By Rev. Mark Hunnemann
Chris- "Good morning!"
Bill- "Hey Chris!...uhh, where are we?"
Chris-"In a computer! Wanna know how we got here?"
Bill- "Nope...just happy to see you again. You are patient with my questions. This has been on my mind since last time...umm."
Chris- "Why are you hesistant my friend; usually you just ask away?...which I admire about you...you really seem to be an honest seeker of truth."
Bill- "Thanks man...I DO want to know the truth, but the more we talk about it, there is something bothering me. I see that since Jesus claimed to be God, I can't just act like He is merely another good man. But I just don't like the exclusive claims bit."
Chris- "You mean, like where Jesus said, ":I am the way, the truth, and the life; nobody comes to the Father but through Me."?"
Bill- "Yea, that's it. Please don't get mad at me, but why is He so narrow? You showed me last time it was Jesus, and not you Christians, who created the narrowness. You are just following what He said. Sooo...why is your loving God so intolerant. There..I said it."
Chris- "And I'm glad you did, and no, I'm not angry at all. It is a question alot of people have. Can I tell you a story?"
Bill- "We're in a computer Chris, remember? You can do whatever you want...but sure, if you think it will answer my question"
Chris- "Haha, you're right! This is an Imagine story. Sit back, close your eyes, my friend, and imagine this...."
Bill- "Hold on a minute; you're not getting New Agey on me, are you?"
Chris-"Hehehehe...naw man! God created the imagination...it is....holy.We can talk about biblical meditation another time...
Imagine there existed for all eternity a self-existent and eternal God. He is perfectly happy and perfectly holy. Since He is a Trinity of Persons He never gets lonely; infinite devotion and delight in each other..lots and lots of laughter! Imagine one day, they freely decide to create; not because they were lonely, but because they simply wanted to. Kind of like the guy writning this; he didn't have to.write....he simply and freely decided to do so. Anyway, He created the moon and countless stars, animals, fish-everything. Then this God made man in His image..His highest creation--even higher than the angels.He placed a man and woman in a perfect, lush garden. The lovliest garden imaginable, with every kind of tasty vegetable food. And when He was finished, this self-existent God was excited! He said it was all very good!
Then imagine He says to the man and woman. "You are the apple of my eye.I love you as much as I love the Father and Holy Spirit. You are to mirror to the cows, dogs, and my other creatures what I am like...mirror my love and holiness to them." He further tells them they are perfect and the garden they live in is perfect. And it was.....a theatre of beauty.Then God tells them that His desire is to walk in close fellowship with them. They have everything!
Imagine this God says to them, "All of this is yours...all these pleasures--enjoy them and each other. The only thing I ask is that you not eat from plant # 3,890,216...all the other 3,890,215 are yours to eat, but if you eat from the forbidden fruit, you will immediately die.If you pass this test of your obedience, then you and all your descendants will never die nor any sorrow.
Imagine God does all that. And then imagine that instead of being thankful, they make a bee-line for the forbidden tree and eat. Now, this eternally happy God is sad for the first time...ever. But instead of killing them on the spot as he had said, in His grace God allows them to live a long time.He clothes them, and though they will experience sorrow, He promises that one day a Messiah would come--God would come--and die as a substitue for their sins.Believe in that and you can have your relationship with Him restored. He also promises to mortally wound the serpant that had tempted them.
Now imagine that after God had done all this, most of Adam and Eve's kids, who had heard the gospel, rejected Him. Mankind became so corrupt, evil, and savage that it grieved God;s heart that He had even created us. Except for a small number of believers, most people thought all day long about nothing except for how they could rebel further against God. He sends a flood to destroy everyone, except for one family whose leader was the only person who loved God As times passes this God chooses a certain group of sinful people and tells them that they are going to be special; as God's chosen people they were to believe in the coming Meeiah, and mirror to the surrounding nations the holiness and love of God.Imagine God did all that.
And imagine that God pursued these people like they were His lovers.The self-existent and eternal, and eternally joyous God, mysteriously and freely wraps up His own emotional life and welfare with our welfare. He loves them so much He actually writes to them a love letter, which tells them things they could never had known otherwise. And in His kindness and love He raises up prophets to write down His words of love. He longs for intimate communion with us.
Imagine that, instead of listening to His love letter, they write Him a "Dear John" letter and mock His love, They suppress the knowlege they have for God and they exchange the truth of God for a lie; they worship the creation, instead of the Creator.But imagine that God sends prophets to them again,again,, and again; but one after another, we either beat or killed these prophets.And when people do seek for God, it is usually just for His benefits, and not God Himself. So, imagine that this God says, :"They won;t listen to Me, they won't listen to my prophets, so I will send My only Son--whom I love and take infinite delight in, Surely they will listen to Him."
Imagine now the unimaginable: as God takes on human flesh, He finds Himself in the hands of angry sinners who want to kill God.Imagaine this God/Man teaches and minsters publicly for 3 years.He heals the sick, exorcises demons, and teaches from town to town about God's forgiveness. All of these are convincing proofs which validate His truth claims..But like the prophets before Him, He is rejected and killed...by His own people..by all people.But imagine that God had planned this death from the beginning. God freely chose to save us. He did not have to, but once He freely chose to, there was no other way.
For backwards eternity, the Father, the Son, and the Holy Spirit erupted in raucus laughter , love, and infinite devotion. But He is holy, holy, holy...Now, imagaine the Father actually having to savagely punish and kill His only Son. Imagine that every filthy thought, word, and action of guilty sinners were transferred to this infinitely holy Savior; the promised Messiah mentioned in the garden. In His human nature (perfectly united with the Divine), He dies an unimaginably horrible death. This was the most obscene act in human or cosmic history; as the sinless One, became sin, and a living, breathing hell while on the cross.Fellowship in the Trinity was broken, as the Father poured out His unmitigated fury upon His dearly loved Son and beat Him to death.
Imagaine, Bill, a God who did all that. And imagaine further that He promises eternal salvation and forgiveness,eternal love, perfect and uninterrupted happiness, and security....He promises all that and much more...IF ..we will do one simple thing; trust in Jesus, and Him alone, to forgive you of all your sins. If you do that, then you have eternal life."
Chris- "Why are you shaking your head my friend?"
Bill- "Because, after all God has done for us..and.the rejection we have shown to God, He did not OWE us even one way of salvation...right?"
Bill- "And if He does not owe us any means of being forgiven, then I suppose it is arrogant of me to complain about the arrogance of Christians...or the narrowness of Jesus being kind enough to offer even one way.If God gave us justice or what we deserved, then...Chris...?
Chris- "Yes, Bill...you seem to have finally grasped it. But what is on your mind?"
Bill- "All of these talks...I see now my major mistake was having a deficient view of God; especially His holiness and grace...but without a depth view of His holiness, then grace makes no sense, and the narrrowness makes no sense. I was blind, but now I see! Thank God, in His unfailing love and merciful patience, He has provided the only way. Chris, I will never dare to accuse God or Christians of being narrow again."
Chris- "Amen! I think you are right Bill..Our view of God determines alot of things; salvation being first, but a depth view of God's character, as you aptly put it, goes a long way to answering the ghost debate, but...."
Bill- "But that is for next time...."
Chris-"I reckon...I love you my friend. After all God has done,if we never recieved another blessing from God, if we suffered for the rest of our lives, we would have no right, but to praise God for what he has already done for us.,,,but of course He will continue to lavish His blessings on us through eternity..." Amen