Friday, 31 December 2010

Grace

I recently learned the difference between common Grace & saving Grace (go me!). It may be really obvious to everyone other than me but if not, here’s my definition:
Common Grace = the gifts from God (such as life, health and good fortune) to everyone regardless of whether they’ve accepted him into their lives or not.
Saving Grace (as the name suggests) = the gift from God of salvation to his followers.
Also, if you’re interested, Mercy can be defined as not getting what we do deserve (i.e. negative consequences) whereas Grace is getting something (positive) we don’t deserve (or could never earn).

Some people ask the question ‘why do bad things happen to good people?’ and there are two elements to this, the first being: how do you define what makes a person good or bad? Biblically, no one is good by God Standards (our standards are irrelevant!). The second element to the aforementioned question is the flipside: ‘why do good things happen to bad people?’ and the answer to this is: common grace.
As a side-note, bad things happening to ‘good’ people and good things happening to bad people flies in the face of those still believing in Karma.

There defiantly was common grace in the Old Testament (otherwise criminals wouldn’t have had good health or liars would die upon opening their mouths – that’s what life would be like if Karma were to exist) however, a lot of people wrongly assume that there was no saving grace prior to Jesus being born (at the start of the New Testament) as he hadn’t died yet to save people that existed before his birth.
People who make this assumption tend to label God as unjust and unmerciful and these labels would be accurate if indeed the assumption was true but, thankfully, it’s not and I’ll explain why:

God is the same yesterday, today and forever - God is unaffected by time as he works outside of it; it is his creation. Jesus is God and as such he works outside time also (aside from when he came to earth as a human). When Jesus died for all our sins he really did die for them ALL – past, present and future. He’s able to do this because time is only relevant while on earth.
If he’s able to remove our past sins, which he is, then he can remove the past sins of others regardless of what point in time they lived as it is irrelevant to him.

I believe 1st Corinthians 10 verses 1 - 4 is an implicit reference to the fact that what happened in the Old Testament was affected by Christ’s life and death (implicit because that wasn’t the main point of what Paul was saying).

The True Nature of God Part 2

I always imagined God as a man sitting on his thrown, head in hands despairing over every mistake I make but this isn’t accurate. He already knows what mistakes I’ll make *long* before I make them, nothing I do can surprise him. As the Bible says – he’s not ‘distant and angry’.
It’s said that Christians will be told “Well done, good and faithful servant” by God upon death but despite knowing it’s true in my head it’s still not the response I’m expecting.
I find it really hard to merge what I KNOW God’s like and what I THINK God’s like in my head...

Have you ever asked yourself the question ‘who is God to ME?’ – In my experience, God shows different aspects of his being to different people at different times. When you’re upset he’s your rock and your comforter. When you’re wrong he’s your merciful judge pointing out your mistakes and giving you another chance.

It struck me a while ago that maybe the reason I have only a tiny bit of ‘real’ joy (as opposed to temporary joy from eating my favourite meal or watching a great movie that doesn’t last, it quickly forgotten about and doesn’t change you as a person) because I only have a little bit of God. Now, I mean that in the sense of ‘I need to get to know God better’ not ‘God is in this part of my life but the rest is my own’ as that’s not possible, you either have all or nothing.
I guess these series of posts on God’s true nature is about me getting to know God more personally than ever before, in the next 2 posts I will be looking at attributes God is said to embody (such as holiness and love).

Wednesday, 29 December 2010

The True Nature of God Part 1

It’s amazing how often God is misunderstood, even by Christians. It’s easy to do considering how complex, even on a purely conceptual level, he really is. With that in mind, this post – if it were to go into full detail – would be literally never-ending and therefore I will attempt to focus on 2 aspects I believe to be apparent in God’s vast character.

Firstly, I once heard God described to me as ‘the great networker’. This title makes sense when you consider that he knows each person on this planet as well as being the ultimate creator of the very time they use to meet each other. If God guides your life (as he does with Christians who have given Him their lives) then he can make good come out of situations that the devil had intended for bad. For example, the devil could be working hard to make sure you’re an office party where you’ll be tempted by adultery but God can take that situation and make it so that instead of being lead astray your attention is elsewhere as you’re introduced to a top business executive who’ll offer you a new job – of course this is purely hypothetical but my point is that God has this power. If indeed that situation did happen you would most definitely never know that God had stepped in and this is just one of many reasons we should all give thanks to God more often; For He does things for us all the time that we don’t even notice – right now he’s causing your cells to replace themselves and providing air for you to breathe. Thinking about it like this is mind-blowing, maybe that’s we often gloss over it.

Secondly, I know a lot of people struggle to understand how both God and people wrote the Bible. We’re told in 2 Timothy Chapter 3 verse 16 (NIV) that ‘Scripture is God breathed’ and as such it’s commonly referred to as ‘the word of God’. A helpful illustration I’ve found is to think about the process in terms of Ghost-writing – it may sound a bit farfetched but bear with me.
In typical Ghost-writing, a professional author writes a novel under the name of a celebrity often using an idea outlined by the said celebrity. This isn’t EXACTLY what happened when God ‘wrote’ the Bible through physical people but it’s probably as close a comparison as you’re going to get.
God had all the ideas and knew everything that was to be written, he then instructed specific followers to physically write them down – often in their own personal style while not taking away from the intended message. As you could assume, this would be a complex process as the physical writer would have to make sure – through prayer – that each word did indeed come from God and was untainted by their own thoughts and/or opinions. No wonder it sometimes took years for a book of the Bible to be written!

Monday, 13 December 2010

Lessons from Literature Part 2 – Forgiveness

Taken from ‘How Not to Pray’ by Jeff Lucas, Chapter 8, Page 118.
Copyright 2003 Jeff Lucas

“Forgiveness is not an act that seeks to pretend what was done to us was not wrong; on the contrary, the very fact that it is ‘forgiveness’ that is offered clearly recognises that sin has been committed; to state the obvious, if it were not wrong then it wouldn’t need to be forgiven.
Forgiveness does not bless sin. Nor does forgiveness release the other party from the negative consequences of their actions. Everything may not return as it was; indeed, some relationships may be fractured beyond repair. Forgiveness does not imply that there will actually be full reconciliation. The damage done to a marriage shattered by adultery may be an example; the aggrieved party may indeed forgive but that does not mean necessarily mean that a marriage will continue. Scripture seems to give the wounded party a choice in that. In just the same way that we can be forgiven by God for our follies, yet may still suffer the natural consequences of them, so forgiveness doesn’t cancel out the effect that our sin has caused.”

Wednesday, 1 December 2010

Your Lies Will Find You Out

One Sunday, after the sermon, a pastor asked his congregation to prepare for next week's sermon at home by reading Mark Chapter 17. Everyone uttered a sound of approval.

The following Sunday the Pastor asked everyone who had read Mark Chapter 17 to raise their hand - everyone did. Then the pastor said: "Mark doesn’t have 17 Chapters, welcome to my sermon on lying"