Saturday, September 17, 2016

Heaven and hell...literal?

Our deep, insatiable and constant longings for love/life tell us we are far more then mere physical beings. These longings also give us a hint or indication that we do not cease to exist simply because our present bodies do. 

We long for something permanent (everlasting/eternal) instead of temporary. Once we get a "taste" of love, we never want it to stop but want more. 

Longing for satisfaction without the ability or means to obtain it is the essence of hell. never ending longing and burning desire to fulfill ourselves and derive a sense of meaning through our independent efforts (i.e. without God), while no longer having access to the good gifts of God we now presently enjoy, is the essence of hell.

"Hell on earth" is seeking to find fulfillment in something other than God and not finding it. Even when we think we have, it never works or lasts long term.

Not just present but eternal longing

Longing for fulfillment does not cease simply because our bodies do. We are more than just physical beings.

Hell is continuing in the state of longing after this life is over, with no means or hope of relief.

Though hell is depicted as a physical burning, I propose it is also an emotional/spiritual burning that is so great the pain goes beyond the physical and may in fact be greater than the physical. 

This may be hard to grasp but that is only because we do not understand the powerful void that was left within us due to the absence of God (in reality we are "shut down" [dead to seeing God as he is] spiritually and use the creation to keep our emotional longings in check i.e. to numb the pain). 

In order to contain a large object you must have a large container (spiritually speaking). Nothing is greater then God so the void within must be immense.  More immense than we now realize but masked through use/exploitation of the creation. 

Does evil "send" us to hell?

Does doing evil send people to hell or is it evidence they are already headed there? Isn't this simply an indication we are already in a state of rebellion from dependence on the source of life and all things?

The good news is Christ has also provided the remedy i.e. Their evil no longer has to separate them from God resulting in eternal separation. Their refusal to accept the remedy (Gods free offer and solution) does. Isn't the heart of evil our ongoing rebellious distrust of God resulting it destructive/evil behavior?

Doing evil does not necessarily send people to hell as much as it's evidence they are already a child of hell and heading there.

Joh 3:16  "For God so loved the world, that he gave his only Son, that whoever believes in him should not perish but have eternal life.
Joh 3:17  For God did not send his Son into the world to condemn the world, but in order that the world might be saved through him.
Joh 3:18  Whoever believes in him is not condemned, but whoever does not believe is condemned already, because he has not believed in the name of the only Son of God.
Joh 3:19  And this is the judgment: the light has come into the world, and people loved the darkness rather than the light because their works were evil.
Joh 3:20  For everyone who does wicked things hates the light and does not come to the light, lest his works should be exposed.
Joh 3:21  But whoever does what is true comes to the light, so that it may be clearly seen that his works have been carried out in God."

The essence of heaven.

The essence of heaven is the complete unhindered and unfettered presence of the God of infinite glory and joy/delight/bliss. However, we cannot and will not experience God's full presence without several things occurring first. 

The animosity and alienation of our rebellious independence and distrust of God is removed (reconciliation). This addresses our heart towards God i.e. we are no longer his enemies aka totally rebellious creatures.

The just condemnation for our rebellious independence and distrust of God is removed (judgment). This addresses Gods posture towards us i.e. He is and no longer needs to be our judge. Christ was judged in our place. 

The complete righteousness of God (earned for us by Christ) is assigned and credited to our standing before God (justification). 

The complete and eventual *removal of our propensity to distrust God and to operate independent of him (glorification). 

Complete freedom from our mortality and the corruption of our present existence (glorification).

Until we understand what Christ entered into and did for us; taking upon himself our hell so that we might not have to, hell will appear unfair and not make sense (yet no one ever asks the question, "how fair was the suffering of Christ?").

The issue isn't if hell is unfair but that we refuse to accept his going through hell for us so we might not have to i.e. it is not as if there is no solution. We are only bound for hell if we refuse that solution. God not only does not wish for us go there, he did everything necessary to keep us from going there.  

However, people who don't know Christ or refuse his offer are choosing hell every day. They are choosing separation from God which simply continues on into eternity. How, you may ask? By using creation to attempt to fill the void left by the Creators absence.

We now have access to all the gifts of creation yet without acknowledging the Creator, Giver/Provider and Sustainer of those gifts (Rom 1:21-25). In eternity they will continue to refuse to acknowledge the Creator but will no longer have access to all the good gifts of creation presently enjoyed, be that the use of our own personal skills and gifts or those we find all around us...the hearing, seeing, smelling, feeling and tasting of created things in nature etc. 

Hell is our choice.

"Hell is your freely chosen identity, based on something other than God, going on forever." - Tim Kellerpastor of Redeemer Presbyterian Church in New York City. 

The essence of "hell" is the absence of God, which is also part of our present state of existence. The hard reality is we all are presently experiencing the absence of God in the ultimate sense (none of us are fully in his presence yet, nor can we be in our present state) and we are therefore in a kind of hell to a certain, limited degree i.e. In varying degrees we all experience suffering and pain now.

Intuitively we get this. Every time we experience overwhelming pain and suffering it is a reminder that Hell exists and is real. Who hasn't felt or said "that was hell" after going through some extremely painful and difficult circumstance (yet, oddly, we have a hard time accepting the continuation of this very same state of pain and suffering after we leave this life).

At the same time we are also experiencing God's presence to a limited degree i.e. heaven. We experience something of him through his good gifts we find in and around us. 

Our present existence is a kind of in between state.

And for those who love Christ and have entrusted themselves to him, we experience heaven to a much greater degree by his presence in and through his Spirit that dwells within.

When we are finally in Gods full and unfettered presence there will no longer be any more pain, suffering or crying, only joy and endless ever growing bliss. But not until then. Rev 21:4    

Everything good in this life that causes joy and delight points to the goodness of God and is only a prelude to the uninterrupted good/joy/glory to come for those who love him.

Everything bad in this life points to our brokenness and separation from God and the prospect of our continuation of that separation for those who reject him.

If heaven is a real place, hell must also be (just as darkness must exist because light exists i.e. darkness is simply the absence of light) for heaven is the presence of God and hell is the absence of his presence.

So our present existence is as much of Heaven as someone who rejects/ distrusts God will ever experience and as much of Hell a lover/worshiper of God will ever experience.

Do all of us feel God's absence? 

Does a man born blind understand sight or sense it's absence? If no one told him he was blind (and everyone else around him was also blind) would he not think his condition normal? 

Most are not aware of the void of God's absence for two primary reasons. 

1. We are disconnected from God and therefore also spiritually dead  to God, seeking only what we can see, smell, taste, feel and hear.

2. Proof (and also the result) of this is we have and use the good gifts of God to mask or numb that void/deadness. Not unlike a blind man groping around experiencing something of the reality of this world, while never fully enjoying it.

If our life is built around having and enjoying the good gifts of God and not God himself, the Giver of those gifts, we will leave this life without either and experience the full force of the void/emptiness now within us due to Gods absence. This is the essence of hell. 


*I would argue this removal is organic and not mechanical. Our inclination away from God will be fully subdued or overpowered once we see him face to face i.e. we will be like him when we see him as he is i.e. no longer through a glass darkly but in the fullness of his glory. This will result in the longing of our hearts being satisfied for the first time. What (more correctly WHO) has been missed and what our hearts have longed for all our lives will now but right in front of us. How can we long after anything else once we are in the presence of perfection and perfect love. 

Saturday, September 3, 2016

Obedience... does it matter or not?

For the child of God there are two seemingly opposing principles that must be tenaciously and equally held on to (believed) and kept in balance.

1. There is nothing we can do that will ever make us acceptable to God or enable us to participate in his love.

2. Living according to God's will/directions/commands is (a) most honoring to God (b) according to our design and (c) the most freeing way to live and experience all God has designed us to experience.

To say it another way 

Principle #1 is saying our righteousness or living right does not matter at all.

Principle #2 is saying our righteousness or right living absolutely matters (in fact it is all important in our bringing God the greatest possible glory and experiencing God and all He desires to be for us).

How can these both be true and work together?

It all depends on context and setting which you are considering. 

Let's take a closer look.

# 1  There is nothing we can do that will ever make us acceptable to God or enable us to fully participate in his love.


Two primary reasons (which include some additional underlying realities). 

1. Who God is:

   • All things came to be by Him and all things continue to exist by him         
      i.e. Everything depends on God. He is Creator & sustainer of all things. 
   • God is also holy, perfect and righteous. 

      a. Because he is the Creator and because he is unyieldingly holy,   
          He rightfully deserves our complete and total allegiance and     
      b. Because of these things, He rightfully calls us to love him with all  
          our hearts soul mind and strength and our neighbors as 

          Anything short of conducting ourselves accordingly is out of line 
          with reality. Who God is, who we are and therefore unacceptable.

2. Who we are:

We are in his image designed to be in relationship with him but rejected (and still reject) Him as our Creator and sustainer resulting in our spiritual deadness i.e. we are dead to seeing him for who He truly is, unable to live for him as we ought and were designed to.  

We therefore simply do not have it in us to do as He calls us to do and be who He originally created us to be. We can never do enough. So there's no point in even trying. 

#2 Living according to God's will/directions/commands is (a) most honoring to God (b) according to our design and (c) the most freeing way to live and experience all God has designed us to experience.

Why? Faithfulness, obedience to God, living to honor Him etc. is why we exist and what we were created for. It is living according to who we are and how we were designed to experience fullness of joy and life.   

True life is in God alone. Obedience to his directions is living in alignment with his good and perfect will, putting us not only in harmony with Him/who he is, but also operating according to who he has designed us to be.

A train is not somehow liberated by getting off the track but in fact may bog down in a ditch or field or run off a cliff and crash and burn when it doesn't operate according to its design i.e. running on the track. 

Who would know better how the train operates best if not the designer of the train? 

Because he tells us how to best operate we must listen if we are to experience our greatest good and bring him greatest glory.

So how do these two principles come together?

In a word, Christ!

Christ, the eternal Son of God, stepped out of eternity and took on the flesh and blood of humanity and dwelt among us as a man. 

And not only so but he lived out his life as a man wholly for the glory of his Father in perfect harmony and obedience with him as we (humanity) were designed to live. 

After living this perfect life he allowed himself to suffer the consequences of our not living wholly for the glory of his Father. In doing so he satisfied the legal requirement to live according to God's glory and our design. 

He offered his righteous life in exchange for our unrighteous one so we are no longer required to live it in order to be received by his Father. 

In so doing he removed the barrier between us and God for failing to live as He designed us and calls us so that his Fathers love is now freely extended and poured out on us, as if we had lived perfectly for God's glory ourselves. 

His offer of right standing and uninterrupted love (the very same love the Father has for his Son) is now ours as a gift, if we receive it.

In summary, God demonstrated his love for us when we deserved the opposite, providing for us access to God and taking care of principle #1. 

As we see this love (for the first time) and are increasingly drawn up into it (an ongoing process) we respond more and more in love by seeking to honor him in all we do or say. Love is the life or dynamic necessary to live according to God's design and glory, enabling us to live out principle #2. To say it as the Bible does, we love him because he first loved us.

The Bible sums up these two principles in the following verses:

"There is therefore now no condemnation for those who are in Christ Jesus. For the law of the Spirit of life has set you free in Christ Jesus from the law of sin and death. For God has done what the law, weakened by the flesh, could not do. By sending his own Son in the likeness of sinful flesh and for sin, he condemned sin in the flesh, in order that the righteous requirement of the law might be fulfilled in us, who walk not according to the flesh (attempting to live by the law to earn God's love) but according to the Spirit (seeking to obey the law out of love and gratitude for securing right standing with him and his infinite love for us)." Rom 8:1-4

The Bible also touches on these contrasted principles in the following. 

1Co 10:23  "All things are lawful," but not all things are helpful. "All things are lawful," but not all things build up.

"All things are lawful..." simple means nothing we can do will be held against me legally because of a righteous status (legal standing) in Christ.

"not all things are helpful... not all things build up..." simply means we are designed to operate a certain way and will experience consequences for not doing so. 

The evidence of this right motive for obedience is expressed in the following

Joh 14:15  If you love me, you will keep my commandments.

1Jn 5:3  For this is the love of God, that we keep his commandments. And his commandments are not burdensome.