Christianity 201

December 19, 2016

Will Broken Relationships With Other Believers Be Reconciled in Heaven?

Filed under: Christianity - Devotions — paulthinkingoutloud @ 5:32 pm
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Once again we’re paying a return visit to the website Blogos which features a variety of writers. Today’s author is Christopher Schwinger. Click the title below to read at source, and then click the banner at the top to see other recent articles.

Relationships in Heaven

He will wipe every tear from their eyes, and there will be no more death or sorrow or crying or pain. All these things are gone forever.”
 -Revelation 21:4 NLT

I recently got a question asking whether heaven will be painless and have perfect reconciliation of relationships with others who belong to Christ. The simple answer has to be yes, but there are complexities which are troubling. I have heard it said that all of God’s wrath was poured out on Christ, so Christians who are unkind still are good in their ultimate standing with God. Does that really mean there is no such thing as God “disliking” a Christian who is unkind? That sounds like our painful experiences with other Christians are invalidated. An equal source of concern is whether everyone will get to have equal rewards in heaven even if they were ungracious to other people, as long as they believed in Jesus. I’ve often thought about whether we are supposed to expect the past to be nonexistent in our relationships when we get to heaven, because even though it’s unhealthy to want other people to suffer like we have, it just doesn’t seem fair that everyone would be on the same degree of perfection in heaven, from those who got only a little progress made (the thief on the cross by Jesus), to those who went backward or became stagnant, to someone who suffered because of other Christians’ lack of mercy.

Some people think it undermines the fullness of what Christ accomplished if we desire to have all our pain understood by the people who caused the pain, and I think that depends on whether they are trying to reconcile or trying to use pain in a vengeful way. The only way for that to feel right is if the Christians who are more obedient get more privileges in eternity than those who are more selfish. But as Jesus said to Peter in John 21:21-22, don’t worry about how God wants to bless someone else, or who is more or less deserving.

A further source of anxiety about heaven is whether our sins will be publicly exposed if we don’t confess them between our conversion to Christ and our death. Being ashamed for our previous spiritual immaturity can only be a factor in heaven if we didn’t heed the warnings God gave to us in our lives. For those who struggle with “feeling” clean after confessing their sins to God throughout their lives, that shame will be gone.

As a lot of our hope about the afterlife is just hope, not something we can know in a carefully defined way, it’s almost like we have to make heaven a philosophy more than a precise theology. Even the term is philosophical, because characteristics of God are evident in the cosmos and it’s the opposite direction of where people get buried. I used to try to visually imagine heaven and how it could be better than my current life, and I always wound up unsatisfied with the courtroom and music concert imagery, and that was probably because I missed that the emphasis in the Book of Revelation is that every group of people finds unity under God.

It’s not the luxurious description of heaven which should inspire us, but the relational healing. tweet

I have 3 sources of comfort about heaven:

1. What has convinced me that heaven even exists, besides Jesus’ fulfillment of specific Old Testament prophecies, is the poetic and wisdom literature of the Old Testament. The Old Testament passages in Job and the psalms which express hope about eternal life after death, with no more pain, happen after the writers have experienced sufferings and reflected on the meaning of it all, and God gives them hope as they continue to do the right thing. I have learned from this to not expect faith about a better hereafter to be something I can force on myself. Faith can’t be just forced, but is partially the natural outcome of making good choices. Another way of putting it: God gives hope/faith as a gift to those who pursue virtue.

2. The story of Jesus and Lazarus in John 11, from the most personal of the four Gospels, is important to me because Jesus actually identifies with the sorrow as they’re going through it, even though He knows it’s not going to continue after He raises Lazarus from the dead — until Lazarus eventually dies again, that is. Jesus felt their pain and cried even though He knew it would be short-lived pain. Until the amazing restoration actually happens, there is going to be pain, but somehow even the pain feels meaningful when we know God is feeling the pain with us. Gaining the confidence that He feels the pain is a difficult thing, though. Sorrow is not something to hide from, even if we hate it, because it actually is meaningful in its own way when we know God feels the pain.

3. The Apostle Paul’s expectation about the 2nd Coming, based on Jewish apocalyptic literature about Judgment Day, was that everyone who belongs to Christ, even from before the time of Christ in the first century, would be reunited and forever be together. It’s hard to know how much of the imagery we have of the End Times is symbolic and how much will really come true in the exact way described, but the Biblical writers are convinced that heaven is not just an idea we hope for, but a reality which Jesus already made possible.

Reconciliation of hurts in heaven does not mean the past never happened, but the fundamental relationship problems we have with other Christians will be gone in heaven because the atonement of Christ will be complete then. The atonement of Christ helps us become free from sin during our lives, but it’s still a struggle because we have our “sin nature” which we’re born with, what Paul calls “the flesh.” But when we make it to the next life, which you can call heaven, God’s transformation of us will be complete and we’ll have new bodies. The reason I can believe this is because the Holy Spirit’s work in my life right now is proof that there is more to come, what Paul called a pledge, like a deposit which proves there’s more where that came from. The Holy Spirit’s work in our hearts, when we sense it going on in ourselves, proves to us that we’re not being defrauded by God, but are given a trustworthy deposit, with the promise that the deposit will be completed later. The Holy Spirit didn’t just give me hope in my struggles only for it to all end in nothingness. Thus I can view even death as a gateway to a brighter future if I belong to Christ.

June 12, 2015

Never Thirst Again

Jen Rodewald writes at the blog The Free Slave’s Devotional and posted this exposition of the familiar story of The Woman at the Well. I hope you find something new in the story today. Click the title below to read at source.

Out of Bondage

“Everyone who drinks from this water will get thirsty again. But whoever drinks from the water that I will give him will never get thirsty again—ever.” –John 4:13-14a, HCSB

I wonder what she was thinking as she walked that well-worn trail on her own. Every day that trek to the well must have been a reminder…Of dreams unfulfilled. Of a longing unmet. Of shame. It was a walk most women made together, a chore done as a social engagement. Except for the outcast, the scorned.

With every step toward that well she could hear the whispers in her restless soul. All she ever wanted was love, the lasting kind. But men…they’re not the faithful types. And because she cannot extinguish the thirst to be held, wanted, she is that woman.

A kept woman. A mistress.

A man’s voice meets her at the well, drawing her attention from her feet. “I am thirsty.”

She stares at him. He is a Jew. Jews don’t talk to Samaritans, especially Samaritan women. Unless… She gauges his inspection. His look is not the seductive kind. She would know, after all.

“Why do you speak to me?” she stammers. “I am a woman. A Samaritan woman.” And it’s so much worse than that.

He cracks a small grin, as if he knows a secret.

Oh, no. Does every man in Judea know about me as well?

His voice drifts with kindness over the well between them. “If you knew who spoke to you, you would ask me for living water.”

Does he think he’s a magician? She snorts. “How will you draw the water, sir? This well is very deep.”

“Ah,” his grin spreads full. “But you see, woman, everyone who drinks from this well will thirst again. I am talking about living water—whoever drinks of it will never thirst again. It will become a spring life within.”

No more drawing water? No more taking the lonely walk of shame throughout town? “Sir, give me this water so I will not have to come here again!”

That knowing look crept back in his eyes. “Go, call you husband, and come back.”

Her heart stalled. Husband? Did he know? “I—” She swallowed. “I’m not married.”

His gaze didn’t waver. “Indeed, not at the moment. But you have been, five times. But the man you are with now…”

Her face burns as she casts her look to the ground. How is this possible? How can this man know the ugly, intimate details of her life?

How can he know all this…and still speak to her?

“You are a prophet.” And not like any religious man I’ve ever met. What makes you so kind to a woman you clearly know is unworthy? “Tell me, how do I worship God?”

“The Father wants people who will worship in spirit and in truth.”

Truth? I know the truth about me—and apparently so do you. Does God know? Probably.

She chances a glance back at him again. His face is gentle, and yet, absolute. Truth. Can He be? “The Messiah is coming. He will tell us Truth.”

He smiled like a proud parent. “Woman,” his eyes dance, as if he’s about to share that secret, “I am He.”

She knew it. But He is here, talking to her? A woman of…filth. Tears gathered in her eyes. He talked to her, and offered her living water—the kind that would satisfy her forever. The kind that she’d been longing for her whole life.

Suddenly, the invitation became clear. Everything that she’d searched for in life He held in His kind hands. Love. Belonging. Forgiveness. All that she’d thirst for, quenched by his living water. Water that would satisfy. Water that would cleanse.

He would give it to her. All she must do is ask.

October 27, 2013

Forgiving Each Other…As God Has Forgiven You

forgiven forgive

Some thoughts on forgiveness, from Neil Anderson at yesterday’s and today’s devotional at Crosswalk.com:

It was for freedom that Christ set us free ~Galatians 5:1

Be kind to one another, tender-hearted, forgiving each other, just as God in Christ also has forgiven you ~Ephesians 4:32

How does God intend for you to resolve hurtful, controlling past experiences? In two ways ….

First, you have the privilege of evaluating your past experience in the light of who you are now, as opposed to who you were then. The intensity of the primary emotion was established by how you perceived the event at the time it happened. Remember: Your emotions are a product of how you perceived the event, not the event itself. As a Christian, you are not primarily a product of your past; you are primarily the product of the work of Christ on the cross. The flesh, which represents how you processed those events according to the world and without Christ, remains. But you are able to render it inoperative.

When a present event activates that primary emotion, many people believe what they feel instead of believing what is true. For example, people who have been verbally abused by their parents have a hard time believing they are unconditionally loved by Father God. Their primary emotions argue that they are unlovable to a parent figure. They believe what they feel and their walk is off course. Believing the truth and walking by faith is what sets us free.

Now that you are in Christ, you can look at those events from the perspective of who you are today. Christ is in your life right now desiring to set you free from your past. That is the gospel, the good news that Christ has come to set the captives free. Perceiving those events from the perspective of your new identity in Christ is what starts the process of healing those damaged emotions.

God’s good news about our identity is revealed in 2 Corinthians 5:17: “Therefore if any man is in Christ, he is a new creature; the old things passed away; behold, new things have come.” This is what you must believe first in order to be set free from your past.

The second step in resolving past conflicts is to forgive those who have offended you. After encouraging Cindy, a rape victim, to deal with the emotional trauma of her rape, I said, “Cindy, you also need to forgive the man who raped you.” Cindy’s response was typical of many believers who have suffered physical, sexual or emotional pain at the hands of others: “Why should I forgive him? You don’t know how badly he hurt me!”

“He’s still hurting you, Cindy,” I responded. “Forgiveness is how you stop the pain. You don’t forgive him for his sake; you do it for your sake.”

Why should you forgive those who have hurt you in the past?

First, forgiveness is required by God. As soon as Jesus spoke the amen to His model prayer–which included a petition for God’s forgiveness–He commented: “If you forgive men for their transgressions, your heavenly Father will also forgive you. But if you do not forgive men, then your Father will not forgive your transgressions” (Matthew 6:14, 15). We must base our relationships with others on the same criteria on which God bases His relationship with us: love, acceptance and forgiveness (Matthew 18:21-35).

Second, forgiveness is necessary to avoid entrapment by Satan. I have discovered from my counseling that unforgiveness is the number one avenue Satan uses to gain entrance to believers’ lives. Paul encouraged mutual forgiveness “in order that no advantage be taken of us by Satan; for we are not ignorant of his schemes” (2 Corinthians 2:11). Unforgiveness is an open invitation to Satan’s bondage in our lives.

Third, we are to forgive like Christ forgave in order to keep our hearts from bitterness. Paul wrote: “Let all bitterness and wrath and anger and clamor and slander be put away from you, along with all malice. And be kind to one another, tender-hearted, forgiving each other, just as God in Christ also has forgiven you” (Ephesians 4:31, 32).

Your act of forgiveness will set the captive free, then you will realize that the captive was you!

Prayer: Loving Lord, thank You for making me a new creation in Christ. Help me walk away from anything in my past that is restricting my freedom.

Continue reading archive editions of Neil Anderson’s writing at Daily in Christ; you can also subscribe to receive his messages daily by email.

Today’s two-for-one special: After preparing this, I found this quotation on Tim Keller’s Twitter feed:

When you forgive, that means you absorb the loss and the debt. You bear it yourself. All forgiveness, then, is costly.

March 11, 2013

Romans 5 in The Voice

BibleGateway.com has added The Voice to its list of available translations. This is a truly different approach to Bible translation. Some of you will immediately resonate with what the translators had in mind and will gravitate toward this fresh approach. For others who prefer the traditional approach to scripture, this is not the version for you.  At the Bible Gateway blog, they highlight the unique aspects of the translation:

  • The Voice BibleThe Voice uses a screenplay format for dialogue and conversations. One advantage to this style is that it removes the need for lots of repetitive conjunctions and verbs (“he said,” “she replied,” etc.) that slow down reading. It also lets the translators use some clever and useful ways to convey key details: for example, in Matthew 8, note the use of stage directions to add detail and clearly identify the audience.
  • Words and phrases in italics represent words that aren’t found in the original text, but which are important for bringing out the original intended meaning of the passage. In the words of The Voice translators, this brings out “the nuance of the original, assist[s] in completing ideas, and often provide[s] readers with information that would have been obvious to the original audience. These additions are meant to help the modern reader better understand the text without having to stop and read footnotes or a study guide.” Here’s an example from Romans 6.
  • Another feature you’ll quickly encounter upon reading The Voice is its collection of explanatory material embedded in with the Bible text. These short paragraphs contain devotional material, study notes, background information, and other clarifying detail of the sort that you might typically find in a study Bible or commentary. These notes are placed near the passages they’re expounding on, and are clearly delineated from the text of Scripture as seen … in Romans 7.

Learn much more about the translation here. Also, I recently reviewed a book which tells the story of this version.

Our reading for today is from The Voice; I had chosen ahead of time to also use a chapter of Romans, but I selected Romans 5.

Note: While The Voice uses boxed and indented sections, that was not possible here. Scripture text in green is a convention we use here at C201, but the green and blue is not part of the original formatting of this Bible edition.

Romans 5

The Voice (VOICE)

In God’s plan to restore a fallen and disfigured world, Abraham became the father of all of us, the agent of blessing to everyone. Jesus completes what God started centuries before when He established Abraham’s covenant family. Those who put faith in Jesus and call Him “Lord” become part of Abraham’s faith family. Because God is gracious, loving, and merciful, men and women from every corner of the earth are not only declared right, but ultimately are made right as well. It happens through God’s actions—not our efforts—in the death, burial, and resurrection of Jesus who was crucified for our misdeeds and raised to repair what has been wrong all along. So the promises of God made long years ago are being realized in men and women who hear the call of faith and answer “yes” to it.

  Since we have been acquitted and made right through faith, we are able to experience true and lasting peace with God through our Lord Jesus, the Anointed One, the Liberating King. Jesus leads us into a place of radical grace where we are able to celebrate the hope of experiencing God’s glory. And that’s not all. We also celebrate in seasons of suffering because we know that when we suffer we develop endurance, which shapes our characters. When our characters are refined, we learn what it means to hope and anticipate God’s goodness. And hope will never fail to satisfy our deepest need because the Holy Spirit that was given to us has flooded our hearts with God’s love.

When the time was right, the Anointed One died for all of us who were far from God, powerless, and weak. Now it is rare to find someone willing to die for an upright person, although it’s possible that someone may give up his life for one who is truly good. But think about this: while we were wasting our lives in sin, God revealed His powerful love to us in a tangible display—the Anointed One died for us. As a result, the blood of Jesus has made us right with God now, and certainly we will be rescued by Him from God’s wrath in the future. 10 If we were in the heat of combat with God when His Son reconciled us by laying down His life, then how much more will we be saved by Jesus’ resurrection life? 11 In fact, we stand now reconciled and at peace with God. That’s why we celebrate in God through our Lord Jesus, the Anointed.

12 Consider this: sin entered our world through one man, Adam; and through sin, death followed in hot pursuit. Death spread rapidly to infect all people on the earth as they engaged in sin.

God’s gift of grace and salvation is amazing. Paul struggles to find the words to describe it. He looks everywhere around him to find a metaphor, an image, a word to put into language one aspect of this awesome gift. One of those is “reconciliation.” There is hardly anything more beautiful than to see two people who have been enemies or estranged or separated coming back together. When Paul reflects on what God has done through Jesus, he thinks about reconciliation. Before we receive God’s blessing through His Son, we are enemies of God, sinners of the worst sort. But God makes the first move to restore us to a right relationship with Him.

13 Before God gave the law, sin existed, but there was no way to account for it. Outside the law, how could anyone be charged and found guilty of sin? 14 Still, death plagued all humanity from Adam to Moses, even those whose sin was of a different sort than Adam’s. You see, in God’s plan, Adam was a prototype of the One who comes to usher in a new day. 15 But the free gift of grace bears no resemblance to Adam’s crime that brings a death sentence to all of humanity; in fact, it is quite the opposite. For if the one man’s sin brings death to so many, how much more does the gift of God’s radical grace extend to humanity since Jesus the Anointed offered His generous gift. 16 His free gift is nothing like the scourge of the first man’s sin. The judgment that fell because of one false step brought condemnation, but the free gift following countless offenses results in a favorable verdict—not guilty. 17 If one man’s sin brought a reign of death—that’s Adam’s legacy—how much more will those who receive grace in abundance and the free gift of redeeming justice reign in life by means of one other man—Jesus the Anointed.

18 So here is the result: as one man’s sin brought about condemnation and punishment for all people, so one man’s act of faithfulness makes all of us right with God and brings us to new life. 19 Just as through one man’s defiant disobedience every one of us were made sinners, so through the willing obedience of the one man many of us will be made right.

20 When the law came into the picture, sin grew and grew; but wherever sin grew and spread, God’s grace was there in fuller, greater measure. No matter how much sin crept in, there was always more grace. 21 In the same way that sin reigned in the sphere of death, now grace reigns through God’s restorative justice, eclipsing death and leading to eternal life through the Anointed One, Jesus our Lord, the Liberating King.

May 7, 2012

Get Over It!

They were putting together a list of people to invite to a dinner party.  She threw out the name of a particular couple and he frowned at her.

“Not after that thing that happened at the golf course.  We’re not having them here.”

“The golf course;” she screamed, “That was TEN YEARS AGO! That happened a DECADE ago! Is that why we never get together with them? Don’t you think it’s time to get over it?”

Unfortunately, we don’t all do a good job of getting over it.  This post is from Mark D. Roberts, and appeared today at High Calling Blogs as How Can We Stop Nursing an Ancient Grudge?

Because you nursed an ancient grudge, you handed the Israelites over to the sword in the time of their distress, during their final punishment.

Ezekiel 35 is a word of judgment against “Mt. Seir,” a geographic representation of Edom. In this chapter, the Lord judges the Edomites because they took advantage of the Israelites when they were being invaded by the Babylonians. The people of Edom even “exalted” themselves against the Lord and spoke against him (35:13).

Edom’s reaction to Israel’s plight reflected longstanding enmity between the two nations. In fact, the Lord identifies the source of Edom’s action in this way: “Because you nursed an ancient grudge, you handed the Israelites over to the sword in the time of their distress, during their final punishment” (35:5). The Hebrew of the beginning of this verse reads literally, “Because you had everlasting hatred [’evat ‘olam] . . . .” This is the same phrase that appears in Ezekiel 25:15, where it refers to the “old hatreds” of the Philistines. The “ancient grudge” of the Edomites was similar to the “old hatreds” of the Philistines. Both peoples let old rivalries and animosity govern their behavior, leading them to oppose not just Israel, but also the Lord.

The Daily Reflection on Ezekiel 25 asked the question: What will set us free from old hatreds? Today, I want to ask a similar question: How can we stop nursing an ancient grudge? Once again, I want to emphasize that the power to do this rests in God, the source of peace and reconciliation. God alone will help us forgive those who have wronged us.

This happens as we take to heart the merciful forgiveness God has given us. In Ephesians 4:31-32 we read: “Put aside all bitterness, losing your temper, anger, shouting, and slander, along with every other evil. Be kind, compassionate, and forgiving to each other, in the same way God forgave you in Christ.” We are able to put aside all bitterness and forgive others when we take seriously the way God has forgiven us in Christ. We will stop nursing grudges when we allow our hearts and minds to be transformed by the forgiving grace of God.

QUESTIONS FOR FURTHER REFLECTION: Do you have any ancient grudges? Are there people in your life whom you struggle to forgive? Have you spoken to God about this?

PRAYER: Gracious God, even as you have forgiven me, so may I forgive others. May your grace so permeate my being that I cannot help but be gracious to everyone in my life, even those who have wronged me. Set me free, Lord, from old hatreds and ancient grudges. May I live in the freedom of your grace each day, in each relationship, in every situation. Amen.

~Mark D. Roberts