Hosanna to the Son of David

With Palm Sunday nearly upon us I decided to put my Bible reading plan on hold until after Easter in order to read the parts of the gospels that talk about Holy Week.  I began today in Matthew 21 reading about Jesus’ triumphal entry into Jerusalem.  This passage of Scripture is always poignant to me because I believe it portrays the human condition extremely well.  It displays to us the depth of our depravity and how all-encompassing our spiritual death is.

Matthew 21 begins telling us that Jesus is about to arrive at Jerusalem and has stopped in the town of Bethpage and the Mount of Olives which is about a day’s journey from the holy city.  There Jesus tells a couple of His disciples to go ahead to the village and retrieve a donkey and its colt and bring them back to Him.  Jesus has a specific prophecy He intends to fulfill by using these beasts.  There was a prophecy made about the coming King of Zion, which is God’s kingdom, that he would come to the city in humility, not in glory or fanfare.

“Rejoice greatly, O daughter of Zion!  Shout aloud, O daughter of Jerusalem!  Behold, your king is coming to you; righteous and having salvation is he, humble and mounted on a donkey, on a colt, the foal of a donkey.” (Zechariah 9:9)

When Jesus finally enters Jerusalem riding on the colt it is unclear whether the people who saw Him would have recalled this prophecy, but from the words they use to extol Jesus I have to think that they were familiar with Zechariah’s prophecy.  They use the phrase that we all know, “Hosanna to the Son of David!  Blessed is He who comes in the name of the Lord!  Hosanna in the highest!”  The people of Jerusalem recognize that this man is Jesus of Nazareth and that He is the Son of David.  God had given them the eyes to see this about Jesus.  Many people before this moment had not seen Jesus for who He was.  Only a few people outside of the disciples recognized Jesus as the Son of God.  Son of David was a title given by Jewish prophecy to the messiah who would come and restore Israel to peace and usher in a glorious age of prosperity and worship to God.  It took special revelation by the Holy Spirit to see this about Jesus as we know from Peter’s confession in Matthew 16:17 when he confesses Jesus as the Christ and Jesus tells him that God had revealed this to him.

When the crowd recognized who Jesus was they began to spread their cloaks and palm branches on the road before Him and they declared His identity as the Messiah.  But the most interesting part of this passage is the interjection ‘hosanna’ to declare His praise.  The word ‘hosanna’ is interesting because of its meaning in Greek.  The word means literally ‘to be propitious’.  Propitious means to be favorably disposed or a good omen.  The inhabitants of Jerusalem knew that Jesus’ coming to them was a good sign and it meant that wonderful things were to happen.  In Hebrew ‘hosanna’ is a verb translated as ‘to be saved or delivered; liberated; or victorious.’  The people recognized all these positive things about Jesus that they knew from the various prophecies about the messiah.

It seems, at least for now, that the Jews know who Jesus is and what they think He is coming to do.  But of course they were under the impression that the Messiah would come to free them from their Roman occupiers, hence the liberation and victory language used by the word ‘hosanna’.  It seems nobody is ever truly aware of Jesus’ actual mission until after He’s been crucified and risen.  The people, nonetheless, are exuberant with expectation and I imagine it would have been an absolute craze within the city once news of Jesus’ arrival spread.

The part I think is worthy of focus is the fact that just five days later these same people are standing in Pontius Pilate’s courtyard screaming “Crucify him!”  How did this dramatic reversal happen?  How did the entire city turn on Him in a matter of days?  I believe it was because once they got to see Jesus and how He wasn’t living up to their expectation as the butt-kicker of Rome they began to resent Jesus.  Their spiritual blindness had hidden Jesus’ true purpose from them.  They could only see their selfish nationalistic image of their Messiah who would come to serve their own interests as a nation rather than die for their sins.  God’s plan is always much more glorious and important than our own.  We are limited in our vision and knowledge but God sees and knows all.  This was God’s plan from before the foundation of the world, to send His Son to be the ransom for sinners.

That these people who shouted Jesus’ praise at the gate then demanded Him to be crucified reflects something found in all people.  We are radically depraved in our understanding of God.  The spiritual death that was brought upon the human race because of Adam’s sin is all-encompassing.  We think of ourselves before others and we certainly put ourselves before God.  We are darkened in our understanding and cannot see the things of God.  Sin prevents us from seeing, knowing, and worshiping God.  We are spiritually dead as Paul says in Ephesians 2.  The irony of the situation in Jerusalem is that in their spiritual deadness they missed the point of Jesus’ death, but only His death is what can give them new life to see who Jesus really is.

In this Easter season I hope you would study the Scriptures and ask yourself the questions raised by it.  Questions like “Who do you say that I am?” and “What does Jesus’ death mean for me today?”  Are you living unaware of Jesus’ death on the cross?  Are you unaware that His death secured the forgiveness of your sins so that if you believe in Him you will be called a child of God?  Perhaps you need to be freshly amazed at Jesus’ sacrifice on the cross?  Pray like the disciples did to increase your faith that you would have eyes to see and ears to hear so that you may receive life.  If you need to have your vision renewed camp out in Scripture and make the words your diet.  May the Holy Spirit cause you to shout “Hosanna!” and be freshly amazed by the cross and what it accomplished.

Who Really Killed Jesus?

Who really killed Jesus?  Secular scholars have been debating over this question for almost two millenia.  The crucifixion of Jesus is considered by many, Christians and non-Christians alike, to be one of the most significant events in world history.  For the believer it is the foundation of their faith and the hope of eternal life, the beginning of a new era.  For the non-believer it is also a dawn of a new era marking a new philosophy and world view.  The rise of a new religion for good or ill resulted in the death of Jesus.  Countless wars have been fought in the name of Jesus and eternal strife between cultures has arisen since the crucifixion.  We regard Jesus’ death as so important we even reckon time by it.  The ancient years being BC or before Christ, and the modern years AD or “Ano Domini” or “the year of the Lord”.  Of course now it is referred to as BCE, “before the common era” and CE, “common era” for those who don’t like to utter the word Christ.  Archaeologists have searched for the tomb and body of Jesus, people have claimed to own or have discovered artifacts related to Jesus, people wear crosses as jewelry accessories.  The point is that the death of Jesus is hugely important in our lives both as Christians and not.  It has huge implications on our beliefs about life, death, and the afterlife, and is the turning point of modern human history.

For almost two thousand years people have been asking the question “who killed Jesus?”  Some say it was the Romans, some say it was Pontius Pilate, some say the Jews.  Everyone seems determined to place a level of culpability on someone or some people group to bring closure to the greatest misdeed in history.  Most recognize Jesus as the meek and mild prophet and teacher who preached a message of forgiveness and love towards your neighbor.  That’s stuff everyone can agree with but Jesus was arrested and tried as a criminal, as one who sought to lead a rebellion against Rome and throw off the Roman rule of Judea.  Of this he was falsely accused.  Some say it was the Jews who’s hand was most prominent in the death of the innocent man Jesus.  The Jewish priests were the ones who brought the false charges against Jesus because he was telling people that he was the Son of God.  Blasphemy was punishable by death according to Jewish law so they sought to put an end to this ridiculous blasphemy by leveling this charge against him.  The claim to be the Son of God was made by Jesus on several occasions, but where the Jewish priests manipulated it was in the fact that the Son of God would be proclaimed as King of kings and Lord of lords and that title directly contradicted Roman rule, specifically Caesar himself.  The Jews hated being under Roman rule but here they manipulated it to bring about their own ends in a disgustingly twisted and evil way.  Pilate, the Roman governor of Judea, had his hand forced by the Jewish crowd at Jesus’ trial because they were screaming “Crucify him!” and the Bible says that Pilate, fearing a riot pronounced the sentence of death upon Jesus although he found no guilt in him.

That brings us to the next group of people, or person specifically, who is said to have been responsible for Jesus’ death, Pontius Pilate.  Pilate really is in a loose-loose situation during the trial of Jesus.  The Jewish priests keep pressing him to condemn Jesus because he claims to be a king and hopes to lead a rebellion against Caesar.  Allowing Jesus to go free would pronounce Pilate as “no friend of Caesar”, which is ironic coming from the Jews who vehemently hated the Romans.  Pilate also does not want to condemn Jesus because from a legal standpoint he has done nothing to warrant death.  Pilate’s own wife intercedes on Jesus’ behalf telling her husband “have nothing to do with that righteous man for I have suffered greatly because of him in a dream”.  For fear that a riot will soon break out Pilate attempts to shift the burden from himself to the crowd by offering to release to them one criminal as is tradition during the Passover feast time, or kill Jesus.  The angry mob screams “Give us Barabbas!  Away with Jesus!”  Seeing that there was nothing to be gained by bargaining with them, Pilate reluctantly sentences Jesus to death then famously washes his hands of guilt.  The Jews cry out, “His blood be on us, and our children!”  Had Pilate been a stronger, more courageous leader who was devoted to the law Jesus might not have been killed.

But let us consider now another perspective.  The prophet Isaiah provides the most detailed and vivid description of the crucifixion of Jesus about 700 years beforehand.  In chapter 53 of Isaiah, the prophet describes Jesus as a man acquainted with grief and sorrow, being despised and rejected by his own people.  Isaiah outlines that Jesus would be poor, having no beauty that we should desire him, and that we would incorrectly judge him to be afflicted by God.  All this is freakishly accurate when we examine Jesus’ life, but then Isaiah says something completely out of left field.  In chapter 53 verses 5 and 6, Isaiah says the following:

But he was pierced for our transgressions; he was crushed for our iniquities; upon him was the chastisement that brought us peace, and with his wounds we are healed. All we like sheep have gone astray; we have turned—every one—to his own way; and the LORD has laid on him the iniquity of us all.

The LORD has laid upon him the iniquity of us all?  Really?  God did that to Jesus?  The answer is yes.  Here is further evidence from Isaiah 53:10:

Yet it was the will of the LORD to crush him; he has put him to grief; when his soul makes an offering for guilt

Clear as day right there.  It was the will of the LORD to crush him.  How can that be true?  God is not a murderer, that goes against everything we know about God.  Before you dismiss this evidence consider what the Jews were taught of old about the promised Messiah.  They believed that the Messiah would appear at the end of the age when God would make the heavens and the earth new and God’s Chosen One, the Messiah would redeem Israel from her bondage to her captives, whether it is Babylon, Assyria, or Rome, and usher in the new reign of the kingdom of God where there will be no more sin and Israel will dwell forever with God in the New Jerusalem.  At the time of Jesus the Jews were living under Roman authority.  While not suppressing their religion, the Romans required that the Jews be subject to Roman laws and taxes.  The Jews did not like this idea of paying tribute to a foreign pagan leader so they resented the Romans and hoped for their Messiah to appear and begin the revolution.  This is a drastically different picture of the Messiah from the one that is painted for us in Isaiah 53.  Isaiah paints the picture of the Messiah as a suffering servant who bears the sins of the wicked on their behalf.  The Messiah would stricken and afflicted, murdered, and buried for sinners though he himself was sinless, and Isaiah says that this was God’s plan.

Sin is a big deal to God.  Sin is the opposite of God’s holiness.  God hates sin because at the heart level it is a rebellion against and rejection of God.  Back in Genesis, God declared that the penalty for sin is death and that all those who sin shall die.  After the story of the exodus from Egypt God instituted the sacrificial system in which animals would be killed to take the guilt away from people so that God’s wrath against sin would be averted.  By sacrificing an animal and confessing your sins over it God would agree to forebear with the sinner and hold back his holy wrath from the actual sinner.  But the death of an animal could never truly pay for the sins of a human so the sacrificial system was imperfect.  It was designed to foreshadow the ultimate work of redemption that God promised way back in Genesis 3.  The sacrificial system was given with a promise, a promise that compliance with the gory rituals in faith that there will one day be a perfect sacrifice that would truly and wholly deal with sin would be made, will make a man righteous in the sight of God.  In Isaiah 53, Isaiah is describing that perfect and final sacrifice.  The Man of Sorrows, the Son of God, Jesus is the Lamb of God.  John the Baptizer proclaims in the gospels before the baptism of Jesus “Behold the Lamb of God who takes away the sins of the world!”  John the Baptizer knew his Old Testament and recognized that Jesus would be the fulfillment of the sacrificial system.

When Jesus died on the cross He willingly took upon Himself the full burden of the sins of the world.  Although He was entirely sinless in life, Jesus puts Himself in our place and invites upon His soul the full and terrible wrath of God for all of our sins past, present, and future.  He becomes the sacrifice for our sins and obtains forgiveness from God on our behalf.  Jesus is the fulfillment of Israel’s sacrificial system and it was the will of the LORD that He be so.  God’s plan all along was for Jesus to accomplish this divine rescue mission to rescue us from slavery to sin and to redeem us, to literally buy us with his blood, to the kingdom of God.

So the answer to the question of who killed Jesus is not the Jews, or the Romans, or Pilate, but God.  God the Father killed Jesus in order that by His death, many would be made alive.  The death of Jesus is the greatest act of love the universe has ever seen.  Jesus says in John 15:13, “Greater love no one has than this, that someone lay down his life for his friends”  That we would be called friends of God as sinners and then God sacrifice His life for us is astonishing!  But that is not where the story ends.  Easter is just a few days away and it is appropriate that we celebrate the fact that Jesus was raised from the dead.  After three days in the grave Jesus rose again to life!  This ensures for us that Jesus’ sacrifice for our sin was accepted by God and that we are guaranteed to be resurrected like Him if we believe in His death.  Surely there is nothing in me that is worthy of such a deed by God so I am convinced that it is purely of grace that I have faith in this marvelous promise!

So this weekend remember that God sent Jesus on a rescue mission to pay your punishment for your sins so that you wouldn’t have to.  Reflect on the truth of the gospel and marvel at the unfathomable love that Jesus would lay down His life to save yours!

What Did He Just Say?

Rev. Jonathan Edwards, a leader of the Great A...

Jonathan Edwards: America's greatest theologian Image via Wikipedia

I just started reading the book Think:  The Life of the Mind and the Love of God by John Piper and so far, as is to be expected when one reads a Piper book, is pretty academic and mind-exploding!  In chapter 2 Piper is extolling his love of Jonathan Edwards and his musings on the Trinitarian God.  This quote from Edwards comes from his paper “An Essay on the Trinity” and it is simply too good to not share.  I had to read it a couple times before I totally understood it, but it seems to me the most complete and robust explanation of the Trinity and how each Person relates to the Other.

This I suppose to be the blessed Trinity that we read of in the Holy Scriptures.  The Father is the deity subsisting in the prime, unoriginated and most absolute manner, or the deity in its direct existence.  The Son is the deity generated by God’s understanding, or having an idea of Himself and subsisting in that idea.  The Holy Ghost is the deity subsisting in act, or the divine essence flowing out and breathed forth in God’s infinite love to delight in Himself.  And I believe the whole Divine essence does truly and distinctly subsist both in the Divine idea and Divine love, and that each of them are properly distinct persons.

That totally blew my mind!  And it gets even crazier because on the next page Piper includes another excerpt from Edwards’ paper on how the Trinity glorifies itself and delights in itself.

God is glorified withing Himself these two ways: (1) By appearing…to Himself in His own perfect idea [of Himself], or in His Son, who is the brightness of His glory. (2) By enjoying and delighting in Himself, by flowing forth in infinite…delight towards Himself, or in his Holy Spirit.

…So God glorifies Himself toward the creatures also in two ways: (1) By appearing to…their understanding. (2) In communicating Himself to their hearts, and in their rejoicing and delighting in, and enjoying, the manifestations which He makes of Himself…God is glorified not only by His glory’s being seen, but by its being rejoiced in.  When those that see it delight in it, God is more glorified  than if they only see it.  His glory is then received by the whole soul, both by the understanding and by the heart.

God made the world that He might communicate, and the creature receive, His glory; and that it might [be] received both by the mind and heart.  He that testifies his idea of God’s glory [doesn’t] glorify God so much as he that testifies also his approbation of it and his delight in it.

So there it is.  A rather complete and robust exegesis on the doctrine of the Trinity in less than 200 words!  I didn’t think that existed!  Just some food for thought since I don’t have time to write any more.

Peace.

Jesus of Nazareth

Jesus of Nazareth, precious Lord, Son of David

The Name above names, God with us is sacred.

Root of Jesse, Holy Redeemer, and sinner’s friend.

From heaven to earth, earth to grave to ascend.

Source of all power, joy, truth and wisdom

How loving of God to give us His Son

Incarnate God through miracle born

His death for our sins, the curtain is torn!

Cry out for mercy, His loving ears perceive

Salvation through faith is our gift to receive

Our plea before God is always His cause

To forgive us for all our sins and faux pas.

His promise to us is life without end

For eternal praise every knee will soon bend

His glory is our passion, His name we will spread

‘Til crowns of glory in heaven encircle our heads.

 

A Must See/Listen!

I just listened to a really great message from Pastor Mark Driscoll from Mars Hill Church in Seattle, WA.  It’s called “The Coming of the Kingdom”.  It is a part of Mars Hill’s sermon series on the book of Luke.  This message is part 71 of the 2 year series.  If you want to listen to the previous 70 sermons go ahead, it’ll only take you 176,359 hours!  I would strongly recommend this sermon for preparation for Good Friday and Easter.  Click on http://www.marshillchurch.org/media/luke/the-coming-of-the-kingdom to listen/watch the sermon.  That is all!

Holy Week

Yesterday was the first day of what the Christian calendar calls “Holy Week”.  Beginning with Palm Sunday which remembers Jesus’ triumphant entry into Jerusalem on the back of a donkey.  In the space of a week Jesus will experience exaltation at the gates of the city to despite and humiliation at the governor’s mansion.  It all begins with Jesus humbly riding in on a donkey with people laying down palm branches on His path while saying “Hosanna!  Baruch haba b’shem Adonai” which means “Blessed is He who comes in the name of the Lord!”  The people of Jerusalem were excited to receive their king who was going to free them from the oppression of the Roman occupation.  They had messed up beliefs about the Messiah and what He would accomplish.  However, when it became clear that Jesus was not going to lead a rebellion against the Roman rule He quickly falls out of favor with the public and attracts a lot of negative attention from the Pharisees and Sadducees with His teachings about the Kingdom of God.  The people assumed that Jesus would declare Himself king and restore Israel to its former greatness and usher in the Kingdom on earth.  The Jews had always had a nationalistic view of the Messianic mission and it led them to assume that they were the only people the Messiah would come for.  Assuming their righteous standing with God because of their chosen status with God.  They were God’s chosen people from among the nations of the world so the Messiah would be on their team and save them from the other nations, not themselves as Jesus taught.  Their national pride was one of the causes for their blindness to the real mission of Jesus.  Jesus taught from the beginning that He would die in the place of sinners and referenced many Old Testament scriptures as proof of His lordship and mission.

We are all in the same position as the people of Jerusalem who were blind to their own personal need of a Messiah.  The real problem was that we have sinned against a holy God and our sins deserve to be punished.  The punishment for our sins is an eternity in hell.  One sin against an eternal God requires an eternal punishment.  Each one of us is steeped in sin from the moment we’re born and are completely incapable of doing anything righteous in the sight of God.  But Jesus, being God, was sent from heaven to live a sinless life and die in the place of sinners so that He would be punished by God instead of us.  God punished Jesus on the cross to the full extent deserved for every human who would be saved.  Only an eternal soul like the one in Jesus could bear the eternal aspect of the wrath for sins.  So for three hours God relentlessly poured out wrath upon wrath on Jesus in our place.  Because of this substitution those who place their faith in Jesus are forgiven because there is no judgment left for them.  On top of that, Jesus was raised from the dead and gave us the righteousness He achieved during His life so that we can have a righteous standing before God until the day we meet Him in the eternal afterlife.

It takes a miracle work of God to reveal this in our hearts and before that miracle we were among the crowds crying “Crucify him!” before Pilate.  As C.J. Mahaney says, “Before we can begin to see the cross as something done for us leading us to faith and worship, we must see it as something done by us, leading us to repentance.  Only the man or the woman who is prepared to own his share in the guilt of the cross may claim his share in its grace.”

I pray that all of us this Holy Week would seek to go deeper into the mystery and wonder of the cross and that we would find that our Savior’s love goes deeper than we had ever imagined before!  Seek out the Lord, acknowledge your sins, and find forgiveness and life at the foot of the cross and the empty grave.

2 Cor. 5:21 “For He made Him who knew no sin to be sin for us, that we might become the righteousness of God in Him”

What really is the fate of every person who ever lived?

I’m not prepared for this at all, I just felt like saying what I’m about to say is necessary.  I’m sure that if you’re a Christian, or even if you’re not, you’ve heard about the recent controversy surrounding Rob Bell’s new book called Love Wins: A Book About Heaven and Hell and Every Person Who Ever Lived.  Bell’s recently published volume of words is more declaration of independence than it is book.  It is his own announced and widely distributed declaration that he is splitting from traditional Christianity and the beliefs Christians have held for the 1,978 years since Christ’s resurrection.  I may take a harsh tone from here on out but  in Scripture we are told to deal harshly with people who preach a false gospel and lead people astray.  People have been called heretics for less than Bell’s claims in Love Wins.

I want to make it clear that I have not read Love Wins in it’s entirety and I am basing this post off of reviews from authors, teachers, and pastors from both sides and Bell’s publicly accessed material.  While I am not qualified scholarly or theologically to make any informed judgements on the book I do feel it is necessary to point out the main arguing points from the book and to let the Christian community know what it’s up against.  I will warn you, this post will be LONG!  Brevity is  not one of my strengths.

First of all, Bell in Love Wins is arguing that God is love.  Can anyone refute that?  No, because it is in the Bible.  Just as is the case with almost every other heresy the church has ever faced, well-meaning people trying to be nice to everyone and not offend anybody over-emphasize one point made in the Bible and subsequently overlook all other related aspects of that one point.  Such is the case in Bell’s theological treatise.  God most definitely is love as 1 John 4:8 says, “Anyone who does not love does not know God, because God is love“.  You can go to so many places in the Bible to prove God is love and that He loves people, this has never been a disputed fact in Christianity.  Some of the most famous verses in the Bible are directly related to love and God’s love (John 3:16, 1 Cor. 13:4, 1 John 4:10, John 15:12, Ephesians 2:4, etc…).  In 2 Peter 3:9, Paul tells us that “The Lord is not slow to fulfill His promise as some count slowness, but is patient toward you, not wishing that any should perish, but that all should reach repentance“.  This represents God’s heart for humanity as His creation and the love He has for us as Creator.  Unfortunately, God cannot love each of us with saving love because if He did bestow upon every single person who ever lived saving love, God would cease to own one of His other attributes, His holiness.

God’s holiness is arguably one of the most important attributes of God that has been revealed to us by Scripture.  Without God’s holiness there is no need of a gospel to begin with.  If God is not holy and our sin does not offend Him and separate us from Him then we don’t need a savior because there is nothing to be saved from.  The reason we are all on the brink of eternal conscious torment in hell is because of God’s holiness.  Our sin is an act of treason against the ruler of the universe.  God is perfect in every imaginable way and as supreme sovereign over everything, it is not unfitting that He require His creatures to be perfect as He is perfect (1 Peter 1:15).  This command is not burdensome to those who are living without as sin nature as our parents Adam and Eve were originally.  God was very pleased with his first two humans made in His image and loved them and fellowshipped with them.  That all changed when they disobeyed God and sinned.  After that the human race fell into sin and the sin nature was passed down through the human DNA.  It is literally engrained in our genes to be sinful.  The Bible tells us that God hates sin because it is so ugly and offensive to Him.  God cannot be around sin because it is a disgusting stench to Him.  Sin is the exact opposite of God who is good and righteous in every way.  Because God is a holy ruler He does not withstand sin and He deals with it severely.  Sin is so egregious before God that He punishes it with separation from Him and wrath.  God is compelled by His own character and moral perfection to punish sin which is completely amoral and devoid of any semblance of god-like goodness.  Simply put, sin hates God and God hates sin.  God is greater than sin so God always gives sin a beat down!

The nature of the punishment of God for sin is eternal just as God is eternal Himself.  Sin is so wicked and offensive to God that just one is enough to condemn a man to an eternity of torment in hell.  The bottom line is that hell is real and it is full of people!  Everyone who has ever lived is a sinner by nature and by choice.  The Bible says that there is no one who does good, we have all turned aside of out own choice.  We have consciously neglected God with our thoughts, words, deeds, and motives.  We sin by commission (doing things we ought not to do) and omission (not doing things God has commanded us and created us to do).  There is no one who is righteous before God.  Even our best deeds are as filthy rags before a holy God because sin is so pervasive in our lives that everything we do is stained with the crimson dye of sin.  This is the Calvinistic doctrine of “total depravity”.  Not that everyone is as completely depraved as sinfully possible, but that we are completely unable to produce anything righteous or pleasing to God because sin has complete and undisputed control over our lives.  Not everyone is a mass murderer, a rapist, and a Capone-like thug, however, we all exhibit these sins in varying degrees in all of our actions, thoughts, words, and motives.

So that’s the bad news.  God is holy and people are sinful.  God hates sin so He punishes those who practice it.

In all that it seems like I have completely forgotten about the love of God.  Many people say that doesn’t sound like a loving God at all and that a god like that quite simply cannot exist because it sounds so unpleasant.  But the good news is that Christianity and God is not based on what we think or feel!  And the even better good news is that God IS love!  You know how it goes, “For God so loved the world that he gave His only begotten Son that whoever believes in Him should not perish but have eternal life“.  The less quoted and oft forgotten next verse is even sweeter!  “For God did not send His Son into the world to condemn the world, but in order that the world might be saved through Him.  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.”  The whole point of the Old Testament is to show us our need for a savior.  This savior is Jesus Christ!  Jesus is the Son of God who shares all the same attributes of God because He is God.  Jesus is God made man who shares our flesh and lives the perfect life pleasing to God and obedient in every way that we were meant to live.  Jesus lived the life we couldn’t and died the death we should have died.  Jesus died in our place on the cross and when He died God treated Him as if He was the sinner instead of us in order that the wrath being stored up for me and you could be exhausted upon Jesus leaving none for us.  Second Corinthians 5:21 says, “For our sake [God] made Him to be sin who knew no sin, so that in Him we might become the righteousness of God”.  Jesus became our sin on the cross and bore the full penalty of it from His Father and because of this great act of love we inherit Jesus’ righteousness that He earned during His life!  We are viewed as completely righteous before God, our crimson stain of sin is washed away and we wear robes of purest white!  There is no wrath for us to fear because Jesus’ immortal soul endured the eternal wrath of God on the cross.  Not even a drop of wrath is left for those who trust in this great exchange!

That is the good news, the best news!  God is love so He gave us His own Son as our savior.  We are forgiven and are counted as righteous before God because of Jesus’ death and resurrection.  As John Piper said, “It’s all about the superiority of the work of Christ for those who are in Him over against what happened to all who are in Adam”.

By over-emphasizing the love of God as the all-triumphant force of God and minimizing, and almost negating God’s holiness, Bell has completely undermined the importance and glory of the gospel of Jesus Christ to which the church has held precious for two millennia.  As I touched on early, if God is not holy and not angry at creation for its sin, there is no need for a savior we are all lovey-dovey with God right now.  But that is not the case.  That’s why the gospel is such good news because our sin problem is the major defect of the human race and God has given us a solution!

Because of the gospel we now have access to God where we were previously cut off.  Through faith in the life, death, burial, and resurrection of Jesus we receive the forgiveness of sins and the promise of eternal life in heaven with God.  In Love Wins Bell suggests that how we respond to the gospel in our lives is not important because God’s love will eventually win over our hearts.  This is incredibly discouraging because if Bell is correct that means that the most wicked of people will eventually come to faith in Jesus and will be with God in heaven.  Yes, according to Bell’s theory Adolf Hitler will be won by God’s love and be in heaven, Saddam Hussein will be in heaven, Joseph Stalin will be in heaven, the Roman emperor Nero will be in heaven, every Frederic Nietzsche will be in heaven, Immanuel Kant will be in heaven, Osama bin Laden will be in heaven, every mass murderer and rapist will be in heaven, every godless person who ever lived will eventually join those who lived holy, faith-filled lives and strived, suffered, and toiled for the faith of Jesus.  This seems a terrible injustice on God’s part.  Bell claims that the injustice lies in the sending of people to hell.  Traditional Christianity claims that the injustice would be in sending faithless people to heaven where those who were martyred for their faith will abide forever.  People deserve hell.  Period.  People don’t deserve heaven.  That’s why it’s called grace.  Grace is the most important word in the whole Bible because it is the world that sums up God’s disposition towards us if we put our faith and trust in Jesus.

An inadequate understanding of grace is the source of heresies like Bell’s.  Grace is unmerited favor shown to us by God.  Nobody deserves to go to heaven, while everyone who has ever lived deserves to go to hell.

To conclude this lengthy exposition, Love Wins is a serious threat to biblical Christianity and the Christian community must be educated to the threat it poses and what is at stake.  What we are fighting for is the maintaining of the true gospel because the gospel is the power of God for salvation to everyone who believes.  We contend for the truth because we represent the one true living God and we desire the world to rightly understand His nature and character so that He receives that maximum amount of glory and that more people come to faith in Jesus to receive salvation and forgiveness of their sins.  That’s all I’ll say because my fingers hurt now!  If you want to read Love Wins for yourself I would recommend it just for the purpose of being able to defend your own faith.  Grace and peace.