Monday, December 4, 2017

Do our deeds matter?

If God's love for us is not based on what we do, do our good deeds matter?

Absolutely! 

Doing things to honor God and love others has real value/importance. 

To live in such as way as to honor God and display his infinite worth in our day to day affairs is a vital means by which others can see something of the love of God and our love for him and thereby be drawn to him. This also has immense value to God since he seeks to diffuse his glory throughout the earth.

To treat others with value/love is also of tremendous importance. It brings true value directly to them (whereas the above is more indirect) and can be a means by which we point them directly to God as the source of life, love and all things instead of just indirectly. It can be key to someone seeing something about God in and through our help thereby also drawing them to faith in him. In fact loving others as he loves us is not only a way we directly bless others but a primary way in which we honor him.


So living for God in general pleases God and seeking to honor him by directly helping others, also pleases him by blessing others.

In these two ways, loving God and neighbor, we are acting as we were designed to; loving others out of our love for God.  

So there is no doubt as to whether what we do or don't do matters. It matters greatly. We are God's appointed means to "put him on display" and to love others so they might come to know him and experience him in all his glory and their greatest joy.

It matters to us as well since we are designed to operate in this way and how we experience the maximum of who God created us to be which in turn brings us greatest joy as well as great reward.

But are our actions, good deeds, obedience etc the means by which we gain/earn God's love and acceptance? 

And are we to seek and find our sense of value, acceptance and purpose by bringing value (doing good deeds) to othersThis is often were much confusion lies and a distinction must be made. 

There is no doubt we can be valuable to others and also no doubt we will derive a sense of our own value in helping others. The question however becomes whether this is the basis for our true acceptance and value. 

To say it another way, do we act to gain acceptance and approval from God and others or because we already have it? If we already have it we will give or bring value to others. And when others benefit we can legitimately rejoice in being the means of showing them God's love. But to garner acceptance and praise of others is not the reason we should act. We are designed to act out of fullness and not in an attempt to obtain acceptance from others by or through our actions i.e. out of emptiness.

This is easy to say but not always easy to identify since the true motive of our hearts is not always obvious to us.

So what exactly is the basis of God's acceptance of us and from where do we acquire our true sense of significance, meaning and value?

In truth, there is *nothing we can do to earn or gain God's acceptance. The ultimate grounds by which we are accepted and loved by God has to come not by our efforts but that of someone else. It is in and by God's approval of his Son i.e. his Son's faithfulness in honoring God and loving his neighbor. This is because we can not and do not honor God or love our neighbor well enough for our efforts to ever cause God to love and accept us.

His absolute love and acceptance of us requires our 100% (perfect) faithfulness. Faithfulness we never do (or can do). Anything less is inadequate, unacceptable and insufficient because God is the 100% cause of life, love and all things (all that we have and are). Because these are true he rightfully deserves and should receive our 100% commitment, faithfulness, honor and love.

Since we never are 100% faithful this had to be done for us if we were ever to be accepted by God. It had to be done perfectly because God is perfect and is rightly due perfect and absolute faithfulness. Only the eternal Son of God could do this and did do this, for us. If there was to ever be any hope of God restoring us to himself, this had to be done because we could not do it ourselves. We simply are too distrusting and too unfaithful i.e. we are not 100% faithful. If he hadn't done this for us we'd be without hope. Because it's 100% obtained for us by Christ we have absolute 100% hope. 

To do things in order to be accepted and loved by God or others will never cause God to love and accept us or give us what we need and were designed to experience i.e. 100% acceptance and love by God. 

To say it simply we don't act to gain value but to give it because we already have it, in Christ. And in so doing we in fact bring real value to others.

We treat others with value because God is 100% worthy of our faithful pursuit and so are others he's created.

God certainly love and approves our doing things for his honor and glory; when we demonstrate our love for him by loving our neighbor as ourselves. It's just not the basis by which he accepts and receives us.

Pleasing God is not performing for God to gain his acceptance, it is operating by faith to spread his glory.
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*The issue in question is a legal one i.e. justification, not the very practical day to day one of pleasing God. Faithfulness definitely pleases God, it simply doesn't justify us and make us right with God or causes him to accept us.

We do things to bring him glory, not to earn or cause him to accept us. 


Monday, November 27, 2017

Lovable versus lovely

Seldom are we are *truly lovely but we are always lovable and even adorable in the eyes of God.

There is something about us that is worth adoring. 

Not only so but 

We have the capacity to experience and enjoy adoration i.e. be adored.

What is it about us that is worth loving and adoring? At a minimum (at our worst and even in our greatest state of rebellion) we are like God in that we still have the capacity to display something of who he is as the ultimate person worthy of all adoration i.e. our capacity/ability to be loved and adored is because we are like God, who is lovable and adorable. 

Because we are like him, we have the capacity to experience and enjoy love and adoration and to love and adore him in return. In fact in order to love and adore him as much as possible, in such a way that even comes close to his true and full worthiness of all our adoration, we had to have the innate capacity to be loved and adored. 

We are designed to be in a reciprocal relationship with God and receive his love and adoration and respond in kind.  And in so doing we can put God on display for others to see and be drawn to him. This capacity, only given to us by God (which was **not lost in our rebellion) is what makes us lovely and adorable. 

Nothing else fits who we are 

Finding love and adoration apart from or outside of God is not sufficient. Anything less then the love and adoration of God; the receiving of these and giving them back to him, simply will not do. No substitutes will work because there is nothing else like God (i.e. There is only one God who is the most lovable and adorable, who created all things and on which all things depend). In this way (the giving and receiving of love and adoration) we are just like God.

He is the most lovely and most adorable and has created us with the capacity to enjoy him as such. That capacity means we too must be lovable and adorable, otherwise we could not appreciate this about him.

When we are truly loved and adored we reciprocate. If we do not reciprocate we have not yet truly experienced his love and adoration. 
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*in fact we can not be truly lovely until we experience the love of God. To say it another way, we were never designed to initiate love for God but to be the recipients of his love and to love him in return. 

**What was lost was our actual loving and adoring of God, not our capacity to love and adore Him. So for all intents and purposes we might as well have lost the capacity to love and adore God. However if the capacity had been completely annihilated we could (and would) never respond to God when he reveals his love and adoration to and for us. 

Saturday, November 18, 2017

Celebrating our design and our Designer

The creative efforts of people may be carried out for the wrong reason (i.e. to exalt and advance self not God) but the fruit of those efforts is still evidance of the image of God within us all. For this reason we can (and should) fully appreciate the results of those efforts for what they are; evidence of the majesty, wonder and creativity of God within each of us, his image bearers. 


Our creative abilities show us something significant about both God and us. Something that can be legitimately appreciated and admired (even the ability to design and construct the Tower of Babel  gives evidence of the image of God within us).

Nevertheless if these efforts are not carried out in an attempt to honor the one in whose image we are designed, they ultimately are all for naught i.e. they will have no eternal value.

We can and should celebrate humanities design and our ability to create but in doing so we must recognize the Creator (the giver of our abilities) and our utmost Designer is the ultimate reason for our celebration.



Tuesday, November 7, 2017

A divided nation

Why is our *nation so divided? What are the factors? Some are external and objective (i.e. there are outside forces deliberately attempting to "divide and conquer" us [though some would say this is conspiracy theory]) but whatever external influence there are, these objective factors could not have influence and take hold if there were not subjective issues first. The following deals with the subjective.

Ultimately the solution to our (or others) national woes is not political but spiritual.

For example, in government you can put forth the right policy but if the individual hearts of men and women are not submitted to truth (or **recognize there is such a thing as objective truth and morality), right policy will not change their hearts (or their minds). They may comply but only to avoid the consequences, not because they agree.

Right policy only addresses external behavior not the internal desire to live truthfully with integrity or even the recognition of an objective moral standard.

Without an objective standard such as loving God equal to his loveliness and treating others as you wish to be treated, you only have "every man for himself" with a commitment to doing what is right "in their own eyes" (i.e. your "moral" standard is your subjective values/beliefs and unchecked desires).

Should we engage in the political process and seek to implement right policy? Absolutely! But we must also recognize that until the hearts of individual men and women change, right policy will only be looked at as an obstruction to happiness not a means to it. We should be praying for our nation as much if not more than we seek to promote right policy.

For more on the importance of praying for our nation click here.
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*Though I have America primarily in mind, the same need for spiritual focus applies to any country or group. 

**In order for unity to occur in a society or a nation (or any other social unit such as a company, a family, marriage or a church) there must be a commitment to the same primary values. In order for this to occur there must be recognition there is such a thing as absolute objective truth; that our values are not simply subjective; that there is such a thing as objective and absolute good and bad values. If they are only subjective, who decides what values (or who's) take priority over another i.e. there must be either an outside arbitrator or an objective standard. 


Thursday, November 2, 2017

God's wrath...reasonable or unreasonable?

The wrath of God seems unreasonable and the election of God unfair unless (and until) we understand the *greatness of our rebellion and how infinitely short we come in giving God his just and due honor. 

It is only as we **wrestle with the depth and extent of our own rebellion that we begin to see how truly just Gods wrath is. The more we wrestle with our shortcomings the more evident this becomes. 

Why are we not struck down on the spot for our disregard for God's infinite greatness and our total rebellion towards him? If God's majesty is that great and our rebellious refusal to acknowledge it/Him is that pervasive, shouldn't we be? 

We assume God's ***lack of action means our rebellion must not be that big a deal. When in reality, it is only because of the kindness and mercy of God that we are not destroyed, not because our rebellion is insignificant. 
2Pe 3:4  They will say, “Where is the promise of his coming? For ever since the fathers fell asleep, all things are continuing as they were from the beginning of creation.”... The Lord is not slow to fulfill his promise as some count slowness, but is patient toward you, not wishing that any should perish, but that all should reach repentance.

Christ...a key reminder of our true condition

The reason the humbling, rejection, suffering and death of Christ is so offensive to many is it screams out that our rebellion towards God is that great and offensive; so great it required Christ to go through all that pain in order to restore us back to his Father. The dishonor our rebellion brought (and brings) to God and the resultant harm it causes others is very real, not ethereal and without real consequence. It could not be casually dismissed and ignored. Christ's suffering and death (for us) is our greatest proof. 

It is only when we wrestle with the extent of our own rebellion that we fully appreciate the necessity and extent of what Christ went through to restore us.

For a further discussion on the necessity of God's judgment click here
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*the unexpected irony is the greatness of our rebellion is seen clearest against the backdrop of God's greatness; his love and mercy.  

**our wrestling only comes through persistent pursuit of God over time. There is no short cut to experiencing this struggle. It is something we must go through/experience not simply grasp in our heads from stories of others. The greater and longer our persistence in pursuing God the more we wrestle and the more we see by first hand experience the depth of our own rebellion. 

This truth is captured and illustrated well in the struggle of Jacob when he wrestled with God the night before he faced the wrath of his brother Esau. 
Gen 32:24  And Jacob was left alone. And a man wrestled with him until the breaking of the day. 25  When the man saw that he did not prevail against Jacob, he touched his hip socket, and Jacob's hip was put out of joint as he wrestled with him. 26  Then he said, “Let me go, for the day has broken.” But Jacob said, “I will not let you go unless you bless me.” 27  And he said to him, “What is your name?” And he said, “Jacob.” 28  Then he said, “Your name shall no longer be called Jacob, but Israel, for you have striven with God and with men, and have prevailed.” 29  Then Jacob asked him, “Please tell me your name.” But he said, “Why is it that you ask my name?” And there he blessed him.   
30 So Jacob called the name of the place Peniel (the face of God), saying, “For I have seen God face to face, and yet my life has been delivered.” 31  The sun rose upon him as he passed Penuel, limping because of his hip. 32  Therefore to this day the people of Israel do not eat the sinew of the thigh that is on the hip socket, because he touched the socket of Jacob's hip on the sinew of the thigh. 

This event resulted in two permanent changes to Jacob... 

A change in his identity (he was no longer Jacob the clever and self reliant "heel grabber" or "surplanter" but Israel, the Prince of God) and 

A physical change (vs 25, 31) as a reminder of his dependence on God. 

It was also expressed by Job after a period of intense suffering. 
Job 42:1  Then Job answered the LORD and said: 2  “I know that you can do all things, and that no purpose of yours can be thwarted. 3  ‘Who is this that hides counsel without knowledge?’ Therefore I have uttered what I did not understand, things too wonderful for me, which I did not know. Job 4  ‘Hear, and I will speak; I will question you, and you make it known to me.’ I had heard of you by the hearing of the ear, but now my eye sees you; 6  therefore I despise myself, and repent in dust and ashes.” 

And of course the experience of Joseph from the time of his vision as an adolescent until he was reunited with his brothers and father as an adult with a family his own. 

**I find it interesting whenever a nation experiences great calamity of some kind (such as the recent hurricanes) that we begin to hear whispers this is evidence of God's judgment. It's as if we have this intuitive or instinctive sense we are not giving God his due honor and therefore under his just judgment. 




Sunday, October 29, 2017

Spirit driven

How do we know if a deed is Spirit driven/empowered? 

If it is done to bring honor (glory) to God out of love for and trust in God i.e. if it is from (caused by), through and to Him it is Spirit driven; if it is a response to God's first treating us with love, honor, value. 

Operating in the Spirit is the interaction (reciprocation) of the source of love (God) and the recipient (us). He (the source) is lovely and trustworthy (and has already fully proven his love in giving us Christ). His great love that was poured out on us in and through Christ (without our doing anything to provoke/cause it), awoke our hearts to love, calling (wooing) us to love and trust him in response.

It (a deed) must always start with God i.e. there must be a lovely and trustworthy object (God) in which the subject (us) can place their love and trust. 

Why? 

1. Without a worthy object there can be (and is) no love and trust in and by us. 

2. Their is nothing worthy of our complete love and trust other then the infinitely lovely and trustworthy (infinite love can only be evoked and drawn out of us by an infinitely lovely object).  

3. God is the source/cause of love, not us.

4. We are designed to receive and respond to love, not initiate it i.e. as God like creatures (in his image) we are hard wired to respond to love. 

It (a deed) also must end with GodThat which is Spirit driven is also God focused (targeted). God is not only the cause/source of love he's also the end/object of it. 

God is both the beginning/cause (the Alpha) and end (Omega) of all our actions/deeds. 

This means we are all about "showing him off" to others. To say it another way, if you are truly God focused (all about advancing his honor/worth/glory) you are Spirit driven.

But it doesn't stop here 

This is only where it starts. God is the cause and end of our actions but to know this fully (for it to be perfected/completed), we must act on who he is for us by faith. Our faith must be perfected/matured (just like Christ also learned obedience). 

To see, enter into and experience him as lovely and trustworthy in ever increasing degrees we must pursue him as such i.e. by faith. In other words our (subjective) experience of him as being (objectively) loving and trustworthy is contingent upon our acting accordingly i.e. that he is loving and trustworthy. This goes beyond the proof of God's love already demonstrated by his past sacrifice and involves our present engagement, ongoing experience and participation in that love.

This doesn't mean he loves us more when we obey him, it means we enter more fully into that infinite, unobstructed love he has already totally and fully secured for us in Christ now and had for us long before we ever lifted a finger for his sake (Rom 5:8). 

True faith always results in acting upon what we believe. As James said, "...Show me your faith apart from your works, and I will show you my faith by my works..." There must be movement towards (attraction to and affection for) the object of love, otherwise our knowledge/understanding of God is only in our head and not in our heart. 

If there is no attraction, affection and resulting action, there is no real and true love i.e. we really don't know his love for us. If we did, we would (and will) act accordingly. To truly know his love is to be moved to love him in return i.e. moved to action/obedience. It is not possible to truly know we are loved by God and not be moved to love him back.


1Jn_4:8  Anyone who does not love does not know God, because God is love. (i.e. it is impossible to know the God of love and not be moved to love) 9 In this the love of God was made manifest among us, that God sent his only Son into the world, so that we might live through him. 10 In this is love, not that we have loved God but that he loved us and sent his Son to be the propitiation for our sins. 

1Jn_4:19  We love because he first loved us (and only because he first loved us)

1Jn_5:2  By this we know that we love the children of God, when we love God and obey his commandments. 

1Jn_5:3  For this is the love of God, that we keep his commandments. And his commandments are not burdensome.

Jas 1:22 But be doers of the word, and not hearers only, deceiving yourselves.23 For if anyone is a hearer of the word and not a doer, he is like a man who looks intently at his natural face in a mirror. 24 For he looks at himself and goes away and at once forgets what he was like. 25 But the one who looks into the perfect law, the law of liberty, and perseveres, being no hearer who forgets but a doer who acts, he will be blessed in his doing...

2:14 What good is it, my brothers, if someone says he has faith but does not have works? Can that faith save him?...

18 But someone will say, “You have faith and I have works.” Show me your faith apart from your works, and I will show you my faith by my works. 19 You believe that God is one; you do well. Even the demons believe—and shudder! 20 Do you want to be shown, you foolish person, that faith apart from works is useless? 21 Was not Abraham our father justified by works when he offered up his son Isaac on the altar? 22 You see that faith was active along with his works, and faith was completed by his works; 23 and the Scripture was fulfilled that says, “Abraham believed God, and it was counted to him as righteousness”—and he was called a friend of God. 24 You see that a person is justified by works and not by faith alone. 25 And in the same way was not also Rahab the prostitute justified by works when she received the messengers and sent them out by another way? 26 For as the body apart from the spirit is dead, so also faith apart from works is dead. - James a disciple of Christ. 



Wednesday, October 25, 2017

The life love and Spirit of God

God's life consists of the Father and Son blissfully existing (abiding together) in infinite love.

The life of God is the love God has (experiences) eternally as the Father and Son affectionately behold and enjoy the infinite glory, beauty and worth of the other in, by and through the Spirit.

This is referred to as the beatific vision.

The life, love and Spirit of God go hand in hand. 

Wherever the life of God is present so is the love and Spirit of God 
and 
Wherever the love of God is present so is the Spirit and life of God 
and 
Wherever the Spirit of God is present so is the life and love of God.

For...

God is love 1 John 4:8
God is life 1Jn 5:20  John 14:6-9
God is Spirit John 4:24

The life of God is the dynamic of God that moves him to action. 

The love of God is the holy affection that God has within his being that emanates outward toward others.

The Spirit of God is that distinct being that consists of God's life and love.

Everything regarding the Spirit has to do with affections (emotion e.g. passion, love and joy) which move him to action (willing, choosing).

The essence of God's being is infinite worth, beauty and glory. It is the joyful beholding of these qualities within and between the Father and the Son that generates and sends forth the love, life and eternal Spirit of God. 

Walking in the Spirit is our believing this very same love that God has for and within himself is fully ours (in and through Christ); then receiving, participating in and responding back to God in love first and then out to our fellow image bearers (other God like beings) thereby bringing him honor in and by displaying his glory beauty and worth to others.

When we come into God's presence through Christ via his Spirit we are made fully alive. Why? Because our life consists of being valued/loved (just as God's does). When we are in God's presence we experience our greatest sense of love/value because He is most lovely and valuable. We are able to enter into and enjoy this overflowing God of love, joy and bliss because we were made to i.e. in his image.  

For more on the empowering of the Spirit click here

For more on our love being a response to God's love click here