Monday, July 25, 2011

Is God Punishing Me?

This weekend I was blessed to have Pastor Mike Messerli teach me a bit more about Hannah.  An Old Testament figure that Rachael and I can relate to as she struggled with infertility back in a day when medical help was not an option.  We find out through her story that God closed Hannah's womb intentionally to accomplish His purposes and glory through the child He would eventually grant her in that of Samuel.

Pastor Mike pointed out that Hannah, having no knowledge of God's plan was most likely wondering what she had done to deserve those years of infertility and chiding from Penniah.  We all tend to do that, don't we?  We look at our circumstances when they are challenging or difficult and assume that we are being punished.  And while sin and/or poor decision making always has a natural consequence of some type, Mike reminded me of a truth that I want to share with you:

God's punishment of our sins was finished at Calvary as Jesus took what we justly deserved upon His own battered body and died in our place.  So long as you have accepted Jesus as Lord and Savior there is no EXTRA punishment to take lest you desire to argue with Christ's final words, "It is finished!" 

Now...certainly we will still face difficult times just like Hannah did.  But these are to grow us and teach us dependence on our Heavenly Father...not to counteract or atone our failures and shortcomings.  James 1 - 2 Count it all joy, my brothers,[a] when you meet trials of various kinds, 3for you know that the testing of your faith produces steadfastness. 4And let steadfastness have its full effect, that you may be perfect and complete, lacking in nothing.

Your thoughts?

5 comments:

Craig V said...

Is God punishing you?
I'd have to say yes!
God has always "punished" Believers as a form of disciplining - from the first man creation to the early Israelites in bondage to all modern day Believers. Still, to say "punish" could be construed as an act committed out of hate or ridicule - I believe we know this is not the case.

But did I miss something? What does that mean "God's punishment of our sins was finished at Calvary"?
Christ's death was all about our redemption from sin - paying a payment God demanded - it was not about punishment. So I fail to see a correlation with Christ's death and experiencing punishment as it is presented. And what "EXTRA punishment"? I think the word "punishment" needs defining and explaining and a sound exegesis needs to be applied.

We know Jesus didn't actually say "it is finished" - that's a poor English translation, Christ just spoke a single word - "tetelestai", which more accurately translated means "closure". This is what people of the day stamped on a bill when paid in full. Christ, the flawless (sinless) lamb of God, was sacrificed for man, so that through faith in Christ we have defeated sin. Where does "punishment" come into play?

I do not believe the Gospel tells us Jesus died "in our place" - no man could ever be worthy, be PERFECT, to step up to such a task and be accepted by God as closure payment.

God demands us to be willing to sacrifice our best to Him (note Abraham and his son) as He did with Jesus FOR us. God never expected a sinful, filthy wretched man to be sacrificed to Him - are you kidding? Ergo, we have God's grace and Christ being sent to die FOR us, but not "in our place". Sinful man can never be worthy of sacrifice to God! Can you see the difference? And people bicker over what percentage of money to tithe? What do you have to match Jesus Christ? But it is not about the thing, it is about the blood willingness to do so, putting God before all you know ;)

And with Christ's sacrifice we ARE NOT OFF THE HOOK - there is still more we must do or we will surly suffer an eternal punishment. Will Jesus know us when we cry out "Lord! Lord!" at His return? Rebirth in Christ is an ongoing forward moving regeneration towards the perfection we see in Jesus Christ - it is His Spirit calling us to be like him. That is something yet to be finished.

Jesus and the disciples would tell the receiver of a healing to "repent, go and sin no more". Were they talking about just not sinning? Not necessarily; This was an idiomatic way of saying repent and put God first! To give glory in your Lord for your regeneration and salvation in Christ, the perfect flawless Lamb of God sacrificed for you!

In this day and age of eisegetical preaching I preface all that with "Think, reason, repent". By this I mean we as born again Believers must step back and engage the brain and THINK for ourselves - Looking towards Scripture alone (and those we can trust do the same) to gain an exegetical understanding of the Gospel - we REASON it out; THEN REPENT ...and glorify God with our gifts in acts of true regeneration as we "go and sin no more"!

Traveling the Path is not about just walking down it, it is also about how we walk it. I'm think there's something to be said for yoking up and pulling with a pride in our stride.

Jim said...

Craig,

I don't think we are so far apart on this as you might suspect. And I think you hit the nail on the head with needing to define punishment. I do not see God's disciplining of me as punishment. I see the hard times we face as His mechanism by which to grow us and refine us. The end goal in this scenario is to help us reach maturity not to demand payment for our failures...which is how I traditionally view punishment (Ex: Jail sentences for criminals). Furthermore there are consequences to poor decisions and let's face it, SIN is always a poor decision. For instance if I cross a busy highway and get run over by a car...did God punish me? I don't think that is the best way to describe it.

Punishment for sin is death and you are right, I still have to face death. But I no longer have to stand before God and rest on my filthy rags and be ultimately punished in eternity because the spotless lamb DID pay the price. Never once do I imply that any other kind of sacrifice would be acceptable.

I also did not mean to imply with the use of "EXTRA" that anyone Christian or not had something additional coming. My point is that Christ paid the price and offers the free gift of salvation to those who will accept it. We can either refuse it and stand before God presenting our own filthy rags and be judged accordingly or we can rest in Jesus’ finished work.

Tetelestai can mean finished, over, done, closure, or any other synonym and I think the meaning is the same. Christ did the work of my salvation. Not one of my works or efforts had anything to do with it. I don't think we differ on this point although you do have some works based implications in your comments that confuse me a bit.

"Off the hook" is certainly not a phrase I would use because even the believer must give an accounting of his life come judgment day. But I am going to have to disagree with the paragraph where you imply that we are not saved upon accepting Christ as our savior. Did not the thief on the cross get a promise to join Jesus in paradise by days end? Where was his refining process or extra efforts besides believing in the Messiah and putting his faith in Him in his last hours? Are not the new Christian converts saved upon their acceptance of Christ's sacrifice? To believe this is not only works based doctrine but it’s illogical as well. If I begin my Christian journey for instance at age 20 but don't "finish" the regeneration process until 70 then what happens if I were to die at 50? The regenerative process you speak of is growing in Christ so that we conform to His image, not so we can have assurance of salvation.

I do believe God demands more of us than lip service or a march down the isle praying a canned response to an alter call. We must walk in relationship and experience actual rebirth. If we just say salvation laced words but do not mean them, God knows the heart and can discern the difference. Those are they that call Lord, Lord to no avail. They went through motions and mimicked behaviors but did not truly know God, nor did they make an effort to.

These are the Pharisees who were careful to wear the right garments, to respect the right days, and to eat with the right people. The very ones who chastised Christ's disciples for failing to wash their hands while their insides were absolutely filthy. Churchianity is the modern version of this and I was unfortunately part of that machine at one point. Naively so, mind you, but a part of it nonetheless. One of my goals in my witnessing to others is to save them from this woo-you-to-sleep Churchianity mess. Getting your ears tickled and getting taught seminars on how to live life better whilst ignoring Scripture or bothering to preach the Gospel is deplorable. Come out of her my people!

Jim

Craig V said...

Jim,
I think we're pushing the same cart. BUT I never implied that "we are not saved upon accepting Christ as our savior" - who am I (we) to judge?

Are ex-Christians still saved merely because they accepted Christ at one time?

Just to reiterate, I do not believe works are the way by any means - yet as part of the regenerative process works are a natural byproduct. Some confess Christ, but they let the fire die. It is here we are "on the hook" - to ourselves and to God. BTW, I don't believe in "ex-Christians".

You bring up a couple of interesting issues -
What does it mean "the believer must give an accounting of his life come judgment day"?
Where is the basis for this statement in Scripture?
How is it folks can say that Believers will be judged on works on "judgment day", yet then turn and deny works based salvation?

As I understand it, judgment is a judgment of our Faith, not our works - Were we regenerating or degenerating in Christ? - where at such time all things of our lives will be known - the "accounting".


You asked: Did not the thief on the cross get a promise to join Jesus in paradise by days end?
Jesus made a promise of salvation to the criminal, but NO - it would not happen that day. That criminal is still "asleep" as are all the dead in Christ, until His return.

The verse in question is agreed upon by many scholars to be incorrectly translated from the hundreds of manuscripts that all indicate the idiomatic meaning was, by removing the placement of a comma that wasn't used in the Greek, that Christ was speaking to the criminal in a manor that "on that day" he was telling the criminal that he would be be with Him in paradise (Heaven) ...upon His second coming. The dead in Christ being the privileged to be resurrected first BTW.

As for the time line of the criminal's faith, regeneration and salvation - Your thinking seems short sighted. Even though the criminal's time was short on the cross how do we know he hadn't already known and believed in the Christ? How do we know it just wasn't until being next to Jesus he realized that He was the Christ?

It was highly unlikely the criminal just suddenly knew all about the coming messiah while on the cross. We know knowledge of Christ coming and His being on earth at that time was viral knowledge with folks. I'm sure Jesus knew what was in the criminal's heart. He in a way cried Lord! Lord! and Jesus knew him - only his salvation would come later with the rest of dead believers at Jesus' second coming.

There is no prerequisite of time for regeneration in Christ. Faith can come in an instant. I believe this is what happened with the criminal crucified with Jesus. He might have known of the Christ for sometime - but he was just another sinner.

Jim said...

I don't believe in Ex-Christians either although I do believe in Ex-Churchianity Members who thought they were Christians. Some, like me, went on to actually find Christ while others decided atheism and various other world views were better.

You ask about the believers judgment, what it means, and where it is in Scripture. Here is a good "cut & paste" from an article on the subject:

o Luke 14:14. This passage speaks of our being repaid for our acts of righteousness at the judgment.
o 1 Corinthians 3:10-15. This passage is addressed to believers. It discusses our works being tested or evaluated by God. He is evaluating them to see if they focused on advancing the message of the gospel. If they did, they are lasting and we are rewarded. If they did not, they burn up (as something worthless), and we suffer loss, but are still saved (3:15). There is no punishment in view here, simply a loss of potential reward.
o 1 Corinthians 4:1-5. In this passage Paul focuses on the need not to judge others, because the Lord is the one who knows our hearts and will examine us. The only result of that examination that is mentioned is praise.
o 2 Corinthians 5:10. This is perhaps the most difficult passage. It speaks of being recompensed for our deeds, whether good or bad. While this verse seems to imply a negative punishment, I believe it must be understood in light of the Scriptures that clearly affirm all our sin has already been dealt with at the cross. It is also set in a context of hope, longing to be present with the Lord. It is unlikely that Paul would speak of longing to be with the Lord if he feared punishment. So, it seems best to take this passage as referring to an evaluation resulting in reward or loss of reward.

You also ask, "How is it folks can say that Believers will be judged on works on "judgment day", yet then turn and deny works based salvation?"

The book of James makes it clear that works do matter. No works for example = no fruit = a bad tree or someone that is not authentic in Christ. But ultimately the value of works are not a salvation based issue. If it were possible that our works could save us, there would have been no need for Christ's sacrifice.

Thanks for the insights on the thief. These are things for me to think and pray about. And I also appreciate you keeping me accountable and offering me feedback. Perhaps we should grab lunch sometime!

Jim

Craig V said...

You know there are some Ex-Churchianity Members that don't know they're ex's yet! ;)
Let us pray for them.

Hebrews 10 is full of insight into enduring faith and our final "judgment" - I leave it to you to read and consider.
I also find respected scholars speaking more to salvation through Faith and Grace than a final judgment.

I believe our judgement shall be focused upon works of an enduring faith -
"For you need endurance in order to do God’s will and so receive what is promised. For just a little longer and he who is coming will arrive and not delay. "But my righteous one will live by faith, and if he shrinks back, I take no pleasure in him." - Hebrews 10:36-38

The final judgment is more of an accounting of our faith, an accounting of the works which reflect our heart than some punishment for our sins. Scripture tells us at this time "ALL will be known" - professed on the "judgment seat" as put in 2 Corinthians 5.