Jesus asked the Father, ‘If it be your will, let this cup pass from me.’ Flowery language from a loving disciple. In modern vernacular we would likely report his prayer as, ‘Oh God! I don’t want to die like this. If there is anyway way else to do it or someone to take my place, please let it be that way. But if it HAS to go down like this, then I’ll do it, because you want me to.’ People have a way of over poeticizing the humanity of Christ, or any historic figure for that matter. It’s natural to do so, but it causes us to lose sight of the real pain and suffering that happen in the life of God’s people.
In today’s climate of enforced ecumenicism, which flies in the face of God’s word and spits on Christ’s wounds, there is a move toward the stoicism, and nihilism of eastern religion. Nothing is more antithetical to Biblical Christianity, or to faith in God. The patriarchs were men of passion and desire. Jesus was a man who we know could lose his temper and even become violent. Throughout the Bible, prophecy is often couched in graphic language and bitter insults. The sanitized, magical rites and formulae, of eastern mysticism and western ‘High Church’ liturgy are at odds with Biblical imperative and example.
Far from Stoic, the prophets of both Covenants are men who confessed their pains and suffering and asked others to bear with them, just as they bore the pains of others. This is in fact the foundational concept of Godly faith. Bear one another’s burdens. Confess your shortcomings. Ask for help.
Recently I was discussing a practical application of this principle with a cousin of mine. She is married to a former youth pastor, and has been active in the church for most of her life. I told her about a man whose wife had committed adultery with a minister who then advised her as a counselor to leave her husband. I pointed out that The biblical principals in Ephesians and Corinthians clearly indicate that it is the responsibility of the church to censure that woman until she returns to and makes amends with her husband. I pointed out that Jesus said that it was the life spent in a second or third marriage that was the adultery not the wedding ceremony, and that to end her sin she must reconcile with her husband or remain celibate at her first husband’s discretion.
It infuriated my cousin that I would make these statements. When I suggested that repentance is not saying you are sorry, but changing your life course permanently and spending your remaining life making amends for your wrongdoing, she called me bitter. What is really sad is that she went so far as to say I had a ‘spirit of bitterness’.
Now I assure you, I have been slandered quite a bit, since I entered the ministry. But it always troubles me when someone begins criticizing my spirit. I am filled with the spirit of prophecy, the ruach elohim (??? ?????) that we Christians call the Holy Spirit. I am led by him and he has called me to ministry, including compassion ministries. But at minimum I am a Christian, which even my detractors would be forced to acknowledge. To claim that the spirit in me, the Holy Spirit, is a ‘spirit of bitterness’ is to at least approach the act of slandering the Holy Spirit.
I will not deny that the Holy Spirit at times is infused with anger or revulsion, at what he, as Paraclete, is forced to encounter. But to call him a Spirit of Bitterness is walking close to the line of calling him a demonic spirit. For this there is of course no redemption. As Jesus said, if you slander the human it can be forgiven, but because ‘you have blasphemed the Holy Spirit, it shall not be forgiven’ It is impossible that a believer can be possessed of an unclean spirit. ‘No well can give forth both salt water and sweet.’ This is Jesus’ expert opinion on the subject. To disagree is to call to question the deity of Christ. To deny the deity, and for that matter, the infallibility of Christ is to be denied BY Christ. ‘If you deny me before men, I shall deny you before the Father.’
Now the tide of that conversation ended up drifting to the issue of redemption and what saves. Essentially, the only thing that saves is of course the forgiveness of our sins, by the Father in heaven. Where people, Jewish, Christian, Muslim or other Bible based pagan, differ is in how one achieves or receives forgiveness.
For the Christian or Messianic Jew the answer is the perfect sacrifice embodied in the person of Jesus. But there are arguments as to the manner in which one takes a vicarious part in Jesus’ sacrifice.
As in all things, most tend to proof text, fastening onto one or two passages or verses taken out of context in order to prove a position formed before they began to study the scripture. This sort of Eisegesis has lead to the formation of most of the Christian denominations. However taken in toto the bible paints a picture that denies most every formula or paradigm.
Jesus and the Apostles he taught can be resolved into the following paradigm if ALL the New Testament is taken in and digested before an opinion is formed:
1) Show remorse for your past life. Recognize the depraved state of your soul as an illness that needs a cure.
2) Accept on faith that Jesus is the son of God and that his words, works and teachings are infallible. Accept his teaching that his death is a propitiation for your past life of sin and will empower you to live a Godly life.
3) Change the course of your life permanently so that those things which were disobedient to Biblical Morality are no longer a part of your life. Dedicate your life to correcting the wrong you have done (i.e. thieves become philanthropists, killers become defenders of life, home wreckers and adulterers become those who mend marriages starting with their own, etc).
4) Seek an ever more profound relationship with God that grows deeper passing through stages until it surpasses the recorded instructions of the Apostles and develops a momentum that carries you through your entire life.
Most Church in the evangelical community focus on steps 1 and 2 completely ignoring 3 and 4. Most in the Catholic community seek to achieve Steps 3 and 4 without performing the prerequisite steps. The result in either case is disastrous. The latter leads to seed that is sown on stony ground, the former leads to seed sown on thorny (fallow) soil.
I’ve heard the term cheap grace bandied about, the idea is to illustrate that grace needs to be respected and not taken for granted. Most often it is the Catholic community criticizing the process of handing out Church membership to anyone who recites a prayer of salvation, followed by nothing more than the warning that if you disobey you can always ask daddy Jesus to forgive you and the worst that can happen is that you will have some hardship to try and correct your behavior if you are unrepentant.
The term thrown about by the Evangelical community is Works Righteousness. They equate repentance with trying to earn salvation. They point out polemically that you can’t earn your salvation so any works are meaningless. James of course dealt decisively with that fallacy.
Where the Romans pass out freedom from responsibility as long as you perform a penance assigned by the priest, the Evangelical passes out freedom from responsibility without any requirement, except that you quash the niggling doubt produced by your conscience trying to tell you that you have sinned. In either case no real change in course is made and people go on quenching the Holy Spirit and offending the son of God, calling him to public shame.
Of course there is forgiveness of sin after we have become Christians, but it is not achieved by merely reciting a canned prayer of remorse, nor by performing a feat in honor of God.
It is achieved by honestly approaching the Father and confessing our faults, by faith using the power granted to us by the Holy Spirit to not sin and thereby not continuing to perform the sinful acts of which the Holy Spirit has thus far convicted us. And by making amends to those we have wronged.
Someone said once that that statement should be amended to say, ‘if you can’. The supernatural power of the Holy Spirit has been granted to you as a believer to act in prophetic ways, to resist sin and to repent. If you believe that Faith can bring healing and faith can bring prosperity, but you don’t believe Faith can empower you to make amends to those you have harmed by your sin, you are a Pagan. You do not define faith as trusting in the power and character of God to make possible what he has required of you.