Sinful Creatures in Need of a Good God

            The greatest Christian on earth was the Apostle Paul, of whom saw and acknowledged his wretchedness, “For I do not do the good I want to do, but the evil I do not want to do – this I keep on doing” (Romans 7: 19 NIV).

Human beings cannot know God without the Holy Spirit’s transformative work in and through their lives. Galatians 5:22 identifies the Spirit as “love, joy, peace, forbearance, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness, and self-control” (NIV); and goes against human nature that is “sexual immorality, impurity and debauchery; idolatry and witchcraft; hatred, discord, jealousy, fits of rage, selfish ambition, dissentions, factions, and envy; drunkenness, orgies, and the like” (Galatians 5:19-21 NIV). To better understand the war taking place within those that allow the Spirit to guide and grow them, it is important to understand the origin of why human beings are prone to sin. Let me go on a quick detour by saying how essential it is to acknowledge one’s true human nature and deceiving heart. The world likes nothing better than to convince people they are fine the way they are, and if not, well there are plenty of self-help books to make them ‘be their own guide’, so that they can have things ‘their way’ so that they are in ‘control of their destiny’. Advertisements alone bombard with how good and powerful we are without God; this is all part of the enemy’s (Satan/devil) plan. Devil means ‘deceiver’ and Jesus calls out the devil for what he is “the enemy” (Matt 13:39); “a liar” (John 8:44); “a murderer” (John 8:44); “evil one” (Matt 13:38); and “prince of this world” (John 12:31; 14:30). I have encountered non-believers that want to avoid using the word ‘sin’ as if it somehow does not apply to them. This is another subject that can be developed in another discussion; for now, the main point here is to address aspects of humanity’s redemptive story by discussing sin and how we can work in tandem with God’s Spirit to help combat it.

Part of the redemption story is about how the human race has been given the New Covenant, a renewal and final covenant, previous covenants are the Abrahamic, Noahic, Mosaic, and Davidic. Jesus Christ is this New Covenant that replaces the written (Letter) Law given to the Israelite community on Mt. Sinai in Exodus 31:18. The Law was never meant to save, but rather show humanity his sin and its need of a Savior, God Himself. Many Old Testament prophesies point forward to the day when God’s people will be justified through His sanctifying work that will restore His grace once lost because of obeying Satan and not God. This is what Thomas Aquinas refers to as “original justice”, “in eating from the tree of knowledge, the original humans rejected divine wisdom, instead relying upon reason they believed they could internalize, symbolized by the ingestion of fruit from the tree of knowledge, in an act of autonomy” (Stillwaggon, 2014, pp. 67). Where the Law instructs animal sacrifices, because the “wages of sin is death” (Roman 6:23 NIV), the New Covenant replaces and justifies through the Spirit. Faith and not the Law is what saves, “…small is the gate and narrow the road that leads to life, and only a few find it” (Matthew 7:14 NIV). Once believers respond to the Spirit, natural desire is stirred up within the heart to serve God and others and always consists of sacrificing the flesh and picking up one’s cross to follow Jesus as Lord and Savior. This is how justification through sanctification fulfills God’s promises in the Old Testament and the New Testament.

Formation and Informational

There will be suffering and blessing, sadness and joy throughout a believer’s life as both natures, human and Spirit, live at odds. A changed life is a life that takes on the formative work of the Spirit through His imprinting of Godly attributes that then triggers believer response of performing spiritual disciplines (Strobel, 2013). For example, turning the other cheek in Matthew 5:38-40 which refers to not being offended and is evident in present day America, is a struggle when a Christian is not being led by the Spirit. Willard (1998) says regarding turning the other cheek minus love (God) that “If all you intend is to do that, you will find you can do it with a heart full of bitterness and vengefulness. If, on the other hand, you become a person who has interior character of Christ, remaining appropriately vulnerable will be done as a matter of course, and you will not think of it as a big deal.” (Willard, 1998, pp 107)

            Posturing oneself through scripture study, meditation, prayer, and contemplation, the believer invites the Spirit to engage in changing one’s mind and heart. This causes self-reflection that leads to knowing God and oneself more resulting in relationship growth. It is important to state that the more believers see the nature of God’s beauty (the light), the more human nature is evidently seen as darkness and evil. This acknowledgment of sinful nature drives one to repentance; Foster (1988) speaks about the believer’s conscious effort of discipline working together with God’s grace and identifies three catalysts as repentance brings humility, prayer is power, and encouragement from others in Christ (Foster, 1988). The Spirit validates and motivates the believer to repentance, obedience, and self-reflection when the believer invites His glory through engaging in disciplines, not as a good works, but rather in truth and love (Chapell, 2001). Dallas Willard, as cited in Vos (2012) says “prayer has a ‘spiritually strengthening effect’ on every aspect of our personality. It builds our faith and confidence in God. To be done well, prayer will almost certainly be linked with other disciplines…” (Vos, 2012, pp. 104). For instance, prayer can lead to expressions of love that reflects other centeredness as one truly listens to others in need. 

            Believers through faith are under God’s protection as they experience the Spirit’s sanctification, grace, and mercy; however, as mentioned previously, they are subject to temptations to disobey God, similarly the way Jesus was subject to Satan’s attempts in Matthew 4:1-11. Apostle Paul identifies this duel between a believer’s sinful human nature and God’s holy nature as the process of transforming mind and heart from the “pattern of this world” that results in “test and approve what God’s will is -his good, pleasing and perfect will” (Romans 12:2 NIV). Believers are instructed to put “…on the full armor of God, so that you can take your stand against the devil’s schemes” (Ephesians 6:10 NIV). For example, the discipline of ‘prayer’ helps ward off the enemy, as Chapell (2001) puts it, “…we do not have sufficient desire to resist…” and seek to get rid of sin at the same time desire it; therefore, we “pray in the Spirit” so that He may “stir up within us a greater zeal for God” so that we may combat enemy attacks (Chapell, 2001, pp. 150).

Character Formation in Daily Life

Through faith and hope and as I continue to experience character formation, I realize the importance of diligently practicing the spiritual disciplines so that I may be part of what it means to “…go and make disciples of all nations…” (Matthew 28:19 NIV). Having true thanksgiving for the Spirit’s work in my life, as well as my response to Him, requires I develop and cultivate internally obedience through the disciplines. This internal purity will naturally manifest in the external world evident in how I live as I represent the Gospel appropriately. As ambassadors to Christ, the goal is to spread the Gospel and make more disciples; therefore, as I grow, I naturally find I want to do God’s work. I have encountered His blessing that then lends to a deeper intimate experience with Him. Much in the same way any human relationship depends on how much effort one puts in it, whether a husband and wife, friend to friend, or parent to child, my actions matter concerning praise and worship on an individual and community level. Spiritual formation basically requires going beyond recognition to actual experience as a believer feels disconnected to this world and connected to God’s world, His Kingdom on earth, also known as the church (Pettit, 2008). The church is a community of love representative of a family, in the same way the Trinity consists of God the Father, God the Son, and God the Spirit. I am a living testament and have a story to tell about my conversion, who I was, and who I hope to become, that is reflective of my love for God and love for others. This is consistent with the Gospel individually and in community, as one hopes to reflect outwardly the Spirit’s work within the heart (Pettite, 2008).

Always remaining in the Word through study and application remains evident in my life when proper contextualization and interpretation is undertaken. Rather than live in isolation, or hide my faith, I find it freeing to live outwardly, as Matthew puts it, “Neither do people light a lamp and put it under a bowl. Instead they put it on its stand, and it gives light to everyone in the house” (Matthew 5:15 NIV).  Unafraid driven by true desire to live one’s faith in a forsaken world, leads to experiencing true joy. Also, the act of partaking in the Eucharist becomes an experience with raw emotion as I commune with Jesus and others in community.

I find mediation and solitude more fruitful when done in nature, away from worldly things and its noise; consequently, contemplation and evaluation concerning my true motives and desires calm me into a demeanor of humility. This results in being better able to listen and respond to God’s will so that my functional call is in line with the Spirit’s will for my life (Pettit, 2008). In those moments in which I am not sure if it is the Spirit’s voice speaking to me, I instantly turn to prayer and at the appropriate time, meditation. I find prayer on the spot and in the moment helpful to my spiritual formation, and when the Spirit convicts me of sin at any time during the day, I immediately respond in prayer and repentance.

References:

Chapell, B. (2011). Holiness by grace: Delighting in the joy that is our strength. Wheaton, IL: Crossway. ISBN-13: 978-1433524424

Foster, R. J.  (1988). Celebration of Discipline: The Path to Spiritual Growth. San Francisco: Harper & Row

González, E. (2016). Jesus and the Temple in John and Hebrews: Towards a New Testament Perspective. Davarlogos, 15(2), 39-65. Retrieved from https://lopes.idm.oclc.org/login?url=http://search.ebscohost.com/login.aspx?direct=true&db=a9h&AN=121475542&site=eds-live&scope=site

Pettit, P. (Ed.). (2008). Foundations of spiritual formation: A community approach to becoming like Christ. Grand Rapids, MI: Kregel Publications. ISBN-13: 978-0825434693

Stillwaggon, J. (2014). The Problem of Propagation: Original Sin as Inherited Discourse. Studies In Philosophy & Education, 33(1), 61-73. doi:10.1007/s11217-013-9362-7. Retrieved by: https://lopes.idm.oclc.org/login?url=http://search.ebscohost.com/login.aspx?direct=true&db=a9h&AN=93447361&site=eds-live&scope=site

Strobel, K. (2013). Formed for the glory of God: Learning from the spiritual practices of Jonathan Edwards. Downers Grove, IL: IVP Books. ISBN-13: 978-0830856534

Vos, B. (2012). The Spiritual Disciplines and Christian Ministry. Evangelical Review of Theology, 36(2), 100–114. Retrieved from https://search-ebscohost-com.lopes.idm.oclc.org/login.aspx?direct=true&db=rlh&AN=75190759&site=eds-live&scope=site

Willard, D. (1998). Spiritual Disciplines, Spiritual Formation, and the Restoration of the Soul. Journal of Psychology & Theology, 26(1), 101–109. Retrieved from https://lopes.idm.oclc.org/login?url=https://search.ebscohost.com/login.aspx?direct=true&db=rfh&AN=ATLA0001001817&site=eds-live&scope=site

Jesus is the only way to heaven

Survey of the Gospel

            There are many people that say, “so what when I die, I will be dead”; this is untrue for there will be eternal suffering in hell. The problem is that most are blind to the truth, the severity of sin and its power over them. It is only through God’s Spirit that eyes and ears can open to the truth only found in Jesus of whom is the Word. The general meaning of the term “word” is how communication happens, the term “wisdom” is the consciousness of that communication. Jesus is both Word and Wisdom, present at the time of creation with, “In the beginning was the Word, and the Word was with God, and the Word was God” (John 1:1 NIV). Jesus always identified Himself as Son of Man and Son of God with, “No one has ever seen God, but the one and only Son, who is himself God and is in closest relationship with the Father, has made him known” (John 1:18 NIV). Wisdom is said to be found at the cross, where time and eternity meet. Isaiah’s prophesy on the subject clearly states, “For the message of the cross is foolishness to those who are perishing, but to us who are being saved it is the power of God. For it is written: “I will destroy the wisdom of the wise; the intelligence of the intelligent I will frustrate” (1 Corinthians 1:18 NIV). Commentary on this subject agrees that Jesus is wisdom, “It has been argued that Jesus is the personification of wisdom as is described in Proverbs 5-8” (Stewart, 2018). This is spectacular regarding forgiveness of sin because it is through this faith from the power of the Holy Spirit, that a believer can find Jesus Christ, and is thus redeemed and is restored to God the Father.

            The Bible narrative is an overarching story about creation, the fall, redemption, and restoration. The Bible is God’s word, written by Him (Holy Spirit) through His selected authors to guide and instruct how to live now on earth while anticipating the coming Kingdom. The cross event is the redemptive act of Christ, the perfect sacrifice that puts to rest the need for animal sacrifices and is the only conduit to God the Father, the only Priest we go to. Jesus is called the second Adam (1 Cor 15:22) and true Israel (Hos 11:1), and undoes the curse of sin set forth in Genesis 3 due to Adam’s disobedience; moreover, Jesus accomplishes where Israel fails. Israel, time and time again, allows themselves to be influenced by the surrounding pagan nations resulting in their idolatry (worshipping other gods). This results in judgement that will take them into bondage under the Assyrians (722 BC) and later the Babylonians (586 BC).

            The existence of God has been made known to humanity through general revelation and special revelation; the first refers to the physical beauty of earth and the universe that is all around us, everything we take in through the senses – see, hear, smell, touch, and taste. God is Creator, recorded in Genesis “…God created the heavens and the earth. Now the earth was formless and empty, darkness was over the surface of the deep…” (Gen 1:1-2 NIV). Special revelation is God revealing Himself through various means including miracles, scripture, and the supernatural; for example, the Nation of Israel meets God in Exodus and becomes the only nation ever to be set-up as a theocracy.

            First century historian Josephus Flavius, as well as theologians (Aquinas, Barth) affirm the stories of Abraham, Isaac, Jacob, and Joseph as real events that took place in humanity’s history. For instance, the Joseph story shows how the Jewish people go from Canaan to Egypt where they will live for 400 years as slaves until God frees them from Pharaoh. It is through Moses that God frees the Jewish people and teaches them to love and worship their God, Yahweh, the only one true God, as opposed to pagan gods they have come to know in Egypt. Thomas Aquinas “…argues that the existence and some attributes of God can be known by reason, whereas other things about God – for example, that God is triune – can be known only through special revelation” (Highfield, 2008, p. 105-106).

After Jesus commissions His disciples to spread His church throughout the world to all the nations (Matt 28:16-20), the church will confront, challenge, and establish its set doctrine. As one can imagine, there were many heresies against the Christian community and attacks on the identity of Jesus. Arianism was one well known heresy that argued against the divinity of Jesus, it proclaimed Jesus as a created being, making the Son not equal to God the Father. If this were the case, then Jesus’ death and resurrection would not be able to save humanity from eternal death. The church’s push back against Arianism is one of many situations of the Patristic Age (100-500AD) through to the early Middle Ages (Dark Ages) that required church leaders to come to the defense of Jesus as being the God-Man. These events have been recorded at the councils of the Nicene Creed in 325, Nicene/Constantinople Creed in 381, and Toledo in 589, and confirm Jesus as fully human and fully God; the same essence, coequal, and coeternal to the Father (homoousious).

            Systematic methodology came about during the centuries the church found itself explaining and defending God. It is a process by which to learn and know God and involves study and interpretation of scripture by gathering and organizing similar themes of information from various sources, such as scripture, nature, tradition, and experience (Highfield, 2008). Through this systematic methodology application, theologians confirm the Nicene Creed’s reaffirmation that God is Triune; and the homoousious of the three persons that make up the Godhead. The Godhead is present during creation as stated in Genesis, “Let us make mankind in our image…” (Genesis 1:26 NIV). Commentary in agreement acknowledges, “Christ, as God, was equal in power and glory with the Father; as Mediator, he received from the Father power and glory, and received that he might give: and all that the Father gave him, to qualify him for his undertaking, was summed up in this, he put his Spirit upon him” (Henry, 2018). The only time in the New Testament in which all three persons of the Godhead are present is at the baptism of Jesus, “Just as Jesus was coming up out of the water, he saw heaven being torn open and the Spirit descending on him like a dove” (Mark 1:10 NIV). This further points to the Holy Spirit’s divinity respective to the Godhead. It is important to clarify that Jesus is eternally begotten of the Father, and willingly goes from high position and eternal majesty to condescending Himself, becoming human. During Jesus’ ministry on earth, He clearly states the importance of the Holy Spirit with His words, “And so I tell you, every kind of sin and slander can be forgiven, but blasphemy against the Spirit will not be forgiven” (Matthew 12:31 NIV). The Holy Spirit is co-equal to the Father and the Son and is also identified during creation in Genesis, “…the Spirit of God was hovering over the water” (Genesis 1:1 NIV).

            God’s redemption is possible because of His grace, mercy, love, patience, and forgiveness. And the human body, consisting of mind, body and soul, was given by the Creator some of His divine intellect; and if not lost, would have continued in the nature of the human being (Stillwaggon, 2014). Apostle Paul also goes on to say in Romans “For the creation was subjected to frustration, not by its own choice, but by the will of the one who subjected it, in hope that the creation itself will be liberated from its bondage to decay and brought into the freedom and glory of the children of God. We know that the whole creation has been groaning as in the pains of childbirth right up to the present time” (Romans 8:20-22 NIV). As the result and according to John Calvin, all of creation is subject to God and thus according to God’s justice has been cursed (Lamoureux, 2009). God, through His love and omnipotence and omniscience immediately put His plan in motion with Jesus coming down to earth to teach humanity how to live. And when Jesus was set to depart from earth, He sent another Advocate, the Holy Spirit to be among humanity to comfort and guide. Jesus tells His disciples that when He leaves them, He “…will ask the Father, and he will give you another advocate to help you and be with you forever – the Spirit of truth. The world cannot accept him, because it neither sees him nor knows him. But you know him for He will be in you and with you…” (John 14:16-17 NIV). God Bless

References

Henry, M. (2018). Matthew Henry’s Concise Commentary on the Whole Bible. M. Henry (1662 – 1714). Retrieved from: https://www.biblestudytools.com/commentaries/matthew-henry-complete/matthew/12.html

Highfield, R. (2008). Great is the Lord: Theology for the praise of God. Grand Rapids, MI: William B. Eerdmans Publishing. Retrieved by: https://lc-ugrad3.gcu.edu/learningPlatform/externalLinks/externalLinks.html?operation=redirectToExternalLink&externalLink=http%3A%2F%2Fgcumedia.com%2Fdigital-resources%2Fwm-b-eerdmans-publishing-co%2F2008%2Fgreat-is-the-lord_theology-for-the-praise-of-god_ebook_1e.php

Lamoureux, D. O. (2016). Beyond the Cosmic Fall and Natural Evil. Perspectives On Science & Christian Faith, 68(1), 44-59. Retrieved by: https://lopes.idm.oclc.org/login?url=http://search.ebscohost.com/login.aspx?direct=true&db=a9h&AN=113835293&site=eds-live&scope=site

Stewart, D. (2018). Why was Jesus Called the Word of God? (Logos). Blue Letter Bible. Retrieved from: https://www.blueletterbible.org/faq/don_stewart/don_stewart_219.cfm

Stillwaggon, J. (2014). The Problem of Propagation: Original Sin as Inherited Discourse. Studies In Philosophy & Education, 33(1), 61-73. doi:10.1007/s11217-013-9362-7. Retrieved by: https://lopes.idm.oclc.org/login?url=http://search.ebscohost.com/login.aspx?direct=true&db=a9h&AN=93447361&site=eds-live&scope=site

A little about the writer

Before coming to Christ and for most of my adult life, I had negative views about organized church and the trustworthiness of the Bible. My background is–I grew up Catholic; and was very confused and ignorant about the Trinity. I pictured the Father as a strict supernatural being, and I had no understanding of who the Holy Spirit, nor who Jesus really was or is. Sure, I would pray once awhile, usually when I wanted something, or was suffering, or was in some bad situation. I had no concept of Jesus as our mediator; therefore, in not understanding God as Triune,  I definitely did not know who I was, nor the extent of my depravation, sinful nature, and deceiving heart. And it showed in my life in how I lived.

Reading scripture made me thirst for more, I began reading Bible commentaries, I wanted to know meanings of scripture. So, as I got answers, I had more questions. I came to realize what this world truly is and whose it is; my values, beliefs, and thoughts were changing. Now, I have a different attitude about church and about the Bible, so much so, that eventually I attained a Bachelor of Arts in Christian Studies. This is huge because I had stopped going to school in my twenties, and hated school. My purpose for returning to school was to learn about God as opposed to being an ignorant believer. It was essential to equip myself so that I can be ready to explain and defend Jesus and why He is the One True God. I now view Catholicism for what it truly is, a false religion. I am not offending anyone, I am offending the Roman Catholic System. Salvation is through faith in Jesus Christ only.

My sanctification has nothing to do with what I have done, but rather everything to do with what God has done. It is due to the Holy Spirit’s power restoring grace that I have come to finally learn and comprehend the Trinity. It is because of His grace and mercy and I have made Jesus Christ my Savior and Lord – thank you and I hope this blog helps anyone seeking the truth!