A fictional accout to explain a Non-fictional Truth
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Exercise is Good for You
My wife and I went over to a friend of ours house that has some exercise equipment under their covered patio that they let us use. We went around back, as was our custom, without knocking or announcing our presence which was the way we had been encouraged use the equipment. This time, however, when we came around the side of the house another couple was already using the equipment. We had just started to excuse ourselves and back off expressing that we did not know that our friends already had company when our friends came out the door with the glasses of tea they had just made.
“Don’t be silly,” she said, “there is enough equipment here for all of us.” So we introduced ourselves around, picked an empty piece of equipment and began to settle in for a little workout when our friend points at me and says, “ This is the guy I was telling you about. He is not a preacher but he knows his Bible. Go ahead,” he says to our new friends, “ask him anything.”
So one of our new friends turns to me and says “I’ve got a question for you. The Bible says ‘God so loved that he had to give up his son to die’. How is that possible? How could a God of love do something like that?”
I considered her for a moment and then tried to answer it this way: “The short answer is that God had to. To answer that question and to understand the answer you have to understand the nature of God. Consider that Man was created in God’s image. It says so in Genesis 1:26. However, it says in John 4:24 that God is a spirit, which we are clearly not. So how is it that we are in God’s image? Well, one way is that God made us with free choice just like he is. We can choose who we are. If a friend of yours was accused of stealing you could say that he did not do it. Why? Because you know him and that is not the way he has chosen to live. People can be very strong in their convictions.
Well, God has chosen to be righteous. That means he has chosen to never sin or accept sin around himself. He still loves the sinner but he cannot, will not, tolerate the sin. Man chose to sin so to God we were dead. God still loves us, so he has to find a way for us to overcome our situation. Your friend that was accused of being a thief, he needed money to pay his bills but could not bring himself to steal so he had to find a way to raise the money without stealing.
You could argue that God is all-powerful and can do anything so he could just change his mind and accept us as we are. Well, your friend could choose to steal but if he did he would no longer be the same person you trusted. God is all-powerful but he will not be untrue to himself just like your friend would go bankrupt before he would steal.
In the end, we have all sinned so none of us are acceptable in that condition before God. Now consider that you come home one day and you find a scruffy, dirty, long-hared, hippy type freak in your house. Your immediate reaction is that you cannot tolerate this person in your house. You don’t know them and their appearance is contrary to your standards. Now, before you can throw the bum out your son comes in the room and introduces him as his friend. What changed, everyone is exactly who they were before but now no one is being forcibly ejected from the house. Is it really so hard to see how this would work with God. You did not change your principles and yet this person that you would object to is still in your house. Next consider that you come up on a traffic accident and, heaven forbid, it is your son and he is dying in your arms. With his last breath he asks you to let his friend live in your house. What are you going to do? Will you not tolerate what is intolerable?”
“So, Jesus died for all of us so we can all go to heaven because he asked God to let us in? Is that how it works?” my new friend asks.
“Not exactly, what happens if after the accident and you get home where your son’s friend is and you tell him your son has died and he doesn’t care. He tells you that your son wanted him to live in a way that was good and that is no fun so he can’t live that way. He has rejected your son; will you still let him stay? I think not. You see, God loved us, his creation, enough that he was willing to let the car accident happen, speaking metaphorically, but it is not an automatic that everyone gets in free. No, you have to accept his son.”
“So, by living a certain way we earn our way into heaven.” she continues.
“No, the bum did not earn anything but choosing to live like the son asked. The gift had already been made; it was the choice of a way to live. That was how the gift was accepted. When we accept the son by doing what he said do and living the way he said live we don’t earn salvation we accept the gift of grace. Without that we don’t get in.
“I think I am beginning to understand,” she says, “so what is it that we must do to accept the Son?”
“Now you have hit on the really controversial question. Some will tell you that all you have to do is accept Jesus as your personal savior and it is true that you must do that but that is only one of many things Jesus wants us to do. That is like the bum telling you that he will live like your son wanted one day a week. Is that enough?”
“No, I would want the whole week.”
“Yes, you would and God is no different. In the second chapter of James there is the story of Abraham and in first Peter chapter 3 there is the story of Noah. In both places it is describing the process of salvation, that is, what Jesus wants us to do to become Christians. After the beginning, the completion of the process to become a Christian we are expected to live as Jesus wanted us to live. The bum we have been talking about has to agree to certain ground rules of the house to begin living there but he must continue to try to live like the son wanted all the time he is there. It is his trying that allows you to overlook his shortcomings for your son’s sake.”
“So how do you begin?”
“I can give you scriptures and explain each step, if you want, but in short it is this, God wants man to explain to man what Jesus wants and it is those that listen and search the scriptures for the truth that will really hear what God wants. Jesus could have told Paul on the Damascus road what he needed to do to be saved but instead he sent him into Damascus to hear the truth from another man.
Next, God wants us to repent. The bum had to chose to change and we do also. We have to change from living selfishly to living the way Jesus would want but repentance is more than that. We have to make right those things we have done wrong.
The process continues when we reach a point that we can admit to those around us that we have decided to make this who we are. That confession is the same one that Peter made and that Jesus made the foundation of his kingdom. Peter is not the foundation, his confession is. So we confess with the mouth that we believe that Jesus is the Son of God.
And finally, that verse I mentioned earlier in first Peter chapter 3 about Noah. The Bum, the Christian want-to-be and Noah are all in the same place at this point. If Noah had not entered the ark, had the bum not entered your house and if the Christian is not baptized he cannot be saved. Entering the Ark and entering your house cannot be construed as earning salvation for Noah and the Bum but people will be quick to tell you that Baptism is trying to earn your salvation with works. What a contradiction in logic. Baptism is purely symbolic but is the way Jesus has laid out for us to come into contact with his saving blood. When people were told to dip in the river Jordan seven times they thought that was silly but it was God’s chosen way to heal them. It wasn’t the water that did it but the obedience to what ever God wants and that is not silly. It is the difference between choosing to accept God and Jesus and rejecting them.”
“I get it,” she says as she nods her head, “If you obey God even if you think it is silly you will obey God in things of life that are far more serious.”
“That’s one way of putting it.” Well, maybe I had met more than a new friend; maybe we were about to get a new sister in Christ.
“I don’t know,” her husband speaks for the first time, “I know someone that while her daughter was in the hospital, God sent an angle to tell her that if she would accept the Holy Spirit into her heart she would be save and her daughter would be healed. She did and her daughter got well. How do you explain that?”
“I’m thankful that I don’t have to worry about stuff like that. It makes no difference to me if an angle or some being posing as God really did tell her because I know that the angle would have been lying. You see, God, who controls the content of the Bible has said in II Timothy chapter three verses 14-17 that the Bible is enough to make us perfect with him. We don’t need angels for that and in Galatians 1:8 he says that even if an angel says different than what I have explained we should not believe them. I guess God knew these kinds of claim would be made.”
“I didn’t know it said that.” He replied thoughtfully. I am wondering if I was seeing a new brother-in-Christ coming our way. Exercise really is good for the soul.
Copyright (C) 2008 Michael W. Gardner