Sin is Like AIDS (Another way to Explain the Gospel)

I’ve always kind of struggled with the idea that Adam’s one sin ruined us all and made us all sinners.  It doesn’t seem fair does it?  I mean, one person ruled the fate of all mankind just by eating a piece of fruit?

Over the years I’ve come to understand that the sin committed by Adam was much worse than just eating a piece of fruit.  He wanted to be like God, which is why he gave in to the Serpent’s lie when he told them that they would be like God if they ate the fruit.  Adam was also supposed to be the protector of his wife and he just stood by as she was being tricked and then he took of the fruit himself.  Have you ever noticed that their eyes were not opened until after Adam ate of the fruit, even though he ate after Eve did?  Just something to think about.

I believe that God has helped me to see a better way to understand what happened in Eden and what is happening now with an illustration.  When Adam took on the disease of sin by taking of that fruit, he took on a disease that would spread to all of his offspring.

We are facing a disease today that is very similar to the disease of sin.  AIDS is a result of sexual immorality and generally is contracted when sexual immorality takes place.  The disease is often spread to the sexual partner, and in most if not all cases, to the offspring.  Now wait a minute, that baby didn’t have sex outside of marriage did it?  And yet it contracted AIDS because of it’s father’s choice.  That is just like us.  We may not have been there in the garden of Eden to choose to disobey God, but the disease of sin was spread to us because of the nature of what sin is.

AdamSin

We are all born with the disease called sin, and are hopelessly and terminally ill with it.  For some people, its symptoms are very mild and it does not show itself very often.  For others, the symptoms are very strong.  The point is, the symptoms of sin are different for everyone and the severity of the symptoms is different, but the fact of the matter is, we are ALL, every single person on this earth, born with the terminal disease of sin and without hope of a cure on our own.  And if we are not cured of it, we will die of it.  The only way to be cured of it is by a miracle.

The only person who can do any kind of real miracle, especially of this magnitude is God.  Why would God help us when we have chosen to consistently turn our backs on Him?  Because He is full of grace.  He came down to earth as a man who had no earthly father to pass the disease of sin on to Him because God is His Father.  He was born without the disease of sin, lived His life completely perfectly without the disease of sin, and yet died as a result of the effects of the disease of sin in everyone else even though He didn’t ever show a single symptom of the disease of sin.

Christ has died

Then He rose from the dead so that He can save those who have died because of the disease of sin.  He holds the only cure for this awful fatal disease and offers this cure for anyone who wants it.  The problem is, most people don’t realize their need for the cure.  Many think they don’t even have a disease that needs curing, or don’t think they have the disease badly enough to need a cure.  Now, we all know that the first step to being cured of a disease is acknowledging that we have a disease that needs to be cured, that we need help.  But most people are too blind to see that.

He is Risen

But for those who do acknowledge that they have a terminal disease that they have no hope of curing themselves and who ask God to cure them of that disease, He answers and gives them the cure.  He sees them as healthy as Jesus, who lived without sin and who died as a result of sin and rose from the dead.  God gives them the hope that they will also rise from the dead one day to live forever without the awful disease of sin.

The sad reality is, the world would rather flaunt their symptoms and try to force everyone to believe that they aren’t sick or that it’s ok to be sick since everyone is sick rather than seeking the cure for their sickness.  And they will die of their disease and be forever separated from the Holy and Righteous God Who has the only cure for the disease of sin by His grace through faith in Jesus Christ.  Without Christ, no one is cured of sin.  Just like with AIDS, no matter how healthily you choose to live or what good choices you make, it cannot be cured but by the miracle that God provided through Jesus Christ.

I realize that this is not a perfect way to explain the Gospel, but I believe that the essential message of the Gospel is included and that this is another way to explain the Gospel to others in a way that can help them understand the seriousness of sin and the amazing Grace of God.  Be encouraged!  There is hope!  Grace, love and peace!

Sometimes, I Don’t Believe the Gospel

I think we all struggle to truly believe the Gospel at points in our lives.  This is most often evidenced when we fail to be “doers of the Word and not hearers only” (James 1:22).  For instance, being fearful of awkward conversation and thus failing to share the Truth of the Gospel with someone, or saying that we love our neighbor and we believe that we should, but failing to help meet their needs.  There are tons of examples of saying we believe something, but failing to allow it to change us and failing to live what we believe, or as my pastor said, “We don’t put feet to our faith.”

Keep Calm Gospel

In order for the Gospel to change us, we have to believe it.  In Titus 3:8, the Apostle Paul has just presented the Gospel in a nutshell in verses 1-7, especially 4-7 and is now letting us know that “The saying is trustworthy” “the saying” of course, being the Gospel, and “trustworthy” literally means, in the Greek, “faithful.”  How do we know that it is trustworthy?  Because as Paul said in 2 Timothy 3:16, “All Scripture is breathed out by God.” As my friend Matt said, “The Scripture is never wrong, we are.” I believe that the Bible is the inerrant, infallible and authoritative Word of God, because its authority comes from God Himself and it never leads us astray.  If we read it and know it well AND apply it to our lives, and I can testify to this truth, that my life is not the same, and I can speak for many many others that their lives are not the same as a result of believing, knowing and applying Scripture to their lives.

Paul tells Titus to “Declare these things…with all authority,” in 2:15.  So does Paul have authority?  Yes, according to Titus 1:1-3.  He gives a short version of his credentials here summing it up in the statement in verse 3, “…I have been entrusted (with the Gospel) by the command of God our savior.” If you want an extensive list of his credentials see 2 Corinthians 10:1-12:10.

Ultimately, Paul’s authority comes from our God and Savior Jesus Christ who had all authority in heaven and on earth and He commanded all believers to go and preach the Gospel to the whole world (Matthew 28:18-20).  The fact that the Gospel is true is a guarantee from God, and as with any fact, it cannot be changed.  He wants us to also guarantee this Gospel and endorse it.  We are charged in Titus 3:8 to insist on the truth of the Gospel “so that those who have believed in God may be careful to devote themselves to good works.” If we aren’t insisting on the truth of the Gospel and Scripture, we aren’t going to follow it, and we aren’t going to allow it to change us.

Applying the Gospel to our lives is one of the hardest things about being a Christian.  I will be the first to admit, that I love studying and soaking in God’s Word, but have failed to apply it in the past.  I can attest to the fact that when I have begun to apply the things I have learned from the truths of God’s Word to my life, it brings about amazing changes.  I definitely don’t apply it perfectly, otherwise I would be perfect.  Isaiah 58 tells very well how God feels about those who love knowledge but not application and then shows what application looks like.  My pastor summed it up as:  “Yes, you love to learn, but you do not love to obey or apply!”

Gospel sharing

The last section of Titus 3:8 says, “These things (good works) are excellent and profitable for people.” Our good works can look like acts of service to others, which is a benefit to them.  But hopefully in the meantime, we are also sharing the truth of Scripture and the Gospel with them, so that it is beneficial not only to their physical needs, but to their spiritual needs as well.

Sometimes, I don’t believe the Gospel with my actions.  I always believe it in my head.  I love studying the Scriptures and now, I love applying them, even though it’s very hard sometimes.  Like I said, I don’t always apply Scripture perfectly, but it’s something I’ve really been working on in my life and I encourage everyone to do the same!

How is Jesus Greater than Adam if All are not Saved?

Romans 5:18-19 can seem like a tricky passage.  (18 Therefore as one trespass led to condemnation for all men, so one act of righteousness leads to justification and life for all men.  19 For as by the one man’s disobedience the many were made sinners, so by the one man’s obedience the many will be made righteous.) When one is reading it, it seems to have contradicting ideas if not read carefully and with context in mind.  As always, context is king.  In this passage Jesus and Adam are contrasted as types of each other and each one’s actions bear a consequence, one good and one bad (this is a major understatement). 🙂

 

AdamandChrist*cheesy photo perhaps, but this is the picture that Scripture seem to paint.

 

The passage from verses 12-21 of chapter 5 (just to gain a bit of context) begins by stating that sin came into the world and therefore death followed, because of one man, Adam.  The entire human race, every single person who would live after Adam is counted as having sinned with him.  The one command God gave was broken, and even though there was no law given, sin and death still reigned because death is the result of sin and everyone dies.  There is no escape from physical death for anyone.  So even though people may not have been disobeying direct commands of God before the law was given, they were still sinning, just not in the sense of disobeying a direct command like Adam did.

 

Then comes Christ.  Christ’s act of a lifetime of perfect obedience and an obedience that led to His death, and of course, His resurrection, brought about not only a reversal of the curse to restore people to their original created state, but to give them God’s righteousness and a share of His eternal glory (Hebrews 2:10-11).  John MacArthur, in his commentary on Romans, makes a good point.  He says, “It might be said that Adam’s sinful act, devastating as it was, had but a one-dimensional effect-it brought death to everyone.  But the effect of Christ’s redemptive act has facets beyond measure, because He not only restores man to spiritual life but gives him the very life of God.”

He also says later, “Jesus Christ broke the power of sin and death, but the converse is not true.  Sin and death cannot break the power of Jesus Christ.  The condemnation of Adam’s sin is reversible, the redemption of Jesus Christ is not.  The effect of Adam’s act is permanent ONLY if not nullified by Christ (emphasis added).  The effect of Christ’s act, however, is permanent for believing individuals and not subject to reversal or nullification.  We have the great assurance that once we are in Jesus Christ, we are in Him forever.”

One last brilliant quote from MacArthur and I’ll move on.  “It was the one sin by the one man at the one time that brought God’s judgment and its resulting condemnation.  But the gift of God’s grace through Jesus Christ is not like that.  God’s judgment on Adam and his posterity arose from but one transgression.  On the other hand, however, the free gift arose not simply because of that single transgression but from MANY transgressions, and its result is not simply RESTORATION but JUSTIFICATION (capitalized emphases added).

 

Why then are verses 18-19 so tricky?  (18 Therefore as one trespass led to condemnation for all men, so one act of righteousness leads to justification and life for all men.  19 For as by the one man’s disobedience the many were made sinners, so by the one man’s obedience the many will be made righteous.)

At first glance, verse 18 seems to be suggesting that all will be saved and verse 19 seems to suggest that not everyone was made a sinner by using the word “many.” But as I said earlier, context is king.  Paul, and the rest of Scripture have already established that all are sinners.  And we know that not all will be saved by the plethora of Scriptures that tell us that those who do not receive the gift of salvation will not inherit the kingdom of God, but will receive everlasting punishment.  I could give an exhaustive list of Scriptures to back that point up, but I feel that that is unnecessary.

Therefore, we must conclude that when verse 18 says “one act of righteousness leads to justification and life for all men,” it means that justification and life are made available to all men, not that all receive that justification and life.  John Calvin explains it quite well.  He says, “He makes this favor common to all, because it is propounded to all, and not because it is in reality extended to all; for though Christ suffered for the sins of the whole world, and is offered through God’s benignity indiscriminately to all, yet all do not receive him.”

 

Book of Romans

 

Verse 19 emphasizes the meaning of verse 18.  In most translations, even in the Young’s Literal Translation, which is a favored translation among those who teach universalism, the article ‘the’ is placed before the word ‘many.’ Most commentators conclude that ‘the many’ in verse 19 (“…the many were made sinners…” v. 19) refers to everyone, while “the many” who are “made righteous” refers only to believers.  While I believe that this is a logical conclusion and don’t disagree, I think that ‘the many’ likely refers to believers only in both instances.  I believe that “the many” refers to those mentioned in verse 17 “…who receive the abundance of grace and the free gift of righteousness…”

 

It is true is it not, that all believers were made sinners as much as everyone else?  The only difference is, they will be and already have been made righteous by Christ’s act of obedience.  Everyone else is trying to make themselves righteous by relying on their own “goodness,” but we know that no one can make themselves righteous.  Only God can make one righteous through repentance and faith in Jesus Christ by His grace.

 

Many have already died (spiritually, because we already know that everyone dies physically whether they are saved or not), but many have also been made alive (spiritually) by the free gift of God by the grace of Christ (v. 15).  And not only that, but those who are made alive are not merely restored to the way humans were originally created, they are given the righteousness and glory of God!

THAT is how Jesus is greater than Adam, even though not all will be saved!  Salvation is offered to all, but is only effective to those who receive it.

JesusgreaterthanAdam  *This is true for the believer who has put on Christ’s righteousness, but not for those who remain in Adam.

 

I can’t pretend I know all about this.  Salvation seems like a simple concept, but when we look more deeply into it, it is more complicated than we think it is.  We cannot fully understand many things about God.  But as my friend Johnny Mac says, “…when we cannot understand the Lord’s ways, we must avoid the quicksand of human reason and stand in faith on the rock of God’s righteous character.” (I know I said I was done with Johnny Mac quotes, but had to throw this one in; sorry not sorry! 😉 )

Faith Cannot Save You…

There are many theories out there about what is required of people to attain salvation.  Some believe that you have to perform religious rites and rituals such as be baptized, take the Lord’s Supper, be a good person, give money to a church or other religious institution, etc, etc.  Others believe that all you have to do is have faith.  Just say you believe certain things, say a prayer, sign a card and you’re good.  These are just a few of many different thoughts on what makes one right with God.  But what if I told you that I don’t think any of these things has any sort of power to save?  No, not even faith.  Not in and of itself anyway.  I’ll explain that in a bit.

First, I want to address the idea that works and religious ceremony can save a person.  The main passage of Scripture that comes to mind for me is Titus 3:5: “He saved us, not because of works done by us in righteousness, but according to His own mercy, by the washing of regeneration and renewal of the Holy Spirit.” I believe this same concept can be found in Jesus’ conversation with Nicodemus in John 3:5.  Jesus had just told Nicodemus that he had to be born again to be saved.  Nicodemus asks, “How can anyone be born when they are old?  Can they enter a second time into their mother’s womb and be born?” So Jesus essentially says, “Let me give you another hint.” Then in verse 5, “Jesus answered, ‘Truly, truly, I say to you, unless one is born of water (the washing of regeneration, not physical birth nor baptism) and the Spirit (Renewal of the Holy Spirit obviously), they cannot enter the kingdom of God.'” In other words, Jesus was saying that there is no kind of work you can do to be saved.  Salvation is all the work of God.

 blog Baptism

Some believe that “washing of regeneration” refers to being baptized.  But then that would mean that baptism is a required work before salvation.  These same people use the idea of circumcision to back up their point.  In the Old Testament, God required the Jews to be circumcised as a sign of their separation as His people.  But Paul refuted the idea that circumcision saved people in Romans 4:9-17.  He made the point that Abraham was considered righteous on the basis of his faith before he was circumcised AND before there was even any law to abide by.  The law didn’t come about until Moses’ time which would have been approximately 500 years after Abraham’s time.  Just for fun, and to make my point, I am going to write out the passage below and replace the word “circumcised” with the word “baptized.”  I’ll only use 4:9-13.

Is this blessing upon the baptized, or upon the unbaptized also?  For we say, “Faith was reckoned to Abraham as righteousness.” How then was it reckoned?  While (after) he was baptized or (before he was) baptized?  Not while (after) baptized, but (before he was) baptized; and he received the sign of baptism, a seal of the righteousness of the faith which he had before he was baptized, that he might be the father of all who believe without being baptized, that righteousness might be reckoned to them, and the father of baptism to those who not only are of the baptism, but who also follow in the steps of the faith of our father Abraham which he had before he was baptized.  For the promise to Abraham or to his descendants that he would be heir of the world was not through the Law, but through the righteousness of faith.

To sum it all up, I believe that John MacArthur made a great point that is a bit shorter.  He said, “For the Jew, Passover is a collective symbol of deliverance and circumcision is an individual symbol of justification.  For the Christian, communion is the collective corporate symbol of our relationship to Christ; baptism is the individual symbol of it.”  These things are just symbols of, not requirements for, salvation.

Now what about faith?  Faith is great.  By grace alone through faith alone can we be saved.  But did you notice which comes first?  Grace.  Grace is what truly saves, and the only kind of grace that can save is God’s grace.  Grace is what gives us faith.  Grace is a gift of God, but so is faith.  Although the picture may be a bit cheesy, the quote on the picture below is what really grabbed my attention.

Blog Faith

John MacArthur once again made a really great point in his commentary on Romans about Abraham’s faith.  He says, “It was not the greatness of Abraham’s faith that saved him but the greatness of the gracious Lord in whom he placed his faith.  Faith is never the basis or the reason for justification, but only the channel through which God works His redeeming grace.  Faith is simply a convicted heart reaching out to receive God’s free and unmerited gift of salvation.”  He continues, “Although faith is required for salvation, it has no power in itself to save.  It is the power of God’s redemptive grace alone, working through the atoning work of His Son on the cross, that has power to save.  Faith is NOT, as some claim, a type of work.” (emphasis added)  Can I get an AMEN??  😛

I think that some people do have “faith in faith,” in other words they think that if faith is strong enough, it will save.  But what does James say about this?  He says, “You believe that God is one; you do well.  Even the demons believe-and shudder!  Do you want to be shown, you foolish person, that faith apart from works is useless?  Was not Abraham our father justified by works when he offered up his son Isaac on the altar?  You see that faith was active along with his works, and faith was completed by his works; and the Scripture was fulfilled that says, ‘Abraham believed God, and it was counted to him as righteousness’- and he was called a friend of God” (James 2:19-23).

The point James is trying to make is that if your faith does not move you into action, or is not accompanied by works, it is not real faith.  It is dead faith.  Likewise, good works, by themselves are useless.  (See 1 Corinthians 13:1-3 which bears the idea that love is characterized by self-sacrifice, but not all self-sacrifice is an act of love.)  You cannot have one without the other.  If I say that I believe that a chair is going to hold me up if I sit in it, but I refuse to sit in it, I will never be able to prove that my faith is real, because it is likely not real.  The works fulfill the faith, but these works and this faith can only come by the grace of God, which alone can truly save.

I sincerely hope that this was encouraging to some and challenging for some.  But most importantly, I hope that the truth has been spoken in love.  I understand that I don’t always have everything right, and as always, I invite anyone who wishes to add encouragement or ask questions and converse about these things.  Grace, peace and love to all through the Lord Jesus Christ!

“I Said the F Word Today…A Lot!

For those interested, here is the AMAZING story of God’s miraculous provision for us while we were on the World Race!  This one is by my amazingly talented wife.

And I promise, I’m done, this is the last post today.

From March, 2013:

“I think it is best for you guys, and the squad, to go ahead and proceed as if you are definitely going home.”

The tickets were bought. On March 5th, at the end of our 6 month debrief with L Squad, Josh and I would be flying out from Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia, and landing in Kansas City, Missouri.

Our Race was over. It was a hard reality, but one we had no choice but to face. With an over $10,000 deficit in our fundraising account, and our final deadline for fundraising here, there was just no feasible way we could stay for the final five months of the Race.

Tears were shed, emails to family sent, and an announcement was made to the squad. In my journal, I wrote, “It feels real now. Now that the decision has been made. It’s so hard to announce it to the squad. I think because I know it will hurt them. So, it’s hard. God, I just want You to be glorified in it all. To me, it seems like providing a miracle is the best way to do that, but I know You didn’t, and You don’t do them to prove anything. Please help the squad to understand and to grieve properly.”

I had started the grieving process, and the squad had, too. Sometimes, I was okay with it, and sometimes I was incredibly sad. Sometimes I felt no emotion at all.

Losing the rest of the Race, something that Josh and I have been preparing for for almost two years, is a big deal. We weren’t just losing the experiences and the passport stamps, we were losing our family. We were losing the 60 people that we have lived every day of the last 6 months with. They have laughed with us, cried with us, told us their deepest struggles, and loved us.

I had gotten to the point of being at peace. I didn’t want to go home, but I was at peace about it.

This morning, I dragged myself out of bed, grabbed my Bible and journal, and headed downstairs for our worship/teaching session. Cheyanne was leading worship, and I closed my eyes and began to sing. I wasn’t particularly happy or sad, but not fully into worship either.

After a line or two, Anton came over to me, and said, “Question. Do you want to stay on the Race?”

“Yeah, I do.”

“Okay. We’re going to say something after worship.”

During the worship and teaching, I was looking forward to that “something”, but with a bit of nervousness. I wasn’t sure what to expect, and honestly I was emotionally spent after the last few days.

In my journal, I wrote, “God, please do an incredible work through this last push from the squad. You know that I am at peace about going home, but it’s definitely not what I want. I’m Abraham, with the sword poised above my son. Provide a ram. A way out of this. I WILL SING PRAISE, I WILL SING PRAISE, NO WEAPON FORMED AGAINST ME SHALL REMAIN. I WILL REJOICE, I WILL DECLARE, GOD IS MY VICTORY AND HE IS HERE!”

After the teaching, Tess got up to make announcements, and invited Anton to come up. He grabbed his Bible and computer, and began.

“I wanted to talk to you guys about something really important, and that is Josh and Jen. They are not going home because they choose to. They are going home because they need $10,000. There’s $10,000 just sitting in this room. We are the body of Christ, and we have the power to help them. So, here’s what we are going to do. We are going to pass out pieces of paper, one for everyone. There are 56 of us. The math works out to about $180 a person. If everyone gives $180, they will have enough to stay. If some give more, that will give room for others who are only able to give less. We’re going to tally them up, and if it’s not enough, we’ll do it again. If it is still not enough, we’ll call AIM and see where that will get us.”

The papers were passed out, and I began to pray. Tess came up, and asked if I wanted to share anything. I grabbed my journal, and made my way to the front. As I spoke, my squadmates wrote down things on the papers, walked up to the front, and dropped them in a box. Anton took the papers out, one by one, and tallied them on his computer.

“These last few months, especially this one, has been an emotional rollercoaster. I’ve been joyful, I’ve believed, and I’ve been upset, and angry. I want to share some of my journals from this last month with you.

There was one night, when there was a miscommunication with the AIM office, and they were going to buy our tickets home in two days. We were going to have to leave before debrief, without closure. I was angry. I sat on the roof of our building, crying my eyes out, and crying out to God. ‘God, I’m angry. I’m disappointed, I’m broken hearted. Why would You give us this dream only to cut it short? Why don’t we get the same opportunity because we are married? Why would You give me a family that I love so much, just to take them away? I’m so filled with regret over what I didn’t get to do. I don’t want my Race to be regret. Why did You promise me You would provide everything I need if You haven’t? Why haven’t You come through for us?’

I have never in my left felt so much like Job-alone, and forgotten by God.

A few days later, while at PenHOP (Penang House of Prayer), I wrote, ‘God, I am so glad that You are always with me. You can take it when I get mad, when I ask questions, when I doubt You…I ask You, please give Josh and I Cambodia, India, Kenya, Uganda, and Rwanda. My heart hurts to think of all the people that I can touch and that can touch me in those countries. I want to be a part of Your work there. I fell in love with these countries and the people a long time ago, so my heart hurts thinking about not going. And it hurts thinking of not being with the squad. I love them; they are my family. I want to be a part of their lives, and I want them to be a part of mine. Whatever happens, I want to remember that You are GOOD. Nothing changes that. You are GOOD, and You are GOOD to me.

If this is our last 2 weeks on the Race, I want to enjoy and live every second of it to the fullest. If it isn’t, I want to live the rest of the Race like this…You said, YOU WILL CALL TO ME AND COME AND PRAY TO ME, AND i WILL LISTEN TO YOU. YOU WILL SEEK ME AND FIND ME WHEN YOU SEARCH FOR ME WITH ALL YOUR HEART. I WILL BE FOUND BY YOU.’

So, I just wanted to share with you guys a little bit of my emotional journey over this last month. I love you guys, and even if we go home, I want God to be glorified in it all.”

I sat down, and Josh stood up to share.

“Back in Central America, God told me that we would be staying for the whole Race. I didn’t want to share that with anyone, because I didn’t know if I was actually hearing from Him, or if it was just me. When I had my spiritual counseling session yesterday with Michelle and Moriah, I was asking the Holy Spirit if I really do hear from Him. I felt like I knew the answer, but I still didn’t want to say it aloud. They kept asking me, ‘What’s the answer?’ Finally, I said, ‘Yes.’ I really do believe that I hear from Him, and that He told me that we are staying.”

As Cheyanne played, I sat in my chair, with my elbows on my knees, and my head down in prayer. “God, please do something. Please, please, please. Do something.”

I opened my eyes. Anton handed Josh a slip of paper. Josh made his way back up to the front. I could tell by his body language that something was going on. “Just say it, just say it,” I thought. My stomach was in butterflies.

“…Well,” he said, “they must have tallied it wrong, or I am reading it wrong, but it says $12,012.”

I’m not exactly sure what happened after that. I kind of had a sobbing, emotional blackout. I think the squad started cheering, clapping, crying, I’m not sure. Someone embraced me from behind.

We’re staying. We’re staying on the Race. We’re fully funded. I couldn’t believe it.

I stood up, with tears streaming down my face, and made my way up to the front. Shaking, I said, “We’ve been waiting and waiting for a miracle. And…you guys are our miracle. I don’t even know how to say thank you enough. But thank you, so much.”

Then, our squad surrounded us, and prayed over us. Johnny led the prayer, and it was powerful. Lots of hugs, tears, and spontaneous worship.

“Well,” I said, “I guess I have to fill out visa paperwork for India now!”

Today has been an absolute whirlwind. It still hasn’t sunk in yet. Fully funded. We are fully funded. More than fully funded.

After talking to Seth Jr at AIM, it turns out that due to an earlier miscommunication, he is pretty sure that tickets were accidentally bought for us to go to Cambodia a few weeks ago. He still has to check on it, to make sure they are still there. Praise God.

AAAND, as our tickets home were already bought, he also needed to check to see if AIM could get a refund on them. If not, that cost would go to our fundraising account. Their total? About $2000. BOOM.

So there you have it. Every last penny (and a lot more) of $31,000 has been raised. We have waited for this day for almost two years. And God made it happen in a more amazing, beautiful way than we ever imagined. The Body of Christ in action.

Because of you, and because of my squad, we get to stay on the Race. It’s still unbelievable as I type this. I said so many times over this last month that all I wanted was for God to be glorified in this. We did it. HE did it.

My journal entry from after the worship service:

“AAAAAAAAHHHHHHHHH!!!!! GLORY TO GOD! I have never before felt so loved by You, and by my squadmates. You are incredible and worthy to be praised!” 🙂
From joshandjenmendenhall.theworldrace.org

 

A Very Hard Teaching

This is my blog from 2 years ago when I first started believing Reformed theology.  I realize how much better my writing has become since then, haha!

From April, 2012:

“Lately, I have been really wrestling with certain aspects of Scripture. I have gone back and forth on some issues for a few years now, but tonight, God opened my eyes to some key verses that have always been there, but that I have always ignored or overlooked so that I could continue to believe what I had always been taught, what was most comfortable to me. I am talking about Calvinism.

I always hesitate to use the word because it has so many negative connotations and many who hold to these veiws do so with a self righteousness and do not embrace the true meaning and value of these doctrines, also known as the Doctrines of Grace. I realize that it is much easier to believe or accept that everyone will get to Heaven eventually or that all anyone has to do is simply say a pre-written “sinner’s prayer” to be saved, but the more I study the Scriptures, the more I find that these things are just not there.

And the more I study the Scripture, the more I find that these “Calvinistic ideas” are everywhere. The Old Testament talks a lot about God’s choosing of people before they were born or before the foundations of the earth, and these ideas continue all the way throught the New Testament including many of the teachings of Jesus Himself.

The passage I read was John chapter 6, which I encourage everyone to read (also Romans chapter 9) because it involves a deep discussion that Jesus was having with His disciples, and not just the twelve. There were thousands still following Him at this point because He had done so many wonderful things, the most recent of which was feeding them from two fish and five barley loaves. They were trying to force Him to be their King, which is what prompted Jesus to say these things. The verses that stuck out to me the most and hit me the hardest were verses 64-66 of chapter 6.

“Jesus knew from the beginning who they were who did not believe, and who it was that would betray Him. And He was saying, ‘For this reason I have said to you, that no one can come to Me unless it has been granted him from the Father.’ As a result of this many of His disciples withdrew and were not walking with Him anymore.” -John 6:64-66

It’s been right there in plain sight the whole time, “No one can come to Me unless it has been granted him from the Father.” When Jesus said this, it caused many people to turn away because it was “a hard saying. Who can accept it?” (Verse 60) This seems to be the reaction of so many people today as well. In a way, I guess that’s kind of how I reacted when I was first introduced to these ideas.

We as humans tend to think, “That’s not fair of God to choose some but not others.” We want God to be “fair” but someone gave a very valid point to me. If God was truly being as “fair” as we wanted Him to be, then He would not have sent His Son to die on the cross and raise Him from the dead. He would not have provided a way to salvation for anyone at all but would have left every single person on earth dead in their sin. We would all be going to Hell.

But this is not the case. This is the Good News, that despite the fact that we are all sinners, completely enslaved to our sin, God made a way out. We as believers have a reason to rejoice and praise God for allowing us to be part of His Church.

For me, it was very hard to rejoice at first because all I saw was the negative fact that there are many who are not chosen and how hard to understand this all is. But I’ve come to a better understanding that God has saved me and freed me from sin and has done so for many others who have believed, do believe and will believe.

I still struggle with it because it is a very hard teaching, but I realize that the Gospel is supposed to make people stumble, it is supposed to be offensive. This teaching made Jesus’ disciples grumble and He knew it. (verse 61) But my focus as a disciple is not to be worried about whether the Gospel offends people or not, but to continue to gain knowledge of Scripture and to obey what Jesus said, to go and make disciples of all nations.

It is not my responsibility to save people, only God can do that. But it is my responsibility to share with the World what God has done for me and what He can do for them. Many will hear the Word of God, but like the parable of the sower in Luke 8, some of the seed will fall by the wayside, some will take root among thorns and be choked out, some will take root among rocks and be scorched but some will fall on good soil and will grow and produce fruit, and that is the reason we are to take the Good News to the whole World.

We have no control over what happens to the “seed” once it has been planted but we are to simply obey. I am not saying that this is easy, but it’s not supposed to be. Our Americanized version of the Gospel has made us think that being a disciple is easy and involves only simple belief. But for many this belief is only superficial and is simply just that, belief. But the Greek word used in the New Testament for belief is pisteuo, which means a complete trust and total reliance upon.

Unfortunately, many who say they believe in Jesus only believe that He existed, died on the cross and rose from the dead, but they do not rely on that completely in their lives as the basis for all that they do. They do not follow Him with their whole heart and are not willing to obey Him at any cost. They have only as much “faith” as the demons do, because the demons even know these things to be true (James 2:19). But the difference is that the demons do not obey Christ and that belief is not the essence of all that they do.

I’m not saying that I have this all figured out or that I do not struggle with any of this. But I feel that God laid this on my heart to share as I continue in my journey to know God more and to obey Him with all of my being. I am still wrestling with my faith and my beliefs, but I feel that that is a healthy place to be rather than complacent and unquestioning because then I am not learning or growing, but in my wrestlings and strugglings, I find that I am learning more now than ever before and am more excited about my faith that ever before.”

 

Why do I Believe this Stuff Anyway? (Part 2)

If you haven’t read Part 1, or the self titled blog, you should go back and read it.  (Why do I Believe this Stuff Anyway?)

 

I left off where I changed schools, which gave me the chance to reinvent myself, or to kind of get a fresh start.  And it couldn’t have come at a better time.  After we moved, I decided that I was going to be REALLY good and talk about my faith a lot.  The pendulum in my life swung from basing my life as a Christian on what I believed but not how I lived, to thinking that I was better than everyone else, because I didn’t cuss any more, I didn’t go to parties or have sex like most other people, etc, etc.  So I became self-righteous, which is also a dangerous, not to mention sad, way to live.

 

This lasted through the rest of High School and went on through a lot of College.  I went to a Christian college and was studying to get a degree in missions, which I did after squeezing it into a 5 year program, haha!  I had a really great mentor in college named Matt.  He was in the Grad School at our college, and introduced me to John MacArthur, who is now one of my favorite Bible teachers.  I was given the MacArthur Study Bible, and found that I really enjoyed a lot of his teaching.  I found him to be a solid teacher who preached the Scripture really well.  My only problem with him was that he taught the Doctrines of Grace, or Reformed Theology, sometimes know as Calvinism. 

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I hated the idea that I hadn’t chosen God and that others can’t really choose God on their own, but really didn’t want to take the time to study for myself.  I wrestled with it for 8 years, and most of that time, I was really offended by it, but I loved many people who believed these doctrines and had great respect for them because their lives showed great humility toward God and His word and they really knew what they were talking about.  But I continued to reject these ideas and wrote them off as hard-hearted, boastful ideas.  I remember several conversations with my dad, and we would talk about this stuff and he rejected these ideas as well until right around the time I graduated from college.  Then both he and my grandpa (his dad) started to see that these ideas were truths taught all over Scripture, but in spite of that, I still wanted nothing to do with it.  

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As I graduated college and got married (photo above), I began to get burnt out on church.  I had felt for a while that God was calling me away from my home church that I had grown up in, but I didn’t see the point in leaving since we weren’t moving anywhere, so instead, I delved deeper into ministry at the church.  Instead of stepping out of the ministries I was involved in, I joined a couple more thinking, “Well God, look, I’m too attached, you can’t get me out of here now.”  But all that led to was misery on my part, knowing full well that it was time for me to move on, although I didn’t really know why.  After I did finally leave, I tried to blame the church and the circumstances for the burnout and my distaste for church in general which followed.  I later realized the error in that and went back and apologized and made amends.  

 

My wife and I began to go to another church in town, which was our church up until the time we moved to Kansas City, which is where we are now.  We really enjoyed it, and loved the people, the pastors (there were 5 at the time), and the ministry.  Plus it was much smaller than our old church and it was made up of a lot of college students and young marrieds, which is where we were in life.  

 

Since I was finished with school, I was finally able to start to enjoy reading.  I actually started reading a lot.  I read some really good stuff and some not so good stuff, though I didn’t know it at the time.  I was kind of moving in the opposite direction of Reformed Theology, or Calvinism, and started reading people like Rob Bell.  I really enjoyed a lot of what he had to say, especially in light of where I was with church and theology and stuff like that.  At the time, I enjoyed the things he said because it wasn’t offensive.  It was easy to swallow, and I’m not saying that that’s all bad.  As a matter of fact, I still try to remember what he said in Velvet Elvis, that God has spoken and the rest is just commentary.  To me that means that Scripture is what is important, and the way we interpret it is fallible, even though I believe that Scripture itself is infallible, so what others say about it doesn’t matter if it does not line up with what Scripture says.

 

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After the book “Love Wins” came out, I initially tried to deny that Bell was a Universalist, but after seeing the way he danced around questions and wouldn’t give direct answers, I started to wonder if his ideas could be trusted.  I figured if he’s not bold enough to come out and say what he believes, then it must not be very good, or he doesn’t really know what he believes.  I began to really study the Scripture to see if there was any credibility to the idea that all would be saved one day, as he seems to have suggested in the book.  But even after a couple of years of searching and studying, I just couldn’t find a way to justify that belief without either twisting and stretching Scripture or taking it completely out of context, which I know is a bad idea.

 

Then my wife and I signed up for the World Race.  It is an 11 month mission trip to 11 countries.  You join a squad of about 60-70 people and live in community on smaller teams and do ministry together and live life together as you travel the world.  It was a big step of faith because we had to sell or give away most of our stuff and fund raise over $30,000 to go on this trip.  We moved out of our apartment and into my parent’s house where we lived for 6 months as we struggled to raise the funds necessary to go. During that time, I continued to study the Scripture and debate with my dad and grandpa about Reformed theology and how I just didn’t think it was right or didn’t seem fair.  But then one day, as I was reading through the Gospel of John, I saw something that I had never noticed before, and it changed my life for good.

 

To be continued…Part 3 coming soon.