PLEASE TAKE THE TIME AND EFFORT TO GET THE GOSPEL RIGHT. YOUR ETERNAL DESTINATION DEPENDS ON IT!
This is Part Five of my personal, post-conversion story. There will be a Part Six. There is simply too much weighty theological material to absorb in a single post, and the last thing I want to do is bog down the reader with weighty theological concepts.
Here in Part Five I'll begin the task of tying together the loose ends of all I have written in my story so far. Part Five is more of a theology lesson that will provide a solid foundation upon which I will build my story to it's final, glorious, God exhaling conclusion. Theology lesson = Gospel Truth. All this is, is fleshing out the Gospel in greater detail for your benefit. This is all Gospel.
In Part Six I'll explain how my providential pain and suffering lead to the conclusion that I had adopted a legalistic mindset, the roots of my legalism, and how the power of the Gospel is constantly liberating me from a "do more, try harder" ethic.
Part Five and Part Six is where the theological rubber meets the providential road. ((see PROVIDENCE. This is essential biblical teaching that addresses every single event that happens in your life. I highly suggest that you read this) You will be lost if you start here. If you need to catch up, follow the hyperlink back to where you left off, or start at the beginning. Thanks, and may the good Lord bless you through my trials and your own trials with a greater understanding of the Gospel.
LIBERTY FROM LEGALISM THROUGH THE GOSPEL: MY PERSONAL STORY: PART FOUR
GREAT PROVIDENTIAL PAIN AND SUFFERING LEADS TO GREAT RESCUE BY A GREAT SAVIOR
The late, great Christian thinker C.S. Lewis quoted in on of his books,
That quote sums up a great biblical Truth, and that is precisely what the Lord did through the events described in Part Four of my story. My horrendous pain and suffering was a catalyst that the Lord employed to rescue me from spiritual tragedy.
“God whispers to us in our pleasures, speaks to us in our conscience, but shouts in our pains: It is His megaphone to rouse a deaf world”
GOD IS IN CONTROL
The events in our lives are neither accidents or coincidences. God has absolute control, mastery, and sovereignty over everything in His created order....
.....Everything from the the exact location and trajectory of every electron of every atom in the entire universe, to devastating earthquakes that kill thousands of people. From the delicate and unique structure of each individual snowflake, to the appointment of cruel and dictatorial world leaders. From the creation of the sweet scent and delicate beauty of a flower, to the unexpected death of a loved one in a car accident. From our extraordinary gifts of intelligence and inventiveness, to besieging our bodies with debilitating diseases and afflictions: God controls it all. And as a fallen race, we don't necessarily like the fact that God is behind the curtain, ordaining the disastrous events in our lives, do we?
GOD IS GOD AND WE ARE NOT
How can we possibly wrap out puny, finite, fallen brains around an infinitely mysterious Deity? We can't. Fortunately for us though, God has revealed who He is, His attributes and His character, through nature, through our conscience, through His divinely inspired Word, and ultimately through the incarnation of God as Jesus Christ, one of the three Persons who combine into the singular Divine essence of the Christian God.
WHO GOD IS...
God has made it clear who He is. And God can only act according to His Character. God is not the Author of evil, nor does He have a speck of evil in Him. God is Holy, God is righteous, God is supreme, God is "just" (He must do what is right), God is perfect, God is sovereign, God is self-existent and non-contingent, God is Spirit, God knows everything, God is all powerful, God does not change, God is love, God is merciful, God is kind, God is gracious, God is patient, God is our Creator. These are some of the things that God has revealed to us about Himself.
WHY WOULD A LOVING GOD....
Lets be honest. When horrific events and circumstances suddenly make their ghastly appearance into our otherwise stable lives, we cannot help but wonder if God is really in control. After all, if God does exert His supreme mastery over everything, then why would He kill thousands of people in an earthquake? Why would He allow children to starve to death? Why would He cause you to lose your job or develop cancer? Why would He take the life of your only child? Why? The hyperlink on PROVIDENCE above provides a biblical answer to that perplexing question.
THE ROOT SINS OF UNBELIEF, IDOLATRY, AND PRIDE ALWAYS PRODUCE BAD FRUIT
In tying up all the loose ends of my story and explaining how my pain and suffering lead to freedom from the bondage of legalism, there are a few theological terms and concepts that you will need to understand. I'll begin by explaining three root sins inherent in all of us. These "sins of the heart" are imbedded into our very nature as fallen creatures. And it is from these root sins that all other sins sprout and grow; this includes both sins of "commission" and sins of "omission".
Everything from cursing, gossip, and our bitter, condescending words toward others are rooted in these root sins. The same is true with morally bad behaviors and lawlessness. Our neglect of loving and caring for those in need find their ars also rooted these sins. Even our upright, moral religious and spiritual practices (including legalism) in the spirit of doing human good apart from faith in Christ are rooted in unbelief, idolatry, and pride; there are underlying sinful motives in every attempt to be good and do good.
Let me briefly explain each of these sins...
When our lives unexpectedly spiral out of control due to unfortunate events and circumstances, when our health or the health of those we love and adore decline and fail, we tend to feel unrighteous anger, indignation, bitterness, hostility, and consequently we get stuck in the miry swamp of anxiety and depression. The fact is, in the moment when we experience these feelings, we are not believing in who God is! We are leveling an implicit accusation at God, questioning if He really is good, and we do not believe He is the Divine Person He says He is. In other words, we are calling God a liar. That's the sin of UNBELIEF.
ARE WE REALLY THAT BAD?
We are also living in the spirit of unbelief when we do not believe what God's Word reveals about the human condition, that we are all bad, bad people, fully deserving Hell. We fail to believe that we are as evil as the Bible clearly teaches. We think that we have at least one spark of moral goodness within us apart from God.
But the truth is, God sees all of our righteous deeds are filthy rags, the intentions of our hearts are only evil continually, and our hearts are deceitful above all things and desperately wicked. We fail to believe that we are innately hostile toward God and that we all deserve a swift execution because of our rebellion and cosmic treason against Him.
We fail to believe that we have absolutely no right to be in His Holy presence, and that we are expelled from His kingdom because of our sin. We would rather believe that because we do more to serve God, and try harder to be a better person, that God is indebted to us and therefore He is obligated to shower us with blessings.
God is the one Being of infinite value, of greatest virtue and moral purity, and we are commanded to love God and to trust Him with all our heart, soul, mind, and strength. He commands this because to love other things of inferior value above and beyond love of Him is not good for us. Therefore, when we love other things of inferior value over and above God, we are committing the great sin of IDOLATRY.
God wants the very best for us, His created beings, and the very best for us is the Being of God Himself. Our supreme joy, pleasure, peace, and purpose in life are found only in a relationship with Him. But one of the root sins as fallen human beings is that we pick and choose the characteristics of God that please us and fit into our shallow paradigm and we ignore all the rest.
OLD IDOLATRY BUFFET
Idolatry is like going to a buffet and heaping your plate full of the things that really appeal to you and taste good. Sure, we are pleased with God's love, His greatness, His mercy, His grace, His incredible creativity and ingenuity, His wisdom, and His kindness.
But we fail to leave room on our plate for His Holiness, His righteousness, His justice, His wrath, His Hell, His Divine election, His hand of correction, His sovereignty, and His mastery and Lordship over all, including breaking your legs the day before you were supposed to embark on an important missionary trip. Even though these Divine characteristics are intrinsically good and just, they do not appeal to us, they leave a bad taste in our mouth, and so we pass right on by for something more palatable.
When we pick and choose which characteristics of God are appealing to us and reject all the rest, we are fashioning a god to suit our own palate. A god who is all love but fails to punish sin is not who God is! Neither is a god who is obligated to dole out blessings in return for our obedience and our religious devotion. Our idol might not be in the form of a statue, but the great sin of idolatry is that we believe something about God that isn't true.
When we are at the buffet and we get to dessert table, oh, how we love to satiate our appetites and stuff our faces with all of the goodies and delights that are in the "Junk food" category! Don't we all tend to overdo the things we know are bad for us? Even when we immerse ourselves into activities and passions that are not necessarily bad for us, but we overindulge to the point that it negatively affects our lives and the lives of others around us, we are engaging in idolatry.
With the one true God, we are not at liberty to pick and choose what we like and what we don't like about Him. We either receive Him gladly for who He is, or we twist Him into a false deity.
For a thoroughly interesting explanation on the sin if PRIDE, Look into the C.S. Lewis Christian classic, "Mere Christianity", a chapter titled, "The Great Sin". However, I'll explain some things about pride. Pride is loathing God, it is alienation; seeking to live independent of His rightful rule over our lives. It is godless self-reliance.
When things don't go our way, we have a spiritual temper tantrum; we are pointing an accusing finger at God, and our message to Him is that we don't like the way He is governing His created order according His infinite wisdom and goodness. In our pride we would seize control of the Lordship that belongs to God alone. God is the most supreme and beneficent King, but in our pride we would dethrone Him as King, execute Him, and set ourselves upon His throne as supreme ruler.
Pride is not only pitting ourselves against the Supreme Being, but it puts other human beings in our cross hairs as well. We tend to look at ourselves in a much better light than our neighbor, as if we are a better person then they. We gleefully point out the moral failures of others, we suppress our own moral failures, and we proudly advertise our own moral achievements. We love news stories and movies that showcase the depravity in other people, then we pat ourselves on the back thinking, "At least I'm not like that lousy, good-for-nothing bum". That's pride in a nutshell.
WHAT THE GOSPEL IS.....
"Gospel" is a theological term that I use frequently in my posts. I want to be clear on what the Gospel is so I'll just lay it all out for you. The Gospel, in the biblical sense, is everything that is true about God, everything that is true about man, everything that is true about man's fallen condition, and everything that is true about God's redemptive plan to save a remnant of fallen humanity by sending His only Son Jesus Christ to live the life we failed to live and to die the death that we deserve.....
.....The Gospel is everything that is true about the present and future fulfillment of God's promises to those who put their trust in the redemptive work of Jesus Christ; submitting to His supreme authority over their lives; and living in a restored relationship with Him, Everything that is true about our ADOPTION, our eternal security, our propensity and compulsion to stray from God loving grasp, and God's radical missions of rescue and restoration through Divine providence. Everything that is true about Heaven; God's glorious kingdom and resting place for His glorified saints, and everything that is true about Hell; the final destination for those who fail to trust in Jesus Christ as Lord and Savior. Everything that is true about angels and, demons, and Satan. And on and on and on it goes. You get the idea.....
GOSPEL IS MORE THAN JUST A MESSAGE OF SOUL SALVATION
I think there is a common misconception among Christians that "the Gospel" is merely the Good News message that gets you into the kingdom, and that once you're in, it's time to move on to the real work of Christian ministry; bringing more and more people into God's kingdom. True, the Gospel is the Good News message of soul salvation, but it is goes well beyond that into much a deeper and practical spiritual reality for Christians. Everything that is true about God, man, sin, judgment, salvation, Heaven, Hell, etc. are not just theological tidbits to be stored away in a dusty closet once you become a Christian.
Christians need the redemptive power of the Gospel every single moment of our pathetically sinful lives. We need to be constantly reminded of "What The Gospel Is" and believe that what God has revealed to us is Truth. We constantly need to be reminded of the incredible spiritual reality we find ourselves in, the way things really are, because we are great sinners who need a great Savior who loves us unconditionally, who bails us out of trouble all day, every day. The Gospel is not just an academic endeavor we eventually graduate from. Christians ought to preach the Gospel to themselves daily, and live out the implications of the Gospel in our everyday lives, even if our lives are simple, boring, or mundane. It never gets beyond that.
That's more than enough theological meat to chew on for now. Now for some practical application, and please ask for the Holy Spirit to grant you eyes to see. My challange for you, the reader, is to take note. Examine your own sinful attitudes, words, and behaviours and ask yourself, "What root sins are at work causing that particular sinful attitude, word, or behavior?"
Another interesting exercise that I do is to make observations of other people. Obvserve their words, their overall attitude, their actions and their neglect of duty. Do this with humility, realizing you are no better than they are. You will be amazed at how great the fall of man is by the bad fruit manifested in you and others.
Hopefully I can wrap this up in Part Six. Blessing in the Lord, Casey