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December 23, 2013

Comments

To approach the same idea that Greg is discussing, why not ask the converse question: "Have I done anything to offend God?" And what if I did?

This leads to honest introspection and reassessing any idea of self-merit. Yes, is my "best" good enough, especially if I consider how often my "best efforts" in many transactions of life still nets failure?

Would "doing our best" satisfy God?

Of course!

If we actually DID our best.

God will never require you to do what you cannot do. What you don't want to do, well, that is another story.

Goat Head 5

In a word, NO! Our best is as "wood, hay, and stubble."

And, God does require us to do that which it is impossible for us to do. He requires us to be perfect! And it is impossible for us to do that.

That is the whole purpose for Jesus Christ's death, burial, and resurrection. He is perfect because we are not, and so our best becomes not OUR best, but HIS best...

Isa 64:6 But we are all as an unclean thing, and all our righteousnesses are as filthy rags; and we all do fade as a leaf; and our iniquities, like the wind, have taken us away.

I'm afraid even our best is less than nothing to a thrice Holy God.

We are to be, not do, perfect.

Law here cannot help us.

If I keep the Law perfectly, I am yet not perfect.

If I trust Him perfectly, I am yet imperfect.

Law is non-entity, that ministry of death.

Something else is in play.

Whatever function on my end is deemed necessary will never be deemed sufficient .

Faith is necessary, but not sufficient. Hebrews 11 is proof of such.

So we can't even rest in that, in "I'm counting on Him totally".

It's not enough.

The vacuum yet lacks, God.


How Love ransoms us is by both a necessary and a sufficient means, and, we find, His means are His ends. In Love's Ontology we find that the Means justify the Ends, just as the Ends justify the Means, for, neither is Man, whereas, Love Himself is each, both our Means and our End.

Hell is Man as means, Man as ends.

From such Love, God, E Pluribus Unum, that fully singular, that fully triune, Self-Other-Us, rescues us.

The good news is that Man is not His Means to some cosmic tyrant's Ends, but that Love Himself makes of Himself both our Means and our End.

Only in the Ontology of Immutable Love do the Means justify the Ends, and the Ends the Means.

In Christ we find such Means, such Ends, for Uncreated Love therein becomes Man's all in all.


This is one of the questions that helped bring me to Christ at the age of 18! Why? Because like most people, I assumed you had to be "good enough" to get into heaven, but I could never get away from nor find an answer to the question:

But how do you KNOW when you're good enough or have done enough to be acceptable to God? How do you know when you've achieved that?

The Ends Justify The Means:


Whatever function on my end is deemed necessary will never be deemed sufficient.


Faith is necessary, but cannot be found, itself, sufficient, and we find in Hebrews 11 the proof of such.


Man cannot even rest in that, in "I'm counting on Him totally".


It's not enough. Just as Trust in the Law yields a vacuum necessarily void of All-Sufficiency Himself, so too, Trust in Trust, Faith in Faith, leaves Man, leaves In-Sufficiency, still in a vacuum necessarily void of God, void of All-Sufficiency. It is not our own motions within commission and omission, nor our own trusting, for all such vectors begin and end within In-Sufficiency. No. It is All-Sufficiency Himself Who must motion, for any vector which does not begin and end within Him cannot be a currency of sufficient sufficiency.


All vacuums are, themselves, contingent. The particular vacuum we are speaking of here yet lacks…..simply… God.

In-Sufficiency, no matter what it does, cannot pull All-Sufficiency into itself. No. All-Sufficiency must pour-out, must empty, must, by debasement, come down, and fill-up In-Sufficiency. The vacuum void of Love Himself must be filled-up with, simply, Love Himself. All else is but the Cold Outside.

From the Timeless Immaterial to the bitter ends of Time and Physicality all these lines seamlessly cohere, and therein we find the incoherence of the short-sighted question, “Why must Timeless Love pour Himself out within Time and Physicality?” There is only one actuality. The Truth of that fully singular, that fully triune E Pluribus Unum that just is [Self-Other-Us] just is Actuality.

How Love ransoms us is by both a necessary and a sufficient means, and, we find, God’s Means are God’s Ends. In Love's Ontology we find that the Means actually do justify the Ends, just as we find that the Ends actually do justify the Means, for, neither the Means nor the Ends are Man, whereas, All-Sufficiency Himself, Love Himself, is both our Means and our End.

Hell is Man as the means, Man as the ends, for, whatever is outside of the fully singular and fully triune Self-Other-Us that just is the Everlasting E Pluribus Unum is, on ontological necessity, loveless, and, therein, we find the Isolated-I, that fierce imprisonment within the Self, void of Other, and, thereby, void of the singular-Us. From such privation, isolation, we discover that Immutable Love, that is to say, God, that is to say, E Pluribus Unum, that fully singular, that fully triune and timeless Self-Other-Us, rescues us.

The Good News is that Man is not some god’s means to some cosmic tyrant's ends, but that, rather, Unchanging Love Himself makes of Himself both our Means and our End.

Only in the Ontology of Immutable Love do the Means justify the Ends, and the Ends the Means.

In Christ we find the fully articulated summation of such Means, of such Ends, for Uncreated Love therein becomes Man's all in all. In Christ we find the most complete, most robust, most forceful manifestation of the Unchanging God, Who just is Love. In Christ we find Love’s ten thousand strong vectors seamlessly, effortlessly converging, ad infinitum, as there is no story on Earth that is like this one whereby we find Love’s topography fully manifested, that landscape of the fully singular, the fully triune E Pluribus Unum, from A-to-Z.

GH5-

I think there is a sense of the word "can" where we can do our best, and another sense of the word "can" where we cannot.

There is no metaphysical impediment to our doing our best. In particular, God's planning, decrees and foreknowledge do not make it impossible for me to do otherwise than what I do. Were I to act differently than I in fact act, it only means that God would have planned, decreed and foreknown differently (at least partially as a result of my action). I am not unfree because God is God.

I am unfree for a somewhat different reason though: I'm an addict. I'm addicted to sin. All of us are.

I'm no expert on addiction, but I'll, provisionally, allow that there might be some addictions that the rare individual can shake without help by white-knuckle will-power.

With that said, I don't think sin-addiction is one of those.

WL

I'm not going to pull on any strings hanging out of that tangled mess of yarn that is your view of God, time, "decress",and free will.

As far as what God wants; "sin addiction" or not, He will never require of us something we cannot accomplish.

To assert otherwise assigns to God the character of a monster, which He certainly is not.

Goat Head 5

I think other commenters are getting at the same thing that I want to point out. Namely that the term "doing our best" isn't a very clear expression.

For Justification:

The Reformed view is that our best ON OUR OWN is completely sinful. In order to do anything right, we require God's grace to restrain our sinful nature.

The non-Reformed view is that we can do at least one thing right; namely, have faith in Christ. Even among many of the non-Reformed, that is only made possible by some aspect of God's grace.

For Sanctification, in the ministry of the Body of Christ:

Anything more Reformed than semi-pelagianism holds that we need God's work in us in order to produce good works. Greg says that we should bloom where we are planted. Some of us are planted under a rock, so to speak. Whether we have the gifts for accomplishing some great work, we don't have the situational grace for accomplishing anything with it.

We can only ever do our best. Anything beyond that requires God to move the rock.

GH5,

As far as what God wants; "sin addiction" or not, He will never require of us something we cannot accomplish. To assert otherwise assigns to God the character of a monster, which He certainly is not.

Maybe I'm misunderstanding what you're saying, so to clarify, please address these specific claims made in the OP:

1--The Bible indicates that "doing your best" is not an acceptable criteria for God to accept you,

2--It is impossible for humans to "do [our] best."

I guess the point I'm making, and the Bible backs this up, is that God does in fact require us to be/do something that is impossible for us to do: and that is "be perfect, as your heavenly Father is perfect," which Greg pointed out. It's impossible for humans to fulfill that criteria, which is the whole purpose for Jesus Christ's life, ministry, and his saving work on the cross; he fulfilled God's standard of perfection because we can't.

I think it's incomplete to make the statement about assigning the character of a monster to God. If the story just stopped with "you can't live up to God's standard," then yes, God would indeed be a monster.

But in fact the story doesn't stop there, does it? It continues with, "For God so loved the world, that he gave his only begotten son, that whosoever believes in him shall not perish, but have eternal life."

The fact that the story does in fact continue is proof that God is the opposite of a monster; He is the embodiment of love and showed in the giving of His only begotten Son to save us from our sins.

For Sanctification, in the ministry of the Body of Christ: Anything more Reformed than semi-pelagianism holds that we need God's work in us in order to produce good works. Greg says that we should bloom where we are planted. Some of us are planted under a rock, so to speak. Whether we have the gifts for accomplishing some great work, we don't have the situational grace for accomplishing anything with it. We can only ever do our best. Anything beyond that requires God to move the rock.

Isn't all of sanctification the ministry of the Holy Spirit, and therefore the result of "God [moving] the rock"? In other words, it takes God to make the moment of salvation possible, and it also takes God to continue the work begun in us through His Holy Spirit; apart from His Grace in both salvation and sanctification we would be unable to do anything related to either...?

The fact that the story does in fact continue is proof that God is the opposite of a monster; He is the embodiment of love and showed in the giving of His only begotten Son to save us from our sins.
Well said e (ditto for the whole post and its successor on sanctification), I cant improve on it, so instead I'll just say "Amen" to it.

Satan believes.

Hebrews 11 gives the descriptive of Faith found in the Old Man.

On Satan's end we find belief, knowing, though we do not find that abandonment of the Self into the Uncreated Other, which we call Faith, or, Trust.

Such yields a vacuum, void of the Uncreated Other, and thus void of Life, for He is Life, and void of Love, for He is Love. Such is Hell's Isolated-I, Hell's Pure-Self, void of Self-Other, and therein void of Us, void of that triune landscape of Self-Other-Us, which just is E Pluribus Unum, as everbody knows, God is Triune, just as, Love is Triune, just as, God is Love. Such in fragmentation is Hell's privation, the Part which we call Self ripped out of the Whole that is Self-Other-Us and swollen to madness in isolation.

That is Hell, on definition.

Such is the Created Self's Privation described in Genesis 3:16.

In the Old Man's, Fallen Man's, side of this we do actually find that abandonment of the Self into, well, into a Door.

And what can Faith do should Love not open His Door?

Nothing.

The Old Man, full of Faith, is hopeless.

The sort of Door against which he knocks will only be opened by what is to us the unthinkable amalgamation described, prescribed, in Genesis 3:15.

We need not fear Hebrews 11. I look down at my foot, and I note that I have a foot. Now, it is impossible for me to take credit for that foot, for, He has fashioned such capacity, and not I. That some particular capacity "exists" is not, by existing, an ipso facto theft of credit by which flesh can glory. Man has no-thing but what he awakes to find himself holding. He is ever in discovery.

In the Old Man we find the Law, and, we find Faith, and, we find hopelessness. All throughout the OT we find a singular descriptive-prescriptive of something yet to come, something yet to actualize.

That something is Love's Means, Love's Ends, which is Himself.

Nothing short of All-Sufficiency, Perfection, will do, and, therein, we have no hope.

All-Sufficiency spreads His Arms wide, and He pours Himself out, and into, this vacuum void of Him, and therein, and only therein, do we have, find, discover, hope.

Now, ultimately, we are told that Faith itself, Hope itself, will fade to non-entity, for, all that will remain will be their consumation, their end, and Immutable Love, that fully singular, that fully triune Self-Other-Us that just is E Pluribus Unum will be all that remains.

From A to Z.


WL is correct in that God being God does not make us unfree.

In fact, but for God, we would be unfree.

We find an interior incoherence inside of universalism therein.

Love Himself, our Great Abolitionist, is no monster. That is why His Ends justify His Means, as each are wholly, simply, Himself.


Goat Head Responds:

e:

1--The Bible indicates that "doing your best" is not an acceptable criteria for God to accept you

Response: The bible indicates no such thing.

2--It is impossible for humans to "do [our] best."

Again. False.

God does not require of you something you cannot provide or do.

Goat Head 5

GH5-

I know you didn't want to get into the metaphysics (so decided to ridicule it instead), but your oft repeated claim "God does not require of you something you cannot provide or do" is only true if what you mean is that God does not require of you something that you lack the metaphysical oomph to pull of. And I believe there is Scripture to support this...unfortunately for your general line of argument, I think these Scriptures tend to undercut excuses rather than lower the bar.

As a sin addict, I have the metaphysical oomph to not sin every time I sin. But the point about that is that I really have no excuse, not that God will be easygoing about the sins I commit to support my habit.

As a sin addict, I am psychologically unable to stop sinning.

There are any number of texts where the best we can do is characterized as so much rubbish, and where we are called on to be as perfect as Christ (which is, of course, out of our reach).

So again, there is a sense of "can/cannot" (the metaphysical sense) in which, yes God never asks you to do something you cannot do. But there is another very real sense of "can/cannot" (the psychological/addictive sense) in which He definitely asks of you things that you cannot do.

I might add that until we recognize these two senses of "can/cannot" and its cognates, we're not going to be able to make much headway in discussing thing or in understanding the Bible's message on this subject.

Here's one for you GH5,

"Therefore you are to be perfect, as your heavenly Father is perfect"

This is Jesus' teaching to the disciples, making a positive statement concerning what is expected of man. The rest of us will take shelter in Jesus, crying out "have mercy on me a sinner", you(?), if you truly believe that you can be obedient enough to pass God's test, by being perfect, nevermind trying to erase all of your prior failings, I feel nothing but pity for you.

If this isn't a thing God is requiring of men, or your belief that you can do all God requires except some things, maybe try to be more specific.

Perhaps we are overlapping to some degree two non-identical-s. Mercy is not identical to Salvation, and while unmerited forgiveness is found linked with ignorance of light (ignorance of light is itself not identical to goodness), salvation is not so linked. We find, in one corner, all sorts of passages where Man’s perceived reality, where a person’s level of light, awareness, is linked, directly, to God’s motion toward Justice on the one hand or Mercy on the other. Forgive ‘for they know not’ is echoed in all sorts of passages. Infants / babies and so forth are but one among many extensions of such passages. Of course, no-light is not identical to goodness, for, forgiveness is still needed, and we find that Man cannot simply insist before God, “I did not know, therefore, you must forgive”. In fact, there are no grounds for necessary forgiveness, for a lack of merit is built into the word itself, though, clearly, in scripture we do find in Him, in that Judge with Whom are dealing, that link. Repeatedly. We don’t send our five year old off to 20 years of hard labor for flunking a college exam. Five years olds can’t pass college exams. God does not, in truth, go about insisting that any five year old take, much less pass, a college exam.


That is one corner.

That is not salvation.

Mercy does not save us.


In another corner, we have a wholly separate entity: In the necessary amalgamation that just is what we call salvation, we have on necessity no capacity to pull All-Sufficiency “down” and into our Self, nor to push our Self “up” and into All-Sufficiency. In fact, we, necessarily, lack the capacity to contain All-Sufficiency. How can any Created Any-Thing contain the Creator? And worse, should God pull Man into Him we find that all that would await Man would be annihilation, not wholeness. And, worst of all, a decree of forgiven by our Judge, by God, is not what saves a Man, what changes Man. It, Mercy, is not the begetting of entity, but is, instead, Power, Justice, in restraint. Mercy begets a vacuum, void of Justice, that is to say, void of complete goodness. And whatever touches God must be found complete.


A forgiven Break is still a Broken Break, so to speak.


Enter Love’s Prescriptive for Moral Excellence:


This is the topography behind Power’s motions after our Fall out of blissful Amalgamation with Immutable Love and into segregated Juxtaposition with Immutable Love. Man in fragmentation, in privation, is simply the Pure-I, wholly separated from Other. E Pluribus Unum, that fully singular, that fully triune Self-Other-Us is, for Man there in Genesis 3, non-entity. Love is no longer an option: and by Love we mean Amalgamation, or, Oneness with God. All that is left of God for Man to taste is Power void of Love, that is to say, Power void of E Pluribus Unum. What will Power do? What did Power do? Power could have, there, come near in utter approximation and, therein, Man would know necessary annihilation. Or, Power could have simply exited Man’s own hell and forsaken Man in Man’s own love-less-ness, in Man’s own hell on Earth. Or, Power can do what Power did and follow Man into Man’s hell and, incognito, out of reach, hidden behind a shroud, behind a veil, atop a Mercy Seat, in proximity, void of intimacy, necessarily aggravate and hasten, by proximity, death, though, by void of intimacy, spare Man his end, and such is articulated in what scripture calls “The Law of Moses”, and, “The Ministry of Death” and scripture tells us, plainly, that such could never change mere segregated Juxtaposition into Unity’s Amalgamation. If we do not see Love following Man into hell on Earth and redeeming Man to Himself in the OT it is only because we do not see this of Him in the NT, or, if we fail to see this of Him in the NT it is because we fail to see it of Him in the OT. The OT testifies of Love’s motions, of Christ. From A to Z. God, Immutable Love, the Timeless E Pluribus Unum, never changes. Man’s perceptions of Him, of Immutable Love, do change.


God requires of Man nothing. Nothing at all.

God, in Mercy, came into our hell on earth. And He stayed. There in the OT. There in the NT.


He’s never left us.


And He ransomed us.


Ransom and Mercy are non-identical-s. This is why Genesis 3:15 is Immutable Love’s prescriptive of John 3:16 as the remedy for Genesis 3:16’s fragmentation of E Pluribus Unum.


Ransom is quite different than Mercy, for the former, Ransom, is a pouring-into, a filling-up, a begetting of entity, wherein non-entity, vacuum, morphs to entity, by that pouring, by that filling. Whereas, the latter, Mercy, does not so beget entity, but has all the nuance of Power restrained. Mercy begets a vacuum, void of Justice, just as Justice begets a vacuum, void of Mercy.


Where do we find Mercy and Justice, not in segregated Juxtaposition, but, instead, in Unity’s Amalgamation?


Ransom begets no vacuums, but, instead, abolishes all vacuums, as we find in Deuteronomy 28:63 all of Love’s Delights found upon His Cross, for Love delights in Perfect Justice, which is void of Mercy in and of itself, and this is amalgamated with another of Love’s delights, that of Perfect Mercy, which is void of Justice in and of itself, and these Two Delights in singular amalgamation we find only in the Ontology of that fully singular, that fully triune landscape of Self-Other-Us, of E Pluribus Unum, wherein Christ is the full articulation of Love’s Eternally Sacrificed Self through and through every bit of actuality, from the Timeless Immaterial all the way to the bitter end of Time and Physicality. Those who ask, “Why the Cross inside of Time, why not just forgive?” simply do not see far enough into Love’s Ontology and think Reality can be sort of arbitrarily dissected. Actuality is Perfectly-1.

We find in Man no glory for Love’s Ransom, for, Love Himself, and no other, actualizes such, and, for very different reasons, we find in Man no glory for Mercy, either, for, on ontological necessity, such is unmerited, and has no equating with Goodness in the forgiven. Mercy can be, is, linked to one’s level of light, knowledge, and awareness, and does not equate lack of knowledge with Goodness, nor does it, Mercy, beget any actuality, and thus cannot save, whereas, Ransom cannot, is not, so linked to Man’s perceived reality, and, Ransom does beget an actuality, and therein saves.

WL

"but your oft repeated claim "God does not require of you something you cannot provide or do" is only true if what you mean is that God does not require of you something that you lack the metaphysical oomph to pull of. And I believe there is Scripture to support this."

We are in perfect agreement here.

But then.... "As a sin addict, I am psychologically unable to stop sinning."

I don't believe that there is such a thing as "psychologically unable". Every time you are tempted to sin you have a choice, and you have the ability to choose rightly.

So will doing your best satisfy God?

Every. Single. Time.

Does "doing your best" include becoming a disciple of Jesus Christ?

Yes.

Goat Head 5

1--The Bible indicates that "doing your best" is not an acceptable criteria for God to accept you

Response: The bible indicates no such thing.

2--It is impossible for humans to "do [our] best."

Again. False.

God does not require of you something you cannot provide or do.

Ok. Then what do you think these verses from the Bible are saying:

Matt. 5:48 - "You therefore must be perfect, as your heavenly Father is perfect."

Ps. 24:3-5 - "Who shall ascend the hill of the Lord? And who shall stand in his holy place? He who has clean hands and a pure heart, who does not lift up his soul to what is false and does not swear deceitfully. He will receive blessing from the Lord and righteousness from the God of his salvation."

Ps. 14:3 - "The Lord looks down from heaven on the children of man, to see if there are any who understand, who seek after God. They have all turned aside; together they have become corrupt; there is none who does good, not even one."

Rom. 5:6-11 - "For while we were still weak, at the right time Christ died for the ungodly. For one will scarcely die for a righteous person—though perhaps for a good person one would dare even to die—but God shows his love for us in that while we were still sinners, Christ died for us. Since, therefore, we have now been justified by his blood, much more shall we be saved by him from the wrath of God. For if while we were enemies we were reconciled to God by the death of his Son, much more, now that we are reconciled, shall we be saved by his life. More than that, we also rejoice in God through our Lord Jesus Christ, through whom we have now received reconciliation."

Seems like these verse support the idea that our best isn't good enough (since it's not our best that saves us, but Christ's work on the cross) and the idea that we can't even do "our best" (whatever that means...see Ps. 14:3).

Thanks for those passages, e.

Also remember Romans 7:21-25

I find then the principle that evil is present in me, the one who wants to do good. For I joyfully concur with the Law of God in the inner man,but I see a different law in the members of my body, waging war against the law of my mind and making me a prisoner of the law of sin winch is in my members. Wretched man that I am! Who will set me free from the body of this death? Thanks be to God through Jesus Christ our Lord! So then, on the one hand, I myself with my mind am serving the Law of God, but on the other, with my flesh the law of sin.
In this passage, it looks an awful lot like Paul is saying that he'd like to follow the Law that God commands and demands, but he simply cannot do so. His flesh is literally following an alien law that he seems to be unable to control. Is he metaphysically able to refrain from sin? Yes. But, without Christ, is he free? Obviously not.

In Christ, can I live a perfect 24 hr day?

On a good day I look backward and note what was, in the moment of doing, quite a perfect effort, and yet not perfect in absolute content.

Is He satisfied with my resume'?

Well, no.

With His resume'?

Yes.

Is it the "effort" to love perfectly, or is it that other end, the bit about perfect love, which satisfies Him? Which end satisfies us?

I'm a man without a resume'. I'll be handing Him His Own resume'.


In neurotic fear we focus to the Nth degree on the 14 sins before our awareness right "here" only to see surface a moment later 3 other nuances which we had taken our interior finger off of in the effort to do the initial 14 perfectly, thus falling short on the 3 certainly, on a few of the 14 possibly. Later when the fog clears we can sort it all out....but then the kids....and the wife.... and....

Maybe if we just sit in an empty room and humm for 24 hours.

I say these in humor to bring to our attention to the sort of neurosis which our attachment of His satisfaction to our perfection will, bit by bit, feed.

And grow.


Prior to Heaven, prior to our amalgamation with Immutable Love, can we BE PERFECT?

Well....no.

Is He then satisfied with imperfections?

Well.....no.

If we say we never sin, we lie. Christians sin.

"I" -- the Christian-I, sin.

So it seems we can't say it was the Old me....but, well, I.

God within us does not will such, and, is not satisfied with such.


Neurotic perfectionism awaits us if we fail to enter into that rest, that Sabbath, which Joshua could never provide there inside Law, but which Christ gives to Man not only freely, but fully.

We have peace with Love Himself.

We rest in Him, and in no other.

My response to Satan, my accuser, at his charge of my sin, is, "Yes, and what of it?"

I stand on, and in, Christ.

Goat Head 5,

Does "doing your best" include becoming a disciple of Jesus Christ? Yes.

No. Your view would imply that it’s possible for some people to not need Christ. Christ would have to be for those poor souls that are ‘unable to do their best’. No reason for Him when you’re plugging along doing your best. Your view implies God makes it possible for us to not need Christ.

This is directly related to our discussion about your view that many Christians focus too much on the Cross.

You feel they treat it as a ‘get of jail free card'. You came at it from the prospective that Christians use it as an out so they can refrain from doing the hard work it takes to lead a Christian life. So they can get on with sinning. I said I knew of no Christian that does such a thing. That I can’t even imagine what that would look like because they would have a total misunderstanding of the Cross.

I said that, if anything, more Christians today focus less on the Cross and more on what makes them feel like they’re a better than average person. (As if that's worth celebrating).

Now, your position here; that it's possible to do our best and satisfy God, totally fits within your position from earlier; that many focus too much on the Cross. You’re consistent. I believe you’re consistently wrong, but you’re consistent.

I’m blown away by your faith in the sustainability and possibilities of human action.

KWM raises some excellent points.

I'm going to take it a bit further, and sorry GH5, but the desire not to focus on the cross is what is most likely to lead to refraining from the hard work it takes to lead a Christian life and get on with sinning.

That's because the sanctified Christian life, at least the best we can hope for on this side of glory, is the life spent in recognition of how dire our predicament is and how great Christ's salvation is. It is not measured by do-gooding.

Though I would like you to consider how that constant state of repentance would, in fact, effect your behavior...Christ will whisk those washed in his blood to heaven though they die drunk and having killed to lie in the arms of a prostitute. But think for a moment how someone constantly dwelling on how great a cost Christ paid would find themselves in that situation.

Could you lie in adultery and murder at the foot of the cross? The answer in my case is that I do all the time and worse. Because I've committed adultery, murder, theft, treason and every other sin in my heart. And all the time Christ was there on the cross, feeling the evil in my heart, bearing it, and forgiving me. But think about how difficult it becomes when the cross is at the center. The cross is strangely absent from my thoughts, sometimes willfully put there, when my heart goes astray.

The truth is that if you just give you blasé "of course" to the cross, so that you can get on with doing good, you're just going to replace one sin with another...and one more likely to lead to Hell. For you will be replacing sins of lust, over-indulgence, greed, laziness, anger and coveteousness with a self-righteous pride. A sin that puts you, and not the cross, at the center and deafens you to the Law and the Gospel.

By "sometimes willfully put there", I mean that I willfully banish the cross from my thoughts. (Very poorly stated in the original...sorry.)

E:

As Greg often says, "Never read a Bible verse".

When read in context, I don't think those verses mean what you think.

Throughout the Bible, there is a clear expectation that men have the ability to please God through right actions.

This idea that nothing we can do is seen by God as good flies in the face of all the times God is pleased by right actions in the Biblical narrative.

"Can doing our best satisfy God"? Of course. He is quite satisfied whenever someone makes the right choices. Because..... Bible.

Goat Head 5

And a response to KWM:

"No. Your view would imply that it’s possible for some people to not need Christ. Christ would have to be for those poor souls that are ‘unable to do their best’. No reason for Him when you’re plugging along doing your best. Your view implies God makes it possible for us to not need Christ."

Well, KWM, I guess you know my "view" much better than I do myself! I said or implied none of these things.

And again, "I said that, if anything, more Christians today focus less on the Cross and more on what makes them feel like they’re a better than average person."

We just disagree here. I DO think it is something to celebrate when Christians act in a way that is better than average. Unfortunately, I think that doesn't happen all that often. Why? One reason could be that our churches have lost all interest in discipleship because of a myopic focus on getting people "saved". (the cross)

And finally, "I’m blown away by your faith in the sustainability and possibilities of human action."

I am quite the realist about the choices people generally make. The question was about what CAN be done, not what actually IS done.

Goat Head 5

And a response to WL:

You put forth a good representation of the "reformed" viewpoint.

Your final comment,
"The truth is that if you just give you blasé "of course" to the cross, so that you can get on with doing good, you're just going to replace one sin with another...and one more likely to lead to Hell. For you will be replacing sins of lust, over-indulgence, greed, laziness, anger and coveteousness with a self-righteous pride. A sin that puts you, and not the cross, at the center and deafens you to the Law and the Gospel"

This may be how it works for you, WL. That isn't how it works for me. I don't think effort put forth to do good works always, or even most of the time, leads to "self righteous pride", etc. I am well aware of my shortcomings.

A myopic concentration on "the cross", on the other hand, as if all Jesus did and said on the Earth was just a meaningless prelude, can lead to the kind of empty "born again" Christianity that dominates America today. Christians whose actions cannot be distinguished from the non Christians around them.

Goat Head 5

And again, WL,

"I'm going to take it a bit further, and sorry GH5, but the desire not to focus on the cross is what is most likely to lead to refraining from the hard work it takes to lead a Christian life and get on with sinning."

Our experience on this are obviously very different, WL. My experience is that the message most of our churches preach, very focused on the Cross, rarely produces disciples of Christ.

Goat Head 5

A myopic concentration on "the cross", on the other hand, as if all Jesus did and said on the Earth was just a meaningless prelude, can lead to the kind of empty "born again" Christianity that dominates America today.
Jesus said that the cross was the reason He came into the world. What He did and said before the cross was far from a meaningless prelude to it, and much of what He said was to reinforce the idea that we're doomed on our own. But it most definitely was prelude. The cross is the center of the universe.

And it's precisely that empty "born again" theology that I was speaking to when I spoke of the blasé "of course" that people say to the cross.

BTW, I'm Lutheran, not Reformed.

I wonder if you would GH5, please tell us in you best estimation, what does produce disciples of Christ?

GH5-

This may be how it works for you, WL. That isn't how it works for me. I don't think effort put forth to do good works always, or even most of the time, leads to "self righteous pride", etc. I am well aware of my shortcomings.
It took me a while to chew on this remark to think of how to reply to it. On the face of it, you have a point, some people can do good and not be as prideful about it as others (note that I do not say that they are without sinful pride).

My guess is that those that do the best here are the one's who recognize how great a price Christ paid for their sins and who just can't bear to sin while they are confronting that fact.*

Certainly, these folks that do best in fighting self-righteous pride never spend a second thinking about whether they are more or less prideful than their neighbors. Their eyes are on Christ instead, and that's enough to bow their heads in humility.

But I think this is just more support for the cross-centered approach.

--------------------------------------

*-Note, I'm not claiming any superiority here just because I think that both sanctification and justification must recognize the centrality of the cross. That's an intellectual argument that I find my reason inescapably drawn to.

In my life, I'm just about as good as anyone at forgetting the cross so that I can sin freely. I only go back to Jesus when he shows me I've been a fool and drags me back...once again. And on those rare occasions when I avoid one little sin, I do make sure to puff myself up like a bullfrog rather than remember who carried me to do even that.

Goat Head 5,

A myopic concentration on "the cross", on the other hand, as if all Jesus did and said on the Earth was just a meaningless prelude, can lead to the kind of empty "born again" Christianity that dominates America today.

Myopic? So are you criticizing a “myopic” view of the cross or a view that’s “too significant”? The Biblical view of the cross shouldn’t be treated like Goldilocks tasting the porridge.

I’d join you in criticizing a myopic view of the cross (which is what I’ve been doing, by the way). Proper focus on the cross equals significant focus on the cross. It’s not just another miracle that falls somewhere between changing water to wine and the second coming. It’s not something we celebrate an hour a year with pastel colors and eggs, we know that.

In sum:

Just because you’ve witnessed some sort of odd and incoherent phenomenon where people focus on the cross to the exclusion of acting moral, that doesn’t mean the Biblical view of the cross should be in question. That person’s view of the cross should be in question. Call it myopic if you like. An assessment of the appropriate role of the cross in Christianity was made a very long time ago. And it wasn't by us.

I think WisdomLover has covered much of what I’d say on some of the other issues – and I’ll give a Yes Yes to his last comment in particular. Myself a sinner.


WL

Everyone has particular sins that they are more susceptible to. Pride sounds like yours. It is a temptation to universalize our own particular problems.

Back to this cross business. You talk about being "at the foot of the cross". Well, time to leave that place. The cross is empty. Time to meet Jesus on the road as we are living our life.

How does Lutheranism differ from, say, Brad B.'s form of Calvinism?

Goat Head 5

Brad B. asked,

"I wonder if you would GH5, please tell us in you best estimation, what does produce disciples of Christ?"

We could start by putting more emphasis on Christ's life rather than His death.

We could start by trying to follow the great commission, "teaching them to obey everything I have commanded you"....

Being a disciple is about actual doing. One person trying to obey Jesus is worth 10,000 people who have their systematic theology just right, in my estimation. i.e writing theological treatises while having your theological opponents executed.

But how would you answer your own question, Brad B.?

And finally, KWM,

"I’d join you in criticizing a myopic view of the cross (which is what I’ve been doing, by the way). Proper focus on the cross equals significant focus on the cross. It’s not just another miracle that falls somewhere between changing water to wine and the second coming. It’s not something we celebrate an hour a year with pastel colors and eggs, we know that."

KWM, again you are projecting. I haven't said these things, or even implied them, except in your imagination.

Time to stop focusing on the cross to the exclusion of all else. The cross is empty. Jesus isn't there any more. He's out in the world working and inviting you to come join Him there.

Remembering Christ's sacrifice is good. Dwelling on it is not healthy.

Goat Head 5

Goat Head 5,

The cross is empty. Time to meet Jesus on the road as we are living our life.

His mutilated and bloodied flesh isn’t currently hanging from the cross, you’re right. Lucky for us, the tomb is empty too. That’s why we’re here, isn’t it? Christ suffered, died, and was buried – then rose from the dead.

As far as “meeting Jesus on the road as we are living our life”. If you mean by acting morally and performing good works, yes. It’s crucial. Why do you think Jesus did what He did? Why did He act as He did? He was showing us that He was God. He acted perfect because He is perfect. We received moral lessons from Him. Upon showing us His perfection, He then suffered and died on the cross so that that we may not perish. He took on the sin and the punishment that we deserve. To restate: This is central to Christianity.

Remembering Christ's sacrifice is good. Dwelling on it is not healthy

Dwelling is precisely what we should do. We should dwell morning, noon, and night. It’s the epitome of health. But, as we know, we do not. Which is why, when we “meet Jesus on the road of life”, he points us to the cross. Every. Time.

GH5-

KWM and I seem to be on the same page here, so I'm going to simply say "Amen" to that last post.

On that last question, the difference between Lutheranism and Calvinism, I think we differ on the Sacraments.

Lutherans, for example, insist that when we say "This is the body and blood of Christ", it really is the physical, crucified body and physical, shed blood of Christ here now and eaten and drunk by us. When we are buried with the crucified Christ in baptism, we really are buried with the crucified Christ. How this happens is a Divine Mystery.

We don't, for example, get wrapped around the axle about Aristotelian interpretations of the Supper. In this I think we agree with the Calvinists. But we agree with the historic church that the Body and Blood of Christ are really, physically, present in the Supper. And there we disagree with the Calvinists. Calvinists are not thoroughgoing symbolists on these matters but adopt a middle ground where the body and blood of Christ is spiritually present.

I think Lutherans and Calvinists also differ on matters surrounding salvation and election. Lutherans are neither Calvinist nor Arminian. That's a false dichotomy.

We believe that you have all the freedom in the world to remain in your sin, to resist the call of the Holy Spirit, and to go to Hell. at the same time, you have no freedom at all to repent, to heed the call of the Holy Spirit, and go to heaven. The Holy Spirit does everything. He even puts the "yes" in our mouths. We provide the "no".

Calvinists are sometimes called double-predestinarians, and Lutherans are called single-predestinarians. And sometimes we own that label...though I think it actually obscures more than it clarifies, since the basic point is that we have the freedom to go to Hell, but not Heaven. The failure of our freedom doesn't come from God being God, so it's really not about pre-destination (though Luther slipped the track on this issue in his Bondage of the Will). Our lack of freedom stems from our depravity.

We don't try to explain why some people manage to say "no" until they are damned while the Holy Spirit manages to overrule the "no" with a "yes" in some. We do say that that happens. We also say that the reason some are lost is not for the lack of calling...He calls everyone. Nor is it for a lack of salvation to offer. Christ died a sufficient death for everyone. Everyone is, as a matter of objective fact, justified before God. Those that do go to Hell don't go there for a lack of justification. They go there because that is what they choose.

These last paragraphs on salvation and election, as far as I can tell, have something in them to infuriate everyone...except Lutherans.

The Goat Head 5, WisdomLover pretty much observes distinctions in Lutheran/Reformed in a way I wouldn't dispute in the least. I think though, that since Luther had something to say about the law gospel distinction, Lutherans also would understand that the power to do good works, IOW, the power to please God at all rests only in the gospel.

So that doesn't remain abstract, I want to illustrate why I think you've received such push back from others on this.

The law does nothing but condemn men...it isn't a teacher for how to please God as some assert, and the fault doesn't lie with the law, because of sin the law failed.[see Romans] You cannot dispense with the cross as a Christian AND please God.

The law condemns, the gospel[good news] tells the condemned what God did about it[not with anyones help btw], the condemned in gratitude offer good works, obedience, sacrifice etc... that is pleasing to God. It is pleasing because the gospel alone provided the emphasis behind the motivation to serve God. It is pleasing because there are no ulterior motivations...nothing but a pure unadulterated love offering back to the Lover of your soul. Wanting nothing in return as reward...no pat on the head, no wink or nod that you did good. Man is forever debtor, cannot pay or redeem himself.

What God did through the cross and the sacrifice of Jesus is a message you never outgrow, because you [no man] ever quit needing to be reminded that you are a sinner deserving death penalty and eternal punishment but even while you were His enemy, He loved and gave Himself to take your sins upon Himself. The sin inside you, born again ones...saints of God...will overcome your own determination and will power to do good and polute everything unless the gospel, what happened on the cross for you is continually before you...it is afterall the power of God unto salvation. Not just a one time event, but continually...even in Heaven.

So, what produces disciples of Christ, the gospel alone.

btw, WL has never come across as prideful, and has shown much patience and charity to argue fairly with others over the years, I hope you'd reconsider that remark.

the power to please God at all rests only in the gospel.
And "Amen" to that one Brad, and to the whole post

(Well, OK, on the final kind words regarding me, I'll just say "Thanks").

When read in context, I don't think those verses mean what you think. Throughout the Bible, there is a clear expectation that men have the ability to please God through right actions.

GH5, this is quite simply not the case. The verses I (and WL) offered and the explanation therein IS supported by the context, period. And that is obvious with an honest reading of the text.

If it is true that "men have the ability to please God through right actions", then the Cross is no longer necessary, and the life, death, and resurrection of Jesus Christ was in vain. Therefore, any theology or philosophy that advocates or leads to something other than that is a different message and foreign to the teaching of the Bible.

The fact that those who are regenerated to saving faith now have any ability to do what is right (i.e., "slaves to obedience rather than to sin") is due to God's grace as well; thus as Paul says, "I have been crucified with Christ. It is no longer I who live, but Christ who lives in me. And the life I now live in the flesh I live by faith in the Son of God, who loved me and gave himself for me. I do not nullify the grace of God, for if righteousness were through the law [i.e. "our best"], then Christ died for no purpose."

Time to stop focusing on the cross to the exclusion of all else. The cross is empty. Jesus isn't there any more. He's out in the world working and inviting you to come join Him there.

Remembering Christ's sacrifice is good. Dwelling on it is not healthy.

It is impossible to "stop [focusing] on the cross" AND "[exclude] all else." Where you would advocate less of a focus on the Cross, Jesus himself says of his blood poured out for us: "Do this in remembrance of me." Further, what does Paul tell the Corinthian church? "I determined to know nothing among you except Christ, and him crucified."

Remembering IS dwelling on it; if we EVER lose sight of the Cross, we lose sight of what it means to be Christian. The Cross is our identity. Jesus didn't say "Come join me in working in this world", to quote yourself. He said, "Deny yourself, take up your cross, and then follow me."

Everything that true believers do, say, think, feel, and learn centers around the Cross. Anything that strays from that is really a gratification of self, no matter how noble-sounding the words might be...

The Cross is our identity.

To follow up this with a thought I just had: one might say, "Wait a minute, I thought our ultimate identity as Christians was to be worshipers of God in eternity."

And that's true: let's examine the Scriptures.

John 1:12 says, "But as many as received him, to them gave he the power to become the sons of God."

Doesn't sound like a "Cross" identity to me, in terms of suffering and death. It actually sounds like a very noble and powerful and exciting thing. BUT, let's examine what the worship of God in eternity looks like:

Revelation 5:11-12 tells of the elders, and living creatures, and many angels surround the throne, and what do they proclaim? "Worthy is the Lamb who was slain!"

The Lamb is eternally identified as the one who was slain! And he's worthy because he was slain! And as brothers and sisters OF Christ, the elder brother and owner of the inheritance which he shares WITH us, we are also eternally identified by the Cross on which he was slain, as the ones FOR whom he was slain. (Jn. 6:39-40)

And that's not a sorrowful eternal remembrance; it's a joyous remembrance!

It is impossible to "stop [focusing] on the cross" AND "[exclude] all else."

One clarification because I realize I didn't properly word this sentence. Change it to read:

It is impossible to truly "[focus] on the cross to the exclusion of all else."

In other words, focusing on the Cross REQUIRES "all else", because the Cross is at the root of "all else."

e and company,

"If it is true that "men have the ability to please God through right actions", then the Cross is no longer necessary, and the life, death, and resurrection of Jesus Christ was in vain."

I hear this often. One problem, though.

It just isn't true.

Read the story of Cain and Abel in Genesis. Concentrate on what God said to Cain. Is there ANY indication that Cain can't please God through acting rightly?

This continues throughout the entire Bible.

Acting rightly now includes becoming a disciple of Jesus. So don't think that I am saying that the way to please God doesn't include that.

WL,

Brad B. seems to think I have insulted you. If that is true it certainly was not my intent.

Now Brad, you've called people all sorts of names on this forum. You seem a little touchy, for how you act.

Goat Head 5

And finally, Brad B.

"So, what produces disciples of Christ, the gospel alone."

Most people who profess to be Christians in the US couldn't even loosely be described as "disciples of Christ".

So, is the Gospel ineffective here? What gives?

Goat Head 5

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