Is The Christian Life Really All About Passing Tests?

Is The Christian Life All About Passing Tests?

If So, Maybe I’m Ready To Turn In My Answer Sheet And Just Take A Failing Grade

For many years, I thought the Christian life worked like this.

  • You are born spiritually blind.
  • Somehow you get your spiritual sight.
  • Somehow you get your faith.
  • Then for the rest of your life, your faith is tested through trials.
  • These tests determine your eternal destiny.

Life is a big series of tests, and those tests are graded. You have to use your faith to pass your life tests, just like you have to use your knowledge to pass your school tests. If you fail a life test, you need more faith.

Now after what feels like way too many years, I’m not so sure about all of that.

Yes, James wrote about the trying of our faith being good for us. (James 1:3) But is that all this is about?

Yes, Jesus was tempted in the wilderness. (Matthew 4:1-11, Mark 1:12-13, Luke 4:1-13) Yes, Jesus passed those tests.

But was His life…and is my life…really only about passing tests? If not, what then?

Honestly, I’m weary from taking tests.

From the very beginning of the Bible, it looks like life is all about taking tests. The Tree of Knowledge of Good and Evil was a one-question test. We see the results. Their first-born son, Cain, had a one-question test too. God even told him how to pass the test, and yet he failed. [1]

If thou doest well, shalt thou not be accepted? and if thou doest not well, sin lieth at the door. And unto thee shall be his desire, and thou shalt rule over him. (Genesis 4:7 KJV)

In other words, God said to Cain before he killed Abel, his younger brother, “Sin is trying to get you, but you can rule over sin.”

This has always perplexed me.

We’ve been taught how Jesus made us free from the power of sin and death. Through the Holy Spirit, we can resist the temptation to sin. But God is saying this to Cain before Jesus was born and before the Holy Spirit was given to believers in Jesus.[2]

It does sound as if God is saying to Cain, “You can actually do this on your own power.” But doesn’t that make the Cross of Christ unnecessary? And if so, wouldn’t Christ have suffered and died in vain? (Galatians 2:21)

These tests that I’m writing about aren’t ones like “Should I kill my brother?”

That is a relatively easy test, except Jesus took that test to a whole new level. [3] He said just being angry at someone and calling them names is the same as murdering them in your heart. (Matthew 5:21-22)

So I’m wondering if this is the kind of thing Jesus was talking about when He said, “You can do nothing without me”? (John 15:5) I can’t change my heart on my own. If I can do nothing without Jesus, what is the something I can do with Jesus?

What if there really is only one big test, not a series of little tests? If there really is only one big test, maybe it has only ONE BIG QUESTION.

What is the “something” I can do with Jesus?

That wouldn’t be such a bad test to take over and over again since I’m not doing it all on my own but with Jesus.

Is The Christian Life All About Passing Tests?

Footnotes and other not necessarily important items…

[1] To me, it’s not important to debate whether these were actual biographical accounts of real people or mythical accounts created and refined over time. Either way, I believe these stories reveal truths about the human condition. It would be unwise to dismiss the underlying truths simply because one believed the story itself is purely fiction.

[2] An idea came to me while pondering the words of God to Cain before posting this. I will give this more thought and hopefully will be able to share soon.

[3] Actually Jesus took just about every major test to a whole new level. I think this is mainly to emphasize none of us can pass life’s tests and achieve righteousness on our own.

A Different Kind Of Annunciation

A Different Kind Of Annunciation

A Very Dangerous Bible Commentary on John 1:12–13

Several recent writings here have ended with a reference to John 1:12-13 without any real commentary. Perhaps if you’ve been following along you’ve wondered, “Where’s the very dangerous commentary?”

Well, this is it. For you, this may be a yawn and a click or swipe to the next item, and I get that. I really do. I’m not trying to convince anyone I’m right about anything. Here is the main idea of what I think this passage means to me.

Jesus entered my world the same way I entered His world…by the power of the Holy Spirit.

Remember this commentary is dangerous only for me. I’m not trying to convince anyone I’m right about anything. I only want to see what God’s Word is saying to me and what that means for me in my thoughts and actions. The dangerous part for me is giving up old ways.

Here is the text of John 1:12-13 in the King James.[1]

But as many as received him, to them gave he power to become the sons of God, even to them that believe on his name: Which were born, not of blood, nor of the will of the flesh, nor of the will of man, but of God. (John 1:12-13)

The “Who” and “What People Did”

But as many as received him…even to them that believe on his name

It’s important to realize that the words “as many as received him” refers to the Jewish people while Jesus walked among them. (The preceding verses tell about how Jesus came to his own people.) This. Is also not the same “receive” as when we hear some use the wording “receive Jesus into your heart.” [2]

To me, this points to two groups: the Jews and the Gentiles. It’s very much like when the Israelites (the Jews) left captivity in Egypt. There was a mixed multitude (the Gentiles) following along with them. Some even officially joined the Israelites once the Law was given. So really what comes next applies to anyone: the Jewish people who would have received Him as one of their own or the Gentile people who would have believed on His name.

God is saying, “I don’t care if you were born into my old special group or did all of the requirements to join my old special group. Those things don’t matter any more.”

So I need to stop looking at where people came from and how they were born. I need to stop looking at whatever groups people were naturally born into (outside of their control). I need to stop looking at whatever groups people chose for themselves (within their control). There is going to be only one group that God sees any more.

Saying “I was born this way” doesn’t get you anything. Think about that when it comes to being straight or gay.

Saying “I made myself like these other favored people” doesn’t get you anything either. Think about that when it comes to being Catholic or Protestant, a Conservative Christian or a Progressive Christian…or regarding gay conversion therapy.

The “What God Did”

to them gave he power…to become the sons of God

Power is a great thing, and I appreciate that this power is not something that I have to generate myself. Once I read this as “power to become but only to become…you might mess it up if you aren’t careful.” That is looking at God’s power as it it was my power, but if it comes from God, then like everything else coming from God, it will be successful.

God is saying, “I’m going to give you power to become my children, and my power accomplishes what I want. What I want is for you to be My child. I’m making a new special group. They are going to be My Children, not the children of Abraham, not the children of Israel. My Children. There are no more Insiders. There are no more Outsiders. There are no more families or tribes or nations. There is only My Children.”

So I need to stop seeing divisions, don’t I? And maybe I need to realize God isn’t going to change everything about the people I disagree with just the same as He isn’t going to change everything about me?

The “How God Did NOT Do It”

Without these “NOT’s,” it can be easy to misunderstand what that whole “power to become” is all about.

not of blood

God is saying, “My Children aren’t going to be about what you’re like on the outside or what you’re like on the inside. Your DNA when you were physically born does not matter at all. It’s all in what I’m going to do. How you were born on the outside or the inside makes no difference to Me. I’m giving you My Spiritual DNA. When you see Me, you will say, ‘That’s My Daddy!’ because that’s a part of your spiritual DNA.”

nor of the will of the flesh

God is saying, “You can’t become one of My Children by making yourself one, no matter how hard you try. There are no special words you can say and no special acts you can perform to make yourself one of My Children. It’s all in what I am going to do. What you decide to make yourself or not make yourself makes no difference to me.”

nor of the will of man

God is saying, “You can’t become one of My Children because someone else made you one or forced you to say some special words or do some special acts. It’s all in what I am going to do. What someone else forces you to do makes no difference to me.”

I can’t boast about being part of any religious group with all of the right answers. (Is there is such a group?) I can’t boast about anything. Nothing I choose to be or not be, nothing I choose to do or not do makes a difference when it comes to being God’s Child.[3]

The “How God Did It”

Which were born…of God.

God is saying, “This is going to be My doing from beginning to end. This world is a womb for who you will become as my child. You have been conceived by my Spirit, just as Jesus was conceived by my Spirit. My Word is the seed. My word does not return to Me void. It will accomplish my will. My will is for you to be My Child. I will make you stand. I will complete the good I have started in you. I will relentlessly love you.”

What This Radical View Of Life Means To Me

Jesus was conceived into the physical world…by the Holy Spirit. (Matthew 1:18, Luke 1:35)

This is exactly the same way you were conceived into the spiritual word…by the Holy Spirit. (John 3:6-8)

Jesus was a creation of God within the womb of Mary. He moved from the spiritual world to the physical world by the power and working of the Holy Spirit. We are a creation of God within the womb of this world. We moved from the physical world to the spiritual world by the power and working of the Holy Spirit.

In Jesus and through the Cross Of Christ, both and all worlds meet.

A Different Kind Of Annunciation

Footnotes and other not necessarily important items…

[1] For many people, the King James Version seems outdated. I choose to use it here for one main reason: it is the version used most often…and wrongly…to clobber people.

[2] The concept of “asking Jesus into your heart” (or “inviting” or “receiving”) is one I’ve heard from an early age, yet I’m finding little to support this in the Bible. The concern I have is how these words make it appear that a person is in control of God’s actions in their own life.

[3] This includes those who would say “At least I’m not gay.” If someone was born straight, how is that something to brag about? We are not born with righteousness.

Because I’ve recently come to see the first portion of John’s Gospel (John 1:1–18) as a different kind of Annunciation passage, I have paired it with a contemporary painting of the Annunciation by John Collier.

If you are interesting in learning more about this painting from the artist himself, watch this video.

Why “Rethinking God’s Word For The Rest Of Us”?

Why "Rethinking God's Word For The Rest Of Us"?

Understanding Who This Is For

Although you almost have to have a tagline with WordPress, this is just another way of saying what I am trying to do here.

“Rethinking God’s Word” is carefully examining what I’ve been told that God’s Word says. (Sometimes people tell us wrong things.) It is also being aware that my mental processes and heartfelt beliefs may influence what I’ve told myself that God’s Word says. (Sometimes we tell ourselves wrong things.)

“For The Rest Of Us” is anyone who feels left out, who you might call “Outsiders.” Jesus has always reached out to the “Outsiders,” even though He was as much of an “Insider” as anyone could ever be! Just thinking about that makes me ridiculously joyful in being an “Outsider.”

This is an example of what I want to avoid.

We know that God does not listen to sinners, but he does listen to one who worships him and obeys his will. (John 9:31 NRSV)

Although the words “God does not listen to sinners” are indeed in the New Testament, if not understood properly, these words can be terribly misused to alienate and harm people. The entire Chapter 9 tells the whole wonderful story of the removal of blindness.

God does not hate you. You are not going to hell.

I hope that the words found here will help to remove my blindness and yours as well.

Thanks For Reading,

Gracie’s Dad

Why "Rethinking God's Word For The Rest Of Us"?

Why A “Very Dangerous” Bible Commentary?

Why A “Very Dangerous” Bible Commentary?

Understanding What This Is All About

This Bible Commentary is very dangerous for me because I feel compelled to bring my life in line with whatever I write. These words cause me to look more deeply into my heart. These words challenge me to make my words and actions more fully reflect my heart. This is my exercise in writing what I believe and how my beliefs should determine my actions.

You should not feel this same compulsion. None of this is written from the standpoint of “you must believe this”or “you must do this.” We are each responsible for our beliefs and actions, and so nothing that I write here should be taken as my saying to you, “This is the way. Walk in it.” [1]

Yet I would not be much of a writer if I did not speak with a certain amount of conviction, and you would become weary of an endless repetition of “in my opinion” and “it seems to me” and “to me.”

In no way do I intend “Very Dangerous” to mean anything close to hacking myself or anyone else to pieces with God’s Word. To do so would be a wrong interpretation of the two-edged sword metaphor. [2]

Thanks For Reading,

Gracie’s Dad

Why A “Very Dangerous” Bible Commentary?

Footnotes and other not necessarily important items…

[1] Isaiah 30:21 These words should be reserved for God, though perhaps something that you read here will be in accord with what He has been telling you already.

[2] Hebrews 4:12 There are some who believe if they assault someone with scripture, it will cause them to repent and turn to God. This type of attack rarely glorifies God by producing a changed life. The only real “fruit” (if you can call it that) is a heightened sense of self-righteousness. “I told them, so if they burn in Hell forever, it’s their own fault.” (I am speaking from personal experience as one who has been hacked and also done the hacking.)