There isn't anything new in what I have to say, but I do see life from an unique perspective. As my body is shutting down, my soul is opening up to a greater and greater relationship with Christ. I am sharing the things I learn as I go through my trials so that those who read what I write will be encouraged in their own walks by how gracious God has been to me in mine. Ask me questiions, dispute my views and most of all pray for me.
I recently recieved a response from the gentleman who provided the concerns I posted and answered last Monday. You may want to read Monday's posting and the various comments. It makes good reading.
My correspondent sent me the following:Regarding my response to point 1
Hi, thanks for responding. If sin is saying to God 'I don't like you, I don't want to be in your society' then obviously as a punishment for that attitude, outer darkness is just as the judgment for it was made by the human. However how can what is essentially an attitude be comprised in an act?
If I act out a sin, then it is an evil attitude that propels me, but within the sin act itself there is no attitude. If my attitude is punished then I have no problem with that, as no one is good enough to enter heaven, but the impression I got was that it is the past legal crime of sin that God punishes me for. If it is only an attitude issue then what is the purpose of Jesus sacrifice?Regarding my response to point 2
Some comments: But if I don't repent? Then God should punish me for the sin to the full extent of the law. If my outer darkness is a punishment, then it cannot, ethically, last beyond perhaps 40 years for all but the worst sinners, if God's justice is like ours. After that then my debt to God is paid, so it is no longer an issue of forgiveness. I have fulfilled the full extent of the law and can walk free.Regarding my response to point 3
But since God can make anything in any quantity that he chooses, his being harmed can only come through the harm suffered by the victims of the drunk driving. So how is it primarily a sin against God and not primarily a sin against the humans?Regarding my response to point 4
So on one hand sin harms the relationship between man and man, on the other hand, sin breaks/harms the relationship with God? And without that restored relationship, man cannot go to heaven/god's presence and automatically ends up in exile? Yes but doesn't the bible teach that man is thrown into hell, and God deliberately destroys body and souls in hell? It seems as though God is doing a lot more than simply letting hell happen to people. I sent him the following today:
Dear Mr. Anonymous,
Please accept my apologies for the delay in responding to you. I am somewhat limited in how much I can do in a single day which prevents me from doing as much as I would like. I see by your answer that your problem remains one of not defining sin in accordance with how God defines it rather than doing so in a manner that fits nicely into our limited physical world,
You say that if you act out a sin then it is an evil attitude that propels, but within the sin act itself there is no attitude. That is not how Jesus spoke of sin:“You have heard that it was said, ‘do not commit adultery.’ But I tell you that any one who looks at a woman lustfully has already committed
adultery with her in his heart.” Matthew 5:27-28
“But I tell you that men will have to give account on the day of judgment
for every careless word they have spoken. For your words you will be acquitted
and by your words you will be condemned.” Matthew 12:36-37
Our attitude is our sin. An act may result from our attitude that is also sin, but the very attitude or state of our heart that causes us to act wrongly is itself a sin in its own right. Sin is not just a deliberate act of wrong. It is also any careless act, that although not done to commit wrong, was done without regard to causing right. Sin is not simply a matter of a penal wrong, a violation of some rule or law, although it can be so. It is also any act or attitude that denies God’s sovereignty. It has been said that anything that does not glorify God is sin and that also is true. For sin is anything that separates us from God.
If we do not repent the sin and rid ourselves of that sin nature then we hold on to the very thing that keeps us out of heaven. God tells us to put it down, let it go, do away with it. Yet, we cannot do so on our own power, by our own means. We cling tightly, though we may not want to, to the very thing that keeps us from God.
If a true sociopath murders a man, what is the right punishment for that murderer? He has killed one man, but in his heart he would like to kill more should they get in the way of what he desires. What punishment shall teach him his lesson? What punishment will be sufficient to make him not kill again? The answer of course is that thee is no punishment that will do that. The question is not how do we punish him, but rather how do we protect ourselves from him? We have but two choices. We can kill him or we can lock him away for the rest of his natural life. What we cannot do is punish him.
The purpose of Jesus’ sacrifice was to repair us as well as pay the penalty for our sins. In some evangelist’s efforts to make sin more understandable and Christ’s sacrifice more comprehensible they have unfortunately limited most people’s understanding to that of crime and punishment, but that is not the case. Sin is not only a violation of the law; it is also the desire to violate the law. Sin is the desire to do it my way instead of God’s way. Unless the broken place in man is repaired the desire for sin remains. As long as one desires to do things one’s own way instead of God’s way then one cannot be with God. Thus God provided a means by which our punishment, death, can be paid and a means by which our state, sin, can be cured. For sin is both an act and a condition. As long as you treat it as an act alone you cannot fix it. No matter how much you are punished you will not stop sinning. That which makes you sin must be repaired. That psychosis that causes you to do what you know is wrong must be cured. You know the difference between right and wrong, but you cannot stop doing wrong no matter how much you are punished. What a conundrum! “Who has believed our message and to whom has the arm of the lord
been revealed? He grew up before him like a tender shoot, and like
a root out of dry ground. He had no beauty or majesty to attract us
to him, nothing in his appearance that we should desire him. He was
despised and rejected by men, a man of sorrows, familiar with suffering.
Like one from whom men hide their faces, he was despised, and we
esteemed him not.
Surely he took up our infirmities and carried our sorrows, yet we
considered him stricken by God, smitten by him and afflicted.
But he was pierced for our transgressions, he was crushed for our
iniquities; the punishment that brought us peace was upon him,
and by his wounds we are healed.” Isaiah 53:1-5 NIV
In your point two you make a telling comment, “…if God’s justice is like ours.” Why do you presume that His justice is anything like our imperfect justice? Remember, God by definition is Himself, perfect. Therefore His justice is perfect. But you continue to define justice as a one dimensional event, i.e. crime and punishment. God defines His justice differently. His justice does not entail simply punishment fitting the crime. It is also involves treatment of others that is more than they deserve. Justice involves all facets of God’s relationship with and desired relationship with humanity. You arbitrarily pick forty years as what is the “ethical” limit of punishment for not repenting and arbitrarily decide that is sufficient for all of your sins. Where are you getting these numbers? You don’t seem to be trying to find out what God wants or requires, but rather what is the maximum you have to deal with.
I am reminded of the time I grounded one of my sons for something he had done wrong, again. I grounded him for three weeks. He told me that he thought that two weeks would be more reasonable. I responded that it clearly would not since he was willing to do that punishment. When we speak of punishment for a crime we are not just talking about paying a penalty for what has been done wrong. We are also talking about making the penalty sufficient that people will avoid risking it. One of the reasons why we have a death penalty is to deter murder, kidnapping and rape. Even with a punishment that severe, there are those who will risk it.
However, you say that your forty years covers your failure to repent. But, if you don’t repent, you don’t change. If you don’t change, you can’t stand in the presence of God. The very definition of God is perfection and only perfection can coexist with perfection. If you refuse to repent, that isn’t a one time crime; it is an ongoing event. It is you saying to God, I am doing it my way like it or not. You are daring God to tolerate your insolence. Is that a risk you want to take with an all powerful being?
As to point three, the sin is against God because it is a sin of disobedience. Though we have already addressed this with the previous points, we will do it one more time. Sin is not an act committed against another human. That is crime. Sin is an attitude, a desire, a passion, if you will, that results in harmful acts. It is a disease we choose to contract and we refuse to cure. Repentance is the first step to healing and acceptance of the great gift God has given in His Son’s sacrifice is the completion of that healing..
Finally, point four brings you back to the issue of God deliberately throwing man into hell. My eight year old is watching a movie called The Day After Tomorrow. My son is developmentally disabled and does not understand the complicated plot twists and people conflicts, but he does love the special effects. In one scene a group of people must make a choice to walk out of a frozen Manhattan and head south before even the highest high rise is covered with snow or to stay and wait the storm out because they have been warned the storm will get worse and if they are outside they will freeze to death.. Some people decide to risk the weather and leave. A smaller group decides to follow the advice of the experts and wait out the storm in the top of a library burning books for heat. Those who chose to leave didn’t make it. Those who stayed were rescued after the storm was over. The group that froze to death had the same information that group that survived had. Whose fault was it that they died?
God has made it very simple for us. So simple in fact that most of us will refuse to accept the choices. It is very black and white. He has made the options so extreme as to make it obvious which to choose and still we refuse. If He won’t do it my way, I won’t believe in His way. I won’t humble myself and bow to His will unless he changes the rules and the nature of existence to suit my opinion.
If I tell my son that I will spank him if he throws his toy at his sister and he looks straight at me as he does so. Whose fault is it that he got spanked? If God says I will throw you into hell if you don’t do as I say and I will take you into heaven if you do. Whose fault is it really that you go to hell? There are things in this earthly life that we don’t like to do but we must. Jobs we don’t want to perform but which must be done. We do those things because we recognize that we have no options except to do them. Why is it that we refuse to accept the same situation when it comes to the spiritual world?
In Matthew Chapter 22, Jesus tells the story of a great wedding feast that a king throws for his son. He sends out invitations to those who have known him longest but they do not come because they have things they believe are more important than honoring the king’s son. Some even kill his servants for bothering them. Finally, the king extends invitations to all who are on the streets to come to his son’s wedding and they do. This would seem to be the end of the tale but it is not.
This first part of the tale represents the invitation to the Jews to honor their Messiah. They did not recognize the honor they were being given and even murdered the messengers, the prophets. So God opened his invitation to all those who had previously been called unclean and they were invited into the wedding feast. To understand the end of the parable, you must understand how such a feast worked.
When you were invited to a wedding, you were expected to wear white garments. Because the people invited were from the street and not wealthy it is not likely they would have wedding garments, yet all in the story did except one. At such celebrations, the parents would often supply white cloaks for the guests to wear over their own garments representing the honor they intended for the bride and groom. Thus when the king found this man without a wedding garment, it could only mean that he refused to wear it. He wanted the benefits of the party without humbling himself enough to show respect. Because he disrespected the king and his son, he was thrown out of the party and into the darkness.
Thus it is with those who want God to change to meet their demands instead of changing to meet His. In monetary terms He asks a ten cent investment on your part for a guaranteed ten billion dollars or more return. Yet most won’t even spend the ten cents because they didn’t get to make the rules. That, by the way, is also sin.
We can humble ourselves before God and obtain eternal life in the midst of eternal perfection or we can insist on having things our way now and get the result promised to us later. If I tell you that you will get burned if you touch that pipe and you go ahead and tough the pipe, how is it my fault that you didn’t believe me? God is giving you tremendous amount of warning concerning the results of certain actions or decisions on your part. You know, if you read His word, that He will give everyone at some point the opportunity to choose Grace. You also know that even then people will refuse, perhaps believing somehow that they can beat the roll of the dice or get a last minute hallelujah in just in time to make it under the wire. In any case many will pay a terrible price for refusing to listen.
If you are so insistent on applying human rules to a God problem, try this. How many kings in human history did what the people wanted just because they wanted it? How many kings simply said, “I am the king. Do it my way or die.” God calls himself King not because he compares equitably with those human kings, but because He want us to understand that His power is absolute. We have no power when it comes to facing God. None. We can reason all we want. We can philosophize until the freeze that isn’t going to happen takes place in hell. It won’t change a thing. God is God and acts according to His absolute power and His absolute wishes whether we agree or not.
I am yours in Christ and still praying for you,
Recently an associate of mine had an online discussion with someone on the issues of God’s judgment and the subsequent result. The person he was talking to was having difficulties with his own faith. He had four particular points that he wanted a response to. My associate asked for help in responding to him. These were the man’s issues and my responses. Tell me what you think.
1.One should judge the severity of an offense by the harm it does to the victims and to the society in which it was committed.
Fair enough, but if those are your basic assumptions then we must decide who has been harmed by your sin and exactly in which society or societies it has been committed. However, what if there is a fault with your assumption? I would put forward that God is the one harmed by your sin and it is the eternal society over which He has total rule in which your sin has occurred. I would go further and guess that you are not defining sin the same way God does either.
God created man to glorify Him and anything man does that he does not do for that purpose is sin. If man marries for the purpose of filling the earth or fulfilling his (or her) role in representing Christ and His church, no matter how many additional reasons he (or she) may have for doing so, he/she is in effect glorifying God by that act. If a person deliberately leaves God out of the equation, then their reason are a result of their own desires alone and are thus sin in the eyes of God. He made you and in exchange for your creation He has asked only one thing, your undivided worship. When you deny Him that worship you sin.
What is the appropriate punishment for doing harm to the emotion of the only perfect, eternal being there is? God says if you don’t want me in this life, then you don’t get me in the next one. You give me a place in your life now and I will give you a place in My life for eternity. If you don’t even choose to taste My perfection now, why should I provide it to you in eternity? You have denied Me and all I want to do for you and you want to bring that kind of selfishness into the selfless eternal home I am building. I am not punishing you by denying you eternal life. I am giving you what you asked for.
2.If the society in which the harmful act was committed judges an appropriate punishment, it should be their right, as the society that was injured, to dictate a punishment that they feel is necessary and God shouldn’t add/take away from that.
Now you are saying it is society that is injured by sin and, in a way, you may be correct. You also say it the given society’s “right” to dictate the punishment. You want God to stay out of it. How can God stay out of it? It is His society. He is the creator, the maker of all things. It is His very breath that gives life to all things. Everything owes the initialization of its existence and the continuation of its existence to God. If God lets go of anything that anything ceases to exist.
If I commit a crime in the United States, I will be judged under the law by a jury of my peers and punished according to the nature of my crime as previously determined by a majority of the citizens. If I commit a crime in Saudi Arabia, I will be considered guilty by the mere fact I have been charged. In some cases I will be allowed to prove my innocence. In others I will not. I can be charged with anything the rulers consider a crime, even if that crime is not written yet or published in any way so that I might avoid it. In fact in some circumstances, I can be arrested, charged and executed without leaving my home. In God’s eternal society, it is true that nearly anything we decide to do for our own benefit is a crime or sin. However, in this eternal kingdom, pardon is available for any and all crimes up until the last moment. All you have to do is admit the wrong, desire to change and accept the pardon. Actually it is a little more than that, but not much. For our purposes here that is a good description.
God will not interfere with the judgments we make about each other in our small societies. Even China is small to God. However, He would like to point out that His kingdom is a monarchy and any crime committed against Him, a member of His kingdom or against His kingdom itself will be met with the King’s exile. You either get eternal life or eternal death. There is no middle ground. God doesn’t kill you. He asks you to choose. He can’t help you if you choose to follow anyone, anything or even yourself instead of Him.
3.If a criminal’s society therefore considers the criminals debt to itself for some dastardly deed payed,(sic) God should also consider it payed (sic), as the society encompasses all those who are hurt.
You are talking about man’s sins against man. What about man’s sins against God? If you drive drunk and hit me in my car, killing me. Society will punish you for the crimes of vehicular manslaughter while under the influence. However, you are not done. Your crime against society is taken care of, but what about the crime against my family? My family will sue you in civil court for wrongful death and deprivation of personal relationship and take your current earnings and any future earnings to make up for what I cannot now give them. The society of my family has punished you and the society of the state I live in has punished you, but perhaps you are not done yet. Suppose I were black and the reason for running me off the road was that you hate black people and you were just drink enough to act on those feelings. You didn’t intend to kill me. You just wanted to scare me. It wouldn’t matter, you would still be charged with denial of my civil rights in a Federal Court. Now you have to pay a punishment to the next greater society and God does not interfere.
There is still one more society, bigger than the family, bigger than the state, bigger than the federal government. God’s eternal society has a charge or several charges to make against you for that same event. You destroyed property created by and belonging to God. Because He is the Creator, He has certain rights as to the disposition of or treatment of His art. What is the appropriate punishment? According to your assumptions, it is up to the one harmed to determine that. God is the one harmed.
4.If a penal debt is left unpaid then God should institute the appropriate punishment which would be set by the human community in which the sin was committed as payment for the debt because that is what the community that was injured would consider was just.
The problem continues to be the issue of the community in which the sin is committed or the community or society which is harmed by the sin/crime. Using your assumption that only the party harmed can determine the appropriate punishment we come back to the fact that God is the party harmed by sin. Sin is the failure to maintain the state necessary to be able to stand in God’s presence. God is holy. He is perfect. To stand in His presence you too must be holy and perfect. If you are not the glory of His Being would destroy you. Anything, no matter how small, that makes you less than perfect, prevents you from standing in God’s presence. You need to be pardoned and made holy in order to be with God for eternity.
Your simile of crime and punishment is inadequate to explain the factors involved with our sin and our failure to be holy. Our sin is not just a crime like stealing a car, although stealing a car would be a sin. It is more than that and different than that at the same time. Sin isn’t just about the harm we do to our fellow man. It is also about the harm we do to our relationship with God.
God wants to have a relationship with us, but such a relationship is impossible because we sin. We are not holy and perfect. When Jesus gave the example of a man lusting in his heart just by looking at a woman, He was showing us that sin isn’t just about the harm we do to others. It’s also about the harm we do to ourselves. We don’t hurt the woman by lusting after her. We do make ourselves impure and thus imperfect and unable to fellowship with God. We make ourselves unclean and to try to stand in God’s presence in that state would result in our destruction, Not because He is punishing us, but because His nature is such that we cannot exist in His presence unless we become similar to him. No punishment temporal or eternal can do that.
God wants us to have the opportunity for fellowship with Him. He wants us to be with each other and to love each other. Because of that He paid the price of our perfection by sacrificing Himself in the form of His Son, Jesus. It wasn’t the cross that killed Jesus. It was the inability of the perfectness of Christ to be in the same presence as the imperfectness of all the sin of the world Jesus truly died of a broken heart. Our choice is eternal life in perfection or eternal death and separation from God in imperfection. If we go it only our own, we will never be holy and perfect so that we can be with God. If we accept the wondrous trade Christ made for us, His life for ours, then we stand wearing the wedding garment that is Christ’s perfection and can enter into the presence of the perfect, eternal God.
Hell isn’t a punishment as much as it is a destination. We can choose what train we take and what the last stop will be. We can use the ticket we were born with or we can use the ticket Christ punched for us at Calvary.
By the way, John had a vision on Patmos that he did not fully understand. He tried to describe it the best way he could, but he did not have the language with which to name and describe eternal things. So he did the best he could. Some we can figure out and some we can’t. When John was shown the final place for Satan and those who follow him, he saw the most awful and spiritually painful thing beyond his imagination. I think all he could do was compare it to the most horrible physical experience of his own life. Before he was exiled to Patmos, they threw him into a kettle of boiling oil and he did not die. Others throw into the kettles of oil on the huge fires died, but John didn’t. He watched other Christians die in a variety of ways, including boiling in oil, but John didn’t. He gave the most horrible physical description for the spiritual thing he had seen. I can’t imagine what it must be. The worst thing I can imagine is finally knowing who God is, the enormity of His Being, what He is in and through us; and then spending eternity knowing you will never have Him.
What Do You Think?:
What answers would you have given? Were mine helpful or do they fall too short? My answers have been sent to this unnamed gentleman and he has joined my daily prayer list. Please put him on yours. So many people are put off by a judgmental God because they do not understand the nature of sin. Most of the time we don’t understand the nature of sin, because we don’t understand the nature of God, Creator and King. Even when we do understand, doubts still arise, because we don’t want to believe that we will be eternally separated from people we know and love. I have no answer for how we will deal with that grief, except to say that heaven is supposed to be a place where sorrow is no more. I don’t know how that healing will take place, but I know it will.
Yours in Christ,