Christian Ethics and Issues

The Foundation: Knowing God

Preface

The foundation for every blog post in this file is a relationship with God. Going to church is a good thing. I would recommend finding some kind of faith community where you can serve God. Reading your Bible is also a good thing. Whatever kind of Bible you use, online, an app a device, or a printed version on paper, is fine. The best Bible, of course, is the one you use. Praying is also a good thing. Like many other Christians, I struggle with being consistent in prayer, but being disciplined in prayer is a good thing. Those are great things, but the most imporant thing of all is being in a relationship with God Himself. Apart from a personal relationship with God the Father, Jesus Christ — The Son of God, and the Holy Spirit, much of what I will write and feature in this file will make little sense or be of little relative value to you.
The outline below is from the book (re)union by Bruxy Cavey, the teaching pastor at The Meeting House in Oakville Ontario. Bruxy does a much better job than me, but what I write below is the foundation for this file, and by extension, bobsjourney.

Jesus came to earth to:

SHOW US GOD’S LOVE

Perhaps the best known Bible verse is John 3:16: For God loved the world that he gave his one and only Son, that whoever believes in him shall not perish but have eternal life. (NIV) This love was much more than a feeling or passion, or any other definition that as humans we think about. This was unconditional love. It has no boundary, no limit, no condition. God loves His creation unconditionally. There is nothing that any human being can ever do that is beyond the scope of God’s love. The lyrics of To God Be The Glory, by Fanny Crosby and William Howard: the vilest offender who truly believes this moment from Jesus a pardon receives — is actually true. There is no one that is beyond the scope of God’s unconditional love. This is perhaps the most difficult part of the gospel for us to understand because the love that we offer to one another may seem unconditional, but all too often there are limits that we are not able to foresee. That is not the case with God. His love is truly unconditional. Jesus came to earth to demonstrate, as a human being, God’s unconditional love.

SAVE US FROM SIN

To be a bit more specific, He came to save us from the penalty of sin, which is death, or separation from God for eternity. Under the Old Covenant (Testament) the children of Israel had to offer a sacrifice once a year to a priest who would then present the offereing to God to atone for their sins. Jesus, became that offering, acceptable to God, perfect in every respect. He offered Himself once, for all time, for everyone’s sins. When Jesus died, then rose again on the third day, He brought an end to offerings for all time. His death and resurrection satisfied God for all time. No one would ever have to go to a priest ever again with a lamb, a pigeon, or any other kind of animal to sacrifice to atone for sin. Jesus did it all for us. He became human, to die as a human, as a human sacrifice, for the sins of humankind, that God accepted as payment for the sins of humanity, for all time. We could never have done it ourselves because, as the Bible declares, we have all sinned, so none of us could be acceptable to God to atone, not only for our own sins, but that of other people. Jesus lived a sinless life. He was the perfect, acceptable sacrifice.

SET UP GOD’S KINGDOM

This was perhaps the most difficult for me to get my mind around. I kept thinking in terms of human kingdoms or countries, but the idea is more the alignment of our loyalties, than citizenship in an actual kingdom. The kingdom of God actually exists, of course, but it is not a physical kingdom. Jesus said: My kingdom is not of this world. If it were, my servants would fight to prevent my arrest by the Jewish leaders. But now my kingdom is from another place. John 18:36 NIV There are two things to note what Jesus said. First, the kingdom is not of this world. Second, His followers were not about to fight for Him. So, the kingdom of God is a spiritual kingdom, and this kingdom is a kingdom of peace. Jesus-followers have no weapons of war, nothing to carry out physical battle against an opponent. That discussion, though, is for another blog post at another time. Jesus came to establish His kingdom. He did. Those of us who follow Him, align our loyalties and our worldview with the principles of His kingdom. Matthew 5-7 outlines the principles of His kingdom’s worldview. People who call themselves Jesus-followers believe they are citizens of heaven first, citizens of the country of their birth, second. The principles of the kingdom of God rule their lives, guide them, and are the foundation of how they live in their human communities.

SHUT DOWN RELIGION

This is where being a Jesus-follower actually becomes fun. All those religious rituals and traditions that so many of us have been following most of our lives, are obsolete. Jesus made them obsolete. Okay, it is important to understand that He didn’t replace law with anarchy. No, being a Jesus-follower doesn’t mean we scrap all order and all boundaries. What Jesus came to shut down was the suffocating system of religious order that was designed to trap people in religious slavery to a system that may never lead them into a meaningful relationship with God. Never! He did not come to scrap the laws in the Old Testament. Virtually everything He taught was directly from those laws (Matthew 5-7)! When Jesus was on earth, He challenged the religious leaders, the religious traditions of the day, and the interpretation of the law of the day. In the same way, religion today is just out of sync with Jesus. The idea that you have to pray on your knees, or that you HAVE to give 10% of your earnings in order to please God. Having a relationship with God is the most important thing to God. The works that we do can please God, but they ought to be an evidence of, and a reflection of, our relationship with God, not an attempt to please Him. I don’t believe that there is anything we can do to please God. If pleasing God were dependent on what we do, then God’s love would not be unconditional. It would be conditional on our obedience to Him.

So We Can Share in God’s Life

The purpose of the above four points is so we can share in God’s life. In the same way that people get married or covenant together so they can spend the rest of their lives together, God wants us to covenant together with Him so He can spend the rest of our lives together with us, unobstructed by sin, in a redeemed relationship, because of the sacrifice of His Son, Jesus Christ. It is great to go to church every Sunday, or to fellowship with some kind of faith community. It is great to pray, and read your Bible. It is awesome to do good works like giving to the poor, and other acts of charity. The most awesome thing, though, is to connect all of the above to a relationship with God, every day, every week, for the rest of your life. It is a journey that has a lot of hills and valleys, but who else would you want to invite on the journey of your life?

Bob’s Journey

My journey with God began in 1973 in a small Baptist church in Mississauga, Ontario. At the time, I would describe my relationship with God as being primarily religious, but God never related to me as a religious God. I went to church because I believed that not to go to church was disobedient. I prayed because I feared what might happen if I didn’t pray. I read my Bible because I didn’t want other people in my church to think I was disobedient or didn’t love God. I gave money to the church because I believed that obedient Christians gave money to the church. For decades I feared God, not in the sense of reverential fear, but I was quitel literally scared of God. That fear, which I now realize was irrational, obstructed my ability to experience God’s love, His forgiveness, His redemption, and reconciliation. As I had not experienced it from God, I was incapable of sharing it with other people.
About six years ago, I began hanging out at The Meeting House in Oakville, Ontario. I don’t think there is anything magical or really special about this church. Thousands of people have come to The Meeting House over the years, and left to find other churches because it wasn’t the place for them. Initially, I dropped in to The Meeting House just until God moved on to another Baptist church, because I believed I was a Baptist. In reality, I was never a Baptist. I was this square peg trying to fit into a round hole. God has used the teaching at this church to flip most of the concepts of Christianity and God upside down and give me a new vision and move me closer to God. I am thankful for this church.

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