Posts Tagged ‘redemption

06
Apr
10

Eternal Inheritance

So, Tit for Tat invited me over to comment at one of his recent posts (here) and some of the commentary has me putting on my dual hats…one marked “faith” and the other one marked “skepticism.”

I can think on both sides of my brain…I can think on both sides of my spirit, too.

There is a lot of talk about “Why do we need Jesus to save us if the story of Adam and Eve is likely allegorical and thus there is no original sin?”

I’m not going to go there precisely. I’ve already made some comments over there and probably will have the chance to make more. But I did want to put into perspective some related issues, and follow Jesus’ lead by doing it parable style.

“Son, I have a great inheritance for you…a trust that shall be yours…but I need you to do certain things, and act certain ways to take charge of it when you are of age. If you cannot do these things, I cannot let you inherit it.”

“Why, Father?”

“Because I need to know that you are ready for it, and equipped to learn those things you will need to know to use and manage it wisely.”

“All right Father.”

But the son did not do what was required of him, and it was clear to his father, who wa patient, that he would not.

“Son, because I love you, and because I know you have faults and the world is full of distractions, I offer you a way to make right on what you have done, and correct your course, so that you can still show yourself ready to inherit what I offer.”

“Thank you Father.”

But despite his opportunities to do so, the son did not correct his ways, and eventually found himself imprisoned for some of his wayward actions. After he had been in the prison for some time, with every opportunity to examine those things and that had led him to this point, his Father asked, “Do you understand now, and are you ready to change? I love you, and wish to see you do well. But you must choose your path, for you have no more chances.”

That’s it. No big exciting finish. Because the fact is, the end of the story is unknown and isn’t the same for everyone. Some people don’t even have to get to that last step to get the message.

God gives us a path to follow. Christianity is not the only faith, and as much as I fully believe it is the best path, and that it is the culmination of a plan that God put in place to show us the way, the fact is that many faiths touch upon the same basic themes. Many of us talk about those things as if they are natural parts of our morality and as if they are things that exist outside of spiritual teachings. Perhaps. Perhaps not. But isn’t it interesting that we’ve traditionally gotten those lessons, through the ages, in the form of spiritual or religious doctrine.

And yet we still turn away from the path we’ve been shown, and we still refuse to reach out to God and explore our spirituality. We still refuse to acknowledge our very fundamental failings and we show no remorse for having stepped off the right path. We have no shame. No repentance. No desire to change and grow spiritually. Instead, we focus on ourselves, and how great we are, and how flawed everyone else is.

And yet God gives us another chance. He sends his son, who lives the right way and teaches us the core things we need to know. And we kill him because in the end, many of us don’t want to change and don’t want to hear what he has to say.

Now, this is a point at which, as I’ve noted before, people say, “But if the Garden of Eden is allegorical, we don’t need Jesus.”

But we do. That’s just it. We didn’t change on our own. We aren’t willing to. So we have an example, and someone who is able to be a true intermediary between humans and God, and judge fairly. We have someone who paid the price for us. The price isn’t paying for original sin, but for all sins. The sins we continue to commit, the ones we’ve committed before, the ones we are going to commit in the future. Jesus wasn’t a sacrifice for some single original sin but to repair the rift between God and man that has almost always existed. Even if you can’t see his death as making sense in washing away sin, at least see it as yet another example God sets forth for us:

I sent my son, to teach you in peace and love, and show you by example, and heal you, and do miracles, and still you killed him rather than listen.

Jesus is the example of just how far gone we are. And the symbol that even then, after we kill him, he and God are still there for us. That they haven’t given up on us.

And so people ask, “If God goes through all that trouble, then why have Hell? He should be willing and able to give us chances until we get it right.”

Why?

At a certain point, we simply have to choose. We have to show that we are ready to change and grow, just as in my clumsy parable above. Anyone who’s read this blog for a while knows my views on Hell and what its purpose is, and that I think there can be redemption even from that place…up to a point. But eventually, there is a final choice. The question “Have you learned anything yet?”

And many are not going to repent. Or be critical of themselves. Or take the steps necessary to move on and grow.

I find it highly unlikely that our purpose is simply to go to Heaven and be a bunch of lazy bums. I think God has many more destinations and plans for us. He is preparing us to take on responsibilities and powers. If we have the spirit of God inside us when we become born again, then that means power. Power to use constructively and creatively, I believe.

But power requires responsibility to be used well.

Redemption isn’t about kissing God’s ass and behaving because he tells us to or because he’ll punish us if we don’t. Redemption is about seeing what’s wrong with us and wanting to fix it. Asking for the help of God in making us better than we are, and better than we ever thought we could be.

Because we don’t seek improvement, not really. Just look at how we approach life. We look for cures to problems that we wouldn’t have if we lived right in the first place. Why create ways to burn off fat or vacuum it out when we could have stopped heaping on our bodies to begin with, long before? Why do self-help gurus so often tell us to look for the things in our past that shaped our decisions, but so rarely ask us to explore what the fuck is wrong with us that we let those past events dictate future behavior. Humans don’t like accountability. And yet it’s exactly what God is looking for.

That work begins on Earth, ideally with going to God through Jesus. But the process doesn’t stop there. Too many Christians think it does, and too many non-Christians think the Bible tells us that once we’re born again, we can do anything and be forgiven.

Redemption isn’t carte blanche but rather a sincere step in doing the right thing.

The question is, will you take that step early on, or will you wait until you’ve gone through hell and back (perhaps literally) to clue in?

That’s a choice every person makes for themselves. But there is nothing wrong in God expecting us to make that choice for ourselves, and ultimately giving us the kind of inheritance that we have earned.

16
Dec
08

Two-fer Tuesday: Failure by Miz Pink

pinkskirt-blondeI don’t like to think in terms of “failure” but I do like to think about “learning opportunities.” No matter how bad I screw up there is always a chance to learn something and do better in the future. I certainly figured out a lot from my first marriage about not only how NOT to pick a husband but also what things I SHOULD be focusing on in one. I made plenty of mistakes with Mini Pink Model 1, I made different mistakes with Mini Pink Model 2, and I will make yet more new mistakes with Mini Pink Model 3 (and since there will be no #4, I’ll pass the wisdom from THOSE mistakes down to the first kid when he has kids of his own.

Even paying attention to our religion (meaning those of you who share mine) we have failed God over and over and over and over since we hit the ground running in the Garden of Eden and yet he doesn’t give up on us. He has continued to give us chances to learn and be better and enjoy eternal reward.

Failure I think is NOT an option.

But learning IS.

10
Dec
08

Drive-by Scripture: Acts 10:15

And the voice spake unto him again the second time, What God hath cleansed, that call not thou common.

That’s from Acts of the Apostles, chapter 10, verse 15. If it seems like an odd, random choice, it is indeed “random.” I often say a quick prayer and then open the Bible to a random point. I consider it my way of letting the Spirit lead me to where I need to be, and I often gain my greatest insights doing this, and in times of need get the passage that most speaks to my current situation.

The context for this passage is a dream that Peter was having, in which he was told to rise and kill some animals, and eat them. He responded that he didn’t eat that which was impure or unclean. After all, he was a good Jewish boy, right? I don’t mean that snarkily, by the way. He was. This was after Jesus had risen, but many of the apostles still saw themselves as Jews, obviously, because Jesus was Jewish, too.

They still held to many of the old ways and the old laws and the old convenants, and there is nothing wrong with that. What was wrong was to see those old ways as the way to please God. God had made a better path, and that path was to honor and follow Jesus.

The passage above is worth remembering in part for the fact that we aren’t supposed to be slaves to the nit-pickiness of the law but to uphold the more salient and personal commandments (Love God and love your neighbor as yourself, which encompasses a lot of things and will ensure that we do right if we follow them). But I think there is something else to note about it.

God is saying that what He has signed off on is signed off on, no questions asked. We might complain about God’s ways, but we don’t have the right, or the power, to second-guess Him. Little Girl Blue can be mad at me for my decisions and question them, and I won’t get angry over that, but she doesn’t have the right to disobey me or ignore what I ask (or tell) her to do. In the same way, we don’t get to turn our noses up at what God has sanctified.

Are there people in your life with whom you’ve had bad blood, for example, and they come to Christ, and they are being better people…and yet you still spurn them? A lot of us have done that or are doing that right now. It isn’t right. And it isn’t our place.

We need to look at what God tells us, and we need to look at those around us who have chosen God’s path, and we need to get out of our own ways so that we can embrace those things and those people. We need to slough off the crap we continue to haul around and trust that what God has cleared, has been cleared for very good reason.

(Probably be an new installment of Cleansed By Fire posted later today, or possibly tonight, for those who are interested.)

24
Nov
08

The Eternal Question

eye_of_godWhen questioning the judgment, sanity and/or intelligence of Christians, the array of potential critics (atheists, agnostics and religious non-Christians) have several tried-and-true avenues of argument they can fall back on. Two of the of the better ones, of course, are to simply argue the silliness of the concept of an all-powerful “invisible man in the sky” or to argue that we as humans couldn’t possibly have enough grasp on reality to know the true path of the spiritual, since too many people disagree.

Not going to argue either of those today. Instead, I’m going to go for what I consider to be the second-runner up of all-time fallback arguments against Christianity:

If your God is so freaking kind and merciful and loving and wonderful, why did He do [insert controversial God-sanctioned activity documented in the Bible here], how could He be permit [insert current or past person of questionable moral character here] to live, and how could He allow [insert the most heinous, mind-rending scenario you are aware of or could imagine here] to occur?

Well, before I respond, I would like you to suspend your possible disbelief in an infinitely powerful, eternal being. Really. I mean, you were smart enough to come up with arguments against God or my particular model of God, so I know you can conceptualize an all-powerful entity. OK, cool. Got that  disbelief suspended? Great. We’ll get to that in a moment, right after I ask you a counter-question to the one above.

If you were told that you were about to be subjected to the most intense agony the human mind could experience without shattering entirely, that said pain would last approximately one second, and you would receive several billion dollars for going through the process, what would you do?

Accept the deal, of course. And if you don’t, you’re an idiot.

Which brings me to my point. God is dealing in eternity. Infinity. All the time in the universe and then some.

As horrible as anything that has happened or will happen might be, it is a tiny moment in time compared to eternity. So tiny as to be even less significant than that one second of unbelievable agony I mentioned. God is operating on a framework wherein your end reward is unending and better than anything you can imagine. In this context, there is no atrocity, no event and no disaster that could even come close to denting that. No suffering that Earth, people and Satan subjects us to compares to what God offers us.

Yeah, I know. A lot of you are going to say, “But Deac, by your own admissions in this blog, not everyone is getting that nice reward at the end. So they get shit on Earth and then eternally shittier shit after that. Yay for them, huh?”

Indeed, I believe in Hell and I believe in damnation. I also believe that the only people who are going to get that bitter end are going to be the hardheaded morons who will refuse to acknowledge their sin and their failure to be what they should have been in terms of following God’s word. The damned will be the people who didn’t get it on Earth, refuse to get the message in Hell, and decide that God is a flipping dipshit that they don’t want to spend eternity with anyway because as far as they’re concerned, they didn’t do anything wrong. Those folks get whatever crap they had on Earth, whatever crap they got in Hell, and will move on the Lake of Fire when God wraps up affairs here on this planet and have eternal separation from the good stuff. And frankly they’ll deserve it for being such egocentric self-satisfied remorseless morons, and yes, there will be plenty of souls who take that route, in my opinion.

I don’t believe that God relishes any of our suffering. I think it pains Him greatly. But you know, it pains me to deny my kids something they really want or to punish them in some way. But I do those things because in the end, I’m trying to do the right things for them to grow, and I know that compared to the spans of their lives, God willing that they live long ones, whatever pain they experienced will be a minor thing compared to what they take with them into their maturity.

15
Nov
08

Sweet Talk by Miz Pink

pinklips-sugaryHoneyed words can be powerful stuff you know. I certainly got a few guys in my younger years to do things or part with money they couldn’t afford to because I sweet talked them into it.

I’ve had my share of boyfriends over the years who I kept around lots longer than I should’ve just cuz they could sweet talk me back into their lives.

And with me and Sir Pink sometimes a lot of sweet talk can get either one of us out of dutch with the other in a hurry or get the other person to give up some goods they’ve been holding back on.

Mini Pink models 1 and 2 have sweet talked me into plenty of gifts and treats and out of punishments at times.

Yup. The right words can get you out of trouble as easy as they can get you into it.

But don’t try it on God or Jesus.

In the end we have to answer not just for whether we chose Christ but we have to be willing to answer for what we did. More important we are going to answer for our intent. Did we truly side with heaven and try to do the right thing or did we go to church and say all the pretty prayers and sing the pretty hymns and claim to be Jesus’s people?

We aren’t always gonna do the right thing. Some of us will rarely do the right thing.

But do you want to? Are you trying? Do you feel that you’ve let God and Jesus down when you don’t make the grade? Do you try to do better in the future? Those are the actions of a Christian.

When you cash out of this life, it’s too late to be trying to talk your way out of anything. Jesus said it nice and clear in Matthew’s gospel, chapter 7 and verses 21-23:

“Not everyone who says to me, ‘Lord, Lord,’ will enter the kingdom of heaven, but only he who does the will of my Father who is in heaven. Many will say to me on that day, ‘Lord, Lord, did we not prophesy in your name, and in your name drive out demons and perform many miracles?’ Then I will tell them plainly, ‘I never knew you. Away from me, you evildoers!’

20
Jul
08

The Human Stain

If you’re reasonably well read or have seen CSI or Law & Order or some similar show on TV at least once, you porbably know that something like a blood stain on a wall can tell forensics experts a lot. It can tell you from what direction a shot was fired, from what angle, from what height, from what distance, and all sorts of other good stuff—or, well, bad stuff…but useful stuff all the same.

Simpler stains can tell us things, too. A big old coffee stain on that important signed paperwork on your desk may be a sign that you need to be less sloppy or start keeping your coffee and your papers on separate surfaces. An ink stain in your shirt pocket is a good sign that you need a new pen. A lipstick stain on a collar all too often tells a wife that her husband ain’t doing right while he’s outside the home. A pee stain on the carpet tells us either the new puppy needs a bit more house training or that someone in the house has taken serious leave of both their senses and their bladder control.

We need to look at our stains.

What stains have we left in life? Why? Where? Who is affected by them? Whom have we stained directly? What can we do about them or what should we do about them?

Obviously, I’m talking metaphorical stains now. And I mention them because when we look ourselves and what we do in life, we generally give ourselves a pass. I examine myself and my motivations and I see a guy who’s in the right. You do the same thing, probably, most of the time. Truth is, we are usually pretty poor at locating and recognizing our own worst faults. Even the worst villains in the world still generally believe that they are doing what is right and proper, if not for society than for the most important people in the world: Themselves.

I say that we need to look at the people around us and see if they are stained. And then we need to establish if that stain was our fault. And if so, fix it.

If your child is suddenly acting odd and not speaking right and seems nervous around you, maybe it’s time to evaluate whether you’ve been putting undue pressure on that child or being rotten to that child or perhaps not spending quality time with that child.

If your co-workers seem to get quiet when you enter the room or don’t seem to want to socialize with you, maybe you should ascertain whether or not you are a jerk at work.

If your spouse is emotionally distant maybe you need to examine if you’ve been open enough emotionally and whether you are doing right by your spouse.

It might turn out that you aren’t the problem, or at least that perhaps you’re only part of it. And even if you aren’t the problem, identifying a stain on someone’s life presents you with an opportunity to help that person get past it and clean one piece of crap off their life’s problems. Bonus karma!

But it may also turn out that you have to admit you’ve done wrong, and realize you aren’t always such the good person you think you are.

The problem is, we’ll seldom see our failings in the mirror. The best place to see them is often in the behaviors and actions of those whom we interact with daily. Those people are the mirrors we need to look into.

Look deep.

06
May
08

Devil’s Due

The words aren’t exactly flowing tonight, so I thought I’d pull something out of my creative vault again. Don’t worry, though, no poem this time. It’s a work of fiction I wrote with a Christian slant about nine years ago, I guess. I don’t think George R.R. Martin  or any other successful fantasy/sci-fi authors need worry about me knocking them off the bestseller lists, but I seem to recall that a few friends and acquaintances back then gave it at least modestly positive reviews (there are plenty of things I’d change if I wrote this today, but I’m not into rewriting my past, so I’ll let it stand or fall on its current merits or lack thereof). Anyway, enjoy. Or not. Thematically, this story hearkens back to the subject tackled in my post End of the Line? back in the earliest days of this blog.

Devil’s Due

He watched death bear down on him with at least some clinical detachment. His foot had gone one inch too far; his momentum was a fraction too far gone—and he knew it.

Despite the deep, wrenching fear that gripped him at the base of his belly, at least half his brain knew there was no way to maneuver himself out of this predicament as he had with so many other problems in life.

Not for want of trying though. Even as he watched the van slide toward him, its screeching brakes insufficient to halt its deadly inertia, he tried to get out of the way.

So while one part of his mind simply logged this off as the last moment of life—game over—the other part made a panicked attempt to get him back on the curb. His survival instinct decided that it did not at all like the shape of things to come.

But the panicked frenzy that part of his mind brought to bear simply managed to get his legs hopelessly tangled, forcing him to the ground and guaranteeing that his end would come just a bit more messily than fate had originally planned.

At that last split-second before impact, both parts of his brain finally agreed on one thing, though: He was totally and irretrievably screwed.

So it came as quite a shock for the man—known to friends and acquaintances as “Wallace” and to his competitors as “that damned Wallace”—to suddenly find himself walking next to a dour-faced, vaguely Middle-Eastern man dressed like a 1940s-era Hollywood version of a private eye.

The foggy road they were walking on was painfully quiet and empty, and Wallace had the unnerving sense that everything behind him was falling away. He was afraid to find out what that might look like. Eyes forward, he told himself. Don’t look back.

So he settled for turning his neck just enough to look at the man next to him and make some half-hearted attempt at whatever counted as small-talk in the hereafter.

After a great deal of throat-clearing and several deep breaths, Wallace managed a rather uninspiring, “Hey, … uhhh … you.”

The man stopped, and Wallace did as well. The man turned quickly on his heel, but Wallace turned more tentatively, afraid of what he might see the way they had come. As it turned out, the view was much less dramatic than he had feared. He still had the sense that something was falling away but visually, the only notable thing about what lay behind them was that it was a bit more hazy and indistinct than what lay ahead.

The man looked at Wallace but said nothing, leaving Wallace plenty of time to admire the man’s charcoal gray overcoat, his black linen slacks and black tie, his butter-hued shirt, and his well-worn but stylish fedora.

As the silence grew into something almost palpable in the air between them, it was Wallace who could no longer bear the tension.

“I suppose,” Wallace ventured, “that you are the Angel of Death.”

The man managed a small, amused snort. “I am an angel. In fact, I am your angel. But death is not at the top of my job description. Right now, death is simply what has brought us face to face. And now we are taking a short walk to the end of your life’s journey. My name is Senezalqin.”

The angel began walking again, and despite some reluctance to continue with this strange being, Wallace felt compelled to walk with him. The solidity of the angel was much more comforting than the idea of being left alone in this quiet and ghostly landscape.

As he caught up with Senezalqin’s pace, Wallace made another stab at conversation.

“So, uhh, where are we heading?” he said with his most disarming smile. “Heaven or He…”

“There is a saying in the earthly world, Wallace,” said the angel, interrupting him. “If you have to ask how much it costs, you cannot afford it.”

Despite his fear of being left alone, Wallace stopped at once and watched, mouth hanging open, as the angel continued to march onward. After a while, Senezalqin stopped as well.

Without turning, the angel told Wallace, “Stop walking if you will. But you cannot avoid the end of this journey.”

The angel was at least a dozen yards away and his words little more than a whisper, but they carried clearly all the way to Wallace’s ears.

“You think this is unfair?” Senezalqin asked, turning finally and walking back to where Wallace remained stock-still.

“To Hell? Why?” asked Wallace. “Because I was a bit aggressive in my business? Because I’m a jerk sometimes? Didn’t I give enough to my church? Was it because I cheated on some taxes once in a while?”

“Far more than ‘once in a while,’ Wallace,” Senezalqin responded. “But no, none of those reasons singled you out.”

“Then what?” Wallace’s voice was rising now, a little anger creeping in among the fear there.

“Because you did not bother to get to know God’s son.”

Several times, Wallace opened his mouth as if to speak, then stopped. For what seemed like an eternity, his thoughts and his mouth could not seem to get in sync.

“What are you talking about?” he snapped. “I believe in Jesus. I went to church—pretty often. I gave to charity. I never hit my wife or kids. I was a pretty good person.”

“You still think that the worldly things you did are what counts,” Senezalqin muttered. “You want to know whether your activities were good or bad enough to send you to Heaven or Hell. What you did in life is not at issue here. It is what you failed to do. You did not accept Jesus. You did not bother to learn anything about him.”

“I believe in Jesus, I tell you! I’m a Christian!” Wallace shouted.

They were not walking, but Wallace could see a strange darkness up ahead that seemed to draw ever closer. Were they moving toward it, or the other way around? He could feel his time drawing short. His knees buckled and he began to sob.

Senezalqin stooped down to a crouch; leaned in close to Wallace’s face. “So you believe in Jesus. So what?”

The words hung in the air. Wallace had no answer.

“Satan believes in Jesus, too, Wallace,” the angel continued. “Do you think he will go to Heaven?”

“I don’t understand, then,” Wallace said. “What could I have done different? Was I supposed to keep every commandment without fail? Was I supposed to pray three hours a day? What? What are the rules? I’m only human, by God!”

For a moment, Senezalqin’s eyes softened, and he sat down on the ground next to Wallace.

“You still do not see the problem, Wallace. You have always been concerned about you. Never God. Never Jesus. When did you ever speak to God except to complain about the unfairness of life? Did you ever give Him glory for your successes? Or did you take credit for every single one?

“And Jesus. Did you ever bother to pay attention in church or pick up a Bible? Did you ever try to learn about why he died, and what he suffered for your ungrateful little soul? Did you ever ask him to forgive a single one of your sins? For that matter, did you ever really feel sorry for any of those sins?”

Wallace had stopped crying. Much as when the van had rushed up on him, a part of him knew he had lost the race.

“I thought God was love.”

“He is Wallace, He is. He allowed His only son to be a sacrifice for the souls of billions upon billions of ungrateful, disobedient people. That’s how much He loves. He was willing to let Jesus bear the burden so that humans could have one sure path to salvation. They had already proved through the millennia that they could not obey God’s laws.

“So God made it simple. Have faith in His son and ask forgiveness for your sins. Do not simply believe that Jesus existed but also acknowledge his sacrifice and thank him for having loved you enough to die for your sins.”

“So there’s no reprieve, then?” Wallace asked. “No second chance?”

Senezalqin laughed and shook his head. For a moment Wallace was angry, then he realized he was not being laughed at. Senezalqin was clearly dumbfounded and amazed.

“Do you remember when you were in the hospital with pneumonia as a child? Do you remember when you fell off that ladder and came within a hair of breaking your neck instead of just your collarbone? Do you remember when a stranger pulled you away from the curb on a busy intersection and kept you from being crushed by a taxicab? Do you remember when you had your heart attack in the doctor’s office instead of alone at home?”

Senezalqin paused, staring into Wallace’s face. “Satan wanted your soul a long time ago. How many more chances did God have to give you to evaluate your spiritual life and, more importantly, Jesus’ place in it? You had untold numbers of chances to redeem your soul.”

The darkness that had been growing steadily closer was now almost upon them, and Senezalqin stood up.

“I have a gift for you, Wallace.”

The angel reached into his overcoat and pulled out a large black book. He flipped idly through the pages until he reached a stack of six $50 bills. He let the cash fall to the ground and handed the book to Wallace.

“This Bible is immaculate, Wallace,” the angel said with a wry smile. “Hardly been read. In fact, it seems to have been used more as a place to hide money than as a source of education and inspiration.

“Incidentally, Wallace, burglars are not vampires. They can touch the Bible. In fact, if I were a thief, it would be the first place I would look for money in a house.”

Wallace simply stared at the Bible in his hands.

“Why are you giving me my own Bible? And why now?”

“Believe it or not, you will have moments of peace, even in Hell. They are short-lived, though, and they are not completely free of suffering. But God makes sure you all have enough free moments so that you can study His Word.”

“What’s the point?” Wallace asked with a sneer. “If I’m already damned for eternity, why read this? God’s already given up on me.”

The darkness was no more than a hundred yards away now, moving slowly but inevitably toward them.

“I tell most people to start by reading the gospels, but I think you should start with the Book of Revelation,” the angel suggested, glancing toward the advancing void. “You might find something interesting there. Hell is not forever. The Lake of Fire is the place of punishment that lasts forever. But no one goes there until after the final judgment.

“The question is, Wallace, when that time comes, will you be able to say you really understand what Christ did for you? Will you really be thankful that he made it possible for you to save your soul, even at the eleventh hour? Or will you simply be as you are right now—so afraid of the punishment that you will say anything to save yourself, but not mean a single word?”

Wallace’s eyes were desparate now with a mixture of fear, wariness and hope. “I promise, I will accept…”

Senezalqin raised a hand.

“Be quiet, Wallace. Please do not make any promises. Please do not get my hopes up that you will yet reach Heaven. I would rather be pleasantly surprised. You will find that when the judgment comes, more people than you think—maybe you along with them—will choose to join Satan in his eternal damnation and suffering than to go with God.”

“No …” Wallace began.

“Yes,” Senezalqin responded. “They will be too busy blaming God for the suffering in Hell that they brought upon themselves. They will be too busy making excuses that they have spent centuries in Hell honing to perfection. But far fewer than you think will actually be repentant.

“They will not have learned anything. They will have no appreciation or understanding of how patient God has been for thousands upon thousands of years, despite so many unfaithful people. Even at the end, many will turn away from God and Jesus, simply out of spite. The door will still be open, and they will slam it themselves.”

Senezalqin started to turn to walk away as the wall of night slid forward to claim Wallace.

“You don’t like me, do you?” Wallace asked.

The question caught Senezalqin off guard, and he stopped for a moment. He wondered if it was a good sign. No more pleas, no more arguments. Just a question. He wondered if this one might yet learn and save his soul.

“I am only disappointed in you, Wallace. As I said at the start, I am your angel. I could have been your guardian and guide. Instead, you have thrust this unhappy journey upon me. And I have watched your prospects drain away as you walked closer and closer to Satan and farther from Heaven.

“When you stand before Jesus on his judgment seat, please give me reason to be proud of you. Please cheat Satan out of at least one more soul.”

With that, Senezalqin finally turned and walked away. He could hear the eerie approach of the darkness. A sound of low moans and endless sobbing. A sound that spoke of emptiness and loss, and potentials unrealized.

Senezalqin walked as Lot did when heavenly fire rained down on Sodom and Gomorrah—eyes forward. I will not be like Lot’s wife, he told himself. I will not look back.

The angel heard Wallace’s last croaking sob as the darkness caught up with the man, and then there was nothing but silence. The journey was over, and the human gone.

“May judgment day come quickly, Wallace, for you and all the others with you,” Senezalqin whispered, in a voice that was half prayer and half plea. “And may all of you be ready for it when it does.”

05
Mar
08

Over the limit

cross01.jpgSo, what’s that magic number of sins that send you to Hell until judgment day? What number of sins, or what kinds, can rob you of your salvation once you accept Jesus as lord and savior?

This is a really divisive issue at times inside and outside the church (the worldwide body of Christ and actual brick-and-mortar worship places).

First, people outside the church structure, and people in very liberal churches, just don’t like the idea of sin and Hell. It’s just too icky. It makes God look mean. Of course, removing sin and Hell from the equation also renders Jesus’ atoning death on the cross entirely meaningless.

Simple fact (biblically speaking) is that it only takes one sin to put you on the road to Hell. We are born with the devil in us, so to speak. Working only toward our own interests is easy and often very satisfying. Serving others and obeying God doesn’t bring that instant gratification. Let’s face it, sin is crack cocaine for the soul.

Now, when you consider the multitude of sinful things, from little white lies where you have your spouse call in sick for you so you can play hooky from work to murdering your neighbors in a cold-blooded orgy of murderous glee, the average human can easily commit thousands of sins in a lifetime. That’s thousands of sins committed by a really, really nice person, by the way. If you’re average…or better yet, a complete asshole…you can bring that up into the tens of thousands and more quite easily.

This is why it was such a big deal that Jesus took on himself every sin ever committed and every sin that would ever be committed in the future. He bore an amazing amount of really bad juju, folks. And in so doing, he had to allow himself to be separated spiritually from God for a time. A guy who had been in touch with his heavenly father every day of his life, cut off until he rose again from the dead. The physical suffering he endured during crucifixion was unbelievable already, and if you ever read about what crucified people went through before death, you would have to be insensitive to the point of serial killer psychosis not to shed at least some internal tears for Jesus and anyone else who suffered that form of execution. And then you add the spiritual factor, and you get some sense of why God wants people to acknowledge His son’s sacrifice and truly accept Jesus in order to benefit from his atoning death on our behalf.

So, that alone is a reason why everyone should seriously look into Jesus, and learn about why he makes sense not just spiritually (how many other religions try to restore a connection between God and humans and provide a savior for us) but historically as well (I highly recommend The Case for Christ, written by a former atheist, Lee Strobel, as a starting point on the logical reasons for believing in Jesus as the son of God). You may decide it still doesn’t make sense, but you have to give serious consideration to Jesus for your own sake. If you reject him after a real and sincere search for truth, I’ll respect your decision, even as I fear for your soul.

Now, how about losing your salvation? There are things in the Bible about how the branches can still be cut away from the olive tree and how certain sinners cannot inherit the kingdom of God and so on. So, a lot of Christians argue that being born again through faith in Jesus Christ doesn’t necessarily get you off the hook. You have to reject sin and live like Christ.

Bullshit.

If God made nothing else clear through all those commandments and convenants over the centuries, it was that humans are inherently disobedient, ever since screwing up in the Garden of Eden (thanks so very fucking much, Adam). To make Jesus’ protection over our souls contingent upon our behavior after accepting him is ridiculous. The presence of the Holy Spirit in us is a spiritual thing, and it can moderate and guide us in our earthly activities, but we still live in human bodies that really like sin, be it physical or otherwise. Temptation occurs, and the world presses in on us, and sinning in a multitude of ways is still easy and, frankly, unavoidable. You improve, but you don’t become perfect.

The problem with saying there are certain sins, or a certain number of them, that can cost you your salvation make no sense. Now, saying that failure to accept Jesus and be accountable for your mistakes before everything is tossed into the Lake of Fire is pretty clear-cut. On the other hand, saying you are saved unless you commit too many new sins is hazy as can be. How could you ever know when you crossed the line? How could you know when you are over the limit? That places Christians into more bondage, more confusion, more doubt and more fear than before they accepted Jesus. Being born again is supposed to free us from bondage and fear and the love of sin so that we can do God’s work.

That doesn’t mean that someone who claims to be born again and commits all sorts of nastiness is necessarily born again. But that’s for that person to come to grips with. Someone who kills for the mob for a living, for example, and continues to do so after claiming to have accepted Jesus is someone whose spiritual sincerity I doubt. But that’s between that person and God and Jesus. He or she really needs to look inside and reevaluate but, for all I know, maybe that person is truly born again. It’s not my place to judge, even though an awful lot of people seem to like to set themselves up as God’s earthly judges.

The idea that you might not inherit the kingdom of God for certain sinful behavior, even after being born again refers not to losing your salvation but to the fact that depending on how well you do avoiding sin and sharing the Gospel, you will have varying rewards in Heaven. The idea of differing rewards for the really, really faithful is established in the Bible. But when you get down to it, I’d rather live in the “slums” of Heaven (if one can even say there is such a thing) than have 10 earthly homes to rival what Bill Gates, Donald Trump and any major sheik can boast.

(Image by Joshua Miller, from ebibleteacher.com)

23
Feb
08

End of the line?

I should probably attack things in a more linear fashion, but I have to assume that if God is behind me on this blog thing, I should follow my gut feelings rather than my brain. So, while I plan soon to talk about why Hell (and Satan) are even necessaryand why everyone should stone-dragon.jpgat least give serious consideration to Jesus even if they ultimately reject himI’m going to start with a thorny topic that is weighing on me right now: Is Hell really the end of the life in the afterlife? Let’s be clear here: This post is “learned speculation.” Some logical guesses based on Scripture that, frankly, may not be true. I’m writing this in prayer, but I’m only human, and some of the assumptions of this post could be wrong.

But working on my current theories, it seems highly unlikely that Hell is the endpoint for all those who don’t have Christ backing up their lousy record with His exceptional credit.

First, let’s consider the fact that the Bible says that Hell and death and the fallen angels will ultimately be cast into something called the Lake of Fire. Why bother dumping lost souls into Hell if you’re going to throw them somewhere else later? The universe is pretty efficient, so I cannot imagine God giving souls a pit-stop for no good reason. More on that in a moment.

Also, if you read the Book of Revelation, you’ll see a picture of the future that has a pretty grim 7-year run. Let’s consider the fact that during these “end times” (that big bad period when the antichrist shows up, hell on earth breaks lose, and all that), people will see some pretty amazing metaphysical shit going down, and the Bible is clear that as things get worse and worse, large groups of people turn to God and redeem their souls. So, if folks who rejected Jesus can still turn to Him once the final battle is raging and they see God’s forces at work and they suffer all sorts of wrath (in other words, the clearest-ever proof that God exists), why would people who for whatever reason didn’t (or couldn’t) accept Christ in life not be granted similar benefits? I mean, that would seem to be way fucked-up unfair, don’t you think? Just like the people left on earth, they turned away, they have suffered, and now they see some pretty strong evidence that they were wrong about the way of things.

Here’s what I thinkand again, it’s not biblical canon but my educated opinion, so don’t base your life (and afterlife) on this. I’d rather you found Jesus before you croak. Anyway, what I think is that those in Hell do still have a chance to accept Jesus as Lord and savior before that hunk of damned real estate goes into the Lake of Fire.

Now, that may seem like I’m giving a “get out of jail free card” to folks in Hell. Far from it. For one thing, people are people in this life or in Hell. If they turned a deaf ear and blind eye on every chance to learn about Jesus, why would they feel all that warm and fuzzy toward God and His son in the end? Many might be repentant and feel remorse for ignoring Jesus’ sacrifices and God’s love, but many I suspect will simply blame God. They will insist His universe was pooch-screwed from the get-go and He’s an asshole, and they’ll say “Take your fucking heaven and every last one its damn harps and get out of my sight.” Also, there will be a fair contingent of folks who will try to appeal to Jesus out of fear, but not out of remorse. No one is going to get out of Hell for hating the place or fearing eternity there, but rather for realizing that the reason they are there is because they rejected Heaven themselves. Redemption does not come to those who cannot accept responsibility. Accountability is the first step to accepting and receiving salvation.

Hell is a place of separation from God’s touch. It’s a harsh place but a place for reflection and, I believe, final redemption. But if I were you, I wouldn’t take my word for it. And I wouldn’t wait too long to explore whether Jesus makes sense.

Eternity is a hell of a long time to end up regretting your decisions.

(Image from freeimages.com)




Deacon Blue is the blogging persona of editor and writer Jeffrey Bouley. The opinions of Jeff himself on this blog, and those expressed as Deacon Blue, in NO WAY should be construed as the opinions of anyone with whom he has worked, currently works, or will work with in the future. They are personal opinions and views, and are sometimes, frankly, expressed in more outrageous terms than I truly feel most days.

Jeff Bouley

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