Faith as a Gift of God?

I have been thinking about the idea we do not have faith unless God ‘gifts’ us with it. I want to discuss this a bit.

Ephesians 2:8 “For by grace you have been saved through faith; and that not of yourselves, it is the gift of God

The problem for me begins with the idea of faith as a gift. If this is so – then couldn’t God give us more faith than we ever want – at pretty much anytime? Or couldn’t God just take away someone’s faith if He chooses – no matter the reasoning – just because He is the giver? If so, then there is no controlling your faith in God – God controls it – and with you out of the equation – well maybe you will or won’t be a Christian tomorrow.

I just don’t think faith works that way at all. You either begin having faith or deciding not to have faith anymore – the choice seems to be on us. Why faith would not be a choice is beyond me – since no one can command you to believe in God.

Also for Ephesians 2:8 – if you ask me the gift is either ‘grace’ or ‘salvation’ – through faith in God. Paul uses this same theme a few times:

(a) Romans 6:23 “For the wages of sin is death, but the free gift of God is eternal life in Christ Jesus our Lord”

(b) Ephesians 4:7 “But to each one of us grace was given according to the measure of Christ’s gift.”

(c) Romans 3:24 “being justified as a gift by His grace through the redemption which is in Christ Jesus

The ‘not of yourselves’ part seems to be about something Jesus did concerning his death “But now in Christ Jesus you who formerly were far off have been brought near by the blood of Christ” (Eph 2:13). Who is Paul referring to here – the Gentiles and their inclusion into the faith – or as he puts it “having no hope and without God in the world” (Eph 2:12). It seems to me the grace is about Jesus’ death and it’s inclusionary aspects for the Gentiles – allowing them into the faith which brings them close to God.

But as for faith, I cannot reasonably say faith is not in our hands to determine. Faith is something we develop over time or not develop over time – but the choice is ours to seek out. I am not saying that God does not help out in some way (spirit) – I think there is that aspect also – but it does start with a mustard seed of faith.

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38 thoughts on “Faith as a Gift of God?

  1. Romans 3 ” No one seeks for God.”
    John 1 ” You were born not of the will of man, but of God.”
    John 6 Jesus says, ” You do not choose me, but I choose you.”

    The scriptues make it clear that faith is a gift of God. Since God desires that all come to faith He’s not going to take it away from us. But we can reject it…and many do.

    Whe we get up there before God in Heaven, who are we going to give all the credit to? Will we share credit with God, or is it to Him that belongs all the glory?

  2. **Also for Ephesians 2:8 – if you ask me the gift is either ‘grace’ or ’salvation’ – through faith in God. Paul uses this same theme a few times**

    That’s what I’m thinking, as well, that the gift is referring to grace or salvation, and not necessarily faith. In Ephesians 2:8, the contrast is set up between what is a gift, and what is a reward, and the overall point is that we aren’t supposed to boast that we completed this check list and thus are “in.” Especially given how some translated it, as faith is translated as “For it is His grace you are saved, through trusting Him.” Which does broaden the verse, and take faith out of the simple belief aspect.

    If the “trust” is a gift from God, and something that God “gives,” then are we saying that trust in God is a gift from God?

    The other notion with faith as a gift … does that mean that people aren’t born with faith? It’s something that’s later given? That would lead to the idea that God deliberatly creates someone to be born one way, and then decides to change that person later in life?

  3. OSS,

    Yes! Trust in god is a gift from God. Without Him giving it to us, no one would trust Him of their own volition.

    The scriptures say we are dead in our sins and trespasses and that no one seeks for God.

    So God gives us the tust we need, and we don’t need very much of it. It’s not the amount that is important it is the object…Jesus. Jesus himself tells us that we don’t have the faith of a mustard seed.

    And as St. Paul tells us “faith comes through hearing the gospel.” And in Acts 2 through baptism.

    Whu God has chosen these ways to transmit faith to us is a mystery. But this is what the scriptures tell us.

  4. Jason,

    For me, faith in Jesus was sudden and not something that developed over time. What has developed over time is my desire and ability to live according to my faith in Jesus. This began when I believed in Jesus and what the Bible says about Who He is. In the moment that I believed, I became alive to God and He to me. I was spiritually reborn not by my choice but by the touch of the Holy Spirit as it caused me to believe in that which I did not really understand. I had not grown up in any church or had any religious training. I was very unhappy with my life and thought that I had messed my life up beyond hope. Jesus was held out as hope for me and I reached for Him. I don’t think I really understood what I had done. I did not walk an isle, or pray ‘the prayer’, I was not baptized, I had no salvation verse. I did not even attempt to visit or join a church until ten years after this experience. I stumbled around a lot a I really didn’t know what a Christian was supposed to be but my life was never the same and no matter what I did, even at one point trying to rid myself of faith in Jesus, He would never leave me. Jesus is very real to me and not just philosophy or intellectual exercise. He is my life. He is life itself.

    I think you see the human choice as pivitol where I see God’s choice as being the directive force in our lives. Our faith is a part of a broader plan that God has for all of us and is not just about our personal destiny. I do believe in predestination also in that context, that it is about the work that God is doing and not about me being a special person. Not everyone is meant to be a Christian but only those whom the Father has given to Jesus as the firstfruits of Salvation. I believe there is much greater fruit to be harvested in another age. We are a part of a redemptive process that is like the process we experience personally in Christ but is inclusive of everyone. I think Paul lays this out quite nicely in Romans 8-15.

    When I was younger though, I saw things much as you see them now and weighed in heavily upon personal choice and responsibility. My faith has always been Jesus but my understanding of Him broadens greatly as I grow older. Faith is the gift that keeps on giving!

    (I don’t want to sound like a know-it-all but when you get to be my age, you become pretty certain about things.;-) I am certain about what Jesus has shown me as I walk the narrow path with Him but I can’t be certain about the things He will show you as you walk that same narrow path. We all get individual attention.)

  5. Theoldadam,

    **Yes! Trust in god is a gift from God. Without Him giving it to us, no one would trust Him of their own volition.

    The scriptures say we are dead in our sins and trespasses and that no one seeks for God. **

    But what about the poor referenced in Psalms 14, who will find refuge in the Lord– surely those poor are seeking out God? Or even when the Hebrews were in capitivity in Egypt, they were crying out for salvation, and God responded. Nothing indicated that they didn’t seek God until He put faith in them first. Or even the Luke 8 parable, when JEsus describes those who fully accept the seed as those who bring a good and honest heart, hold to it and persevere.

    However, it’s also a matter of how trust operates. Trust isn’t given, it’s developed. You see enough of someone, you experience them, you interact with them, and then from that interaction, trust does or does not develop (this trust may be instaneous, but it’s still a matter of experiencing the person). Otherwise, what’s the point of God saying trust in Me, or Jesus saying trust in me? It’s a useless saying if it has to be given by God first. Instead, they come across as saying that trusting is something occuring on our end. I’m thinking of John 14:1-3 here, when Jesus says for the disciples to not let their hearts be troubled. The initiator is the people.

    The other matter is the idea of no one would seek God of their own volition … if God is the only Creator of humanity, then does this mean He deliberately allows man to be created without this trust, and then “installs” it later?

    **Jesus himself tells us that we don’t have the faith of a mustard seed.** I’m unsure of where you’re going with this. The idea of the mustard seed faith was in reference to the disciples being unable to cast out the demon, and they ask Jesus why they couldn’t do what he did. He said that it had to do with their faith. But Jesus holds them accountable for their lack of faith, and says nothing about it already given to them. Instead, it’s something they could do, if their faith was there.

  6. Lots to address.

    Mustard seed faith. Jesus wasn’t telling them to work on it (I’m my humble opinion, he was making a statement of fact that our faith is tiny. If we could work on it ourselves, you’d think somebody would have been making progress by now. I see no one telling mountains to move and trees to uproot and jump into the sea.

    Wwe might learn to trust more after He give it to us to begin with, but without Him starting the relationship it wouldn’t be there.

    The Jews in the O.T. were God’s chosen people. If they were chosen that means they belonged to Him and had faith…wavering as it was.

    Even though God gives us faith we seem to run away from it and not trust Him anyway.
    I don’t know a single soul who does not worry to some extent about something in their lives. That shows a lack of trust in God. But in 2nd Timothy, it says, “If we are faithless , He remains faithful.”

    The Luke 8 parable means( I think) that those whom God has chosen to have a good, honest heart, understand and hold the message close to their hearts.”

    Ther are many seemingly contradictory passages in scripture. That’s why I think what we are doing (theology) is so important. To ascertain whatever we can about the heart and mind of God to know what it is He wants from us, and what it is He’s done for us.

    It seems to me that whenever He wants something from us… He gives it to us.

    In any event, I really appreciate the opportunity to mull this stuff over and kick it around with you on your very stimulating blog site. Great fun and it’s good for you too!

    Thanks much!

    – Steve M.

  7. “The scriptures make it clear that faith is a gift of God” (Steve)

    “who were born, not of blood nor of the will of the flesh nor of the will of man, but of God” (John 1:13)

    I tend to think this passage is in reference to the Gentiles – or so it would seem in that passage. That their acceptance is from God – and this may also be referencing the John 3 part about ‘being born of water and spirit’. I do believe there is something to the faith in regards to help in building faith – but we must already have a measure to even try have faith in God in the first place.

    I think back to when I was young (8 maybe) and I would pray to God about the scary thunderstorm to ‘go away’. I was 8 years old at the time – and yet I could pray with little to no knowledge about God – but I had faith nonetheless. When I look at my life and I see periods like that – I realize faith was something I was born with. I actually did not come to Christ until I was 17 (almost 18 ) years old. There is a whole 10 year gap there – but faith existed nonetheless.

    “Will we share credit with God, or is it to Him that belongs all the glory?” (Steve)

    To me, it’s not a matter of credit – God made this all possible by supplying us His word and the life of Jesus. Just because I can have faith should not take away from God’s glory. There are a lot of things I can do – none of it should take away from God’s glory. I am really good a slo-pitch – an ability I built over the years and practice at – but it doesn’t mean God has less glory because I am good at something…God created me and not the other way around. I tend to think it glorifies God when we use all our natural skills and develop them – for the benefit of our society.

    “And as St. Paul tells us “faith comes through hearing the gospel.” And in Acts 2 through baptism” (Steve)

    Hearing – I agree; Baptism – I disagree. Baptism, at least in my experience, was an event of initiation to the church in some regards and held no keys to how this ‘faith’ works. Nothing happened when I was baptized – just went under and came up – people clapped – some music played – and I went and dried off. I didn’t become more faithful because of it – because baptism is symbolic in nature (as far as I can tell) and transfers nothing to the actual individual that they don’t already know (or heard).

    “I see no one telling mountains to move and trees to uproot and jump into the sea.” (Steve)

    Then you ain’t looking hard enough. Maybe it’s the miracle aspect of the that teaching that throws everyone for a loop – but Jesus is basically saying your faith can and will move mountains – just what the mountain (object) is changes for everyone. I know it for a fact – it works.

    This month we got June recognized as Aboriginal History Month – and we figured it was a long shot. We kept at it and applied the idea this was ‘going to happen’ no matter what – and went about our business as if it was already named. What do you know – it was acknowledged and then announced 2 weeks later. But that’s not the mountain moving part – the mountain moving part is that generations of Aboriginal people before us died not seeing this day – and not even being acknowledged as equals – and the group I was in accomplished something they longed for. The true mountain was chipped away at for decades by others – and my group just picked up the shovels and helped move the mountain also (the process).

    If you ever stand in front of a mountain (literally) and truly believe you can move it – you will. It might take you 30 years and a few dump-trucks – but your ‘faith/persistence’ will eventually be realized.

    It seems to me that whenever He wants something from us… He gives it to us” (Steve)

    I agree, but everything we ever needed happened long before we arrived on the scene – some of it almost 2000 years ago – some of it almost 4500 years ago. This stuff was given a long time ago – were just another generation in the faith process (the long line of people that have come and spoke on this stuff). Maybe God gifts us with skills – but in the end everything we get – We have to learn to use. I personally think there is no removal of us from the God and faith process – we are a key component in that relationship.

    “In any event, I really appreciate the opportunity to mull this stuff over and kick it around with you on your very stimulating blog site. Great fun and it’s good for you too!” (Steve)

    It is my life long dream to something like this exist in every single church in the world – a process whereby the community can talk to one another and banter about their faith and ideas. It is my sole contention if this kind of thing existed in churches – ideas would flow like wine and programs a plenty would abound from it (since we’d all be sharing and helping refine things). They actually have a history of this in the Jewish faith and if you look in early Acts (ch 15) – it does happen.

  8. “if God is the only Creator of humanity, then does this mean He deliberately allows man to be created without this trust, and then “installs” it later?” (OSS)

    Interesting question – and a great one at that. I think this is the point I am trying to address also – how can we not have something God requires of us? I don’t like the idea of a selective God choosing whom He may and whom He may not – it seems – callous (specially to those He ignores and leaves in the dirt). I figure, faith is either equal access to/for all or this faith is a lie.

    To believe in a selective God is to believe selectively – and this is not a right we are given in this faith by God – so how can we expect God to be this way? We are asked ‘to treat others (everyone) as we want to be treated’ and the fact this faith allowed Gentiles in as equals speaks on a plethora of levels about equality – and yet God is going to be selective in who joins? If He installs faith at a later date – then He can also remove it (this is obvious reasoning). You have no clue if your faith is safe or not in all honesty in this theology – because we’d be serving a selective God.

  9. Read Romans 9 on whether God is a selective God or not.

    God gives us assurance in Baptism and Holy Communion.

    I believe He knew we wouldn’t have any assurance without His giving us something tangible that we could actually grab onto or return to. That’s why Luther said we ought to “return to our baptisms daily”. So that we might know that His promises are sure and true and that we can count on them without having to conjur up faith or spirituality, or good works, or feelings, on our own.

    why would God choose some and not others? Who knows? Some things are not for us to know. When we get up there (or wherever it is) we can ask Him!

    Some people who claim that God is this way, or that way, find it very hard to understand why God would have His people go into cities and wipe out every living thing…men, women, children, animals. Why would God do something like that?

    Same answer…who knows? When you get up there…ask Him.

  10. “Same answer…who knows? When you get up there…ask Him.” (theoldadam)

    The statement brings back some memories. I remember in services, or in discussions, we would make comments similar to the above, about questions that we could not find an answer for. We would half-jokingly say that we would make a list of all the questions that we needed to ask God, Jesus, Paul, Adam, etc….

    But when I think about today, I figure I will just ask my questions right now and hopefully God will provide me with the answer. I mean, why wait?

  11. thejust1,

    I guess there is no harm in asking. It’s just that we ought to realize that there are some things God does not want us to know.

    For example, when He plans on wrapping all of this up (the world and human history).

    He’s just not talking. But it doesn’t stop people from playing God and doing their own calculations and prognostications and getting some people all in a whirl. For what? For their desire to get into the mind of God.

    God has revealed to us (in scripture) everything that He wants us to know. For the rest of it, we;ll just have to wait. But it’ll go by quickly…and then we’ll know more…a lot more!

    Thanks!

    – Steve Martin San Clemente, CA

  12. “For example, when He plans on wrapping all of this up ” (theoldadam)

    Yeah, that question has sure led a lot of people on some wild tangents. (Kind of like where I’m taking this blog, but maybe I’ll get back to the topic at hand with my next comment). I still think it is fair to ask God the question, because I do believe that He will let us know the season.

    I have this evangelist friend, who jokingly says he knows the hour when Jesus is coming back. He “cometh at an hour when ye think not.” Luke 12:40

  13. Steve,

    **Wwe might learn to trust more after He give it to us to begin with, but without Him starting the relationship it wouldn’t be there.**
    But the idea of being given trust in something else still goes against how the idea of trust operates — it’s not given, it develops. But I truly don’t believe that no one would not seek God out on their own. If someone tries to be loving, compassionate, just, even as an atheist, then that person is seeking out God.

    **The Jews in the O.T. were God’s chosen people. If they were chosen that means they belonged to Him and had faith…wavering as it was.**
    Actually, I’ve heard a Rabbi say that the reason they are the chosen people is because they chose God, not because God choose them. I believe it’s interpreted both ways — God chose them or they chose God. See this link for more an explanation: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Jews_as_a_chosen_people#Rabbinic_Jewish_views_of_chosenness

    Society,

    ** I think this is the point I am trying to address also – how can we not have something God requires of us?**

    Exactly. If we go back to the idea that God is our only Creator, then we end up with God creating us lacking this requirement, and then demanding this requirement at a later date. I think of the concept of holiness/perfection. If that is a demand that God places on us, and yet does not create us in perfection, how can that be a just demand?

    ** We are asked ‘to treat others (everyone) as we want to be treated’ and the fact this faith allowed Gentiles in as equals speaks on a plethora of levels about equality – and yet God is going to be selective in who joins?**

    This is an excellent point. If we are told that to behave a certain way is to behave like God — to love and include everyone — then we know that God will behave in such a way, as well, and not be selective.

  14. “If we go back to the idea that God is our only Creator, then we end up with God creating us lacking this requirement, and then demanding this requirement at a later date. I think of the concept of holiness/perfection. If that is a demand that God places on us, and yet does not create us in perfection, how can that be a just demand?” (OSS)

    So then maybe the question that we should really be asking of God and of ourselves is – Are we given by God everything we need at birth to be perfect/holy? I’m thinking in terms of general ability, not specific knowledge. In particular as it relates to this post, is faith and the abiltiy to act upon our faith something that God gives us the moment we have been created?

    Simply put, I think, yes.

  15. This is a lot of fun…no? I think it is. Thanks for putting up with me.

    I’ve got to go out for the evening, but I’ll come back tomorrow and make a fool of myself some more!

    – Steve M.

  16. One thing that has always befuddled me. A works in my mind is something I have to do, which when I “think” about it that is exactly what believing is. It is an action that requires a physiological response, no different than thinking nice or moving a stone. So with that said if I am to take scripture at face value, then I am already saved regardless if I believe or not.

    Ephesians 2:8-9

    “For by grace are ye saved through faith; and that not of yourselves: it is the gift of God:
    Not of works, lest any man should boast.”

  17. “This is an excellent point. If we are told that to behave a certain way is to behave like God — to love and include everyone — then we know that God will behave in such a way, as well, and not be selective” (OSS)

    I actually use this as my base reasoning on thinking about God – that what God asks of us – He must also ask of Himself. If not, then God would be a hypocrite – asking of us things and not doing them Himself. I don’t believe God is a hypocrite so I have to think the other way – what God asks of us – He is more than willing to do (or it’s a part of His character).

    For example, Jesus teaches us that ‘do not judge unless you want to be judged (back)’. The first 3 words are ‘do not judge’ – the highest standard…I think this is what God would want us to actually follow…but knowing this not to be possible…the concession is made concerning ‘how to judge’. It is to be fair and equitable – measure for measure – equally balanced and not biased. I tend to think – God is this way also. God must be fair and equitable to all then – no partiality and bias – it has to be His character for this kind of idea to be related so often.

    “Are we given by God everything we need at birth to be perfect/holy?” (Just1)

    I would say the natural ability and skill exist – like faith and trust are actually human traits we all have – from birth on (taught by our parents to hone these skills). But we are not given everything – the actual teachings of God may exist in our hearts on some level – but never find their full witness until they are heard, learned, studied, and lived.

    “This is a lot of fun…no? I think it is. Thanks for putting up with me.” (Steve)

    Steve, this is always fun – namely when everyone can come to the table with their ideas and we can all sit at that same table – talk over the ideas – even debate their veracity – and sit and learn from one another..it reminds me of communion for some reason? I like you Steve, your good stuff man…you enter into the banter and never let anything offend you – that’s a skill you have developed over time…and it’s ‘pat on the back’ worthy.

    “So with that said if I am to take scripture at face value, then I am already saved regardless if I believe or not.” (John)

    “For by grace are ye saved through faith; and that not of yourselves: it is the gift of God:
    Not of works, lest any man should boast.” (Eph 2:8 )

    Here is the problem for me, when using Ephesians the way you interpret it:

    (a) Saved…okay…grace…okay…for what reason? It’s actually not mentioned in this sole passage – but it is mentioned in Ephesians in the same chapter.

    (b) I think this is Paul’s main reason for verse 8 – “But now in Christ Jesus you who formerly were far off have been brought near by the blood of Christ. For He Himself is our peace, who made both groups into one and broke down the barrier of the dividing wall”

    Paul seems to be getting at the ‘grace’ as at least being the invitation of the Gentiles into the faith as equals – as one with the original group (adopted in of course). Jesus’ death symbolizes that – means that – the two become one whole group – this is the group of faith. What’s funny is Paul does not use Jesus’ blood as an atonement here – but the cross as breaking down the walls/barriers. As for saved – well Paul address all that prior to verse 8 in Ephesians.

  18. Societyvs,

    Hey, thanks for the pat on the back! I’ll take it! I like you very much as well, and the others who participate on your blog. A very nice group, indeed. And it really is fun!

    I see your points, I think. That death was for all, the whole world. So everyone is saved…right? I think not. The scriptures are filled with separation language. The ‘sheep and the goats’, the Lazarus story (about hell), the parable of the sower, and the seeds that don’t take root or that wither away, etc, etc.

    So if the death was for all then why are not all saved? It all depends on to whom God grants faith and those that do not reject Him. How does that happen? Well, the vehicle for faith is God’s Word. “How can they believe if they do not have a preacher”, Paul says. And also in baptism, Acts 2 “…repent and be baptised for the forgiveness of sins and to receive the Holy Spirit.” God has chosen to work faith in these ways.

    Why do some believe and some not? We don’t know. We can’t know everything…otherwise we’d be God. That is the essence of the first sin (and all the rest henceforth)…wanting to be like God.

    When I get up there, I wonder how many red marks, I’ll have on this paper…or maybe I got a few right!

    Thanks!

    – Steve M.

  19. Jason

    Maybe the main reason is because for so long people thought that they were too screwed up to be Loved. Maybe all these writings are nothing more than being told that we are actually OK……….warts and all. To honestly think that we would be doomed to an eternity in some Hellish place because of what some guy name Adam did………..Come on..like really. “I” think the best thing about scripture is that it gets us into discussion and hopefully from there, community and then, very hopefully LOVE.

    John T.

    PS. and if you want a really good scripture about ALL being ok. here you go

    John 12:32

    “And I, when I am lifted up from the earth, will draw ALL people to myself.”

  20. “It all depends on to whom God grants faith and those that do not reject Him” (Steve)

    But why does God need to grant someone faith to follow Him? I think we all have it equally to start with – and we choose to exercise it or not – God leaves that squarely with us…it may be a responsibility – but it’s not a heavy one.

    “Why do some believe and some not? We don’t know. We can’t know everything…otherwise we’d be God” (Steve)

    I agree, we cannot know why certain people choose to display a hatred to others and thereby disrespect God’s creation – while others seem just fine with caring about others and their safety. This is a tough one for me – I love to ask questions and seek answers – which makes me annoying sometimes – but also refines my understanding. But you are right – we can only know in shades and pieces.

    “When I get up there, I wonder how many red marks, I’ll have on this paper…or maybe I got a few right!” (Steve)

    Oh, I expect to get up there and know I was likely wrong on a lot – but God will know I tried and gave it my best shot. I tend to think God will treat us how we treated others – since this is the summation of the law/prophets – and that’s is what is asked of us. Obviously it will come down to us understanding something so simple and then elaborating on it – I tend to think God is very fair and forgiving – so it should be fun there (and a little tense).

  21. “Maybe the main reason is because for so long people thought that they were too screwed up to be Loved. Maybe all these writings are nothing more than being told that we are actually OK” (John)

    I think that is one of the central themes of the bible in general – God loves us – and I think the means we are ‘worthwhile’. Christianity in it’s teachings has in it the way to build others up and raise one’s ‘self esteem/worth’ – by virtue of a God that loved us while we were yet ‘sinners’ (God loves all plain and simple – no pre-requisite for that).

    However, I think it is there for all – God loves them and cares about them – but people can spurn this love and reject it. I think it is great to believe all will be ‘saved’ (and maybe they will be) – but I don’t think that was the intention of the writers.

    Since salvation requires some sort of danger or something – and then we should ask what ‘danger’? If someone is a danger to themselves they are also – by virtue – a danger to others – and that’s where people begin this long slide from a God of love to fighting against God. To me, all of this is chalked up into one’s choices to live morally or immorally – and not much more.

    I am not sure all will be saved – but only those that have desired it – since they are seeking/longing for it. God will not give something we do not ask for – nor truly want. It is quite unfathomable for me to think someone would not desire ‘salvation’ (even from themselves) – but this is the case. This is why crime statistics continue to rise or stay around the same rate when people are given their freedom – are we to expect all of those people to change (in heaven) because ‘God said so’? If God made them change they would disappear – there might be nothing left they chose to build – they had nothing else to change ‘into’.

  22. Steve’s statement insinuates that God was not capable of creating life perfectly. I disagree. I think He created life perfectly and knows it. After all, He is God, isn’t He? But, for some reason (maybe only know to Him), He placed us into this imperfect world for a time. Maybe we’re supposed to learn something here? And, upon release from this world, we will return to perfection in His midst.

    Also, the biblical ideas that seem to point to some level of eternal separation between us and God… did you ever stop to think that those ideas came BEFORE the Cross, and that the Cross changed everything… even popular religion? Jesus came to build His kingdom with believers. He searched the earth and told stories to help people decide whether they were true believers or not. But, sadly He found none, and the Work of the Cross became unavoidably necessary. As Paul states, (paraphrased because I’m too lazy to look it up), “God locked up ALL into disbelief so that He could have mercy on them ALL.” And, “on the cross, Christ took Jew and Gentile (at that time that was EVERYONE) into His body.” Together with Him we all died, all experienced hell, and were all resurrected to be with the Father forever.

    You don’t have to believe any of that. It won’t make any difference to God. But it will make a a difference to you. Believing that Jesus was the Redeemer as foretold by the prophets of old, will set your mind free to experience life with God in the most unimaginable ways!

    John, funny thing about that verse in the NT: “And I, when I am lifted up from the earth, will draw ALL people to myself”, it doesn’t actually say that in the original text. It says:

    (From the Literal Translation) Now is the judgment of this world; now the ruler of this world shall be cast out. And I, if I be lifted up from the earth, I will draw all to Myself.

    Draw “all” what? Jesus just talked about judgment. Was He saying He would draw all judgment to Himself?

    Conveniently, the translators for King James added the word “men” because they thought that helped the verse make sense. But does it?

  23. Jason, I don’t think “salvation” is from hell. I think it is from our greatest enemy… FEAR.

    I also don’t think salvation and redemption are the same thing. I think Christ redeemed us to the Father (at least, He revealed our redemption), and coming to an understanding of that assuredness of redemption brings about salvation… our minds become saved from our overwhelming and debilitating fears. Fear is the enemy of life and the entirety of the work of the Cross of Christ was to give us assurance in God, and relieve us from our fears. Salvation!

    Think about it.

  24. Hey Guys

    I think its a huge presumption to assume that the game is over once you die. Did you ever wonder if maybe were just in the 1st minute of the 1st quarter and theres still lots of time for learning and pain and joy and love, even after we leave the confines of this physical experience? Think outside the BOX!!!!! Why must it be so black and white. Saved or not, redeemed or not, heaven or hell. Talk about limited.

    John T.

  25. “did you ever stop to think that those ideas came BEFORE the Cross, and that the Cross changed everything… even popular religion?” (Bruced)

    What was popular religion at the time? I think you are right it changed it – but I think it was actually an addition and not a subtraction.

    “Together with Him we all died, all experienced hell, and were all resurrected to be with the Father forever” (Bruced)

    This is Paul’s metaphorical (some call it spiritual) way of viewing things. This is a fact we can all repeat as true: (1) we have not died – we are alive still; (2) we did not go to a hell – we have no clue if there is even such a place; (3) none of us have died so there is no possible way we can be resurrected. I think Paul is using those ideas as a way to explain the change from living in immorality to living in morality – a death or birth – from one to the other.

    Also, when the NT writers use ‘all’ or ‘everyone’ they usually do it in a very generalized way or to the crowd they are writing to. I am not sure if it ever means everyone on this whole planet – there are likely a few instances. Reason I state this is from studying their writings and seeing generalizations where the ‘rule of thumb’ of the day. John uses ‘Jews’ 60+ times in his book – does he mean the whole race? Jesus blasts the Pharisees a lot – but does he mean the whole lot of them – even the one’s not there? Paul uses terms like Gentiles – which is generic as it comes – which includes people from all races who are non-Jewish (no specifics on the term – just a generalization of the many).

    I am seeing that generalizations are a very common thing in the texts themselves – and they remain quite un-individualistic with regards to teachings – and this was the way they wrote. None of the gospels teachings ever seem to be addressed to a sole person – but to the general crowd who hears it. That makes sense – because then we can all read them and personalize the ideas. I am guessng how they wrote in those times – they also spoke that way. Everything is very broad and in general speaking terms – very little amounts of the NT are written to specific people.

    So when we approach terms like ‘all’ and ‘everyone’ well this is (a) based on historical usage of that term; (b) context in the letter or book. I see historical usage of tems like that as meaning ‘all’ but in the sense to those listening being the ‘all’ – since the speaking in that time was all about generalizations or generic terms (ie: including parables). Context depend on the passage being discussed.

    I think the church is right in their usage a lot of the times with these terms – but I also think it is too quick to say ‘Christ died for all’ means ‘all have died, went to hell, and now resurrected with Christ’…when all is so generic a term and can mean a few things. All could be all the people in Paul’s letter audience. All could mean everyone – but that all have the chance to respond to this gracious deed – ie: by living it. Or all can mean as you claim – regardless of who the person is – they are included and taken care of (moral immoral no big diff).

    I think you land on the interpretation of that word as including everyone no matter who and no matter how – but what if someone actually rejects that notion and does not want to be included (ie: an atheist)? Should God respect their wishes or not? If not, then the word ‘all’ needs to be re-looked at as – since all means every single thing/person – not one can be overlooked. Or will God stick a person in a place they have no committment to – nor desire to be in? It’s just strange is all – most of us wouldn’t force someone somewhere they did not want to be (I think it is called kidnapping).

  26. John, what saved you from your fears?

    Jason, looks like you’ve got it all figured out, and nothing I say will make any difference. You continue to deny the power of the cross, and fortunately, it makes no difference to God. It is there if you can awaken to it, and if not, it is still there, doing its work on your behalf.

  27. Bruce

    I havnt gotten rid of all my fears, but they are less than before. When I was really young I was pretty much fearless, ah but then came some fun stuff and I learned some bad doo doo. My inate nature is one of faith and connection though, so when I dont let too much other stuff get me Im usually fine 😉

    Jason

    Do you honestly think if at the end of his/her life that an atheist would have a problem if God said come on in and join the fun?

  28. I understand, John. Unfortunately, fearlessness without a foundation of love can be as destructive as living in fear, even with love.

    I can imagine the atheist saying to themself when encountering God for the first time… “wow!”

  29. Bruce

    Living a life without Love is Living in Fear. But let me tell you something, Love may protect you in the end but it doesnt do sheit when the hammers coming down.

  30. Jason

    Tell me something. Do you think a guy named Adam determines your worth, and you need another one named Jesus to ensure that Adam doesnt get to continue determining it?

  31. It can if that love matures into trust, which matures into peace. But, besides, this world is designed to bring the hammer down on all of us. It cannot be avoided. There will be pain and suffering, there is supposed to be. But, it is all for a reason, and should be taken with joy. Better days are always ahead.

  32. Ah but when the hammer comes and youre young and the one using it is supposed to love you, and the other loved ones arent around. Well my friend thats a recipe for disaster. I get that now, but at the time God was doing what God does, nothing! He set up the system and lets us have our way with it.

  33. “You continue to deny the power of the cross.” BruceD

    Its actually more of a denial of your version of the power of the cross. But even then, its not a denial, per se. All I see and read is an exploration of all things involved in faith, Judaism, and Christianity of which the cross is a one part of the entire picture.

    Humility seems to be the better course of action here, as it would prevent someone from making statements like that. Everything we write is just an opinion. We may believe with all of our heart that we are holding on to strong well thought out theologies and doctrines that can be proved by scripture, reason, tradition and personal experience, but in the end it is all just opinion.

  34. Yes, everything is just an opinion, but remember, I am writing to christians about christian concepts, and sometimes it takes drastic language to shatter the sacred cow. I only hope to awaken people to the possibility that other paradigms might exist. If I get thrown out of someone’s life because I proclaim a BOLD grace, then I would prefer that to not having said anything.

    Humility? Maybe humility would prevent someone from accusing another of not practicing humility?

    Just wondering, do you consider yourself “just”?

  35. “I am writing to christians about christian concepts, and sometimes it takes drastic language to shatter the sacred cow. I only hope to awaken people to the possibility that other paradigms might exist. If I get thrown out of someone’s life because I proclaim a BOLD grace, then I would prefer that to not having said anything.” (BruceD)

    But, I’m a christian and I don’t need a whole lot of drastic language for my sacred cows to be shattered or for me to wake up to other paradigms. I like discussing the word of God, the church, and Christianity. Being able to proclaim something more boldly, more loudly, or more profoundly than someone else has its place I guess, but it doesn’t do anything for me.

    “Humility? Maybe humility would prevent someone from accusing another of not practicing humility?” (BruceD)
    I put the word “humility” out there, because I didn’t much care for the accusation that was layed against Jason. An opinion is just an opinion, if you can defend it with sound reason and scripture then great, but it is still just an opinion.

    Jason is a straight up guy, he does his best to tell it like it is, and if a belief or a doctrine needs to be questioned then he questions it. It does not necessarily mean that he denies the doctrine, he just questions the validity of the doctrine.

    “Just wondering, do you consider yourself “just”?” (BruceD)
    Ahhh yes, the name…..The name was a result of my experience with local ministries and happenings in my personal life. Also because I am a follower of The Just One – Jesus.

  36. “Jason, looks like you’ve got it all figured out, and nothing I say will make any difference.” (Bruced)

    I think you are as adamant and sure about your beliefs also – and instead of knocking that – I think that is grand – shouldn’t we all be so blessed? As for myself, I seek reasonable answers to reasonable doctrinal ideas – and why not – I don’t think I need to believe something because of someone else’s notions. I have questions – yes – I have responses – yes – but I do not have this ‘cased’…by no means. Truth unfolds itself over time – and in this time (present) – I may not totally believe your doctrinal stands – but time never stands still (things will change over time).

    “You continue to deny the power of the cross” (Bruced)

    I think Just1 (thanks for having my back while I was away BTW) answered this for me…and he is accurate on his take. I do not deny the power of the cross – but if this statement can be made about me – how many people here are actually guilty of denying the power of the teachings (for what they simply say)? I focus on those – the cross is an event I can do nothing about nor take away from – but the teachings can be forgotten and misconstrued. Not saying anyone is doing that – but the teachings are salvific in nature.

    “Do you honestly think if at the end of his/her life that an atheist would have a problem if God said come on in and join the fun?” (John)

    Logically, yes. Think about it in this vein – if an atheist asks to not know God – will God grant them their desires? Is this not a form of prayer? I am sure an atheist would not have a problem with God – but then again – I have some pretty weird stuff from various atheists mouth – like the never want to be in that place with Christians (namely because we offend them). But instead of working out their anger on the issue – they turn the other way on the issue – and just outright deny wanting anything to do with Theism. If they ask me to stay away from them – should I? Yes. Why should we expect God to be any different – they are asking for the same thing (but this time to a God they know does not exist).

    “Tell me something. Do you think a guy named Adam determines your worth, and you need another one named Jesus to ensure that Adam doesnt get to continue determining it?” (John)

    Personally, I think Paul uses that as an explanation – again on some figurative level – to discuss the movement from immorality to morality. Now maybe it is true – how could I ever prove that is beyond me – but I tend to think we are responsible for ‘what we do’. Beyond that I really give Adam little thought. As for Jesus, I personally think he only opened the way for access for all Gentiles to share in the kingdom of God – and I think people are running wild with the idea God forgave everything. That doesn’t match up with atonement ideas in the Tanakah first off and allows us to not have to deal with sin – someone else did that for us…and no one can tell me God is into vicarious righteousness.

    “Just wondering, do you consider yourself “just”?” (Bruced)

    Yes. For one to be loving they must consider they have love to give. For one to be about justice – they must have the value of being just (before the law) inside them.

    How is it someone can say they are a Christian and be not just? They’d have to be practicing a form of immorality to literally be ‘unjust’ in the sight of the law – and even then – the law as a standard shows them they can do better.

    All just is – in meaning – is being righteous/just in measuring out the law/standards/teachings. Of course there is not perfect righteousness/just – but perfection is not even a Hebraic idea (not once used in the Tanakah – no Hebraic word for perfection). I think the question is insinuating a perfection we need to reach God – this is obviously pure fallacy with no scriptural backing. Abraham was not perfect, nor Noah, nor Jacob, nor Moses, nor Joshua, nor David, nor Mary, etc. Yet what ever stopped any of them from having some form of relationship with God ? Sure as hell couldn’t been the law…which some had and some did not…yet they all knew God.

  37. Hey Jason

    “If they ask me to stay away from them – should I? Yes. Why should we expect God to be any different – they are asking for the same thing (but this time to a God they know does not exist).”

    This is the thing, when we truly “get” the idea of community you realize you cant stay away from others whether you want to or not. The truth is that we are in one another, we breath the same air, our actions have outcomes that affect each other. Like the Gaia principle, I believe we are one organism(ekklesia). Luke 17:21……

    “nor will they say, ‘Look, here it is!’ or ‘There!’ for behold, the kingdom of God is in the midst of you ”

    Its just like this eternity thing. Its not some time and place that we go to, its happening right here, right now. Like I mentioned in an earlier post, maybe this is just the 1st minute of the 1st quarter…….Lots of game to go. And who knows maybe there will be playoffs after were done the regular season 😉

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