Monday, July 14, 2014


"He who is forgiven much loves much." --Jesus of Nazareth

Those of us who think that this is true have no excuse for our lack of love for other people, but we do have a reason for it. Are we paying attention? According to Jesus, I have no one to blame but myself for not loving the most obnoxious person around. Active awareness of the greatness of God's forgiveness for me would move me to overwhelm that obnoxious person with love. Apparently Jesus knows something we don't want or like to think about--that our Irritation, frustration, and lack of gladness toward others is caused by our lack of vision of the immensity of God's forgiveness toward us and even toward that other person. Let's get over ourselves and learn to laugh at our failures and those of other people. At our best moments we all are weak. Forgetfulness of the cross is the Christian's great enemy. For the non-Christian ignorance of the cross is the enemy.

Saturday, July 12, 2014

HOLINESS: How Much Is Enough To Please God?

"Strive for peace with everyone, and for the holiness without which no one will see the Lord." -Hebrews 12:14

True or false 
1) Holiness is required to see God?
2) It is good to judge your holiness compared to that of other people?
3) It is good to sin once this year?
4) It is good to stop judging by appearances and to make a righteous judgment, such as to always compare yourself to Christ?
5) You are holy compared to Christ?

If only 1 and 4 are true, how can you possibly go to heaven without this verse being a lie? 

Could it be that holiness is all about God setting you apart to be different from the world to have your life in true righteousnessgoodness as all or nothing and given as a gift in the death of Christ? The world is all about personal righteousnessdoing your best to do what you think is good, but of course not perfectly. What if good behavior (joyful one-way love) is simply a natural response to actively remembering your life--the finished work of Christ in your place? This removes all heaviness and all hypocrisy from holiness for every Christian, in every culture in all times. It makes life a celebration rather than a chore.

Addendum. Today I posted this piece on the Oasis Books FaceBook page and later read it to a Christian friend who said that he thought all Christians would answer the true or false questions identically. If that is true, then we Christians have generally understood and explained holiness artificially at best, that is, far too much in terms of behavior with a natural connection to righteousness hidden in some fog. Have you ever heard Hebrews 12:14 explained as a statement of identity in Christ rather than of obedience to God's moral commands? 

Friday, July 11, 2014

THE MOTIVATION OF GRACE—the testimony of two non-Christians.

A few years ago while in conversation with students on campus, a student from India said that back home he had a Mercedes sports car which he loved to drive fast. I asked him if he was concerned that the police might stop him. He said that they did stop him. I asked what he did. He smiled and told me that he simply showed them his I.D. and then his father’s photo, and because his father was the chief of police, they smiled and always waved him on. This man had immunity from speeding tickets because of who his father was. He seemed to be saying that he takes full advantage of it, too. What is wrong with this picture?

Not long after, I met J___, a Muslim attorney from the Middle East. His wife is working on a Ph.D. here and he spends his days caring for their son and so has little pressure. His home country is ruled by a king who has real authority. This friend likely knows that the secret police there have real authority to torture people almost at will. One day I asked J___ what would happen if the King’s son raced his Mercedes through the capital city—would the police give him a ticket. He laughed at me, saying that he was the king’s son and so was above the law and could do what he wanted. I suggested that he could run over old ladies in crosswalks. He said that was true. He also said that everyone in the country wished to have this special relationship with the king so they would not have to be under the law. I then asked J___ how it would affect him if his king paid the fantastic and unheard of price to adopt him into the royal family which would give him that privilege. J___ smiled and said that he would be so thankful that he would always drive carefully watching out for the safety of others. He added that he would never do anything wrong out of thankfulness for what the king had done for him. I suggested that there would be a time where he might do something wrong. He said that would be impossible. I mentioned that if he forget the price the king had paid, he could do something wrong. J___ smiled and agreed.

Two men above the law. The first had no motivation of grace since he naturally was a son above the law. And so without the threat of punishment, he was careless about the law, being motivated by his own whims. The second man also had no obligation to law—and even a greater certainty of freedom. But he knew that his knowledge of the king’s love for him and the fantastic price paid to buy his adoption, was the obvious and sufficient motivation to always do good and not evil. The gift was so great that he didn't consider that he could ever not be thinking about it. Remembrance of the king’s grace would move him to always do good.

My Muslim attorney friend knows the heart of true Christianity. When I told him such and had him read Isaiah 53 and Hebrews 2 in a bilingual Bible, he smiled and asked if I could get for him such a Bible. He gladly took the one we were reading together. May his stay in the USA be a double blessing for him. Sadly it seems easy for us Christians to fall into the thinking of the man from Indiathat no threat of consequences means little or no motivation to do what is good.