God’s terms and conditions

If you authentically seek God on his terms, you will find him.  If you “seek” a god of your own making, you will not find him.

That may sound obvious, but think about how so many people in our culture think that all religions lead to God.  Lots of false teachers in churches will tell you such things.

Consider if you went to a company for a job and demanded that they hire you on your terms.  Hey, go ahead and ask for a million dollar salary and unlimited vacation.  Ridiculous, eh?  But only a tiny fraction as ridiculous as thinking you are going to tell God how things get done.

What makes anyone think they get to dictate the terms of the universe and eternal life to the one true God?  Pride.  Satan (“Did God really say . . .?”).

God sets the terms, not us.  In fact, his first commandments make that explicit.

Be bold in prayer, but know that God still sets the terms.  Seek him earnestly, but on his terms.

Where do you find his terms?  In the Bible.  They are actually quite generous.  All you have to do is repent and believe.  No good deeds required – though in response to his mercy and grace and by the power of the Holy Spirit you’ll be inspired to do good deeds.  Better yet, not only are all your sins forgiven but God will credit Jesus’ perfect righteousness to your account.

If you “seek” a god of your own making, you will not find the one true God.  If you’ve been doing that, stop kidding yourself.  Eternity is a mighty long time.

If you authentically seek God on his terms, you will find him.

Acts 17:26–27 (ESV) And he made from one man every nation of mankind to live on all the face of the earth, having determined allotted periods and the boundaries of their dwelling place, that they should seek God, in the hope that they might feel their way toward him and find him. Yet he is actually not far from each one of us,

32 thoughts on “God’s terms and conditions

  1. Speaking as a seeker, I think the main problem though is that most of us (as we’re not Christian) don’t believe the bible as literal truth. So when we seek God, not only do we seek from a skeptical position, but I don’t think we completely know what it is to look for. Either that or we want some sort of proof that we can’t have. At least that’s true for me. Of course I can’t speak for a giant group of people. Nor do I want to. But I know the seeker position. It’s much harder than I think people give it credit for.

    For about a year I just wanted some giant sort of proof (like any other non-Christian) that God exists. Like him personally coming to me and shaking me and yelling at me saying “I’m right here!”. It took a bit to shake me of that mindset. Mainly speaking with many Christians online who were deeply involved in apologetics and could actually back up their faith with something not rooted in the bible (something I’d never been introduced to before). I can’t say that I don’t still want that proof (as it would make everything so much easier), but I know that sort of proof won’t happen.

    But lets not forget that there are many people who only want a god of their invention or don’t want to find the one true god. Or don’t want a god at all. Those people made up their minds already about the subject and most likely they won’t be changed. And those who are earnestly seeking won’t start out but just breaking down right away and repent and believe. Emotional appeal is very strong, but usually most people want something that’s testable and tangible.

    • Hi Sombra,
      Very honest response. You are a breath of fresh air and thanks for being honest and open.

      The problem with the handshake of God, is that when we desire such, it is, again, on our terms not His. His method of shaking our hands, and more importantly, our hearts, is through the preached word of God. This is the primary means that He uses to reach the lost for Himself and His Son.

      Given that, would you be willing to listen to a sermon on line? I won’t point you to my sermons, but to my favorite pastor to listen to: Alistair Begg, a Scotsman living in Ohio. His sermons are very well done, biblical and he does deal with doubts that we have.

      http://www.sermonaudio.com/sermoninfo.asp?SID=11611110023517

      This one deals with the heart of the issue: is the resurrection real? He deals with the evidence for the resurrection, so it should be helpful.
      Blessings
      Timothy

      • I’m not saying that it’s not on God’s terms. Just that for the seeker (as many seekers are skeptics as well), there’s a long process before getting to the point of returning the handshake. So before even doing anything, we’d have to come to a point where we at least have to accept that the bible might be true before we do anything else.

        I don’t mind listening to one. I’ve been offered sermons to listen to before and I have. On a christian based forum, a member pointed me towards their church’s website and the sermon’s they’ve put up. I still listen to some every now an then.

        Pretty much, I’ll listen to most sermons so long as they’re not done in the stereotypical preacher manner. The big gestures, the aggressive vocal style (almost yelling at the congregation). That’s the way the preacher in the church I used to go to spoke. It’s very off putting.

    • I think people find their way into the Kingdom of God by many different kinds of processes. You discussed some of these. Some instantly believe and for others it’s a process. For me it was more of a process. I can’t point to a specific time and place that I believed, only punctuated stages of belief. I can relate with your skepticism and it looks like you’re looking in the right places to put that at bay; apologetic sites and such. I love Alister Beg and would suggest also Ravi Zacharias and the writings of C.S. Lewis. Mere Christianity had a big impact on me. Ultimately though, I think it was prayer that played the biggest part, not the least of which was my own. To humble myself, to get down on my knees before a God that I didn’t even necessarily know was there, and beg him that if he was there that he would not let me waist the life that I had been given in meaninglessness.

      • That’s what else I was supposed to buy last time I went to Borders…a book by Ravi Zacharias. I might try for it tomorrow. I do have a list of books to buy and a book by him is on it.

        I’ve read Mere Christianity. Very well written. Though I might have to read it again as I have a tendency to forget everything I read after I read it.

        As for prayer, I generally have a so-so feeling about it. Mostly because with my experience with it in the past, it hasn’t worked (my opinion on that’s starting to change a bit though). So regardless of if I have the desire to pray now (and I do sometimes), I won’t because I don’t think it’ll do anything for me.

  2. Neil,
    Excellent summary of the gospel. I loved the way you put it, especially the part about good deeds.

    “No good deeds required – though in response to his mercy and grace and by the power of the Holy Spirit you’ll be inspired to do good deeds.”

    Blessings

  3. Without the Holy Spirit, it is impossible to know God. God is spirit and we are supposed to worship Him in spirit and in truth. He is the one that testifies to our spirit that we belong to Him and are on the right path. The narrow path is the way and Jesus is the gate. Book knowledge won’t do it. Mere understanding of the Word of God won’t do it. We NEED the Holy Spirit. The Word tells us we need a spiritual rebirth for salvation.

    If you are a true seeker, you will find Him. A true believer will exhibit good fruits in their life and those around them will know they are good and will give praise to God. This is our most powerful witness. All goodness is from God, but not all good people are followers of Him.

    Jesus said all of the law could be summed up in two simple commands. Love God with all your being. Love your neighbor as yourself. Basically the golden rule with a focus of love toward the Creator of the universe. Simple commands, yet not always easy to obey. Your neighbor amounts to ANY other human being sharing this planet.

    Many religions promote the golden rule. Only one provides the path to the Father. Jesus is the Word of God. The Word that holds ALL things in this world together. Jesus, the Word was made flesh and dwelt among us. That is how God communicated with us and brought us back into union or fellowship with Him. He gave of Himself. He gave His son.

    As a non threatening baby, He came into our world. He was subject to all the limitations and temptations of the flesh. He grew up and showed us by example how we were to walk this journey. He did not operate as God while on earth, but was subject to the Father’s will and could only do what the Father showed Him to do.

    The Holy Spirit descended on Him when He was baptized. It was the Holy Spirit that allowed Him to perform miracles and convert other people’s hearts. It was the same Holy Spirit He sent to us after He went back to heaven that gives us the ability to know Him and be saved. That same Holy Spirit allows believers to advance His kingdom here on earth and brings His Word to life. The Holy Spirit is the one winning hearts and performing supernatural miracles today as in days past.

  4. As an earnest seeker, how would one come to Christianity over any other deep tradition? And then which version? They believe so many different things! And is that really the best evidence for the resurrection?

    • Perhaps for the same reason agnostics, atheists and liberal “Christians” are so compelled to argue against Christianity with Christians as opposed to other “traditions”, like say Buddhists, or Hindus, or Muslims?

      Just a thought.

      • Play what’s in front of you… So Muslims growing up in Muslin countries are perfectly correct in playing what’s in front of them.

      • My reply was to Dan, who asked why atheists feel so compelled to argue against Christianity.

      • So I should be a Christian because that’s what’s in front of me? My wife is Hindu Brahmin and my neighbor Muslim, so either of those might be the closer choices. And technically atheism is another choice, so you didn’t answer the question, which, to refresh, was why choose Christianity over any other deep tradition with equally robust “evidence”?

    • Hi RP,

      how would one come to Christianity over any other deep tradition?

      Investigate the truth claims. Islam, for example, claims to have a perfect holy book yet explicitly says that Jesus did not die on the cross. That came from one person claiming a vision over 500 years after the fact, where as virtually all historians agree that whether Jesus rose from the dead, He most definitely died on a Roman cross. In a hyper-technical sense Mohammad might have been right, but do we live our lives on such evidence?

      Here are a few reasons to take Christianity very seriously — http://4simpsons.wordpress.com/2010/10/19/evaluating-different-religions-5-reasons-to-start-your-spiritual-search-with-christianity/

      And then which version?

      Read the Bible carefully and then choose your version (I assume you mean denomination). The essentials are the key. God knew there would be disputable matters and told us how to handle them — http://4simpsons.wordpress.com/2008/06/14/disputed-matters/

      And is that really the best evidence for the resurrection?

      That is a starting point. There are many very in-depth studies on the matter for those seriously interested — i.e, http://www.amazon.com/Resurrection-Christian-Origins-Question-Vol/dp/0800626796/ref=sr_1_1?ie=UTF8&qid=1295715383&sr=8-1

    • One other thought from one of those links: Since Christianity claims that there is one God and after we die we face one eternal judgment (Hebrews 9:27) you should consider it first, at least over atheism and any religion with either a concept of reincarnation or with no concept of judgment. If atheism isn’t true, then nothing eternal matters. If “second chance” religions like Hinduism and Buddhism are true then the worst case scenario is that you lose a little ground going into your next life.

      But if Christianity is true and you don’t trust in Jesus and accept God’s free gift of salvation, then you spend an eternity paying for your sins.

      Consider matters of eternity very carefully, because eternity matters. What could be more logical?

      • Ah yes, Pascal’s wager… Believe, not because it’s true, but because it’s in your own selfish interests, because you have nothing to gain and everything to lose, because coldly calculated it’s the broadest ass-covering choice. It’s not much of an argument, and the lingering scent of fear reminds me of childhood – behave, not because it’s right but because you’ll burn if you don’t.

        It seems to me that wagering kind of misses the point, doesn’t it?

        Ghandi is burning in hell, or will be after judgment (so many differences of opinion on the details), right next to Einstein and Aristotle and all the African slaves who died in cargo holds en route, etc. One of my earliest religious memories was reading about the Trail of Tears back in my Native Oklahoma and asking my middle school teacher, a devout Christian (it was the Bible belt after all), if Jesus was going to send all the Native Americans who died on the march to hell. She stammered out something about everyone making their choices and having to play by God’s rules, which I took to mean, “yes, and I know it seems harsh but I didn’t make the rules.”

        I hadn’t read the Bible much before – I was probably 13 at the time – so I decided to. Despite the result, my parents insisted I remain active in our church youth group. When I was 16 I has to give a sermon to the entire congregation describing my “faith journey”, which was supposed to be how I found Christ. I said I hadn’t made up my mind yet but I wasn’t sure how I felt about any religion that demanded death by stoning, for anything, let alone the petty offences listed in Deutoronomy. I remember quite vividly that I stopped at II Kings at the part where on one the Hebrew elders hears that a member of the tribe married a Midionite woman, and so he walks into their tent and runs them both through with a spear, and God looks down and said it was good.

        I didn’t actually meet anyone who called themselves atheist until college. Reading the Bible was enough for me.

      • Ah yes, Pascal’s wager… Believe, not because it’s true, but because it’s in your own selfish interests, because you have nothing to gain and everything to lose, because coldly calculated it’s the broadest ass-covering choice. It’s not much of an argument, and the lingering scent of fear reminds me of childhood – behave, not because it’s right but because you’ll burn if you don’t.

        That response would have been more clever had I actually used Pascal’s Wager (not that I’m convinced you even understand Pascal’s Wager). Read carefully: I said those are reasons you should investigate and consider. I know that Big Book O’ Atheist Sound Bites is handy for you but don’t be so quick to use it.

        She stammered out something about everyone making their choices and having to play by God’s rules, which I took to mean, “yes, and I know it seems harsh but I didn’t make the rules.”

        And of course, bad answers from Christians mean there isn’t a God just as bad answers from atheists proves there is one.

        Just as bad Christian parenting and bad church leadership doesn’t disprove God any more than bad atheist parenting and bad secular leadership proves there is one.

      • In all fairness though, doesn’t RP have a point?

        I wouldn’t say that that teacher said anything other than what Christianity teaches. Doesn’t it teach that if you accept Jesus as your savior and follow his teachings that you’ll go to heaven. Anything else is a ticket to hell? Native Americans (to my knowledge) didn’t have knowledge of Jesus until Europeans arrived here. Perhaps some converted, but a good deal or majority might not have.

        I possibly derailed the topic a little bit, but I don’t think the teacher’s answer was bad. Just truthful to what she believed. Sometimes truthful answers can be just as off-putting as bad ones…

      • Yes, that’s fair. Forgive me, I was not being very literal. But Pascal’s or not, what you described was still a wager – better to guess Christianity and be wring than guess something else and be wrong – and so runs afoul of the same critique, which you still didn’t address.

        And I didn’t say anything about the existence of God, just Christianity. And my point about meeting atheists was not to say I am one, or that I’m making stock arguments, but just that they weren’t any kind of influence on my teen years.

        Finally, bad answers or not, here is a chance to set the record straight. You have my undivided attention. Assuming they did not accept Jesus as their Lord and Savior – in fact many may have made the conscious choice otherwise – are Ghandi and Aristotle and Einstein and the Buddha and Marcus Aurelius and Lao Tse and the Dalai Lama and those natives on the Trail going to be tormented for all eternity?

      • Jesus is the gate. He will decide their fate. Many Native Americans lived more Christlike than a lot of those that claim to be “of the faith” today. Those of pure heart will not reject Christ.

        We see “through a glass darkly”. No man knows the entire truth. We cannot limit God nor fully understand His plans. We can only earnestly seek and hope He approves of our efforts.

      • RP said:

        “But Pascal’s or not, what you described was still a wager”

        Still a wager? I don’t see it. Perhaps you can expound.

        But any case, with this logic wouldn’t if follow that ALL make the wager? The atheist faces the same death at the end of his life as the theist. Your argument therefore is rooted in the logical fallacy of special pleading.

      • The quote from above:

        “If atheism isn’t true, then nothing eternal matters. If “second chance” religions like Hinduism and Buddhism are true then the worst case scenario is that you lose a little ground going into your next life.

        But if Christianity is true and you don’t trust in Jesus and accept God’s free gift of salvation, then you spend an eternity paying for your sins.”

        So it’s a wager. There are three choices presented: atheism (door #1), eastern religions (lumped together – door #2), and Christianity (door #3).

        So we have to pick the “right” door. Each guess has two possible outcomes: right or wrong.

        If we pick door #1 (atheism) and we’re right, nothing happens. We don’t win or lose.

        If we pick door #2 (eastern religion) and we’re right, we get nirvana.

        If we pick door #3 (Christianity) and we’re right, we get heaven.

        So already options two and three are looking good.

        If we pick anything but #1 and we’re wrong (atheism turns out to be the right answer), still nothing happens.

        If we pick anything but #2 and we’re wrong, we get docked some points (lose karma) and get to play again after a time out (reincarnation).

        If we picked anything but #3 and we’re wrong, we get the lake of fire.

        So if one is being simply self-serving, on this analysis #3 seems the safest option. The best that can happen is heaven and the worst that can happen is we lose a turn and come back to play again.

        If that’s enough to convince you something is true – it’s the best self-serving option – then you are welcome to it. It might make the most sense, from the point of view of your own self-interest, to kiss the boss’s ass at work. If this argument is right, then you should pucker up…

        And I’m afraid I didn’t understand your last point. Can you elaborate?

      • If that’s enough to convince you something is true – it’s the best self-serving option – then you are welcome to it.

        Hi R P,

        I think you did a somewhat balanced characterization of Pascal’s Wager, but that was not my point at all. Many of the reasons would apply to any die-and-face-judgment religion, such as Islam.

        I didn’t say you should choose Christianity because of those reasons. I said you should seriously investigate it, and first. It was merely a provocative way to point out some of the unique things about Christianity that many Christians and non-Christians miss. As always, the reason to be a Christian is because Christianity is true (or more specifically, Jesus is the Truth). It describes the world the way it really is.

        And I’m afraid I didn’t understand your last point. Can you elaborate?

        My apologies, but I’ve lost track . . . were you referring to my last point in a comment or the post, or someone else’s last point?

      • The clarification question was not to you, but thank you for checking.

        Unfortunately I don’t think the argument works as a motivator either. It does for things like seatbelts, where the choice is made BECAUSE of the outcome. That is the sole criteria. But questions of truth (rather than questions of mere action) are right regardless of which outcome we might prefer, which is why the wager gets it backwards.

        For questions of truth, we need to avoid bias from any angle (much easier said than done obviously). From the standpoint of the neutral position, all options could be right, and therefore all options would need to be investigated equally. Most people roll their eyes at that because they don’t take Shintoism seriously, for example. But thinking the “right” answer will come from say the Western Tradition, or from the set of multinational religions is to presuppose the right answer has those characteristics.

        Those are simply assumptions, ones we are all welcome to, and ones which work fine for picking what car to buy or whether to wear a seatbelt once you buy it. This decision though is altogether more important. It seems to me it’s more important than say the germ theory of disease or atomic theory or even something like management theory. Yet all of those attempt, some better than others, to find truth rigorously, and that implies starting from the neutral position.

        In real life of course, things get more complicated, but to the degree that is the theoretical aim, we should make appropriate adjustments when our biases are pointed out to us. Much of the history of, say, physics is not so much a procession from the neutral position to valid theories, but rather a stumbling closer to the neutral position from somewhere else as each generation points out and tries to correct biases from the previous generation or two.

        You probably know this, but a lot of people don’t appreciate the difference between questions of truth and questions of action because in life most of us only ever face the second kind. If you are aiming to buy the BEST car, the one that’s most “right”, and you flub it (and how would you even know?), odds are you still bought a really GOOD car, which is sufficient to the question at hand, which is simply to buy a car (take action) that facilitates the things I need it for like getting to work.

        Interestingly for this discussion, psychologists have shown that, if it is proved we made the incorrect decision, people will tend to confabulate their reasons for choosing the way they did. The brain will actually retroactively redact history and replace it with reasons why your actual choice was still the best one, versus what you said you were doing originally.

        But anyway, now I am just rambling. If the wager argument works for you, I think we can agree to disagree. Looking back, I have certainly pestered you all enough.

      • RP,

        You have read the Bible you say. I would ask that you focus on Matthew chapter 5, 6, and 7, which is also known as the sermon on the mount. It is probably the most profound description of how Christianity should look.

        Do not judge Christianity by the people that claim to be a part of it. That generally will lead to disappointment. True Christianity is a lifestyle and not a religion. It generally runs counter to our natural tendencies.

        AFA who is going to hell or not, leave that judgment to God. We do not know the heart (the true intent) of anyone but ourself. We are only accountable for that condition before Him.

      • I am not trying to do God’s job. He certainly can punish or pardon whomever He chooses. I’m just noting that He seems to have made his preference clear through His Holy Word.

      • You are right to say He can punish or pardon whomever He chooses. We are, afterall, His creation to with as He wishes. The Word says some were created for destruction. Who are we to judge? That was my point. I was not claiming that you were making a judgment, rather we really don’t know the fate of anyone. We are only responsible for our own selves.

  5. Yes, it is true, those who die outside of Christ have no hope of eternal salvation. AS Christians, this is what the Bible teaches, as well as Christ.

    Where people get off track is in sitting in the judgment seat of God, saying what God has done is wrong. The point of the gospel is that all deserve hell and damnation for all eternity, because all sinned against an eternal, holy and righteous God. Therefore the debt of sin is eternal.

    God, in His grace and mercy, saves some from what we deserve. It’s by grace that Christians are saved. God chooses whom He chooses and we must trust Him with those decisions.

    So do all those who you mentioned spend all of eternity in hell? Apart from Christ, yes. This is why we investigate Christianity, not because of Paschal’s wager. If the resurrection is real, which the evidence supports, then we should trust in the One who was raised for our salvation.

    • When the new Jerusalem comes to earth, there will be some outside the “city” and those that dwell within it. I have often wondered how that separation relates to believers. Hell and eternal damnation is reserved for those that reject His rule and authority. Is that after the millenium? Does the thousand years give folks another opportunity during that time to choose Him as Lord? I don’t know the answers. These are just things I ponder and seek wisdom and understanding.

      On a side note. I have asked many about the wisemen that came to pay homage to Christ. The Bible says there were three whereas other texts claim they were numerous. They were not Judean nor Judahite and yet recognized the authority and kingdom of Yeshua. Some Native American traditions describe a visitation by a Jesus figure/savior representing the Great Spirit in their religious ideology. It will be interesting to see how it all pans out. I am just grateful my ticket’s punched.

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