Good Theology

But when the time arrived that was set by God the Father, God sent his Son, born among us of a woman, born under the conditions of the law so that he might redeem those of us who have been kidnapped by the law. Thus we have been set free to experience our rightful heritage. You can tell for sure that you are now fully adopted as his own children because God sent the Spirit of his Son into our lives crying out, “Papa! Father!” Doesn’t that privilege of intimate conversation with God make it plain that you are not a slave, but a child? And if you are a child, you’re also an heir, with complete access to the inheritance. Galatians 4:5-7

The Bible says the old has passed away. When you became a part of His kingdom, you received a new identity. God says, “You are now my child!”

What is a child of God? A child of God is holy and righteous!

During the Passover, God caused diseases and plagues that afflicted everyone, except for those who lived where the blood of the lamb was over the door. Unless you were protected by the blood, you were punished. Today, our fear comes from the fact that we still believe in a God who punishes. But He doesn’t punish us. The crucifixion changed everything, because the blood of Christ was meant for everybody.

Jesus says, “Your identity has changed. This is the reason I was crucified. If nothing is changed, if nothing is renewed, if you don’t receive a new identity, if you are still under the law, then my crucifixion was pointless. If nothing changed, then what was the point? If nothing changed, then there was no power in my blood.” But there is power in His blood. Those who came and believed are now protected by it. There is no more punishment.

The Bible says the power of the cross is meaningless to those that don’t believe, because they don’t understand the freedom that it gives them. Fear is gone!

“Well,” you ask, “what if I sin?” What if you do? You are still holy and righteous. That identity does not change. Once you are in His Kingdom, you don’t get kicked out. You don’t! That’s a lie, and it’s bad theology. It really is.

Your identity is that you are loved by the Almighty God. Your identity is that you’re in His Kingdom. There is no leaving that place, man. He loves you. He brought you in. The fear that God doesn’t want you doesn’t come from Him. That fear is man-made.

As someone told me the other day, if your theology doesn’t meet your reality, it’s bad theology. Is it your theology that you’ll get punished if you sin? Do you really think that God only loves you and wants you if you’re perfect? How does that meet your reality? Perfection is not a reality for you, nor is it a reality for me. This is bad theology!

My theology is that I have a loving and unbelievable God who sent His son to die for me and rise three days later, conquering death and saying, “Now whoever accepts me as Christ will come into the Kingdom of Heaven and live as a holy and righteous person — regardless of your mistakes!”

You might mess up. You will mess up! And God still brings you back to the feast. God says, “I’ll bring you back to the table every single day. Tomorrow you’re going to mess up, and I’m still going to invite you to my dinner. I’m going to invite you back to the feast and you’re going to come. And you’re going to dine with me. You have the blood of my Son on your life, and I see Him in you. You are always welcome at my table.”

“Well,” you might say, “but I had a lustful thought today. Or I was greedy. Or I was envious.” “I know you did,” God says. “We’ll work through it. You are always welcome here. You will always be welcome to the feast. You are always wanted at the table of the King.”

You are the child of the Most High God. You believed and were adopted into the Kingdom of Heaven. Live in your new identity. Believe in Him, for you are holy and righteous. See you Thursday.

Room of Grace

Last time I told you a story. I read it in a book The Cure by Truefaced. It’s a story about a fork in the road, one we’re all going to reach at some point in our lives. One way goes to the room of good intentions. A lot of us take that path because we want to show God how worthy we are. It seems like a good choice, until you have spent some time there. Turns out it’s an exhausting place!

The cureOnce you’re all worn out, you decide to go the other way, to the room of grace. Much to your surprise, you’re warmly welcomed in the room of grace. There’s a huge party going on. There’s laughter and conversation. And people are not fake laughing, either. They’re really enjoying each other’s company. You might not be used to this, and you might not think you can fit in. You haven’t been having very much fun yourself, trying to make yourself worthy of God’s love. You might even feel afraid, and try to leave.

But you are welcome. This is exactly where you belong. And someone’s going to yell at you from across the room, saying, “Where do you think you’re going?” When you say, “I don’t think I belong here,” that voice will tell you, “None of us belong here. That’s why we’re here!”

What? You’re here because you don’t belong? “Yes!” the voice says. “None of us belong here, man. That’s why it’s such a great place to be. We all have our issues. We’ve all made mistakes. And we’re welcome!”

What a concept! Think about it. Think about your burdens, your issues, your wounds, your garbage, and all the crap that you think you have to hide. You’re welcome in the room of grace because of all of that! And so you stay.

When you checked into the room of good intentions and found your own room, what was in it? A bed piled high with all your sin and shame. Jesus was way over on the other side, and you worked yourself to exhaustion and despair trying to get to Him. Here in the room of grace, when you find your own room, there’s your bed, again piled high with all your sin and shame. But this time it’s different. This time, Jesus isn’t way over on the other side. This time, Jesus is standing right next to you.

And Jesus says, “Whew! That’s a lot of mistakes, man! That’s a lot of sin!” And then He says, “But you know what? I’m going to walk with you, all the way through it. I’m never going to leave your side. We’ll deal with all of that together, I promise. But not right now. Right now, why don’t we just enjoy each other for awhile?”

And so He sits there with you. You and Jesus just sit there, together. And He says, “I love you. And we’ll get through it.”

And you know it’s true.

I really encourage you to read the book. Truefaced takes you through so many scenarios to help you understand grace. Once you understand grace, you’ll understand who you are. You’ll understand that you are holy and righteous. And when you live out of that, you will find freedom.

Next time I’ll tell you a bit about freedom. See you Monday.

From Good Intentions to Grace

I hang out a bit with a group called Truefaced. One of their leaders, John Lynch, has co-authored a book called The Cure. He tells a great story about a fork in the road.

We all hit a fork in the road, at least once in our lives. It often comes without warning. There you are, walking along in your journey through life, and whatever you’ve been doing, it’s been working for you. But next thing you know the road forks. Maybe you’re mad, maybe not, but whatever else is going on, you have to choose a direction. Which way will you go? Left or right?

Well, as Lynch tells it, the sign says that if you go to the left, you’ll find the room of good intentions. If you go to the right, you’ll find the room of grace. You don’t need long to decide. To begin with, you don’t really understand grace, so you think, “I have no idea what lies in that direction. Not a good choice!” Besides, that road doesn’t look very well traveled.

The road to good intentions looks really well traveled. Obviously everyone is going that way. Plus, we like good intentions! So that’s the road you choose.

When you arrive, the lobby is pretty crowded. A woman greets you and says, “Welcome to the room of good intentions. How are you today?” Well, you’ve been feeling pretty confused about life, especially since running into that fork in the road. “I’m feeling a bit confused,” you say.

When you do that, she gets this weird, scared look on her face. You can see that she doesn’t know how to handle your answer. In fact, that crowded room gets pretty quiet. Everybody comes to a stop, and they all look over at you, staring at you. And you realize something creepy. They’re all wearing masks, masquerade ball masks, with fake smiley faces. They all wear the same look. They all smile the same smile. And they don’t know how to react to you.

The woman who greeted you slips you a mask. “Just put that on,” she advises. So you do. You put it on and you tell everybody, “I’m fine.”

“I’m fine.” This is all you say, because you realize that this is all that anyone wants to hear.

Eventually you go to your room. And guess what? You feel really weird in your room. Your bed is there, but it’s piled high with your sin. On the other side of all that sin is Jesus. Every day you work hard and you try to remove your sin, but every day, there’s even more sin piled on that bed. You keep trying to remove your sin, but you can’t. How are you ever going to get to God?

You start to feel bad about yourself. You start to feel like you’re not worthy. Look at all that sin and shame. You’ll never get it cleared away. He’s never going to like you.

After trying as long and as hard as you can, you quit. You’re out. You’re drained. So you leave. Despite your good intentions – no, your very best intentions – you have failed.

Back out on the road, you see that there are a lot of people living on the wayside. Like you, they are drained. They are tired. But they are afraid to try that other room, the room of grace. They don’t understand grace, so all they can think is that they don’t want to be let down again. So they just camp out where they are, families and everything. They are nomads, hanging out on the side of the road, too burned out to try again. It was the room of good intentions that burned them out. They could never be who they thought God wanted them to be. They couldn’t add up!

You don’t want to end up like them, so you go back to the fork in the road. But this time, you go to the right. You walk that road to the room of grace, and you walk in. A woman greets you, and you ask her, “How are you?” And she says, “Meh. I’ve had better days. How are you?”

You reply, “Um, fine?”

And she looks at you and says, “You don’t sound fine.”

“Well,” you say, “I’m confused. And I’m so tired. And I’m afraid I can’t add up.”

“I’m not worthy,” you say. “I don’t think God will ever like me.”

And she hears all of that and smiles, and then says, “Welcome home!”

Next time, I’ll tell you what the room of grace feels like. See you Thursday.

The Price of Telling Lies

Recently a friend confessed to me that she fears that God does not want her.

She fears that God does not want her.

I don’t think it was easy for her to tell me this. She might never have said it, except that she’d already told me that she needed my help. When we sat down together, I asked her, “How are you?” She stared at me and I could see the debate in her eyes. You know what she said? “I don’t want to lie to you.”

She actually debated telling me that she was hurting! But that didn’t surprise me. In my experience, people often cover up their real feelings and just say that they’re okay. ”I’m fine,” they say. “I’m fine.” I’m not talking about routine exchanges at cash registers or the car wash. I’m talking about people who should be able to confide in each other, but instead they say, “I’m fine.” Ask your friends, “How are you?” See how many of them say, “I’m fine.” How often do they lie to you, covering up their fear and everything else because they don’t know grace — or think they don’t deserve it?

How often do you tell the same lie?

We’re not even comfortable being honest in church. Hurting? Confused? Frightened? In pain? No one wants to say it. Just say you’re fine. What do you hear at church when people ask each other, “How are you doing today?” You hear people say, “I’m fine! I’m blessed!” Seriously, no one is having a bad day? No challenges? No disappointments? Not even a headache? No one?

“I’m fine. I’m fine. I’m fine.” That’s what you hear, even though I think that many people in church feel exactly like my friend does. Maybe sometimes, like her, they debate telling the truth. But when they get asked, they end up telling the same old lie. “I’m fine.”

My biggest question to the church is why? Why should I have to debate whether to tell somebody the truth when I’m not okay? We’re expected to wear masks and pretend that we’re fine, and it makes me angry. It makes me angry because people in pain are trying to get through life without ever being honest about it. And so they die. They die. They think God is disappointed in them, but they don’t want to tell anybody.

A lot of people, a lot of people, dealing with tragedy and wounds from the past, tend to project the lessons of those wounds or tragedies onto God. Maybe they were hurt in the past when a human being has failed them, and they fear the same from God. “Well, that person rejected me, so God will reject me.” Right? It’s really common to project our views of life onto God.

And so I think people are afraid to share their issues in honest dialogue because they are afraid to disappoint people. They take that human disappointment and they project it onto God. When we see that someone is disappointed in us, we think, “This is how God sees me too.”

No. Unequivocally, no. That is not how God sees you. When you called Him Almighty God, He called you holy and righteous. When God looks at you, that’s what he sees: His precious child, holy and righteous. And nothing could ever make Him stop wanting you.

I told my friend a story that helped me, and I think it will help you too. I’ll share it next time. See you Monday.

 

Sons and Daughters of the King

Kingdom theology can be hard to grasp, because we’re not very familiar with the concept of kingdom. We don’t live in one, unlike the people of the Bible. The Kingdom of Israel went through a lot of changes from the time of its first king (Saul) until the death of its last one (Agrippa II), but despite those changes it was still a kingdom. So when Jesus talked about the kingdom of God, everybody understood exactly what He meant.

Think about how a kingdom worked for the king’s children. If you were a prince or a princess, then you were part of the king’s family. That was your identity. If someone asked, “Who are you,” your answer would be, “I’m so-and-so, son or daughter of the king!” That identity carried some weight! When you went out, it was with the king’s name. You were his blood. He had a plan for you, and a purpose, and that was to represent him, his family, and his name. You would go out to do your father’s work, and you’d say, “I’m a child of the king.” That made you important!

It was an identity that came with other perks, too. If you were one of the king’s children, you were protected. Not only did you have the king’s name and access to his property, you had protection. Literal protection! You had guards, and those guards were warriors. They went everywhere with you, and kept you safe from any evil that might threaten you. Evildoers would see you and say, “Oh, that’s the princess. I don’t care how evil I am, I’m not touching her. I don’t want to get killed!”

So think about what people heard when Jesus invited them into the kingdom of God. They fully understood the implications. And they said, “I’m in! I don’t want to be a peasant anymore. I want to be royalty! I want to be covered by the protection of the king!”

The cool thing about God’s kingdom is that we can get adopted into it. You can’t get adopted into a man-made kingdom. The only way to be royalty in a man-made kingdom is to be born into the royal family. But God says, “I’m going to adopt you into my kingdom.” You can be adopted! Everybody’s in on this gig now. Everybody.

When you get adopted into the kingdom of heaven, you become a child of the Most High God. That is your new identity. When you accept Christ as your savior, your old identity passes away and God brings you into His kingdom as His very own child. “You have become anew,” He says. “You are now my child.” You’re part of His family. You have His name. You are His blood. He has a plan and a purpose for you, and you represent Him. You go out and you do His work.

And you are protected. God’s children are holy and righteous. That can’t change. No matter what you do, you are holy and righteous.

I can hear you asking, “Well, what if I sin?” Well, what if you do? There will be consequences to the decisions you make, same as with your own children. But you don’t go back to your old identity. You are holy and righteous. That identity does not change. The blood of Jesus has covered you and as far as the east is from the west, so far has He removed our transgressions from us. In His kingdom, you are holy and righteous.

See you Thursday.

The End of Punishment and Fear

My sons will never fear that I will not accept them. They will never fear that I will reject them, or not like them, or not want them. They might get disciplined, but they will never get punished. I’m not going to punish my sons. I’m not going to make them feel like they’re not worthy, or not good enough to be in my family.

I will tell them that because they are in my family, we’re going to do things a certain way. Not by living according to a list of rules, but by our demeanor. It’s how you carry yourself. It’s respecting. It’s loving your neighbor as yourself. But if they don’t do it, they won’t get kicked out of the family. Never! That’s punishment. That’s not how I work.

That’s not how God works!

I think there are a lot of Christians struggling with the fear of God. I want to offer some thoughts on an alternative to fear, that is, grace. I’m going to spend the next few weeks developing this, but if you want to know my main point, it’s this: grace ends fear. So don’t be afraid.

Fear of God comes from the fact that we still believe in a God that punishes.

If you fear God, it’s because of Old Testament theology. I’m not talking about reverential fear. I’m talking about fear that comes through punishment. You may not even be conscious of it, but it’s there. It teaches us that God will punish us. If you turn around and look at the city, you’re going to get turned into a pillar of salt. If you upset God by worshiping an idol, he’s going to cause the ground to split open and swallow you up. If you don’t do something right, God is going to smite you. There’s a lot of fear created by this angry God. Right?

I may catch some flack from the church for saying this, but in my opinion, the Old Testament is just that: old. Now there is good stuff in there, like Daniel and the account of the end times. There is some good historical material. The books of the prophets are pretty good. King David’s words and deeds are prophetic, and the lineages and David himself point to Jesus. There are some cool stories, like the one about David and Goliath. But those stories are so ancient that most people in the modern church probably don’t understand them.

Life as it was then is not how life is now. The main reason for the Old Testament now is for it to do exactly what it does: point to Jesus.  What does the New Testament say about punishment and fear? In the New Testament, Jesus says, “Everything I do is a reflection of my Father. So every time I walk around and see someone hurting, I heal their hearts. Or I heal their disease. That’s what the Father wants.”

Does that sound like an angry and fearsome God?

Look in Corinthians. Or look in Galatians. Read the letters of Paul. He says, “Fear comes from punishment, but perfect love casts out fear.”

The fear is you’re going to get punished. But I don’t believe that’s how God looks at you. God doesn’t want you to be scared of Him. Perfect love casts out fear! Once you accept Christ as your Savior, your identity completely changes. And then there’s no such thing as punishment.

Punishment is going to come for those that aren’t a part of the Kingdom of Heaven, because punishment is hell. Once you’re in the Kingdom of Heaven, you’re in the family of God. In God’s family, there is no such thing as punishment. There’s discipline, yes. Because that’s discipling.

God only did what he did in the Old Testament because the people asked Him for rules. God didn’t want rules, we did! And then when you break the rules there’s punishment, right?

But I don’t believe that’s how God intended it to be. That’s why He sent His son to finish with the law and make a new covenant with us.

Punishment has nothing to do with post-resurrection grace. Not a thing!

More on this next time. See you Monday.

Happy Easter!

Happy Easter! We are made holy and righteous by His grace!

Alaska, AnchorageEaster Lily and black background.For the next little while, I’m going to be blogging about grace. But you don’t have to wait until the end of the series to hear my conclusions. I’ll tell you right now! When you become a part of God’s kingdom, you are holy and righteous because God says you are. You are His precious sons and daughters because that’s who He says you are.

The Consummation of Love
Love has been perfected among us in this: that we may have boldness in the day of judgment; because as He is, so are we in this world. There is no fear in love; but perfect love casts out fear, because fear involves torment. But he who fears has not been made perfect in love. We love Him because He first loved us.
1 John 4:17-19

Live in grace. Live in grace every day. People around you will smell the aroma of Christ coming from you. It’s the smell of peace and happiness, and that comes from knowing you are His. You are in Him and He is in you. That is your identity!

He made you that way because He loves you.

God loves you! So don’t be afraid. See you Thursday.