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Sunday, 15 June 2014

Is My Love Stronger Than God's?

Anyone who has just read the above title would immediately answer, Of course your love isn't stronger than God's! Who do you think you are?
But actually, over forty years of being a Christian believer, such thoughts have crossed my mind. And here I am not referring to God's power, strength, omniscience, omnipotence, omnipresence, his sovereignty, or any of his other attributes - rather, I'm referring to his love. Pardon me for saying this, but God's love has always been an issue I have struggled with. I think this is because it's my natural instinct to exclude my sinful nature from God's holiness. Perhaps its rather like taking an apple from a bowl of fruit. As you turn the fruit in your hand, you come across a hole at the surface, and suspect seeing a maggot inside. Immediately the apple is thrown into the waste bin without taking a single bite. If the affected fruit is so repulsive to eat, then that is pretty well like God finding me repulsive because of my "maggot" of sin within.

It was from this Biblical perspective that I understand that just as the affected fruit is thrown out, so likewise, God cannot accept sinners into his Kingdom. And that is the problem - there is sin in me. So God brought a solution to the problem: by sending his Son Jesus Christ to pay the penalty my sins deserve, so that one with the likes of myself can be admitted into Heaven totally free from sin.
But there are two ways to resolve that problem: One is to remove the maggot from the apple, then the rest can be eaten. Or re-grow the fruit, ensuring that this time no bug will lay its eggs while in flower. Over the years, by reading the New Testament, the removing of the maggot before eating seems to be the solution. But the truth is, even after the bug has been removed, I would not want to eat the rest, even if I went for the unaffected white flesh by slicing it with a knife. To me, the entire fruit is inedible.
So where is the connection here? When it comes to faith in the atonement made by Jesus on the cross, then it is taught by many that only my past sins are forgiven at he moment of conversion. I am aware that I have discussed this already in the last two blogs. But here I would like to bring out a coincidence, known to my own experience, as a result of such thinking. It is the idea that I now have a clean slate. However, it does not stay clean for long. All I need is to harbour an unclean thought, for example, fantasising in sharing intimacy with the beautiful woman nearby who is married to another. It may be a pleasant thought to indulge in - the snag is, adultery is already committed in the heart, breaking one of the Ten Commandments. Confession of the sin does bring forgiveness, but more often than not, many a sin comes and goes unconfessed, and sooner or later the pile is high enough to forfeit salvation, and I would still end up in Hell if I were to die. This is the central teaching of the Roman Catholic Church in which I grew up, and many evangelical preachers teach a very similar idea which is upheld in many denominational churches.
The overall picture gotten from this way of believing was that God's love is very weak indeed, while his wrath against sin remains very strong. It is a way of saying that when it comes to loving someone, I can do a better job than God, who despite being adopted into his family, still watches my performance to see whether I'm really worthy enough to enter Heaven after death. One area of Scripture to "prove" whether I'm worthy of eternal life is found in Revelation chapters two and three, where John writes to the seven churches that whoever overcomes shall live and not die, e.g. Revelation 2:11. This has been expounded in both books and Christian tape recordings to churches across the nation, and beyond.
Sometimes I'm tempted to feel that my love for my wife and children is stronger than God's love for me. As for my wife, she is human like everyone else, and she has her faults. But would I throw her out of the house, or walk out myself, due to her lack of perfection? No way! I will always love her unconditionally. Neither would I give her laws to live by, if she wants my love. Neither does she feel the need to overcome anything to stay in my love. Rather, I love her as my wife, my nearest and dearest, in in no way would I make her suffer for a moment for any mistakes made, let alone for eternity! As for my daughters, supposing they decide that I was no longer relevant to them, and have turned their backs on me? Supposing that they wanted absolutely nothing to do with me, and they decided to go their own way? Would I stop loving them? Would I condemn them to everlasting punishment? By no means! I will always love them. Since they were born, I have put a portion of my earnings into their bank accounts. And even if they dessert me, I will continue to put money away into their accounts. I would never cease loving them, neither would I lay down the law which they must obey in order to stay in my love, or risk being ostracised. Why are they so special to me? Because they are my daughters. And I think this love I have for my family is from Jesus Christ himself.
If I'm a son of God, adopted into his family through faith in the risen Christ Jesus, then the possibility of being disfranchised makes God's love for me not only conditional, but also very weak and fickle. This seems to be heightened by ministers preaching on fear of punishment if I don't hold faithful enough, or not overcoming my sins, or the world. In short, my love for my wife and daughters is stronger than God's love for me. This seems ridiculous, even blasphemous, yet there are people, some I know personally, who believes this very thing, and it's believed on by a great many more.

David Pawson, a strong advocate of probational, or conditional salvation based on a believer's performance.
So it looks to me that merely removing the maggot from a diseased apple does not make it fit to eat, so God's forgiveness of past sins only at conversion does not make a believer fit for Heaven. As for a new fruit, unaffected by any bugs, needs to grow in order to be fit to eat, then I myself must be re-born in the spirit to be fit for Heaven, the birth of the new man within. As Jesus himself said on one occasion, unless a man is born from above, he cannot see the Kingdom of God - John 3:3.
Yet there are many Scripture verses which seem to indicate that salvation is dependent on the believers performance and faithfulness. One oft-quoted passage is Hebrews 6:4-6. Here, five issues are given, which includes being made partakers of the Holy Spirit, but none describes a true believer who is born from above. In John 16:8-11, Jesus foretold that the Holy Spirit will convict the world of sin, righteousness, and judgement. And this is particular with the Jews, who have seen Jesus, watched and listened to his ministry, yet rejected him in favour of established Jewish customs. And in Hebrews 10, there is talk about sinning wilfully after coming to the knowledge of the truth. Coming to the knowledge of the truth, as the Sanhedrin did soon after his Resurrection, does not make them into believers. Their sin was of rejecting Christ in favour of the Temple, a sin which can be classed as "unpardonable." Therefore, it looks to me that being made partakers of the Holy Spirit involves conviction of sin, the truth about the atonement made by the crucifixion, death, and resurrection of the Son of God, and the inner call to trust in him. But rather the Jews, in which the letter was referring to, charged Jesus Christ as an impostor, and returned to the Temple ordinances which initially was a shadow of was what to come, namely Jesus himself. Their sins can't any longer be covered.

Then there are other Scripture verses, such as Philippians 2:12, we are exhorted to work out our salvation with fear and trembling - a text used by one preacher back in 1994 to disprove eternal security - and very nearly caused a riot among his audience. Or the promise to be presented to Christ at the Resurrection free from blemish and accusation - if we stand firm, stated in Colossians 1:22-23. Then reading through the second letter of Paul to Timothy as well as the second letter of Peter, all these seem to present an extremely fickle God whose love is conditioned by performance. So preachers who are famous and well known in the faith, expound fear of eternal punishment unless living a thoroughly holy life, in a way presenting a god whose love is so weak, that one with the likes of myself either tremble at the fear of death, as millions of Roman Catholics did particularly over the Dark to Middle Ages, or prone to turn atheist, like one angry Catholic builder has done, whom I got acquainted with at the sauna.

I think there is only one solution to the apparent contradiction found in the New Testament. That is, when a believer turns to Jesus Christ for salvation, not only does he receive a pardon, the forgiveness of sins, but also a full judicial acquittal, thoroughly explained by Paul in Romans chapters 3 and 4, and endorsed further in chapter eight. These are endorsements made by the apostle after Jesus himself, before his crucifixion, had promised eternal life to all believers, specifically stated in John chapters six, ten, and 17. But there is more. In Paul's letter to the Romans, he explains that a righteousness from heaven is revealed to all believers. That is to say, every true believer in Jesus Christ has the righteousness of God imputed into his account. In other words, God sees us as equally righteous as Jesus himself. That is wonderfully good news!

There is an important point here. If the righteousness of Christ is imputed into my account, then if I lose my salvation, as many in the pulpit insist, then that makes the atonement Jesus had brought about totally useless. Even the Roman Catechism insist that the atonement made by Christ on the cross was not sufficient enough to acquit the sinner and made him fit for heaven. So the Catholic believer has to partake in the Presence of Christ at the Eucharist every Sunday and holy days set by the Church. Not to mention, in addition, devotion to Mary and the reality of Purgatory, a temporary Hell where the believer has his sins purged out before entering Heaven. In reality, Christ's mission some two thousand years ago was an absolute failure - with not one person saved at all.

So what of these  portion of Scripture which looks like "Problem Passages" to the likes of me who believe in eternal security? Do they contradict the great truths of judicial acquittal? No, not at all. The account settled with God is to do with the heart, the part of me no other man can see. But what other men do see is my attitude, the way of expression, and the things I say and do. And this is why I believe that God is very concerned about the way I live as a believer. My very existence as a believer before death is to reveal the love of God to other men, so they too can believe and be saved. People will not be impressed with my faith if I behave sinfully like other men. Rather, I am to make my calling in Jesus Christ sure, in the sight of other men, so that they may glorify the Father who is in Heaven.

And where Peter's second letter is concerned, this involves false teachers. These come in many different forms. But their central core of teaching was that the sufficiency of Christ's atonement made on the cross was not enough to justify the believer, therefore the saint must add works to make sure he is fit for Heaven. The direct result of such teaching was that it tended to make the person sin even more, and to bring out excuses for such bad behaviour. This is the denial of the Lord who had bought them, and severely rebuked by Peter. Anyone reading about the history of the Roman Church and the terrible deeds done by many of her Popes and clergy in the centuries past will testify to the value of Peter's letter.

Just as removing the maggot from a diseased apple does not make it fit to eat, so trying to reform myself does not make me fit for heaven. Instead, I had to be reborn in the spirit, making me a new man, born of God and bestowed with the righteousness of Christ, in the same way a fresh, unaffected apple has to be grown and cultivated in order for it to be fit to eat. The maggoty apple is thrown out. Likewise, when I die, my regenerated spirit goes to be with the Lord, while my sinful flesh is taken to the grave for burial.


  1. Dear Frank,
    Thought-provoking as always! Praise God that He clothes believers in the perfect righteousness of His Son, which is all He sees, and not our sin. I heard Any Stanley (Charles Stanley's son) put it this way -- God loves us infinitely, so He can't love us any more or any less. No matter how grievous our sin, He can't love us any less, because, as you rightly said, that would render useless His Son's perfect, completed work on the cross. And no matter how "good" our works or performance, He can't love us any more, because infinity plus anything is still infinity. All this takes the pressure off of us and lets us rest secure in His love, mercy and grace.
    God bless,

  2. Great post, Frank.

    I Corinthians 6:9-12 pretty much states exactly what you said in your post. "Know ye not that the unrighteous shall not inherit the kingdom of God? Be not deceived: neither fornicators, nor idolaters, nor adulterers, nor effeminate, nor abusers of themselves with mankind, Nor thieves, nor covetous, nor drunkards, nor revilers, nor extortioners, shall inherit the kingdom of God. And such were some of you: but ye are washed, but ye are sanctified, but ye are justified in the name of the Lord Jesus, and by the Spirit of our God." As a result, II Corinthians 5:17 tells us, "Therefore if any man be in Christ, he is a new creature: old things are passed away; behold, all things are become new."