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By Mike Edwards

“The unquestioned assumption that the Bible is, and has to be inerrant, or else it cannot be the word of God, is the number one assumption/expectation that appears in deconversion narratives.”

John Marriott – A Recipe for Disaster: Four Ways Churches and Parents Prepare Individuals to Lose Their Faith and How They Can Instill a Faith That Endures

Most people I know don’t tune out God or leave from faith in God as an excuse to lead a hell-bent life. I am not sure why some are more or less inclined to believe and seek a relationship with a Creator. Either belief requires faith. Many may desire God be more a part of their life but are turned away because what they imagine God should be like isn’t what others claim.

Most get their understanding about God from the Bible.  

Church-goers gain most of their understanding of God from the Bible. Many non-going church people are impacted by what others claim about God according to the Bible. I wrote here that the main passages used to condemn gays in God’s name are highly debatable. Try telling people with a straight face a perfect moral God tortures forever after death for beliefs held while a short time here on earth. What many assume of a good God doesn’t match what the Bible says!

The problem is how the Bible is viewed.

The Bible has been used to misled many about God, but we must admit the Bible has inspired many. Jesus, who represented God, set a powerful example by how He treated others. Yet, a close reading of the Bible notices hundreds of passages advocating violence in God’s name. It is normal to question an interpretation that makes God appear immoral from a human perspective. It is normal to question if the writers always fully understood God. It is not God’s nature to controlled anyone’s thoughts. Writers could be influenced by culture norms where sacrilegious to not speak of God as all-controlling than relational.

When insisting all of the Bible is inspired or approved by God, it forces one to reject the Bible if wrong on any issue. Many insist the Bible can’t support evolution. These same people also insist the Bible is without error. If one believes evolution is a possibility, this forces them to reject the Bible and often God goes with that. Maybe Genesis isn’t meant to be a historical or scientific rendering of creation but written to convey there was a Creator.

It is suggested we should look to Jesus as the final authority when confused.

There are still interpretation issues even if we insist Jesus be the final voice in what God is truly like. Those who respect Scriptures don’t always agree what Jesus thought. Turning the other check is interpreted to claim Jesus never advocated violence, but the possible literal translation of Mt. 5:39 is “do not resist by evil means.” Would Jesus agree violence is never desired but may be necessary sometimes? The NT is no different than reading the OT since we could be wrong what Jesus would do.

How can we read and represent the Bible?

The Bible can be viewed as a recording of experiences with God for reflection by the readers. God didn’t necessarily perform a lobotomy to control the thoughts and words of the writers. The Bible or any literature written thousands of years ago isn’t meant to be used as a rules or answers book. Jesus didn’t always answer questions directly because circumstances vary and the issue is our heart in solving problems. Imagine a world where all looked out for the interests of others and not just themselves during difficult times. Read the Bible with an open-mind motivated by love rather than with blind obedience.  Use common moral sense as you consider what a loving God is really like.

A part of the solution is to stop the sin of certainty!

There is so much civil unrest because both sides demonize one another by insisting they are right and the other side is wrong. Can you imagine if couples acted this way when disagreeing? Religious leaders seem hell-bent in telling people what must be believed about God, often according to their understanding and interpretation of the Bible. I am convinced the Bible or any literature wasn’t meant to be used as a question and answer book. The Bible read reflectively allows God’s spirit to speak to individuals in making unselfish decisions for a better world. Don’t push people away from God because of the Bible.

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By Mike Edwards

There is so much civil unrest because both sides demonize one another by insisting they are right and the other side is wrong. Can you imagine if couples acted this way when disagreeing? God-followers and religious leaders seem hell-bent in telling people what must be believed about God according to their understanding and interpretation of the Bible. Open-minded uncertainty rather than supposed certainty could go a long way to healing our nation and personal relationships!

Certainty about God because of the Bible

It is circular logic to suggest the Bible is infallible or inspired by God because biblical writers make such a claim.  Writers could have clearly misunderstood God. God’s nature is not to control thoughts and words of writers. Besides, the Catholic Bible has seven additional books in the Old Testament than the Protestant Bible. Which books are supposedly infallible? The Bible isn’t a question and answer book. Jesus didn’t always answer directly because the issue is our heart in solving problems. Can you imagine a world where all looked out for the interests of others and not just themselves when facing difficulties?

Certainty about our interpretation of the Bible

It is not often admitted one’s interpretations may be wrong but instead emphatically stated “the Bible says…” Literature always requires interpretation of a writer’s meaning and application to our personal circumstances. Scholars and laypeople, who even respect the authority of Scriptures, frequently disagree on the meaning of the same passage. Turning the other check is interpreted to claim Jesus never advocated violence, but the possible literal translation of Mt. 5:39 is “do not resist by evil means.” Is violence never desired but necessary sometimes?

Certainty about what is best for individuals about their relationships

Bible folks and non-Bible folks frequently talk as if knowing what is best in one’s circumstances, whether about personal or work relationships. It is easier giving advice than listening and helping one make their own decisions. Bible-folks claim one shouldn’t divorce because the Bible supposedly says so. It’s complicated. A partner may respond with gratitude for a second change or another chance may simply enable bad behaviors to continue.

The Bible is quoted that we must always forgive, but God is often said to not forgive the rebellious (i.e. Josh. 24:19). It’s complicated. Easy forgiveness can allow a husband’s abusive behavior to continue. When a sexual abuser doesn’t acknowledge their actions, secret behaviors continue. Victims can feel more victimized, and feel God must not understand their pain, when told to forgive despite their abuser denying any wrongdoing. Isn’t the whole point to do whatever helps control bitterness to stop the victimizing?

Certainty about what is best for a nation

God-followers must stop implying or claiming moral superiority because of the Bible for reasons stated. Thankfully, we live in a democratic society. We don’t have to vote if murder should be a law because one’s physical rights are clearly violated. Physical violence when disagreeing is obviously wrong and must be condemned, but it isn’t obvious if building a wall is right or wrong. Discussions best start with what parties agree on. Until we stop claiming morality according to a Book or our own intuitions, we will never be able to solve our differences. It is a dictatorship when we impose our will on non-moral issues such as health care or taxes.

Uncertainty, not certainty, can lead to creative solutions not chaos.  

  • We must first stop claiming our views are morally superior to those we disagree with
  • We must handle differences with physical and emotional civility
  • We can begin conversations by looking for areas we agree
  • We can discuss differences by defending our reasoning, respecting the opinions of others, and committing to growing in understanding
  • In a democratic society the vote of the majority must be followed until voted on again

 

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Is it our job as Christians to convert the unsaved?

Are we to force our views and beliefs on others so that they might come to God?

My answer would be no. It is our job to follow Christ and love others, and the Holy Spirit’s job to convict and lead people to the Father.

We cannot convert others; we cannot make them come to Christ by forcing our views and beliefs on them. Only the Holy Spirit can convict the world of sin and lead them to repentance.

Jesus said in 1 John 3:23 that we are to accept Him and love others. Apart from that, we have nothing more to do than to be available to Him and allow the Spirit to work and love through us.

LoveGodandothers

We are called to make disciples, but disciples would be those who already have a relationship with Christ. The dictionary describes a disciple as ‘a professed follower of Christ’. We are to be there to encourage and help one another into maturity in our fellowship with Him.

We are also told to go into all the world and preach the gospel. The gospel being the good news that God loves us, He has provided freedom from our sinful nature and has restored fellowship with us. Again, this is done by loving God and loving others not by being judgmental, pointing fingers, threatening and other means we sometimes use to force others to accept Christ.

When we show the love of God to others and accept them as they are people will be be drawn to Christ easier than through condemning and threatening ways. This does not mean we have to agree with everyone or say you can live anyway you want with no consequences, but we can show the love of Christ to non-believers and accept them without expecting them to change and start acting like we think they should. God accepted us as we were before we came to Him we should do the same.

In love, tell the good news to those you meet that God loves them, encourage and make disciples out of those who know Christ and stop trying to force salvation on non-believers through ‘holier than thou’ attitudes, guilt and condemnation. Love is the answer. God is love.

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This is a familiar line from a popular movie several years back. I think we can relate this to our walk with God.

According to the true love story, the love God has for mankind, this phrase would go more like, love means never having to repent again.

In today’s world, we seem to be more sin conscious than grace conscious. Most of us are running around wondering how we can overcome sin and live a life that is pleasing to God. Of course the trouble with this way of living is that we can’t do it. The main reason is because God has already taken care of the sin problem through the life, death and resurrection of Jesus. The only way we can live a life pleasing to God is by relying on the strength of the Spirit within us, living by the power of Jesus. He is the vine, we are the branches. We can do these things only by His strength.

Jesus came into our world, born under the law, and lived a perfect life. This made Him acceptable as a perfect lamb, without spot or blemish, to be sacrificed once and for all, for the sin nature of mankind.

Our sin nature was crucified with Christ, and when we look to Him as our sacrifice, we are raised up as new creatures in Him. Obviously, we can’t do any of this on our own. We can’t pay for it or earn it or pay God back for what He has done. It’s a gift.

Now that the sin nature is gone, are we going to live perfect lives? Unfortunately no. The sin nature is gone, but we still have a natural mind and body. We still live in a fallen world and are continually influenced by worldly ways.

The problem is we sometimes focus more on sin and the way we used to be, that we forget who we now are in Christ. We go around saying we are just a sinner saved by grace. That was true, but now we are kings and priests, we are holy and righteous in God’s sight, all because of Christ.

It’s time we stop thinking so low of ourselves and start realizing that in Christ, we are holy and righteous. Certainly not in our own strength, or by anything we have done, but through the cross of Christ.

We no longer have to repent, since our sin nature and our past, present and future sins were taken care of at the cross.

The big difference here is the meaning of repent. The true meaning of repent is to change our mind or way of thinking. I think this is something we do all the time. As God reveals more truth to us, we repent, or change our way of thinking and become more in tune with His ways.

The traditional church’s idea of repent usually means come to the altar, confess your sins and get right with God. I don’t think we have to do this type of repenting but one time. Once we come to God through Christ, repent of our sinful nature and ask Him to forgive us, we no longer need to come to Him and repent over and over. Christ died once for the sins of the world, and that covered the sin nature for all time. We don’t have to keep coming back to God, repenting of our sinful nature.

When we do sin, we can change our mind as to how we want to live and be more God-like. All we need to do is say to God, I’m sorry for messing up, thank you for grace that has taken care of this and thank you that I am holy and righteous in your sight because of Christ.

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Jesus was tempted just like each one of us. The only difference is He did not give in to the temptation.

We tend to think about Jesus being above humanity while He lived on earth. He lived a perfect life while here, but we usually say He did this because He was God and above being tempted.

We are told in the Bible that Jesus was actually tempted in ALL things just as we are today. He was completely human and was tempted just like us. This goes to show that temptation is not a sin, but we sin when we give in to the temptation.

Jesus had such a close and intimate fellowship with His Father, that he was able to overcome all temptation and live a perfect life. Because He did this, it made Him worthy to be the perfect sacrifice for us.

Because we lost the relationship and intimate fellowship with God through the fall of Adam, we were unable to live up to the Law of the Old Testament.

Jesus fulfilled the Law. He died to take away our sins and destroy the Old Covenant. He then rose from the dead and thereby began the New Covenant of living by grace.

All of us who accept His sacrifice are now living in grace, God’s perfect gift of salvation, and we are seen as perfect and righteous in His sight because of that gift.

Our old sin nature is dead and buried, and we have been raised up as new creatures in Christ. We now have the power to overcome those temptations when they come, and to live a life pleasing to God. None of this was accomplished by our own strength or works. It is the gift of God through Christ.

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Hell fire and brimstone, eternal damnation…..which sin is going to cause this for you? None of them! There is not one sin that will send you to hell. We have all sinned and we have all fallen short of the glory of God. But God made a way for the sinful nature to be destroyed. God made a way we could be forgiven. No, it isn’t the 10 Commandments. It isn’t in doing at all. The only thing that will cause an eternal separation from God is rejecting Jesus and the sacrifice He made by dying for us and our sinful nature.

So, does God love the one going to hell just as much as the one going to heaven? Absolutely yes. God is love and He loves each and every one of us. He sent His Son to die for all of us because we are all sinners. He provided the way for our salvation because He loves us and we were completely unable to provide salvation for ourselves. Obviously not everyone is going to heaven just because God loves them. It is our choice now to accept that gift or not. Unfortunately many people do not accept it, but God still loves them all the way to hell.

In regard to being perfect and righteous in God’s sight, this is the basic theme of the New Covenant (Colossians 1:22 NASB). When Jesus lived on this earth, He lived under the Old Covenant and He became the only person who lived under the law and lived a totally perfect life. Because of this, He became the perfect sacrifice that was required to fulfill the law and take our sins to the cross. When Jesus said ‘it is finished’, He was saying the old covenant was fulfilled and our sin problem can be taken care of.

When we accept, believe and confess Him as Savior, our old sinful nature is crucified and buried and we are then raised up as new creatures in Christ (2 Corinthians 5:17). Obviously that doesn’t mean we are perfect and righteous on our own. We still have a mind that needs to be renewed daily, and we have a body that is made from the earth, but our inner spirit man is now a new creation and no longer has the sinful nature.

Spiritually speaking, when God looks at us He sees Christ’s blood covering and cleansing us of all sins. Romans 6:5-7 says ‘For if we have become united with Him in the likeness of His death, certainly we shall also be in the likeness of His resurrection, knowing this, that our old self was crucified with Him, in order that our body of sin might be done away with, so that we would no longer be slaves to sin; for he who has died is freed from sin’.

Galatians 3:27 states ‘For all of you who were baptized into Christ have clothed yourselves with Christ’, and I Corinthians 3:16 tells us ‘Do you not know that you are a temple of God and that the Spirit of God dwells in you’? The Spirit of God isn’t going to dwell in unrighteousness. God no longer lives in a building like in the Old Testament, but now lives in us, His Church.

In Colossians 3:3 we are told ‘For you have died and your life is hidden with Christ in God’. Spiritually speaking, our inner spirit has been made perfect, not by our works, not by obeying the 10 commandments, not by following the Law, but by Christ taking our sin nature to the cross. It is by Him giving us the gift of a new nature and putting His righteousness in us. Ephesians 2:6 says ‘and raised us up with Him, and seated us with Him in the heavenly places in Christ Jesus’. Spiritually speaking, we are seated at the right hand of the Father. Ephesians 1:20 ‘which He brought about in Christ, when He raised Him from the dead and seated Him at His right hand in the heavenly places’.

‘He made Him who knew no sin to be sin on our behalf, so that we might become the righteousness of God in Him’ 2 Corinthians 5:21. Obviously all this is spiritually speaking. While we are here on earth in our natural bodies, we still deal with temptation and sin because of our minds and our natural bodies. The good thing is our spirit within, spiritually speaking, has been renewed and we now have become righteous and holy in God’s sight because of Jesus (Hebrews 10:14). What a fantastic gift of grace that Jesus has provided for us. Our part is to accept this great gift and take up our cross and daily follow Him.

We all know the physically, we live in this word in physical bodies and with minds that need to be renewed. But spiritually, our inner man was made new when we accepted Christ’s gift of grace through the cross. Our sinful nature, our sins past, present and future, were crucified with Christ and buried with Him. When He rose from the grave, it symbolizes us rising from a sinful nature to a new creature in Christ, holy and acceptable because of His grace (Ephesians 1:4).

We need to focus our thinking on this spiritual fact that we are now holy and righteous in God’s sight, we are seated with Christ in heaven at the right hand of the Father. We should fix our minds on things above and put our trust and hope in Christ who has purchased our salvation and given us the gift of grace.

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I am becoming increasingly aware of the fact that I don’t want to be someone who is always against something.

Whatever that may be, against this sin or that sin, against particular lifestyles, against a particular denomination or Bible version, all the different ideas and subjects we Christians can get into that end up taking away our main focus….Christ.

Jesus told us in the New Covenant that His commands were to love God and love others.

We don’t have to agree with everyone to love them, we obviously all have our convictions of right and wrong and we aren’t expected to change or give them up. We don’t have to focus on those convictions or try to prove our reasoning to others. We are told to love others no matter what. We are not responsible for converting people, that is God’s job. We are told to love them.

When Jesus walked the earth, He didn’t spend a lot of time with the religious people. He was out with the sick, despised, neglected, and sinners of the day.

I know I did it for a long time, thought I was better than others because I went to church, felt I had to stay away from those who didn’t believe because their sins would rub off on me. I would always hang out with my church friends and stay away from the worldly people.

I would spend more time trying to prove my points and my beliefs, telling people what was wrong and what to stay away from, than the time I spent talking with God or reading His words.

Obviously God calls us to follow Him and that is going to be in different ways for each of us. But to spend more time arguing, condemning, trying to prove what we feel the Bible states, pointing out people’s mistakes and shortcomings, doesn’t really help.

When we begin to understand the freedom we have in Christ, and start living through grace that Christ provided, we can be free to love and accept all those we come in contact with each day. We can show them the love of Christ by allowing the Spirit to live through us.

Don’t worry so much about who is right and who is wrong. Don’t always be against something. Be for Jesus. Be for love. Take up your cross daily and follow Jesus. Let Him be the central focus of your life and allow His love to flow out of you and touch those around you.

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