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What Should CONTROL a Christian?
by David A. DePra
For the love of Christ controls us; because we thus judge, that if one died for all, then were all dead: And that he died for all, that they which live should not henceforth live unto themselves, but unto him which died for them, and rose againÖ.. Therefore if any man be in Christ, he is a new creature: old things are passed away; behold, all things are become new. (2 Cor. 5:14-17)
That which CONTROLS us is our LORD. That which governs us is that which we serve. What controls us is a big subject in the NT.
What controls you Ė as a Christian? According to the apostle Paul, what controls you ought to be, "the love of Christ." Yet this is one of those verses that is so easy to read right by and never grasp. In fact, many Christians donít even know what it MEANS to be controlled by the love of Christ.
The issue of CONTROL is really central to the life of a Christian. We are here talking about who is our Lord, and what is our motivation for walking with Christ. Iím not sure what could be more important.
Controlled by Love
What does it mean to be, "controlled by Godís love?" Actually, it means that I VOLUNTARILY walk in fellowship with God Ė for no reason other than I am loved by Him, and love Him as the result. There is no FEAR, there is no AGENDA, there is no reward or punishment involved. By definition, if I am walking in LOVE, it is voluntary and unto Godís will and glory.
Most of us have no clue as to what it means to voluntarily walk with God Ė believe and obey Him Ė simply in LOVE. Itís rather ironic that Paul says we are CONTROLLED by love Ė for we usually think of control as the opposite of that which is voluntary. But what Paul means is that there ought to come a time in our Christian growth where LOVE is the only option in our thinking. We are so caught up with Jesus Christ that all of the debate is gone. We are voluntarily controlled by Him.
There are examples of this in human relationships. A parent is controlled by their love for their child. I donít mean the wrong kind of control Ė some parents let their kids run their lives. No. Iím simply saying that the parent is MOTIVATED by love when it comes to their child. They donít have to debate, or reason, or weigh options. They LOVE. And they are, if you will, controlled by this love.
So to be CONTROLLED by love, means, in the above passage, to be MOTIVATED by love. It is what is behind our walking with Christ Ė the reason why we walk with Him. But not some fuzzy feeling. Love is not primarily an emotion. It is based on a knowledge of God and a relationship with Him.
You and I will never love God unless we SEE HIM. Until then, we may believe the teaching that states we should love Him, but we cannot actually love Him. And in order to love Him, we have to open ourselves to His love for us. There is much in that, some of which will be discussed later. But love is NEVER something I generate up to God. That is impossible. Rather, the love of God is that which comes from God down to me. Indeed, it is built into the Holy Spirit that is given to us. This results in love for God, and a motivation that is supposed to grow as we walk with Christ.
Under the Law
To be controlled by the love of God is the result of knowing Him. But there are many other ways Ė even as a Christian Ė to be controlled, and to think it is of God. For example, how many of us are controlled by FEAR Ė not reverence Ė but controlled by the fact that we are AFRAID of God? Love casts out fear. And yet many are afraid of the same God they say loves them. This is a contradiction.
It would seem that if I am not controlled by love, that I WILL be controlled by fear. This will happen in one form or another. For example, so many Christians are controlled by a system of rewards and punishments, which, if we really understood it, is exactly what it means to be controlled by fear. When you are controlled by a system of rewards and punishments, you are essentially obeying God out of fear of punishment, or out of fear of losing a reward. You might say you are earning a reward, but that motivation is equal to being afraid of NOT earning one, or of losing it. Thus, once you make the Christian life into a system of rewards and punishments, you are not being controlled by the love of God. You are, in fact, UNDER THE LAW.
What does it mean to be, "under the law?" Some assume that it means to be under the penalty or condemnation that the law brings for sin Ė and being, "under the law," does include this. But more specifically, being under the law means to be governed by a system of rewards and punishments. Sure it does Ė condemnation and the penalty for sin ARE the punishment of the law. A fundamental characteristic of ANY law are the rewards and punishments. These are the means by which any law is enforced, and therefore, what controls those under that law.
Paul uses this term, "under the law," throughout the NT. But Paul absolutely states that Christians are NOT under the law -- he says to Christians, "You are NOT under law, but under grace." (Rom. 6:14) He also says, "Anyone under the works of the law is under a curse." (Gal. 3:10)
So Christians are never under the law. But if we are not under the law, then we are not under, or controlled by the system of rewards and punishments that Godís law provides. We are complete free of all of that.
Now, before you object to that, ask If being under the law does not mean being under the system of rewards and punishments that issues FROM that law, then what does it mean?
There really arenít ANY alternatives. For example, if we say that being, "under the law," means that Godís law tells us how we ought to live, then when Paul says that Christians are NOT under the law, then he means that the law doesnít tell Christians how they ought to live -- it is no longer, unto us, Godís standard of holiness and righteousness. Indeed, it would mean that because Christians are not under the law that Christians are free to sin all we desire because Godís grace will cover us. This cannot be the Truth.
So the fact that Christians are not, "under the law," cannot mean we can disregard the righteousness of the law. No. The righteousness proclaimed by the law is the Truth, and it remains. But if this is true, then we are left with the real truth of what it means to be, "under the law." It means to be under the system of rewards and punishments enforced by the law. And being under grace means to be set free from that system of rewards and punishments.
What this means is this: Christians are completely free from any reward or punishment that the works of the law might bring. We are not judged that way by Godís law at all. But this doesnít mean that the law is done away. Rather, it means that itís judgment is fulfilled in Christ.
Now, here is the objection that is usually shouted at this point: "If you remove the rewards and punishments enforced by the law, then Christians will have no reason to obey it!íí Sure. That is always the objection. In other words, people think that God must control us, and force us into obedience, by offering a reward, or threatening us with a punishment. Otherwise, some object, Christians would simply sin because they think grace abounds when they do!
The answer given by the Bible is clear: Christians are not under the law Ė we are not under the system of rewards and punishments Godís law would otherwise demand. But if we are truly converted to Christ we wonít HAVE TO BE. We will want to obey God anyways.
These objections to the grace of God are usually based on blindness to true conversion. Indeed, they are often based on a misunderstanding as to what Christianity really IS. According to God, and according to the apostle Paul, Godís law is just as much His standard for righteousness today as it ever was. But if you are in Christ, you are set free Ė not from righteousness or holiness Ė but from the rewards and punishments that issue from the law. You are completely freed from those. Instead, through Christ, God has written IN YOU His law. Indeed, through Christ, you have become one who will obey God because you LOVE HIM.
I donít know how that strikes you. But clearly, it leaves us needing a miracle Ė the miracle of the new birth. We are talking here about a people who, despite no longer being under the rewards and punishments which are of the law, obey God anyways.
Once we understand this, we will also see why all things are freely given us in Christ Jesus. Sure. There is NO EARNING. We are no longer under that. There is just grace.
What I am talking about here is not some petty theological distinction. Iím talking about the miracle of the new birth. Iím talking about the TRUE GOSPEL OF GRACE. Iím saying that if you are truly converted to Jesus Christ, and are growing to KNOW Him, that you are going to progressively come to obey Him Ė not because of rewards and punishments Ė you are going to grow to obey Him because you LOVE HIM. That is Christianity. There isnít any other kind that results from knowing Christ!
But we rarely hear this Truth. Instead, Christians are often told that they can lose their salvation, or lose their eternal reward, or lose, "Godís highest in their lives" -- all based on their works. They are put under a system of rewards and punishments based on their works. They are absolutely CONTROLLED by law Ė even if the law that controls them isnít called, "law." It may be described as, "living according to Godly principles." Or, "following Godís way." Or whatever. But if you are controlled by any system of rewards and punishments, you are UNDER THAT LAW. It is the very definition of being under the law.
Then there is the other side of the coin. There are those who think that Christians need not be holy. They discard all law. And they give Christ credit for their license. But this too is the result of being blind to the Truth. True relationship with Christ by faith NEVER results in license. But it never results in legalism either. Rather, it results in love.
What happens through the new birth is a miracle. The new creation in Christ wants to obey God Ė but not because of rewards and punishments. The new creation in Christ wants to obey God because of love Ė because they have SEEN CHRIST, and are growing to know God. Thus, the obedience is VOLUNTARY.
Rewards and punishments make voluntary obedience impossible. Why? Because, by definition, rewards and punishments introduce another incentive. We might voluntarily obey God to GET the reward, or to AVOID the punishment Ė but this is the whole point, isnít it? The reward or punishment is the reason we obey. We are CONTROLLED by these. We arenít obeying God because He IS God, or because we LOVE HIM. We are obeying Him more for what we will get out of it.
Being UNDER THE LAW means to be controlled by that law Ė and this boils down to being controlled by the consequences of rewards and punishments enforced by that law. God says that, sure, the righteousness and holiness manifested by the law remains Ė the law was never done away. But He says that the rewards and punishments enforced by the law are no longer a factor for those in Christ. Rather, He will do a work in us that will make us into those who obey God completely free of the motivation of earning a reward or avoiding a punishment. We will obey God because we are in a love relationship with Him.
Get that. It is an awesome thought. God wants us to obey Him Ė to fully give ourselves to Him Ė completely free of any motivation of reward or punishment. He wants us to obey Him because we know and love Him.
Note: That is REAL. It is based in TRUTH. It is based upon relationship with God Himself. It is not mandated, the result of a threat of punishment, and it is not enforced by any law. Really, it is the result of CHRIST IN US. It is what God is seeking to make of us.
Christianity is not a religion of laws and rules. It is a new birth as a new creation into a new relationship with God. ALL of what we are in Christ is to be the result of growing to know God and fellowshipping with Him. It is not the result of LAWS. It is the result of GRACE Ė of God freeing giving Himself, and revealing Himself to us.
Could it be that God has a SECRET? What do I mean by that? I mean, could it be that God understands that if we really saw Him, and really had but a grasp of the love of God, that we WOULD voluntarily obey Him?
John wrote, "Herein is love, not that we loved God, but that he loved us, and sent his Son to be the propitiation for our sins. Beloved, if God so loved us, we ought also to love one another." (1 John 4:10-11) Note these simple, but profound words Ė we love God because He first loved us. In other words, if you grow to know God it WILL result in a greater love for Him, and then, in turn, in a greater love for others. LAW cannot do that. Only Truth can do it, and the miracle of the new birth.
Love will result in law-keeping Ė for love fulfills the law. But love is not the result of law-keeping. You cannot get down inside of someone with any law and turn them into a person who obeys God from the heart Ė completely free of any motivation except love. No. The moment you introduce law, you introduce rewards for obedience and penalties for disobedience. Thus, law is actually a hindrance to love. Indeed, that is why being under the law is the antithesis of being under grace.
Consequences for Works
The fact that we are not under any system of rewards or punishments, based on works, does NOT mean that there are no consequences for our works. Sure there are. But we need to understand these in the context of being under grace, rather than being under the law. The bottom line is this: There ARE always consequences for works. Always Ė for God is a MORAL God. But for a Christian, these consequences are not so much rewards or punishments from God. Rather, they are a matter of reaping what we sow.
It ought to be abundantly clear to anyone who is walking with Christ that every time you do a good work you donít get a reward. Neither are you punished by God the moment you sin. In fact, it is possible for obedience to God to produce some terrible suffering. And it is possible for sin to result in what some people think is happiness and fulfillment. The point is, God is not sitting up in heaven keeping score, and handing out rewards and punishments accordingly. Neither is He doing that in the eternal sense Ė when you stand before Christ you are not going to be presented with your scorecard of works. Rather, for a Christian, God is working all things unto a relationship with Christ.
If we are IN CHRIST, we are in a new relationship with God, based on grace, and not law. Rewards and punishments donít control us. Love and reverence for God ought to control us. What this means is that our works are either the product OF our relationship with Christ, or they are going to impact our relationship with Christ. Our relationship with Christ Ė not rewards and punishments from God Ė is what is at stake in the Christian life.
For example, John writes, "If we walk in the light as He is in the light, we have fellowship with one anotherÖ." Clearly, walking in the light, as God is presently seen in the light BY ME, is the CONDITION Ė the big, "IF" Ė that determines whether we are presently in fellowship with God. John says so. He also says, "If we say that we have fellowship with him, and walk in darkness, we lie, and do not the truth." (1 John 1:6) Thus, if you are NOT walking in the Light, you presently forfeit fellowship with God. This is because God is Light. You cannot walk in darkness and fellowship with Light. It just doesnít work that way.
And so we have a very clear cause and effect here Ė a very clear reaping of what you sow. If we walk in the light, we have fellowship with God. If we walk in darkness, we cannot have fellowship with Him. Each is by OUR choice. And each choice has results.
But can we see that this is not a matter of rewards and punishments from God? In other words, God doesnít reward us if we walk in the light by consenting to have fellowship with us. And He doesnít punish us if we walk in darkness by refusing fellowship. No. Our fellowship with God is not a reward, nor is our lack of fellowship a punishment. Rather, it is a matter of us reaping as the consequence exactly what we sow as our choice. It MUST be that way if there is any morality or righteous.
Now, if see what Iím getting at, Godís heart towards us is exactly the SAME regardless of whether we walk in light or darkness. God always desires fellowship Ė that is why He is always IN THE LIGHT. God will always accept us when we turn back to the Light. But WE can choose whether to meet Him there. In other words, God has His TERMS Ė and those terms are based on His character and upon His holy righteousness. He wonít lower them and He wonít change them. Thus, WE must choose to seek Him and meet Him. If we do, then we enter into fellowship. If we donít, then we wonít. Nothing can change this.
This is why John is so adamant in declaring that if we say we have fellowship with God, but walk in darkness, we are lying. But again Ė we cannot have fellowship with God if we walk in darkness Ė not because God is punishing us Ė but because we have chosen darkness. God CANNOT fellowship with us in that case. He can only bid us to come into His Light.
Here we see that God doesnít condemn a Christian who chooses darkness, and He doesnít withdraw from that person. Rather, that person has withdrawn from God. Neither does God shut the door on that person Ė that person is shutting the door on God. And God doesnít punishment them. He MAY chastise them. God will continually, by His Spirit, convict that person of his error. And call Him back into the Light. But that person must choose. God wonít do that for them.
Godís door is continually open, and His heart is continually drawing. God is continually in the light, and He is evermore calling to each of us. But we can choose to shut OUR door, and we can choose to closer OUR heart. We can choose to hide in the darkness. And if we do, what will we reap? Some punishment from God? Some loss of reward? No. What we reap is exactly what we have chosen or sowed. If you want darkness rather than Light, what you get is darkness, rather than Light. If you will not enter the Light and into fellowship with God, what you get is NO fellowship with God. It isnít a matter of rewards or punishments. It is a matter of what we have done in our relationship to God.
Faith Equals Works
Whether we realize it or not, our works are always the product of our faith. Or, to put it another way, our works are the outcome of our relationship with Christ. Iím not saying that we are always conscious of that Ė but for a Christian it is the Truth.
For a Christian to live in sin, at some point they must shut out God. This is sometimes even so regarding isolated acts of sin. I think the more we go on with God, the more sensitive we become to God, and consequently, to sin. So perhaps in the beginning, we donít consciously shut out God. But once you are in any wise mature in Christ, you really need to make a conscious effort to shut out God, and the conviction of the Holy Spirit, if you want to embark on a path of sin.
Now, what we see here is that, yes, the sin itself is wrong. But can we see that the sin is only what it is because the person has FIRST shut out God? THAT unbelief is the real sin. Sure. This is about relationship with God. That is why faith always results in good works, and unbelief in sin. It goes back to our fellowship with and relationship with God.
Can we also see that the dynamic in all of this is NOT rewards and punishments? No. We obey God because we are rightly related to Him by faith Ė because we love Him. We donít obey Him to get a reward, or to keep on His good side. Indeed, if we do obey Him for those wrong reasons, our faith is in question Ė despite our supposed obedience. It is entirely possible to, "obey God," not because we believe Him, but because we donít!
The consequences for our works before the Lord are now clear Ė and rewards and punishments are not in the picture. No. This is all about whether we are violating our relationship with God. It is about whether we are shutting God out, or letting Him in Ė which is the same thing as us walking in the light, or in darkness. The consequences for our works are in accordance with how we choose Ė if we choose God, we get God. If we choose darkness, we get darkness. We reap what we sow.
Iím not here talking about sinning when we donít want to sin. Rather, Iím talking about choosing to sin and then refusing to confess it and turn back to God. This problem is not one of works. It is one of faith and of relationship. We cannot refuse light and have it at the same time. We will get what we choose Ė and everything that comes with it.
Christians are supposed to be controlled by the very relationship with God that is at issue here Ė a love relationship. But we CAN violate this. And if we do, God doesnít necessarily have to spring into action and punish us. Often, He just lets the darkness and the rest of what we have chosen to come.
No law Ė no works of the law Ė determines Godís heart towards us. But we can determine our heart towards God. And our choices will have results. This must be so if God is just and moral. It could be no other way.
Effects of Our Choices
Hopefully, we are seeing that Christianity is not God sitting up in heaven keeping a scorecard. It is not a system of rewards and punishments based on law Ė ANY law. God is not going to reward you for every good work, and punish you for every bad work. Indeed, this is exactly what the gospel of grace is NOT.
But we have been seeing that our works DO matter Ė our moral choices have consequences all the time. So if our moral choices do not result in rewards or punishments, what consequences do they bring? Just this: Our moral choices bring exactly what we choose. In other words, if I choose to embrace a moral wrong, it isnít a matter of God punishing me for it. Rather, if I choose a moral wrong, what I get is that moral wrong. I get it not only in circumstances, but I get it in ME.
I said this earlier. If you choose darkness rather than light, what you get is darkness rather than light. And, of course, you get everything that comes with the package of darkness Ė basic to which is that you cannot fellowship with God. This isnít a matter of earning, and it isnít a matter of God storming down from heaven with punishment in hand. It is a matter of you making a choice and getting your choice. You WILL Ė unless you repent Ė reap what you sow.
This is a Truth that pertains to both the temporal as well as to the eternal. It is taught all through the NT. Why do we suppose that Paul warns the churches against heresy? Against uncleanness? Against unbelief? Is this about him wanting to spare people some punishment from an angry God? No. It is about him wanting to spare people the consequences of those sins. It is about wanting them to experience the fullness of Christ. THAT is much different.
There is a HUGE difference between being rewarded or punished for our moral choices, and reaping what we sow. Indeed, if every time we sinned, God had to add a punishment, we might suppose that the sin itself isnít so bad Ė it would be no worse than obedience unless God added a punishment. But no. The WAGES of sin is death. This is true without punishment FOR sin even entering the picture.
Now, donít misunderstand. Iím not saying that God is a casual observer to the sins of His people, and that the consequences for sin would happen even if there were no God. Not at all. In fact, the consequences for sin happen because there IS A GOD Ė and all moral Truth comes back to our accountability to Him. This gets back to what I said about all of our works being the outcome of our faith. Sin has consequences because ultimately sin is a choice to shut out God and do my own thing. And once God is shut out, LIGHT is shut out, and TRUTH is shut out. What follows my sin are all the consequences Ė but those consequences are really what happen when you shut out God.
In other words, SIN carries consequences precisely because sin misses the mark of God Himself. It is a shutting out of God Ė Iím talking about deliberate sin. The consequences are not necessarily a punishment. Rather, the consequences are nothing more than you and I getting what we chose Ė our own will. Darkness. This is perfect justice.
Godís perfect justice is built into the very fabric of our being. Shut out God and you donít have God. Let God in and God is in you. In the end, you and I cannot earn from God, or do something that is so bad that God wonít forgive us. But we can choose or refuse God. And this has tremendous consequences Ė good or bad.
Once we understand this, we see that it DOES matter how we choose. But it matters because this is about our relationship with God. It is not about whether, or how much, of a reward we are earning. Or about how righteous we can become. No. It is about faith. It is about going on with Jesus Christ.
Godís door is always open. Jesus forever opened it. No one and nothing can close it. And get this: Not even SIN closes it. Why? Because Jesus has already died for ALL sin Ė that is WHY the door is always open.
Now, when I say that even SIN cannot close Godís door, did you, maybe for a moment, or maybe for longer, say to yourself, "That cannot be right. Because if Godís door were open even if we sin, then we could sin and it wouldnít matter!" Well, you are reciting the age-old argument against grace. Paul asked, parroting that argument, "Are we to continue in sin because we know grace abounds?" (Rom. 6:1)
And then there is THIS objection: If sin cannot close Godís door, then how do people end up in hell? For that matter, why bother coming to Jesus to begin with?
Well, notice that I said Godís door is forever opened, and will forever remain open, because of the Redemption of Jesus Christ. But I did not say that God forces anyone to walk through it.
The fact that we can refuse or neglect to walk through Godís open door doesnít mean that God ever closes it to us. No. The problem IS that Godís door is always open and we donít walk through it. THAT refusal is THE SIN. Indeed, it is THE SIN precisely because the door is ALWAYS OPEN.
So we see that the greatest sin of all is that we refuse Godís open door to Himself. It is the greatest sin because Godís door is always open. Nothing can close it. This leaves us without excuse. But we can refuse it. And that IS SIN Ė the one sin that will condemn us forever.
Note that even refusing Christ Ė that even refusing Godís open door Ė doesnít CLOSE Godís door. No. Indeed, it is precisely because there is ALWAYS the possibility of turning to God that we will be judged for our neglect. Again Ė our neglect or refusal is THE SIN. It is unbelief. .
You will notice that the problem between man and God is never God. It is man. Our misunderstanding Ė that we think the problem between God and man is GOD Ė leads us to think that God is sitting up in heaven changing His heart towards us based on our works. The solution therefore, when we sin, is to get God BACK to us. Indeed, some of us think that God opens the door to Himself when we do good works, and shuts it when we do bad works. We think that if we confess our sins that He will reopen the door. It may never occur to us that the only door God closes when we sin is the one WE have created in our unbelief. The real door never was closed Ė even when we sin. But if we think it is, we wonít come back to God.
Unbelief means that I do NOT believe Ė not in a way that matters Ė that God has already done everything there is to do about sin in His Son. I still think that the finished work of Christ is only finished for ME when I obey God. When I donít obey Him, somehow I think it is once again unfinished, until I confess, or promise to do better, or put in my guilt time. But all of this boils down to believing that God has reacted to my sin by closing His door. It is all the result of thinking that when I feel separated from God that it is GOD that has withdrawn. And it puts it back on me to find the solution to Godís attitude, so that He will once again open to me.
This is all deception. It doesnít matter how real it seems if you feel this way, and it doesnít matter how difficult it is to believe otherwise. The Truth is, Godís door is open to you forever. The only thing preventing you from walking through is your unbelief. When you sin, the only thing preventing you from entering in is your unbelief. But your unbelief doesnít change a thing about the Truth. It changes only YOU.
Can we see that the SIN here is the very unbelief that suggests that God will not easily forgive us? That the real sin here is that we still think that OUR works determine Godís attitude? Can we see that all of this is a matter of us creating God in our own image and living in that delusion? Read the Bible. You will see that why Iím saying about the finished work of Christ is true. Start with Hebrews 10:15.
Whereof the Holy Ghost also is a witness to us: for after that he had said before, This is the covenant that I will make with them after those days, saith the Lord, I will put my laws into their hearts, and in their minds will I write them; And their sins and iniquities will I remember no more. Now where remission of these is, there is no more offering for sin. Having therefore, brethren, boldness to enter into the holiest by the blood of Jesus, By a new and living way, which he hath consecrated for us, through the veil, that is to say, his flesh; And having an high priest over the house of God; Let us draw near with a true heart in full assurance of faith, having our hearts sprinkled from an evil conscience, and our bodies washed with pure water. Let us hold fast the profession of our faith without wavering; (for he is faithful that promised;) (Heb 10:15-23)
Now, all of this brings us back to faith. It brings us back to the real effects of our choices. If we obey God, there is no suggestion in the Bible that God is going to reward us by opening the door to His throne room and inviting us in. There is no suggestion that if, as a born again believer, that when we sin, God punishes us by shutting that door until further notice. In fact, is this thinking not the very definition of legalism? Absolutely. Thus, this is directly taught AGAINST in scripture. It is not the true gospel.
But what does the Bible teach about all of this? It teaches that Godís door is forever opened in Christ. NOTHING can close it Ė not our sins and not our obedience. But we can choose whether or not to BELIEVE it. We can choose, based on this faith, whether to enter in. And if we choose not to believe, then what? Does God storm down from heaven and punish us for our unbelief by closing the door? No. What actually happens if we donít believe, or if for any reason, choose not to enter into Godís grace Ė what happens is that we arenít IN Godís grace.
That is so simple that I should say it again: If you choose not to enter into the grace of God the penalty is that you are not in the grace of God. And yes, you ARE guilty of an even greater sin. But this is not a matter of punishment for that sin. It is a matter of you getting exactly what you believe and choose.
In the final analysis, this is WHY people go to hell. Hell is the eternal outcome of their relationship with God. They have darkness within, and so must dwell forever in darkness. It isnít so much God getting angry and condemning them. Rather, His door has always been open to them, and they have spent a lifetime knowing that, but choosing to ignore it.
But isnít God going to JUDGE people Ė judge us all? Without a doubt. But this is exactly what Iím describing. The judgment of God is nothing more than God calling us exactly who we are Ė in relationship to HIM. His judgment is an exposure in perfect light and Truth. That is why it is JUST and RIGHT. There are no mistakes. God will judge those who He sends to hell as worthy of that because they have made themselves worthy of it. They have neglected or refused Godís open door. What is God supposed to do? Give them heaven anyways? What would they do in heaven? They have already, by their life, stated that they donít want God!
Now notice something: No sin shut Godís door to these people. Rather, the SIN is that they would not enter through the open door. This was THEIR choice. And since Godís door is ALWAYS open, the sin is a lifetime sin because throughout their life they continued to neglect it.
When a Christian person sins, this concept of Godís open door applies, although not in the sense of salvation being at stake. Being in the light instead of darkness is at stake in our Christian walk. If you wonít turn to God and walk through that door back into the light once you sin, then God wonít need to PUNISH you. You will have chosen darkness and darkness will be what you get. And a whole lot more than comes along with it. But if you choose light you get light. Do you need a reward for that? Hopefully we are past such nonsense. Once you see Jesus you wonít be asking God for rewards. You will be asking Him for MORE of Jesus.
It is never too late to turn back to God. Even someone who has previously rejected Christ can turn to Christ. Again Ė Godís door is ALWAYS open. The question is whether we will walk through it.
If someone will not turn to Christ, then God will convict them. With regards to Christians, God will perhaps CHASTISE us, for the purpose of getting our attention.
And ye have forgotten the exhortation which speaks unto you as unto children, My son, despise not thou the chastening of the Lord, nor faint when thou art rebuked of him: For whom the Lord loves he chastens, and scourges every son whom he receives. If ye endure chastening, God deals with you as with sons; for what son is he whom the father chastens not? But if ye be without chastisement, whereof all are partakers, then are ye bastards, and not sons. Furthermore we have had fathers of our flesh which corrected us, and we gave them reverence: shall we not much rather be in subjection unto the Father of spirits, and live? For they verily for a few days chastened us after their own pleasure; but he for our profit, that we might be partakers of his holiness. Now no chastening for the present seems to be joyous, but grievous: nevertheless afterward it yields the peaceable fruit of righteousness unto them which are exercised thereby. (Heb 12:5-11)
God is not passive. He doesnít just sit back, watch us, and simply let His children reap what we sow. No. God even if God DOES do that Ė it is all UNTO something. God lets Christians reap what they sow in order to CHASTISE us. Other times God actually intervenes and proactively CAUSES things to happen.
It is vital to see the distinction between a punishment from God, and a chastisement by God. Our conventional idea of punishment is vindictive and punitive. It is more along the line of PAYBACK, i.e., of exacting suffering as payment. But if that is how we define punishment, then God NEVER punishes.
God is redemptive in nature. So even when He lets us reap what we sow, it is so we will repent, and begin sowing righteousness. Chastisement is Godís training of us Ė it is for the purpose of bettering us in our relationship with Him. Of course, this is all contingent upon us submitting to God. But even if we donít, God will continue to chastise UNTIL WE DO. Thus, if it so happens that a Christian ends up losing out on some purpose of God, or on some part of his eternal inheritance, it wonít be because God failed. It will be because the chastisements of the Lord were ignored and resisted.
Do you know that the penalty is for resisting the will of God? Well, you end up OUT of the will of God. And you never experience everything that was IN the will of God. Again Ė our choices have rather severe consequences. But in the end, God will give us EXACTLY what we choose.
Godís chastisements are unto eternal purposes. Therefore, some of them can be tough. But can we see how DIFFERENT this chastisement is from the idea of God punishing us every time we do something wrong? No. The whole purpose of the chastisements of the Lord are stated in the above passage from Hebrews: That we might be partakers of His holiness.
It is a fact that you can be totally IN the will of God and God will still chastise you. This is not because He is unfair. For His chastisement is not punishment. It is training. And we all need it.
Again we see that God is not sitting up in heaven in a bad mood, demanding obedience under threat of punishment. Neither is He dangling a reward on a stick. Rather, God is seeking to reveal Himself to us, and to set us free. He is seeking to bring us into a love relationship. Thus, the, "reward," for yielding to God IS God. The penalty for rebelling against God is to LACK God. This is all about who we are to God, and who God is to us. It is all about getting exactly what we choose Ė based on the light we have been given. And then, based upon our choices unto God, we set in motion a spiritual course.
There is no such thing as INVOLUNTARY love. Thus, in order to be controlled by love, it must be VOLUNTARY. This brings us to an easy conclusion: If we see God we will voluntarily love Him. In short, God is so great, and so wonderful Ė so, "loveable," if you will Ė that once we begin to see Him in Spirit and in Truth, we WILL love Him. We wonít be able to help ourselves.
God doesnít sit up in heaven demanding we love Him, under threat of punishment. Neither does He offer a reward in exchange for our love. Can you imagine that? How FAKE that would be? And yet, how many of US have lived in a relationship with God just like that? We obey God to EARN a reward, or to APPEASE His punishment. We have hardly known any other way to live! The solution is to know the Truth which equals knowing HIM. Once we do, it will completely do away with, and set us free from, any system of rewards and punishments, and will motivate us to love God for Himself. THAT IS FREEDOM.
If we see God, we will not only love Him voluntarily, but what will flow from that is obedience. It will be a WANTING to obey, even if we fail. And when we fail, we will obey by turning back to God. To introduce the promise of a reward, or the threat of punishment, into this relationship is really an unclean thing.
Iíve actually heard it preached that God demands we love Him, and if we donít, He is going to send us to hell. Ok. So now that weíve been thoroughly threatened unless we love God, how are we supposed to start doing that? Ė where do we get this love? Especially now that we are afraid?
The Bible says that, "perfect love CASTS OUT fear." What this means is that if you love God, you wonít be afraid of Him. The REAL fear of the Lord is REVERENCE, which is based in love. Thus, if perfect love casts out fear, then love cannot be the result of being threatened. It cannot be the result of being afraid of punishment, or of being afraid of losing a reward. Rather, love must be the result of seeing that there is NOTHING to be afraid of Ė from God. Again, if we see God, we see love. And the result is that we LOVE HIM.
Do you believe in a God that, if you really saw Him, you would voluntarily obey out of love? A God who you would love and obey to the complete disregard of any rewards or punishments? Or does your God need to control you with threats, or with rewards?
Many Christians believe in a God who needs to control them with rewards and punishments. Unwittingly, this is really THEM trying to control God Ė by their works. In truth, we are to be controlled by the LOVE of God. This takes a miracle, but this is exactly why it must be ALL of grace alone.
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