Tag Archives: New Testament

The Real God

God is vindictive and cruel in the Old Testament but loving and kind in the New Testament. That is what My friend told me.  He said, because God is so different in the two testaments, it is obvious to him that the Bible can’t be trusted.  Is he right?  See what you think.  Here is a quote from the Old:

“The Lord is compassionate and gracious, slow to anger, abounding in love. He will not always accuse, nor will he harbor his anger forever; he does not treat us as our sins deserve or repay us according to our iniquities. For as high as the heavens are above the earth, so great is his love for those who fear him; as far as the east is from the west, so far has he removed our transgressions from us. As a father has compassion on his children, so the Lord has compassion on those who fear him;” (Psalm 103:8-13)

So, how did my friend get such a wrong idea?  The key is in the last line.  God has fatherly compassion toward those who “fear” Him.  That word does not mean those who cower in fright, but rather, those who respect or revere God so thoroughly that they are eager to respond to what he says.  If you had occasion to meet your favorite celebrity (actor, author, athlete – whatever) and he or she asked you to do something with them, how eager would you be to to say, “yes?”  Like that, only much, much more because God is much, much more.  Those who respond with awe and eagerness to God discover His love, His forgiveness, His goodness.

There was a math teacher in my high school whose reputation among the students was either, “really mean and vindictive, a nasty disciplinarian” or, “an amazing and gracious guy who would do anything to help you learn.”  Guess what?  Turns out he was the same guy.

Quotes: The Holy Bible : New International Version. 1996, c1984 (electronic ed.). Grand Rapids: Zondervan.

It’s Up to You

Jesus wasn’t being fair. At least He sounded unfair, when He told his disciples why He spoke in parables, instead of laying out His truths in a straightforward way.

“He replied, “The knowledge of the secrets of the kingdom of heaven has been given to you, but not to them. Whoever has will be given more, and he will have an abundance. Whoever does not have, even what he has will be taken from him. This is why I speak to them in parables: “Though seeing, they do not see; though hearing, they do not hear or understand. In them is fulfilled the prophecy of Isaiah: “ ‘You will be ever hearing but never understanding; you will be ever seeing but never perceiving. For this people’s heart has become calloused; they hardly hear with their ears, and they have closed their eyes. Otherwise they might see with their eyes, hear with their ears, understand with their hearts and turn, and I would heal them.’” (Matthew 13:11-15, NIV)[1]

Sounds unfair, doesn’t it:  “Whoever has will be given more, etc.?”  Did Jesus arbitrarily try to confuse some people and keep them from His salvation?  The answer is revealed in the words Jesus quoted the prophecy of Isaiah (Isaiah 6:9ff).   There are some people who cannot “see and hear,” who will never understand God’s truths.  But that is because They have closed their eyes!”  By that choice, “this people’s heart has become calloused…”   When people shut their eyes to God’s truth, when they turn away from God, their hearts do become hardened, and it becomes tougher – potentially impossible –  for them to understand anything about God.

You have seen a lesser example of this dynamic as most teenagers close their eyes and ears to what their parents try to teach them.  For a time, in the minds of those adolescents, the parents have become stupid  and ignorant.  The youth’s make a choice that hardens their hearts.  In most cases, the resulting separation and angst is temporary.  No harm, no foul.   But when people close their eyes to God, the effects are potentially much more serious and long-lasting.

When Jesus told a parable, it was like a bunker-buster of truth, designed to penetrate beyond the callouses on our hearts.  Once the seemingly harmless story has gotten past our defenses, the truth contained within it “goes off.”  But the impact of that truth separates the HAVES from the HAVE-NOT’S.  For those who HAVE a readiness to learn and receive, the truths contained in the parable produce “aha moments” of increased understanding.  Those who DO NOT HAVE that readiness don’t get it.

When those who HAVE, respond to what they understand, when they TURN, Jesus heals them.  He erases their separation from God by fully paying for their pardon on the cross.  He reconciles them with God and gives them eternal life – His Holy Spirit.  This Spirit is born in their souls and grows, producing a crop of fruit (of the Spirit) in the world. (See “Sow What” and “Seeds of Truth“)

In other words, the impact of Jesus’ parables in your life, depends upon you.  It’s up to you.  It depends on whether you HAVE a willingness to learn His truths, or whether you have closed your eyes and HAVE NOT.

[1] The Holy Bible : New International Version. 1996, c1984 (electronic ed.). Grand Rapids: Zondervan.

The Same God

The woman of my fantasies whispered in my ear. I had spent the night at the college infirmary and she woke me with the most seductive voice.  “It’s time to wake up, Honey.”  But when I opened my eyes, all my adolescent hopes were dashed.  I’m pretty sure that old lady knew what she was doing to us.  She could have sold alarm clocks with that voice…   But when you only hear a voice and can’t see the face, it’s easy to get the wrong idea.

That’s why so many people have screwy ideas about God – even people written about in the Old Testament.  Because they could not see God, they imagined all sorts of distorted things about Him.  But David – King David – had the right idea.  God said he was a man “after His own heart.”  David knew God.

Question is, was David’s God the same God portrayed in the New Testament?  You know how the 23rd Psalm starts out: “The Lord is my Shepherd, I shall not want…”  But take a closer look at how David ended that Psalm:

“Surely goodness and love will follow me all the days of my life, and I will dwell in the house of the Lord forever.” (Psalm 23:6)

David’s God was the God of goodness and love, the God Who kept track of His people (He followed them…  probably not yet on Twitter) and cared for them faithfully.  This concept of God is nothing like how pagan gods were imagined to be.  It sounds right to us because it is a New Testament idea, but in David’s day it was fairly radical stuff.  Jesus reaffirmed the goodness and faithfulness of God in all His teachings.

But David’s final thought, the hope of living “in the house of the Lord forever,” is inconsistent with what the Bible teaches for those whose souls are dead, disconnected from God’s Spirit.  Without the redeeming work of Jesus, without being forgiven by God and reborn by His Spirit, no one can “live in the house of the Lord forever.”  Jesus made this clear when He spoke with Nicodemus:

“In reply Jesus declared, “I tell you the truth, no one can see the kingdom of God unless he is born again.”  (John 3:3)

“Jesus answered, “I tell you the truth, no one can enter the kingdom of God unless he is born of water and the Spirit. Flesh gives birth to flesh, but the Spirit gives birth to spirit.” (John 3:5-6)

Without being brought to life by God’s Spirit, our souls are dead and cannot “live in the house of the Lord forever.”  God had given David a peek under the tent to glimpse a mystery that would not be revealed until the coming of Jesus.  It  was the mystery of how dead souls are brought to eternal life.  Here’s the third verse of Psalm 23:

“He restores my soul. He guides me in paths of righteousness for his name’s sake.” (Psalm 23:3)

Here’s how Jesus said it:

“And I will ask the Father, and he will give you another Counselor to be with you forever— the Spirit of truth. The world cannot accept him, because it neither sees him nor knows him. But you know him, for he lives with you and will be in you.” (John 14:16-17)

“But when he, the Spirit of truth, comes, he will guide you into all truth…” (John 16:13a)

Maybe you have wondered if the Old Testament God is the same as the God described in the New Testament.  He is.  Scroll down through the previous posts.  Adam knew Him; Job knew Him 3500 years or more ago; Abraham knew Him; David knew Him; Isaiah knew Him and Jesus knew Him.  He is the same, yesterday, today and forever.

The Riddle and a Hint

There is something in the Bible that doesn’t seem to make sense.  Consider: We were designed by our Creator, to be connected to Him, by His Spirit, in an interactive way, much like a cell phone is connected to the cell signal. However, because of rebellion and sin, we are disconnected from God’s Spirit. We are spiritually dead; in cell phone lingo, we have no bars (See: Dead Man Walking).  God desires to connect us again, and said He will do so for those who are receptive – the lowly and contrite. He said He will forgive, heal, restore and revive them. But God also said He does not leave the guilty unpunished. This is the riddle of the Bible, set forth in Exodus 34:6-7 and not solved until the New Testament. But God gave Isaiah big hints. Before considering some of those hints, let’s clarify the problem.

Justice demands that the guilty be punished. We know that in our bones. For example, suppose a drunk driver killed your toddler daughter. He’s arrested and goes to trial. During the trial, he breaks down in heartfelt tears of remorse, acknowledging to the judge that he is guilty and that he can never bring your daughter back to life but that he has committed himself to a life of complete sobriety. He is sincere. How would you feel if the judge said, “Because you are sorry, I’m going to let you off and clear your record. Case dismissed!”?   Frustrated?     Angry? Sure, because justice was not served. Justice demands the guilty be punished. Perfect justice demands that the punishment be balanced to the crime. Too light a punishment makes a mockery of justice.

God is just and God is perfect. According to what He showed Moses in Exodus 34:6, He is loving and forgiving but He also will not leave the guilty unpunished. Question: What should be the just punishment for something that causes death? I’m not talking about something that causes physical death, which merely shortens the span of a lifetime, but an act that causes spiritual death, which has eternal consequences?  Death, right?

Jesus said to the most religious people of His day, that, without some significant intervention and change, they would die in their sins.

But he continued, “You are from below; I am from above. You are of this world; I am not of this world. I told you that you would die in your sins; if you do not believe that I am the one I claim to be, you will indeed die in your sins.” (John 8:23-24)

Sin, separates us from our spiritual connection to God, and causes death – spiritually, eternally. Justice demands a full punishment.   But Jesus said, “…if you do not believe that I am the one I claim to be, you will indeed die in your sins.”    Who did He claim to be?    Why would that make a difference?

Let’s begin with a hint, given by God to Isaiah, 700 years before Jesus:

The people walking in darkness have seen a great light; on those living in the land of the shadow of death a light has dawned. (Isaiah 9:2)

For to us a child is born, to us a son is given, and the government will be on his shoulders. And He will be called Wonderful Counselor, Mighty God, Everlasting Father, Prince of Peace. (Isaiah 9:6 )

The “Child” would be born. The “Son” would be given – literally given over.   He would be called Mighty God.   Jesus said, “… if you do not believe that I am the one I claim to be, you will die in your sins.”

Chew on that…