All ships that land at the shore of grace weigh anchor from the port of sin… God didn’t overlook your sins, lest he endorse them. He didn’t punish you, lest he destroy you. He instead found a way to punish the sin and preserve the sinner. Jesus took your punishment. And God gave you credit for Jesus’ perfection… As long as the cross is God’s gift to the world, it will touch you but not change you. Precious as it is to proclaim, “Christ died for the world,” even sweeter it is to whisper, “Christ died for me.”
Grace: More Than We Deserve, Better Than We Imagine, Thomas Nelson, 2012, 35-6.
I had grown up with a heavy emphasis on finding God’s will. I was taught that God has a perfect will and a permissive will… Needless to say, this view of God’s will paralyzes those who adhere to it…
In discovering God’s will is Christ in me and Christ through me, I could see that God was behind every door, even the door of sin. I’m not saying sinning is OK or that God wants us to sin. Of course not! What I mean is that whether or not I choose a particular door in life, God will always be there. He will always be there because he’s in me. He’s not just with me, but He’s in me. So wherever I go, there He is!
The Naked Gospel, Zondervan, 2009 , 210-1
The doctrine of (historical) inclusion is a deceptively appealing but unbiblical message that minimizes the lostness of the lost and, as a result, diminishes the saving work of the cross. Telling unbelievers that they are already saved, righteous, and in relationship robs the gospel of its power to save those who believe. It does this by promoting a cerebral faith that is little more than an intellectual acceptance of an insurance policy whose main benefit is a ticket to heaven. But the most damaging aspect of this doctrine is that it stymies love. Instead of being invited into union with Christ, unbelievers learn that they are the unwitting participants in an arranged marriage. Jesus is not on the outside waiting to be invited in; He has already entered against their will and married them! It’s a fait accompli that you had just better get used to. If unbelievers then exercise their freedom in the only direction left open to them – refusing to participate through unbelief – their husband might yet pursue the eternal equivalent of an honor killing.
Happily, the gospel of grace that Paul et al. preached is nothing like this! Jesus has not violated anyone’s will but stands at the door knocking and waiting to be invited in. He will dine with anyone and everyone who accepts Him. For God so loved the world that He sent His Son Jesus to save everyone. He then sent the Holy Spirit to point people to Jesus. Whoever believes in Him shall not perish but enjoy eternal life in union with the Triune God. The life He offers is nothing like the one you were born with for it is His life. Jesus wants to live His life of unconditional love, divine favor, and supernatural power through you. To live like this is to experience heaven on earth here and now. It is knowing God – His love, His will, His joy and pleasure – today. And this life is available to all who would say, “Yes, Jesus!” Salvation is not an historical event. It is the present reality of Christ living in me. Now is the time of God’s favor. Today is the day of salvation.
There are two ways to hide from God’s love – rebellion and religion. Rebellion, illustrated in the prodigal son, defies God’s love and seeks to cover up guilt and shame through the indulgence of sensual desires. Religion, on the other hand, is far more subtle. It seeks its cover-up through good works and obligation. However, like the prodigal’s older brother, it still denies the Father’s place in our lives and leads us no closer to knowing him for who he really is.
Simply, religion is keeping score – striving for acceptance through our own performance whether it be in our good works or in ritualistic activities. Those things put the focus squarely on us and what we can do to be accepted by God, thereby dooming us to failure.
Most of Paul’s letters were written because even the earliest believers found themselves trading relationship for religion. Instead of learning to live in the security of his love, they would go back to traditions, creeds, disciplines, and laws as an attempt to earn it themselves. He reminded them again and again that God’s love would take them further than their own efforts and achievements ever would…
What would you do today if you knew God absolutely loved you?
He Loves Me: Learning to Live in the Father’s Affection, Windblown, 2007, 137-8