Just One More, For Now

The crucial question is “What about making a decision?”

This is the manner in which I have always heard the gospel presented. But what does it mean? That by OUR decision something is accomplished?

I am not saying that choosing, believing, and repenting (turning your life) are not vitally significant. They determine the way in which you experience (continue to experience) salvation and life in the kingdom as a daily lived reality.

But God, being rich in mercy, because of the great love with which he loved us, even when we were dead in our trespasses, made us alive together with Christ—by grace you have been saved—and raised us up with him and seated us with him in the heavenly places in Christ Jesus so that in the coming ages he might show the immeasurable riches of his grace in kindness toward us in Christ Jesus. And this is not your own doing; it is the gift of God, not a result of works, so that no one may boast. (Eph. 2:4-8)

For if while we were enemies we were reconciled to God by the death of his Son, much more, now that we are reconciled, shall we be saved by his life. (Romans 5:10)

It is the gift of God. Grace is not a transaction.

Tell me your thoughts about this.
Again, what questions does this raise for you?


50 thoughts on “Just One More, For Now

  1. Linda, Thanks for your thoughts,since you started this discussion I have been pondering the phrase from John 3 “…those who believe…”

    When I was 5, I believed in Santa. As our kids grew up we went to great lengths to protect our kids from the truth about Santa, the Easter bunny and the tooth fairy. One of my co workers managed to prolong it until her kids were 10. The emphasis was on the act of believing in something even though they are all fictional. The stores in my town have “fairy doors”, small store fronts with decorated doll house doors and windows. There are fairy door tours.

    The belief in Jesus at face value can be seen as the same sort of thing when we focus only on the act of believing. I think the word is translated poorly in this verse.

    I am not a scholar but I prefer the word trust inserted in John 3. “those who trust.” For me this makes it all a little more real. As Lord I trust Him to do what he said he would do in the book. Over and over and over He has proven reliable and trustworthy. A different focus then believing. I can decide to believe in the Easter Bunny but that does not solve anything, accept perhaps chocolate eggs one day a year.

    I like this quote:

    “I am and I am not a universalist. I am one if you are talking about what God in Christ has done to save the world. The Lamb of God has not taken away the sins of some — of only the good, or the cooperative, or the select few who can manage to get their act together and die as perfect peaches. He has taken away the sins of the world — of every last being in it — and he has dropped them down the black hole of Jesus’ death. On the cross, he has shut up forever on the subject of guilt: “There is therefore now no condemnation. . . .” All human beings, at all times and places, are home free whether they know it or not, feel it or not, believe it or not.

    Robert Farrar Capon

      1. I’ve discovered that I love the writing of Robert Capon. If I had the time, I would go on a Capon reading binge. But I can’t right now. I’d appreciate suggestions of favorite books by him and suggestions about one that might be particularly good for group discussion.

        1. I’ve only read one book of his: Between Noon and Three. I wrestled through it at first, and argued with him quite a bit as I read. But he answered each of my pathetic, religious arguments… And in the end, I had a profound change of mind. Frankly, God revolutionized my faith in a very foundational way as I finished the book. Rarely does one book impact me like that, and it may not be the same for others. But I recommend that one. :)

        2. I should go back to that one. I read a few chapters online but never purchased the book. It was impacting for me also Sarah.

    1. Metler, good point. The amplified bible stresses the concepts of trust and rely upon in translation of the word believe. Believing allows us to experience life with God which Jesus made possible. Not believing doesn’t make it not true.

  2. I love that verse from Romans. We are reconciled…. now God wants to save our soul – not from Hell, but from small, corrupted, and hateful thinking. Like the prodigal son, the Father wants us to “be alive again”

  3. My Questions are mostly about my own motives.
    I was taught that Grace was indeed a transaction , so I took the best deal I could get at the time.
    It was a long time after that before I actually had a real encounter with God that changed me.
    I really believe it’s not a transaction, it’s just what God has done for us all.
    I think the “decision” is solely for our sake, that we can come to a realization of the reality that already exists.
    As far as who is included or exclude: Maybe it is possible to believe the lie so strongly that we can take that experience into eternity?
    I don’t know , but it’s a theory.
    I’m really glad that Father has shown himself to be real and at work in my life, that I know for sure.

    1. Shaun, “come to a realization of the reality that already exists” is a good explanation. As Metler said, it is about trusting this truth. Resolving the lie is the essence of being saved which begins with our initial awareness and turning but shouldn’t stop there. It is interesting how much more we seem to focus on who is excluded after death than on the impact of the lie in people’s lives here and now.

  4. “You believe that there is one God. Good! Even the demons believe that—and shudder.” James 2:19

    I agree that belief alone doesn’t seal the deal.

    There is much debate between Calvinists and Armenians, and each side has their scripture to support their arguments. Is it possible that both are right? Even though the respective teachings seem to be in opposition, could it be that there is truth in both sides? Certainly there are other ways in which the nature of God would seem, by our finite understanding, to be contradictory. “For God so loved the world….”, and yet he commanded the killing of every man woman and child in the OT, and hardened Pharoah’s heart, to accomplish what He wanted to accomplish. The finite mind can’t comprehend this being the same God, and yet it is. So, maybe this is one of those examples.

    My own beliefs at this point are similar to that expressed above. I believe Christ died for all mankind, but I also am not a universalist. At some point human choice comes into play, even though the ability to make that decision is only by His grace. It doesn’t all make sense to me, but does it have to?

    1. re: Calvinists & Armenians

      Good question…

      I don’t think both sides are “right”. I do think, however, that both sides have a view of truth and the the TRUTH is somewhere in the middle.

    1. James, Watchman hit the nail on the head. We can’t “enter” a room we are already in.

      @Linda, the problem that this idea brings up is then the issue of final judgment. How does God judge if some have not “said the prayer” or believed? Reconciling this issues is hard for some but I love the final image we see in Revelation which sees the gates open.

      1. James, love the quote! Thanks for sharing it here.

        Jonathan, I trust that when God restores everything to the way it should be (final judgment), it will be beyond what I could envision. I cannot imagine what it will be like for those who haven’t yet believed to fully experience His love or how they will respond.

  5. He came to that which was his own, but his own did not receive him. Yet to all who received him, to those who believed in his name, he gave the right to become children of God—children born not of natural descent, nor of human decision or a husband’s will, but born of God. (John 1:11-13)

    I’m not one that asks anyone to “make a decision” for Christ. I don’t think you’re born again because of a “human decision”. Instead I ask people to open up and give Him a chance to prove Himself to them.

    Somewhere in that process – He plants that eternal faith in them (a gift) – and they embrace the reality of who He is.

    He doesn’t rape people – He only comes in as He’s allowed and invited to come in. He stands at the door and knocks awaiting an invitation – but the birthing process goes way beyond an initial decision – there’s the meeting of two – there’s impartation – there’s fertilization – there’s gestation -there’s birth – and there’s probably a million things I left out because of my limited understanding of how it really works. The sad thing is that – anytime in this process – there can be a ‘human decision’ to abort this thing. Religion aborts more babies than medical doctors do. This is not instant breakfast mix – this takes time and care – it may start with a single prayer (though by the time you get to that point you’re already pretty far along in the process) – but it doesn’t end there.

    So yeah – maybe it is a little of both – Armenian – and Calvin – but the “new birth” is such a miracle when it happens – that just like the natural birth – it’s pretty tough to take credit that a “human decision” did all of this- though that decision – and possibly many decisions was in there somewhere.

  6. I just wonder about the times where people asked “what must I do to be saved?” and Jesus’ disciples NEVER said, “chill, dude, you’re already saved”.

    1. The problem is that from the human perception we are not. We wrestle with guilt that condemns us. So the need for salvation is actually there, so Jesus and his disciples, and even God recognize that.

    2. “What must I do to be saved?” was and is always the question. I think that Jesus’ answer to the rich young ruler demonstrated that it wasn’t about what we do. Jesus told the disciples, “with men this is impossible, but with God, all things are possible.” This does not lessen the importance of letting people know what God has done for them. However the message was never, pray this prayer so you can go to heaven when you die. If we were reconciled through Jesus’ death, how much more that we should be restored through His life. The disciples response was to explain how people could experience that restoration.

  7. If the gift of eternal life far outweighs the sin of the first Adam, then we need to think this thru. If all ‘died’ in Adam as Paul suggests, & all men had no choice when they inherit not only Adam’s physical limitations, but the spiritual ones as well, what did Jesus accomplish then that is far beyond the one man’s transgression? It is obvious the physical aspect of our existence is not changed. We all age, get sick, die. Seems the original curses of Genesis 3 appear to be our common lot in life. If Jesus took away the sin of the world & all curses on the cross, then is the condition of all mankind different from that point forward? If Jesus was the perfect sacrifice/offering, however that is understood, why does it seem Adam’s choice still holds sway over that of Jesus & the Father in this existence? In this context it appears Adam’s transgression still outweighs Jesus’ work of redemption thru His perfect obedience including His death on the cross. Now if you suddenly want to champion our ‘free will’ as the one caveat, then you have to take that up with God. If He holds all men guilty of Adam’s transgression without a choice involved, then what is up with the choice now to determine our eternal existence? And what about that ‘abundant’ quality of life Jesus came to supply? The fulfillment of the grander promises are indeed reserved for another dimension which one has to die to get into. No free passes. No get-out-of-jail free cards. Saint & sinner alike subject to the same physical corruption in this life. Is there then a separate existence in the next? The old sheep versus goats imagery comes to mind…

  8. “I just wonder about the times where people asked “what must I do to be saved?” and Jesus’ disciples NEVER said, “chill, dude, you’re already saved”.”

    No, you are right. He told them to go sell all they have, give to the poor, do justice, forgive our enemies, turn the other cheek, etc… This is how you will save your soul… this is how you get life.

    But being reconciled to God? Chill dude, you’re already reconciled.

  9. just another thought here: this unmerited favor & final work of Jesus & God’s incredible love & willingness to bless is shamelessly exploited daily by the name-it-and-claim-it folks (cue Janis Joplin’s Mercedes Benz). the ‘feel good’ preaching types. the God-is-your-buddy types. God becomes a caricature of sappiness molded into a slick consumer package. certainly God does have it all worked out according to His unchanging character, however, the standard was set by Jesus Himself of what God expects humanity to reflect. and Jesus did not hold back in His nth degree commandments & example. anyway…i am wandering down a rabbit trail here…

  10. Not sure about all of this decision stuff. Saying a simple yes to the Holy Spirit seems pretty childlike to me.. it is simple.. how can a gift be a gift if the receiver has no choice in the manner.. is the gift of salvation something that is mandated by a heavenly congress?

    1. Actually this inheritance was determined before the creation of the world by a heavenly congress of the Father, Son, and Spirit. There can be no relationship without response, so yes, we are free to choose and to simply say yes to the Holy Spirit. However, that is only one point in our salvation. To limit our understanding of salvation to this one point diminishes the fuller meaning of salvation.

      1. The whole predetermination aspect of salvation is one that the Calvinists seem to heavily embrace. A bit too black and white for me.. but I think that we have had that conversation before. :)

        Guess I am still stuck on salvation being something personal and in the context of relationship. I think that you may see salvation as something more universal in nature? But I may be wrong.

  11. Bob,
    We probably have had this conversation, but I’m old enough to repeat myself. :) I don’t really consider myself a Calvinist. The tulips/beer series covered my thoughts about their 5 points of doctrine.

    My understanding is that reconciliation is predetermined and universal, but salvation is not. Salvation is experienced as we yield to a relationship with God. When most people say salvation, they are referring to a single moment or event that determines whether one is included or excluded in eternal life. To me, salvation is an ongoing experience defined by the quality of relationship and life we know (realize) in Jesus.

    Thanks for the discussion. It is helpful for me to learn to explain and clarify my thoughts on this.

    1. Not sure that the approaches of Calvinism and Universalism (albeit you are not either) are a bit similar in that the both pronounce that God does everything and humanity does nothing with regard to eternity.. and of course they each have there own perspectives on the scriptures. One view presents a God of exclusivity and the other an enabling Father (http://kansasbob.com/2010/07/made-in-our-image.html).

      I think that reconciliation is a two way deal. I can totally forgive you but it does not mean that we are reconciled at all. Reconciliation requires a restoration of relationship.. with that we are just doing some mental gymnastics.

      I do agree with you on this though – I too am old enough to repeat myself. :)

  12. I would resist the image of God in a universalistic perspective being an enabling father. The father of the prodigal was not enabling… he simply never gave up. In Universalism, God simply does not give up. He is always patient, always kind, always trusts, always hopes, always perseveres… and never fails.

    It is not enabling to simply not have a point at which you eternally cut someone off. What Father would not always seek after and desire a restored relationship with his son or daughter… anyone that has a cut off point cannot call themselves Father.

    1. Using your example of the prodigal seems appropriate. The father loved the son but let him go. The father did not cut off the son but the son did cut off the father. My hope is that all would return to the father but I don’t see our Heavenly Father forcing prodigals to return.. even after death. I hope I am wrong.

      1. The question of infinity then resides. If we assume God would wait forever, the door is always open. But if my own failure at waiting in the midst of chaos does anything it makes me lose patience. It forces me to contemplate my own failure and eventually return. That’s what I love about the Prodigal Son story. It suggests the son does return.

        1. You may be right Johnathan. The son may (or may not) return. I do wonder if time exists after we die. Seems that time was something created by God.. so I wonder if waiting is even relevant after we die.

  13. If I were to read the prodigal story in the manner of much of Christendom, I would have to have the father eventually siding with the son who stayed at home… that the prodigal had his chance, and it is now time to lock the gate from his ever returning.

    The nature of choice is an interesting thing. But on its most basic level: If I started a roaring bonfire on my patio then asked the citizens of my city to come place their hand in the base of the fire… just for 5 minutes… would I get ANY takers? Would anyone chose this?

  14. does the parable of the wedding banquet (Matt 22) ‘trump’ that of the prodigal son? it could be we well meaning armchair theologians may read more into these parables than intended. neither speaks of predestination or universalism as commonly understood. they did, however, have direct application to the people hearing these words originally spoken. i think these parables may have been pulled at, massaged, reshaped, disected, etc. to fit the desired end of the one wanting to have them state plainly the facts of God’s after-this-life-is-over-with dealings with unrepentant humanity. but from my very limited fogged-up keyhole perspective, those answers are not found in parables…

      1. exactly my point. and Jesus was deliberate with His use of parable vs. say, beginning His statements with, “I tell you the truth…”

        and yes, we can all read into the parables what we would like. but then you have to accept a literal hell replete with eternal torment. however, when Jesus couches a parable with, “The kingdom of God/heaven is like…” then it is like something, but not it completely. Reading into parables one could simply include a version of reincarnation into another world or dimension. And it all continues ad-infinitum as one wishes it to play out. Jesus was deliberately vague about the “after-life” as He was all about invading our very ‘present’ reality to address its sad state of affairs. This is where the kingdom was to be established & expanded. The emphasis was ‘today’ not in the hereafter. Today is the day of our salvation. There will be no equivalent once ‘forever’ existence is the new norm. Somehow our eternal destination is meant to be vague as we should be very deliberate about our today. If today is taken care properly, then no worry about hereafter. If there is something not right about how we are dealing with today, then yes, that nagging sense of not knowing all there is to know about the hereafter a sobering consideration. God doesn’t let us in on all the mysteries of future happenings for a good reason. It causes to weigh & chew & then choose carefully how we are then to live…

  15. The parable of the prodigal son (or better: of the merciful father) is a key scripture for me as well. God honors our decision to leave Him even if it is with a heavy heart. Salvation lies in the fact that the Father never kicked the Son out (even after the insult of treating him as already dead) nor did he ever change his mind about him. He never even required any kind of restitution before he would accept him back home. Instead he runs towards the seemingly unacceptable and unclean one to embrace him and celebrate his return with no further questions asked or any stipulations required.

    WE are the ones who think an elaborate confession may do the trick or a self-degrading move to be a lowly slave rather than a child. The Father would have none of it!
    Interesting to see is also that the combination of the empty degrading experience and the memory of the truth about the Father work together to form the decision to return home. No moralistic appeal, threat or other attempt to manipulate the response were required – as a matter of fact, if something like that had been the source, it would have ruined the entire experience! A decision WAS made because suffering away from home and a final insight into the love of the Father gave the impetus to WANT to be there.

    1. in the general sense of ‘reading’ what one wishes to read into Jesus’ parables, then yes, building a grand theology around nice sounding parables is no more convincing than that nagging doctrine of literal hell+eternal torment. you may personally reject such interpretation/doctrine, however, you will not be able to champion such argument based solely on parables. Jesus was very descriptive of His use of fire & killing & judgment & punishment. you may wish to couch such things by contrasting this with God’s character, but those nagging exceptions persist that will not be answered this side of the veil. you cannot promise anyone this side of forever what or how God will ultimately deal with all humanity beginning with Adam & ending with those remaining when He simply says, “Enough!” we can encourage thoughtful rumination & address our hopes, but there is no magic pill verse or reference that will put all others to rest. i do admire the deep thought involved & the challenge to Christian conventional conclusions that themselves suffer from the same flimsy rationale. believe me, the wonder of God’s perfection in all His glory something i do think is going to go to the nth divine degree in addressing His wayward creation. however, He did not make it as cut-and-dried as many wish it to be…

  16. Joseph, I believe that the context of Luke 15 offers ample evidence what misconceptions of God all 3 parables in that chapter answered. Rather than contradicting this notion in Matthew 22, Jesus actually makes very much the same point: only those who WANT to come will be there! And the ones who end up being there are not the ones who thought they’d be there although they were so sure before who would and who would NOT. Does that make sense?

    1. yes. it makes sense to me looking back from my point-of-view. and i think the practical element was the one those within hearing mostly understood. forgive me for my conclusion that Jesus was not concerned with the finer theological points as He was addressing a mish-mash grouping of uneducated women, young children, poor blue collar laborers, men taught one-sided saturday school rhetoric, etc. He may have dazzled the cerebral types once when He was 12, but that audience now violently opposed to His perspectives. so yes, the good news was God’s topsy-turvy economy of who would be in & who would be left out. i think any self-respecting Jew of the time would see immediate application in their social/religious setting without having to ‘read’ into the word pictures Jesus so artfully painted. i think we can do the parables a disservice by stretching them out beyond the daily down-to-earth application Jesus was making. now, to be fair, i have expounded on the deeper implications of parables when i was involved in the prophetic movement. there is much fodder nestled in parables to extrapolate many fine sounding conclusions. it is easy to do & really quite fun. i just don’t put as much weight on their hidden meanings as some wish to extract. that is not to say Jesus was not addressing future principles of how the fulfillment of the kingdom would look, i just don’t hang my theological hat on those pegs…

      1. I am just now happy to not hang my theological on anything in particular. It sounds like are wary of those who draw what they like out of scripture… particularly if it follows a path other than what you have drawn from scripture (after all, they are just arm chair theologians anyway). In the end, your view is just one of 10s of thousands of contradicting views of Christianity… each claiming a little clearer understanding than the rest.

        For myself, I will hang my one belief on something extra-biblical… that the creator is a good father. Anything less than that…. and we are all doomed. You may believe in a typical evangelical view that God is dooming most of humanity, while saving a thin slice… if I were in that thin slice, I would not be too confident. Any being who would consider a fraction of a percent being safe… while the other 99.9 get tortured forever; probably cannot be trusted to keep me safe for that future. At some point in the eternities… he will turn on me too.

        Pascal’s wager is a joke.

        1. for the record, i do not want to believe in an eternal, conscious fiery torment hell of the Dante type. really. i find it repugnant & way over-the-top for a God of the Jesus type i encounter in the gospels to keep stoked forever. not sure what He was doing in the Old Testament with all that mayhem & destruction not only He initiated, but then ordered the Children of Israel to participate in. that bad-cop/good-cop personality one of unanswered incongruity. maybe beyond this temporal existence the process of reconciliation continues unabated until God accomplishes total oneness with Him for all humanity. Jesus did not preach hell fire & damnation as a means to get His hearers to get right with God. and strangely enough, i do not fear for my own soul nor do i feel compelled to tell everyone i know “repent or perish” as the main topic of discussion. the threat of hell not how Jesus revealed Himself to me, although prior to that event i did fear death & divine disfavor. i have no doubt God does have all worked out. maybe not to my satisfaction as it is His prerogative as God to deal with His creation as He pleases. i have enjoyed this & other thought-provoking posts Linda throws out there for us to ponder. grace to you Andrew on your faith journey. thanx for the exchanges…

  17. “For if while we were enemies we were reconciled to God by the death of his Son, much more, now that we are reconciled, shall we be saved by his life.”I can completely relate to that quote from my own experience.

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