The Word of God Is Living and Active

Unlike the other sacred texts I read, the Bible was hard-edged, and it confronted me with me! It penetrated my heart, and I wanted to look away!


I have made the statement in a previous article that the truth of God is not hidden from those who truly seek Him and desire to know Him. The truth is only hidden to those who don’t really desire to know God for who He is.

The following statement was made in the sermon I heard today: “Holiness and wholeness are hidden where only the humble can find them”.

I recognize that it’s easy for someone who believes in God to say these things. A person might even say these things in an arrogant and elitist sort of way, but that attitude would be 180 degrees wrong.

God is not an elitist. Elitism is antithetical to God and the fruit of the Spirit that should characterize those who believe and know Him.

Jesus, who claims to have been God in the flesh, came not to be served, but to serve and give his life. God “emptied Himself, by taking the form of a servant, being made in human likeness….” (Philippians 2:7) These are not the actions of an elitist God.

The Gospel story of God descending from His place of privilege and power as creator of the world to enter His creation is not the story of an elitist God. He didn’t come as the greatest of all men with power and might. He came as a child, and He embraced the life of a servant, washing his disciples feet, healing lepers by touch, embracing prostitutes, and loving vulnerable people on the edges of society.

We also read that God created all humans in His image. Therefore, all human beings have intrinsic value. Since our value is given by God, it has nothing to do with our station in life. That value is not connected to how gifted or smart we are. It is not dependent on who our human ancestors were, or anything other than the image of God that we bear in ourselves by virtue of being born.

The flip side of that is the statement that God is “no respecter of persons” (He doesn’t show favoritism according to our standards). (Romans 2:11-16) If God is hidden to some people, His hiddenness is more a reflection of what people are looking for than who God is.

As a case in point, His own people, the nation to whom He spent hundreds of years revealing Himself, didn’t even recognize Him when He entered their world in real time and encountered them stripped down to human form:


He was in the world, and though the world was made through him, the world did not recognize him. He came to that which was his own, but his own did not receive him. Yet to all who did receive him, to those who believed in his name, he gave the right to become children of God….”

John 1:10-12


Jesus confronted the elite, religious leaders. He called them blind guides. They, of all people, should have been able to recognize Him, but they didn’t.

We see in those interactions that they were looking for a savior that would overthrow the Roman Empire and ascent to the throne of Israel. They wanted an earthly savior. They were jealous of his popularity. They didn’t expect God to come to them humbly as He did. They didn’t remember their own Scriptures that say,


“though the Lord is exalted, yet he regards the lowly”.

Psalm 138:6


They didn’t remember or perhaps understand that the long-awaited Messiah would not fit a worldly model of power and strength. They should have known that he would have “no beauty or majesty to attract us to him” and “nothing in his appearance that we should desire him”. (Isaiah 53:2) They should have known that he would be “despised and rejected by mankind”, “a man of suffering, and familiar with pain” who would be “held in low esteem”. (Is. 53:3)

At the same time, we can understand why they missed these details or didn’t understand them. God is the King of Kings and the Lord of Lords! Why would He stoop so low? The kings, lords and rulers of the world did not stoop.

God called the nation of Israel to separate from the nations around them and to be different, but they continually failed to do that. God’s revelation from the beginning was an exercise in demonstrating that He is different, and not like the other gods, but they like the familiarity of those gods.

God’s people demanded a king to be like all the other nations. In doing that, they were rejecting God as their King who was distinctly different. They embraced the other nations’ gods; and Israel became indistinguishable from the character of the other nations.

They were meant to be a city on hill, a light to show the uniquely different character of God to the nations around them. They were continually urged to welcome strangers, to care for widows and orphans, and to do justice. (See 25 passages, including 19 Old Testament passages, with these instructions.) God desired them to be different from the world around them, as He is different from the gods of the other nations, but they failed to be different.

It’s no wonder that the Jewish leaders in the days of Jesus failed to recognize him. The Pharisees were so focused on the minutia of of their religious observances they neglected the “weightier matters of the law: justice and mercy and faithfulness”. (Matthew 23:23) They failed in their religiosity to appreciate and embrace God’s character that is embedded in the concepts of righteousness and justice. (Psalm 89:14)

They didn’t recognize God in the flesh because they lost sight of His real character. They were religious, but they lacked a real understanding of God.

The prophets, like Jeremiah, warned the nation of Israel many years earlier that they were going astray. The human heart is deceitful. (Jeremiah 17:9) We fool ourselves too easily.

Our fears, insecurities, pride, desires to be like the Joneses (other nations) and many things that get in the way of knowing God for who He is take priority in our thoughts and attitudes. We buy into narratives of ourselves, others and God that are warped.

Religious people are not immune to self-deception, and Christians are no less susceptible to self-deception than others. This is the lesson of the Pharisees, the leaders of God’s people in the days that Jesus walked the earth. In fact, religious people may be even more susceptible to self-deception because we use religion to legitimatize and justify our deception!


“The eye is the lamp of the body. If your eyes are healthy, your whole body will be full of light. But if your eyes are unhealthy, your whole body will be full of darkness. If then the light within you is darkness, how great is that darkness!”

(Matthew 6:22-23)


What is the cure for this human malady?

There is one thing that is specifically designed by God to reveal (expose) the hearts of people. It may not work exactly as we might want it to work. It isn’t a magic device, and it doesn’t work unless we submit to it. Rather, it’s the tool God uses to do His surgery in our hearts if we allow it in to our hearts to do its work. That tool is the inspired word of God.


“[T]he word of God is alive and active. Sharper than any double-edged sword, it penetrates even to dividing soul and spirit, joints and marrow; it judges the thoughts and attitudes of the heart. Nothing in all creation is hidden from God’s sight. Everything is uncovered and laid bare before the eyes of him to whom we must give account.”

Hebrews 4:12-13


Continue reading “The Word of God Is Living and Active”

The Dilemma of God Demanding Justice from Beings Incapable of Meeting God’s Standard

There is one critique of the Christian notion of sin and the justice of God that is troubling on its face. That key critique for anyone who claims that God demands justice for sin is that God is seemingly unjust to require justice of beings who can’t measure up.

Many modern people bristle at the Christian idea of sin, and they bristle even more at the idea that God would punish sinners. Frankly, I think many modern people simply don’t understand what sin is and who God is.

But, that aside, there is one critique of the Christian notion of sin and the justice of God that is troubling on its face. That key critique for anyone who claims that God demands justice for sin is that God is seemingly unjust to require justice of beings who can’t measure up.

Alongside the notion that the God of the Bible and demands judgment for not measuring up to God’s just standard is the notion that all people are sinners who don’t measure up. In fact, the New Testament is fairly read to say that people are incapable of living up to God’s standard.

The doctrine of original sin says that we are all corrupted because the sin of Adam and Eve has been passed down generation after generation. Even if we don’t believe in the doctrine of original sin, however, the Bible is clear from the Old Testament to the New Testament that human beings don’t measure up to God’s standard:


They have all turned aside; together they have become corrupt;
    there is none who does good,
    not even one.

Psalm 14:3


They have all fallen away;
    together they have become corrupt;
there is none who does good,
    not even one.

Isaiah 53:5


as it is written:

“None is righteous, no, not one;
   .
 All have turned aside; together they have become worthless;
    no one does good,
    not even one.”

Romans 1:10-12


Jesus said, “No one is good except God alone.” (Mark 10:18 (NIV)) Yet, he says, “Be perfect … as your heavenly Father is perfect?” (Matthew 5:48)

This is the dilemma: How can we be perfect?! “To err is human” the bard once said, and so it seems we are imperfect by our very nature.

Many people reject the idea that God can be just and demand justice from people incapable of measuring up to the standards God’s justice demands. They say it would be unjust for God to demand justice from beings who have no ability to act other than they do, and so fail to meet God’s standards.

God seems to be acting unfairly to demand that we meet His standards when we are 1) created beings, 2) born into sin, and 3) incapable of living up to the perfection God requires.

Other questions tumble after these thoughts: Why didn’t God create us perfect? If we are born sinful, how can God blame us for being sinful? If we are incapable of being perfect, how can God punish us for our imperfection?

Continue reading “The Dilemma of God Demanding Justice from Beings Incapable of Meeting God’s Standard”

Should We Hate the Sin, and Love the Sinner?

The focus on hating the sin, but loving the sinner is is a distortion of what Jesus instructs us to do.


The phrase, “Hate the sin, but love the sinner”, sounds biblical. The phrase, itself, isn’t found anywhere in Scripture, but it sounds kind of right, right?

God certainly does hate sin. No punches are pulled on the subject. For instance, we read the following in Proverbs 6:16-19:

There are six things the Lord hates,
    seven that are detestable to him:
        haughty eyes,
        a lying tongue,
        hands that shed innocent blood,
        a heart that devises wicked schemes,
        feet that are quick to rush into evil,
        a false witness who pours out lies
        and a person who stirs up conflict in the community.

And there is no doubt that God loves sinners. Paul made that perfectly clear when he said:

“But God demonstrates his own love for us in this: While we were still sinners, Christ died for us.” (Rom. 5:8)

To that extent, we can say that God hates sin, but He loves sinners. The phrase, however, is usually stated as a way that we should orient ourselves toward other people. More specifically, the phrase is usually suggested as a way of orienting ourselves (Christians) toward “certain” people. We say it because we hate the sin, especially their sin, and we are reminding ourselves to love the sinner.

It’s a phase that Christians generally seem to like, but non-Christians don’t seem to like it nearly as much as do. We could chalk it up to them not understanding, not believing in the Bible and not appreciating what Jesus did on the cross for us. But is it really biblical?

While it’s biblical to say that God hates sin, but loves sinners, is it biblical instruction for us to say, “Hate sin but  love sinners? Jeff Frazier at the Chaplestreet Church in Batavia, IL (who preached on this subject August 2, 2020, and who’s sermon inspires this post) suggests that it isn’t biblical, at least not in the way it is usually applied.

Continue reading “Should We Hate the Sin, and Love the Sinner?”

The Plans God Has for Us – Part III

Even in the midst of the very Judgment of God, God desires to bless us! He is every appealing to us to listen to Him and respond to Him. 

I


n the previous two blog posts on The Plans God Has for Us, we considered the fact that the often-quoted verse about the plans God us for us – plans to prosper us and to give us hope and a future (Jeremiah 29:11)[1] – should be viewed in historical context. (Part I) That historical context was the 900-year history of disbelief and disobedience of God’s people ending in 40 years of warning of impending judgment that culminated in the judgment coming to pass with the Babylonian conquest of Jerusalem and exile. (Part II) In this post, I will try to draw some conclusions in the application of this verse and relevance to our modern lives.

This letter was the message of God through the prophet, Jeremiah, to God’s people that He gave them at the very beginning of their exile. In this letter, God tells them that they will remain in exile for 70 year![2] In fact, this shocking statement – you will be here 70 years – is the statement that immediately precedes the famous verse we all know:

“’For I know the plans I have for you,’ declares the Lord, ‘plans to prosper you and not to harm you, plans to give you hope and a future.’”

In a sense, God is telling them, “I’ve got good news and bad news. The bad news is that I have imposed my judgment on you, and it will last 70 years. But the good news is that I have plans for you, good plans to prosper you and to give you hope and a future.

70 years! In an age in which the average life expectancy was about 35 years, that’s two generations! For the vast majority of the exiled people, this meant their lives would end in captivity. What kind of hope and future is that?!

The exile was the judgment God warned them about. God’s people had been so disbelieving and disobedient that God virtually banished them from the very land He promised them about a millennium before.  But even in the midst of this judgment, we need to look carefully at what God is saying. Just before announcing that this judgment thing is going to last 70 years, God gives them instructions:

“This is what the Lord Almighty, the God of Israel, says to all those I carried into exile from Jerusalem to Babylon: ‘Build houses and settle down; plant gardens and eat what they produce. Marry and have sons and daughters; find wives for your sons and give your daughters in marriage, so that they too may have sons and daughters. Increase in number there; do not decrease. Also, seek the peace and prosperity of the city to which I have carried you into exile. Pray to the Lord for it, because if it prospers, you too will prosper.’”[3]

Imagine the 40 years of warning and the weight of that impending doom on those who actually took it seriously. As with most things we fear, the fear is worse than the reality.

During this time of judgment in exile in Babylon, God says to them, basically, “Don’t despair! Go about your lives. Embrace the circumstances into which I have brought you. Live life. Make plans. Bless those around you, seek to better the those around you, and I will bless you.”

Even in the midst of the very Judgment of God, God desires to bless us! He is every appealing to us to listen to Him and respond to Him.

Continue reading “The Plans God Has for Us – Part III”

Judging the Church and Reconciling the World

God’s heart is to have the Gospel (Good News) preached to all the world, but the Church is preaching judgment instead.

Christianpics.co

Paul writes to the Corinthians “not to associate with sexually immoral people”, but he qualifies that statement to say that he is “not at all meaning the sexually immoral of this world or the greedy and swindlers or idolaters since you would need to go out of the world”. (1 Corinthians 5:9-10) What is Paul talking about here?

Paul goes on to clarify that he is writing to the Corinthians “not to associate with anyone who bears the name of brother if he is guilty of sexual immorality or greed, or is an idolater, reviler, drunkard, or swindler – not even to eat with such a one.”

He is obviously talking about people within the church, and this is a point that I think we have generally gotten wrong in the modern church today, but maybe not in the way that one might suppose.

It seems to me that we have got these instructions from Paul to the Corinthians exactly backwards.

I think of the Moral Majority when I say this. I think of the efforts of Christians to try to impose “Christian values” on our world. I realize that I am departing from many Christian leaders to say something like this, but please hear me out.

Continue reading “Judging the Church and Reconciling the World”