Biblegateway Verse of the Day

A Radical Love

By Benjamin H. Liles

          I've been wrestling with this idea from the start. How can man, been born of a woman, claim deity, die on a cross, and then "supposedly" raised from the dead? I know I'm phrasing this from a non-Christian point of view when in fact I am a Christ-follower. The debate has been a hot one for years. The Catholic Church alone has said their position is that -- at the outset of the Council of Trent, "If any one [says], that by faith alone the [godless] is justified...let him be [cursed/damned]." I have more of a problem with a position of a church to claim they speak on behalf of Christ, when almost everyone in this day and age has at least one Bible.

          We're told by Jesus to Nicodemus, "And as Moses lifted up the serpent in the wilderness, even so the Son of Man be lifted up...For God did not send His Son into the world to condemn the world...He who believes in Him is not condemned" (John 3:14-18, New King James). When was the thought of a church worth more than what God revealed to man within His own word? So, it is within this context I'm writing this. Not to expose the sins of the Catholic Church, or to even condemn it, for they can do that on their own.

         Rather, the attempt is to show the depth of passion and of love towards a God who chooses to forgive those who need it. Let's turn the pages of the Bible to see what I mean. Jesus had just come down from a mountaintop, having prayed and a multitude of people were following him. This man, a leper came worshiping Him, saying, "Lord, if you are willing, You can make me clean" (Matthew 8:2). Notice that the man didn't claim a word of faith over his disease, neither did he command Jesus, nor did he declare himself to be of such importance that Jesus had to do this. This poor man, his heart was breaking, and simply put forth from his mouth, "If you are willing...make me clean."

          Jesus puts His hand out, touching the leper, saying, "I am willing; be cleansed," and immediately his leprosy was cleansed from him (Matthew 3:3). Jesus Christ, the Messiah, did these things as He knew which of the people needed freedom from sin. The only time He condemned willful sin was when the Pharisees came to Him. He says to them, in particular, "Blind Pharisee! First clean the inside of the cup and dish, so that the outside may become clean as well" (Matthew 23:26, Berean Study). In other words, "Stop caring about the outer appearance and take care of your heart, first, then you will be clean."

          It's why immediately after saying that, Jesus also said to them, "Woe to you, scribes and Pharisees, hypocrites! For you are like whitewashed tombs which indeed appear beautiful outwardly, but inside are full of dead men’s bones and all uncleanness" (Matthew 23:27, New King James). Part of the biggest reason my wife, Tanya, and I do not follow any form of religion is because a number of them reason that "Sure, we have our faith, but we ought to also work/earn our salvation." Even the Catholic Church has their own rites where one can claim they are saved. But how do they know for sure?

          To me, the equation isn't faith + works (like the roots of a tree, works) = salvation; the equation is more like this: faith = salvation + works (as in a tree that bears fruit). And there's a reason to look at it this way more so than in the other. 

          We're told, by Paul -- whom according to some teachers and pastors we ought to ignore the words of -- that the fruit of the Spirit is "love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness, self-control; against such things there is no law" (Galatians 5:22-23, New American Standard). At no time within the pages of the Bible does it say, "You have to work to earn your salvation." Rather we see such phrases as, "For it is by grace you have been saved through faith, and this not from yourselves; it is the gift of God, not by works, so that no one can boast" (Ephesians 2:8-9, Berean Study).

          If we can boast about the things which we accomplish and they can save us from sin and death, then purpose was there for Jesus the Messiah to suffer and die on the cross. Or was that all a simple act from a deranged man? If you say that it was a simple act, and Christ, that is to say the Messiah, never died (the swoon theory) then no man has any righteousness and therefore is not reconciled to God, the Father.

          Here's my proof for an eternal, loving God who saves from sin and not because I some how earned it. Some of you who read my articles know that I went through gall bladder surgery. I was a mean, sinful man before that event. I was angry (a lot), spoke harshly to my wife, even when she didn't deserve it, and didn't have the love of Christ. I always thought I had been saved, having been baptized a number of times. By the way, baptism doesn't mean you're saved in the least bit. That's for another article, though.

          At any rate, I was dying because my gall bladder was about to release toxins into my body: I was about to be poisoned, completely rotted out. Think on that, and then think on those verses Christ said to the Pharisees. I was pretty much like that. So, here's this man, the night before his surgery, fever not going down, gall bladder set to explode (it was three times its normal size), realizing he wasn't going to Heaven. I didn't plead with God to save me because I some how deserved it. No. Rather, I realized I was a sinner and had been exceedingly sinful. 

          I remembered reading a number of Bible verses and one of them being about how God delivered the Israelites out of Egypt. Then He starts commanding them to obey him, that there are no other gods but Him alone (see Exodus 20:1-17). He had called Israel, His people into a relationship with Him! He said, in essence to them, "I did this for you; now you are to do this to live in my presence, " those commands that are marked out as something to the effect of "x, y, z" in those commands He gave to them.

          If we're going to proclaim a radical message that God saves from sin, let us put off the darkness, which entwines itself in our hearts; let's get those things off of us. I want to live my life as Christ would want me to, but I can't do those things on my own. I need a "Light" to show me the way. Jesus is that way. When He took my sins, my punishment on the cross, He did so because nothing I could do can sway God's wrath on me. That night that my gall bladder was set to explode? I ran for the cross, crying in desperation, crying to live, crying out to get rid of all that was unholy and impure. It took a pound of my flesh to do, but it was either that or pay with my whole and full life and simply go to Hell.

          The fastest way to enter Hell is to stay unconvinced. The best way to enter into those broad, sweeping, well-trod on places isn't lined with good intentions; it's paved with the blood of many. Swift are the feet that shed blood, those that say, "I can do it on my own." No way, not this man. Not ever again. I'd much rather listen to the sweet voice of my Savior; the One who went to Calvary's Cross on my behalf. When you have strength enough to have the faith, the humility to say, "If You, Lord Jesus, are willing word you want to use--me." He was willing that night.

          Since then I've not lived life perfectly as I'm not perfect by any means. But I can change, I can grow and have the mindset Jesus would rather me to have. When those mountains of despair show up, I have enough faith to say to them, "My Lord is greater than you." When circumstances arise where things look hard and it looks as if I'm in the middle of the storm, I turn to my Captain, Jesus, and ask Him, "Will You help me through this? Help me in my unbelief! Help me to have the strength to have the faith we can get through this." And He shows Himself in every way.

          When I was released from the hospital, after my gall bladder was removed, we were in for a rough ride. My parents used to live on a bit of an up-rise, but still in a flood plain area. The skies opened on all of us where we live--my grandmother, my sister, my wife, and my parents, along with our pets. We knew it was going to rain, but not the extent of what was going to happen. So, those rains came, a bridge out in another rural area was completely demolished from the strength of the water; waters here rose tremendously. There was nowhere my  wife and I could go due to me recent surgery. We simply had to stay put.

          We didn't claim word of faith on us, or rely on the Catholic church to help us out, just rested in the knowledge God knew what He was doing. Yes, we were scared. But He gave us something within those 24-48 hours: enough grace, faith, peace and joy to come through it. We live on a second floor, but our apartment complex sits on an elevated area, so the water around us was doing a semi-circle around the property. Where the water was submerging parts of the road we camped out, listening to the radio, and just praised God for sparing us. I want to say that maybe a couple to a few people died in that flood, but it wasn't tremendous. That was October 2018. It's coming on two years in a few short months since my salvation, and every day, every month goes by where I can honestly, sincerely can claim, "I am born of Christ, and in Him is my refuge."

          I can claim I live life comfortably, but that would be untrue. What with the virus outbreak a couple months back and the whole deal with George Floyd's death and the rioting, heart's can still change even now. But it requires a sincere, radical love that God does exist. That His Son died on the cross to keep God's wrath off of us, so we can still come to Him for eternal life. Evil things happen because we live in a sinful, fallen world. But we don't have to live our lives that way. We can throw off the shackles of fear and uncertainty. He's ransomed us by His shed blood. He rose from the grave, and we have access to the Father through Him.

          And that is truly the good news of the Christian faith: not that we deserve it, for no one can earn or even obtain His mercy except through Christ alone, His crucifixion alone. All it takes is that step of faith. He's moved on our part, now all we have to do is take that first step toward Him. God. Is. Not. Finished. Yet! I pray this helps a number of you who read these words. I don't mean to make these posts so long, but I feel there is something much bigger than myself going on. I honestly believe that God calls me, as well as others who have a firm, strong, unshakable faith in Him to proclaim the gospel of Jesus Christ.

          That gospel message is so very simple and clear as well: Jesus came to restore us to Himself--God the Father, Jesus the Messiah His Son, blessed and sanctified by the Holy Spirit, in order that we are set free from sin and death; having eternal life, being declared righteous in Him. It means we are no longer enslaved to sin, so why sin any more? We ought o live our loves according to grace, according to having our minds set on things above. We are no longer slaves to sin, but children of a loving God who desires us to hear His voice, and to live our lives as a valid witness as did those few faithful men that Christ chose to be the foundation of His actual Church. Those men are Levi (also known as Matthew), Peter (Simon), Andrew--the brother of Simon Peter, brothers John and James (sons of Zebedee), Philip and Bartholomew (Nathaniel), Thomas (the doubter), James the son of Alphaeus, Thaddaeus, Simon the Zealot, Matthias (who replaced Judas Iscariot), and lastly Paul--whose original name was Saul from Tarsus, an ancient city at the Southeast coast of Turkey (12 miles to be exact, 20km). I pray this message sees all well in the matchless name of and in the grace of Jesus the Messiah. Amen.

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