As I read about the second Counterfeit Gospel, Jeremiah 8 kept coming to mind.

They have healed the wound of my people lightly, saying, ‘Peace, peace,’ when there is no peace. Were they ashamed when they committed an abomination? No, they were not at all ashamed; they did not know how to blush. (v. 11-12)

All day long, in every podium (alas, often in our churches) the buzz-word, “tolerance” blares. “Don’t judge.” (The Biblical context disregarded.) “We all need to love one another.” No one wants to have to choose, let alone instruct anyone else in right or wrong. We have parents raising their children “genderless” so that they can choose whatever makes them “happy.” Parents are encouraged not to spank their children and to soften their approaches to discipline, another indication that our world can’t stomach any form of judgement.

Trevin Wax coins this dilution of the Gospel, “judgmentless.” The problems listed above are modern, plastered on the front pages of newspapers, preached from universalist pulpits, and marched in protests. But Wax examines the root of the problem.

The idea that people are basically good. This philosophy looks at the tantrum throwing two-year-old and declares that he doesn’t really mean it, certainly he was just provoked. Surely, words of hatred, white lies, divorce, infidelity – all have justifiable causes. Since God looks at our hearts, and since God is love, this gospel insists that God understands.

It makes it easier to win converts. Quite simply, it’s easier to build a mega-church if you allow everyone to have their own version of God. It’s really hard to look at your coworker and honestly tell them that if they don’t believe in Jesus Christ as the one and only Son of God who sacrificed Himself for their personal sins and rose again, they are going to hell.

Near the end of the chapter, Wax delivers a decisive blow. For all our talk about justice: we cry for justice against the evils of slavery, we want justice and equality for women in the work place, we want criminals punished, and underdog to be rescued – we don’t know what we’re asking for. If we truly want justice, we truly want a righteous Judge.

If you expect God to do something about the evil in this world, then you want God to judge. (pg 80)

Therein is the truth, the beauty and the difficulty of the true Gospel. We all deserve judgement. The real, divine righteousness that our hearts long for will condemn each one of  us. Thankfully, the mercy of our God is equal to His absolute justice. He poured out unspeakable wrath against all evil on His own son, Jesus. And Jesus rose, conquered death, condemned sin in the flesh.

[Now] We need only recognize our guilt in light of God’s holiness and then bask in [His] forgiveness in light of God’s grace. (pg. 82)

What Fell?

Did you ever think about what fell in “The Fall”? Usually, we think about sin entering the world. Before Adam and Eve ate the forbidden fruit, we know that there was no death, no hate, no sexual impropriety. There was no lying, fear, anger, bitterness or rebellion. There was no cursing, fighting, disobedience, murder or cheating. But what about pain?

The Bible says that in heaven there will be no tears, no pain. Revelation 21:3-4

And I heard a loud voice from the throne saying, “Look! God’s dwelling place is now among the people, and he will dwell with them. They will be his people, and God himself will be with them and be their God. ‘He will wipe every tear from their eyes. There will be no more death or mourning or crying or pain, for the old order of things has passed away.”

This morning I drudged my way through “Kinesiology and Functional Anatomy” in my course book for the NESTA personal trainer certification. It’s a tough chapter. But even as I flunked my first attempt at the practice test, I have to admit, it’s incredibly interesting. Just as God had an original intent for our lives: the praise of His glory, He had an original, perfect plan for our bodies.

Just a couple examples:

The heart has its own pacemaker and is self regulated. Not once have you ever had to tell your heart to beat

Our bodies were made to work and our muscles, even our bones, grow stronger in response to this stimulus

But what happens when we abuse or damage one little thing? I had to go to the doctor today because I’ve been experiencing some knee pain. At first, I rolled my eyes when he told me that my knee pain was related to the callus on my big toe. He quickly explained that the callus was indicative of over-pronation in my foot, which in turn was affecting my knee. Wow!

It’s similar in our spiritual lives. It only took one sin – the intentional act of disobedience of eating a food God forbade – to introduce the painful sins and consequences that we experience today. In many ways, the continued degradation of human behavior is a consequence of the first sin. That doesn’t mean we’re innocent! Just because Adam’s sin started the downward spiral doesn’t mean we are simply victims of sin.  

Jesus Christ came to redeem sinners. Think of it as: Jesus lived a perfect life, building up antibodies to the illness we are suffering from, sin. Then, on the cross, he poured out His blood, gave His life in order to offer us the cure for sin and death. But we cannot become well if we refuse to accept and consume the cure He has made freely available. If we arrogantly despise the sacrifice, forgiveness and healing of Jesus Christ, we can know for sure that our sin will continually, progressively destroy us.

For the wages of sin is death; but the gift of God is eternal life through Jesus Christ our Lord. Romans 6:23

Every single heart beat of every single day, your body is preaching to you the message of salvation. Please listen!

The Holy Spirit, Numbness, and the Hole in My Lip

Whew, I survived today. There are still seven hours to go, few of them daylight, but the hard part of today is over.

Doesn’t everyone dread the dentist? It’s a shame. A dentist really never stands a chance, because no matter how good they are, the smell of a dental clinic is enough to turn the strongest stomach and the sound of a drill is enough to melt the sturdiest knees. Such was my lot today. I tried to conjure up some legitimate reason to cancel my appointment, but as I had already rescheduled it once, I figured I should just get it over with.

I was lucky, the lady dentist that I saw last time is on maternity leave. So I got to see Dr. B….. I can’t begin to pronounce his last name. The poor guy was spinning like the Tasmanian Devil trying to see all the patients and keep up with his three assistants. He was about 30 minutes late getting to me and I had nearly decided that was enough of a reason to skip the appointment.

But I didn’t.

I lived through it. Dr. B numbed my left jaw as locally as possible so I can still speak pretty well. My smile looks terribly lopsided and I’ve already drooled coffee and water down my chin. The tingles are now returning, so I’m on the mend.  However, along with the tingles, I just realized that I apparently viciously bit my lip while I was numb.

Now my lip is still swollen – because of the chomp and not the medicine. This pain is going to last a while longer too.

I’ve described living in ignorance of the Holy Spirit as feeling numb. When a Christian has experienced walking daily with the Holy Spirit, speaking to him and being spoken to, His sudden distance is more than lonely. It feels like I’ve lost touch with myself. Without the Holy Spirit informing my every thought and enabling my prayers, all my senses seem dull. My head feels stuffed with cotton. I can’t concentrate, and I flit from one vain pursuit to the other – completely ineffective.

In those numb moments it’s easy to sin. Just as it was easy to bite a near hole in my lip and not even notice it right away – when we are estranged from the Holy Spirit, it’s easy to slip inattentively into sin. We don’t even know it right away.

But the pain will come. Sin always has consequences. The Holy Spirit won’t leave us to ourselves. He will bring conviction, the distinct return of feeling, awareness and conscience. Suddenly, the pain is real – the reality of our offense and the repercussions of pride, unbelief, judgement, adultery, greed, lust or other sin.

This pain won’t last forever. As it heals, a Christian whose heart is fully devoted to God will repent and return to the Lord. His pain will be a poignant reminder of his sin and God’s overwhelming mercy. 2 Cor. 7:10

Ten Things Jesus Never Said

You’ve gone too far.  There’s just no saving the likes of you.

According to Will Davis Jr., author of “10 Things Jesus Never Said,” this is one of the most common sentences that we put in Jesus’ mouth.  If I remember correctly, adding to or taking from God’s words is a punishable offense.  But at this point, let’s not add to the list of things we are afraid might never be forgiven.

I was tempted to skip this chapter as I began reading Davis’ book.  After all, I’ve been a Christian for nearly 25 years.  I’ve been living forgiven that whole time, right?  I don’t doubt my salvation.  I know, that I know, that I KNOW where I am going to spend eternity and I’m super excited about it.  However, I forced myself through the pages.  My dad used to say that you had to read the preface, table of contents and prologue to really read a book.

Suddenly, a subtitle caught my eye.  “God Treats the Disease of Sin, Not Its Symptoms.”  Thinking of sickness and disease, tossed my mind back to years, many years, of repeatedly falling back into the sin of an eating disorder.  (I know that the definition of an eating disorder is often debated, whether it is a sin or a sickness.  I can see it both ways, but in retrospect I must confess that my behaviors toward food and exercise were often idolatrous – an obvious sin.)

I began worshipping the idol of thinness, health and perfection when I was 14.  I enslaved my body to my pride wanting to build myself into an enviable shrine of perfection.  When I recognized my behavior as sin, I sought help.  Then, for the next 13-14 years I repented and fell backwards, honored God with my body one day and then put myself on a pedestal the next day.  I lied to my therapists and parents about eating and exercise in the morning and then confessed it to the Lord at night.  After several years of this cycle, I started to hate myself.  I clearly remember thinking that God would sooner or later give up on me.   It’s hard to believe that God could continue to forgive a pathetic, stubborn woman.

“You haven’t gone too far. You may indeed be dirty, covered with sin – in reality we all are – but you’re not too dirty.  No one is.  God knew what he was getting into when he sent Jesus to redeem sinners…He didn’t set a limit on the size or scope [or number] of the iniquities that he was willing to pardon.” (pg. 45)

For the moment, I am living in freedom and honesty before the Lord, humbly submitted having destroyed the idol of fitness.  I know I’m not done sinning, but simply the knowledge that I can NEVER go too far, inspires such joy, confidence in Jesus and gratitude.  I can relax, focus on Jesus, forget myself.