Why I left the Church pt. 3

Who is God?

Well first of all there is only one God! James 2:19. I originally came from a Trinitarian perspective of God. Meaning One God displayed through three distinct persons that make up this one God. Who are co-equal and co-eternal; this is the orthodox view of Christianity. My intentions of this blog are not start an argument on whether or not the Trinity or the Oneness views are right or wrong, but my goal is to explain how I came to understand who God is. Both Oneness and Trinitarians would agree that the Bible teaches the existence of only one God; both would agree that the New Testament makes a distinction between Father, Son and Spirit; both would agree that scripture speaks of Father, Son and Spirit. The question is how do we understand God as being One and yet account for the Scriptural distinctions.

They arrive at different conclusions of who God is because they both start at different points. Oneness theology starts with the clear teaching of the Old Testament that God is one and then tries to understand the NT distinctions in this light (Deut. 6:4; Isaiah 42:8, 43:10-11, 44:6; Mark 12:29; John 10:30; 1st Corinthians 8:6; James 2:19; 1st Timothy 2:5; Jude 1:25; Revelation 1:8). Trinitarians start with the NT distinctions and then try to understand that diversity, in light of OT monotheism. They quote the same scriptures above. The result? Oneness theology understands the distinctions as being rooted in the incarnation, while Trinitarians understand the distinctions as being rooted in the being of God. So which way best describes who God is? What starting point should we use that will do the most justice to the Biblical definition of God?

As I already stated, God is One. I believe that the OT clearly defines this. In fact it was such a revelation to the Hebrew people that God commanded them to adhere to this belief (Duet. 6:4). They were required to impress this on their own hearts and their own children. They were to talk about them when they sat down at home, when they were out among the town, when they lie down and when they get up. The Bible says that they were to tie them up as symbols on their hands and foreheads. To write them on the door frames and the gates of their homes. I don’t know about you but I think that this commandment must be important to God if he required his people to do all of this. In fact later on in the NT, a teacher questions Jesus on what he says is the greatest commandment. Jesus answers him by quoting Deut. 6:4 (Mark 12:28-31). So the question must be asked if there was a strict understanding of the oneness of God from the OT, why would it suddenly change with NT?

Who is manifest in the flesh, the father or the son? When you base this question on the presupposition: The “father” and the “son” are words describing the eternal relationship between the persons in the Godhead you would fall into the logical trap of: The son is not the father.

The son is God.

The father is God.

Therefore, the son and the father are

Both God.

 

The only explanation that historic Christianity has come up with is the Trinity. That God is three distinct persons who are co-equal and co-eternal and have existed from eternity in relationship with each other. This borders awfully close to tri-theism, but most Trinitarians would conclude that the trinity is a mystery. They are three but one. It’s hard to explain this to a rational person so they go in faith that this is how God exists.

It must be understood that the terms “father” and “son” in distinction to one another are first introduced in the incarnation. You must understand the duel nature of Christ. He is God manifest in the flesh. He is fully God and he is fully man. He had a human body and a human mind but the humanity of Christ was God’s humanity. God did not merely assume the form of man he actually became man. Therefore, when in scripture Jesus refers to his father, he is referring to God in his transcendence, when the scriptures speak of the son; it is God manifest in the flesh. Scripture never introduces the concept of the trinity. The trinity is read back into the scriptures.

Because the father and son are relational terms that began at the incarnation we would not expect to find any passage in scripture which says the Father became man. It is God who became man. Who created the world the father or the son? God created the world. You could ask who created the world the Prince of Peace or the Lamb of God? You can’t answer that because it assumes a difference in persons where the Bible doesn’t teach any difference in persons. Imagine your pastor’s name is Bob Smith. If I asked which is taller Bob or Smith? The question is obviously irrelevant. Pastor Smith is what I would call him in the context of my relationship as pastor and Bob is what his wife would call him when there are out shopping. Is there a difference between the Father and the Son? Yes. Is that distinction one of persons? No. The difference is that the Father is God in transcendence and his relationship with the man Christ, while the Son is God in his incarnation.

To put it into simpler terms, Father, Son and Holy Ghost, are titles, just like I’m a husband, a brother, a son and an uncle. God is not made up with three different wills or persons like the trinity would have you to believe, but rather, Father, Son and Holy Ghost are titles that make up the same person, the one true God. Even though I might have several different titles depending on what relationship I have been given, I’m still the same person. I’m a husband to my wife and I’m a son to my mother. I could not be a husband to my mother or a son to my wife; yet as I am still the same person, both of these titles still apply to me.

Furthermore in John 14, Philip, one of the disciples, asked Jesus, “to show us the father.” I think, and this is entirely my opinion here, that Jesus must have been dumbfounded by his disciple’s lack of understanding. How many times does he have to spell it out for them? I’m overwhelmed by how patient God is, not only to his own disciples but even to me in my own life. I can picture the scene playing out in my mind. Jesus and his disciples after a long day of traveling to Jerusalem from Bethany must have been exhausted. The day was filled with teaching, healings and miracles, not to mention the way Jesus was treated like a king as he entered Jerusalem. They’ve been confused by this and confused by many of his teachings. He even predicted his death at one point during the day. They’re finally getting some much needed rest, Jesus even washes their feet. They’re celebrating the Passover meal together, everything seems pretty good. If only they knew what was about to happen, right? Jesus then goes on to say that one of them would betray him and that Peter would deny him three times before the morning broke. Talk about being a buzz kill. The mood, I’m sure, was completely changed. But Jesus starts to comfort them by revealing to them who he really is and where he is going. This is when Phillip asks the question and Jesus responds by saying, “Don’t you know me, Philip, even after I have been among you such a long time? Anyone who has seen me has seen the father. How can you say, ‘show us the father’? Don’t you believe that I am in the Father and the Father is in me?” John 14: 9-10

Why would Jesus say this? Did he just want to confuse them even more? I think not. He was revealing to them a great truth about who he was, but he knew that they would not understand just yet, he would be sending them a helper (i.e. The Holy Spirit) that would finally make clear all that Jesus had taught them.

This is how it was for me, God finally after many years of praying, after many years of reading scripture, commentaries and listening to all different kinds of sermons and preachers, God revealed who he really is to me. It’s not just some church doctrine or dogma, but rather what his word the Bible says. Ultimately it doesn’t matter what some man or woman says, it doesn’t matter what I say, it only matter what God says. But don’t take my word for it, seek and search out what the Bible really does say. Pray for understanding of the scriptures, do not rely on what someone else’s opinion is on a certain text, but prayerfully search out the meaning. The Bible says that we are “to work out our own salvation with fear and trembling” Philippians 2:12.

This brings me to my final point, Salvation. As I stated earlier, at the beginning of the Bible study I was asked, ‘what does it take to get into heaven?’ I wrote my answer down just the way I stated above, but I was wrong. I came to believe that the Bible is definitely clear on a plan for salvation. What is that plan?

First of all we should acknowledge that we are sinners in need of salvation. For all have sinned and fallen short of the Glory of God, Romans 3:23. All people have made mistakes, everyone has sinned and failed. The Bible says that the sins that we have made deserve death, for the wages of sin is death, Romans 6:23. So we are in a great need of Salvation. The old system that God had set up required his people to make atonement for their sins by performing various sacrifices. This became rather tedious and legalistic, so God had another plan in mind. God demonstrated his love toward us by becoming man, and while we were yet sinners, He died for us. By going up to Calvary, God paid the atonement to end all atonements. God was in Christ reconciling the world unto himself, 2 Corinthians 5:19. Reconcile means to exchange something of value for something else. The purpose of Jesus’ ministry here on earth was to exchange his life for ours. He paid the wages of sin so we would not have to.

God loves us! He paid the ultimate price for our sins! If God does not forgive us of our sins we would parish. When we ask for forgiveness and truly repent, God is gracious enough to forgive and give us eternal life. This comes to repentance. To repent means to turn away from, cease, or do a complete 180 if you will. John the Baptist, as the Old Testament prophecies foretold, was a forerunner to Christ. He would baptize into repentance. People went out from Jerusalem and all of Judea and the whole region of the Jordan to repent and seek John’s baptism. Many began to follow him and become his disciples. But he spoke of one who would come after him, one more powerful, who sandals he’s not worthy to carry. He will come and baptize you with the Holy Spirit and fire! John, of course, is talking about Jesus Christ, the messiah!

Baptism, what is it? Is it really that important? Is it a symbolic act, a tradition? Or, is it something more, does it have a more personal and spiritual meaning? Throughout all of Christianity and the history of the church no topic has been more controversial than baptism. Other than the doctrine of the Godhead nothing is more debated in Christian theology. I’m not going to look anywhere else for the answers about baptism other than main source, the Bible.

We have in the Bible one of the most perfect examples of baptism, Jesus before he started his ministry took it upon himself to be baptized, Matthew 3. We know that Jesus was both God in flesh and very much human, again the dual nature of Jesus, he was blameless and perfect. He did not need to get baptized for the remission of sins because he was without sin. But he submitted to it for our benefit. If the sinless Christ was baptized how much more should we, who are full of sin.

If we are truly to conform to Christ as Paul states in Romans 8:29, we must follow his footsteps. Christ was baptized to fulfill all righteousness, Matthew 3:15, he did not regard it as mere ceremony or ritual. Through out his ministry he emphasized moral purity rather than ceremonial purity and described the many traditional washings of the Pharisees as unnecessary (Matt. 15:1-20; Mark 7:1-23). By Contrast, he recognized baptism as having moral significance and being necessary for us.

Let’s not forget John chapter 3 when Nicodemus came to Jesus, Jesus said unless a man be born again he cannot enter the kingdom of God. He went on to say that we must be born of Water and Spirit to enter The Kingdom of God. In Mark 16:16 Jesus says, “He that believes AND is baptized shall be saved; but he that does not believe shall not be saved.” Jesus linked both belief and baptism together in the promise of salvation, showing that both are necessary. If we say baptism is not necessary we amend the Lords statement and say “he that believes and is (NOT) baptized shall be saved.” Jesus did not discuss the situation of one who “believed” but refused baptism, for that would be a contradiction in terms. He knew that if someone did not believe, he would not be baptized or that if he were baptized, his baptism without believe would be

worthless. He knew a true believer would be baptized. By saying, “He that believes not shall not be saved.” I believe that Jesus implicitly covered the case of one who would refuse baptism as a means of salvation.

Of coarse we can’t be saved by anything else but the Grace of God. It’s not our works that save us but our faith and belief in Jesus Christ. God freely gives us Salvation. Paul is right in saying “for by grace through faith we are saved. But faith in God will lead to water baptism. As stated in the scripture above (Mark 16:16), obviously Jesus taught that faith would lead to baptism, and that History of the early church affirms this truth. After Peter’s sermon on the day of Pentecost, “they that gladly received his word were baptized; (Acts 2:41). When the Samaritans “believed Phillip preaching things concerning the Kingdom of God and the name of Jesus Christ, they were baptized.” (Acts 8:12) The Philippian jailor believed and was baptized in the same hour that Paul admonished him to believe. (Acts 16: 31-34).

When Paul preached in Corinth, many people “believed, and were baptized” (Acts 18: 8). On many other occasions people were baptized when they heard and accepted the Gospel (Acts 8: 36-38; 9:18; 10: 47-48; 16: 14-15; 19:5). We conclude that water baptism is an act of faith—a faith response to God. True faith in God and His word will cause the believer to submit to water baptism. Remember after the people heard Peter’s sermon on the day of Pentecost, they asked, “what shall we do?” Peter replied, “Repent and be BAPTIZED in the name of Jesus Christ….”

Finally, the baptism of the Holy Ghost and Fire. And suddenly there came a sound from heaven as of a mighty rushing wind, and it filled all the house where they were sitting. And there appeared unto them cloven tongues like as of fire, and it sat upon each of them. And they were all filled with the Holy Ghost, and began to speak with other tongues, as the spirit gave them utterance. Acts 2: 2-4. One of the most beautiful promises in all of scripture I believe is the promise of the Holy Spirit. The worst thing that happed to mankind was the original sin that caused us to be cut off from God.

Imagine if you will, before the fall what it must have been like to be in the Garden of Eden. No worries, no shame, no pain, no hurt, no concerns, ect… I can go on forever. Besides all of those things that I have mentioned above, I believe the greatest thing that was in the garden was God being among Adam and Eve at all times, he walked with them. How cool is that, I’m not talking metaphorically but rather physically! God was physically with Adam and Eve! When Satan crept into the picture and manipulated Adam and Eve to sin against God, God had to flee or leave their presence. This “original sin” perverted mankind’s relationship with God. Since that time God has been trying to restore that relationship, he accomplishes this through his Spirit.

When we come to Christ and he fills us with the Holy Spirit we are allowing God to live inside us. I know that may sound a little weird to non-believers, but this is how God restores our relationship with him. He fills us with his presences so that we can live holy and righteous lives. A life with God is peaceful, joyful, fulfilling; it is a life with purpose and meaning. It is life more abundantly, scriptures say. Without God we lose our purpose and meaning, we lose our joy and peace. I’m not saying that being a Christian, life will all be peaches and cream, there will be hard times, there will be pain and there will be sorrow. Some people will never feel freedom, yet with God there will be Joy. We have and serve a God that will be with us at all times through all the struggles our lives will throw at us. With his spirit he will guide us and lead us in the direction that will give us the greatest hope and future! Like a parent to a child he does what is best for the child. The child may not quite understand at the time what the parent was doing to benefit them but later on the child will understand why and how the situation bettered their life.

How could one not want God to be in their life is beyond my understanding. We live in a messed up and twisted world, full of hate and violence towards one another. Just turn on the news and we see the evil and destruction that is going on all around us. Now more than ever we need to have Gods presence inside of us. Now more than ever we need salvation. I find it very interesting how us humans praise and admire celebrity and wealth. We judge our own lives based on our status in culture, how much stuff we have and how much money we have. But at careful examination of the lives of the rich and famous so many we see are empty and hollow inside. They try to fill their lives with drugs and alcohol but ultimately they are left broken and empty despite having everything this world has to offer them.

When I was broken, when I was empty, God filled me, God healed me, he mended my soul, and he overwhelmed me with his presence. That’s why I sing: My God is more than enough, he can supply all of my needs, he is my El Shaddai, and he always looks out for me. God is more than enough; he is all that I will ever need. He did create me after all; surely he knows what I need and will do what is best for me.

The fact of the matter is: we need God. I spent most of my life searching and trying to understand who he is. It wasn’t until I truly allowed God to come into my life that I found him. One of my favorite scriptures in the Bible is Deuteronomy 4:29, which says, If you look for him with all your soul and all your heart you will find him there. You must seek him with all of your heart and all of your soul. I’m sorry but you can’t just partially look for him with a half empty heart to fill. You have to make room for him to fill your entire heart. This is what happened for me, so many years I spent holding onto my traditions and the things that I’ve been taught that God didn’t have enough room in my heart to dwell in. Even though I had many encounters with God like the ones I mentioned earlier, I still questioned who he was and his purpose for my life.

The Bible is pretty clear on whom God is and his plan for humanity. After the eventful day of Pentecost the Apostles finally understood what Jesus had preached to thousands of people. God left it in their hands to continue that message and to spread the Gospel to all nations. They understood the great need for salvation, the need to be baptized for the remission of sins in Jesus name and the need for spiritual baptism by the infilling of the Holy Spirit evidence by speaking in tongues. Through out the book of Acts we read encounter after encounter of people repenting of their sins, baptized in the name of Jesus and being filled with the Holy Spirit. This is the plan that God had laid forth to give us salvation.

We must have faith in Jesus Christ. We must acknowledge who he is and must accept that we cannot save ourselves. We must believe in his death on the cross and resurrection from the grave for the forgiveness of our sins. We are saved by grace through faith, and not by our own good works. Ephesians 2: 8-9: For by grace are ye saved through faith; and that not of yourselves: it is the gift of God: Not of works, lest any man should boast.

We must repent. Repentance is an essential part of salvation. We must confess that we are sinners and ask God to forgive us. With the help of God’s spirit we are to turn away from our sinful ways and turn toward his righteousness. When we repent, we open the door to God’s forgiveness. 1st John 1: 8-9: If we say that we have no sin, we deceive ourselves, and the truth is not in us. If we confess our sins, he is faithful and just to forgive us our sins, and to cleanse us from all unrighteousness.

We must be baptized. Water baptism is an essential part of salvation and not merely a symbolic ritual. It is part of entering into the kingdom of God (i.e. his church, the bride of Christ) and therefore, it is not merely a part of local church membership. Galatians 3:27: For many of you as have been baptized into Christ have put on Christ.

We must seek the baptism of the Holy Spirit. The infilling of the Holy Spirit is the seal of God in our lives and the guarantee of our inheritance of eternal life. It is the Spirit of Christ working in us, anointing us with the power to be witnesses for him. All born again believers must be baptized with the Holy Spirit. John 3:3-7: Jesus answered and said unto him, “Verily, Verily, I say unto thee, Except a man be born again, he cannot see the kingdom of God.” Nicodemus said unto him, “How can a man be born again when he is old? Can he enter the second time into his mother’s womb, and be born?” Jesus answered, “Verily, Verily, I say unto thee, Except a man be born of water and of the Spirit he cannot enter into the kingdom of God. That which is born of flesh is flesh; and that which is born of the Spirit is spirit. Marvel not that I said unto thee, Ye must be born again.

When I finally fully embraced this Biblical truth for my life. God began to move in me and through me in ways I could have never imagined. Not only experiencing the infilling of the Holy Spirit evidenced by speaking in tongues, but the opening of doors to move into more opportunity’s for ministry. God has brought me back to Westport, Indiana, where my spiritual journey began. I’m apart of the worship ministry team leading the church into his presence every Sunday! I’m growing more and more with him everyday. And my prayer is that he will continue to allow me to reach as much people as I can through my growing ministry, especially people that are like me, who come from traditional church backgrounds and want to know God and experience him more in their lives.

It took me a long time to come to terms with my faith, but looking back at my life I can see where God was shaping and molding me into the person he wanted me to be. I feel that my journey is still in the beginning stages, there is a lot of ground that still needs to be covered. I’m looking forward to see what God has for me next!

 

 

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