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Salvation has never been acquired through atonement. Instead, being accepted by our Gods has always been a matter of soul attitude. Both Yahweh and Jesus teach this, and it’s quite easy to biblically demonstrate how we inherited our current obsession with atonement from misguided New Testament Jewish teachers (see Jesus vs. the NT Jews: What it Means to Please God). In the Church today, it’s all about atonement. We sing countless songs about how we’re “covered by the Blood” and we glorify Christ as the Lamb who atoned for the sins of the world. Well, glorifying Christ is certainly fabulous—as is glorifying Yahweh and the magnificent Holy Spirit. We certainly want to be loving, praising, and adoring our three glorious Creators, however problems arise when we talk as if the atoning Blood of Christ is the thing that saves us. It most certainly is not.
Jesus Himself never taught that we needed Him to die for our sins before we could get right with our Gods. On the contrary, Jesus taught that being accepted by our Gods was entirely a matter of how well we respond to Them on a soul level. Reverential submission, for example, is an attitude which is essential for acquiring salvation. Simply praising Jesus for covering your debt of sin isn’t going to get you to the point of reverential submission. After all, whose ego doesn’t love the idea of Jesus handing out free passes to Heaven? And by the time we make salvation all about atonement, then it becomes a simple matter of having your ticket punched by a God who is all sweetness and love. Well, no, simply snuggling up to Jesus as our Buddy isn’t good enough. We have to be submitting to Him, Yahweh, and the Holy Spirit as the Supreme Authorities that They are. You see, endless talk about the Blood isn’t going to get us where we need to be. This is precisely why Jesus died on a cross: to get atonement obsessed Jews to stop talking about atonement and return to a focus on soul attitude (see Beyond Atonement: Understanding the True Purpose of the Cross). Jesus’ death put the issue of atonement to rest once and for all. He said that He paid for the sins of the whole world, and yet most of the people in the world are on their way to Hell. Why? Because they’re not submitting to their Gods. It all comes back to soul attitude. And once you really understand this, you realize how irrelevant atonement really is.
WHO DOES GOD ACCEPT?
Now once we head down a wrong theological road, wrong assumptions and wrong perspectives are quick to form. Let’s use John as an example. Like all of us, John has problems, only his problems are expressing themselves in some rather shocking ways. John has rage issues and when he loses his temper, he beats people—especially his wife and kids. John also drinks, he’s hooked on porn, and he can’t stop fantasizing about torturing people. John’s a hurting mess, and yet despite his problems, John reaches a point in his life when he sincerely wants to please God. He starts going to church, and naturally when he’s there, he tries to hide evidence of how much he struggles. He listens far more than he talks, and while he’s listening, he learns that there is great power in the Blood of Jesus.
John is told that if he accepts Jesus as his Lord, then Jesus will wash all of John’s sins away and make John a “new creation in Christ.” Well, that sounds awesome. John is so ashamed of the mess that he is and of all of the awful things he’s done in the past. So he prays and he sincerely submits to his Creators. John’s soul attitude is right, but his theology is full of problems. Even though John is immediately accepted by Yahweh, Jesus, and the Holy Spirit, all of this talk about a holy God not being willing to abide in the presence of sin and of Jesus clearing John’s debt of sin has led John to the very wrong conclusion that God is only accepting the new, purified, sin-free John.
Well, the whole idea of being accepted by God gives John a short burst of joy, and for several weeks he doesn’t get into any major messes. But then the euphoria wears off, real life sets in, and after getting chewed out by the boss he is never able to please, John hits the bottle. When he goes home, his wife makes a condescending crack, and that’s all it takes for John to flip out. Suddenly he’s back to his old, ugly, messed up self again. Well, what does this mean? If a holy God can’t abide sin, then obviously God isn’t really willing to embrace all that John is. Because all of his teaching about God has emphasized the importance of atonement, John has come away feeling like God has somehow decided to ignore the depraved parts of John. Jesus’ Blood seems to be covering over the yuck parts of John like a shirt can hide some ugly rash from view. Well, once John is viewing God’s acceptance of him in this way, is it any wonder that John feels terribly insecure about God’s love for him? John feels like being “washed in the Blood” is somehow making him appear more perfect than he is. And yet John knows he isn’t perfect, so while John desperately wants to please God, it’s pretty hard to feel like the relationship is being built on a firm foundation if God is so busy staring at the Blood of Jesus that He’s refusing to acknowledge how messed up John really is.
Can you identify with John? After you nosedive into some ugly bout of nasty sin, how quickly do you get locked down with shame and guilt? Do you find yourself fearing that God is disgusted with you and no longer wanting you? Do you worry that you’ve shocked Him with how low you’ve sunk? Do you fear that your efforts to repent are falling on deaf ears because God has turned His holy back on you? These are the kinds of traps we fall into when we don’t have a proper understanding of who God is accepting at the time of salvation. Is God accepting who we really are, depravity and all, or is He only accepting some airbrushed version of us?
Get a glamour photo taken in which a computer is used to erase every flaw in your face and make you look like a movie star. Then go and meet a stranger who is expecting someone with that perfect face to show up. How do you feel when you come into view? You feel acutely aware of every flaw that was edited out of that glamour photo. You anxiously watch the stranger’s face for signs of negative surprise and disapproval. You feel embarrassed to have the real, unpolished you be seen, and you wish that you really did look like that glamour photo in real life.
Here’s a question that you need to give serious thought to: do you think God loves the real you or just an edited version of you? The answer is revealed in how you relate to God in the privacy of your own soul. Do you only pray when you feel like you’ve got your act together? Do you try to forget that God exists when you’re doing certain activities? Are there subjects that you never talk about with God because you find them too embarrassing or shameful? Do you talk like your normal self in your prayers, or are you carefully monitoring your choice of words and acting like you would in an important job interview? Do you feel like your negative actions make your desire to please God irrelevant? Do you think God cares more about your behavior than He does your internal desires? Do you think it means nothing to God that you really wish you could be better than you are? If you’re identifying with these signs of insecurity, then you need to realize that what you believe about salvation and how God judges you has a major impact on how secure you feel in your relationship with Him. The bottom line is that when you put your faith in lies, you end up in a place where you feel like God is very hard to please. And yet the truth is that God is extremely easy to please. So how do you beat these insecurities? You need to become better educated about how God views you and what He expects of you. How do you get that education? You ask God Himself to teach you.
YOU & GOD
Whenever there’s any problem, question, or concern about you and God in your mind, you need to start by asking Him directly to show you the truth. Even if you’re scared of what the truth might be, you need to ask God, because He’s the only One who can tell you the straight scoop. Relying on humans to interpret God for you is guaranteed to land you in a mess. The reality is that God has so much good news for the soul who sincerely cares about pleasing Him, and the sooner you start asking Him to teach you, the sooner you’ll be open to listening to what He wants to say.
It’s not that God isn’t already talking to you in your life, because He is. But when we think we already know the answers, we have a way of closing our minds to further instruction, especially information that counters what we think is right. Many souls in this world are struggling to press on under brick loads of shame and condemnation because they aren’t open to the idea of God’s truth being better than they think it is. Humans have filled their minds with lies about God being impossible to please or unwilling to talk to them, and instead of asking God directly and being open to Him countering the lies they’ve been told, these miserable souls have decided that whatever negative thing they’ve been told about God must be the truth, so they’re just going with it. Now certainly there are many truths about God which we humans will find disturbing. He is a lot more things than just love and grace. But the truth is that anyone who sincerely wants to succeed with God can do so because God makes succeeding with Him extremely easy to do.
If we could see your life from God’s perspective, we’d realize that things started off on a very positive note when He first created you. God chose every quality that you have. It’s not possible for you to turn into something that He didn’t give you the option to be. So while you might have a human father who is disappointed because you don’t like sports, or disgusted because you’re gay, or constantly criticizing your lack of skill in some area, who you are is not a disappointment to God. God chose your color, shape, size, gender, sexual orientation, preferences, talents, and everything else. If you’re no good at math, it’s because God withheld that kind of skill from you. He didn’t withhold it as some form of punishment. God is obsessed with variety, and He made us all different on purpose. He doesn’t want a world full of clones, He wants variation. So right from the beginning, we find a purposeful God eagerly choosing the unique combination of qualities that is you. Right from the beginning, everything about you was an intentional choice on God’s part, not some flaw. If you were born missing certain body parts, it’s because God didn’t give them to you on purpose. Now if a child is born without some important part, are we wrong to try and surgically add that part back in? Of course not. But we are wrong to tell the child that the fact that he was born with or without some feature is evidence that God doesn’t like or love him. Many parents say such things to their children, and it’s total garbage. God loves every human that He creates at the time that He creates them. None of us were designed as objects of wrath. None of us were mindlessly cranked out on some kind of assembly line. Your existence is a very personal thing to God, for He chose to bring you into being.
Now let’s fast forward to when you first became aware of God’s existence. How did that happen? It is God Himself who whispers insights to your soul and causes you to become aware of who He is. And at the time God was calling out to you, were you some perfect, sinless being? Of course not. By the time we can start grasping concepts about God, we’ve already had plenty of time to express our depravity. At a very young age, children begin to exercise their option to defy the authority figures in their lives, and the older we get, the more sinning we do. Maybe by the time you first started thinking about God, you’d done some very nasty things. Do you think He didn’t know this when He was calling out to you? Of course He did. He’s God—He knows everything.
We said earlier that the Church gets her obsession with atonement from the New Testament writers. In the Old Testament, there is far less of an emphasis on atonement. This is ironic, since the Old Testament is when the sacrificial system was most active. Yet if you read through the prophetic books in which Yahweh is constantly addressing the issue of spiritual rebellion, you’ll find that He isn’t commanding people to bring atonement sacrifices for their many sins. Instead, what we find Him saying over and over again is how much He wants people to change their attitudes towards Him. He wants people to repent out of their defiance and sincerely desire to please Him. It is wrong attitudes, not a lack of sacrifices, which Yahweh complains about over and over again. But then we come to the New Testament, where Jewish leaders have abandoned all concern for right attitudes and are instead fixating on religious rituals. These same Jewish leaders have also decided that Satan rules the world and that Yahweh is not as sovereign as Yahweh says He is in the Old Testament. The theology of the New Testament is a real departure from truth, and this is due to the fact that the bulk of the teaching in the New Testament was produced by humans who were just passing on their own wrong thoughts instead of humans who were accurately speaking for God.
HUMANS LEADING YOU ASTRAY
You can accurately speak a message from God without personally agreeing with what God is saying. We find this happening all the time with the Old Testament prophets. You’ll find Ezekiel, Habakkuk, Jonah, Amos, Jeremiah, and Isaiah all recording messages from Yahweh which they find personally disturbing. They then record their protests, and the end result is an informative contrast between the opinions of humans and the opinions of God. But when we get to the New Testament, there is very little prophecy. Instead, we find ourselves wading through all of those New Testament epistles in which the early apostles are spinning off all sorts of wrong teachings about who God is and how He operates. To help you appreciate how far astray they wander from truth, we’ve written many articles that demonstrate how the writings of the apostles directly counter the teachings of both Jesus and Yahweh. Well, the Church doesn’t want to admit that such a discrepancy exists, so she upholds the New Testament writings as infallible and hammers all of that wrong teaching into your head at every opportunity. As a result, you end up viewing God like a Father who you can shock and disappoint with your carnal shenanigans.
Because the New Testament writers reject the sovereignty of God, you end up rejecting it as well, and you think that God isn’t involved in your life when you’re looking at porn or doing drugs or sleeping around or wallowing in perverse fantasies. You see, an obsession with atonement often leads to the erroneous view that God and sin cannot have anything to do with each other. Sin becomes something that you do on your own apart from God, which you must later confess like the child who stole money from his mother’s purse without her knowing. Well, this is utterly absurd. As a human, you are dependent on God to sustain you every moment. You can’t make a move without Him, and He is intimately involved in every aspect of your life. There is no crime you can commit without His involvement and help. There is no sin you can commit without Him arranging a billion factors just so.
When we downplay God’s involvement in our lives, we end up compartmentalizing our lives into “God stuff” and “other stuff.” When we come to God for salvation, we’re ashamed of all the stuff that’s in our secret sin drawer, and then we think that being “covered in the Blood” means that God has agreed to forgive and forget all of the nasty things we’ve done. Well, no, God most certainly does not forget anything that we’ve done, and this is a very critical point to understand. For you see, when God accepts you, He accepts the real, complete you. He doesn’t accept you as a stranger whose background He has deleted from His files. God does not need to push your sins out of His conscious mind before He can eagerly embrace you. God doesn’t need to pretend you aren’t as bad as you are. God knows you inside and out, and it is the complete you who He chooses to accept and love.
THE SCOPE OF GOD’S ACCEPTANCE
Let’s talk about our friend John again. John has problems with rage, he beats his family, he’s an alcoholic, he’s a porn addict, and he’s a sadist. When he was younger, John was a bully who tormented many kids. He stole things and he assaulted several women. When John comes to God for salvation, if he thinks God is only accepting him because God is choosing to forget what a yuck John has been in the past, how secure is John going to be? John the soul who is eager to please God is being accepted, but John the bully, rapist, and thief is being rejected. See how it works? If John believes that he needs atonement to be saved because a holy God can’t stand being in the presence of sin, then John will be forced to conclude that God’s acceptance of him is only partial at best. God isn’t really embracing the depraved, violent, nasty side of John—no, God is pretending those parts of John don’t exist while He only smiles on John’s best side.
Well, how long is this happy time going to last? Not very, because soon John’s dark impulses will get the better of him again and he’ll do some terrible sin which he believes God will be totally shocked and repulsed by. Because you see, if God is only acknowledging the best side of John, then God can easily draw the wrong assumption that good little John is incapable of doing anything really nasty. This is how many souls view God today: they think that He doesn’t realize how carnal they can be. Think about it: if you really get that as your Creator, God knows everything about you, then where is the need to go hide under a rock once you do something really bad? Certainly you can surprise and disgust yourself, but you’ll never manage to surprise the God who knows you and who is so personally involved in every move you make.
Accurately understanding the scope of God’s acceptance of you is a critical issue. If God’s acceptance of you is partial, then you have no basis for security with Him, because it is guaranteed that you will sin every day, and at some point you’ll do something so bad that you won’t be able to keep on pretending that you’re a “good” person. But if God’s acceptance of you is total, then you will not have to fly into fear that He’s ready to hurl you away from Him every time you mess up.
Now acceptance and approval are two different things. Certainly God is never pleased when we are willfully defying Him, but a father being displeased with his son and a father disowning his son are two very different concepts. Once God accepts you, He will never cast you out. He will certainly discipline you if you get attitudinal with Him, but He will also judge you within the context of the resources that He knows you have. Unless you are totally puffed up on pride, you will find God to be a far more merciful judge of you than you are. We find many arrogant Jews in the Bible claiming moral perfection, and such fools were of course delusional and defiant to make such a claim. But for serious Christians, the fear of falling short of God’s expectations is the far more common issue and we spend an inordinate amount of time struggling to move on from our past mistakes. We find it enormously difficult to believe that God is as easy to please as He says He is, and we tend to obsess over all of the ways that we feel we’re falling short. An understanding of how complete God’s acceptance of us is can help to remedy these kinds of core insecurities.
When God accepts us, He doesn’t accept a cleansed version of us. He accepts us as we are, depravity and all, and His love for us is shockingly deep and enthusiastic. Yes, God is holy, but in the Church we have confused “holiness” with an inability to deal with sin (see Learning from Yahweh: What It Means To Be Holy). As the Creator of all things, God is no stranger to sin. He knows all about our dark lusts and depravity, and He finds loving on sinful humans to be a far more joyful and satisfying activity than we do. While it just takes one negative label to make us shrink back in disgust, God is never intimidated by labels, rap sheets, or secret desires. He knows us far better than we even know ourselves, and His love for us is a fully informed acceptance of all that we are. This is why you are in such a better position with God than you are with other humans: because with God, you are fully known and fully accepted.
With other humans, you are only partially known and running the risk of sudden rejection if they should find out certain things about you. It is only your own Creators—Yahweh, Jesus, and the Holy Spirit—who are glad to embrace you as a whole unit. Other humans only want to know certain aspects of you, and they expect you to keep your undesirable parts hidden. With humans, total honesty and the absolute baring of your soul is guaranteed to result in rejection. But with your Creators, total honesty on your part is welcomed and wanted.
Pursuing a relationship with the Ones who made you is an entirely different thing than trying to relate to your fellow humans. Your Gods want all of you, not just part of you, and They love you as you are. Certainly They want you to continuously grow and mature, but maturing is not something you must do to earn Their acceptance. From the beginning of the relationship, we are fully embraced, and we remain that way through every stage of growth. Certainly if we rebel against our Gods, there will be consequences, but for the Christian, those consequences will never entail being disowned or being told that we must somehow change our very nature or perfect some flaw that we have before we can regain acceptance.
It is a correct understanding of God’s total acceptance of him that will help our friend John start down the road of recovery and healing. As long as John thinks he must hide his struggles from God, he will remain stuck in guilt. As long as he thinks he must overcome his addictions and wounds in his own strength, he will spiral down into despair. But once he understands that he is fully accepted and loved just as he is, then John can begin to experience true peace of soul. Perhaps God will totally free John of some of his anchors, or perhaps John will always be hampered by certain problems. But either way, John will be able to find happiness by pursuing a closer walk with a God who fully accepts him. It is understanding how fully God accepts him that will help John to be more honest with God than he is with anyone else. A correct understanding of how God views him will help John be receptive to listening to God without fear of being rejected. And of course the more John talks to God and looks for God’s leading in his life, the more confident John will become of God’s personal care of him, and the more peace John will find in the midst of his struggles.
When some of the people at John’s church find out that he beats his kids, they begin to shun him. But God still accepts John and God says that John’s future is filled with exciting potential and hope if John will stay in alignment with God. When other people write John off, God is going to be the One urging John to focus on His opinion instead and not let the judgments of humans control John’s decision making process.
It is God who sees beauty in us when all we see is ugliness. It is God who guides us with great purpose when we feel utterly lost. It is God who fills our futures with hope and turns our bad choices into positive spiritual lessons that we can greatly benefit from. Because God fully accepts us and deeply loves us, we have great cause for joy in life. Because pleasing God is a matter of soul attitude and not one of atonement, we are freed up to focus on the relationship instead of focusing on our sins. Certainly Jesus died on a cross for the sins of the world—but His purpose was to free us up from striving to overcome our own depravity and thinking that we could only earn God’s approval through moral perfection. It has always been about soul attitude, and when we sincerely submit to our Gods and ask Them to have Their total way in our lives, that is what we will have.
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Understanding the Love of God: The Five Versions of You
Repentant Sinners: Is it wrong to stop feeling bad about the past?