Tag: hell

Christian, Why Aren’t You Pounding On My Door?

It’s not an issue of debate, at least, probably not for you.

In sync with your faith understanding and interpretation of the Bible, you believe hell is absolutely real and anyone who doesn’t repent, say the “sinner’s prayer,” and make the proper life adjustments is destined to spend eternity there.

For you, hell is a God appointed, forever place of unbearable torture and suffering where the occupant’s greatest desire is to die, but they can’t—it’s hell, their due punishment for rejecting a holy and just God.

Therefore, the understood purpose of Jesus is to communicate and manifest God’s love to people while making it possible for them, through their repentance and faith, to be “saved” from the terrifying, agonizing, eternal reality God has prepared for them if they don’t love Him back in return. In your mind, perhaps God doesn’t exactly “send” people to hell nor desire their eternal demise, but they rather choose it. Either way, at the very least, God allows hell for the unbelieving, is holy in doing so, and your prescribed mission is, out of love and obedience, to do everything you can to keep people from going there.

I’m not being critical nor condemning of your faith understanding, just descriptive.

Which leaves me with a question.

If you believe hell is so real and terrible, God loves me enough to send His Son to die a gruesome death on a cross to make it possible for me to avoid it, and you are His plan to tell me all about it so that I can believe all the right things to escape it, why aren’t you pounding on my door every minute of every day to convince me of it? Even if I should turn away, brush you off, or even reject it all together, why don’t you keep relentlessly pursuing it? It’s a hell of eternal torment that you believe in, is it not?

What could possibly be more important? Certainly, not your marriage, family, career, or enjoyed way of life—that would be ridiculously selfish in contrast to the eternal suffering of even just one person, especially in the kind of hell to which you subscribe. What kind of twisted love could one possibly possess that would ever consider resting for just a moment, knowing the potential result if you do?

With millions of “lost” people, you believe, standing at the edge of forever fire only a heartbeat away from eternal torture, how is it that you can be doing, investing, spending, prioritizing, and participating in anything less than the direct pleading, door-pounding, begging, and drawing of every person possible?

And what about your behavior? I hear that your faith tradition believes that little bugger can actually become a stumbling block, even unto the saving faith of another. With all due respect, as much as you seem to be comfortable in talking about everyone else’s personal conduct, for just a moment, can we talk about yours? To think that, for example, an overweight, gluttonous pastor or smoking parishioner might be the primary reason a person concludes, “this whole Jesus thing isn’t for me,” shouldn’t that send every Christian to their local Gold’s Gym after Sunday preaching, not the typical gorging at Golden Corral commonly themed? If that doesn’t potentially shutdown a heathen’s moment of saving faith, what about your 50% divorce rate? What about the 60% of church leaders who watch porn? What about all the church gossip and political infighting? We’re talking about a hell of eternal torment that you believe in, are we not?

Which reminds me, I also recall a couple central, pivotal passages from the Bible that are highly faith defining. One dictates that in actuality, it’s “God’s kindness that leads to repentance” and the other, “the ministry of the Law is death.” So, wait a second. If a white-hot hell is so real and repentance is the sure ticket to the cool breezes of heaven, shouldn’t we be the kindest people on planet earth and exuding a ministry of Grace like the world has never seen? Shouldn’t we be revered in every corner of the planet as being the gentlest, most compassionate, radically gracious, unconditional loving, patient, selfless, generous, serving, and humble people ever known upon the earth—even to a fault?

I know this might be a tough question to answer, but in light of the seriousness of your claims about hell, why isn’t yours a clear, resounding, and flat out earth-shaking lifestyle of relentless kindness, radical Grace, and compassionate character that’s pounding at the doors of every heart and mind in every moment of every day to convince them? I hate to ask this yet again, but this is an eternal hell of unimaginable pain, suffering, and brutal torture at the hands of demons that we are talking about, is it not?

I, and many others, have been carefully listening for your answer, and perhaps we have sadly received it. For as much as this is difficult to say, the truth is, our doors have almost never felt your genuine knock, our hearts rarely ever hear the plea of your kindness, our eyes see so much hypocrisy, and our souls starve in absence of observing and feeling any genuine love, acceptance, and true Grace from you.

Rather, if I’m honest, you seem so desperate to insist that your hell is so real and that I need to take it so drastically serious. Yet, I am growing more and more convinced that, by all the things you do and don’t, you yourself don’t actually believe it, perhaps not even in Jesus either. For if you did, with all due respect, I just have to believe you’d be so much more loving, so much more kinder, so much more gracious, so much more concerned about your own walk, and so much more focused on loving, respecting, accepting, and pursuing mine—you know, like Jesus.

Instead, I see state-of-the-art church buildings, lighting systems, worship packages, budgets, and million dollar pastoral homes and salaries. I see Christian clubs with crosses on top where like-minded, like-skinned people gather like herds of cattle to daintily drivel amongst themselves and viciously judge the world. I see people who are addicted to the sound of their own spiritual voices, consumed by consuming, and content with making their spiritual satisfaction the idolatrous priority of their faith. I see people leaning on their ideologies to the detriment, harm, and abuse of others. I see people who demonstrate little-to-no restraint in highjacking Jesus for political power, personal empire building, and ministry fame. I see people who are feverishly unkind, selfish, privileged, and pretentious—totally at peace with a faith-life of spiritual navel gazing, people-judging, bible-weaponizing, and personal significance seeking. I see people who marginalize, discriminate, and torment those with whom they disagree, dislike, or conveniently deem to be sinning differently. I see people who view the world as a spiritual project—a pasture of beastly humans to ultimately rope into their brand of religious performance, rule-keeping, soul-milking, and mold-fitting. I see people who have spiritually rationalized nearly every form of evil under the sun while joyfully passing it off as biblical faithfulness. For much of modern Christianity has become so thin, white, privileged, cutting, and square, you could use it as piece of paper—best crumpled up and discarded, to be sure. “LeBron pulls up, he shoots, he scores”—all of it, into file thirteen.

If your hell is so true and your faith so loving, how in the world could you ever have time, energy, imagination, resources, or heart for becoming so much of what Jesus is clearly not?

Perhaps the real truth is, “hell” is only as important to you as far as it involves theological debates, condemning perceived sinners, drawing lines, spiritual justifying your platform, mission, and pride, and fearing people into your beliefs.

It obviously doesn’t bother you—that much. Cause you to love—that much. Inspire your kindness and graciousness—that much, nor compels your every all.

Hell—it’s all so convenient, is it not?

With all due respect, if you want me to believe your hell is so real, you are going to have to do a lot better at convincing me that you actually believe it, first.

Grace is brave. Be brave.

Maybe This Is The Real Reason You Believe Being Gay Is A Sin

So, you believe homosexuality is a sin.

I get it—it’s where you are at and what you uphold to be true.

Maybe for you, you’re not exactly sure why you subscribe to that position, other than the countless times you have been told, “That’s what the Bible says.” You want to be loving, accepting, and viewed as a compassionate follower of Jesus, but numerous admonitions from fellow Christians declaring that “loving people doesn’t give license to their sin” seem to give you no other alternative posture than one of judgement and distance. Sure, you’re familiar with a few of the verses typically used to condemn homosexuality and those of the LGBTQ community—since childhood, your mind and heart has been seated around the traditional male/female relationships of Scripture as being the only God-approved model for marriage, gender, and sexuality, but that’s about as far as your thinking has taken you. Deep down, it’s a complicated issue, and quite honestly, you’re not always sure what you believe. Even though you know some LGBTQ people and perhaps might even call them friends, moments of belief-questioning or consideration of LGBTQ-affirming views are quickly summoned to a much more comfortable, default position in your faith, “God created Adam and Eve, not Adam and Steve.” For you, you’re hoping it’s as simple and settled as that, and if it’s not, it’s just going to have to be.

On the other side of the coin, maybe for you, it’s all so perfectly, crystal clear. There’s nothing to reconsider, nothing to learn or unlearn. It’s a slam dunk, a biblical no-brainer. Not only have you sat under the popular chorus, “This is what the Bible says,” you proudly and boldly sing it from the mountain tops. You believe to know every verse relevant to the issues, even citing original Greek and Hebrew words and context. In your mind, heart, and faith, all things LGBTQ are a deplorable, disgusting affront to God and an offensive abomination before the Lord. Maybe you have never held the sign (or maybe you have), but “God hates fags” largely fits hand-in-glove with the bottom line of your faith understanding. Sure, if they repent, change their ways, and adopt your faith views, there’s hope. However, until that day comes, “ground and pound” is your perceived divine mandate to wrestle the LGBTQ demons out of our culture and country. No matter the consequences or costs wrought by your anti-LGBTQ angst and rage, you are “right” and everyone else will always be “wrong”—even to the exclusion, excommunication, and potential suicide of your own LGBTQ child, sister, brother, parent, congregant, or friend. In your mind, any other way of seeing things is to author confusion where God created infallible clarity—and you, the God appointed vessel of His authority and truth. If a transgender person were to commit suicide and your secret (or not so secret) conclusions to this tragic event were displayed on your church’s worship screen, it might read something like, “They had it coming to them, for the consequences of sin is death.”

Well, no matter where you are on the spectrum of believing homosexuality is a sin, I have an honest question.

Are these really the true reasons you believe being gay is a sin? These are the case “evidences” you really want us to attribute to your actions and beliefs?  “The Bible says so…” “God hates fags…” “Rethinking my views or considering new information is unnecessary…” “God made Adam and Eve, not Adam and Steve.” These are the foundational, core kind of sentiments that make up the sum, depth, and rationale of your thoughts, words, deeds, and creeds regarding one of the most important issues of our time affecting countless God-imaged souls?

With all due love and respect as I truly want to understand and believe the best, if I’m honest, the ruby-slippered Dorothy in me is having a hard time swallowing that pill. In fact, pull back the curtain of your confessions and I wonder if there’s perhaps a deeper Wizard behind the smoke and mirrors of your anti-LGBTQ declarations—and it’s not God, the Bible, or spiritual laziness—in fact, I think it just might be… you.

Maybe, just maybe, the real reason you believe being gay is a sin, is because—you want to. When it’s all said and done, it’s not anybody else’s voice or choice—it’s yours.

In a Christian church-world where there are over 30,000 different denominations who read the very same Bible you do, and come to thousands of different belief-conclusions on major theological issues. In a Christian church-world where elective misunderstanding and ignorance are seen as legitimate positions instead of serious problems. In a Christian church-world where there are countless, growing numbers of biblical scholars with the same love for Jesus, submissive heart for Scripture, and tenacity for Truth as you, who see the Bible as affirming LGBTQ people, not condemning them. Maybe, just maybe, the real reason you believe being gay is a sin is because—you want to. It’s not the Bible saying so, it’s you saying so. In fact, if one can be faithful to the sacred Scriptures and yet come to an LGBTQ-affirming view (which you can) instead of condemning, demonizing, and abusing a whole God-adorned population of humans, why wouldn’t you? Maybe, just maybe, the real reason is because—you don’t want to.

In a Christian church-world where many apparently have little-to-no true fear of having a sin lifestyle of blatant, chosen gluttony and greed that potentially even compromises their eternity. In a Christian church-world where virtually none of its participants would ever dare construct nor hold up the sign, “God hates fatsos.” In a Christian church-world that largely has little-to-no restraint in looking the other way regarding its own sins and strongholds. In a Christian church-world where nearly 50 percent of its married adherents end up divorced, and even the “unbiblical” ones are given a free pass. Maybe, just maybe, the real reason why you believe being gay is a sin, isn’t for fear of condoning it or leading one into hell, but simply because—you want to.

In a Christian church-world that is known for justifying and feeling oh-so-good and righteous about itself through the condemning and demonizing of people they conveniently deem to be sinning differently than they. In a Christian church-world that largely needs a sin-battle to fight in order to justify its purpose, worth, validity, energy, and existence. Maybe, just maybe, the real reason why you believe being gay is a sin is because—you want to. The self-righteous perch from which doing so seems to afford you exclusive divine favor, license for anger, and spiritual justification for hate is just too convenient to step down from. Watching porn on Sunday afternoons never seemed so benign as after a rousing, gay-condemning sermon from Romans 1 and 2. It’s a drug only Grace can disarm, but you refuse the “reparative” cure. Why? Because—you want to.

In a Christian church-world where community is often centered around the conformity of beliefs and behaviors. In a Christian church-world where in many of its expressions you are either “in” or “out.” In a Christian church-world where to believe differently is often met with a kiss of death—discipline, rejection, marginalization, termination, or just a good-ole’-fashion greeting line of cold shoulders and religious spankings. Maybe, just maybe, the real reason why you believe being gay is a sin is because—you want to. The fear of being convinced of LGBTQ-affirming views is just too strong, and the perceived ramifications, just too costly. When the rubber meets the road and you hear the Jesus-call to put the suffering of others above your own—you simply don’t want to.

See, at the end of the day, when Toto draws the curtain open, the scheme that was concealed becomes the truth that is revealed—people don’t choose to be LGBTQ, but they sure do choose to believe whether it’s a sin or not.

In fact, I find it interesting how many Christians proudly proclaim to be pro-life and wear it as a badge of faith-honor, all while at the same time they are certainly pro-choice about the Bible—determined to protect their freedom to use every interpretive knife they can contrive to abort countless people into hell, murder their souls with condemnation, and yank them out of the womb of God’s Grace and affirmation, slicing and dicing them with sin-labels and discrimination—all while singing songs to Jesus with a self-righteous, anti-gay smirk on their face.

When all the smoke clears, perhaps the real puppeteer behind your anti-gay beliefs finally emerges—it’s you. You don’t “have” to believe being LGBTQ is a sin—you want to. When all is said and done, the pain of affirmation has been determined to be greater than the pain of discrimination. The call to take up our cross and follow Jesus, perhaps is a cost, you have concluded is too costly to endure. The ego-humbling, faith-reconstructing, soul-examining, human-loving, life-transforming, and courage-requiring invitation of Jesus to put down the nets of religion for the sake of “the least of these” is finally met with what is perhaps the real sum and truth behind your response—”I don’t want to.”

Maybe, just maybe, this is the real reason why you believe being gay is a sin—it’s not God, not the Bible, not spiritual laziness, nor moral purity or responsibility.

But rather, all because—you want to.

How Conservative Evangelical Christianity Wasted My Life

Nobody plans for this moment to come—sitting on our bed upstairs, I called Amy into the room. Up to that point in time, everything I had touched in ministry over the past twelve years had essentially fallen apart, my ability as a husband and father to provide for our family was painfully lacking, and unexpected, critical health issues overwhelmed me with incapacitating, daily battles of insecurity, anxiety, and hopelessness. I was a complete mess—everything seemed to be crashing to the ground as I stood in those moments looking over the edge of my life. It was all so real, so terribly real.

Making her way up the stairs, she entered the doorway. “Amy, I need to talk to you. I want you to find a new husband and father for Harrison and Cailyn. I’m such a failure and your lives would be better without me—you deserve so much more.” Seeing a seriousness in my eyes like never before, with sheer terror in her face, Amy ran out of the room sobbing in tears. I had experienced periods of depression before, but these moments were of an entirely different realm of darkness. I was truly ready for it all to be over—desperately looking for the closest exit sign.

As a young boy, I nearly died of asthma two times, spending much of my elementary days in the hospital. No sooner did that fog begin to lift then the sexual abuse from a family member began. They say sixty percent of people enter the pastoral ministry to “save” one of their family members—if that’s true, it was my father. The very man who saved my life on one of those asthmatic occasions was ironically the same man who sowed deep seeds of condemnation, guilt, insecurity, and inadequacy into my heart. During one semester in middle school, I received a “C” on my report card. My father always said, “C’s just mean you’re average, and we Kratzers aren’t average.” I knew he was upset as he reacted in disgust. Seeing his harsh disappointment, I told my mother, “Dad doesn’t love me.” Insisting that he did, she coaxed me into the living room where my father sat rocking in a chair. She said to him, “Honey, Chris doesn’t think you love him, tell him that you do.” His response, “With grades like that, he’s no son of mine.”

Sadly, behind everyone’s eyes is a story that, if they told you, would break your heart. With a belly full of emotional baggage and gaping, puss-ladened wounds of shame, I entered into pastoral ministry. I wasn’t a conservative Evangelical at the start, but it didn’t take long for the tenets of conservative Christianity to be pimped my direction. Within a few puffs and injections of its seductive self-righteous creed, it became an instant drug of choice to numb the pains of inadequacy long been building in the caverns of my being. Never did there appear to be a better way to appease a conditional-loving father and heal the sins and shame of my youth than to embark on a spiritual climb designed to satisfy the ultimate conditional-loving Father—the god of conservative Evangelicalism who promised to rid me of my demons if I pressed in hard enough and learned to traverse the tightrope of faith. Salvation had finally come in an Evangelical deity offering me a spiritual track upon which I could race to right my wrongs, give value to my condemned life, and render myself lovable at the finish line. Just color within the lines, give the proper responses, think and believe the right things, fight the good fight of faith, and I too could become “successful” for Jesus. Perhaps then, both my father on earth and the Father above could finally love me—perhaps even then, I could finally love me. The ultimate trifecta of acceptance and approval was just an Evangelical “to do” list away, all leading to a position seated high above the world upon which to feel good about myself through the looking down upon others. It was all so righteous and perfect—so it seemed.

With a snappy new Jesus-step in my shoes, I eagerly surveyed the landscape of conservative Evangelical Christianity and its heroes. They all had obvious common denominators—big churches, big book deals, big speaking schedules, big conferences, big baptismal numbers, big budgets, big leadership philosophies, big vision, and even wives with big hair. Every sermon was finely crafted with spiritual formulas, principles, and steps that lead to the big life. Every service was meticulously programmed for ultimate appeal and emotion. The Bible was cut and dry, people were either in or out, sin was clear and easily defined, the truth was black or white, and either you had a place at the cool pastors lunch table or you didn’t. People on the outside were seen as a project to assimilate into the inside, and then to “grow” towards ultimately partnering in the pastor’s grandiose vision to “make fully devoted followers of Jesus Christ” AKA “my big ass ministry ego trip.” It was all so spiritual, and spiritually justified—”purpose driven” to the nines.

I swallowed it, all of it, hook, line, and sinker—my flesh never felt more alive. Job one, clean up my act. Job two, use a bit of smoke and mirrors while carefully pretending all the “to do steps” were working in order to keep people from seeing I couldn’t master job one. Job three, turn off my brain and heart as I learned to believe, say, and do all the right “Evangelical” things even if deep down they made little-to-no-sense, contradicted themselves, or left good people cold, hurting, and condemned. Job four, attain ministry “success” and fame at all costs, using people as a means to what is really a selfish end disguised as a noble mission. Job five, spiritualize it all so that people don’t see the hypocritical phony who’s faking-it to make-it and signing them up to do the same, wrapping it all up in shiny Jesus paper and calling it “faithfulness.” Job six, whatever it takes, convince yourself this is the way, truth, and life even when deep down inside, something is screaming that it’s not—quickly silencing and demonizing every voice that contradicts you. Job seven, if all else fails, program more worship fog, get a tattoo, and start sporting some Buckle brand skinny jeans—the rest will take care of itself.

I tried, I really did. I never worked so hard in all my life—just ask Amy, just ask the kids. I started waking up at 4 a.m. every Sunday morning to memorize my sermons, line for line, word for word—all for the maximum adoration of the congregation and the hopes of validating my life by becoming a superstar preacher. I began writing devotionals hoping they would get published. I read every ministry leadership book money could buy. I attended the best conferences, taking copious notes from which to implement the latest church fads guaranteed to grow your congregation and grant you the ministry of your dreams. I made myself available at any moment of any day for pastoral counseling or care. I studied the scriptures, applied ever prayer formula I could find to maximize my capacity to leverage God for His blessings and favor. We didn’t tithe just 10%, but 20%, often becoming the top givers in the churches we served whether we could afford to or not. I solicited accountability partners to speak truth into my life as a sure fire way to keep me on the straight and narrow. I distanced myself from all the right people and settings, just like I was prescribed. On Sundays, I was the first one at the church, and the last one to leave. Those rare moments when I wasn’t engaged in some kind of formal ministry, you can be sure I was thinking about it. We started churches on a wing and a prayer, barely having enough income to survive. We walked through devastating church splits, worship wars, members threatening my life, and countless conflicts whose marks will surely never go away. Years and years spent in a so-called, “Christian life” trying to convince God, the people around me, and myself that I am valuable, lovable, acceptable, significant—worthy of God, His favor, His blessings, and His heaven.

Don’t be fooled, insisting that “denial” is just a river in Egypt. Whether you’re in ministry or not, this is what you do—this is the hell you live and give, in some shape or form, when your faith concludes, “God loves you… BUT.” There can be no more hiding of the Wizard behind the curtain, this is the performance-driven, endless, restless, futile plight of your soul when the anchor of your faith clings to the diabolical slogan of conservative Evangelical Christianity, “God does His part, but you have to do yours… OR ELSE.” Find me a person who subscribes to conservative Evangelicalism and there you will have found a tragically deceived soul who is sleep-walking this same kind of daily, self-righteous, pretending, performance-driven hell while actually believing it’s heaven.

Look no further than my life for your proof, for there in that upstairs bedroom it all came tumbling down—none of the steps, formulas, principles, “to do lists,” worship choruses, bible studies, sin-management strategies, conferences, recommitments, fasting, prayer sessions, or spiritual disciplines ever worked, and all my pretending wasn’t camouflaging it anymore. The lipstick on the pig was wearing off—conservative Evangelical Christianity had done far more than merely waste my life, it had stolen every remnant of it I ever possessed and left me impotent to face its darkest moments.

All that time, years and years, I was suffocating when I thought I was breathing Life—thinking I was so close to Jesus, yet being so far away from His heart.

All that time, I thought I was helping people when in fact I was imprisoning them—declaring a mixed Evangelical gospel of conditional love that is in fact no Gospel at all. All, while sentencing countless God-adorned people to a fear-driven, empty life of sin-management, God-appeasement, and people-judging.

All that time, I thought I was being a faithful servant when in reality I had become a monster—a sexist, racist, homophobic, bigoted, ignorant, selfish, judgmental, legalistic, hypocritical, two-headed, and heart-divided monster. Without a flinch or a blink of an eye, I could heartlessly condemn people to a Dante-inspired hell of Evangelical imagination and poison their hungry, hurting hearts with guilt, shame, fear, and condemnation all while deceiving them to believe its source was no less than the throne of God.

All that time, I thought I was equipping people when in fact I was using them. Call it “vision,” “ministry dreams,” “reaching the world for Christ,” or whatever label helps you sleep at night—but the truth is, so much of modern Christianity has simply become the franchising of ministry egos.

All that time, I thought the Bible was a kind of convenient, inerrant weapon best used against the self-declared enemies of Jesus and for the defense of a truth that only conservative Evangelicalism possessed, when in fact, it’s actually a perfectly human set of writings best used to inspire all people to progressively encounter Him who is Love and defend His graciousness.

All that time, I thought I knew love and how to give it, when in truth, I knew nothing of it—receiving it, living it, sharing it. I thought loving people required doing so with careful restraint for fear you might extend too much grace and affirmation, or worst of all, catch their disease. Constantly pumping the breaks with people by restricting my love and qualifying His was indeed an unpleasant endeavor that never felt settled in my spirit. Yet, for so long I believed that was the full extent for which God loved me—all at a safe distance, riddled with fine print.

All that time, I thought I was being the picture perfect father and husband, but in reality, I was so consumed by a spiritual quest in which enough was never enough, that though I may have been there physically for my family, in so many other ways, I wasn’t there at all.

So much time wasted, relationships scorched, walls erected, people written off, unnecessary family tension and division created, opportunities missed, life that could have been enjoyed, unconditional love that could have been given, freedom that could have been embraced, lives that could have been set free by Grace, and all I had to show for it in that upstairs bedroom was the painful faith conclusion that I would never measure up, I was a failure, Jesus surely hated me, everything that mattered was slipping through my fingers, and the god of Evangelicalism was probably not only o.k. with it, but holy and just in allowing it, and perhaps even authoring it.

Hearing Amy downstairs crying in desperation pleading with me to change my mind, I fell to the ground on my knees—or perhaps, I was pushed.

In that moment, to which I still can’t put words, Grace awakened in me. As I closed my eyes sobbing on the floor, the real Jesus wrapped His arms around everything about me and refused to let go with divine relentless—a picture in my mind and an embrace of my entirety I’ll never forget.

You can be sure, the real God is nothing like conservative Evangelical Christianity—I know this to be True, He showed me.

Today, years later, I’m alive and truly living for the first time in my life and the future is bright with real hope and real joy. God is Love, Jesus is Grace, we are all the Beloved, and I am free to be fully me—free at last, free at last, thank God almighty, I am free at last.

So, I say to you who drink from the devil’s cauldron of conservative Evangelical Christianity—run, run as far and as fast as you can, don’t let it mix you into its brew. It’s a religious concoction of death—pure unbridled death.

It wasted much of my life, don’t let it waste anymore of yours.

Why Conservative Evangelical Christianity Is The Worst Evil Ever Manifested Upon The Earth

By far, the worst form of evil ever manifested upon the earth is conservative, Evangelical Christianity—for there is nothing more diabolical and destructive than to position and assert oneself as having and presenting the exclusive cure for humanity’s deepest, darkest, and most troublesome and consequential realities while at the same time, being the very poison that like no other, perpetuates, enflames, and imprisons all humanity to the very diseases it claims to heal. Conservative, Evangelical Christianity is the cosmic lie that must be called out of the shadows of deception. It is a spiritual veil to an empty life. It is the cancer claiming to be the cure, addicting all its adherents to a hope that is no hope at all. The anti-Christ, the wolf in sheep’s clothing, the devil draped in holy garments disguised as an angel of light–these are none other then conservative, Evangelical Christianity at its core.

At the heart of all conservative, Evangelical Christianity is the sum of Satan’s biggest ploy, a mixed Gospel that is in truth, no Gospel at all—an imposturous trick of grandiose proportions that pimps a “good news” proclamation deemed to be straight from the throne of God that is in reality only partially good news, if good news at all. God loves you, BUT. He saves you, BUT. He blesses you, BUT—you must repent, make a faith choice, and love Him back in all the right ways, or else. This is the essence of a mixed Gospel, always containing some level of human performance for its existence and effectiveness in one’s life. God does His part, but you need to do yours—until then, a divine connection is hit or miss at best, and nothing of God reaches beyond this divide until you appropriately reach back.

This is bad news—terrible news. God and His dealings with all humanity are deemed as contractual and conditional at the core, requiring some level of human responsibility for their establishment, continuation, and validity. God is the necessary giver, but humanity is the necessary receiver. Jesus knocks, but we must answer. We pray, God moves. We tithe, God blesses. All is a divine equation where God makes His offers and humanity is solicited to respond accordingly in ways that complete, uphold, access, and maximize what is in reality, a conditional relationship to the Creator. Ultimately, God’s love, power, blessings, and desires are only as effectual as our human capacity to respond correctly.

This is a sure, diabolical death sentence no one can withstand disguised as our only way of emancipation and life, for who among us, with all our human limits of mind, heart, and spirit could ever truly respond adequately in one moment let alone a thousand, successfully tripping all the necessary God-switches. To believe one can even take a step toward doing so is to already be seduced by Satan’s greatest scheme—a humanly codependent Gospel, which is no Gospel at all.

In fact, it this false Gospel that erodes beautiful humans into mere spiritual junkies addicted to the sound of their own faith and faithfulness, leaving them with a shivering, psychotic, bipolar spirituality convinced that hinging upon their faith performance is both their greatest potential hope and their greatest potential demise. If I believe, do, feel, and think correctly, then all is well—Jesus is on the throne, life is good, I’m forgiven and acceptable, blessings abound, and heaven is a certainty. But, if my faith flounders, my actions wander, my feelings waver, or my thoughts collide, then all is not well—Jesus Himself is now justly unsettled towards me and in some way or another there will surely be a cost to pay in goodness, blessings, favor, and perhaps even the eternal trajectory of my life.

So, in panic and desperation, we turn to the latest “Christian” book, or empowering “Christian” conference, or candle-lit liturgy, or emotional worship chorus, or ritual, or sacrament, or spiritual formula, or good deed, or ministry accomplishment, or breakthrough-promising “to do” list, searching for a fresh syringe from which to inject a hope that is no hope at all into the restless veins of our empty, strung out soul curled in the fetal position grasping for life, hoping that today will finally be the day we “get right” and “get it right” and therefore overcome. But sadly, as Satan’s lips grin from ear to ear and his nails course through his wiry beard, that day never comes and never will.

If the good news of Jesus requires anything from us, anything at all, it is in fact the worst news of all. No matter our greatest intentions or desires, nor even in our best moments of believing or behaving, our spiritual performance always breaks down. In the end, whether with God, ourselves, or others, the good that we know we should do is not what we do, and once again, our capacity to escape ourselves is found foolishly and drastically insufficient. Thus, this mixed, humanly-codependent Gospel we believe turns the key towards freedom from all that shackles us, reveals itself to be the very evil that keeps us imprisoned. Behind every person with a sin problem is first a person, not with a behavior problem, but rather with a condemnation problem in heart, believing themselves to be condemned in some way.  A person with a condemnation problem is first a person, not with an obedience or faith problem, but one who has been tragically kept from the one and only cure—pure Grace, the true Gospel. Only pure Grace heals and empowers, any other mixture of any kind only serves to entice, enflame, and imprison every negative aspect of our lives. Therefore, what is pimped as Christian living is in fact, Christian suffering—humans reduced to spiritual zombies given just enough of a Grace-mixture to sustain a pulse, but never the purity of Grace that brings true freedom, healing, and life. This is spiritual terrorism, a sure kind of hell where nothing ever truly gets better, and conservative, Evangelical Christianity its prince. The very moral decay conservative, Evangelical Christianity licks its lips at ridding from planet earth is the very moral decay it creates, perpetuates, and entices with a mixed Gospel that is impotent to solve anything and virtually omnipotent in poisoning everything.

For where you have a mixed Gospel, there you will have some level of human performance required. Where you have some level of human performance required, there you will have the sure presence of self-righteousness. Where you have the sure presence of self-righteousness, there you will have the perceived spiritual justification for the condemnation, labeling, and judgement of others. Where you have a perceived spiritual justification for the condemnation, labeling, and judgement of others, there you will find every kind of hellish manifestation on earth—racism, sexism, discrimination, hatred, violence, murder, war, homophobia, bigotry, nationalism, elitism, misogyny, legalism, hypocrisy, self-righteousness, division, condemnation, and all the like.

Just ask the forty percent of transgender people who commit suicide each year and the countless others that can’t pee in a public restroom with simple human dignity. Just ask the LGBTQ community who live every waking moment of their lives in fear, discrimination, marginalization, and condemnation sentenced to walk on this planet depressed, shamed, shunned, abused, and even murdered. Just ask the thousands of good, Jesus-loving people who have been put out from their church communities—spiritually oppressed, abused, and terrorized, many to the point of giving up on Christianity all together, if not taking their own lives first as the deep scars of religious shame seem impossible to heal. Just ask the millions of people in cities and nations across the world who have been killed, their communities obliterated, and their cultures and faiths demonized by our nation that has turned the cause of Christ into a militant empire that spiritually justifies war and violence for its existence and furthering. Just ask the 6 million people exterminated in the Holocaust, a cosmic atrocity led by a man named Adolf Hitler who claimed, “My feelings as a Christian point me to see my Lord and Savior as a fighter,” and “the true message of Christianity is only to be found in Nazism,” and “I can imagine Christ as nothing other than blond and with blue eyes…” Just ask millions of black slaves from history and millions of others within our modern black communities today who, by the color of their skin, are predisposed as being inferior, guilty, suspect, lazy, and irresponsible and thus deserving of abuse, exploitation, discrimination, and even death.  All this and tragically more, manifested at the feet and influence of primarily a conservative, Evangelical Christian mindset rooted in a false, mixed Gospel that is no Gospel at all, where many of its adherents have become experts at weaponizing the Bible, spiritually justifying hate, condemning those who think, believe, and act differently, furthering a conservative Christian empire at all costs, and outright sucking the life out of living.

When one connects the dots from source to symptoms, the evil and its roots are undeniable.

Beyond the realm of Christianity, if and where humanity is inherently hateful, carnal, and self-seeking on its own, conservative, Evangelical Christianity only serves to enflame all that is bad into the worst by giving it a spiritual justification that transforms evil into being more evil than evil itself. For Satan has found no greater incubator than conservative, Evangelical Christianity through which to cloak his most diabolical and destructive manifestation ever wielded upon the earth—the spiritual justification of evil birthed from a false, mixed Gospel that is no Gospel at all.

To be sure, this is the Antichrist agenda in full bloom. For if conservative Christianity truly believed in the pure Gospel of Grace and its complete sufficiency, then the Christian life wouldn’t be a test, but a rest—all humanity would be seen as equal, worship would be un-programmable, church would be uncontainable, condemnation would be impossible, differences would be inconsequential, people un-judgeable, skin colors and orientations un-shameable, washing the feet of all others would be fundamental, and love, particularly of one’s enemies, would be unconditionally unconditional. All would be Grace. Church, an open table. Life, a freedom to fully love others and fully be oneself.

For the truly good news of the pure Gospel of Grace through Jesus Christ is this… God is love, Jesus is Grace, and you have been made whole, complete, and irrevocably connected to the Creator—solely based on and by Him who is Love, and nothing based on you or by you who are simply the beloved. God’s greatest desire and the cause of Jesus Christ is to awaken the world to that which has already been settled—He is love, you are the beloved, period. You are blameless, pure, holy, righteous, and fully free, and quite frankly there is nothing you can do about it because Jesus did everything about it. The cross is truly, one and done.

This is life abundantly, this is God completely, this is His heart though His son, irrevocably.

That’s why one writer, seeing the drastic differences and the demonic deception and consequences of a mixed Gospel manifested among people, wrote this…

I am shocked that you are turning away so soon from God, who called you to himself through the loving grace of Christ. You are following a different way that pretends to be the Good News but is not the Good News at all. You are being fooled by those who deliberately twist the truth concerning Christ. Let God’s curse fall on anyone, including us or even an angel from heaven, who preaches a different kind of Good News than the one we preached to you. I say again what we have said before: If anyone preaches any other Good News than the one you welcomed, let that person be cursed.” –Galatians 1:6-9

Notice, Paul clearly recognized that God does not call nor come to humanity with a message of condemnation, shame, guilt, fear, spiritual performance, conditions, “to do” steps, behavior modification, or sin management, but rather with one word, one message alone… Grace.

If it’s not all Grace, it’s not all Gospel.

If it’s not all Gospel, it’s pure evil—an evil that should be cursed, no matter how controversial or unpopular it is to do so, even unto death on a cross.

Hate me, criticize me, fart in my general direction—I will not stop sounding the alarm.

Never, no way, no how.

All is Grace.

Grace is brave, be brave.

Forget It Conservative Christianity, I’m Choosing Hell

One of the most telling aspects of any faith is its vision of heaven. Gaze into the crystal ball of any religion for a picture of their afterlife, and there you will find a clear culmination and ultimate fruition of its true desires, values, and beliefs.

In fact, for Christianity, the concept of the “Kingdom of God” is in essence, a sample-sized, earthly manifestation of a believed future, five-course, eternal reality—a kind of foretaste now of a feast to come later. What any version of Christianity is presently dishing out upon the world’s table in thought, word, and deed is in fact a profound foreshadowing of what truly resides in the heart of their faith and what they hope will extend in greater proportion and size for all eternity. Despite any creed’s best intentions, one is always becoming tomorrow, in reality or vision, what you are doing and believing today.

What will heaven be like?

Well, if you took the current picture of conservative, Evangelical Christianity and multiplied it by forever in a heaven far, far away—for many, this is their preferred vision of eternity.

It’s a vision of American, Evangelical, conservative Christianity manifested upon the cosmos without limits and double-fried in an inch thick batter of endlessness. For them, heaven is their brand of faith and faithfulness being awarded the eternal green light from God to the exclusion of all others and super-sized beyond limits of scope and time. Heaven is everything that conservative, Evangelical Christianity is today injected with steroids, spun into eternity like a breakdancer on crack, and given full reign over all things, forever.

What does this Evangelical, conservative Christianity kind-of-heaven look like? Well, what does Evangelical, conservative Christianity look like now?

From what I see, heaven is an exclusive club of the do-gooders and the conservative-enough believers in which you are so-saved and so-loved, all up until the tragic point you blink with a question or step outside inerrant lines. It’s an eternal existence of warmth when you fit, and cold shoulders and surface pleasantries when, for some reason, you don’t.

It’s hell.

It’s an eternal contemporary, Christian rock themed couple’s cruise where the whole boat is jacked up with people trying to prove how in love they are with each other and Jesus all while slamming Shirley Temple’s as they blissfully walk hand-in-hand with pride past the slot machines that have been unplugged for their spiritually-sensitive accommodation.

It’s hell.

It’s a forever worship service to see whose hands are raised the highest and looks to be pressing deepest into the presence of the Lord “Jeezus,” all while the worship leader is seemingly breaking the all time record for withstanding the squeeze of his skinny jeans before passing out on stage—not to mention the pastor whose hands are sweating in hopes the gold dust machine secretly mounted into the ceiling above doesn’t short out this time.

It’s hell.

Heaven is a place where your unrepentant, wrong-believing, non-KJV, doubt-harboring, sin-dripping wayward loved ones and fellow human beings endure eternal, flesh-melting torture in a place called “hell” while you sip Mimosas undisturbed on the shores of righteous bliss somehow totally at peace and satisfaction with a god who remains completely holy and just in the process.

It’s hell.

It’s the place where Jesus shrugs his shoulders in his “welcome to heaven” orientation speech looking out to those polished few who “made it” declaring with a sheepish grin on his face, “Well folks, I did the best I could—glad at least you’re here.”

It’s the fruition of a long-desired escape from the pesky, inconvenient people with whom you disagree and those who dare to question, offend, and even stand against a cut and pasted, conservative theology and a pretentious, anti-Jesus way of living.

It’s a gathering of predominantly white, starch-pressed people with a few minorities thrown in who have proven their conservative value and Evangelical legitimacy.

It’s hell.

It’s a place where an Ark believed to have carried a few of those specially selected to survive a frustrated god is made into a profiteering amusement park to honor a psychotically personified deity instead of a memorial to remember a humanity that died, and a people who projected their spiritual ignorance onto God with a false, diabolical, bible-making storyline that is so far from His heart, nature, and ways.

It’s hell.

Heaven is a forever-long small group meeting where the highlight of the gathering culminates when one’s spiritual jollies finally climax as you exercise your ultimate, conservative Christian role as spiritual policeman and accountability partner while circling the room with the questions, “what are you working on spiritually?” and “how can we pray for you?”

It’s hell.

Heaven is a place where your kids can finally and forever avoid those dirty, worldly sports groups that don’t have a Evangelical-flavored devotion and prayer session before every practice, play, water break, and game.

Heaven is that place where my LGBT friends and family will be burning in hell, not because Jesus said so, but because conservatism did.

It’s hell.

This, and sadly so much more, is the heaven of conservative Christianity, the spiritual wet dream of Evangelicals, the 72 virgins of Islam shrink-wrapped and spiritualized for Christianity.

To be sure, this is not the vision of heaven intrinsic to the hearts and minds of all Evangelicals, but sadly, no amount of conservative love, exceptions, do-gooding, and redemptive moments can out-sound and out-glare the screeching overall declaration and vision of the conservative, Christian heaven that is exclusive, performance-driven, racist, sexist, homophobic, bigoted, elitist, brutal, graceless, inhumane, and filled wall-to-wall with conditional-ladened love.

That’s why I’m a human, a Christian, and a pastor who would rather burn in hell with the broken than float around in clouds with the spiritually fascist.

Perhaps, the scandalous scandal of the Gospel of Jesus is that in the end, to the surprise of all, the tables are turned, and Jesus is found once again, determined to live with and love the very people the religious hope to live and love without.

Perhaps hell is disguised as heaven to the religious, and heaven is disguised as hell to the broken—all to make sure the right people get to the right place.

For the same Jesus that traded heaven once already to be with the religiously outcast will be the same One to do it again—and this time, forever.

So stop trying to assimilate me into your spiritual Borg of a hell you’re pimping as heaven, I’ve made my choice—your mission that has made me a project of your self-righteous quest to desperately valid your empty faith by making it mine, is futile.

Your hell is where my Jesus will be.

I’ve tasted and seen that the Lord is good, and your heaven is not.

That’s why, forget it conservative Christianity, I’ve heard and seen enough—I’m choosing, hell.

 

“Where can I go from Your Spirit? Or where can I flee from Your presence?  If I make my bed in Hell, behold, You are there.”  -Psalm 139

What the Hell?

Lately, hell has become a hot topic; all pun intended.

It might be surprising for you to realize that there is rising, legitimate debate concerning various views of hell. I know what some of my readers might be inclined to think, “But it’s so straight forward in the Bible.”  To that, others would add, “so if anybody has any kind of debate about it, they must be moving away from the plain teachings of the Bible.”

Honestly, I understand that kind of sentiment, I really do. In the past, I had my own list of topics that were “no brainers” when it comes to what one should believe and what the Bible “says.”  My Evangelical grooming as a pastor convinced me that the more you grow as a Christian, the more black and white issues should become to you. Furthermore, once you land on a conclusion that fits with what prevails in Evangelical-world and puts you in good company, you can take off your thinking cap and put your heart and mind on autopilot.

However, when I encountered the Gospel of God’s Grace in its purity, it has caused me and challenged me to revisit beliefs and assumptions I have long held. I mean seriously, if I could spend 42 years of my life and become a highly trained and competent pastor, and yet completely miss the most important thing, the real Gospel, it only makes sense that it would be wise for me to reexamine a lot of spiritual things. Furthermore, once you discover that “God is love” and Jesus is to be the ultimate focus and example, one’s understanding of the Bible and how it addresses certain issues is completely viewed through a different set of lenses. Grace changes everything!

In fact, my move away from feeling so strong and sure about the current, popular Evangelical understanding of hell as the place God justly sends people to be punished with an eternity of excruciating torture who don’t believe and/or obey Him, began with the revelation that “God is love.”  This is where all theology and belief must begin and end, and ultimately be judged.

Since God is love, EVERYTHING that comes from Him must come from and confirm that love. Love is not part of His nature, it is His nature. Furthermore, Jesus is the highest manifestation and example of that love.

So, with that in mind, did Jesus have anything to say about Hell? Well, yes and no.

The single word “Hell” we use today and associate as “Hell” (a place of fiery, eternal torture) is actually not found in the Bible.  Nowhere, and in no manuscripts. There are four words in the Bible that are mistranslated as “hell.”  These words are: one Hebrew word sheol, and three Greek words hades, tartarus and gehenna. These words do not mean hell as we typically think of it today.

Sheol occurs 65 times in the Hebrew Manuscripts of the Old Testament, and it means the grave (the place of the dead) or the pit, as correctly translated in most modern versions of the Bible.  Hades occurs 11 times in the Greek Manuscripts of the New Testament and it is the direct equivalent of the Hebrew word sheol; thus it also means the grave or the pit.  Tartarus occurs only once in the Greek Manuscripts of the New Testament in the verse below.

2 Peter 2:4  For if God did not spare the angels who sinned, but cast them down to hell (tartarus) and delivered them into chains of darkness, to be reserved for judgment.

Please note that God cast the angels (not humanity) who sinned down to tartarus and chained them in darkness, to be reserved for judgement.

Gehenna occurs 12 times in the Greek Manuscripts of the New Testament, and each time that gehenna occurs, it has been mistranslated to mean hell in several versions of the Bible. Jesus Himself who uses the word gehenna 11 out of the 12 times that gehenna occurs in the Bible, for example in Matthew 18:9.

Matthew 18:9
And if your eye causes you to sin, pluck it out and cast it from you. It is better for you to enter into life with one eye, rather than having two eyes, to be cast into hell (gehenna) fire.

When Jesus uses the term gehenna fire, I don’t believe He means everlasting, tormenting hell fire in the bottom of the earth as we typically think of today. By the term gehenna fire, Jesus means something much different. Gehenna takes its name from a valley located in Jerusalem called the valley of Hinnom. During Jesus’s time on earth, this valley was used as the city dump. A fire was constantly kept to burn up and consume all of the city’s unwanted junk.

It’s extremely interesting and profound to me that Hebrews 12:9 refers to God as an “all consuming fire.”

Could it be that Jesus was poetically hinting at another entirely different kind of experience for those who reject and rebel from God, one that is actually in the presence of God, the all consuming fire? Keep reading to find out.

It is clear to me that scripture has no one unified word nor description of “hell.” Furthermore, the times Jesus uses the word Gehenna, one must assuredly allow for poetic and symbolic uses thereof.  To allow colorific use of a concept such as “pluck your eye out” as not to be taken literally and yet tie down the use of “Gehenna” in the same sentence to mean a literal place in the bottom of the earth where people are tortured by the wrath of God in eternal flames is a huge stretch at best. Furthermore, that kind of place and reality goes directly against the nature of God, who is love.

So, what is hell? What was Jesus talking about? Is it a real place? How does the God (who is love) have connection to hell? Do I have to believe in a hell that is a never-ending torture from the wrath of God upon people who don’t believe and/or disobey, in order to be faithful to the Bible?

Here are some thoughts…

Hell is real- 

Everybody spends eternity somewhere. We are eternal beings having a physical, bodily experience here on earth. Heaven and hell are two real, eternal experiences.

However, I am not convinced that the reference to actual places associated with words (Sheol, Hades etc.) that are interpreted as “hell” are automatically to be taken literally in interpretation. These descriptions have a far greater chance of being intended to be figurative or symbolic.

Hell is connected to God- 

To suggest that God just allows hell to exist outside of himself and beyond his influence or control is to me, a misguided assertion.

“Through him all things were made; without him nothing was made that has been made.” John 1:3

“For in him all things were created: things in heaven and on earth, visible and invisible, whether thrones or powers or rulers or authorities; all things have been created through him and for him.” Colossians 1:16

There are no realities, eternal or temporal that do not come from God. God does not take a hands off approach to anything, including “hell.”  If you believe in a torturous, flaming, eternal existence of punishment, you must also believe God is the author and sustainer of it, as He is of everything else.

This is of course, a problematic notion for many. It is the primary issue of the atheist and a growing issue among Christians. God (who is love) would create such a place? The same Jesus who befriends sinners is willing to burn them eternally, no matter how potentially justified? Really? This is God, this is love? The God who is love, who delights in His creation, who sets the stars in their places….this is the best idea He could come up with?

Hell is a reality that takes place in the presence of God- 

Many, in order to justify their view of an angry, torturing, violent God who is justified in sending people to an eternity of unimaginable suffering due to their disbelief and/or disobedience, have interpreted hell to be outside of the presence of God. As if God looks away, can wash His hands, and out of holiness, let hell happen. To them, a fiery, tortuous hell is God’s best idea of what to do with unbelievers. And, they will allow/portray God to take some theological distance from burning, screaming humanity so that He remains holy, and justified in doing so.

I am often amazed how when many allow God to have some inconsistencies, it’s on the side of a willingness to allow Him to be a more violent, torturous, and retributive God instead of a more gracious, loving, merciful, and accepting God. Furthermore, they will go to virtually any interpretive and theological length to prove that God is a violent God who punishes the wicked with internal torture beyond imagination and is Holy, just, and loving in doing so. Some, wanting to kind of disconnect God from it all use statements like, “God doesn’t send anybody to hell, they chose it.” For so many years, I used statements just like that.

But then I realized, that’s like me creating a fire-pit in my backyard, determining it to be a place my kids could go if they don’t believe and act correctly, and then say, as I shrug my shoulders while they scream as their skin melts for all eternity, “Well, I didn’t send them there, they chose it.”  Really? My parental hands are clean, free and clear?

Fortunately, this view of hell as being outside the influence and sustainment of God meets the buzz saw of scripture in passages such as…

“The same shall drink of the wine of the wrath of God, which is poured out without mixture into the cup of his indignation; and he shall be tormented with fire and brimstone in the presence of the holy angels, and in the presence of the Lamb.” – Revelation 14:10  KJV

 “If I ascend up into heaven, thou art there: if I make my bed in hell, behold, thou art there.” – Psalm 139:8   KJV

In both these passages, the concept of hell is described as being a reality that is IN the the presence of God.

Ruh, roh, Scooby.

Hell is not God doing something contrary to His nature (love), rather doing more of it.

Here is where we come to the interesting issue of God’s wrath.  It is widely asserted that God’s wrath is the aspect of God that is violent and angry, and desires and executes retribution upon disbelieving humanity.  It is God’s wrath that justly punishes the unrighteous.

However, a deeper look reveals something completely different.

The Greek word for “wrath” in the New Testament is the word “Orge”

Unfortunately, the way this word has been translated has been shaped greatly by our pre-existing concepts of God as being angry and temperamental.

The word “orge” actually means  “any intense emotion” it’s where we get words like  “orgy” and “orgasm” from.

It has to do with a very strong passion, not even associated to anger.  In fact, the root of “orge” actually means “to reach out in a straining fashion for something that you long to possess.” 

What if the wrath of God is not God pouring out anger and vengeance, or retaliation, but rather furious love; grasping, reaching, shaking to possess every person that they might experience His Grace? Wow, now there is a revelation!

Now for some, that is going to feel like wrath. Why? Because there is nothing more torturous than to be loved by someone who you don’t want to be loved by. To be given love when you don’t want it. To be given Grace when you want no part of it. In all truthfulness, that’s hell.

In fact, the writer James articulates in the Bible that when you love your enemies, it’s as if you were pouring out heaping coals of fire over their heads.

The wrath of God isn’t an expression of God’s hate and contempt, but rather a furious, passionate expression of His love and Grace, reaching, grasping for people to experience His love.

God is not schizophrenic, God is not hate and love at the same time.

Daniel 7:10 refers to a river of fire that flows out from thrown of God. What is that? It’s the white hot love of God.

See, the same sun that hardens clay melts wax. Some people will experience the furious, pure love of God as hate, because they hate being loved by God, they hate pure Grace, trusting in His Grace.

The presence of God is the same. When Moses first met with God being present in a cloud to receive the 10 commandments, he saw that experience as one of glory; a powerful, positive opportunity. Yet, the other people who witnessed that same cloud saw it as an experience of fear. Why? Because they didn’t believe and rebelled against the goodness of God.

Paradise is the love of God, wherein is the enjoyment of all blessedness… I also maintain that those who are punished in Gehenna are scourged by the scourge of love. For what is so bitter and vehement as the punishment of love? -St. Isaac the Syrian

So what is hell?

Hell is an eternal existence in the presence of God who is love, furiously pouring out His love that all people might experience Grace. It is God (who is love) being God (pouring out more and more love), forever.  It is hell for some because they reject and despise Grace. They hate Jesus and His unconditional love. The same Grace and love that is heaven for many, is hell for some.  The difference is in belief. The difference is in heart.

“The flames of heaven will be hotter for some than the flames of hell could ever be”  -Dallas Willard

It’s interesting that in truth you can’t reject Grace. You can’t stop it’s presence, pursuit, favor, or blessings over your life. You can only love or not love it. Loving, believing, trusting Grace fills your life with heavenly rest. Not loving, believing, and trusting Grace serves to fill your life with hellish frustration and angst. It never leaves you, you can never leave it. Only love it, or not.

God never changes. He is love.

I love how Robert Capon states it…

“Grace is the celebration of life, relentlessly hounding all the non-celebrants in the world.”   -Robert Capon

 

Dispelling Fears about Truly Loving Homosexuals

I hate being put into any one camp as a Christian, but I consider myself (for conversation’s sake) to be a conservative Christian. I greatly value the Bible, and consider it to be God’s Word. I take sin seriously and desire to be a person of Truth.

For me Grace and Truth are not two separate things, like Grace is the nice side of The Gospel and Truth is where we get to point out people’s sins and stuff. Grace and Truth are not a reference to separate things or two aspects of one thing, there are a reference to one person, Jesus.

That might help to explain why this whole “lifting out” and “above” of the homosexual issue is both disheartening and disturbing to me as a Christian. The more I read, the more barbaric conversations I see and hear between Christians about homosexuality, the more I sense that the controversy among Christians surrounding homosexuality is much more driven by fear than by most anything else. Why else would one sin (for those who believe it is a sin) be given so much more blatant attention and bias than all the others?

I think we need to start with the common ground that we all as Christians love Jesus, want to be faithful, and don’t want to be a hinderance, but rather a help to the cause of Christ.  I have a hard time thinking of too many Christians I know who don’t have these intentions  in their core. Perhaps there are some, but few and far between.

Beyond that common ground, there are a host of issues that have come to the conversation table that have resulted in a wide variety of differing views about homosexuality. Many of them, I suspect, are motivated by fear, particularly among many evangelicals.

It’s interesting to me that the bible doesn’t call us to tolerate people who sin differently than we do, but to love them. If Jesus merely had lifted a standard of “tolerating” as our template, sadly much of the Christian community still wouldn’t get a clean pass, as we can’t even act “tolerating” to homosexuals in our churches and Christian organizations . But the standard is even greater, it’s love, not tolerance.  Love doesn’t erase people, look away, simply tolerate their existence, treat another’s sin as more sinful than theirs, or judge, condemn, or send to the curb as second class citizens or no citizen at all. This is not love.

For many, they are truly afraid of truly loving homosexuals. Why?

Let me identify and help dissolve some of the fears behind an unwillingess to truly love homosexuals, or even just tolerate them.

Fear 1: If we truly love homosexuals, we won’t be faithful in defending what the Bible says about homosexuality.

Let me put your heart and mind at ease, or make you really angry… your choice. The truth is, no one truly defends what the Bible truly says, they defend what they believe the Bible says. It’s not the authority of scripture that they are truly defending, it’s the authority of their beliefs about what scripture says that they are ardently trying to defend. Need proof?

Lets just take an issue far more major, essential, and important than homosexuality… like “salvation.”

There are large evangelical, biblical, scholarly people who believe that salvation is a gift from God given to all people received by personal faith in Christ. According to their beliefs, God loves everyone, wants everyone saved, and provides the way through Jesus for them to be saved, through faith. Anyone can believe and receive this gift of salvation. This group can line up many bible passages that they claim to be authoritative proof that their belief is right and faithful to God’s Word.

But did you know there is also an equally large group of evangelical, biblical, scholarly people who believe that salvation is a gift from God given to some people and not to others as He predestines some to enjoy heaven and some to burn in hell, giving people no choice in the matter whatsoever. In fact, according to their beliefs (including popular pastors like Francis Chan, Mark Driscoll, David Platt etc.)  even people who want nothing to do with God, God regenerates and makes them unwillingly believe in Jesus through “irresistible grace” so that they go to heaven, but God withholds doing this for others, and thus, they sadly go to hell. They too, line up their bible passages they claim to be authoritative proof that their belief is right and faithful to God’s Word.

Obviously, using the very same Bible, these two large groups who each claim to be biblical, conservative, evangelical, authority-of-scripture loving Christians have come to two very, very different conclusions about the central foundational issue of Christian salvation. In fact, each group often declares the opposing group as not submitting to the authority of God’s Word and faithful interpretation. They both claim that what they believe is what the Bible “plainly teaches,” that theirs is the absolute truth of God’s Word, and that they are the true guardians of the authority of God’s Word.

This is just one example of so many examples of how Christians who claim to be bible-authority loving, evangelical, and faithful have come to very different conclusion/beliefs about what the very same bible says or doesn’t say on essential and non-essential issues. Who truly can claim they have got it right and are in sync with the authority of the Bible? Obviously, both can’t be right and true to God’s Word?

Now we arrive at homosexuality. An issue that many Christians would say is a slam dunk, cut and dry issue. Surely, we Christians, who easily can get the whole issue of salvation right (lots of sarcasm intended) have the inside scoop to what the Bible truly means about this issue.  You can see in how we have handled the central issue of salvation so well that certainly, we can handle the simple “pop fly ball” of homosexuality (more sarcasm). Besides, we are the authorities of the authority of the Bible, can’t you tell by how many denominations with entirely different beliefs we have? Trust us, we know what we are talking about and know the plain truth about what the Bible teaches, especially about homosexuality.

The truth is, as with the issue of salvation, there are biblical, scholarly, Jesus-loving, conservative people whose views and understanding about what the Bible truly says about homosexuality are greatly differing. Each brings their Bible, passages, word studies and lexicons to the table and having read the same Bible conclude very different understandings, each one claiming they are the authority on the authority of the Bible and what they believe is the plain and faithful teaching of God’s Word.

I am not going to get into that debate only to say that there is one, and both sides feel just as biblical, scholarly, faithful, and Jesus-loving as the other.

My point is this, if you refrain from truly loving homosexuals, letting them in you church, sitting besides them in a small group, hiring them in your company, or allowing them involvement in your ministry because you fear in doing such things you are not defending what the Bible says about homosexuality, what you are truly deliberating over is not what the Bible truly says, but what you believe at that moment the Bible says.

What if you are wrong, what if you got the interpretation wrong and in the meanwhile you isolated, condemned, and marginalized an entire people-group in the process when you shouldn’t have? What if you have made an idol out of your understanding?

Jesus once addressed this type of issue to people who wanted to place their stances on the Word of God over their stance with people.

“You search the Scriptures because you think that in them you have eternal life; it is these that testify about Me; and you are unwilling to come to Me so that you may have life” (John 5:39-40).

I love what Steve McVey says of this passage and issue…

“They had their Bibles in hand and studied them much. In fact, they could quote most of the Old Testament, but Jesus said they simply didn’t get it. While they professed to be focused on living by the teaching of their Bibles, Jesus said they were missing Him. 

There are Christians today who talk more about the Bible than they do Jesus. That should be a red flag. The Bible is not an end unto itself. Nor is it a guidebook or a handbook for living. The Bible is a grace book that points us to Jesus Christ. He is the end that we pursue. If we are not led to the person of Christ and to faith in Him, like the Pharisees, we are missing the whole point of the Bible. I realize this viewpoint may be uncomfortable for some people. It may sound to you like I’m minimizing the place of the Bible in our lives, but I certainly hope not. Remember, this is coming from somebody who has spent his life studying, emphasizing, and teaching the Bible! I love the Bible more than I have words to express. But it’s a paradox. As much as I love studying the Bible, and as much as I love teaching it and helping other people discover how great a blessing it is, learning the Bible is not the main thing. As we live in Him and He lives through us, we will approach the Bible in the right way, knowing that Christ is our life source, and the Bible points us to Him.”  –McVey, Steve (2011-02-01). 52 Lies Heard in Church Every Sunday (pp. 79-80). Harvest House Publishers. Kindle Edition.

The Bible is important, no doubt, but the truth of the matter is, we should be very careful not to lean on our own understanding to the point we are willing to miss the heart of Jesus for truly loving all people. None of us are truly the authority on what’s authoritative in the Bible. This is what the Pharisees were never willing to do, that is, to come down from their religious pride they would call “faithfulness to God’s Word” and stand with people.

Christians are great at claiming “authority” when they feel their throne lowering and their control slipping away.  In contrast, when Jesus used the fullness of the power of authority, he washed people’s feet. When we Christians use authority, we tend to erase and marginalize people and people groups.

This must come to an end if we are going to have a voice that has influence in the world.

Fear 2: If we truly love homosexuals, we will be condoning homosexuality.

Jesus was not afraid to associate Himself with people whose lives were sinful and questionable at best. If you believe all homosexuality is sinful, it may also be that you join those who believe the same and fear that drawing too close and giving them equal respect, involvement, friendship, employment, acceptance, and/or love might mean you are or appear to be condoning homosexuality.

Recently, World Vision, a Christian organization explored this issue by changing their policies to be open to hiring homosexuals in their workplace. Later, after Christian pressure, they changed back to their original policy to not do so. The main issue it seems is that many Christians insisted that to hire homosexuals was to condone sin and a sinful lifestyle.  Many would say that homosexuals are not just sinning, but living a lifestyle of choosing sin willingly without any sense of repentance.

Here again, I am not going to get into the issues of whether homosexuality is a sin or not or that people who are homosexual are committing a lifestyle of sin by their rebellious choice.

However, I do wonder if companies like World Vision treat other sins like they treat the believed-to-be-sin of homosexuality when they hire and manage people. Do they check to see if all the fat people they hire are fat for exclusively medical conditions beyond their control rather than being an issue of gluttony? If so, how is that determined? Do they interview and explore every divorced person’s marriage history, determining if the divorce was biblical or not, because many would say that remarriage after an unbiblical divorce is adultery, a sin? If so, who makes this determination?

But let’s take things even a bit further. The truth is, every Christian has an area where they are knowingly sinning and even unrepentive, just like many Christians would declare homosexuals are doing. Yup it’s true! Don’t believe me, read on.

The bible teaches, “If anyone, then, knows the good they ought to do and doesn’t do it, it is sin for them.” -James 4:17

Many Christians know they should be obeying speed laws, never running red lights, should be tithing 10%, should  have constant pure thoughts, should never covet their neighbor’s home, should be completely satisfied with their own looks, giving to the poor, should care for orphans and take care of widows, should not have selfish thoughts, should have faith instead of worry, pray without ceasing, and the list goes on and on and on. There is so much good we ought to be doing that no one could measure up.

Yet, are you repenting (a concept most evangelicals mistakenly believe means to “change your ways”) right now of all the good you ought to do but are not? You aren’t repenting because to do so would take every moment of every day as there is always something good you know you should be doing but you aren’t.

But if you are going to live by the notion that unrepentive, repeated sin is the crossing line that determines whether loving, welcoming, including or hiring a person is condoning their sin or not, than your “not doing the good that you ought to” is not only sin, it’s an unrepentive lifestyle of sin of your free choice that you and every Christian is living right now! You should never be hired, included, accepted or welcomed because you are living in sin, and we can’t condone that!

Btw, I was just wondering, how many times do you commit the same sin before it becomes a lifestyle of sin? 2 times, 5, 1o? Who makes that determination anyways?

Furthermore, if this is the line of believing you are going to take, then every person Jesus interacted with and even those He called as disciples He did so as an act of condoning sin. Peter , for example, had it in his heart the capacity and later the actions of denying Jesus, and Jesus knew that long before it ever even happened. Was Jesus therefore, condoning his sin?  He ate and drank with sinful people, was He in doing so condoning their sin? He even called/hired broken, sinful, lifestyle-of-sin type people onto His team, was He therefore condoning sin?

It was only the religiously-spirited Pharisees who would draw this ignorant conclusion of Jesus and condemn Him for doing so. It is the same today.

Imagine if World Vision had taken a stance like this… We want to hire every qualified homosexual person we can find, not because we agree with everything about them or their lifestyle, but we would rather have them around the influence, safety, and care of the people of Jesus than the world. We believe we can do a better job of loving them and coming along side them as we all grow in Grace than anyone else. And what better way than to work side by side together, doing life.  We want them to be exposed to the life of Christ in us (if they aren’t already) and the Holy Spirit around us that they might have every opportunity to consider the claims of Christ and their true identity and life in Him. We will let the Holy Spirit be our judge and jury and us their friend and coworker. We will trust the Holy Spirit with any change that needs to take place in any of our lives, and to protect our reputation and character as an organization. We do not see their employment as a threat to the integrity of the Gospel nor our Christian organization, but a result of it.

In fact, I would suggest that companies, churches, and organizations that withhold the full Grace of the Gospel, or communicate any hint of the Law to homosexuals through not welcoming, including, valuing, respecting, hiring, or empowering them is doing far more to condone their sin (if that is what you believe) than by bringing them into the arms of your love. The Bible clearly teaches that it is the Law that entices us to sin, not Grace. Giving Grace and acceptance does not condone sin, it is in fact the only Gospel chance, through the Holy Spirit, for true change to occur. It is God’s kindness that leads to a change of mind (what repentance really means).

If you are truly afraid of condoning sin, then welcome, love, respect, hire, befriend and involve homosexuals in  your life, ministry, or organization. To not do so condones far more sin. Trust God with your reputation, and Grace to manage and influence people… Jesus did.

Fear 3: If we truly love homosexuals, we won’t be taking sin seriously. 

Sin is serious, there is no question about that. But, how we go about taking sin seriously is even more critical.

The truth is, Grace and Grace alone is the solution to sin. Jesus was and is the solution for all sin, and He is Grace. Grace is not a new theology, program, or fad, He is a person, Jesus.

We are not the solution to sin. The Law shows us we can never solve the problem of sin by any effort or aspect of our lives and living. Alone, we are powerless against sin. Jesus alone, is the only power to overcome it. God took sin so seriously that He dealt with it completely and eternally through Jesus knowing we are powerless against it. When we harbor any level of belief that any aspect of our performance can resolve issues of sin in ourselves or others we are in fact not taking sin seriously, but rather minimizing the seriousness of sin down to a level of human ability to resolve.

The Bible shows us that the more we focus on sin, the more we will sin. Yet, the more we focus on Jesus, the more we will understand our true nature and identity in Him and therefore live victorious lives.The best way to take sin seriously is to take the finished work of the cross seriously. Taking sin seriously means to stop focusing on sin and place your focus on Christ and what He has done for you and to you. And not just you, but everyone.

As Christians, taking sin seriously means doing everything we can to help people experience the Grace of God through Jesus Christ, the only solution. As Christians, our identity is secure in Him, and His Grace is what promises to carry out the good work in us. Taking sin seriously means trusting Grace completely. We should never fear sin or sinful people in such a way as to keep us from befriending, hiring, welcoming, or involving homosexuals (if you believe homosexuality is a sin). In fact, what we should fear is not taking sin seriously enough to manifest the remedy to sin, the Grace of Jesus Christ and the companionship, friendship, and fellowship of His people whether in the context of a church, organization, or a company. We in fact minimize the power of sin and compromise the Gospel when we think that we can marginalize certain sinful people in the work place, a Christian organization, or the church and yet consider them our mission, as if keeping them at arms length, compartmentalizing them, and hoping they get our message from a distance is the best strategy for the Gospel. Do we truly trust Grace to be the remedy for sin or would we rather have people working, living, involved, and empowered by the world as if the world were a better place for people to work out this sin issue in their lives? Is sin serious enough to us to manifest what Jesus has done about it and our trust of the power of the Gospel in us and through us enough to walk along side of it without fear of contamination or reputation? If you truly believe Christ lives in you and as you in this world, contamination and reputation are much more likely to become an excuse than a real concern.

Now more than ever, preaching the Gospel means being the Gospel. You can’t be the Gospel through mere words, you can only be the Gospel of Grace through being, walking, befriending, and doing life with people. Just like Jesus did. If the mere message was enough, Jesus would have merely passed out teaching tapes.  The Gospel was never intended to merely be a speech, but to be a stance with people. And not just select people, but broken, hurting, confused, difficult, dirty people who sin differently than you.

When God manifested the reality of His taking of sin seriously, it resulted in the serving of people infected with the very thing He detested  by coming out of heaven and walking, hiring, befriending, involving, empowering, and ultimately dying for them.

Taking sin seriously is not in what you are willing to disapprove and disassociate from, but who you are willing to be the Gospel of God’s Grace with in life, work, church, and friendship.

Fear 4: If we truly love homosexuals, we might start attracting too many gays.

Yes, I have heard pastors, ministry leaders, and Christians vomit this kind of sentiment, “what if we start attracting too many gays?”

Really? I am sure before Jesus left heaven to be born on earth, God’s last words to Him were something like, “Hey Jesus, Son, old pal. Whatever you do, make sure you don’t attract to many sinners, I have no clue what to if that happens, it would be a huge mess.”

I suppose I can understand the anxiety, sorta. Ministries, churches, Christians, and Christian organization are under a lot of pressure. Unfortunately, mainly from other Christians. We Christians are experts and flogging each other, with a little bit of salt in our hands to rub on afterwards . So, I can understand the anxiety, but I don’t necessarily agree with bowing to it.

It’s amazing to me how ill-equipped many Christians, ministries and churches feel in ministering to people whose sin (if you believe homosexuality is a sin) is not only different from theirs, but believe its presence automatically threatens their reputation and integrity. Sure, some are more than willing to allow homosexuals into a worship service, event, gathering, or to have a doughnut together at the church cafe’, but the idea of including them as valued parts of your organization or ministry sends many into a tailspin of fear.

Why? Because of several of the fears already addressed previously in this article. For many churches and ministries, they see themselves more as an institution to be maintained rather than a mission to be extended, and at the end of the day, preserving their institution is more important than standing true to their mission. They are willing to be misunderstood and rejected by the people they are supposed to reach in the process of making sure they are understood and accepted  by the people they wish to keep… Christians, Christian donors, Christian supporters.

What are we going to do with the homosexual visitor who wants to become a member? What do we do with the homosexual member who wants to volunteer? What do we do with the homosexual volunteer who feels called to lead? Lions and tigers and bears, oh my!

Here’s what many do, we welcome them enough to feel good about ourselves, but politely (or not so politely)  keep them at a distance so that they don’t threaten the other ways we want to keep on feeling good about ourselves… you got is, church politics, christian politics, ministry politics, denominational politics etc.

There are legitimate concerns about involving people into areas of volunteering, employment, and leadership. We must be discerning and wise. But anyone can have an agenda, selfish motive, lack of character, illegal background etc. Is homosexuality in and of itself an automatic disqualification from being volunteer, employment, or leadership material? On what grounds? Sin? Willing sin?

Yes, we Christians with our churches, organizations, and ministries want to have our cake and eat it too. We want to say homosexuals are a part of our mission (if you believe they need to be seen as a mission in the first place) but not have to deal with the unfortunate mess integrating them into the life of your church, ministry or company would entail in our Christian culture today.

Unless of course, they clean up and repent of their ways, then they are one of us! If they join us on the evil, spiritual seductive treadmill of self-improvement where God does His part and we do our part, then they are one of us! If they hate themselves but not knowing exactly why like we do, then they are one of us! If they join our hypocritical plight and become inspired by message after message of the things they need to do and not do to be a better Christian and act like they are actually making any progress when they really aren’t, then they are one of us! If they reject their sexual orientation and claim it’s all a choice like we believe it is, than they are one of us. By the way, I was just wondering, if you are a heterosexual, when did you choose to be heterosexual? Just curious. If they just get an accountability partner, those precious little spiritual gems, then they will be one of us!

No wonder why the real concern shouldn’t be about whether we will attract too many homosexuals, it’s will we attract any at all? And if we do, will they even stick around long enough for us to know their story. I know, we hope not, and may not even care. That could get too dirty for our porcelain Christian life, ministry, or church.

Besides, why would they want to become any more like us and believe more of what we do? Why would they want to join our futile, self-focused, performance-driven so-called Christian walk that never gets truly any better but rather just pretends like things are. Why would they want to get involved in our church where what we are against is far more important than what we are for, where the Holy Spirit’s ability to change people has been replaced with rules, regulation, guilt trips, and fear. Why, why, why?

If you, your ministry, or your church fears attracting too many gays, let me put your mind at ease, trust me you won’t! And thank God for that! They would do better to go straight to hell, the place many have likely deemed they are all going anyways.

Fear 5: If we truly love homosexuals, we will be adapting to our culture.

One of the cries I often hear from those who seem to want to condemn all homosexuals to the fires of hell and claim that the Bible is perfectly and unquestionably clear that God feels the same is that if you disagree, have questions, harbor doubts, or just aren’t sure about the whole matter, you are not only just “adapting to our culture,” you are not staying true to the authority of God’s Word.

I truly believe that there is little cultural influence in the hearts and minds of those who humbly and truly wrestle with the issues surrounding homosexuality. For both the homosexual and the one who wrestles with what one as a Christian is to believe and do with this issue, the depth of struggle, inner debate, spiritual searching, biblical study, and desire for truth is far deeper than one merely bending to the winds of culture.

People are discovering firsthand, not primarily through cultural experiences, but personal ones, that this issue is much more complex than meets the eye and the black and white tunnel vision of those who are quick to cherry pick their way through the scriptures in order to build their case for what they are against in life and in the world. Furthermore, Christians are coming to realize there are other credible ways as to how one could interpret the biblical references to homosexuality than merely what has been commonly offered. It’s not just clear, cut and dry. These are not far-fetched, doing a “dance around the truth” kind of exegesis exercises being done, but real, faithful biblical scholarship by people who are just as serious about Jesus, the Bible, and sin as anyone else.

I am sure there is a homosexual agenda in both the Christian culture and our culture at large, but there are also a lot of other agendas within our Christian culture. Agendas are not new. And I would dare to say it is not agendas that are driving the reevaluation of this issue, but rather compassion, and biblical revelation.

If Christians were continually prone to merely adapting to culture and that was the driving force behind the questions people are posing to what has previously been accepted and taught as the plain, clear truth about what the bible says about homosexuality, than I am curious as to why for the past 15 years, our culture has become much more health, weight, and nutritionally fit minded, yet the church is clearly not adapting to that much.

Don’t worry, if you wrestle with what the bible says about homosexuality and how to handle this issue in the lives of others, chances are strong that you aren’t merely adapting to culture, but working through issues that are much more complicated than that. Furthermore, you are trying to navigate the application of the Grace growing within you. Grace has filled your heart with wisdom, compassion, and truth. And looking at the world through the eyes of Jesus has begun to look much different from when you merely saw it through the eyes of “church”, “religion”, or “legalism.”

Keep growing in Grace, perfect love casts out fear.

What to Do After You Sin

You have probably been taught that after you sin, there are certain rigorous steps and emotional postures you need to assume to make things right with God. Deep groans of profuse crying, long quivering statements of confession, and some kind of twisted punishment of one’s self are sure to be a good religious start, provided Jesus hasn’t already back-slapped you into hell.

As much as we love to try to work our way to God, we also love to try to work our way back to God once we have sinned. It makes us feel like we have some control (and credit) in the process.

Yet, no matter what you have been taught, the Gospel teaches us differently. First, you cannot work your way to God, and then once in Christ, there is in fact no need to work your way back to Him, if that were possible anyways.

For the non-believer, the prescription of what to do after you sin is simple… agree with God you sinned, believe in the forgiveness God has given you in Christ on the cross, receive it through faith, and stop sinning as you live from your “new creation” identity. (2 Cor. 5:17)

For the believer, however, things have been made a bit more complicated and confusing. So, to clear things up and get back to the Gospel, here’s what to do (and not to do) once you have sinned.

Once you have sinned…

1) Agree with God you have sinned.

2) Believe in the forgiveness that God has already applied to your sins… past, present, and future. No need to ask for what God has already given. He is not interested in your confession of sin (other than agreeing with Him that you sinned) but your confidence in His finished work on the cross applied fully to your life the moment you believed. (btw, 1 John 1:9 is written to non-believers, not believers.)

3) Trust that your identity, righteousness, and standing with God are still fully intact. Sin has not distanced you from God. The Christ that lives in you has not left the building or even walked to the front door. He has not given up on you, nor reduced His love or presence.

4) Believe on Jesus that He will enable you to overcome this area of sin in your life as you see that you are by nature no longer a “sinner.” Don’t get on a treadmill of trying and striving to “do better.” You cannot produce spiritual fruit in your life, only God can, and that only by faith, not your effort. Believe in who you are in Christ, lacking no spiritual blessing, and live from that belief. Right believing leads to right living, not rule keeping. The more you try to stop sinning, the more you will. The more you believe and trust in Jesus through His Grace to will and act according to His pleasure in your life, the less you will sin. An obedience problem is always first an identity problem. Behind every area of sin in your life is a wrong belief about God and/or yourself. So, when you sin, don’t ask, “what am I doing wrong?” and then strive to change your behavior. Rather ask, “what am I believing wrong?” and ask God to help you change your beliefs and increase your faith.

5) If your sin effects people, promptly ask them for forgiveness and do your best to clean things up and make things right. With people, confession and clean up are very important and often necessary.

6) Vehemently resist feeling condemned and applying false guilt and shame onto your life. Don’t live your life carrying an emotional burden Jesus already canceled. Forgive yourself from the forgiveness Jesus has already applied to your life, past, present, and future. To walk in guilt and shame is to deny the power of the cross and Jesus’ work in your life.

7) Focus on Jesus and His mercy, not your sin. Don’t be sin conscious, be Jesus conscious. Don’t give Satan the attention, give Jesus the glory. Thank Jesus and live from His mercy and favor, focused on His amazing grace.

8- Don’t start a spiritual battle with Satan that doesn’t exist. Rather, hold onto your identity, righteousness, and holiness in Christ. Religously praying “harder”, giving, serving, sacrificing, and going to church “more” will not bring you back into good standing nor keep you protected from the evil one. Resting in Him as you place your trust in His work and Grace is your spiritual armor.

9) Move on, focusing on Christ and your identity in Him. Have the mind of Christ who remembers your sin no more. The more you bring your sins with you into the future in your mind, the better chance you will repeat them in the future in your actions. It is for freedom Christ set you free.

© 2017 Chris Kratzer

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