The Affections of an Exclusivist

I touched on the firestorm over Rob Bell’s new book and the universalism, inclusivism, and exclusivism debate in Saturday’s blog post. It got me thinking about what the affections of an exclusivist should look like.

Sadly, some exclusivists who believe that the only way to God is by faith in his Son, Jesus, bear that belief with brashness and arrogance. This should not be.

The affections of an exclusivist for the unbelieving should look like the affections of Jesus for the unbelieving:

O Jerusalem, Jerusalem, the city that kills the prophets and stones those who are sent to it! How often would I have gathered your children together as a hen gathers her brood under her wings, and you would not! (Mat. 23:37)

Also, in Luke 19:41 we find Jesus weeping over Jerusalem because they rejected him.

Exclusivist’s who use Jesus’ words to verify their exclusivism should follow Jesus’ emotions and weep like an exclusivist as well.

God help us, help me, not just believe what Jesus believed, but do what he does and feel what he feels.

How Love Wins According to John the Apostle – Thoughts on Rob Bells’s New Book

Rob Bell has a new book out:  Love Wins: A Book About Heaven, Hell, and the Fate of Every Person Who Ever Lived.

Listen to Bell’s thoughts and HarperCollins’s description of the book here.

In light of this, and the controversy that is surrounding it, what follows are some points that I have arranged which are derived from Jesus’ friend John and his thoughts on how God’s love wins in the present and the after-life.

God’s love wins by giving everything to Jesus:

The Father loves the Son and has given all things into his hand. (John 3:35)

God’s love wins by sending his Son to die for sinners:

For God so loved the world, that he gave his only Son, that whoever believes in him should not perish but have eternal life. (John 3:16)

In this is love, not that we have loved God but that he loved us and sent his Son to be the propitiation for our sins. (1 John 4:10)

God’s love wins by not condemning those who believe in Jesus and giving them eternal life:

Whoever believes in him is not condemned, but whoever does not believe is condemned already, because he has not believed in the name of the only Son of God. (John 3:18)

For God so loved the world, that he gave his only Son, that whoever believes in him should not perish but have eternal life. (John 3:16)

God’s love wins by condemning  those who disobey and do not believe in Jesus and pouring out his wrath on them:

Whoever believes in the Son has eternal life; whoever does not obey the Son shall not see life, but the wrath of God remains on him. (John 3:36)

Whoever believes in him is not condemned, but whoever does not believe is condemned already, because he has not believed in the name of the only Son of God. (John 3:18)

God’s love wins by eternally tormenting those who follow the beast and reject the Lamb in the presence of the holy angels and the Lamb, Jesus:

And another angel, a third, followed them, saying with a loud voice, “If anyone worships the beast and its image and receives a mark on his forehead or on his hand, 10he also will drink the wine of God’s wrath, poured full strength into the cup of his anger, and he will be tormented with fire and sulfur in the presence of the holy angels and in the presence of the Lamb.11And the smoke of their torment goes up forever and ever, and they have no rest, day or night, these worshipers of the beast and its image, and whoever receives the mark of its name.” (Revelation 14:9-11)

This last point may be especially difficult and disturbing. However, a loving God is not a deity emptied of wrath.  Stanley Grenz’s quote on God’s jealous love has always been helpful to me:

We dare not confuse God’s love with sentimentality. As the great lover, God is also the avenging protector of the love relationship. Consequently, God’s love has a dark side. Those who spurn or seek to destroy the holy love relationship God desires to enjoy with creation experience the divine love as protective jealousy or wrath.  [Theology for the Community of God (Grand Rapids, MI: Eerdmans, 2000), 642]

The denial of eternal punishment for all who do not trust in Jesus may be emotionally attractive, but it is not loving. John, the apostle of love, reveals that God’s love still wins even in the display of his holy wrath upon those who reject God’s love to the world in the person of his Son, Jesus.

Therefore receive God’s great love for you by trusting in Jesus whom God sent to die in the place of sinners. If you do not trust Jesus you will perish, be condemned, and suffer eternal torment because God’s holy love is also displayed in holy wrath.

God is a jealous lover not a sentimental one.

The Difference Between Praying Presumptuously or Expectantly for Healing

Sam Storms writes,

People often confuse praying expectantly with praying presumptuously. Prayer is presumptuous when the person claims healing without revelatory warrant or on the unbiblical assumption that God always wills to heal…On the other hand, people pray expectantly when they humbly petition a merciful God for something they do not deserve but know that he delights to give (Luke 11:9-13; cf. Matt. 9:27-31; 20:29-34; Luke 17:13-14). Expectant prayer flows from the recognition that Jesus healed people because he loved them and felt compassion for them (Matt. 14:13-14; 20:34; Mark 1:41-42; Luke 7:11-17), a disposition that nothing in Scripture indicates has changed. (Are Miraculous Gifts for Today, 214)

Presumption is often mistaken for boldness and passivity is often born out of drawing unbiblical implications from the truth of the absolute sovereignty of God over all things.

Don’t be a presumptuous pray-er or a passive pray-er. Be an expectant one.

Morning Joy Will Come for the Mourning – Meditation on Matthew 5:4

Many tell people in mourning to quit it. Well, they may not always say it, but their attitude and body language speaks louder than words. “Buck up.” “Get over it.”

Others may say this to you, but Jesus calls you “Blessed.”

“Blessed are those who mourn, for they shall be comforted.” Mat. 5:4

It shouldn’t surprise us that Jesus would say this. After all, he was “a man of sorrows, and acquainted with grief” (Is. 53:3).

There are two things in this text that I see as important.

1. Jesus speaks to those who are presently mourning. He does not say blessed are those who mourned. He speaks to those hurting now.

2. Jesus gives the hope of future comfort. With Jesus, present mourning gives birth to future hope. There is a way to genuinely weep and wholeheartedly hope. Therefore trusting Jesus in your mourning is not overly-pessimistic nor overly-optimistic. The blessing of Jesus rests on hurting and hopeful hearts who trust him.

You may ask: How long will I mourn? Answer: I don’t know. But I do know that if you trust Jesus the Psalmist’s promise is still true:

“Weeping may tarry for the night, but joy comes with the morning” (Psalm 30:5).

Morning joy will come–eventually–for the mourning.

Fighting Sin as the Beloved of God

Henry Scougal writes (and read this twice),

The severities of a holy life, and that constant watch which we are obliged to keep over our hearts and ways, are very troublesome to those who are only ruled and acted by an external law, and have no law in their minds inclining them to the performance of their duty; but where divine love possesseth the soul, it stands as sentinel to keep out everything that may offend the beloved, and doth disdainfully repulse those temptations which assault it; it complieth cheerfully, not only with explicit commands, but with the most secret notices of the beloved’s pleasure, and is ingenious in discovering what will be most grateful and acceptable unto him; it makes mortification and self-denial change their harsh and dreadful names and become easy, sweet and delightful things. (The Life of God in the Soul of Man, 78, emphasis mine)

Kill the pleasures of sin with the higher pleasures of God. Fight sin as a lover beloved by God not as a slave of law.

Two Ways the Devil Disturbs

John Stott writes,

The devil disturbs the church as much by error as by evil. When he cannot entice Christian people into sin, he deceives them with false doctrine. (The Message of Galatians, 24)

One of the chief ways the devil entices Christians is by tempting them to mingle their own morality with the gospel. What God has done in Jesus remains wonderful, but not quite enough. This is demonic, and any kind of doctrine that asserts any version of this is anathema.

Stott continues,

Whenever teachers start exalting man, implying that he can contribute anything to his salvation by his own morality, religion, philosophy, or respectability, the gospel of grace is being corrupted. (p. 27)

Jesus is enough. Don’t let the devil disturb you into thinking that Jesus’ perfect work needs the assistance of your works. If temptation to sin is not an effective way for the devil to trip you up, he will use your not tripping up to tempt you with pride.

When the devil disturbs you with either of these, disturb him with the perfect work of Jesus on your behalf that has conquered him.

God’s Valentine

If the love of God was a box of chocolates, each chocolate would be filled with propitiation.  God’s Valentine:

In this is love, not that we have loved God but that he loved us and sent his Son to be the propitiation for our sins. (1 John 4:10)

God’s love is always first. He loves sinful humanity before any man or woman loves him.

God’s love is always shown. He graciously sends his Son Jesus to die in the place of sinnners and satisfy his holy wrath (propitiation).

Love is never merely sentimental, but sacrificial.

Jesus–Not Religion!–Removes Shame and Guilt

Michael Horton, in his new systematic theology, writes,

Religion is one of the chief ways we cover up our shame without actually dealing with the guilt that gives rise to it. And we project a god who will satisfy our suppression of the truth about ourselves. “Idolatry is not an accident,” Jenson notes, “as if some of us just happened to hit on wrong candidates for deity.” It is the result of a willful supression of the truth in unrighteousness (Ro 1:18). Not only in our immorality and lying but even in our proud moral striving, self-confident religious devotion, and sincere pretensions, we are storing up God’s wrath against us. (The Christian Faith, 429)

Humanity creates religion to cover up one’s sense of shame that irreligion cannot squelch, yet in creating religion humanity cannot truly deal with the effects of the shame we feel nor can we adequately deal with the guilt that we have incurred before God. Sin runs too deep. Sins effects and consequences cannot be solved by man-made religion.

The good news is that the horrific public crucifixion of Jesus of Nazareth removes the shame and guilt of sinners.  At the cross, Jesus, the God-man, takes the shame and guilt sinners experience and deserve and gives grace in its place.

God in Christ deals with the shame we all feel when we sin, and deals with the guilt we are reluctant to admit. Jesus’ blood purifies the conscience giving sinners a new identity and satisfies the wrath of God giving sinners his own perfect righteousness.

The answer to shame and guilt is not religion or irreligion.  It is the work of the Triune God in the death and resurrection of Jesus Christ.

Hard Truths & “Who are you, O man?”

But who are you, O man, to answer back to God? (Paul, Romans 9:20a)

John Piper’s comments on this text are helpful:

Paul has no objection when a person seeks to understand as much of God’s dealings as possible, but he objects strenuously when a person criticizes and rejects the truth which he discovers.  (The Justification of God, 186)

There are hard truths in the Bible. Period.

The question is: what do you do with them?  Ignore them, soften them, criticize them, de-emphasize them, or quit believing the Bible.  Don’t respond that way.

You may not (and will not!) understand every hard truth completely and you probably don’t need to become a scholar, but you are called to humbly receive them and go deeper knowing that all that God reveals in the Scriptures is good for you.

Depressed Christians Can Be Bolder than Sinless Adam

Puritan William Bridge, in A Lifting Up for the Downcast, writes:

…a believer may now come with more boldness into the presence of God, than could Adam in the state of innocency; for though Adam in the state of innocency had no veil or covering of guilt thrown over his face, yet there was a great distance between God and him. But now, since the fall, since Christ’s time, God is come in our nature, manifested in the flesh; and so God is come near to us, and by faith we draw near to God. No wonder, therefore, that the apostle says, that ‘by faith we have boldness and access with confidence.’ Faith tells a man that God is come near to him, and he is come near to God; and therefore faith certainly is the great remedy and means against all discouragements that can arise. (p. 267)

If you know Jesus and are depressed know that you can be bolder than Adam before he fell. Because of Jesus you can take your depression and all your discouragements and call out to God and he will listen. The purity of Jesus’ blood over your many sins can make you bolder than sinless Adam was.

Fight depression by faith in what Jesus’ has done on your behalf. Your access to God may feel foggy due to depression, but by connection to Jesus your access to God is secured and unhindered. God is near–nearer than he was with Adam in the garden of Eden.