The Objects of God’s Favor

I was quite close with an atheist friend of mine some years ago. We confided in one another and exchanged our stories of suffering and joy. We laughed and we had quiet times in her bedroom at night, discussing the pain that haunted us during the day. Let’s just call this friend Donna. The Doctor Who character names are plentiful and I will continue to use them.  

                Anyway. I had sinned somehow, cursing I think. Now, cursing has nothing to do with words, but rather anger or malice in your heart. So fuck and all these other words are stigmatized by society to be rude and vulgar, but Biblically speaking, as with many other things, it has to do with the motivations of the heart.

                So I cursed, probably that’s what it was and I told Donna this because my face was burning with shame. Donna stopped, grinned and said to me I should just ask forgiveness from Jesus and keep right on sinning. If I sinned and sinned and just willingly kept doing one terrible thing after another, Donna mused, why did it matter if I could just close my eyes and ask God for forgiveness? That’s like saying I work somewhere and am friends with my boss’s son. I get into trouble, I just mention the son’s name and I’m out of the judgment seat.

                Answer: nothing says love like being manipulative.

                That’s not how Christianity works. “Therefore, if anyone is in Christ, the new creation has come: The old has gone, the new is here!” 2 Corinthians 5:17

                Once you’ve accepted Jesus you have to change your ways. You don’t technically sin anymore before God’s eyes because you have Christ’s forgiveness, but you’re not supposed to STRIVE to do terrible things all the time. Accepting God means taking on a new lifestyle. I’m not saying you stop sinning altogether, that’s impossible, but if you are a servant you live like a servant.

                “For we are God’s handiwork, created in Christ Jesus to do good works, which God prepared in advance for us to do.” Ephesians 2:10

                As you probably noticed, the Earth is a terrible place because of humans and their sin. God had put it on his people Israel to follow his commands, the law of Moses, in order that they would be made right by him. But all of the Israelites failed. “Everyone has turned away, all have become corrupt; there is no one who does good, not even one.” Psalm 53:3  

Since the beginning of time humans have failed to reach God’s level of goodness. God had to do something to reconcile people back to him since we were too weak to help ourselves.

Parachuting onto the field: Jesus. He came to destroy the law because it failed to make us right with God. Do you understand? No one could maintain the law all the time, every moment of every day. The law exposes our sin and makes us conscious of it. It tells us what God wants us to do while we live, but if any person broke just one part of the law then it was counted against him as if he had broken every single law (Galatians 3:10). This shows that God measures sin equally and that no sin is worse than any other.

So if you’ve ever heard a Christian arguing that homosexuality is the worst, most detestable sin before God then you can rest in the truth: all sin is the same before God. And everyone, absolutely everyone except for Jesus, has fallen short of the law. For everyone has sinned and done wrong.

The “law” included the Ten Commandments as well as reverence to the special days and other various acts pertaining to sin offering and cleanliness. If a person broke just one of these commands he would fall under a curse.

                “Cursed is everyone who does not continue to do everything written in the Book of the Law.” Galatians 3:10, Deuteronomy 27:26

                Those who fall under this curse are doomed to death. “Then, after desire has conceived, it gives birth to sin; and sin, when it is full-grown, gives birth to death.” James 1:15

                When we sin against God, no matter how small it may seem perhaps compared to murder or rape, we are heaping upon ourselves God’s wrath. Remember all the atrocious and nasty things humans have been doing for all this time? Well, God’s been paying attention.

“…for he views the ends of the earth and sees everything under the heavens.” Job 28:24

“For God watches how people live; he sees everything they do. No darkness is thick enough to hide the wicked from his eyes. We don’t set the time when we will come before God in judgment.” Job 34:21-23

This is the message here: if you’ve sinned then God’s fist is going to come down on your back and snap your spine into pieces. God is love (1 John 4:16), but he is also just. He corrects his children and will punish the wicked. Would you want a god that is impartial to people’s wickedness? If you saw a man run up to a woman and her two small children and the man slit all their throats, would you want a god who turns the other way?

I like God the way he is…quietly observing all the evil and good that people engage in. Evil will run amuck and have a good time with those on Earth, but when Death comes, there will be no more laughter. Every knee will bow and every mouth will confess who God is (Romans 14:11, Isaiah 45:23). You might not want to willingly kneel down, that’s fine, God will just break your knees.  

All of the evil things people do, whether in secret or in the open, is exposed before the Almighty. A person gets stuck in a trap of sin and like a deranged fox she starts to gnaw through her leg rather than be caught. She’ll limp away, having chewed through her leg, only to bleed out from her wound. Humans are twisted. Do not be fooled. You’re just as mad, just as sick and just as demented as those around you. It’s the truth. Satan chews on your head just as often as mine.

So what will happen to us if we have God’s anger burning against us?

We go down to the pit. To Hell. It’s a place where evil is melting out of the walls for eternity. But isn’t that what you wanted? In the pit, you can always wear your sin with pride. Lying, stealing, selfishness, cursing, promiscuity, lust, gluttony…they’re all your friends and they’ll be there with you. They are all you’ll ever have outside of the dimensions of time and space.

But there is hope…

Jesus took away God’s wrath through his death on the cross. Jesus acted as an eternal sin offering for anyone who would accept him. With Jesus, he became the object of God’s wrath so that we could become the object of God’s favor. “Whoever believes in the Son has eternal life, but whoever rejects the Son will not see life, for God’s wrath remains on them.” John 3:36

This is why people don’t have to offer animals for priests to sacrifice as sin offerings. Jesus removed that burden. Now Christians only have to confess and ask for forgiveness of their sins. They must come before God, before Christ, and tell what they have done. In the Bible we are encouraged to share our sin with each other in order to show honesty and weakness, but we only receive forgiveness from God, not people.

                “Therefore confess your sins to each other and pray for each other so that you may be healed. The prayer of a righteous person is powerful and effective.” James 5:16

Remember that anyone who sins falls under a curse? Jesus did not sin, yet he became cursed because he was hung on a cross. “…because anyone who is hung on a pole is under God’s curse.” Deuteronomy 21:23, Galatians 3:13

So this is how we receive forgiveness of sins and how we are made right with God. Faith and works, going hand in hand, are accredited to Christians as righteousness. “As the body without the spirit is dead, so faith without deeds is dead.” James 2:26

“For the Scriptures tell us, ‘Abraham believed God, and God counted him as righteous because of his faith.’ When people work, their wages are not a gift, but something they have earned. However, to the one who does not work but trusts God who justifies the ungodly, their faith is credited as righteousness.” Romans 4:3-5

You can’t take credit for having faith in God. Even that is a gift from him. We do not save ourselves, after all.

“For it is by grace you have been saved, through faith–and this is not from yourselves, it is the gift of God–not by works, so that no one can boast.” Ephesians 2:8-9

“Not by works” means here that men can’t work their way into Heaven. Some Catholics, for example, believe that doing good things gets you into Heaven. That’s not true according to the Bible. Jesus is the only way to be made right with God, he’s the only way into Heaven, he is the only chance a human has. Faith requires that we do good things with our time, but the actions themselves won’t save us.

Rest well, my friend. Your mortality is draining away. The grains of sand are scratching down the torso of the hourglass. Soon, there will be nothing left.

“Why, you do not even know what will happen tomorrow. What is your life? You are a mist that appears for a little while and then vanishes.” James 4:14

“The grass withers and the flowers fall, because the breath of the Lord blows on them. Surely the people are grass. The grass withers and the flowers fall, but the word of our God endures forever.” 1 Peter 1:24-25, Isaiah 40:7-8

If you want Jesus, all you have to do is invite him into your life. His forgiveness is a free gift for anyone, Jew or Gentile alike, to receive.

“Here I am! I stand at the door and knock. If anyone hears my voice and opens the door, I will come in and eat with that person, and they with me. To the one who is victorious, I will give the right to sit with me on my throne, just as I was victorious and sat down with my Father on his throne.” Revelation 3:21-22

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