Tim ColeOne of the most significant personal transformations in my Christian life occurred as I began to understand how much God loved me, how unconditional that love was (grace), and the personal value it provided me. In fact, it takes real supernatural strength in our “inner man” to be strong enough to begin to measure the dimensions of God’s love for us (Ephesians 3:16-19). The strength of our sonship and identity in Christ is shaped almost exclusively by this single revelation.

When our finite minds, which have been bent and twisted by a carnal/ungodly nature, encounter a revelation of this magnitude, we are set on a journey of cascading opportunities to renew our minds and adjust our belief systems. This life-giving process is both necessary and dangerous for us. The danger comes as we are often left in vulnerable states while our new beliefs are being testing and cured. Our primary safety in this vulnerable growth transformation is in the community of seasoned believers who can speak the truth in love to us and encourage us toward the whole truth and nothing but the truth.

During this sifting and settling process, there are two internal filters that can significantly distort our conclusions. The “nearsighted” filter causes us to over-weight our latest revelation to the detriment of the whole counsel of truth found in the Bible. The “either-or” filter causes us to unwisely give up other truths that might seem to be in opposition with a current or new revelation because we want to avoid the internal tension that is created between the new and the “tried-n-true”.

The subject of sin is a good example. The revelation that God loves me unconditionally might be seen in tension with the idea that God’s holiness and justice would also demand that I live up to a standard of righteousness. If I fall prey to either the nearsighted or “either-or” filter, I might conclude that God’s love always trumps His holiness and justice, leaving me to conclude that “sin” does not apply to me at all. This false and dangerous conclusion was precisely what Apostle Paul was correcting in his letter to the Romans (chapters 5-6).

I’ve been hearing more frequently about a similar challenge that is being made in some sectors of the Grace Movement to the concept of divine. In my view, this challenge is driven by those two internal filters. Some unwisely try (want) to conclude that since it is inconceivable that God’s unconditional love would allow Him to punish us, there cannot be a hell or any other mechanism in the Divine timeline created for or assigned toward our punishment. Taken to its inevitable conclusion, this immature view ends with a solid grip on Universalism – the belief that eventually everyone gets in and no one is left out. Simply stated, Universalists believe that since God’s love would not punish any of us, ultimately all of us will be saved by God’s grace.

The truth about this matter can be seen very clearly and very early in the scriptures. Adam and Eve chose self-reliance over trust in God. He didn’t hesitate to punish them. As a direct result, they suffered spiritual death (the living state of being separated from God’s life-giving Spirit), and they were banished from the ideal setting that God made for them in Eden (which still would have provided them with access to the Tree of Life). Fast forward to the New Covenant and we would have to completely disregard the substitutionary sacrifice of Jesus that bore the punishment for all of the sins of humanity, as well as the stipulation of “whosoever believes” as our means to individually access His payment for our personal sins, in order to believe that God would never punish man. Therefore, these filters lead to a very wrong conclusion that everyone gets the benefit of Jesus without regard to their own person responsibility – choosing Him back. And if we make God’s grace so powerful that is has an allowance to violate our free will, then we are just puppets with no personal value.

In the end, God is larger than a single revelation and not subject to our humanistic rationales. He is both love and justice at the same time. His holiness provides a divine tension for His mercy and grace. Trying to solve that tension by self-reliance and myopic filters is exactly what got us all in trouble, through Adam and Eve, in the first place.

#GotTruth #TheWholeTruth #GetReal #GodisGod #HeDefinesUs #WeDontDefineHim