Did Jesus make us ‘flawless’ at the Cross?

According to the popular Christian song, “Flawless”, when Jesus went to the cross he made us ‘flawless’. To be fair, the song has a catchy tune, excellent instrumentation, and is really well sung! The song also speaks highly of God’s Amazing Grace:

Well let me introduce you to amazing grace. . .

Could it possibly be
That we simply can’t believe
That this unconditional
Kind of love would be enough
To take a filthy wretch like this
And wrap him up in righteousness
But that’s exactly what He did

That believers are sinful human beings clothed in the righteous of Jesus Christ is one of the greatest truths in all of scripture!

At the same time there is the often-repeated chorus that says. . .

No matter the bumps
No matter the bruises
No matter the scars
Still the truth is
The cross has made
The cross has made you flawless
No matter the hurt
Or how deep the wound is
No matter the pain
Still the truth is
The cross has made
The cross has made you flawless

So here’s the question for which I have been accused of ‘theological nit-picking: Is being ‘wrapped up in righteousness’ the same as being ‘flawless’?

To that question I must answer with a resounding ‘NO!’ ? I submit to you that although in Christ we are ‘wrapped up in His righteousness’, but we are far from ‘flawless’.

The term ‘flawless’ literally means perfect, without a blemish, without any mistakes or shortcomings. Folks, that’s not me, you, or anyone else. I’m sure you would agree with me.

We might be wrapped up in the flawlessness of Christ as we stand before God, but in no way are we ‘flawless’. We still sin daily in countless ways.

So what’s the big deal? Just a couple of things:

1. Even if the song’s author didn’t intend the literal meaning of ‘flawless’ in the song, but was talking about the believer’s flawlessness IN Christ, most listeners either cannot or will not pick up on that distinction. They will listen to and love the song because it tells them (over and over again) that the Cross has made THEM flawless. Regardless of what the song’s author might have intended, the words say otherwise.

2. It is Christ who is flawless, not us. We will all die as flawed sinful human beings. But for the righteousness of Christ with which we are clothed, we would spend eternity separated from God in a very dark and painful place.

3. The song ends up being man-centered and not God-glorifying at its core. The hearer is encouraged to focus more on his/her ‘flawlessness’ than God’s righteousness and the great sacrifice of His Son on the cross.

Theological nit-picking? Maybe, but I don’t think so. The man-centeredness of this song typifies much, if not most of contemporary Christian music. Some if it is really good, but most of it is about ‘us’ in one way or another.

So here’s my final question. Is man-centered Christian worship music, or man-centered Christianity, really ‘Christian’?

I’ll leave it there.

What’s in YOUR Eternity?

In a recent Sunday School lesson in 1 Peter, the question was asked “When you hear someone say “The end of the world is near” how do you respond, and why?”

I could say, “Why do you ask?” Knowing why the comment was made just might help guide the conversation along it’s path, especially if your desire is to steer it toward the message of the gospel.

Given that the topic is the end of the world, I could get straight to the point and ask, “What’s in YOUR eternity?”

First, phrasing it more like a credit card commercial might elicit a more positive response than just asking “Where’s your soul going when you die?” like the sidewalk Christian evangelist downtown handing out tracts to young soldiers out for a good time in Junction City, Kansas, outside of Fort Riley Kansas  (deja vu). I could claim just about any religion and ask my question. Without being overly blunt, my question assumes that, like a credit card, everyone has an ‘eternity’. Every major religion believes we will eventually spend eternity somewhere. You can check it out. We have the technology.

My goal is to present the Christian view of eternity in a loving manner, using the Bible as my source document.

The Bible tells us that there is something about ‘eternity’ in each and every one of us:

He (God) has made everything beautiful in its time. Also, he has put eternity into man’s heart, yet so that he cannot find out what God has done from the beginning to the end.” (Ecclesiastes 3:11) (Emphasis mine)

John MacArthur says of this passage:

“God. put eternity into man’s heart. God made men for his eternal purpose, and nothing in post-fall time can bring them complete satisfaction.”

Our innate sense of eternity comes from knowing something of God, the eternal creator. Concerning this knowledge of God, there is perhaps no clearer verse in all of scripture than Romans 1:19, in which the Apostle Paul tells us:

“For what can be known about God is plain to them (men), because God has shown it to them.”

We all know something about God and eternity, although what we know is limited. I believe this knowledge is part of the ‘imago dei’, the image of God, in which we were created. God IS eternal, and although our bodies will one day die, we have an innate interest in life after death.

Here’s where the conversation can get a bit more challenging. You see, along with being told that we all know that God IS, we are also told something about those who try and deny the existence of God. Immediately before Romans 1:19 we are told:

“For the wrath of God is revealed from heaven against all ungodliness and unrighteousness of men, who by their unrighteousness suppress the truth.” (Romans 1:18)

So what’s this about “The wrath of God”? We can turn to Matthew, Chapter 25 and Jesus’ teaching about His second coming and the final judgment of all men.

“When the Son of Man comes in his glory, and all the angels with him, then he will sit on his glorious throne.

Before him will be gathered all the nations, and he will separate people one from another as a shepherd separates the sheep from the goats.

And he will place the sheep on his right, but the goats on the left.

Then the King will say to those on his right, ‘Come, you who are blessed by my Father, inherit the kingdom prepared for you from the foundation of the world.

. . . .

“Then he will say to those on his left, ‘Depart from me, you cursed, into the eternal fire prepared for the devil and his angels.

For I was hungry and you gave me no food, I was thirsty and you gave me no drink,

I was a stranger and you did not welcome me, naked and you did not clothe me, sick and in prison and you did not visit me.’

Then they also will answer, saying, ‘Lord, when did we see you hungry or thirsty or a stranger or naked or sick or in prison, and did not minister to you?’

Then he will answer them, saying, ‘Truly, I say to you, as you did not do it to one of the least of these, you did not do it to me.’

And these will go away into eternal punishment, but the righteous into eternal life.”

(Matthew 25:31-34 & 41-46)

In the above verses, there are two groups of people, the ones on Jesus’ right, and the ones on Jesus’ left. The ones on Jesus’ right represent those who knew and loved Him in this life and those on Jesus’ left represent those who denied Him in this life. Those on the right will inherit the kingdom prepared for them from the world’s beginning. Those on the left will experience eternal fire reserved for the devil and his angels.

SO WHAT?

1. There are two groups of people inhabiting this world; those who have received the truth of God and the ones who suppress the truth of God; the ones who have repented of their sin and believed the gospel and the ones who have rejected Christ.

2. There is an eternal destiny for every human being who ever lived or is living today; eternal life or eternal death.

3. What’s in YOUR eternity, my friend?

Is God Reckless?

I saw that question on a Facebook post a couple of weeks ago, connected to the recently released Bethel Music song “Reckless Love”, written by Cory Asbury. Apparently it hit the top of some Christian music charts but has also garnered quite a bit of dialogue, some of which is helpful and some decidedly not so much.

Nevertheless, the above question is quite valid and deserving of discussion, at least when examined in light of what scripture teaches us about the nature of God’s love.

Here are the song’s lyrics:

[Verse 1]
Before I spoke a word
You were singing over me
You have been so, so
Good to me
Before I took a breath
You breathed Your life in me
You have been so, so
Kind to me
[Chorus]
Oh, the overwhelming, never-ending, reckless love of God
Oh, it chases me down, fights ’til I’m found, leaves the ninety-nine
I couldn’t earn it
I don’t deserve it
Still You give yourself away
Oh, the overwhelming, never-ending, reckless love of God
[Verse 2]
When I was your foe, still Your love fought for me
You have been so, so
Good to me
When I felt no worth
You paid it all for me
You have been so, so
Kind to me
[Bridge]
There’s no shadow You won’t light up
Mountain You won’t climb up
Coming after me
There’s no wall You won’t kick down
No lie You won’t tear down
Coming after me

To be fair, the song speaks well of God’s love, calling it overwhelming and never-ending. We can’t earn it and we don’t deserve it. God, through Christ the good Shepherd, seeks and saves the lost. God loves his own even when they are his enemies living in rebellion against him. And Jesus did pay the ultimate price, sinless and underserving, dying in place of sinners – absorbing the full weight of God’s just wrath against our sin.

But is the love of God for his own reckless’? The song’s claim that it is deserves closer examination, but not from our gut level emotions, which seem to have prompted the ongoing banter both, pro and con. We need to examine what the Bible has to say about God’s love to determine if the ‘reckless’ adjective is as well-deserved as the other descriptions “Reckless Love” presents to us. After all, it’s the adjective used in the song’s title and the author’s main point!

Here is the author’s response to many of the comments made about his song, as an attempt to clarify what he meant by calling God’s love ‘reckless’:

“When I use the phrase, “the reckless love of God”, I’m not saying that God Himself is reckless. I am, however, saying that the way He loves, is in many regards, quite so. What I mean is this: He is utterly unconcerned with the consequences of His actions with regards to His own safety, comfort, and well-being. His love isn’t crafty or slick. It’s not cunning or shrewd. In fact, all things considered, it’s quite childlike, and might I even suggest, sometimes downright ridiculous. His love bankrupted heaven for you. His love doesn’t consider Himself first. His love isn’t selfish or self-serving. He doesn’t wonder what He’ll gain or lose by putting Himself out there. He simply gives Himself away on the off-chance that one of us might look back at Him and offer ourselves in return.”

Again, to be fair, there is truth in this explanation, especially the descriptions of what God’s love is NOT. It’s the summary of God’s love that is problematic for many, including me:

“He (God) simply gives Himself away on the off-chance that one of us might look back at Him and offer ourselves in return.”

Is that a Biblically supportable description of God’s love? While there is much in scripture that would answer with a resounding ‘no’, we offer a short passage from the book of Romans that should settle the matter:

“For those whom he foreknew he also predestined to be conformed to the image of his Son, in order that he might be the firstborn among many brothers. And those whom he predestined he also called, and those whom he called he also justified, and those whom he justified he also glorified.” (Rom 8:29-30)

That short passage speaks of intentionality, not recklessness. It describes deliberate actions of God toward his people! It describes the people of God from a point in eternity past and God’s foreknowledge through ultimate glorification in the presence of God for the rest of eternity.

I also offer to you that both major schools of theology (Calvinist & Arminian) are in complete agreement concerning God’s love being intentional and not at all reckless! Either God ‘foreknew’ his people in such an intimate way that he sovereignly changes their human will, causing their greatest desire to be to receive Christ when confronted with their sin (Calvinists), or he foreknew the ‘free will’ decisions many would make for Christ at some point in their lives.

Either way, God’s love is not ‘reckless’, as Corey Asbury describes recklessness! And because the song’s lyrics speak so much truth about God’s love, I cannot help but wonder why he thinks that God loves recklessly. It’d s popular sentiment among certain segments of evangelicalism. And that saddens me. Is my criticism justified? I believe it is. I also know that we should pray for Corey, his spiritual growth and ministry. Add to that prayer the thousands of young people who have been and are being terribly deceived by all the false teaching that Bethel Redding represents.

The Word-less “Church”

from W. Robert Godfrey

 

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Many American churches are in a mess. Theologically they are indifferent, confused, or dangerously wrong. Liturgically they are the captives of superficial fads. Morally they live lives indistinguishable from the world. They often have a lot of people, money, and activities. But are they really churches, or have they degenerated into peculiar clubs?

What has gone wrong? At the heart of the mess is a simple phenomenon: the churches seem to have lost a love for and confidence in the Word of God. They still carry Bibles and declare the authority of the Scriptures. They still have sermons based on Bible verses and still have Bible study classes. But not much of the Bible is actually read in their services. Their sermons and studies usually do not examine the Bible to see what it thinks is important for the people of God. Increasingly they treat the Bible as tidbits of poetic inspiration, of pop psychology, and of self-help advice. Congregations where the Bible is ignored or abused are in the gravest peril. Churches that depart from the Word will soon find that God has departed from them.

What solution does the Bible teach for this sad situation? The short but profound answer is given by Paul in Colossians 3:16: “Let the word of Christ dwell in you richly, teaching and admonishing one another in all wisdom, singing psalms and hymns and spiritual songs, with thankfulness in your hearts to God.” We need the Word to dwell in us richly so that we will know the truths that God thinks are most important and so that we will know His purposes and priorities. We need to be concerned less about “felt-needs” and more about the real needs of lost sinners as taught in the Bible.

Paul not only calls us here to have the Word dwell in us richly, but shows us what that rich experience of the Word looks like. He shows us that in three points. (Paul was a preacher, after all.)

First, he calls us to be educated by the Word, which will lead us on to ever-richer wisdom by “teaching and admonishing one another.” Paul is reminding us that the Word must be taught and applied to us as a part of it dwelling richly in us. The church must encourage and facilitate such teaching whether in preaching, Bible studies, reading, or conversations. We must be growing in the Word.

It is not just information, however, that we are to be gathering from the Word. We must be growing in a knowledge of the will of God for us: “And so, from the day we heard, we have not ceased to pray for you, asking that you may be filled with the knowledge of his will in all spiritual wisdom and understanding” (Col. 1:9). Knowing the will of God will make us wise and in that wisdom we will be renewed in the image of our Creator, an image so damaged by sin: “Put on the new self, which is being renewed in knowledge after the image of its creator” (3:10).

This wisdom will also reorder our priorities and purposes, from that which is worldly to that which is heavenly: “The hope laid up for you in heaven. Of this you have heard before in the word of truth, the gospel” (1:5). When that Word dwells in us richly we can be confident that we know the full will of God: “I became a minister according to the stewardship from God that was given to me for you, to make the word of God fully known” (1:25). From the Bible we know all that we need for salvation and godliness.

Second, Paul calls us to expressing the Word from ever-renewed hearts in our “singing.” Interestingly, Paul connects the Word dwelling in us richly with singing. He reminds us that singing is an invaluable means of placing the truth of God deep in our minds and hearts. I have known of elderly Christians far gone with Alzheimer’s disease who can still sing songs of praise to God. Singing also helps connect truth to our emotions. It helps us experience the encouragement and assurance of our faith: “That their hearts may be encouraged, being knit together in love, to reach all the riches of full assurance of understanding and the knowledge of God’s mystery, which is Christ, in whom are hidden all the treasures of wisdom and knowledge” (2:2–3).

The importance of singing, of course, makes the content of our songs vital. If we sing shallow, repetitive songs, we will not be hiding much of the Word in our hearts. But if we sing the Word itself in its fullness and richness, we will be making ourselves rich indeed. We need to remember that God has given us a book of songs, the Psalter, to help us in our singing.

Third, Paul calls us to remember the effect of the Word to make us a people with ever-ready “thanksgiving.” Three times in Colossians 3:15–17 Paul calls us to thankfulness. When the “word of Christ” dwells in us richly, we will be led on to lives of gratitude. As we learn and contemplate all that God has done for us in creation, providence, and redemption, we will be filled with thanksgiving. As we recall His promises of forgiveness, renewal, preservation, and glory, we will live as a truly thankful people.

We need the word of Christ to dwell in us richly today more than ever. Then churches may escape being a mess and become the radiant body of Christ as God intended.

This post was originally published in Tabletalk magazine.

from W. Robert Godfrey