Gospel According to the Spirit
Therefore we know no one after the flesh from now on. Even though we have known Christ after the flesh, yet now we know him so no more. Therefore if anyone is in Christ, he is a new creation. The old things have passed away. Behold, all things have become new. (2 Corinthians 5:16-17)
For as in Adam all die, so also in Christ all will be made alive. (1 Corinthians 15:22)
I have become convinced, primarily on the basis of the strong testimony of these verses along with other similar ones, that every human being is in Christ without exception. What is becoming more clear to me increasingly is that in order to perceive, believe and live in this awareness, one must like Paul, choose to view everyone from that perspective – according to the spirit – alone and refuse to think in terms of or view others according to any other measurement of value or identity.
The issue of identity is increasingly coming into prominence in my awareness of spiritual realities. Now the various modules of study that God has led me to investigate over recent years are coming together to form a much larger picture that fits far better with what is being revealed about God's character than the contradictory claims of religion. These contradictions are compelling me even more to embrace this truth that has been emerging into my awareness for some time. To be in Christ AND to have Christ live in us (mutual abiding – see John 15) is parallel to living according to the Spirit and viewing everyone from the same perspective.
In recent years contradictions between atonement theories has been heating up and creating increasing conflict both in and out of our church. People on both sides of these issues sometimes become strident, failing to realize that the condition of their spirit is of far greater importance than the pure accuracy of their theories, as helpful as they may be for understanding truth. Sadly I have witnessed too often the spirit of bitterness, pride, arrogance or animosity in some who believe themselves to be champions of the truth about God's character, yet who fail to demonstrate it toward others opposing their views. This discredits and undermines the very believability of what they seek to teach others and gives advantage to the enemy, the very thing they imagine they are combating. It is not enough to simply know accurate facts about God; it is vital that the truth as it is in Jesus effects dramatic change in our own attitude and disposition towards everyone around us. This is part of what I believe Paul had in mind when he speaks of viewing others according to the flesh or according to the spirit.
There is therefore now no condemnation to those who are in Christ Jesus, who don't walk according to the flesh, but according to the Spirit. (Romans 8:1)
For many years I could only see condemnation in this verse because I could not perceive how it could mean anything else based on the teachings I had received from religion and from my parents. Because I felt constantly condemned by God, the only conclusion that made any sense was that clearly I was not yet in Christ. And evidently until I got my act together enough to be accepted by God, I would never be in Christ and would be doomed to continue to live under God's condemnation. Sadly I suspect millions are trapped in this same mindset because the true gospel has not been allowed to spread like it should. False gospels purporting to be the truth have replaced the radical gospel of Jesus and Paul but have only produced a condition of double-mindedness that is warned against by James.
For that man ought not to expect that he will receive anything from the Lord, being a double-minded man, unstable in all his ways. (James 1:7-8 NAS95)
This verse too was very troubling to me for many years as I presumed that it was up to me to work up enough faith to convince God to give me what I asked of Him. Anytime I did not receive the answers to my prayers I presumed it was always my fault because I could not eliminate every shadow of doubt that I would get what I asked for. Not until many years later did I finally realize that the doubt warned against by James was not the eradication of any thought that might sabotage my prayer and give God an excuse to deprive me; the real problem was that believing contradictory things about God's attitude towards me was disabling my own capacity to receive anything from Him.
But if any of you lacks wisdom, let him ask of God, who gives to all liberally and without reproach; and it will be given to him. But let him ask in faith, without any doubting, for he who doubts is like a wave of the sea, driven by the wind and tossed. For let that man not think that he will receive anything from the Lord. (James 1:5-7)
Yes, the problem was with me, but my problem was not that God was withholding things from me but rather that I had incapacitated myself from being able to accept what God was generously seeking to give me. That made a huge difference and unlocked my understanding to see things completely differently from before. Now I realized that the warning by James to not doubt had nothing to do with trying very hard to eliminate all fear that God might not give me what I wanted (much like trying very hard to not think about an elephant at all for 24 hours in order to win a million dollars), but rather was a problem created when I resisted believing the truth that God is actually good, scandalously generous and is never in the business of fault-finding or criticizing me all the time but actually loves me totally.
This brings me to an issue that is emerging currently related to heated debates over competing atonement theories about the true meaning and purpose of the cross of Christ. What I am hearing from many who feel they have the best answer for our church is that it is necessary to retain both the penal substitution model of atonement while maybe allowing new understandings of atonement to come alongside it. At first glance this might seem generous to give room to those who embrace a much higher view of God's unconditional love for everyone. Yet the more I think about the implications of this the more abhorrent I find this supposed solution for resolving the current conflict.
Don't be unequally yoked with unbelievers, for what fellowship have righteousness and iniquity? Or what communion has light with darkness? (2 Corinthians 6:14)
I can see no collusion or compromise possible between the horrific implications within penal substitution teachings involving appeasement theory that is inherent within these teachings, and the true gospel of Christ that dispels all darkness about God's attitude towards sinners. Either God relies on threats of imposed punishment in violent retribution against the lost, or He relies on some other more effective motivation. But attempts to reconcile these opposing views only results in confusion, fear and discouragement for many.
I recently have felt strongly convicted that penal substitution theories and appeasement models defining atonement such as those taught by most theologians who insist that such views are necessary for people with great fears about God, are in fact even worse versions of the abhorrent pagan child sacrifice rituals that God vehemently condemned. For people today to insist that God's own beloved Son had to be offered up as a child sacrifice to satisfy the furious wrath of God bent on punishing sinners or to placate a Law demanding satisfaction is no different in spirit from the same motives of people who felt compelled to offer up their most valued possession by scorching their own babies alive on the searing hot arms of a metal idol to appease the fury of their false gods. The only difference is that modern Christianity has taken that demonically sick view of offended deities to an exponential level by Christianity inventing belief in a child sacrifice using the most valuable child in the universe.
Given this horrendous reality, I cannot see how retaining teachings of penal substitution could ever be excusable to be presented to sinners ahead of the real truth that God is not the problem to be solved but rather our distrust and fear of God being the real issue. Penal substitution and appeasement theology is intended to terrify us with God's supposed severe threatened punishments that supposedly can compel us to obey Him out of fear of what He will do to us if we disobey. Yet this is the principle we inherited from the Tree of Good and Evil, not the Tree of Life that Jesus came to give us. The reality is that those two trees are incompatible with each other and there can never be any compromise between them. If we attempt to mingle the principles between them the result is always double-mindedness, and we have already been told that such thinking disables us from receiving anything from God.
Those who insist that we must continue to cling to dark, fear-based beliefs about the cross of Christ are viewing life and even Christ according to the flesh, for this is what flesh-thinking is all about. To live and think according to the flesh is to think and deal in the currency of fear and condemnation, the currency from the forbidden tree that our parents chose over the Tree of Life. Jesus came to restore humanity back into harmony with reality and life as God designed it. Attempting to present any other contradictory gospel that attempts to include both sides simultaneously can never result in salvation and only produces lukewarmness which distorts our perceptions about the true God. Such confusion also results in an inability to really trust such a God who supposedly relies on both fear and love to draw us to Himself. That is not the God Jesus came to reveal but reflects the false premise asserted by the serpent in Eden, that God is both good and evil.
I cannot see any way to support the popular insistence that we need to teach penal substitution atonement as it completely contradicts the truth that in God is no darkness at all (1 John 1:5). To mingle truth and lies about God is to pollute the mind and heart and can only result in confusion, fear and eventually leads to death. God warned us to not indulge in that Tree for it leads us to believe both good and evil about God and teaches that in society there must always be a balance between good and evil. We need to cut ourselves off completely from anything remotely reflecting the sentiments from that tree and embrace only what is life-giving alone from Christ. That source of life is Jesus who is our Tree of Life who came not to condemn the world but to save as many as possible (John 3:16-17).
Those who hold immature, fearful views of God do not need salvation theories that only exacerbate their fears. If someone is already afraid of punishment, it is not helpful to introduce fantastic notions involving God using legal fiction to replace sinners by having His own Son receive punishment in their place. Such views of God only strengthen the lies of the enemy that keeps people afraid of God even while religion asserts that in some bizarre way such teachings are supposed to lead us to love Him. Insisting that God relies on more fear, threats of severe punishment or torture against any who refuse to accept His love and grace does nothing to draw us to want to know Him better. It drives people toward insanity or dissociation in their brains or denial that God even exists. It makes no sense whatsoever to imagine that teachings designed to induce fear will somehow displace fear.
About this we have much to say that is hard to explain, since you have become dull in understanding. For though by this time you ought to be teachers, you need someone to teach you again the basic elements of the oracles of God. You need milk, not solid food; for everyone who lives on milk, being still an infant, is unskilled in the word of righteousness. But solid food is for the mature, for those whose faculties have been trained by practice to distinguish good from evil. (Hebrews 5:11-14 NRSV)
I hardly imagine that what the writer of Hebrews had in mind when he used the metaphor of milk was the dark implications embedded in penal substitution theology. People living in fear do not need greater fear as so many suppose, rather they need a fresh revelation of the real truth that God is not our enemy and can be trusted. Penal substitution and all similar appeasement theories are distortions about God and are rooted in mistaken presumptions that God's laws operate artificially just like our laws and Satan's kingdom based on rewards and punishments.
But nobody can tame the tongue. It is a restless evil, full of deadly poison. With it we bless our God and Father, and with it we curse men, who are made in the image of God. Out of the same mouth comes forth blessing and cursing. My brothers, these things ought not to be so. (James 3:8-10)
How do we curse others in religion? Easy! We imagine we must assault sinners with teachings like making them think God hates them, that they are despicable in His sight, that humans are all worthless pieces of trash destined to be tortured in God's vengeful fire if they don't repent and put their trust in the child-sacrifice of God's own beloved Son that He sent to be the whipping boy in our place. Through such teachings we curse men and invoke the same curse on ourselves. Why? Because we are forgetting that we were not only created in the image of God but that Jesus, our replacement Adam, has already reinstalled a new identity within every human being, an identity just like Jesus, one that is pure, loved, accepted and complete that makes every one of us worthy and accepted in the Beloved. This is the identity of an overcomer, and as we choose to embrace this reality and allow it to expel every lie we have imagined about our value and identity, our acceptance of this truth will motivate us to make choices accordingly which produces a transformation of character. This is how we may be prepared to safely approach and thrive in the immediate presence of God's passionate, consuming love which is the true definition of His fire.
Anything short of this pure truth about God composes the deadly poison James speaks of here. It is not enough for us to simply say that God is good all the time while we resist believing that the in Christ identity implanted in each of us by Jesus is a template reflecting that very same goodness. Our problem with sin is not any need to change God's opinion or feelings about us as religion would lead us believe. Neither is it our messed up condition, for our condition in no way defines our true value or our identity. The fundamental problem is that we cling to false views about both God and ourselves as His children causing us to be afraid of Him, which was the problem our first parents experienced as soon as they believed the lies of the serpent hiding in the Tree of the Knowledge of Good and Evil.
We cannot have it both ways: either God is totally good and trustworthy and is love as the Bible teaches, or He has a dualistic character like Satan asserts, having both a good side but also a darker, more sinister side that might flare up when anyone crosses, disobeys or offends Him. These two views about God are totally incompatible with each other, and each of us is called upon to choose which version of God we will serve – a Jesus-looking God or a god demanding to be appeased when offended which curiously just happens to also be called Baal.
Elijah came near to all the people, and said, "How long will you waver between the two sides? If Yahweh is God, follow him; but if Baal, then follow him." The people answered him not a word.
(1 Kings 18:21)
What did Elijah call the children of Israel to do? To stop worshipping Baal, and who was Baal?
Baal was the son of El (i.e. El-ohim or El-Shaddai). He was the god of weather. Often called, ‘Almighty’ and “Lord of the Earth.” Baal was the god who brought rain, thunder, lightening, who fertilized the earth, controlled the sun and brought the harvest. Baal fought the great serpent leviathan as well as battled against Mot, the god of death. And most amazing of all, it was taught that Baal died in his battle with Mot and was resurrected from the dead to bring life to earth.
So what was the problem with worshipping a god who was the “husband and protector of Israel,” the son of El, who controlled the weather, who brought rain, sunshine, and fertility, who blessed with full harvest, who warred against the great serpent and death, who died and was resurrected to bring life to the earth? What was wrong with this god? What was Elijah opposing? What made Baal worship false?
That they had to provide sacrifices to appease the anger and wrath of Baal – the view in which Christ died to appease his Father is Baal worship and God is calling for a people to reject it, present the truth, demolish the lies that break love and trust and turn the hearts of the parents back to the children. (excerpt from http://www.comeandreason.com/files/BSC_Notes_2010-2014.pdf)
Behold, I will send you Elijah the prophet before the great and terrible day of Yahweh comes. He will turn the hearts of the fathers to the children, and the hearts of the children to their fathers, lest I come and strike the earth with a curse. (Malachi 4:5-6)
Don't be unequally yoked with unbelievers, for what fellowship have righteousness and iniquity? Or what communion has light with darkness? (2 Corinthians 6:14)
What fellowship indeed. God is not a god mixing good and evil, reward and punishment, threats and enticements. The heart can never be won with such tactics. It never works in human relationships and it certainly will not work coming from God either. That is how the god of this world operates, and his kingdom is foreign to the principles of heaven, the principles of love.
John invites us to enter into the fellowship of true joy, fellowship and communion with the true God and loving Father of us all whose Son has already given everyone a new, valid and present identity as beloved children of God, accepted and loved in Christ.
That which we have seen and heard we declare to you, that you also may have fellowship with us. Yes, and our fellowship is with the Father, and with his Son, Jesus Christ. And we write these things to you, that our joy may be fulfilled. This is the message which we have heard from him and announce to you, that God is light, and in him is no darkness at all. (1 John 1:3-5)