Redefining God's Love
Rock of Offence Commentary
An Intense Internal War
Most of church history is influenced by the struggle between two spiritual viewpoints. Both claim to be of God. . .one is based in falsehood. Each generation assigns different names to these "theological positions". Churches and denominations tend to polarize around them--so both are found within "Christian Orthodoxy". We're talking about the difference between the prophetic ministry (God's prophets) and the soothsayer. And, yes. . .prophets are Biblical today under the New Testament even though some liberal theologians distort the facts (Ephesians 4:8-13).
For those unfamiliar with the term soothsayer, it comes from an ancient word that means, "to soothe" or comfort. It is associated with the occult. Palm-readers, spiritists and astrologers are commonly referred to as "soothsayers". God refers to the practice as "divination", which is condemned by the Bible. Yet, soothsaying also applies to those in the church that speak a false message on behalf of God. One can view soothsaying as the spiritual counterfeit of real prophecy. It's a counterfeit because it "sounds" like a message from God. The soothsayer proclaims a false message (usually from their own mind and philosophy) that puts people at ease. The soothsayer is sincere, has the best of intentions and believes they're acting in love. Real prophets deliver a message based in truth. Prophets of God are common people like you and I. Some have families and work full-time jobs. They're not limited to "the clergy", as some believe. Today, authentic prophets may not stand every Sunday in a pulpit. Many times, their message is disregarded for lack of proper "ministry credentials". True prophets have a tendency to disrupt the normal "peaceful" religious atmosphere in churches. They object when God's Word is compromised. They interfere with "unity" in Christian organizations when truth is redefined to obtain it. Their delivery style may offend false religious beliefs--and this makes them unpopular. Prophets engage in straight talk and can speak a very direct message. They aren't concerned with "sugar-coating" truth in order to be popular or accepted by the masses. For these reasons real prophets won't be invited to participate in the leadership of most church ministries--and this is where they're needed the most.
God's prophets do not always proclaim a message of judgement. Under the New Covenant the prophetic ministry is generally one of encouragement and admonishment. One of the signs of a false prophet under the New Testament is the use of condemnation and guilt to emotionally manipulate others. One characteristic of the Spirit of Christ is the absence of condemnation toward the people of God (Romans 8:1). The task of New Covenant prophets is to encourage and build up the body of Christ--not tear it down with guilt. The responsibility of the prophetic ministry is to repeat what God says and explain what He is about to do. Sometimes the message is the interpretation of a vision or dream. In New Testament Christianity it may be a warning about some danger or coming judgement, which can cause alarm, conviction and discomfort. When God's prophets start to warn about judgement--the soothsayers speak out with a message that contradicts and discredits. Because of their popularity, soothsayers often times hold influential ministry positions in churches that provide them instant credibility. The struggle usually gets personal and names are used against prophets like fools, crazies, "doom and gloomers" and spiritual nut cases. As we quickly approach the end of the age this is increasing in regularity--especially with the help of the electronic media. A study of this subject reveal's that the soothsayer's philosophy is rooted in humanism, while real prophets are rooted in God's character, the Scriptures and what He is presently saying--positive or negative. Most people only want to hear pleasant and cheerful things. This is what makes the soothsayer so widely accepted in the modern church--and so dangerous. It's dangerous because it persuades the listener to believe a lie, rather than truth.
In the Old Testament we see an example of this struggle between two prophets, Jeremiah and Hananiah. Both were considered prophets of God. The Lord told Jeremiah that Judah would suffer for 70 years under the hand of Nebuchadnezzar king of Babylon--and that the whole land would be a desolation. Jeremiah delivered this message as God commanded. But, another prophet by the name of Hananiah didn't see things that way. He spoke a comforting contradictory message that generally said Nebuchadnezzar's power would be broken within two years and that his yoke would be removed from the neck of Judah and all nations. The Bible says that Hananiah uttered these words before all the people. In response, God spoke these words through Jeremiah:
"Hear now, Hananiah; the LORD hath not sent thee; but thou makest this people to trust in a lie. Therefore thus saith the LORD; Behold, I will cast thee from off the face of the Earth: this year thou shalt die, because thou hast taught rebellion against the LORD. So Hananiah the prophet died the same year in the seventh month". (Jeremiah 28:15-17)Jeremiah wasn't the only one to deal with soothsaying. The prophet Ezekiel also had to contend with the "foolish prophets" that "prophesy out of their own hearts".
"Son of man prophesy against the prophets of Israel that prophesy, and say thou unto them that prophesy out of their own hearts, Hear ye the word of the Lord; Thus saith the LORD GOD; Woe unto the foolish prophets, that follow their own spirit, and have seen nothing!" (Ezekiel 13:2-3).And again...
"Therefore thus saith the Lord God; Because ye have spoken vanity, and seen lies, therefore, behold, I am against you, saith the Lord God. And mine hand shall be upon the prophets that see vanity, and that divine lies: they shall not be in the assembly of my people, neither shall they be written in the writing of the house of Israel, neither shall they enter into the land of Israel; and ye shall know that I am the Lord God. Because, even because they have seduced my people, saying, Peace; and there was no peace..."(Ezekiel 13:8-10)
Redefining God's Love--The Doorway To Soothsaying
For many years I've noticed a tendency modern Christians possess. It's nearly impossible to correct. Discussing this subject can immediately label you as mean-spirited or hateful. I'm talking about possessing an incorrect understanding of God's love. The Bible commands us to love as God loves. Yet, a humanistic definition is applied to God's love that causes us to miss the mark. Humanistic love is exercised with great sincerity and the best of intentions. I'm not against a respectful attitude or a sweet and compassionate disposition from anyone. And, I'm certainly not advocating a dictatorial, condemning and self-righteous attitude that some Christians tend to project. I'm talking about practicing a "humanistic" style love thinking it's the same as God's love in the Bible. I've discovered that God's love (also known as covenant love) is vastly different than our human-style love. I've noticed that our love isn't the same as the love Jesus Christ expressed. You can see this problem in the comment; "God won't send me to hell because He's a God of love". Although this is a common false belief held by some in the world--many Christians are guilty of a similar practice when they wrongly attach a humanistic definition to God's love. This practice is rampant in the modern church.
This could be a backlash from the early years when a "fire and brimstone" gospel was preached. God's anger, judgement, and the sinner's destiny with hell was popular topics--usually preached with an indignant attitude. Listeners were motivated to attend church and live godly lives out of fear. Then, the gospel message about God's love came forth and people responded. The Bible is clear--God is love. He loved so much that He gave His only Son to die in our place to pay for our sin. Eternal life is given to us as a free gift--but it cost God everything. God's love is a love that gives. Yet, the Bible teaches that God's love also acts with justice. God's love was expressed when His judgement fell on Jesus (His Son) as He carried our sins on the cross. One purpose of the cross was to demonstrate--in the most graphic way--God's hatred for sin and the severity of his judgement against it. God did not spare His own Son from the consequences of His justice--even though Jesus was innocent. Jesus bore our judgement--he took our place. We were the guilty ones. The Bible says that the judgement was so great that Jesus no longer resembled a man. He hung on the cross mangled, bloody...and forsaken by His Father. That was an expression of God's love--but few want to hear that side of it. It could be viewed as cruel, heartless and offensive--if you see it through the eyes of humanism. Without judgement sin and wickedness would take over and destroy everything. The Bible teaches that sin brings death. A surgeon has a similar motivation when a part of the body infected with cancer has to be removed in order to save the rest of the body.
Today, our concept of love does not line up with the Biblical model. The humanistic kind of love overlooks the world's sin and wickedness and sees everyone as basically good--especially in times of tragedy (America: 9/11 is an example). However, God sees things differently. Many Christians (who should know better) look upon Humanistic "goodness" as something that God honors and respects. Yet, God sees our "goodness" as a demand to be accepted on our own merits and noble works. He sees it as an effort to obtain His acceptance and forgiveness without the need for His Son. This belief makes the costly sacrifice Jesus paid at the cross, worthless. The "goodness" of humanism rejects God's love, which was uniquely demonstrated in the crucifixion of Christ. Jesus is THE manifestation of God's love to the world! Many Christians and religious people refuse to see humanism the way God sees it. You can find some of the worst sin and wickedness hidden behind the mask of humanistic goodness. Perverse lifestyles are hidden under the guise of a "different orientation". Labeling some acts as "sin" makes one intolerant, hateful and a "bigot". Christians are told that any tendency to define sin is wrong for these reasons. We are told that people aren't sinners--they're just different. Today, sin and wickedness is redefined by our culture to make us feel good about America and ourselves. But, God has not redefined sin and wickedness! God does not honor our new definition of it. And, religious-minded Christians will be caught off guard as God starts to deal with it in these last days--before Christ's return. Substituting humanistic goodness in the place of God's love is rejecting Christ--and God considers it wickedness. If you look at this subject from God's perspective--the world and the modern institutional church is in deep trouble.
The book of Revelation discusses the Second Coming of Jesus Christ. In this end-time event, Jesus does not return as the Lamb of God--the way He came the first time. Jesus returns as the conquering King to judge the earth for its wickedness and to war against all the nations that reject Him. This event will happen soon and is documented Biblical fact. So far, we've been enjoying the age of God's grace for the last 2000 years. However, the calendar now says we're entering a new millennium--The Day of the Lord. It is during this time that we see an attitude change from heaven. Keep in mind that our God is still a God of love--that fact will never change. Yet, we will see Him switch from tolerating the world's wickedness--to judging it. The Bible indicates that God has delayed judgement in order to allow as many as possible time to receive His gift of eternal life. Jesus tells us about the days ahead...
"But as the days of Noah were, so also will the coming of the Son of Man be. For as in the days before the flood, they were eating and drinking, marrying and giving in marriage, until the day that Noah entered the ark, and did not know until the flood came and took them all away, so also will the coming of the Son of Man be." (Read the whole account in Matthew 24:37-44)No doubt, we will see untold destruction and human agony--and God's people need to understand what's happening from heaven's perspective. Like the leading edge of a great storm we are seeing the beginnings of something foretold hundreds of years ago by Christ. In Noah's day the flood started with a few drops of rain. Failing to recognize this fundamental change will cause some of God's people to be overcome with grief and disillusionment. The world is about to see a radically different side of God's character. Many will fall away from the faith. Armageddon concludes these events of God's wrath written about in the Bible. Those who insist on living in the humanistic kind of love--thinking they're modeling God's love are going to be victims of the conflict. MANY are in this category because of counterfeit religious beliefs taught by their church.