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Good Friday: A Somber Warning in the Shadow of the Cross

Updated: Apr 3



Today we pause to recall everything Jesus endured to fulfill His life-giving mission to rescue us from ourselves. By His voluntary death, Christ bridged the gap between our imperfect humanity and a perfectly Holy God.


Foreshadowing the Messiah, today Jews celebrate Passover (4/22-4/24), their liberation from slavery when God’s plague passed over the holy blood-stained doors of His chosen people, sparing them the plague that killed Egypt’s firstborn. As Christians, we enjoy an eternal Passover in Christ.


In mystical incarnation, the triune God Himself came to earth as a baby born in lowly circumstances. He grew up, both ordinary and unique, suffering the mundane challenges of human life. He resisted temptation and embarked on His mission, enlisting an unlikely crew of disciples. Fulfilling ancient prophecies, He preached a Gospel of repentance, forgave the humble, healed the sick, cast out demons, and turned the establishment on its head, making powerful enemies.


He endured the abandonment of those closest to Him, malicious envy and betrayal, scorn, ridicule, humiliation, physical torture, and descended into Hell to sample the eternal separation from God Hell is.


Then He died, uttering these words, “It is finished,” paying for our sins by His blood, purchasing eternal, blissful loving community with Him for all who believe.


Historians like Josephus and Tacitus documented Jesus. At this writing, 2.4 billion people call themselves Christians.


Let’s pause to marvel at this incredible gift of grace, available to all mankind. If you haven't already, receive this gift.


Eternal Resurrection Sunday is coming!


Warning...


Now, I’m going way out on a widely overlooked limb that was once clearly understood.


Please, please, please prayerfully consider what I’m sharing, research for yourself, search yourself, bring it to God in prayer, and come to your own conclusions.


This is a warning—an urgent warning—not only for those who currently reject Jesus altogether but also for those who would confidently call themselves Christians who may be deceived or deceptive.


We love the loving Jesus who died on the cross to atone for all our sins, according to the sacrificial system established by God. We love the Jesus who forgives us. Amen and thank You, Jesus. Yes.


But some of us have convenient Jesus, a la carte Jesus, a dangerously incomplete picture. This popular Jesus forgives sins we knowingly choose to indulge without remorse or excuse. A Jesus who does not speak words of warning of wrath and judgment to defiant believers and unbelievers alike. Please read the Gospel of Matthew if nothing else.


“It is finished” is not carte blanche to sin. It’s not a free-for-all or “license to sin,” as St. Paul warns.


I don’t like this image either. I don’t like to be afraid of God, even though the Bible says fear of God is the only sensible fear and the very beginning of wisdom--because He's God. And we're not.


Let’s face it: Even the mere mention of the word “sin” or “repentance” irritates and offends us, even in church.


It may feel really comfortable, even euphoric, to hang all our hope on a handful of verses that suggest we can accept Jesus and then do whatever we want without consequences, here or in eternity. If we say we're sorry or simply feel bad.


This isn’t what the Bible says, and the church reflected this reality for centuries before the great dilution began. I believe it’s past time to revisit our understanding.


Some of us overlook or trivialize sin. Some, like me, focus on the fact that sin has built-in consequences, which is absolutely true, as I’ve experienced first-hand. Many credible faithful now suggest that hell either doesn’t exist or that only 14 really wicked people go there. It just doesn’t “feel” like a loving God would send folks to hell. Well, strictly speaking, He’s not sending people to hell. They are choosing to refuse His unspeakable love-gift of Christ and choosing their own fate.


To illustrate the point, some people have tried hard to love me, to lavish me with gifts, and I wasn’t receptive. In fact, at times I intentionally rejected the love and gifts both. That’s entirely on me.


Like any good parent, God’s perfectly just love is reflected in His judgment of our sin, which so obviously deeply wounds us and others on a global scale. More than ever.


Many Christian traditions celebrate with soaring gratitude that this is what makes God’s gift of Christ’s saving grace so incredibly precious. YES! Priceless! So amazing. Knowing my persistent struggle with certain sins, my heart both aches at my failures and awe at His loving forgiveness when I repent, something Martin Luther said should be our default state 24/7.


Here is what Jesus Himself said in Matthew 7:


21 “Not everyone who says to me, ‘Lord, Lord,’ will enter the kingdom of heaven, but the one who does the will of my Father who is in heaven… 23 And then will I declare to them, ‘I never knew you; depart from me, you workers of lawlessness.’”


This is not the only place where Jesus, Paul or others speak of the potential of not entering God’s kingdom if we knowingly persist in sin without repenting (for instance, Galatians 5:16-21, or 1 Thessalonians 4:3-7) or reject Jesus altogether.


Having my own grievous sin revealed to me and witnessing both grievous and petty evils executed by avowed Christians repeatedly, wantonly, and without apparent repentance, I dug deeper still.


As I’ve continued to wrestle with this topic of “eternal security” or “once saved, always saved,” I found Hebrews 10:26-39, which is terrifyingly explicit.


26 “For if we go on sinning deliberately after receiving the knowledge of the truth, there no longer remains a sacrifice for sins, 27 but a fearful expectation of judgment, and a fury of fire that will consume the adversaries. 28 Anyone who has set aside the law of Moses dies without mercy on the evidence of two or three witnesses. 29 How much worse punishment, do you think, will be deserved by the one who has trampled underfoot the Son of God, and has profaned the blood of the covenant by which he was sanctified, and has outraged the Spirit of grace? 30 For we know him who said, “Vengeance is mine; I will repay.” And again, “The Lord will judge his people.” 31 It is a fearful thing to fall into the hands of the living God.” Hebrews 10:26-31 (ESV)

 

I have consulted very authoritative and thoughtful Protestant pastors and theologians who explain this passage as referring to 1) People who didn’t truly surrender to Jesus or 2) Rejecting the teaching of Jesus’s death being a one-and-done payment for our sins.


Since the author (Paul, Barnabas, or Apollos) is agonizingly clear, I wasn’t satisfied with these answers and the other protestant sources, so more digging.


Notably, only a very few denominations believe you can lose your salvation, but I found the most insightful and compelling position in Catholicism. I’m still unsure how I feel about mortal and venial (forgivable) sins. Please know that mortal sin only damns a person if they don’t repent. In a nutshell, the Catholic teaching on mortal sin outlines the following conditions:


1. Its subject matter must be grave. The Ten Commandments are offered as a guideline.


2. It must be committed with full knowledge (and awareness) of the sinful action and the gravity of the offense.


3. It must be committed with deliberate and complete consent. (adapted from Wikipedia).


I hope you can see how this reflects the warning implicit to Hebrews 10:26-31. I encourage you to read all of Hebrews 10 to get a complete picture of both the indescribable gift of costly grace we honor today and, conversely, the fatal offense of abusing it.


Again, know that this only leads to eternal separation from God if a person doesn’t repent. You can read more on the subject and biblical references at https://www.catholic.com/magazine/online-edition/mortal-and-venial-sin and https://www.vatican.va/content/catechism/en/part_three/section_one/chapter_one/article_8/iv_the_gravity_of_sin_mortal_and_venial_sin.html.


Know that this isn’t an invitation to witch hunt your sins or someone else’s or to flog yourself without mercy. It isn’t condemnation of people who are wrestling with addictions and minor offenses. Even St. Paul struggled with sin.


 If you don’t know you’re sinning or your conscience isn’t burdened, you needn’t worry.


Nor does this override salvation by grace and sanctification by Christ alone.


This is an urgent invitation, to those who are…

1) Christians who wantonly disregard God’s commands and are indifferent to their harm.

2) Suffering terrible anxiety who suspect it has something to do with their spiritual state

3) Trusting something—including good deeds or rituals--or someone other than Christ for your standing with God, or

4) Who have not yet trusted Christ at all.


If that’s you, please repent now. Confess your sins, turn from them, and accept Christ’s abounding love sacrifice, or face God’s purifying and potentially obliterating wrath. I fear, sometime very soon.


A sinner from way back when I’m not judging you. I’m not qualified to do that. Only God can judge any one of us. The point is He will.


There is absolutely nothing Jesus won’t forgive if we repent.


God loves us more than we can possibly imagine, and he would hate to lose a single one of us because we rejected Him.


I hope I’m wrong in my understanding. I really do.


PRAYER:
Jesus, I recognize that You are God and I am not. I know I’ve sinned against you, myself, and others. Thank you for your loving sacrifice on my behalf and the promise that if I believe in You, all my sins will be forgiven, and I will one day join you in heaven for eternity. I surrender my heart and life to you and ask you to transform me, to use me according to Your will, and to welcome me into Your eternal family. In Your name, I ask it. Amen.

P.S. If you’re wrestling with a sin you want to discuss without judgment or have questions about faith, please feel free to PM me.


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