I spent a wasted morning today at the local courthouse. For the last 18 months I’ve been supporting a man who has been making some really bad choices in life, but who life has also dealt a really poor hand of cards. At some point you just need to sit with someone as the consequences of their actions catches up with them.

But this morning was wasted because he didn’t show. It’s madness really, since a warrant is now issued and the police go out and look for him and forcibly bring him to answer the charges. Ignoring the judge doesn’t make him go away, all it does is further signal our rebellion against his authority. Perhaps the gentleman I’m thinking about has mistaken previous adjournments for a general rule that things can be put off indefinitely? If so, then he’s in for a bit of a shock. He will get his day in court. Actually, it’s probably more accurate to say that the judge will get his day and our friend will be forced to be there.

The sad fact is that humanity operates on this basis. We ignore the truth of God’s judgment upon us, running from the law as though it will make it all go away. But it won’t. God always catches up with us. The warrant for the arrest is out. There will be a day in court.

How do we know this? Well because it says so clearly in the Bible

Heb. 9:27 Just as people are destined to die once, and after that to face judgment…

Acts 10: 42 [God] commanded us to preach to the people and to testify that [Jesus] is the one whom God appointed as judge of the living and the dead.

It’s inescapable. We can keep running but God will catch up. We might think it’s never going to happen but God is not in any hurry. He’ll get there…. (2Peter 3:4 et. seq.). Longfellow captures this wonderfully in his short poem…

Though the mills of God grind slowly;
Yet they grind exceeding small;
Though with patience He stands waiting,
With exactness grinds He all.

That exactness, the precision of the judge who sees all things, means everything will be dealt with. We just can’t escape. The warrant for the arrest is out and the trial and sentencing is unavoidable.

Except that it’s not. Because while the Scriptures warn us of the judgement of God, they have more to say.

Heb. 9:27-28 Just as people are destined to die once, and after that to face judgment, 28 so Christ was sacrificed once to take away the sins of many; and he will appear a second time, not to bear sin, but to bring salvation to those who are waiting for him.

Acts 10: 42 [God] commanded us to preach to the people and to testify that [Jesus] is the one whom God appointed as judge of the living and the dead. 43 All the prophets testify about him that everyone who believes in him receives forgiveness of sins through his name.”

The New Testament shows us these two things together – the impending judgement upon the return of Jesus and also the forgiveness available for those who turn to Him. So we speak of both together. To speak of judgement without the forgiveness available in Jesus is to make God a liar.

But to speak of the forgiveness that Jesus brings without the judgment that He saves us from is, frankly, nonsensical!

There’s no avoiding the day in court for the man I’m helping and, frankly, not much avoiding the sentence that will inevitably be handed down. He can’t avoid it and he can only run for so long.

But it’s different for us. The court date we all face is an even bigger deal. But there is a wonderful gracious escape. Don’t make the mistake of trying to run from it.

Comments

comments

19 comments on “Running from the Law? Facing our day in court.

  1. Hi David, I’m not sure about your piece. You make God seem like an ogre just waiting to judge and punish us all when we do something wrong and go off track. I can understand that someone in a childlike state (your ‘friend’ who lacks responsibility and thinks that he can run away from the law and God) may need a jolt (to be left to experience the consequences of his actions) in the hope that he will wake up to the reality of the foolishness of his choices.

    But the picture you paint of God, as an inexorable judge, keeping tabs on everything we do and hunting us down in a final judgement, is not very pleasant or believable. I don’t believe anything like that. I believe that the over-riding message of the bible is that God is Love. God loves and wants to save all people from their selfishness, weaknesses and backsliding but can only do so if we want to be saved.

    The ‘judgement’ of God is nothing like a legal judgement. Love cannot and does not judge in an intellectual, mathematical way. But it can and does create and maintain the ability and capacity for us to judge ourselves by what we choose to love and live.

    Choosing to love and do things God’s way/choosing to become a servant (or conduit for God’s love) results ultimately in happiness and blessings because it brings about and fosters everything good i.e. the common good/the good of all.

    Choosing to act in a contrary fashion (according to our temporal, and selfish, whims and fancies) brings about a delusive/self-serving ‘happiness’ that eventually (if not sooner) destroys the happiness of others and becomes a frustration and a curse.

    Our ‘judgment’ is the free choice formation of our own character – the habitual way that we choose to respond to life. Our character is formed by our loves (for good or evil). It is the real us which continues into the afterlife. What, over a lifetime of choices do we choose to rule our lives and become habitual – principles of goodness and truth (from God) or evil and falsity/delusion (from self/mankind)?

    • Interesting Ralph. What do you do with the many many times the Scriptures speak of God’s judgment and punishment in what is clearly a “courtroom” type context?

      • The “many, many times ….” David? I’m trying to think of just one. Isn’t the “courtroom type context” more an assumption because the topic is ‘judgment’?

        The one place that does stand out in my mind as being about judgment is the book of ‘Revelation’ which is basically a vision by the apostle John when on the Isle of Patmos.

        The Bible is written in figurative, parabolic language (Matthew 13:34, John 16:25, Psalm 78:2) and the prophetic books (of which Revelation is one) are also highly symbolic, so we have to be very careful in assuming a literal interpretation.

        I found the following which I think backs up the idea I put forward.
        “And if anyone hears My words and does not believe, I do not judge him; for I did not come to judge the world but to save the world. He who rejects Me, and does not receive My words, has that which judges him—the word that I have spoken will judge him in the last day.” (John 12:47-48)

        WRT “God’s judgment and punishment”, the relationship of mankind to God is analogous to that between a parent and child (keeping in mind that the God/mankind relationship is one between infinite and finite whereas the human child/parent relationship is between innocence/ignorance and hopefully a little greater wisdom). A truly loving parent is never really angry with a child – they grieve that the child has done something foolish/destructive/self-harming or harming of others. Why would God be any different?

        The parent may feign anger (to try to get the message across to the child) or the child may see the parent as angry and punishing because their wants are opposed and thwarted. Much of the Bible is written from this ‘child’ perspective because God reaches down to us where we are (blaming God or anyone else for our shortcomings) and gently, gradually leads us to a more reasonable, more rational, more responsible perspective. If we were suddenly hammered with the full, undiluted truth of our selfishness it would be too much to bear in such a rebellious, fragile state.

        IMO, God can only “create … a clean heart, ….. and renew a steadfast spirit within (us)” (Ps 51:10) with our free-will cooperation which in turn requires understanding i.e. by means of a process of repentance and commitment (as taught and demonstrated by Jesus).

        • The “many, many times ….” David? I’m trying to think of just one. Isn’t the “courtroom type context” more an assumption because the topic is ‘judgment’?

          Trying to think of just one? Well let me help you out.

          Psalm 50:4 He summons the heavens above, and the earth, that he may judge his people:

          Psalm 75:7 But God is the Judge; He puts down one and exalts another.

          Psalm 76: 8 From heaven you pronounced judgment, and the land feared and was quiet— 9 when you, God, rose up to judge, to save all the afflicted of the land.

          Psalm 82:1 God presides in the great assembly; he renders judgment among the “gods”:

          Eccl 11:9 …but know that for all these things God will bring you into judgment.

          Isaiah 3:13 The Lord takes his place in court; he rises to judge the people.

          Isaiah 33:22 For the Lord is our judge, the Lord is our lawgiver, the Lord is our king; it is he who will save us.

          Isaiah 66:16 For with fire and with his sword the Lord will execute judgment on all people, and many will be those slain by the Lord.

          Daniel 7:9 “As I looked, “thrones were set in place, and the Ancient of Days took his seat.
          His clothing was as white as snow; the hair of his head was white like wool.
          His throne was flaming with fire, and its wheels were all ablaze.
          10 A river of fire was flowing, coming out from before him.
          Thousands upon thousands attended him; ten thousand times ten thousand stood before him.
          The court was seated, and the books were opened.

          Joel 3:12 “Let the nations be roused; let them advance into the Valley of Jehoshaphat, for there I will sit to judge all the nations on every side.

          2Timothy 4:8 Now there is in store for me the crown of righteousness, which the Lord, the righteous Judge, will award to me on that day—and not only to me, but also to all who have longed for his appearing.

          James 4:12 There is only one Lawgiver and Judge, the one who is able to save and destroy…

          Rev 20:11 Then I saw a great white throne and him who was seated on it. The earth and the heavens fled from his presence, and there was no place for them. 12 And I saw the dead, great and small, standing before the throne, and books were opened. Another book was opened, which is the book of life. The dead were judged according to what they had done as recorded in the books. 13 The sea gave up the dead that were in it, and death and Hades gave up the dead that were in them, and each person was judged according to what they had done. 14 Then death and Hades were thrown into the lake of fire. The lake of fire is the second death. 15 Anyone whose name was not found written in the book of life was thrown into the lake of fire.

          And we haven’t even begun to explore the usage of the “justification” language in the Bible with all it’s clear judgement overtones.

          We could do more but I don’t think it would make any difference. You would no doubt continue to speak of God “feigning” actions and insist we “can’t take this literally”. Were Jesus Himself to say something like “fear Him … who has authority to cast you into Hell” you would explain it away. I’ll leave others to decide whether the language in just this brief selection is meant to evoke the image of a law court or it’s all simply about a God who is a nice parent who fakes anger every now and again to win us over.

          It’s not the “full, undiluted truth of our selfishness” that mankind needs to fear getting hammered by. It’s the full undiluted pure and holy righteousness of God executed in judgement upon our sin that’s our problem and from which Jesus brings us total forgiveness.

          • OK thanks David, quite a few quotes about judgment but as I suspected only a couple (and both as part of prophetic visions) that give the impression of assemblages like law courts. Do you think all visions should be interpreted literally? What about rivers and lakes of fire? What about the animals that came out of the sea in Daniel 7?

            It seems much more believable to me to see such things as symbolic, and since Jesus demonstrated the rules for interpreting parable (e.g. Matthew 13:19-23), as something pertaining to the operation of the mind and it’s acceptance or rejection of spiritual things.

            I think you’ve used a bad translation for “fear Him … who has authority/(power) to cast you into Hell”. If you read the previous verse (Luke 12:4) I think it’s obvious that it’s evil that casts into hell, not God. (KJV gets it right). I believe that we are creatures of/with free-will? Fear over-rides free-will. To ‘love’ God out of fear of reprisal is not a true love because it’s forced and love must be freely given.

            Fear of reprisal (although a false idea) is a useful first step because it can put a stop to disorderly thought and conduct and open the mind to the influx of goodness and truth. As that new focus is acted upon, fear recedes and genuine love or fear of offending or hurting what is good and true, takes it’s place.

            Everything God creates (i.e everything as created) is good (Genesis 1). My understanding is that God wants all his creatures, created with the capacity for eternal life (i.e. humans), to share in that goodness/blessedness. As long as we, sincerely and to the best of our ability, follow God’s rules/principles of life, we will.

            Sin is a deviation – a missing of the mark, diverting one from the goal. The important thing is not punishment but getting back on track. Imposed punishment may be necessary but should always be directed towards rehabilitation and recommitment. What is needed is a change of heart. Sin no longer hankered after or acted upon goes into remission.

            At the end of our earthly journey we have chosen to allow either good or evil loves (i.e. God or Mammon) to predominate and rule our lives. A good life gravitates to heaven, an evil one to hell. There may be the ‘appearance’ of a judgment but the judgment/decision is already made – freely by the individual in the quality of their chosen life/character rather than being imposed. Given that where good is chosen, the inspiration behind the choice and the power to act on it is acknowledged as God’s. (Matthew 19:26)

        • “The Bible is written in figurative, parabolic language (Matthew 13:34 … etc”

          No it isn’t. This is what happens when you proof-text without knowing the whole teaching of Jesus. But it is a very convenient excuse for those who wish to ignore the parts of the Bible that they find uncomfortable – and your subsequent post demonstrates that, in spades.

          Hear His words:

          “The disciples came to him and asked, “Why do you speak to the people in parables?” He replied, “Because the knowledge of the secrets of the kingdom of heaven has been given to you, but not to them. Whoever has will be given more, and they will have an abundance. Whoever does not have, even what they have will be taken from them”.” [Matt 13:10 – 12]

          You quote from Matthew 13, verse 34, yet you haven’t read the part above which preceded it, nor have you read the passage immediately following where he *explains* the parable to his disciples. If you take a few words out of context, yes you can probably make them mean anything you like.

          Jesus’ teaching is difficult to understand for those with hard hearts, hence why he taught to them in parables, but to his disciples he taught plainly. And Jesus made plain to his apostles (who were charged to deliver his teachings to his church) the meanings of all parables:

          “He said to them, “This is what I told you while I was still with you: Everything must be fulfilled that is written about me in the Law of Moses, the Prophets and the Psalms. Then he opened their minds so they could understand the Scriptures. He told them, “This is what is written: The Messiah will suffer and rise from the dead on the third day, and repentance for the forgiveness of sins will be preached in his name to all nations, beginning at Jerusalem. You are witnesses of these things. I am going to send you what my Father has promised; but stay in the city until you have been clothed with power from on high.” [Luke 24:44-49]

  2. Hi Ralph, re your post above:

    “quite a few quotes about judgment but as I suspected only a couple (and both as part of prophetic visions) that give the impression of assemblages like law courts”

    When Jesus tells you that God will judge you, that’s what He means. You can try putting up specious arguments like, “But he didn’t say anything about an assemblage like a law court”, or indeed talk about anything else that he didn’t say, but that will not help you when you stand before Him.

    “I think you’ve used a bad translation for “fear Him … who has authority/(power) to cast you into Hell”. If you read the previous verse (Luke 12:4) I think it’s obvious that it’s evil that casts into hell, not God. (KJV gets it right).”

    There is no meaningful difference between the KJV and NIV translations of both verses, so this is just clutching at straws. Here is the passage in the King James:

    “And I say unto you my friends, Be not afraid of them that kill the body, and after that have no more that they can do. But I will forewarn you whom ye shall fear: Fear him, which after he hath killed hath power to cast into hell; yea, I say unto you, Fear him.” [Luke 12:4-5 KJV]

    Jesus thus makes it plain: if we do not repent we are headed for judgment and hell.

    “Everything God creates (i.e everything as created) is good (Genesis 1).”

    No it isn’t. It *was* good when God created it, but then sin was brought into the world by man, and ever since all of creation has been marred. And every one of us sins, i.e. rebels against God.

    “As long as we, sincerely and to the best of our ability, follow God’s rules/principles of life, we will.”

    Yes, that is the gospel of Ralph Horner. However, Jesus nowhere promises anything of the sort.

    “Sin is a deviation – a missing of the mark, diverting one from the goal.”

    No it isn’t. Sin is rebellion against the created order and the due punishment is death. Unless someone righteous will take the punishment for us, that is where we are headed.

    “The important thing is not punishment but getting back on track.”

    There is no such “either/or”. Our punishment will be delivered whether we think its “important” or not. You can have Jesus take that punishment for you, or take it yourself. And without that, you have no power to “get back on track”, only to delude yourself that that is what you are doing.

    • “There is no meaningful difference between the KJV and NIV translations of both verses, so this is just clutching at straws.” (MichaelA)

      Michael, the “meaningful difference” is in the the use of upper-case ‘H’ (or not) for ‘him’. KJV (also NIV and ESV) does not use upper case so is not talking about God. NLT (and NKJV) interposes the idea (not present in the original Greek) that it is God who ‘casts into hell’.

      “When Jesus tells you that God will judge you, that’s what He means.”

      If you set God up in your mind as a judge and punisher you create a contradiction with the (rational) statement/truth that God is Love. God does not judge as man does. Check out Isaiah 55:7-9 and Ezekiel 18:24-32 (one of my favourite chapters in the Bible).

      God’s love, by virtue of the free gifts of rationality and free-will, enables us to judge ourselves by choosing to live according to His standard (or not). It is the most loving ‘judgment’ possible because we get what we really want. Someone who (knowingly and rebelliously) choses evil may think they want good but if they really did they’d choose it.

      I agree that “sin was brought into the world by man”. However, I suggest you look up Strong’s Index G2398; G264 for a definition of sin.

      “…. that is the gospel of Ralph Horner. However, Jesus nowhere promises anything of the sort.” (Re, “… following God’s rules/principles of life …”)

      Have you read the ‘Parable of the Sower’ recently Michael, specifically the explanation (Matthew 13:18-23) – all about the distinction between a fruitful and unfruitful life. Or the ‘Parable of the Talents’ (Matthew 25:14-30) – basically about living our faith rather than just sitting on it. If we do the latter, it’s just in our head and not in our life. I’m sure you’ll find plenty more examples if you look.

      “Our punishment will be delivered whether we think its “important” or not. You can have Jesus take that punishment for you, or take it yourself.”

      The real ‘punishment’ is in a mind/mindset that keeps sinning (sin/evil is that which is not good, so despite all illusions, it hurts others and ourselves). Even though Jesus forgives/remits past sins it doesn’t change the mind-set. Unless there is also a change of heart (repentance and a building of a conscience/consciousness of what God teaches is right and good and a commitment to implement this in life) the process of sinning will continue unabated because that’s what’s in the heart (or will).

      If God changed our hearts He would be destroying our ‘free-will’ status which would mean we would no longer be human. Only fighting against evil inclinations in God’s name i.e. resisting the tempting of evil by using and acknowledging God’s truth can bring improvement. The message is “Go and sin no more.” (John 8:11)

      • Michael, the “meaningful difference” is in the the use of upper-case ‘H’ (or not) for ‘him’. KJV (also NIV and ESV) does not use upper case so is not talking about God. NLT (and NKJV) interposes the idea (not present in the original Greek) that it is God who ‘casts into hell’.

        The problem with this argument is that it has no basis in the actual text. Yes, Jesus in this breath does not say “God” but the inference is very clear from the context. In order for Ralph to mount this argument he will have to show clearly who exactly is the “he” who according to Jesus “has the authority to throw you into hell” and should therefore be feared. It is not the person being thrown in, since they are being thrown in by someone else. Ralph claims it’s not God. So who is it?

        A more detailed examination of the context makes it clear what Jesus is saying. We’ve just spent a couple of months preaching through this section of Luke’s gospel and I would encourage everyone reading this thread to go and read through the whole of Luke 12-13 to get a sense of what Jesus is speaking about. In particular this section finds it’s climax in the following from Jesus:

        Luke 12:57    “Why don’t you judge for yourselves what is right? 58 As you are going with your adversary to the magistrate, try hard to be reconciled on the way, or your adversary may drag you off to the judge, and the judge turn you over to the officer, and the officer throw you into prison. 59 I tell you, you will not get out until you have paid the last penny.”

        Luke 13:1    Now there were some present at that time who told Jesus about the Galileans whose blood Pilate had mixed with their sacrifices. 2 Jesus answered, “Do you think that these Galileans were worse sinners than all the other Galileans because they suffered this way? 3 I tell you, no! But unless you repent, you too will all perish. 4 Or those eighteen who died when the tower in Siloam fell on them—do you think they were more guilty than all the others living in Jerusalem? 5 I tell you, no! But unless you repent, you too will all perish.”

        Luke 13:6    Then he told this parable: “A man had a fig tree growing in his vineyard, and he went to look for fruit on it but did not find any. 7 So he said to the man who took care of the vineyard, ‘For three years now I’ve been coming to look for fruit on this fig tree and haven’t found any. Cut it down! Why should it use up the soil?’

        Luke 13:8    “ ‘Sir,’ the man replied, ‘leave it alone for one more year, and I’ll dig around it and fertilize it. 9 If it bears fruit next year, fine! If not, then cut it down.’ ”

        The repeated motif of this whole section is the warning of a final and imminent judgement that will be overseen by God and Jesus Himself. This much is clear as daylight for anyone without a pre-conceived framework they’re so keen to push upon the text.

        What is so appalling about Ralph’s persistence here is that it will lead people to Hell by telling them to ignore the clear warnings of Jesus. Consider, again, the opening words in Luke 13.

        Luke 13:1    Now there were some present at that time who told Jesus about the Galileans whose blood Pilate had mixed with their sacrifices. 2 Jesus answered, “Do you think that these Galileans were worse sinners than all the other Galileans because they suffered this way? 3 I tell you, no! But unless you repent, you too will all perish. 4 Or those eighteen who died when the tower in Siloam fell on them—do you think they were more guilty than all the others living in Jerusalem? 5 I tell you, no! But unless you repent, you too will all perish.”

        now, that is a serious and loving warning coming on top of Jesus’ prior warning that there is One who can throw us into Hell. If you take these words at face value then there is an urgency to be reconciled to God to know the great peace and forgiveness that our sins do not deserve and yet which is freely available in the death of Jesus on our behalf.

        If you listen to Ralph, then it’s really just a nudge to make better choices, live a better life, and get the rewards of it.

        One of those is Christian faith, the other is just another form of justification by works and leaves people in great great danger of the very things Jesus warns about. I’m sticking with Jesus.

        • That’s a bit rough David. I think I believe in and follow Jesus as much as you do. I just think of him a little differently. I think of him as “God with us” (Matthew 1:23) – the truest and fullest revelation of God ever revealed to mankind.

          I reckon everyone has “a preconceived framework” formed from their particular religious upbringing and background. Your “pre-conceived framework” includes what I call the ‘angry God story’. Have you ever looked into the logic of believing that God is (or could be ) angry?

          Anger is not a positive trait. An angry person is a severely limited person who does not have control of their emotions. Uncontrolled anger can lead to the most horrific results. The more loving a person is the less they are affected by anger.

          I find it hard to see how a being who is totally loving (love itself and the source of all love) and totally powerful (almighty/the source of all power) could possibly be angry. It’s such a limiting and belittling idea (and contradictory). It assumes a human characteristic that cannot fit with God as the being and source of love.

          There are many places in the Bible where God is presented as angry, vengeful and punishing but think of the context. In the OT God is dealing with the rebellious, stiff-necked, backsliding Israelite nation – a nation whose story is representative of all mankind in it’s fallen rebellious state (of mind).

          Anyone in such a state sees anyone who attempts to curb or limit their love of evil in terms of a reflection of their own mind-set – i.e. as angry and hateful. The places in the Bible (much of which does not make sense if taken literally) where God is presented as angry and punishing are written from that perspective.

          There are more than ample places, e.g. Psalms obviously and 23rd in particular, where God is presented in the completely opposite (true) way – as totally loving, understanding and merciful.

          I think there’s a place for the ‘angry God story’ – as a kick start to (out of fear of punishment/reprisal) return a rebellious, hateful attitude to an orderly external lifestyle. But the real/longer term objective is a change of heart – to an attitude where an orderly lifestyle is self-imposed from an understanding, love and co-operation with God’s plan to bring goodness, usefulness and happiness to each individual and the world at large. (see John 15:15)

          Salvation involves more than a one off change of mind (repentance) under duress. It also entails a process of regeneration (the building of a new heart through trial/temptation) as shown by the journey of the Israelites to the ‘Promised land’.
          “Create in me a clean heart, …..” (Psalm 51:10).

          • “If you listen to Ralph, then it’s really just a nudge to make better choices, live a better life, and get the rewards of it.

            One of those is Christian faith, the other is just another form of justification by works and leaves people in great great danger of the very things Jesus warns about. I’m sticking with Jesus.”

            I’m “sticking with Jesus” too David.

            I don’t believe that we are saved by works alone but they are part of the picture. Anything and everything we do is a ‘work’, be it a smile, a kind word, building a house, doctoring a sick person or teaching someone about God. It’s impossible not to do ‘works’ unless we immobilise ourselves and stand stock-still and thoughtless like a lifeless statue. Our choice is between doing good works or twisting the influx from God to serve our personal, selfish whims and wishes i.e. doing bad works.

            The inspiration behind every good work and the power to act comes from God so unless we acknowledge this and ascribe the credit to God, our actions are worthless to us because we are living a lie and ascribing the credit to ourselves.

            When we do acknowledge and give the credit to God, the good done not only affects others but also ourselves and we experience the blessedness of being instrumental in bringing God’s love and goodness into effect. Faith comes into the picture in the belief that it is God who is the giver of life, the source of every goodness/blessing in our life.

            I can’t understand your problem with “mak(ing) better choices”. We all start from a fallen state and need to overcome (or allow God to overcome) our inclination towards evil. The alternative to making better choices is making worse ones – continuing to embrace evil. Goodness is it’s own reward (it’s from God and God is present in it) just as evil is it’s own punishment (it’s from self, believing it knows better than God). I’m pretty sure Jesus would be OK with this.

            IMO, what makes someone a Christian is not solely what they ‘believe’ but what they do from the heart in response to the teaching of Jesus Christ. “Not everyone who says to Me, ‘Lord, Lord,’ shall enter the kingdom of heaven, but he who does the will of My Father in heaven.” (Matthew 7:21)

          • “I find it hard to see how a being who is totally loving (love itself and the source of all love) and totally powerful (almighty/the source of all power) could possibly be angry.”

            Sure, but that just describes the limitations of your human mind. When Jesus teaches us that God is totally loving, totally powerful and hates our sin, and will destroy us if we do not accept the sacrifice that saves us, then we had better listen. Sure its probably not something that we can understand (or perhaps more correctly, its not something that we want to understand) but there is too much at stake just to rely on our own wisdom.

            “Anyone in such a state sees anyone who attempts to curb or limit their love of evil in terms of a reflection of their own mind-set – i.e. as angry and hateful….”

            That’s not what the Bible says. It’s just spin that you are putting on it because you do not want to accept your personal responsibility. When the Bible says that God is angry with those who sin against him, that’s what it means. Of course his anger is something beyond our comprehension, just as his love is not like our love, but something beyond our comprehension. But the Bible is not speaking in figurative language about his anger, any more than it is speaking in figurative language about his love.

            “There are more than ample places, e.g. Psalms obviously and 23rd in particular, where God is presented in the completely opposite (true) way – as totally loving, understanding and merciful.”

            Its not opposite at all, but consistent. Read Ezekiel 18:30-32 – just one place where it is simply explained.

            “I think there’s a place for the ‘angry God story’ – as a kick start to (out of fear of punishment/reprisal) return a rebellious, hateful attitude to an orderly external lifestyle.”

            Of course. That is why Jesus in both the Old and New Testaments tells us what will happen if we do not repent. But he also makes clear that we have no power to repent, unless we accept his blood sacrifice to pay the price for our sin. Otherwise our “orderly external lifestyle” is just the seed that spring up quickly in shallow soil or stony ground and will fail (Matt 13:20-22).

            “But the real/longer term objective is a change of heart – to an attitude where an orderly lifestyle is self-imposed from an understanding, love and co-operation with God’s plan to bring goodness, usefulness and happiness to each individual and the world at large.”

            Of course, but unless you accept Jesus’ blood sacrifice for your sins you will never get that change of heart. Those who accept the word of God with ploughed hearts receive it immediately (Matt 13:23).

            “Salvation involves more than a one off change of mind (repentance) under duress. It also entails a process of regeneration (the building of a new heart through trial/temptation)…”

            Of course, and those who accept the word of God with the right heart will get all of that. Those who do not will fail – the only way they can get on the right track is to let God plough their heart and then accept the word as they should have the first time.

          • “It’s impossible not to do ‘works’ unless we immobilise ourselves and stand stock-still and thoughtless like a lifeless statue.”

            I think there may be a misunderstanding here. David’s point was that good works won’t save you, not that you shouldn’t do them.

            “The inspiration behind every good work and the power to act comes from God so unless we acknowledge this and ascribe the credit to God, our actions are worthless to us because we are living a lie and ascribing the credit to ourselves.”

            Sure, but your actions are worthless anyway (in the sense we are talking about) – they will not save you. Unless we accept Jesus’ atoning sacrifice as the only way to save us from our sin, then we will not be saved, and none of our good works will help us. That is all we are saying.

            “IMO, what makes someone a Christian is not solely what they ‘believe’ but what they do from the heart in response to the teaching of Jesus Christ.”

            I agree. Jesus makes clear that true faith in his atoning sacrifice will inevitably produce good works (James 2:14-17, Matt 13:23). The one goes hand-in-hand with the other.

      • Hi Ralph, you wrote:

        “Michael, the “meaningful difference” is in the the use of upper-case ‘H’ (or not) for ‘him’. KJV (also NIV and ESV) does not use upper case so is not talking about God. NLT (and NKJV) interposes the idea (not present in the original Greek) that it is God who ‘casts into hell’.”

        There are no capitals of any kind in 1st century Greek so this is just a red herring. However the idea that it is God who casts into hell is indeed present in the original Greek, and it has nothing to do with initial capitals.

        “If you set God up in your mind as a judge and punisher…”

        I don’t; Jesus does.

        “…you create a contradiction with the (rational) statement/truth that God is Love.”

        It is Jesus you are accusing of creating a contradiction, but no, he doesn’t. God is love and God will be the punisher if we do not accept his mercy. There is no contradiction. See the passage from Ezekiel below, which you cite.

        “God’s love, by virtue of the free gifts of rationality and free-will, enables us to judge ourselves by choosing to live according to His standard (or not). …”

        Yes, I know, the Gospel of Ralph Horner again. However, I prefer to follow Christ.

        “Check out Isaiah 55:7-9 and Ezekiel 18:24-32 (one of my favourite chapters in the Bible).”

        Thank you, precisely my point. Here is the end of the Ezekiel passage:

        “Therefore, you Israelites, I will judge each of you according to your own ways, declares the Sovereign LORD. Repent! Turn away from all your offenses; then sin will not be your downfall. Rid yourselves of all the offenses you have committed, and get a new heart and a new spirit. Why will you die, people of Israel? For I take no pleasure in the death of anyone, declares the Sovereign LORD. Repent and live!” [Ezekiel 18:30-32]

        It is God who will judge us and condemns us if we remain in our sin, just as it is God who will pardon us if we accept the atoning sacrifice that Jesus has made for our sin.

        “I agree that “sin was brought into the world by man”. However, I suggest you look up Strong’s Index G2398; G264 for a definition of sin.”

        You are way out of your depth with arguments like this. Strong’s 264 refers to the verb hamartano, but that is not the word used in the first page of Romans 7:12 which you cited, i.e. “Therefore, just as sin entered the world through one man, and death through sin”. The word for sin in that section of the verse is hamartia, which is Strongs 266. I think I know where you are going with this, but I won’t say anymore until you formulate your argument correctly.

        “Have you read the ‘Parable of the Sower’ recently Michael, specifically the explanation …”

        Excellent example Ralph, and I am glad you brought it up. Notice how the state of the heart decides how the seed will turn out. If the heart is right, the seed WILL produce fruit. And if the heart is hard or rocky or shallow, then the seed WILL fail. It is one of the best passages to illustrate David’s teaching.

        Until your heart is ploughed up to receive the seed, you will not be able to accept God’s forgiveness and truly turn your life around. If your heart is not right, then you can indeed give the appearance of being one of God’s people, but it is inevitable that you will fail.

        “The real ‘punishment’ is in a mind/mindset that keeps sinning…”

        No it isn’t. That is just the earthly precursor to what Jesus warns us about, of being cast into hell.

        “If God changed our hearts He would be destroying our ‘free-will’ status which would mean we would no longer be human.”

        Jesus does not promise us we have “free-will status”, nor that we are required to have it in order to be human. But in any case, this is getting off the topic. The proposition is simple – unless you rely on God to change your heart, it won’t be changed. And the only way you can do that is if you acknowledge that you deserve death for your rebellion against God and accept Jesus’ atoning sacrifice in your place.

        The message is “Go and sin no more.”

        Of course it is. But unless your heart is ploughed into soft soil, you won’t be able to stop sinning. If you heart is rocky ground or shallow soil, you can give an appearance of repenting, but you will inevitably fall back into sin. It is only those whose hearts are soft soil that can truly accept the seed of God’s word in their hearts.

        • “It is Jesus you are accusing of creating a contradiction, but no, he doesn’t. God is love and God will be the punisher if we do not accept his mercy. There is no contradiction.”

          Michael, it amazes me that you can’t see the contradiction. It is completely illogical to punish someone you are offering love and mercy to. People are obviously punished if they do not accept God’s mercy but they are not punished by God. They are punished by choosing to remain in the evil that they refuse to accept mercy for.

          I think you fail to see that choosing evil is excluding true goodness (which is of and from God) from one’s life. This is a self-chosen punishment. It appears as if God is angry and doing the punishing but that is only because He (and all the blessedness He offers) is being excluded by one who believes (from their limited sense experience) that the delusive, self-serving ‘happiness’ they obtain from evil is greater than the happiness that God offers when we selflessly love and serve our fellow man.

          • simple question Ralph,

            It appears as if God is angry and doing the punishing but that is only because He (and all the blessedness He offers) is being excluded by one who believes (from their limited sense experience) that the delusive, self-serving ‘happiness’ they obtain from evil is greater than the happiness that God offers when we selflessly love and serve our fellow man.

            Where deos Jesus ever clearly say this so “obvious” thing? Where else in the Bible is this framework that you keep insisting upon as some hidden meaning actually set out? Can you point to one clear unequivocal statement?

            Would the absence of any such statement ever stop you continuing to preach your own imposed narrative?

  3. I’m not sure I can add to Michael’s comments. Ralph is insistent on reading his own framework into the text. I think the conversation is helpful for those who want to consider the merits of the argument and see who is providing a consistent reading of the Bible and who is insisting on an understanding that they cannot actually provide Scriptural support for.

  4. David (May 5, 2015 at 9:50 pm), I haven’t been accused of ‘preaching’ since my kids were teenagers and that’s quite a while ago.

    In Matthew 13:34-36: 34 “Jesus spoke all these things to the crowd in parables; he did not say anything to them without using a parable. So was fulfilled what was spoken through the prophet:
    “I will open my mouth in parables,
    I will utter things hidden since the creation of the world.””

    The quote is from Psalm 78 in the OT which is about the history of the Jewish nation showing that this history is in fact also a parable. The easiest place to see this is in the story of the Exodus which prefigures each person’s journey to the ‘Promised Land’ i.e. heaven/heavenly state of mind or inner peace but it applies to the whole OT.

    The story of the journey to Emmaus (post resurrection/Luke 24) also demonstrates that there is an inner ‘hidden’ meaning (beyond the literal story) in the Bible. Jesus opened up the scriptures so the disciples could see what (beyond the literal stories that they had been listening to for years) was really going on there. At verse 45 (just prior to the ascension) it’s said, “Then (Jesus) opened their mind, that they might understand the Scriptures.”

    The inner/spiritual meaning isn’t so much ‘hidden’; when there is a focus on natural/material/worldly things there is a lack of understanding of what the natural things represent spiritually. Jesus demonstrated this when he expounded the ‘Sower’ parable to his disciples. It’s not really about farming but the implanting of true ideas (about spiritual/eternal life) in the mind/spirit.

    Isn’t that what the entire Bible/any sacred scripture is really about – revealing to us the inner meaning of life and the process we need to pass through if we are going to attain to it? The ‘Word of God’ is like a spiritual psychology teaching the principles of love and kindness we need to follow to become adjoined to God/eternal life.

    Jesus (God incarnate – the ‘Word’ made flesh and dwelling among us – John 1:14) was the embodiment of those principles. To really believe in Jesus is to believe in/live from those principles and to thus tap (consciously and more fully) onto the power (God) that transforms our lives i.e. “that (we) might …. have (life) more abundantly.” (John 10:10)

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *