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Deconstructing Christian Cliche – Part II

saints sinners

In the previous post, we looked at the oft-used phrase “Judge not lest you be judged.” Most people utilize this verse as an escape from being judged themselves, without ever understanding its true biblical context and application. All throughout Scripture, we see both the need to discern correctly (judge) and the need to avoid hypocrisy when examining and criticizing others.  What God forbids is not judging itself, but, rather, doing so superficially, arrogantly and with a double-standard.

The next frequently used cliché involves God’s attitude towards sin and sinners – “God loves the sinner but hates the sin.”  This statement is used without reservation in most Christian circles as if it was a biblical truth, but is it?  The testimony of Scripture will show us differently.

A common error is to over-emphasize a particular attribute of God and in our current culture no one attribute is more talked about than God’s love. Love, however, is spoken of in variant degrees and types in Scripture and in the English language the word ‘love’ is extremely weak and multi-definitional.  We say that we love our car, we love ice cream, love the Saints, love God and love our children all with the same word; however, the meaning in each case is radically different. Surely no one wants to argue that they love God in the same manner, meaning and measure that they love their automobile. Hence, ‘love’ is too broad and too blanketed to be used precisely in describing God’s relationship to sinners for most certainly the love of God extended to the man who is condemned to eternal punishment in hell is most certainly not the recipient of unending grace and mercy.

The book of Psalms declares that, “The LORD tests the righteous, but the wicked and the one who loves violence His soul hates. Upon the wicked He will rain coals; Fire and brimstone and a burning wind shall be the portion of their cup.” (Psalm 11:5-6)  God’s wrath and hatred towards those who practice evil is often underemphasized making passages such as these seem quite foreign and harsh; yet without the bad news of impending judgment and condemnation the good news of the Gospel is made unnecessary.  Proverbs says that the LORD hates those who are arrogant and spread discord among the brethren (Proverbs 6:16-19) and Psalm 5 clearly states that God takes no pleasure in wickedness, therefore the boastful shall not stand in His sight for He hates all workers of iniquity abhorring the bloodthirsty and deceitful.

So if we are to stay consistent in our understanding and true to the text of Scripture we must maintain that God is angry at sin and sinner alike.  Hell will not be full of miscellaneous sins it will be the eternal dwelling place of sinners who refuse to turn from sin and put their trust in the complete forgiveness of God found in the life, death and resurrection of Jesus Christ.

God loved humanity by offering up His only begotten Son at Calvary so that convicted sinners may escape their just reward but the degree of that affection is tempered by the free will of Him who alone extends mercy.

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Death Comes Quickly

no cementaryBy now, no doubt, we are all weary of the seeming avalanche of celebrity reports in the news related to the high profile deaths in Hollywood as of late – Jackson, Fawcett, McMahon, Malden, Mays, Travalena, Storm… These deaths bring to mind the quick passing time scroll that we call life.  In some ways we think that time is paralyzed in movies and pictures and with those whom we haven’t seen in quite some time. How often have you run into someone you haven’t seen in years and suddenly find yourself in shock that they look so different?  Time is the ferry that waits for no one.

God tells us that our expiration date has been sealed in heaven for “there is an appointed time for everything. And there is a time for every event under heaven–A time to give birth and a time to die; A time to plant and a time to uproot what is planted. A time to kill and a time to heal; A time to tear down and a time to build up. A time to weep and a time to laugh; a time to mourn and a time to dance.” (Eccl.3:1-4)  While our end is fixed we are not given the hour or day of our departure (Deut. 29:29); instead, we are firmly told to redeem the time we are given here on earth wisely for we do not know what tomorrow’s events may bring.

As James tells us in his epistle, “…you do not know what your life will be like tomorrow. You are just a vapor that appears for a little while and then vanishes away. Instead, you ought to say, “If the Lord wills, we will live and also do this or that. But as it is, you boast in your arrogance; all such boasting is evil.” (James 4:14-16)

jazz funeral

Thinking that tomorrow is ours is evil. Not acknowledging God’s providence over each inhale and every exhale is arrogant boasting. Our lives are indeed in His hands.  As we age, we become acutely aware of our inevitable stop. Our ‘vaporism’ is revealed. Skin loosens. Bones ache. Our frailty is made more and more evident as we ante up more frequent co-payments and attend more frequent funerals. The ferry plows on.

Death’s immediate impact on us is directly proportional to how close it is to us relationally.  The impact of a Sudanese dying in England whom we’ve never met is not even close to the impact of our spouse or parent passing. According to the U.S. Census bureau, there are approximately two and half million deaths per year in the United States – that’s five deaths per minute.  Interestingly, we don’t live as though this is the case; taking each day more precious than the next.

As you continue through your activities this weekend, remind yourself of these passages and another truth from the book of Ecclesiastes – It is better to go to a house of mourning than to go to a house of feasting, because that is the end of every man, and the living takes it to heart.” (cf. 7:2)  May we take life to heart as the gift that it is and may we continue to warn those who are in danger of losing it forever.