…meanings?
Some scripture may have this meaning. The primary problem comes about when viewing prophecy in this manner. We can make it out to say whatever we want it to say for whatever our goal in doing so would be. Any current event that has a resemblance is instantly touted as a message that “the sky is falling!” This becomes the true danger in trying to force a meaning on scripture that wasn’t its original intent—manipulation through misappropriated scriptural fear tactics.
Could there be similarities to Biblical events in today’s world? Absolutely, as there has been when history repeats itself. If anything, this may be a large part of the lesson of the Bible—don’t do it like they did!
For example, the Jewish nation insisted they were right(eous) in their ways of following God while denouncing anyone who wasn’t conforming to their expectations. Many rejected Jesus’ teachings because of this. Likewise, today Christianity is insistent in its righteousness while condemning others who won’t conform. Meanwhile, this approach largely ignores Jesus’ command to love our enemies. The love that is shown is a backhand, “love the sinner, hate the sin”, methodology that only alienates those same people by assigning a label (sinner) without entering into a relationship with them. Meanwhile, internal sins are rationalized and comparative righteousness is upheld. “I’m better than those sinners” is often the attitude that develops (Luke 18:11). Stubbornness ensues and we see a rejection of the religious establishments as blame is shifted to anywhere else but us. All of this happened with Israel but that is only a similarity. I wouldn’t go so far as to assume anything else past that point. Yet, we end up assigning prophetic condemnation on the rest of the world, just as they did, when it was the nation of Israel to whom the punishment fell, in part because they weren’t being the salt and light they were called to be. We repeat the same mistakes yet blame others for the results.
I don’t want to get ahead of myself here as this post is getting long, and I’m getting into another subject—that is, who were the prophecies written to and about? God willing, I will touch on this in my next post.

Currently Reading: The Parousia

The Parousia was published by James Stuart Russell in 1878. I expected it to be a hard read, filled with a lot of outdated language, but it has been remarkably easy to understand the wording and enjoyable so far. Digesting the implications are another story entirely, however. The book is somewhere close to 600 pages and can be found online for free in PDF format. It’s helping a lot in understanding the often confusing passages Jesus spoke. The author presents the scriptures in a very straightforward manner and also expresses why alternate, more complex and confusing views, can be misguiding to say the least. I’m only about 10% in, but would highly recommend this book to anyone who’s still wondering just what in the world Jesus and the apostles were talking about.

What does the word “Punishment” mean in the Bible?

I’m by no means a Greek scholar, but with the inception of the internet, we can find reputable sources to locate and contemplate concordance definitions of what was meant in the original language in a matter of moments.
One such word I’ve felt drawn to know more of the meaning behind is: punishment.
Biblehub has concordance extracts conveniently located on one page where multiple viewpoints can be assessed.
Looking up “punishment” yielded the following results (extracted to simplify):

Englishman’s Concordance
2 occurrences: Matt 25:46 and 1 John 4:18
Strong’s Concordance
kolasis: correction
Original Word: κόλασις
HELPS Word-studies
Cognate: 2851 kólasis (from kolaphos, “a buffeting, a blow”) – properly, punishment that “fits” (matches) the one punished (R. Trench)
NAS Exhaustive Concordance
Word Origin:from kolazó
Definition: correction
Thayer’s Greek Lexicon
STRONGS NT 2851: κόλασις
the noted definition of Aristotle, which distinguishes κόλασις (kólasis) from τιμωρία (timóriaas that which (is disciplinary and) has reference to him who suffers, while the latter (is penal and) has reference to the satisfaction of him who inflicts
To state it simply, the Greek word for punishment (kólasis) applied as a penalty that fits the crime, a correction, and is for the benefit of the one being punished, not the one doing the punishing. Even in the Old Testament, the punishment fit the crime (i.e. eye for an eye). In other words, if this corrective punishment is for God’s benefit, τιμωρία (timória) would have been used. What sense would it make to have a corrective punishment if the person is never given the opportunity afterwards to live out the correction?
(Note: The word timória is used in Hebrews 10:29 but in a different fashion which would be a different topic for discussion. In short, that passage is directed towards Israel’s rejection of Jesus and the coming destruction via the Romans in 70AD in my opinion. It is speaking of punishment by death in this life, but not a “timória” punishment in the afterlife.)
So this brings up another question, what’s the deal with the word eternal? This is probably where most of the confusion comes in and could be a post or three of its own. It’s easy to understand a corrective punishment, but an everlasting correction is confusing depending on how it’s presented. It can be presented as burning forever in hell or as a corrective and permanent burning away of sinfulness.
The Greek word for eternal, according to the references on Biblehub are:
Strong’s Concordance
Original Word: αἰώνιος
aiónios: agelong, eternal
HELPS Word-studies
Cognate: 166 aiṓnios – properly, “age-like” (“like-an-age”), i.e. an “age-characteristic” (the quality describing a particular age; (figuratively) the unique quality (reality) of God’s life at work in the believer.
NAS Exhaustive Concordance
Word Origin: from aión
To put it in as simplified of a manner as possible, the root word aion means “age” and aionios means age-like. This type of age isn’t defined except in what this adjective modifies. Applied to God it means eternal, but nothing else is eternal unless in God (i.e. eternal life, life that is only eternal inside of God). Applied to punishment, it takes on more of the meaning of “age-of” but not eternal. The corrective punishment will take as long as it takes, relevant to what is being corrected.
To sum up, “eternal punishment” in Matt 25:46, according to the original Greek, would mean more of an age of corrective action for the benefit of that person—but not eternal torment to appease God.

The Widening Gap

Lately, I’ve seen many articles on the movement away from the traditional congregations. Leadership in these institutions is attempting many ventures to win back members, but to little or no avail.
Why?
Surely there are those who don’t believe in God at all. As I’ve stated before, I can’t really blame them because we as Christians haven’t truly shown that he is love. As Christians, the burden of proof through love lies on us here, not on them to disprove God. Are we showing his love to the rest of the world, or are we showing God as a long list of rules, obligations, condemnations, and performances. Those that don’t see Jesus’ love in us tend to reject our beliefs outright.
Others have left to seek a real relationship with Jesus. They’ve tasted that God is truly good (1 Peter 2:3, Psalms 34:8), not just because we say so, but because of his infinite love for us, his children, created by his own hand. Once they’ve fallen so deeply in love with Jesus, it is very hard to tone it down enough to stuff themselves back into a religious box. In this case, they are relegated by the religious into the same group as the “unbelievers.” In actuality, this group is similar in that they can no longer believe the misconceptions presented, unintentional as they may be, about our loving and gracious Father. As they draw closer to Jesus, they become more vocal about their passion for him, not caring about their own life anymore but instead speaking the truth as he lays it on their hearts. This often alienates them and gives religious leaders targets to claim heresy against. Regardless of their love and passion for Jesus, they are made to be examples of apostasy and accursed. However, Jesus said it would be so for those who love him (Matt 5:10-12, Matt 10:25).
Therefore, the gap widens. It seems falling deeper in love with Jesus means growing away from that type of religious society. Those that continue to exist within the institutions dig their heels in and struggle to find some type of solutions to the decline, ignoring those pointing to Jesus’ love as the way to relate to others.
Some go with more flashy services to appeal to the young.
Some go “back to the basics,” which are often rooted in misconceptions but appeal to the nostalgia of the older generation.
Some go with popular opinion—if my sermon gets “amens” of approval, then I’ll use those type messages to appeal to my congregational base.
Some spin the situation to claim a sort of “cleansing” of Christianity, claiming those leaving were never really Christians to begin with. Oh the lovely judgment, guilt, and manipulation tactics that Jesus seemed to dislike so much.
Some beg and plead for one more chance, though no movement towards a more loving expression of Jesus has occurred. It’s like the abusive spouse who repeatedly begs a mate to return, claiming some change has happened, but eventually regressing back to the same patterns as before as the external performance gives way to the internal corruption.
Some apply misdirection techniques to push the blame to anything else—politics, mega-churches, secularism, millennials, etc…instead of looking at whether their love relationship with Jesus is evident to others.
Some claim that others shouldn’t be judgmental and insist that they are just human, yet no spiritual growth takes place (Hebrews 5:12-14, 1 Cor 3:1-2). It’s perfectly fine to be human and fallible, but spiritual stagnation in favor of man-made agendas is often the cause. Those that leave are seeking a deeper relationship with God and not just a facade of religion.
Some press obligation even harder, demanding that those who remain are to give even more to the institution, promising rewards from God in return for such “faithfulness.”
Some use a combination of all of the above, creating an overbearing machination that eventually collapses into itself because of the financial and physical pressures involved in the production.
So what’s the solution? To me, as hard as it may be to watch those hurting that have tied their lives into institutions, I have to step back and let God’s plan take its course. It is a self-inflicted wound to continue to insist that religious performance and rituals are the way to Father’s heart instead of a real love relationship with Jesus. That relationship reaches far beyond the confines of the Sunday morning institution, deep into the world of hurting people.
On a similar note, the temple wasn’t just a worship center, it was the earthly replica of the temple in heaven (Hebrews 8:5), yet God still allowed it to be destroyed as the Jewish religion had become obstinate. If God allowed his own earthly house to be destroyed permanently in 70AD, what makes us think he will allow the institutional church to survive if it isn’t truly aligned with his will, regardless of the spin, rhetoric, and claims of righteousness that are presented? The Jewish religion made the same claims and defiantly stood the same ground though Jesus gave them implicit warnings on the coming destruction at the hands of the Romans (Matt 24).
Still, we can deny everything and close our eyes tight, cover our ears and hum a little ditty. We can stand defiantly in defense of our religion, but it may fall into obsolescence just as the Jewish temple system did. Attaching God’s name to our institutions doesn’t make them holy. Talking about and knowing things about Jesus only makes us stalkers and not followers. The proof of his love and being THE church is in living out our life in a relationship with him that the rest of the world starts to see as we mature spiritually. This love relationship doesn’t seem to be found in man-made religious methodologies though.

Are you really sure?

This is one of those questions that use to make me afraid. It ranks right up there with, “If you were to die tonight…” When asked, I was never really sure. This was both a good thing and a bad thing though.
It was bad in the fact that guilt was used as a manipulation. Have you checked all the right boxes? Are you sure there isn’t some addendum to a legal code that you’re missing? Have you given every cent you possibly can? Have you done, done, done? This was always presented as though we weren’t doing enough—that if we just did more, the world would get better.
The good thing about this was they were right. There is never enough that we can do to earn a relationship with Father. It’s through Jesus that it was earned. Truly accepting this and believing it allowed me to enter into a state of knowing that my everlasting life rests in Jesus (Matt 11:28-30). Doing it by an ever-increasing list of rules never gave me such assurance—that nothing can separate us from that relationship (Romans 8:38-39).
Are we really resting in the knowledge that Jesus has finished the planned work of redemption?
Are we allowing ourselves to be dragged into doubt where we’re never quite sure of where we stand with God?
Are we preforming rituals just to “cover our bases” or are we working out of the overflowing love relationship with Jesus?
Have we accepted the deposit of the Holy Spirit which promises us the inheritance (Eph 1:13-14, 2 Cor 1:22)?
Are we really trusting in God’s plan?

There is NO fear in love! (1 John 4:18)

Huh?
But what about all those other times the Bible talks about “Fearing the Lord?”
Could there be two different meanings or perceptions of fear?
Is fear of God more of a reverent, mouth agape, awe of God’s majesty and beauty or is it a fetal-position-inducing scariness that causes us to be obligated instead of in love?
Can we ever truly love the Lord our God with all of our heart, soul, strength, and mind (Luke 10:27) if we are afraid of him?
We may attempt to serve him with everything we are, but is that being in love with him or a performance to attempt to gain acceptance by works and rituals?
If we’re honest with ourselves, is our “love” for God out of fear of punishment and obligation or truly because we are in an ever-joyful love relationship with him?
Is there really no fear in love?
Could we be confusing what fear is and presenting our beloved Father as a monstrosity?
Does our malformed view of God cause us to try to fear others into our man-made kingdoms and hate those that refuse to be manipulated by such a skewed view of him?
Can we blame non-believers for not wanting to believe in such a fear inducing being?
Personally, I could never truly love God with everything I am while simultaneously being terrified of him. As I fell more in love with him, I saw that my terror of him was ill-conceived (Isaiah 29:13). I do “fear” the Lord, but it is because I am amazed by the inconceivable depths of his love, power, grace, and mercy. It’s salvation I work out with reverent awe and excited trembling (Philippians 2:12).
Does obligation grow from a love relationship, or are we trying to obligate ourselves and others into loving God?
Is that the love relationship Jesus presented?
Could we be putting the cart before the horse by trying to “do” before we learn to love (1 Cor 13:1-3)?
Are we pursuing righteous because we are afraid of slipping up and falling away into hell, or are we so in love with God that we have an assurance that we will be with him always (Romans 8:38-392 Cor 1:22)?
Is our service to God out of fear of punishment (1 John 4:18), or because he loves us and that has caused us to fall in love with him?