Travels of a Generic Christian

A Christian shares the joy of his walk with the Lord Jesus Christ.

Do not stifle the Holy Spirit. Do not scoff at prophecies, but test everything that is said. Hold on to what is good. Stay away from every kind of evil. 1 Thessalonians 5:19-22

Tuesday, August 29, 2006


About ten days ago a concept regarding forgiveness struck me—or, I should probably say, was given to me, and I began to put it into practice. It made such a profound impact on my wife that she kept swearing that I was up to some mischief! She said that I was “a totally different person” and that I must have “turned over a new leaf.”

I had been reading a book of excerpts by George MacDonald wherein he made at least several references to something that he ultimately (in my mind) referred to as ‘a foul doctrine of blood atonement’. (That is not a direct quote because I can’t seem to find it to provide at the moment, but nothing less would have made such an impact on me. Here is an analogous statement from page 183 of the book Knowing the Heart of God:

“Very different is the good news Jesus brings us from certain prevalent representations of the gospel, founded on the pagan notion that suffering is an offset for sin. This mistaken gospel—indeed, no Gospel at all—culminates in the nonsensical assertion that the suffering of an innocent man, just because he is innocent—perfect—is a satisfaction to the holy Father for the evil deeds of his children.”

His statements so shocked me because everything else of his that I had read was a series of strong, beautiful theological expositions. But I could not get around such a statement. It was the bold antithesis of all I understood about the nature of divine forgiveness.

So, giving the benefit of the doubt, I prayed, “Lord, before I finish reading this book, let me understand what this man is trying to explain.” I had yet to read only a few pages further until understanding came—but not in the form of explicit statement—rather in the form of MacDonald’s allegorical explanation of the nature of the Kingdom of heaven, linked, in my mind, to MacDonald’s continuous and unrelenting echo of James (the half-brother of Jesus) that obedience is the very essence of faith—that obedience is the action of faith; that faith is defined by obedience.

On pages 176-179 of the same book quoted above, an excerpt from MacDonald’s book The Curate’s Awakening is given that portrays one character’s vision of how Heaven’s economy works. Without providing the whole vision here, the lesson drawn is that Heaven itself operates on the principle of service or servitude; each person finding his or her greatest joy in acts of service to one another—and, in turn, accepting acts of service from one another. The story contrasted this nature of the Kingdom of Heaven with the nature of the kingdom of earth in which each person seeks first his own gain.

All of a sudden I realized that, just in the same way that obedience is the action of faith; thus so is service—or servitude—the action of forgiveness; forgiveness is defined by service.

Contrary to what we so often think, forgiveness is not merely doffing our mental hats to someone who has wronged us. It isn’t even doing thusly and then trying to act like we’re OK with the events that have transpired, all the while trying to suppress the anger that wells up within our hearts.

Forgiveness requires action. Service is the defining action of forgiveness. Forgiveness without servitude is dead!

I now believe that, for God, forgiveness meant coming to earth in the person of Jesus and treating us—serving us—as if we were still members of the Kingdom of Heaven. Thus, in this action of Jesus, we can literally see the very forgiveness of God! Seeing things this way, how could we ever question whether or not God has really forgiven us?! (The picture relied upon in such a question is that of the mental doffing-of-the-hat referred to above, in which we can never be sure if someone really forgives us.) We see the forgiveness of God in the very action of Jesus!

The practical application of such a concept is obvious: when someone wrongs us and we see them as requiring our forgiveness, we, to truly forgive, must turn around and become their servant—just as God did for us in the person of Jesus.

For me, this means that instead of angrily doffing my mental hat and cleaning up a mess that my wife leaves behind, I ought to leave it alone and go and serve her by taking my “precious” time and doing something as “worthless” with it as watching a “ghastly” Reality TV show with her. It’s crazy, it’s insane, but it works! I guarantee you that after a few rounds of such treatment upon your spouse, they will swear that you’re up to something! They may even think you’re a new person, even though you really don’t think you’ve changed at all!

I have yet to run this whole notion by any bona fide theologians, so I may be proclaiming great heresy here, but it’s incredibly hard to argue with such practical results!

Red flags of potential heresy pop up in my mind because this concept offers such a simple answer to questions such as, “If blood is required for the remission of sins as stated in Hebrews and as modeled in the old covenant sanctuary services, who requires blood—God the Father or Satan?—Or perhaps some deep, unspoken law written at the foundation of the universe?” (In my mind, the latter option is just a cover for God the Father.) Of course, there are serious problems with either response. Yet if servitude is the defining action of forgiveness, then we see that the Godhead simply chose to forgive us; the Father did not angrily demand blood, nor did God owe anything whatsoever to Satan. God simply chose to take the action of forgiveness by becoming servant unto us—treating undeserving humanity as if we were still members of the Kingdom of Heaven. The Kingdom of Heaven stands in such sharp contrast to the nature of the kingdom of earth that the shedding of the blood of the Servant was inevitable. It was the ultimate consummation—the final fulfillment of—God’s act of forgiveness.

Other questions such as, “Why was innocent blood required?” And, “Why was divine blood required?” are also answered by the simple fact that God was the One whom we sinned against, therefore He was the one who must forgive us if forgiveness was to be given.

OK, but what about the whole substitution concept? Again, I would assert that the wrong introduced into the universe by our sin was taken upon the Lamb when He became our servant. As the earthly servant bears the brunt of his master’s hardship, so the Heavenly Servant bore the brunt of the wrong we introduced into the universe by becoming servant unto us. Think of the sin of stealing and how the one who was stolen from, if he should choose to forgive, bears the brunt of the sin—in this case, the loss of money or goods.

Perhaps I am oversimplifying… yet the concept that forgiveness is defined by service seems Biblical. Didn’t Jesus teach the paradoxical greatness of servitude to His disciples at the last supper and in other explicit statements during His ministry?

(How have I missed this concept my entire life? There are many fragmentary hints of it throughout the Bible and in the writing of many great authors such as MacDonald. Surely this idea must be laid out explicitly somewhere in the annals of Christian literature.)

Well…regardless of heresy or oversimplification, this concept has been a great blessing to me not only because it seems to shatter much of what has always been the “black box of forgiveness” in my mind, but also because of it’s profound practical impact so readily realized in my day-to-day interactions with others. I hope and pray that if the concept is new to you as well that it will bless you as much as it has blessed me!

Sunday, August 20, 2006

A False Witness

I owe an apology. For too long I have pussyfooted around a forthright declaration of the status of my spiritual journey. I have been too worried about the possibility of someone thinking that I am boasting or that I am not humble. Ironically, my very pride has been the cause of such thinking. Well, I no longer care whether people think I am full of spiritual pride or not. I have nothing to prove in this regard.

In particular, my pussyfooting has been prevalent in my role as a Sabbath School leader. I make mention of the fact that I have “tasted” this or that aspect of a dynamic, on-fire, walk with the Lord. Truth is, I have more than merely “tasted” it; I am swimming—nearly drowning—in it!

Despite (or, perhaps, because of) the fact that I’m finding so many flaws in traditional SDA theology, I have never been more alive spiritually than I am today. Without a doubt, I know what it is like to live in the Spirit. I know the joy of letting go of everything except the Lord and finding a richer, deeper life because of it. I know what it is like to worry about nothing and to fear nothing and to have a core of joy that, despite the fact that I’m not a very emotional person, leads me to near tears every day by a simple verse read, a thought contemplated, or a song heard. As I stated in my first post, my life is the anathema of depression—despite the fact that outside circumstances really have not changed—for these are irrelevant! I know the experience that Paul described in Galatians 6:14 of being seen by the world as something dead and, reciprocally, to have no interest in things of the world. Rather, I have an unquenchable thirst for all things that have anything to do with the nature of God—which, by the way, has been the most powerful answer to prayer that I have ever experienced!

Because at one time in my life I was on the other side of this experience, I also know what it is like to not understand this experience and to see it as something “new-agish” or hokey-pokey or fanatical or of the substance of moral relativity. These are all misconceptions. The claimed experience of those radical Christians who have no doubts about whether or not they have received the Holy Spirit, or about the nature of justification or of sanctification is absolutely real. I now find that I myself am living proof.

Praise the Lord! Continue to not just break me, but to crush me for your purpose, Father!

Saturday, August 05, 2006

The One and Only Gospel

Nothing I have said or will ever say is more important than this:

Here is the Gospel: Jesus Christ died on the cross to pay the blood requirement for our sins. We receive the righteousness of Christ imputed to our accounts as a free gift when we believe in Him as our Savior and Lord; we therefore stand righteous before the Father and share in the eternal life of the Son. This is salvation by grace through faith.

Here is what the Gospel is NOT: By the grace of God, the death of Jesus on the cross provides a means for us to live a sanctified life of righteousness which will be the basis by which we will be judged as saved or lost.

The latter is a damn lie. No ifs, ands, or buts about it—these two “gospels” are mutually exclusive. If you grasp the latter explanation in irreconcilable natural exclusion to the former, you will not inherit eternal life.

Thursday, August 03, 2006

Conclusions on food and drink

Here is some general advice given by Paul:

Titus 1:15 Everything is pure to those whose hearts are pure. But nothing is pure to those who are corrupt and unbelieving, because their minds and consciences are defiled. (NLT)


1 Cor 6:12 12 All things are lawful for me, but all things are not helpful. All things are lawful for me, but I will not be brought under the power of any.

Also see 1 Cor 10:23, which says nearly the exact same thing as 1 Corinthians 6:12.

And finally, Romans 14:20-23

Don't tear apart the work of God over what you eat. Remember, there is nothing wrong with these things in themselves. But it is wrong to eat anything if it makes another person stumble. 21Don't eat meat or drink wine or do anything else if it might cause another Christian to stumble. 22You may have the faith to believe that there is nothing wrong with what you are doing, but keep it between yourself and God. Blessed are those who do not condemn themselves by doing something they know is all right. 23But if people have doubts about whether they should eat something, they shouldn't eat it. They would be condemned for not acting in faith before God. If you do anything you believe is not right, you are sinning. (NLT)

So yes, we should not eat or drink things that would cause someone else to stumble in their Christian walk—even if those things are perfectly OK to consume, according to the Bible (see previous two posts).

Look at again at Romans 14:22 (above). As a current SDA, can you believe the freedom the Bible gives us under the New Covenant? These Biblical excerpts are mind blowing to someone who has been sheltered by SDA doctrine their entire life! At least they were mind blowing and initially difficult for me to accept!

You see, in reality, the New Covenant is all about relationship with God through Christ (primarily) and relationship with others (secondarily). And contrary to the statements and implications made by EGW, there is not a set of specific rules that drive the Christian walk; there are only principles to guide relationships. In fact, the principles that guide relationships are much bigger and better than any set of rules that someone might suggest. They are bigger and better in exactly the same way that the New Covenant is bigger and better (Heb 8:6) than the Old Covenant!

Oh, and in case you’re wondering: Yes, I do believe that the excerpts from 1 Corinthians and from Titus apply far beyond the realm of food. I’ll have more on that later.

Tuesday, August 01, 2006

What about drink?

While we’re on the topic of food, what about drink?

Traditional SDAs assert that most Biblical references to men of God drinking wine (with the noted exception of Noah and maybe a couple others instances of people getting drunk) refer to unfermented grape juice. I no longer think this view has any Biblical validity whatsoever. Check out the following couple of verses:

Psalm 104:15-16 He causes the grass to grow for the cattle,
And vegetation for the service of man,
That he may bring forth food from the earth,
15 And wine that makes glad the heart of man,
Oil to make his face shine,
And bread which strengthens man’s heart.

The Psalmist praises the Lord for wine—wine which makes the hearts of men glad. In context, it seems highly unlikely that the psalmist is referring to unfermented grape juice.

Now take a look at Luke 7:33-34

For John the Baptist came neither eating bread nor drinking wine, and you say, ‘He has a demon.’ 34 The Son of Man has come eating and drinking, and you say, ‘Look, a glutton and a winebibber, a friend of tax collectors and sinners!’ (NKVJ)

Clearly the Pharisees accused Jesus of being a winebibber. Now, let’s apply a little logic. The Pharisees were not idiots. If they knew or even suspected that other people thought that Jesus was only drinking grape juice, they would have undermined their own credibility in accusing him of being a winebibber.

This text in Luke makes it painfully obvious that Jesus drank alcoholic wine.

Even further evidence is supplied by the story in John 2 of the wedding where Jesus turned water into wine and someone made the comment about the host taking a unique approach and saving the best wine for last—at statement that clearly implies the cultural practice of serving the best wine while people’s senses were sharp, then getting out the inferior wine when people’s senses were dulled by the alcohol in the wine they had already drank.

More “uncomfortable” texts on different topics to come…