Monday, October 31, 2005

The Four Spiritual Laws Revisited

Below is my attempt to summarize God's message to mankind using the motif of the "Four Spiritual Laws". I believe, though there is much I have still to learn, that these more accurately summarize four essential points from Scripture which I would want to convey to someone if it was necessary to condense into four concepts. To review the original Four Spiritual Laws, please visit here. Here is what I offer as a more Biblical version:

1. God is Holy and perfect and set apart from everything else. He exists outside of this world and remains untainted by any of it. His eternal character is pure and without blemish or defect, and His commitment to His own name and dominion and justice is unswerving.

2. God made everything, including you, and has rights over you to prescribe how you ought to be. As your Maker, He has the right to order how you ought to love Him, worship Him, and love others and express that love to them.

3. We have all rebelled against God and sought our own way, and God is perfectly just to condemn us and consider us as enemies. In fact, God has told us that His holy wrath hangs over sinners, that we are cursed, and that there is a day when He will judge the world in righteousness.

4. God, in His abundant mercy, has sent into the world a Mediator, the only Savior for sinners, His Son, the Lord Jesus Christ, to live righteously, suffer and die, and rise from the grave in order to secure salvation and pardon and righteousness before God so that, as He has promised, everyone who believes in Him shall be saved. He tells us all to forsake our way of rebellion against Him with our pretended righteousness and trust solely and completely in what Jesus has done to make us right and acceptable before God.

Why I do not begin with "God loves you"

There are a number of reasons for why I do not start out with God's love for us. God's love is very real, but let me list a few reasons why I don't feel it is generally the place we are to begin.

First, the New Testament models given to us for the proclamation of the Gospel do not start with "God loves you". The book of Romans, for example, which is Paul's magnum opus, the Gospel in detailed terms, does not begin with God's love. It begins with a very grim picture of humanity in relation to a Holy and Righteous God.

Second, our problem is not that we are ignorant of God's love. Most anyone you meet on the street that admits to believing in God's existence will also confess that God loves us. There are always exceptions, like with people who feel God has wronged them, but overall even your most ardent pagan will affirm, as they continue on in thier rejection of His majesty, that God loves them and everybody else just the same. God's love is not missing in our thoughts -it is taken for granted. We presume upon it dangerously. We often flatter ourselves with the idea of God's love, almost as though God is here to serve us and be a doting Grandfather to us rather than us serve Him and give Him all of our love and adoration. Have we, in fact, considered that pure and justified wrath awaits us rather than love and comfort?

Third, God's Word reveals a picture that is far more sobering than a warm and fuzzy feeling of God's love. It prefaces the Gospel and gives it context. Without knowing this the ground does not receive the seed. If we are not aware of our hunger, why do we really need the Bread of Heaven? If we do not believe we are sinners who cannot save ourselves, then why do we need Christ Jesus who died for sinners? If we are not all that weary and heavy-laden under the burden of our sin, then why would we ever go to Him for rest? We would not. Many times we proclaim God's message and overlook this fact. It is almost as though we try to guilt people into "accepting Jesus" by painting a pitiful picture of God as One who had such high hopes for us but we really let Him down. Now He is trying to fix everything, but He needs our help -so we should do the right thing and help Him out. The result is a message in which we are called to accept Jesus almost out of pity for Him (like that kid on the team that always gets picked last) while the contrary is actually the truth -He has pitied us!

Fourth, if a mention of God's love is meant to underscore God's free mercy for all who come to Him, then we should just say that. And with this we come back to the same issue as before. What good is the mention of mercy to one who is confident they don't have to absolutely depend upon it? Is that even a place to begin? God's message to us throughout the whole Bible has God remaining on His throne forever. His message alone is a condescension as it is for the simple fact that He would be perfectly just to leave us all without it. There was no rule that said God must grant us the special revelation in the Bible, and there was certainly no constraint upon God to require that He save anyone from the justice they deserve.

What I find attractive in the Four Spiritual Laws but how that attraction tapers off quickly

First, I can appreciate the need to summarize into an easily memorized guide for the dissemination of God's message. It makes it much easier to remember and discuss to have four bulleted points listed in a step-wise manner. It makes it organized, formulaic, simple. It attempts to pick out the essential points of the message. But my appreciation lessens, somewhat, because I see the danger of simplifying the message into a neat little package. Can the message be reduced to a formula? I see good and bad in this. Might there be something missing? When we see Jesus in His ministry, it does not take long to notice that He did not deal with every man in the same exact way, and perhaps we should not. Would we deal with a proud and hardened person, one who rejects the notion that God is just to condemn them or who believes that he is perfectly able to achieve God's favor through his own holy living, in the same way as we would a broken sinner begging God for mercy by telling them that God loves them "thiiiiiissssss much"? It doesn't seem that Jesus did. But again, perhaps as a general guide and summary of the whole scope of God's message it is a useful thing to have.

Second, I see that there is an emphasis upon God's love and how sin has cut us off from experiencing it. Therefore, being redeemed and reconciled to God in Christ brings along the connotation of a restored relationship. In other words, being saved and adopted as a son means you get God. He is our prize. I like that very much because it is true. He becomes our Treasure whom we enjoy forever. However, I am convinced that no man cares about this apart from the Holy Spirit. Telling an unbeliever that they are missing out on God is like telling a shoebox that it is missing out on breathing... or perhaps more accurately it is like telling one of us that we are missing out on the pleasures of cannibalism. The human problem is not that we don't know what we are missing -it is that we don't want what we are missing.

In closing, I don't want to jump on the bandwagon of people who bash the Four Spiritual Laws, but I hope that perhaps this gives place to discussion and thought regarding them. I am sure God has graciously used them to bring many to Himself, and praise God for that. I am not trying to say God is unable to use our feeble means and even perversions to save. I am not saying that those who use the Four Spiritual Laws are lesser brothers in Christ. I am simply saying that if our concern is to glorify God, which should actually be one of our primary motives in evangelism, then we will want to proclaim His message as accurately as we can. What I have attempted to do here is revisit the Four Spiritual Laws and modify them in a way that maintains the basic form and simplicity while adjusting them to include more Biblical content. And after all, it is God's Word that does not return to Him void, so it behooves us greatly to be sure the message we proclaim is from it. But with all of this, maybe I'm just nuts!

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