God the Father will never judge anyone; He won’t condemn the wicked. That role He’s committed to His Son. (Jn 5:22)
To judge Man properly Christ the Son must be omniscient; He must perfectly know the heart and motive of every action ever committed by anyone, fully understanding everyone’s background, troubles and circumstances. He must know the proper degree of shameand punishment to administer for lifetime’s of sin and rebellion, and He must do this with perfect neutrality and integrity, with perfect justice, with zero bias. This requires Christ to be perfectly and fully divine.
God the Father intends for us all to respect and honor His Son in this role of Judge, in the same way and to the same degree that we honor Himself. (Jn 5:23) There should be no difference in the way we reverence the Father and His Son.
Kiss the Son(Ps 2:12); magnify Him; praise Him; rejoice in Him, serve Him with fear and rejoice with trembling. (Ps 2:11) He came once as the Lamb (Jn 1:36), but He’s coming back to judge as the Lion (Re 5:5), and He will be very, very angry with the wicked. (Re 6:15-17)
Once we see Yeshua Messiah as fully God, equal in divinity with the Father (Php 2:6) but lower in rank and submitted to Him (1Co 11:3), we begin to see it everywhere, as in the last of Psalm 2:12: “Kiss the Son, lest he be angry, and ye perish from the way, when his wrath is kindled but a little. Blessed are all they that put their trust in him.”
We compare this with: “It is better to trust in the LORD than to put confidence in man. It is better to trust in the LORD than to put confidence in princes.” (Ps 118:8-9), “Put not your trust in princes, nor in the son of man, in whom there is no help.” (Ps 146:3), and “Thus saith the LORD; Cursed be the man that trusteth in man, and maketh flesh his arm, and whose heart departeth from the LORD. For he shall be like the heath in the desert, and shall not see when good cometh; but shall inhabit the parched places in the wilderness, in a salt land and not inhabited. Blessed is the man that trusteth in the LORD, and whose hope the LORD is.” (Jer 17:5-7)
We can’t have it both ways: either Christ is fully God and worthy of our implicit trust, or He’s a mere man and shouldn’t be ultimately trusted. If God says that all those who put their ultimate trust in Christ are blessed, Jesus Christ must be the omnipotent, infinite, eternal God.
Kiss the Son, acknowledge His majesty, giving Him honor, reverence and glory. (Re 5:13)
Jehovah is angrywhen we don’t glorify Him as God. (Ro 1:18, 20) God’s Son is just like His Father; we can either trust, serve and respect Him as Almighty God or perish from the way; He’s a consuming fire. (He 12:29)
When Yeshua was advising a rich young ruler on how to inherit eternal life, He said, “Sell all that thou hast, and distribute unto the poor, and thou shalt have treasure in heaven: and come, follow me.” (Lk 18:22) Is God’s instruction relevant to us all? Is He commanding us to be homeless and destitute? How should we interpret Him?
Firstly, observe that Yeshua owned clothing (Jn 19:23) and shoes (Mk 1:7), and His disciples owned homes (Jn 20:10), so Yeshua isn’t against having personal possessions or owning property.
Then notice the context (Lk 18:18-21): Yeshua is advising an extremely wealthy man on how to invest in eternity. In saying, in effect, “Sell it all,” He’s telling the wealthy to downsize and live modestly, to sell off the extra they don’t need in order to take care of themselves and their families, and to give to the destitute and helpless, not give away absolutely everything they own and become impoverished themselves.
Yeshua is advising us all to live for eternity, to love our neighbors as ourselves and trust God to take care of us (Mt 6:33-34), rather than amassing earthly treasures and storehouses (Mt 6:19-21); our lives and all that we have are to be dedicated to Him. (Ro 12:1)
We each have gifts from God to enable us to be Christlike in particular ways (1Co 7:7), and thus we also all have weaknesses, where we’re not so gifted. Some are more easily tempted by materialism and covetousness than others; we must all be extra careful of extremes, especially where we’re weak. (Pr 30:8-9) God does purge love of this world from His own (1Jn 2:15-17), and He does this uniquely in each of us.
The most important of all God’s commandments (Mk 12:29-30), to love God with all our heart, soul and might (De 6:5), is immediately followed by and interconnected with a related command: “And these words, which I command thee this day, shall bein thine heart.” (De 6:6)
God is essentially telling us what receiving Him looks like, how we love Him: by receiving and loving His words, hiding the actual words of His precious commands in our hearts. (Ps 119:11) His Word is our spiritual food (Je 15:16), meditating on it is how we nourish ourselves. (Ps 1:2-3)
God’s words are eternal (1Pe 1:25), jewels of spiritual life (Jn 6:63); our response to them is our response to Him. (Jn 12:48) He calls Himself The Word. (Jn 1:1)
We’re not only to obey Him, we’re to keep His commands (Jn 14:21), to cherish them, hold on to them, protect them, safeguard them, store them, keep them close by, delight in them. (Ro 7:22) Spiritual life’s not just about action, following the rules, it’s about our hearts, what we’re treasuring and delighting in. (Mt 6:21)
God continues with: “And thou shalt teach them diligently unto thy children, and shalt talk of them when thou sittest in thine house, and when thou walkest by the way, and when thou liest down, and when thou risest up.” (De 6:7) The words of God’s commands are to be constantly percolating in our minds and hearts, flowing out of us to those around us. This is to be our passion, our addiction, all day long. (Ps 119:97)
Saints are not content to stagnate in their walk with God; we’re dissatisfied in ourselves, ever aware of our imperfections (1Jn 1:8), always pushing forward, pursuing Him, following after Him to be more like Him, ever closer to Him. (Php 3:12)
Pursuing Christ means taking heed to our ways, being aware of our spiritual health and maintaining a constant goal to be more and more like Christ (1Pe 2:21), putting Him on (Ep 4:24), pretending in some further way to be like Him (1Pe 2:21), to walk as He walked. (1Jn 2:6)
It means to intentionally focus on the nature of Christ, rejoicing in Him, feeding in His majesty, and meditating on the precious promises which enable us to be partakers of His divine nature. (2Pe 1:4) As we behold Him He transforms us into His image, from one stage of holiness to another. (2Co 3:18) Every bit of Christ we can find, every step we take towards Him, is a treasure.
This is a journey no one else can take for us, a race we must run for ourselves; we are each accountableto God for our walk with Him; we must ponder the path and pursue Him for ourselves. Yet we must not isolate ourselves from community in our striving after Christ, for He is in our brothers and sisters, and can even reveal Himself through those outside the faith. He is above all, through all, and in us all. (Ep 4:6)
It might be frustrating if we focus too much on ourselves, trying to do this on our own. But our delight is that Christ is not only Whowe pursue, but also Howwe pursue; He Himself is the Way we follow and the Life that quickens us to go. (Jn 14:6) He enables our pursuit as His grace reigns through righteousness in us. (Ro 5:21) When our eyes are on Jesus like they’re supposed to be (He 12:2), it’s a privilege to pursue Him.
Unconditional election is the teaching that God chooses (elects) who will be justified (saved) by and through grace (divine enablement) (Ro 11:5), independently of human works or merit (unconditionally). (Ro 11:6) This is predestination, a pre-choosing of our destiny (Ep 1:5) before the world began (Ep 1:4) based on God’s own will (Ja 1:18), not based on free will. (Jn 1:12-13)
Since Man is desperately wicked (Total Depravity) (Je 17:9), he only does good by the irresistible grace of God. (Ro 9:19) Man is unable to even consider doing anything good without God’s aid (2Co 3:5); without Him we can do nothing good. (Jn 15:5)
While infallibly saving only a few, God mysteriously offers salvation to all (1Pe 4:9), inviting all to come to Him and be saved (1Ti 2:4), refusing no one who repents and turns to Him. (Is 55:7) Yet no depraved soul will ever come to God (Ro 3:11) unless He first moves in them to do so. (Jn 6:65) This is implied in Man’s nature when left to himself (Ro 1:20-21); it isn’t God’s fault. (Ro 3:4)
God forces no one against their will; He allows the wicked to sin according to His purpose(1Pe 2:8), while irresistibly and graciously working in and through His elect to will and to do good as it pleases Him (Php 2:13), guiding and forming our will so that we seek Him, believe on Him, obey Him and follow Him. (Ro 8:29-30)
All the Father ordains to come to Christ will come to Him and be saved eternally. (Jn 6:37) Our election, salvation, and sanctification are all ultimately due entirely to God, not ourselves. (1Co 1:30-31)
In offering truth to others we must do so in meekness (2Ti 2:24-25), with open hand, knowing we only have what God has given (1Co 4:7), and that we remain incomplete in our own understanding. (1Co 8:2)
Striving with those who don’t yet see what we do, trying to beat our light into them, is to usurp the Spirit’s role as teacher. (1Jn 2:27) Only God gives understanding; we can’t apprehend spiritual truth without His aid. (1Co 2:14)
Incorporating new truth into our lives involves a type of spiritual surgery which requires a delicate hand, not a forceful one. Pushing truth at others almost always does more harm than good. We must offer truth without demanding others receive it; remembering that we all have areas in our life where we can’t yet bear truth (Jn 16:12); we aren’t ready for it yet and only God knows us well enough to tell.
We must humbly let others be accountable to God, offering that which is holy to those who appear to be seeking it, and looking to see how their incomplete understanding might further sharpen our own. (Pr 27:17)
People are bad, really bad, intensely evil (Job 15:16), desperatelywicked; God says, “The heartis deceitful above all things, and desperately wicked: who can know it?”(Je 17:9)
Total Depravity, a basic Christian doctrine, is simply stated: We make the most evil choice God allows us to make every time we make a choice. In our natural state we consistently seek rebellion; we do so with relentless, unyielding, desperation; without God’s aid we’re incapable of anything else. (Je 13:23) It’s insanity at best, this mystery of iniquity within us, but it’s very, very real.
Yet we don’t ever actually experiencetotal depravity, either in ourselves or in others; we only get glimpses of it, hints, so it’s easy to dismiss God’s Word as allegorical or obsolete. But our lack of experience proves nothing; God also says He limits or controls our wickedness, holding us back, restraining us. (2Th 2:7) This is God’s irresistible grace, enabling us to be good (He 12:15), moving in us to be less wicked, more righteous. (Php 2:12) It’s a gift, something He does in us. (Ep 3:7) One Day He’ll stop doing this with those who aren’t His; only then will depravity be on full display. (Re 6:4)
Man’s total depravity humbles us, dismissing all formal religion as vanity, all supposed religious power and authorityas deceit, all hope of meriting God’s favor as a lie. It’s the key to soteriology, how God’s unconditional electionand limited atonementalign with His genuine, universal offer of eternal salvation. (He 5:9) It explains how God can be in absolute, total control over all things, yet how Man still has free will. It even moves Hell itself into glorious context, as awesome, unarguably appropriate and just. All these truths appear hopelessly irreconcilable until we understand Total Depravity. There’s comfort, peace and joy in seeing it all from God’s perspective. (2Co 13:11)
Yes, it seems the world’s “going to Hell in a handbasket,” it sure does, but it shouldn’t surprise or alarm us. God has a glorious purpose in all He allows. Let’s pray for and be concerned for others, and for our world, while exultingin God, being anxious for nothing. (Php 4:6-7) He knows what He’s doing.
When Yehovah gives the Decalogue on Mount Sinai, descending from Heaven to speak with Man in Person, the children of Israel immediately retreat and ask Moses to speak on God’s behalf; they don’t want to interact directly with God Himself. Their reason? God might accidentally kill them. (Ex 20:18-19)
Aren’t they accusing the Creator of being reckless, of not knowing what He’s doing, of not caring? Isn’t this our depravity on display? God is choosing Israel as His special treasure (Ex 19:5) and has just delivered them from slavery in spectacular fashion (Ex 19:4) … and now He isn’t able to speak to people without killing them? Really?
God could as easily smash the earth between His thumb and forefinger (Is 40:15); if God wanted to take them out, stepping back from the mount and asking Moses to step in isn’t going to help. What are they thinking?
This isn’t just a problem with Israel, we’re all like this at heart. Man’s instinctive reaction to holiness is aversion (Ro 8:7); instead of seeking God we run and hide. (Ro 3:11) Our iniquity is relentless, irrational, inexcusable; bleeding forth and seeping out at every turn, defying, hiding, accusing, attacking and blaming divinity without shame or concern. Men not only defy Omnipotence, knowing they deserve death, they take pleasure in others joining in. (Ro 1:32)
It’s a mystery, certainly, how and why the human heart is so evil. (2Th 2:7) Resisting, dishonoring, or defying an infinitely powerful, omnipresent, holy Being is simply insane; it can never be rational. It does, however, serve a purpose: to reveal God’s justice, wrath and power. (Ro 9:22) He only allows what will eventually glorify Himself. (Ps 76:10)
God is restraining Man’s wickedness for now (2Th 2:7), so we don’t yet know its full extent. (Jer 17:9) One day we’ll see it unchained; men will defy God, blaspheming Him to His face rather than turning from their wickedness. (Re 16:11) We’ll see them prefer eternal Hell itself to loving God and ending His suffering.
Truth is we’re all utterly depraved when left to ourselves (Ps 53:2-3); we’ve nothing to boast in; apart from God’s restraining grace we’d all be defying Him. (1Co 1:29-31) Let’s not be surprised at sin, but hold the mystery of the faith in a pure conscience. (1Ti 3:9) In humility, let’s fear the living God, esteeming others better than ourselves, giving thanks for all things (Ep 5:20) and remembering that God works all things after the counsel of His own will (Ep 1:11), for our good and for His glory. (Ro 8:28)
The foundation of the church is a Person: Jesus Christ(1Co 3:11); building on any other ground produces other things: religious organizations and social clubs, but not the church.
To ensure Christ is the foundation we must think carefully about why we’re meeting; the reasons believers are assembling comprise their foundation; our motives spawn all our activity and will be God’s focus in judgment. (1Co 3:13)If we don’t engage for the right reason we might defile Christ’s church, and that’s a dangerous thing to do. (1Co 3:17)
So, are we coming to hear uplifting sermons? Or to worship God and enjoy His presence? Or to invite others to hear the gospel? These are all good things, but they aren’t the foundation of the church. We can do these things for Christ, and we can enjoy and seek Him in them, but this isn’t the same as having Jesus Christ Himself as the foundation, the very reason we are coming together. There’s something even more important at the core of the church. (He 10:24-25)
To be a church, believers must be meeting for Jesus Christ, about Jesus Christ: He must be the reason we’re coming together, to bring the indwelling Christ to each other (Col 1:27), to share Him with each other so we can help each other in our walk with Him. (1Co 14:26) We must be coming to see and hear Him in each other (Php 1:21), and to help each other draw closer to Him (Php 2:4), focusing on getting to know Jesus Christ, and Him crucified. (1Co 2:2)
In such community there can be no place in our lives for willful sin(1Jn 3:6), and we should be in close enough community that hiding our sin isn’t an option.
In Christ’s church we cannot delegate this responsibility to edify one another to a few leaders, and sit by passively, expecting them to teach us and bring Christ to us; we each carry this responsibility. (1Th 5:11)
Jesus Christ was the foundation of the very first church, when The Twelve were following Jesus, listening to Him, watching him, beholding Him, studying Him, imitating Him.(1Jn 1:1-3) Jesus Christ was all they had in common; they were pursuingHim; He was their reason for being together. For the church of Jesus Christ, no other reason is acceptable.
Whywe come to church affects the leadership style, the order of service, the programs, the budget and all the activity. If in our coming Jesus Christ isn’t building believers into a living network through us, creating a temple He indwells (1Co 3:16), then we’re building on the sand. When the storms come, and they will, nothing will be left. (Mt 7:26-27)