Fear and The Keys to God’s Kingdom

The Fear Doctrine: Individual Salvation

Save us from the fireThe greatest perversion of God’s love, word and grace is the doctrine of individual salvation. Instead of teaching the biblical principles of radical and final grace for all (which are key to transforming our lives from self-centered fear-inundated creatures of the world, into fearless God-centered disciples of The Kingdom of God), we are taught that our salvation is something we can lose. Or even worse, something we need to earn. Not all churches and denominations teach this overtly. But it is an insidious concept, and it often will worm its way into the life of a church without the conscious effort of the clergy. Just a hint of Hell here, a “dirty outsider” reference there… and the seeds of fear are planted in the hearts of the believer.

This subtle shift in salvation philosophy lays the groundwork for spiritual segregation, xenophobia, distrust of the community at large… and even separation from God. How? If salvation is conditional, then the greatest perceived dangers for the individual believer are the influence and actions of everyone else. They think, “I can at least try to control my thoughts and actions. But everyone else…?” And when we start to distrust God’s creation, we begin to doubt God which, over time, creates a calloused and cynical heart.

Additionally, if a leader can convince a community of people that not only is salvation conditional, but he/she and their greater organization are the only gatekeepers to to their salvation… well, that’s a hell of an effective way to build a structure of power and control.

Ultimately, the concept of individual salvation instills fear in the heart of the believer. And to know fear is to not fully know God.

1 John 4

8.  Whoever does not love does not know God, for God is love.

18.  There is no fear in love, but perfect love casts out fear; for fear has to do with punishment, and whoever fears has not reached perfection in love.

The Cost of Fear: The Kingdom Never Comes

Because the fear-filled believer now doubts their own salvation, instead of living for The Kingdom, The Way of Christ is systematically reduced to an excuse for even more self-centered living.

Generally, with a  life focused on one’s personal salvation comes a dishonest and foolish adherence to The Law of God.

Why is a Christian who claims to observe the Law of God dishonest? Because we are selective about which of the laws we will choose to follow, and which of the laws we will insist that others follow.

Galatians 3 (ref. Deuteronomy 27.26)

10.      For all who rely on the works of the law are under a curse; for it is written, “Cursed is everyone who does not observe and obey all the things written in the book of the law.”

Why is a Christian who claims to observe the Law of God foolish? Because NO ONE is capable of adhering to all of The Law, which is the entire point to being justified by The Law. You have to do all of it, which no man, woman or child is capable of.

Galatians 5

4.  You who want to be justified by the law have cut yourselves off from Christ; you have fallen away from grace.

This “clean vs. unclean”, “chosen people vs. the outsiders” cultural and spiritual zeitgeist is precisely what Jesus was battling. This is precisely why GOD ACTED. If we all receive salvation, then we are all be made equal. And if the “reward” is the same, then there is nothing to lose or gain for a believer’s right or wrong action (or inaction).

Matthew 20

1.      “For the kingdom of heaven is like a landowner who went out early in the morning to hire laborers for his vineyard.
2.      After agreeing with the laborers for the usual daily wage, he sent them into his vineyard.
3.      When he went out about nine o’clock, he saw others standing idle in the marketplace;
4.      and he said to them, ‘You also go into the vineyard, and I will pay you whatever is right.’ So they went.
5.      When he went out again about noon and about three o’clock, he did the same.
6.      And about five o’clock he went out and found others standing around; and he said to them, ‘Why are you standing here idle all day?’
7.      They said to him, ‘Because no one has hired us.’ He said to them, ‘You also go into the vineyard.’
8.      When evening came, the owner of the vineyard said to his manager, ‘Call the laborers and give them their pay, beginning with the last and then going to the first.’
9.      When those hired about five o’clock came, each of them received the usual daily wage.
10.      Now when the first came, they thought they would receive more; but each of them also received the usual daily wage.
11.      And when they received it, they grumbled against the landowner,
12.      saying, ‘These last worked only one hour, and you have made them equal to us who have borne the burden of the day and the scorching heat.’
13.      But he replied to one of them, ‘Friend, I am doing you no wrong; did you not agree with me for the usual daily wage?
14.      Take what belongs to you and go; I choose to give to this last the same as I give to you.
15.      Am I not allowed to do what I choose with what belongs to me? Or are you envious because I am generous?’
16.      So the last will be first, and the first will be last.”

In our equality before God (and our explicit understanding of it) lies the key to fearless living. We should all be empowered to live a life where any concern of “self” is obliterated because the ultimate human fear, the fear of death, is obliterated. Because GOD ACTED we are all saved if we die. And nothing can take that grace from us:

Romans 8

38.      For I am convinced that neither death, nor life, nor angels, nor rulers, nor things present, nor things to come, nor powers,
39.      nor height, nor depth, nor anything else in all creation, will be able to separate us from the love of God in Christ Jesus our Lord.

Because GOD ACTED, we are now free to live a life fully centered in creating Kingdom of God, and not centered in our own fears for our personal salvation. We are free to fearlessly observe the Great Commandments at any cost (even death), which are the keys to unlocking the Kingdom on earth as in heaven:

Matthew 22

28.      One of the scribes came near and heard them disputing with one another, and seeing that he answered them well, he asked him, “Which commandment is the first of all?”
29.      Jesus answered, “The first is, ‘Hear, O Israel: the Lord our God, the Lord is one;
30.      you shall love the Lord your God with all your heart, and with all your soul, and with all your mind, and with all your strength.’

31.      The second is this, ‘You shall love your neighbor as yourself.’ There is no other commandment greater than these.”
32.      Then the scribe said to him, “You are right, Teacher; you have truly said that ‘he is one, and besides him there is no other';
33.      and ‘to love him with all the heart, and with all the understanding, and with all the strength,’ and ‘to love one’s neighbor as oneself,’– this is much more important than all whole burnt offerings and sacrifices.”
34.      When Jesus saw that he answered wisely, he said to him, “You are not far from the kingdom of God.” After that no one dared to ask him any question.
35.      While Jesus was teaching in the temple, he said, “How can the scribes say that the Messiah is the son of David?

In order to to bring (or manifest) the Kingdom on Earth, we must begin to show the world what the Kingdom of God looks like. And as long as a fear of death, a greed for salvation, and a distrust of our brothers and sisters of this world pervade the actions and spirit of our daily lives, The Kingdom will never be manifest. For far too long, Christians have heard the good news, realized the radical grace God offers all of us, and then failed to act.

GOD ACTED, now we must act as well, and fearlessly usher in the Kingdom of God on earth as it is in Heaven. Through fearless and selfless love we can do just that, finally and forever. Amen?

James 1

22.      But be doers of the word, and not merely hearers who deceive themselves.
23.      For if any are hearers of the word and not doers, they are like those who look at themselves in a mirror;
24.      for they look at themselves and, on going away, immediately forget what they were like.
25.      But those who look into the perfect law, the law of liberty (freedom), and persevere, being not hearers who forget but doers who act– they will be blessed in their doing.

<— Previous Post: Is Everyone Saved? . . .  Next Post: The Kingdom on Earth–>

Trig Bundgaard About Trig Bundgaard

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Grace and peace to you!

Romans 5
"18. Therefore just as one man's trespass led to condemnation for all, so one man's act of righteousness leads to justification and life for all.
19. For just as by the one man's disobedience the many were made sinners, so by the one man's obedience the many will be made righteous."

Comments

  1. Great post Trig!
    Biblical and sound.
    The Kingdom of God is where it’s at, and where I serve too.
    Blessings,
    Debra

    http://debrasblogpureandsimple.blogspot.com

  2. Some people need to peer over the precipice of heaven to take delight in the contortions of the damn in hell in order for heaven to be heaven!! There is no question in my mind that hell keeps us fear based and some think that is a good thing, but I disagree. But, one must deal with scripture and passages addressing the subject. I tried to address the issue of hell on the link below, see “What About Hell” and “Hell On Earth”.

    I appreciate your thoughts on the idea of individual salvation being a problem in keeping us fear based. Yet, if people were to really fear hell, they would be more eager to feed the hungry, give drink to the thirsty, etc. as we see in the last judgment scene. That and the Rich Man and Lazarus have Jesus ascribing hell to those who do not fulfill the social gospel. However, there seems to be less interest in doing this – seen in the rejection of many Christians in the social gospel, universal health care, etc. Yet, these same folks would probably be strong advocates of individual salvation and damnation, but have absolved themselves of the possibility of damnation for themselves, particularly when it comes to the social Gospel.

    • Robert’s wonderful “attempts (as he calls them)” to address the subject of Hell are at:

      What about Hell?
      Hell on Earth

      I really appreciate and enjoyed your work here, Robert (especially anything with Ole and Lena!). Very well done, and lighthearted (something I may need to bring a little more of on epochalypsis.org!).

      However, in regards to your thought above:

      Yet, if people were to really fear hell, they would be more eager to feed the hungry, give drink to the thirsty, etc. as we see in the last judgment scene.

      I am very hesitant to even wish for anyone to fear Hell, even if the “ends justify the means” in terms of accomplishing the social gospel.

      Jesus admonished us, “You must be compassionate, just as your Father is compassionate.” In my opinion, any kind of fear based coercion of others, even to manifest a positive outcome in this world is not from God.
      Jesus wants coercion, but by the means of grace. In whole, as a nation of believers, if we were to give an outward example to the world of what living in gratitude and being fully centered in God looks like, then we can accomplish all the goals you listed above, but in a way that furthers an understanding of grace and God’s love.

  3. This is beautiful. This is why we love God, is it not? Great post, do I have permission to post this on facebook (with full credit to you of course) so some of my good friends are able to read how awesome this is.

    Ikkstans

  4. Jeff Elvis says:

    Wow this is truly powerful!!!! I am on a journey, a long journey with how I believe about my God and my Religion, and I can no longer follow the “A” typical Christian messages that seem to want to put us in a box. But it’s messages like yours that release people from the box that we are in. Thank you…..

    • Thanks, Jeff. But it’s not my message. It’s God’s! This is not a new revelation, a new prophecy… I’m just taking a new look at what’s been there for thousands of years.
      But nonetheless, thank you. It means the world to hear these writings are meaningful to others.

  5. Sundragon says:

    I’m jumping around in your blog here, reading various posts in no particular order, and when I read this, it terrifies me. To know that God loves me so very unreservedly, as undeserving as I am, is….kinda scary! It’s like a tsunami to end all tsunamis. I don’t know how to explain this. It’s like nothing of this earth/this life and thus nothing my puny little mind can comprehend. If His love was light, it would put the sun and the brightest of stars to shame. It can be overwhelming. And I am so very unworthy of this. How to handle this?? How to respond to this??

    • Your attempts to describe this reality of God are wonderful, Sundragon. Thank you!
      How to handle this reality? I have no idea. I don’t think there is a deep or profound enough response to the truth of God unconditional love for us all.
      But I would recommend trying on gratitude and imitation for a start. Every first breath in the morning, every smile, every hug, even every stranger… try to communicate a sense of gratitude to the world to the glory and honor of God.
      Imitation being the highest form of flattery, is also an act of honor to God. Try to love the world as wholly and as selflessly as God loves you. Even if others don’t deserve it or want it, love them anyway.
      Gratitude and love.

  6. Romans 10:9-10 is an inconvenient truth to your beliefs in the collective salvation you embrace. This passage tells exactly how to be individually saved. Your collective salvation message while certainly a feel good message is not biblical. Your opening sentence is inaccaurate from the very start. The greatest perversion of God’s love is found in your verse Gal 3:10 that you quote. To think you can keep the law in any sense and gain favor with God totally steps all over God’s grace. But, make no mistake…salvation is not a group project. Every man/woman shall be judged on whether they have a relationship with Jesus Christ or not. Other than being a witness to you…salvation is only achieved as a person is drawn by the Holy Spirit to faith in Christ.

    • So what of the little boy in another country that never hears the gospel and dies? Is he damned to hell forever because your God is so powerless that that little boy has never heard of Jesus?

  7. Hi Trig,
    I am really impressed. It sounds well to me. Is Christian Universalism just an idea/approach/teaching/whatever, or do we have communities around?
    Also, if you can answer one question that still bothers me, what Jesus had in mind when he was talking about hell himself? or in the book of Revelation? Well, personally I agree with you. But my arguments based on historical/philosophical approach. Can you reconcile Jesus’ citations about hell and common sense (eternal hell and God’s love cannot coexist)
    Thanks in advance

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  1. […] read my earlier post in the “Walking the Way of Christ” series Fear and the Keys to God’s Kingdom for more insight into how God’s grace through Christ eradicates fear in our […]

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