If we cannot pray the Imprecatory Psalms, then our faith is in vain

How many pastors and teachers teach that the Imprecatory Psalms do not apply to Christians today? I know I’ve heard that many times. Those authorities may invalidate these Psalms by saying that, “because Christians are under a new covenant and those Psalms are under the Old Covenant, therefore Christians cannot pray them.” Or, they teach that “Christianity is marked by grace and love. Therefore, calling down curses just cannot fit in Christianity because that is not very loving or gracious.” They’ll use passages like the Good Samaritan – passages that demonstrate how love your enemies – to say that wanting justice is somehow a sin.

However, if Christians cannot pray the Imprecatory Psalms, then we can have no assurance of salvation and no faith.

This sounds radical, I know. Let me explain.

In modern Christianity, there is one idea that is thrown around a lot. This idea says that God does not ultimately care for what His people are going through; rather He only cares about His plan moving forward. He’s looking for a few good soldiers.

Before you write me off, let me show you how this idea creeps into modern Christianity.

How many pastors have said God wants what’s best for you — not what you want? As if somehow your best is contrary to your wants, or is contrary to your welfare? They will never say that God is trying to destroy you, but that He is”putting you through trials to make you into a better Christian.” I’ve even heard this said that God will keep putting you through the same trial until you deal with it well enough.

How many “Christian” or “Bible” teachers have taught in some way or another that Christians are inherently bad? That Christians are to look at their sin, contemplate their sin, be broken over their sin, constantly bring their sin to God, and eternally micro-analyze themselves because their evil sin nature is constantly banging on the door and letting itself in? How many teachers have taught that Christians become the scum of the earth after being saved – “the worst of all sinners”? That the holiest Christians are the ones that see and are constantly aware of the full depths of their sin? That the most mature Christians are the ones who realize they are the furthest from God?

How many Christians hold as saintliness this idea that God calls Christians to stay in dangerous, abusive, or even life-threatening situations to try and “love the difficult person into the kingdom? As if God could not care less about the suffering Christian, but rather only cares that the lost person be saved?

Do any of these sound familiar? This is all from the same root: God does not care about Christians.

He does not care for their health. He does not care for their livelihood. He does not care for any aspect of the Christian. He could not care less if the Christian stubbed a toe or lost a limb. As long as it was “for the kingdom” or “the advancement of the Gospel”, or “in pursuit of holiness” or any other common Christianese phrases.

He only cares that His plan moves forward. He cares that His plan is enacted — even on the backs of His slaves – sorry, Christians – who are expendable, filthy, depravely sinful human beings. This idea comes across in preaching many times, though never as blatant as I’ve made it to be. (And people wonder why churches are dying).

However, the Christians that spout this also teach that God loves us, because as John 3:16 says, “For God so loved the world that he gave his one and only Son, that whoever believes in him shall not perish but have eternal life.” Somehow God loves us, but does not care about us. He may care about how He can use us, but not about us as people.

This is absolute nonsense!

Let me ask you a question: suppose a man says that he loves his children dearly. He waxes eloquent about how much he loves them. He talks until he’s blue in the face convincing everyone that he loves them so much.

Then he does not drive them to soccer practice. He does not spend time with them. He does not encourage them. He hardly ever speaks with them – usually only to scold them. He does not provide for any of their needs. He only has contact with them when they have done something wrong and he needs to correct them. He only speaks to them when he has some chores that he doesn’t want to do, so he can make them do the dirty work.

In a nutshell, he does not care for them. Even though he says he loves them.

But does this man really love his children? Is this what love does?

Or, let’s have another example. Suppose someone talks your ear off, telling you about how much this person loves his pets. He’ll spend every waking moment telling anyone that will listen how much he loves these animals. His phone is chock full of pictures of all of his pets.

But he never cleans up after them. He never puts food in the bowls. He never puts water in the bowls. He never pets them. He hardly interacts with them – only to scold them when they do wrong.

In a nutshell, he does not care for his pets, even though he says he loves them.

Is this love?

One last example for Christians. Pastors teach that Christians are to love the wicked. (Yes the Bible does say not to enact vengeance, and it says to help a wounded or hurting person even if they are your enemy). Now, let’s say that a Christian spouts to everyone that he loves the wicked. He will say repeatedly that he loves them so much. Or they will use this generic phrase, “I love everybody! No matter who they are or what they’ve done.”

But he does nothing when he sees someone bruised and bloodied, lying in the gutter. He does nothing when someone needs help. He does not even give to charities that help the hurting.

Does this person really have love?

What I’m getting at is that it is impossible to love someone, but not care for them. Caring for someone or something is a natural result of love. There can be no care without love.

Who says he cherishes an antique, then leaves it on the front porch exposed to the elements?

Who says he treasures a movie or CD, then never even bothers to bring it in from the car after he buys it?

In the same way, how can God love us but not care for us? If He does not care for Christians at all, then He does not love us.

You cannot say, though, that God is different. No one can say that “because He is God, He can do whatever He wants” If God were different in that He could love – but not care for – something, then why would it be wrong for Christians to act that way? Does that mean that there are two categories of what is good, and that God is holding us to a different standard than He holds Himself to? Does God even hold Himself to a standard? Is it okay for Christians to not care for anyone around them because God does not? Or is God somehow outside of the good rules He set up for His creatures? If He were outside of the good rules He set up, that therefore would mean that Christians end up in Euthyphro’s Dilemma (description here). This is where God is no longer good, but “Goodness” becomes an external measuring stick that everyone, God included, must measure up to. That then raises questions as to who set up this external measure of good and who or what defines this measure as good?

Therefore, God cannot be outside of what is good because He is good.

Back to the topic. If God says He loves us, but does not care for us, then He does not truly love us.

However, there are many verses that say God loves us. John 3:16, Romans 5:8, Romans 8:37, Galatians 2:20, 1 John 3:1, etc..

So, if God says He loves us, but does not actually love us (because He does not care for us), then therefore He is a liar. He said He loves us, but He does not actually.

If God lies, that means He is a sinner.

If God is a sinner, then Jesus as God could not have paid for our sins by dying on the cross. He would not have been the perfect substitute. He can only pay for His own sin.

If Jesus could not pay for our sins by dying on the cross, then we are still sinners and are not saved.

If we are still sinners, then “Let us eat and drink, for tomorrow we die,” (1 Corinthians 15:32) and we are the most miserable of men (1 Cor 15:19 MEV).

But what does this have to do with the Imprecatory Psalms? Because God loves us and cares for us, He wants the best for us. Sometimes, the best for us is judgment on our wicked oppressors. Sometimes, the best for the Christian is to see the wicked brought to justice.

In addition, it is the best for the wicked person to be brought to justice. Wicked people are rarely, if ever, saved by “being loved into the kingdom.” There must be consequences to the wicked person’s actions for there to be true change. The law, God’s rules for conduct and for life, is a tutor to teach the ungodly about their need for a Savior. It is also a restrainer, and a measuring stick to show where and how much the sinner falls short.

However, one important distinction must be drawn here. It is not the law itself that saves. I think you definitely need to introduce “the law” in the previous paragraph if you’re going to use it here. Rather, the law points out the need for salvation. Paul writes in Galatians 3, “23 Before the coming of this faith, we were held in custody under the law, locked up until the faith that was to come would be revealed. 24 So the law was our guardian until Christ came that we might be justified by faith.” The law is designed to keep people until they receive faith in God through trusting in Christ as their salvation. However, the law cannot be perfectly followed, as Paul points out in Romans 7 when he writes:

8 But sin, seizing the opportunity afforded by the commandment, produced in me every kind of coveting. For apart from the law, sin was dead. 9 Once I was alive apart from the law; but when the commandment came, sin sprang to life and I died. 10 I found that the very commandment that was intended to bring life actually brought death. 11 For sin, seizing the opportunity afforded by the commandment, deceived me, and through the commandment put me to death.”

Paul is pointing out that no one can follow the law perfectly. Not in the Old Covenant. Not in the New Covenant. The law itself cannot bring life, because people can never meet God’s standards. Therefore, one of the purposes of the law is to show people their inability to please God, and their inability not to sin. Thus, Christ, knowing that we could never keep the law well enough, came, lived perfectly, and died for our sins, so that He would meet the requirements for us. Now Christians can have peace with God, because Christ has fulfilled the law, and God exchanges Christ’s perfect life and substitutionary death for our sinful one , which means God is completely pleased with us (because He is pleased with Christ’s perfection, listed on our account books if we accept His work and believe in His substitution for us personally. Because Christ fulfilled all of the requirements of the law, and ascribed all of His good works to our account when we believe in Him, we become good enough before God, and He sees us as if we had never committed one sin ever in our lives. He could never love us less, nor could he ever be more pleased with us.

The law still has a purpose today. The law still, to this day, points out people’s inability to live perfectly. In fact, the law is necessary to point out people’s lack of ability to live up to God’s standards. Just like Paul says in Romans 7:7, “What shall we say, then? Is the law sinful? Certainly not! Nevertheless, I would not have known what sin was had it not been for the law. For I would not have known what coveting really was if the law had not said, ‘You shall not covet.’”

Notice what Paul does not say here. He does not write that it was God’s love that showed him his sin. He does not say that it was people “loving on him” that made him feel guilty for his sins. Rather, when someone, speaking the Law, said “here is the standard, and here are the consequences if you do not meet that standard,” then Paul realized that he could not live up to that standard and he recognized his need for a Savior.

Even today, Christians will have immensely less success trying to “love someone into the kingdom” than if they show that person’s need for salvation. If God only tried to woo people into His kingdom, hardly anyone – if anyone at all – would come. Rather, everyone would just be enabled to remain right where they were, because God was already showing His love for everyone. Why would anyone ever feel a need to change if God already loves them where they are? Rather, when people are presented with the law, they realize they cannot stay where they are. That is when people can be saved.

If a wicked person sees that someone is trying to “love them into the kingdom”, the wicked person will have a couple thoughts.

1. Cool! I’m getting away with it! Let’s see if I can go a little farther and get away with more!

2. What fools! These guys are pushovers! I can just walk all over them and they won’t fight back! This is great! I can do whatever I want, and no one will ever call me out on it! I’ll just have to whip up the waterworks when they move to lightly tap my wrists, then I can go right back to doing whatever it was I was doing!

Name one truly evil person in the Bible who was “loved into the kingdom.”

How about King David? He was confronted by Nathan. 2 Samuel 12

What about Simon the Sorcerer? He was confronted by Peter. Acts 8:9-25

What about Paul the Apostle? He was confronted by God Himself. Acts 9:1-25

What about Peter? Paul confronted him. Galatians 2

What about Ananias and Saphira? Peter Confronted them. Acts 5

What about King Saul? Samuel confronted him. 1 Samuel 15

What about Diotrophes? John opposed him. 3 John 1

What about the prophets of Balaam? Elijah confronted them. 1 Kings 18.

What about the corrupt kings and queens of Israel? The prophets confronted them. 1 & 2 Kings

What about Balaam, the prophet? A talking donkey confronted him. Numbers 22

What about the man sleeping with his step-mom? Paul said to throw him out/ hand him over to Satan. 1 Corinthians 5. (By the way, Paul was writing against the Corinthian church’s “loving this guy into the kingdom.” He blasted the church for their ‘tolerant’ attitude towards sin, and for bragging about/taking pride in, how “loving” they were towards the wicked.)

One may ask, what about when Jesus died on the cross for the world (John 3:16)? Let me ask you this: how often did Jesus talk about hell or Sheol? How often did he call someone out, saying that they needed to change? Now, think about the “numerous” times that Jesus kept consequences from happening to people who sinned. He didn’t tell the other thief on the cross – the one that jeered at Him – that he would go to heaven as well. He didn’t forgive the other thief on the cross.

Jesus does not save the sinner, yet throw the sin into hell. He sends the sinner to hell.

Just because Jesus made a way into heaven does not mean that He lowered heaven’s standards. God still will not accept anything less than perfect.

So, if God loves us, cares for us, and wants the best for us — and there are abusers who are hurting Christians and destroying the church — wouldn’t the best thing for us be to get the wicked people out of the church? To remove the wolves from the midst of the flock? Wouldn’t the best thing be to pray the Imprecatory Psalms against them, to ask God to bring judgment on them? Wouldn’t it be God’s will for His children to pray the Imprecatory Psalms – to desire that He remove the wicked and keep them from causing anyone any more pain and destruction, that He rescue His children, and that He show His justice for the bruised and traumatized? Like Jimmy Hinton (formerly of Church Protect, and now of Jimmy Hinton.org), and Jon Uhler (still with Church Protect) said in a recent podcast about God’s heart for justice and scriptural forgiveness, “It’s amazing to think how normalizing and healing it is and would be if survivors could see their perpetrators under a pile of rocks. It would answer a whole lot of questions.” Quotes taken from https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=a9AAerVI8eI&feature=youtu.be

Or does the New Covenant God really tolerate evil, and let the wicked roam free? This would directly mean that He would despise the plight of the hurting victim.

If the law is necessary to show people their need for salvation, then why should wicked people be given a free pass, and be “loved”? Is it really loving to let – no, enable – someone to go farther into sin because their feet are never held to the fire?

Therefore, because God loves and cares for His children, He wants the best for them, which would mean removing the wicked person from the flock. If Christians are not allowed to pray the Imprecatory Psalms, then God does not care about justice for hurting victims. If God does not care about justice for the victims, then then He does not love the victims. However, the Bible says that He loves the hurting, weak, and poor. Therefore, God is a liar if He says He loves the victims yet does not care for them. Therefore, God is a liar. If God is a liar, then He is a sinner. If He is a sinner, then Jesus’s death on the cross could not pay for our sins because He was not a perfect sacrifice. If His death on the cross could not pay for our sins, then Christians are not saved, and our faith is in vain. Instead, Christians should pray the Imprecatory Psalms because God is good, desires justice, and wants the best for us. This may sound judgmental, but true wickedness needs judgment if there is to be any hope of change, not more enabling grace.


A good sermon series to help Christians become wise about truly wicked people and to help Christians develop a practical theology of evil is:

https://www.sermonaudio.com/sermoninfo.asp?SID=126151228548

-and-

https://www.sermonaudio.com/search.asp?sourceonly=true&currSection=sermonssource&keyword=crc&subsetcat=series&subsetitem=Domestic+Violence+and+Abuse

 

 

You are a pearl

Recently I gave a sermon on Matthew 13:44-46.  I wanted to post the basic manuscript here, as well as go deeper into the implications.

 

Matthew 13:44-46 says:

44 “The kingdom of heaven is like treasure hidden in a field. When a man found it, he hid it again, and then in his joy went and sold all he had and bought that field.

45 “Again, the kingdom of heaven is like a merchant looking for fine pearls. 46 When he found one of great value, he went away and sold everything he had and bought it.

 

Many pastors today use this passage to say that we should sell everything for the kingdom of God.  They’ll say something along the lines of, “If you aren’t sold out for God’s kingdom 24/7, 365, then you aren’t really in love with Jesus,” or they’ll say, “To be a Christian is to give your all for God every moment of your life.”  (Or another one I hear all the time is “You must keep your eyes always fixed on Jesus.) They’ll say that, just like the man in the parable, we need to go sell everything for God, literally or spiritually.  If we hold anything back, then we are doing it wrong.  These types of teachings club people over the head and guilt them into working harder to have a better Christian life.  This also “ironically” guilts people into coming back to hear that pastor speak about how to be sold out at all times for the kingdom of God.

 

Yet, This is not at all what the passage is saying.

 

Rather, this passage is saying “You are the pearl.”

 

Earlier in the chapter, Jesus tells two parables.  He says:

13 That same day Jesus went out of the house and sat by the lake. 2 Such large crowds gathered around him that he got into a boat and sat in it, while all the people stood on the shore. 3 Then he told them many things in parables, saying: “A farmer went out to sow his seed. 4 As he was scattering the seed, some fell along the path, and the birds came and ate it up. 5 Some fell on rocky places, where it did not have much soil. It sprang up quickly, because the soil was shallow. 6 But when the sun came up, the plants were scorched, and they withered because they had no root. 7 Other seed fell among thorns, which grew up and choked the plants. 8 Still other seed fell on good soil, where it produced a crop—a hundred, sixty or thirty times what was sown. 9 Whoever has ears, let them hear.

He then explains this parable, saying that He (and those that bring His message) are the sowers, the seed is the gospel, and the soil is the human heart.  In this parable, God is the one entirely acting.  He is the one sowing.  He is the one acting.  Humanity is the one being acted upon.

 

Next, Jesus tells another parable.  He says:

24 Jesus told them another parable: “The kingdom of heaven is like a man who sowed good seed in his field. 25 But while everyone was sleeping, his enemy came and sowed weeds among the wheat, and went away. 26 When the wheat sprouted and formed heads, then the weeds also appeared.

27 “The owner’s servants came to him and said, ‘Sir, didn’t you sow good seed in your field? Where then did the weeds come from?’

28 “‘An enemy did this,’ he replied.

“The servants asked him, ‘Do you want us to go and pull them up?’

29 “‘No,’ he answered, ‘because while you are pulling the weeds, you may uproot the wheat with them.30 Let both grow together until the harvest. At that time I will tell the harvesters: First collect the weeds and tie them in bundles to be burned; then gather the wheat and bring it into my barn.’”

He explains this one also.  He says that the good seed is His children, and the weeds are the children of the devil.  The harvest is the end of the age.

Most importantly, we see here that the sower is Jesus/God. He sows the good seed.  God is the one entirely acting alone, and humans are being acted upon.Each parable in this chapter begins ‘The kingdom of heaven is like…’ In each parable, there is a primary agent.  That agent is acting upon something -sowing something, searching for something, or gathering something.  Like I said, Jesus explains who the Sower is – who the primary agent of the action in each parable is.  It’s Himself. The Son of Man. All the parables are parallel in structure. “The kingdom of heaven is like…” And the Son of Man is doing something to lovingly increase His Kingdom. Right after He explains this parable, He tells the parable of the pearl and buried treasure. The point is that God is the Actor in each parable. Period.

 

Why,  then, do so many pastors take these two parables out of context and feel the need to suddenly make man to be the one acting alone, and God’s kingdom the object being acted upon in these two parables, which are in the middle of a set of parallel structures?

 

Because many pastors preach a false gospel.  They preach a gospel of works, not of faith.

 

Let’s dive deeper into the parables of the pearl and buried treasure.  In each parable, the man sells everything to buy this item of high value.

In the same way, Jesus came down from heaven and gave everything to purchase us. He could have come as the Final Judge, and he would be just in doing so.  But instead, He chose to give His life – His all – for us.  He chose to purchase us, redeem us.

If God is the man in the parables, and we are the ones being bought, then what is this parable saying about us?

 

Notice how the pearl and buried treasure are described.  Jesus Himself says that they have great value.  They were esteemed highly enough by the man that he would sell everything for them.  I know this part gets read over really quickly usually, but let’s pause here for a moment and think about what all the man gave up.  The man sold his house.  He sold his livestock.  He sold his farm.  He sold all of his possessions to buy this buried treasure.  In the same way, the pearl merchant gave up everything to buy the pearl.

How valuable the pearl and buried treasure must be!  But if we are the pearl and buried treasure-

 

How valuable are we to God?

 

God sees immeasurable value in you!  He valued you enough to give everything He had to buy you!  He loves you enough to give His life for you!

 

When a person is saved, he or she is fully covered by God’s righteousness and holiness.  It’s not like God sees Jesus’s blood covering you and declares you clean, but then shakes His head and says, “Yeah, but I know what you’re really like.”  He only sees His righteousness and holiness covering you completely.  If He in any way still saw your sin, you would not be saved completely.

 

You would be bound to go to hell, still dead in your sins.

 

On another note, let’s focus on the role of the pearl and the buried treasure.  What do they do?  What is their part in this story?  Do they shine themselves up before the man buys them?  Do they polish themselves to increase their value so that the man will find them worthy of purchase? Do they scrub themselves until they shine after they’re bought?  Do they point out their flaws, or declare that they are not as valuable as the man thinks?  Do they degrade themselves?

The role of the pearl and buried treasure is . . .

 

Nothing.

 

That’s right, nothing.  They aren’t tasked with making themselves better, or focusing on their faults and announcing their flaws to the man who bought them, and then try to fix them.  Their only part to play is to be bought by the man. To exist. And be loved and treasured.

In the same way, what is our role with God?  When we are saved, what is our role?  Do we work to make ourselves better?  Do we work to remember that we are still just sinners saved by grace?  Do we focus on our faults, our flaws, working relentlessly to fix them, to root them out?  Do we declare to God Himself that we are not as valuable as He thinks we are?

 

NO!  

 

Ephesians 2:8-9 says “8 For it is by grace you have been saved, through faith—and this is not from yourselves, it is the gift of God— 9 not by works, so that no one can boast.”

Matthew 11:30 says “For my yoke is easy and my burden is light.”

Galatians 5:1 “It is for freedom that Christ has set us free. Stand firm, then, and do not let yourselves be burdened again by a yoke of slavery.”

Jeremiah 31:3, “I have loved you with an everlasting love; I have drawn you with unfailing kindness.”

 

Why, then, do pastors preach – and Christians believe – that we have any role to play in our salvation? We do nothing to be saved?  Christ finds us.  He buys us.  Then, we are His.  All we do is believe Him when He said that He paid our debt in full, that He paid our purchase price with His life, His all. That’s it.  In no way does any Christian do anything to earn any continued salvation from God.  Jesus has paid the full price.  It’s not like Jesus picks up our bill, but we have to pay the tip.  He has paid it all.  It is finished.

 

If we have to focus on our sins, or in some way must work to make ourselves holier, then the salvation – the saving work – of Jesus is not enough for us, and we are still dead in our sins.

If we are still dead in our sins – or not saved – then “let us eat and drink, for tomorrow we die.” (1 Corinthians 15:32)

 

What about sanctification?  Don’t we play a part in that?

 

Let me ask you this: does any loving parent ever – when teaching their kid to ride a bike – sit their kid down and explain every nuance that is needed to ride a bike, then stand in the doorway as the kid struggles to get on, and watch as he or she falls over and over?  Or, rather, do parents keep a hand on the bike? Don’t they run alongside? Do loving parents help in any way they can to ensure that their child succeeds?

In the same way, Jesus is supporting us and walking with us.  He is sanctifying us. We are not sanctifying ourselves.  Yes, there will still be times we stumble.  But Jesus will continue to sanctify us.

 

If we had any part to play in our sanctification, then Jesus isn’t enough for us. His work, done as God on the cross, is somehow incomplete.  If we have to add to our sanctification, “It is NOT finished.”

 

What about the verse that says “continue to work out your salvation with fear and trembling,” (Philippians 2:12b).  Isn’t that something Christians should do?  Isn’t that something that makes Christians holier?

 

What does the rest of the passage say?

“12 Therefore, my dear friends, as you have always obeyed—not only in my presence, but now much more in my absence—continue to work out your salvation with fear and trembling, 13 for it is God who works in you to will and to act in order to fulfill his good purpose,” (Philippians 2:12-13).

Notice what Paul says here to the Philippians.  It is not their job to work in themselves.  They do not earn, nor continue to earn, God’s salvation in any way.  Rather, it is God who is working in them.  It is God who is acting.

 

This concept is so simple, yet so hard to grasp!  It goes against what many churches teach.  Many times churches teach that Jesus has completely paid for our sins . . . but we still gotta do something.  They teach “we are saved by grace alone, but there’s just this one thing – or “We’re saved by grace through faith, but, here’s what you got to do now. ”

 

That is not the gospel.  That is heresy deeply opposed to the truth.

 

If we work for our salvation in any way, if we work for our justification in any way, or if we work for our sanctification in any way, we are saying God‘s death and payment isn’t enough for me and I know better.

 

But what about after I sin and feel guilty?

 

I know for me, personally, it felt before like after I had sinned, I needed to fast to show God I was ready to break out of my sin.

Even though that sounds holy, at the heart, it is actually very wrong.  You see, at the heart, it is saying that because I have sinned, therefore I must make up for it in some way – I must DO something.  At the heart of it, it is saying that I in some way need to pay for my sins.  That Jesus isn’t enough.

 

Even after you sin, you can still never be loved less by God.

 

 You see, when Jesus died on the cross, He paid for every sin that you have committed, are committing, and will commit.  That means, even after I sin, I am still clean in God’s sight because Jesus already paid for that sin. You see, like Pastor John Fonville said, “Jesus died for Christians, too.”

This is by no means an excuse to sin though.  Christians who are saved will always return to God.  It may take a while, but because of their new heart and the Holy Spirit – who is constant communion with the other members of the Trinity – living inside of them, God will always bring back His children.

 

Christianity is not as hard as many pastors make it out to be.  Christians don’t have to micro-manage themselves.  God has paid for everything, and He is watching out for us.  We don’t have to fret about whether or not we’re doing well enough to please God.  He is already satisfied with us because Jesus’s sacrifice fully covers every part of us.  And He is satisfied with Jesus.  There’s nothing left to do but rejoice – and give thanks –  for what has been done for us. And live free in Him.

We are the pearl of high value to God. We are His treasure. He gave everything to pay for us.  All we have to do is accept His free gift – believe His payment in our place.  If we in any way work for His gift, we lose everything.  If we only accept, we gain everything.  

We are completely saved by HIs grace, and there is no part we ever play in our salvation.  If there was any part we played in our salvation, then Jesus’s death would not be enough to pay for our sins, and we would have no assurance of salvation.

Because of His sacrifice, Christians can boldly proclaim:

 

Jesus paid it all,

All to him I owe,

Sin had left a crimson stain,

He washed it white as snow.

 


Feel free to comment!

 

To hear more on this topic, I would like to refer you to Sam Powell’s sermons on Galatians:

 

https://www.sermonaudio.com/search.asp?sortby=added&sourceonly=true&currSection=sermonssource&keyword=reformedyubacity&subsetcat=series&subsetitem=Galatians

 

I would also highly recommend this podcast:

 

http://biblethumpingwingnut.com/2017/10/02/lordship-salvation-pastor-john-fonville-theology-gals-episode-35/

30 Theses for the modern-day church

500 years ago, Martin Luther nailed the 95 Theses to the door of his church.  He wanted his theses to be a disscussion among the clergy in order to reform the church.  However, when he put up the theses, that event started the Reformation.

500 years later, the church has lost its footing and is in need of another reformation.  I don’t claim to have all of the answers, but I hope that these theses can at least be a good starting point for change.

Before I start, I want to say this: even if you dismiss me as having a chip on my shoulder, that does not thereby negate all of these theses.  Truth is truth, whether or not anyone believes it.

  1. We are saved by grace alone.  Not by works. When Jesus died on the cross, He said, “It is finished.”  The believer does not have to work for personal victory over his or her own sins,  because Jesus paid it all.  Therefore, He has won the victory already.
  2. God hates the wicked person parading as a righteous Christian, and so should we
  3. Any report of abuse, rape, or sin perpetrated to gain power and control over another, must be taken seriously and believed and as truth (unless further circumstances show a false claim), and honestly investigated, (even if the report is about pastors or elders).
  4. It is not the job of women to keep men from sexual immorality (i.e. the freedom of women should not be taken away because of men’s sin).  Each person is responsible for his or her own sin.
  5. Churches need to wise up to the presence of “wolves” in the church and their tactics.  The church must actively cast the “wolves” out.
  6. If a woman comes to a pastor seeking help from her abusive husband, pastors must treat her in the best way possible.  This is a life-and-death situation, and she must be believed and protected at all costs.  The reverse of genders is also true, but not as common.
  7. Christians do not continue to be sinners saved by grace.  We are saints.  To focus and worry constantly about one’s sin is to say that Jesus’s death, burial, and resurrection does not fully pay for the believer’s sin (i.e. it is NOT finished).
  8. All Christians can and should be encouraged to read and interpret Scripture for themselves.  Scripture is not reserved for the theologians and the pastors.  Everyone should also be encouraged to seek out resources that provide good guidance.
  9. Any theology built on an abundance of words or that argues useless, nitpicking details only serves to build up the theologian, and not draw people closer to God.
  10. Secular material should not be treated as inferior and completely opposed to Biblical material.
  11. Unregenerate people are not inherently good.
  12. Any theology that separates – and exalts – the theologian from and over the laiety is destroying the church.
  13. If people are depressed, they may need help from a doctor.  Do not try to persuade people that the church can completely and fully help them or heal them.
  14. God is not abusive.  He does not need to be convinced through much prayer and supplication.  He wants the best for His children and wants a relationship with them.
  15. God does not want His people to throw away their lives by neglecting themselves.  People are not sanctified by staying voluntarily in dangerous, or potentially lethal, situations.  God may call missionaries to potentially dangerous reasons, but that does not equate to the church asking someone to stay in a dangerous situation in some sort of effort to grow the victim in holiness.
  16. When Christians sin, God does not hold a mental tally.  He does not like when we choose sin over His goodness, but He still forgives us.  In no way do we work to earn God’s ongoing forgiveness.  Our sin is removed at the point of conversion.  Confession serves to clear our conscience and renew our relationship with our Father.  In no way do we have to work so that we will have victory over our sin, because Jesus has already paid it all, and has won that victory.
  17. Churches should not focus on unity as the end goal, but should instead throw out the wicked people parading as Christians in their midst.  Then, unity will follow.
  18. Church unity does not mean that there will not be disagreement.  If someone says something counter to how a church is run, that person should not be shut down.  Churches should be like the Bereans, weighing all ideas against the teachings of Scripture.  Churches should not cling so tightly to one teaching that, if anything contrary shows up, the teaching is rejected outright.
  19. Pastors should be very wary of laying guilt on their congregations.  True Christians do not need to be guilt-tripped into acting.  True Christians have the Holy Spirit and a renewed heart.  They cannot not act according to their new nature.  They may sin, or get stuck in a rut.  However, they will always come back around because of the new nature within them.
  20. If pastors believe that they must guilt their congregation into acting, then pastors are taking the place of the Holy Spirit.
  21. Feelings are not sinful.  Emotions are not to be suppressed as something counter to the Christian life.  God created emotions.  Jesus felt emotions.  Christians are not supposed to be like the Buddhists, only feeling love and inner peace.  Jesus was angry.  Jesus was sad.  Jesus was afraid (at the garden of Gethsemane).  Also, because Christians have a new, redeemed nature, the Holy Spirit and the new heart will help in guiding emotions.  Emotions are not to be squelched as something of the old, sinful self.  As in all aspects, Christians are to grow in emotional maturity.
  22. The physical world is not inherently evil, and the spiritual world is not inherently good.  God said all of creation, both physical and spiritual, were good.  Both physical and spiritual have fallen beings.
  23. The church is not the be-all and end-all.  God is.  He has given us churches, but in the end, God is what matters.
  24. Pastors are not the final authority over their congregations.  Pastors should encourage their congregations to read and study for themselves, in order to become wiser and to avoid heresy.
  25. Christians are not the worst sinners possible.  Christians are not inherently bad.  We are saved by Christ and washed clean by no effort on our part.  We have become saints and children of God.  To say that we are still the worst sinners to have ever walked the earth is to spit on God’s free gift and deem it worthless.
  26. Divorce is allowed in the Bible, and should be encouraged in some situations (such as abuse or neglect).  That is not to say that divorce is an easy out of every situation.  Divorce should not be taken lightly, but is still allowed and should be encouraged sometimes.
  27. Married people are not holier than single people, and neither are single people less holy than married people.  To view single people (especially single women) as inferior and needing to be married is to play God and assume that the one “giving advice” knows what is the absolute best in the single person’s situation.
  28. Theology can not be a word game played by spiritual intellectuals and seminary students.  Theology is for the people.  God’s heart is for the masses, especially the lowly.  Theology and proficiency in Biblical languages should be seen as 1. a gift, a blessing to be shared so that everyone benefits, and 2. a function or part of the body that can nourish and better the whole.
  29. The Bible is not overly difficult to understand.  God wants a relationship with His people, and would not intentionally author a book – intended to guide people into a relationship with Him – that takes years of schooling to understand.  The Holy Spirit is still alive and active, and helps true believers understand the text.  This is not to say that all of the Bible is crystal clear.  God leaves plenty in the Bible for the learned to decipher.  However, the Bible is not only for the learned to decipher.
  30. All sin is not equal, even to God.  There are sins more heinous than others.

What if Elijah was right in running?

Not many pastors preach on the story of Elijah.  However, when they do, chances are they preach on his fleeing from Jezebel after the victory at Mount Carmel.  They’ll say something along the lines of Elijah didn’t trust that God could protect him, and that’s why he ran.  And when Elijah got to Mount Horeb, God tried getting him to go back but he complained because he was still afraid, so God got fed up with him and told him to anoint his replacement.  Then they’ll imply or say that we shouldn’t run from, well, anything today because God does not like that and was furious with Elijah when he left.

However, what if this line of thinking was wrong?

The story is found in 1 Kings 19.  There are a few key points I want to look at.  The first is in verses 5b-9.  Elijah had just come from a tremendous victory at Mount Carmel, where he saw God rain fire from the sky to consume the burnt offering.  Clearly, if God was upset with Elijah, he could have zapped him right then and there.  God had just demonstrated that He could.  And Elijah had just seen with his own eyes that God could, and will if He chooses.

However, God doesn’t.  Rather, God feeds Elijah.  Twice.  And tells him to rest.  That doesn’t sound like a God who is furious with Elijah.

Then, God tells him to travel even further away.  Not back.

If God wanted Elijah to go back and was upset with his fleeing, why didn’t he tell him right then and there to get back in there?

The next part I want to look at is when God speaks directly to Elijah on Mount Sinai.  This is verses 9b-18.

Here, God asks Elijah what he is doing there.  Elijah says that he is at the end of himself, that he has been giving the Israelites God’s messages.  But they have been killing all of the other prophets.  And now he is the only one left.  And they are trying to kill him, too.  Then, God shows these great signs – A great wind that split rocks, an earthquake that shook the mountain, and a roaring fire – to Elijah and again asks him why he is there.  Elijah gives the same response as before.  God then tells Elijah to go back and to anoint people along the way.

I have heard someone say that God was fed up with Elijah, and was essentially saying “I’m done with you.  You won’t listen, and you’re not trusting in me, so go anoint your successor because you’re done.”  However, let’s look at what God says.

God tells Elijah to appoint 3 people in total, Hazael to be king of Syria, Jehu son of Nimshi to be king of Israel, and Elisha son of Shaphat to take his place as God’s prophet.  However, right after this, God tells Elijah that the three of them will kill all of the enemies of God (who, because Elijah represented God, were also his enemies, his tormentors).  He also tells Elijah that there are still 7000 still do not worship Baal.  This seems a little out of place If we’re following the line of thinking that God was annoyed and fed up with Elijah.  Why would God tell him that he is to appoint people who would kill the enemies of God (which would entail Baal worshippers, and those who may not have worshipped Baal, but opposed God’s message that Elijah gave)?  Wouldn’t this be a comfort to Elijah; because even though he had been prophesying and people hated him because of the message he brought, God remembered what they did to him and would repay them?

What if, instead of God being fed up with Elijah, rather He was telling Elijah that he was not alone and that he would be very important in ridding the land of the people trying to kill him.  What if God was saying, “I know these people are trying to kill you.  But you will appoint the people who will kill them instead.”  Rather than God being annoyed with Elijah for leaving a life-and-death situation, He was rather encouraging Elijah by showing him what He will do, and was telling Elijah he was not alone.

And perhaps, rather than Elijah having to appoint his successor because God was dumping him, what if God had Elisha join Elijah so that he wouldn’t be alone?  After all, that was the issue that really devistated Elijah.  Being alone.

Let’s think about Elijjah as a person for a moment.  He had a calling on his life to give a message to people who didn’t want to hear it.  As he is giving this message, the people who need to listen are becoming angrier and angrier.  He watches as his friends, those with the same calling as he, are all murdered or gone (since some went to Babylon or stopped prophesying) because of the king and queen.  Eventually, as far as he knows, he is the only one left trying to give the people God’s message, and they want him dead.  He’s all alone.  Powerful people want his head on a plate.  All of Israel hates him because he’s the reason they’re going through a drought (God withheld the rain for a total of three-and-a-half years.  That’s no crops.  No feed for livestock.  No water for drinking.  For three-and-a-half years.  cf. James 5:17, 1 Kings 17).  He can’t take any more and cries out to God to end his life because no one is listening, everyone hates his guts, and he probably doesn’t have many, if any, friends.

To say that God was angry with him for feeling this way is ridiculous!  That paints a picture of a God who DOES NOT CARE about His people, but only cares that His will is fulfilled.  That paints the picture that God is indifferent, harsh, and someone that no one can relate to because He does not care one iota for anyone.  That paints a picture that God is sociopathic, heartless, and relentlessly pursuing what He wants at the expense of anyone and anything.  This is not God.

Rather, I propose that God cared deeply for Elijah.  He knew that he was at the end of himself.  God knew Elijah’s limits because He made Elijah.  He knew that he was having a hard time and could not take it any more.  “[F]or he knows how we are formed, he remembers that we are dust,” (Psalm 103:14).  So, rather than being fed up with his weakness, God tells him:

  1. I am powerful and right beside you
  2. The people who want you dead, nah, you’ll be instrumental in eliminating them.
  3. And I am sending you a friend.

 

Doesn’t that sound like a greater God, a God that actually deeply cares for His people?  A God that we can relate with because He knows our limits, knows what we are going through; yet is powerful enough to provide in our darkest times? (cf Isaiah 41:10, Deuteronomy 31:6, Matthew 6:25-34, Psalm 23:4, Psalm 139:7-10).

The final nail in the coffin for the line of thinking that God was fed up and annoyed with Elijah, is in II Kings 2, when God takes Elijah away.  If God were angry and fed up with Elijah, why did He send down a chariot to personally take him to heaven without dying?  If God were upset with Elijah, why wouldn’t He tell Elijah to appoint Elisha and then taken him right away?  Why would an angry God give Elijah such great treatment that no one else got in the Bible (except for Enoch, who also did not die).

Rereading the story, I am convinced that many have gotten this story wrong, to the detriment of many congregations.  The way the story is usually told portrays a callous God who doesn’t care if His people are murdered just as long as they trust in Him to protect them (and if they die, then apparently it was their time to go).  Congregations are told that God does not want anyone to leave harmful situations because that shows a lack of faith on their part.

Rather, I think God did care deeply for Elijah.  He knew Elijah’s limits.  He knew what Elijah was going through.  He knew that Elijah was exhausted – physically, emotionally, and spiritually, and needed rest.  God came to Elijah right were he was.  He spoke directly and kindly to him.  He provided him physical restoration by giving him food, rest, and His own presence as the Angel of the Lord.  He provided him with comfort and the assurance that He was powerful enough to help – as demonstrated with the fire and the storm.  He then also spoke to Elijah in the still voice, showing He was not in the storm – not there to terrrify Elijah.  He was all-present next to Elijah, still and calm, as His object lesson raged about outside.  He then also arranged for Elijah to have continuing human companionship in Elisha.  And lastly, He provided Elijah with the confirmation of justice against those who had sought his life.

This is a God that is worthy of worship – a God who truly loves His children.

What about Justice?

Christians today spout “God is Love.”  It gets said so much that this has become a catchphrase, something many people say but don’t actually think about.  However, if a Christian says that he or she has been really hurt by someone and is seeking help, chances are this phrase and many more like it “we have to understand this situation in light of the Gospel.” come thick and fast.  The hurting Christian is told to grin, bear it, and reach out to the person that hurt him or her.  In fact, in one of my classes, we were told that having protective barriers up after being hurt by someone was a bad response.  Essentially, the hurting person is told to forgive and forget because “That’s what Jesus would do.”  The hurting Christian is not supposed to be able to be offended at all, but rather be “so focused on God that the problems of this world melt away,” or another favorite, “Christians are supposed to have an eternal mindset, and in realizing the brevity of one’s time on earth one can then let anything and everything slide because, in light of eternity, this is just a small blip on the radar.”

This is ridiculous!  Are human beings, upon being saved, supposed to transcend their humanness?  Are emotions like anger, feeling hurt, and being upset wrong? Of course not!  In fact, what the Bible teaches is completely contrary to this modern thought!

If being upset at injustice is wrong or a sin, then Jesus sinned, plain and simple.  Mark 3:1-6 says that Jesus looked at the Pharisees with anger and grief.  When Jesus threw the money changers out of the temple, He was probably upset with them (unless one was to assume that he either unemotionally or lovingly:

made a scourge of cords, and drove them all out of the temple, with the sheep and the oxen; and He poured out the coins of the money changers and overturned their tables; and to those who were selling the doves He said, “Take these things away; stop making My Father’s house a place of business.” His disciples remembered that it was written, “ZEAL FOR YOUR HOUSE WILL CONSUME ME.” (John 2:15-17 emphasis mine).

Was Jesus sinning when He became angry with what they were doing to oppress the poor and downtrodden?

One response I have honestly heard is that, “Well, He’s God, and He can do things we can’t.”  Let’s examine this statement.

  • Can God do anything and everything?
    • Yes.  He is all-powerful (Isaiah 43:13, Matthew 19:26, Genesis 18:14 . . . ).
  • Did God set up the rules of right and wrong for Earth?
    • Yes (Genesis 2:16-17 for example.  God told Adam what he could and could not do.)
  • Is the line that God drew between right and wrong good?
    • Yes. (Genesis 1:31)
  • Can God act outside of the moral rules and boundaries He set up? (Not talking about natural laws that govern creation.)

This is where we run into a paradox similar to Euthyphro’s dilemma.  Is it “good and just because God wills it or whether God wills it because it is good and just,” (link below).

To say the former implies that God has to choose the standard of good and evil.  That means that He could literally say that mass murder is good, and it would be good because God says so.  A capricious God could do whatever He wants, and call it good.  He would be no better than a petty tyrant who defines his own good based on his whims.

To say the latter implies that God is drawing the boundaries based on an outside measuring stick.  He does things that are good because the actions have been pre-defined as good.  However, this means that there is a higher power that established what right and wrong is, and God has to follow that.

Neither outcome is desirable.

Where this line of reasoning runs aground is when goodness is separated from God.  The problem arises when goodness becomes an external, objective thing rather than an attribute of God.  God is good, and out of His goodness comes the natural lines between what is good and what is not.

To answer the last bullet-point –  no.  God cannot act outside of His rules and boundaries, because they are a natural outflowing of who He is.  This would mean that He has acted against His character, something that is impossible.

To bring it all back around, saying that God can do whatever He wants because “He’s God” falls into the grievous error of saying that God is not inherently good.  If God makes good moral rules based on His good character, and then if He breaks His good rules, then He has worked against His own good character, and therefore can no longer be called “good.”  To say that God can act outside of His good moral guidelines [or to say that He’s God and can hate the wicked but we can’t] is nonsense because God cannot go against His character.

The Bible clearly states that God hates the wicked and what they do (Isaiah 61:8, Proverbs 6:16-19, Revelation 2:6, Zechariah 8:17, John 3:36, Psalm 5:4).  If what God does is good and moral, Christians cannot say that God can hate the wicked but we can’t.  Again, He would be breaking His own rules which means He would go against His own character.  But since He is good, it, therefore, follows what He does is good, and what He does Christians should follow.  If He wanted us to follow the guidelines He set up (guidelines that again are a natural outflowing of who He is), should Christians not also hate the wicked?

When the Bible records Jesus getting angry and upset at injustice, there are only a couple responses that one can have.  Either God can be angry with wicked people because He’s God, but we can’t (which again says that He can act outside of His character); or people might say that the Bible manuscripts are in error (at which point the whole Bible becomes untrustworthy); or Christians can say Jesus really sinned (at which point He would no longer be God and Christianity would be null and void).  Or one must say that Jesus really did get angry at injustice and that that is something Christians should also do.

There was a quote I heard in class that I thought was very truthful.  It goes, “There needs to be justice to maintain order in society.”  If this is true, why is there no justice for the oppressed, the abuse victims, and the downtrodden in most American churches today?

 

~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~

**PLEASE note that I do not encourage Christians to become hateful at everything.  The Bible does not teach blind rage at very minor offenses.  Rather, when there is a great injustice done (in the case of abuse or rape for instance), anger at what has happened is a healthy response.  Horrible things have happened.  Abuse is not something that you can just get over.  The scars last for some their entire lives.

Also, note the Bible does not teach bitterness.  Holding grudges is destructive to the one holding them and is wrong.  The Bible teaches that personal vengeance is in the hands of the Lord.

HOWEVER, there are passages (1 Corinthians 5 and Deuteronomy 17) that call for the people of God to purge the wicked person from their midst.  This is not vengeance but rather a zeal for holiness.

https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Euthyphro_dilemma

Tolerant Jesus?

Often I’ve heard the saying “gentle Jesus meek and mild” thrown around.  A decent amount of the time people use this to bring others up short by saying, “You shouldn’t be doing that because you should be like gentle Jesus, meek and mild.”  Many times Christians are told to love everyone because that’s what Jesus did.  If ever Christians are truly hurt by wicked people, the hurting Christian is told to “show God’s love” to the wicked person because “that’s what Jesus did.”  In the end, Christians are told essentially to have no negative feelings whatsoever (no anger, no feeling hurt or wounded – nothing but love).  Christians are told to be holy doormats, letting anyone and everyone walk all over them because that’s supposed to show Christ-like love to others.

Christians today paint this picture that God is only love, and He loves the sinner yet hates the sin.  Because of this, Christians are supposed to love those who abuse their families, molest young children, and flaunt wicked acts.  Essentially, Christian leaders tell everyone that they are to tolerate wickedness because that’s what “tolerant Jesus meek and mild” does.

However, God does not tolerate wickedness (Isaiah 61:8, Zechariah 8:17, Psalm 5:4-5, Psalm 97:10, Proverbs 6:16-19, . . . ) He does not throw the sin into hell yet give the sinner a free pass.  God does not sympathize with the wicked because “they’ve had a bad childhood,” or “that’s just the way they are and you have to understand them.”  God throws the wicked into hell (He does not do so gleefully, but He still does it.)  He does not side with the wicked.  He cares for the poor, the hurting, the suffering, the oppressed, those without a voice.  And He tells us to do the same.

In fact, in many cases, this idea of loving the truly wicked is taken to the extreme, where big-name pastors and whole organizations put the victims of abuse and violence under church discipline and then excommunicate them, all the while standing with the abuser, the rapist, and the wicked person.  They say they are “reaching out to a lost brother (or soul),” all the while the wounded person is left by the wayside.  The church leaders tell the victim to not tell about the abuse and horrible things that have happened because “Proverbs 10:12 says ‘Hatred stirs up strife, but love covers all offenses,'” or some other verse.  “We don’t want to cause dissension or disunity,” they’ll add.

If Christians aren’t supposed to cause dissension and disunity, why did Jesus vehemently oppose the religious leaders of His day?  If Jesus sought unity, why did He bother coming at all?  When He came he ruffled many people’s feathers and rocked the boat.  He even says:

Do not suppose that I have come to bring peace to the earth. I did not come to bring peace, but a sword.  For I have come to turn

‘a man against his father,
    a daughter against her mother,
a daughter-in-law against her mother-in-law—
     a man’s enemies will be the members of his own household.’” (Matthew 10:34-36)

 

By coming, He ushered in a change.  Or, He would have backpeddled when dealing with the Pharisees and retracted his statements like “whitewashed tomb” and “brood of vipers” (which was very strong language in their day).  But He did not backpeddle.  He did not compromise.  If He were to compromise, He would be less than God because He would have tolerated evil.  Christians are called to be like Christ, and Christ did not stand for wickedness.  Why do we embrace it so much that we shun the hurting, the oppressed, and the victims?

Many people have heard the story of the Good Samaritan (and often how pastors use this parable to say love the wicked).  However, who was the Samaritan’s neighbor?  The half-dead Jew lying on the road, NOT the ones who beat him up.  If Jesus really wanted us to love absolutely everyone, why would He not have told the parable so that the Samaritan, after taking care of the Jew, went in search of the robbers and tried to love them?  It seems like many pastors today do in fact do that (trying to love the robbers), but in the process, they kick the bleeding, bruised, and broken victim out of the way like he or she is just a speedbump or a hurdle to get past.  If pastors are willing to step on anyone to reach the lost, perhaps they’ve got it wrong.

There are many stories of abused women going to their pastor for help.  After all, the pastor is supposed to help if someone has problems.  However, all that these hurting people get is their problems diminished and blame-shifted to them (YOU were not subservient enough!  You know, this is a problem on both sides, and both sides are equally guilty), told that they are overreacting (I’m sure it wasn’t that bad!  You just took it wrong), pushed off to the side (Well, the Bible says that “love covers a multitude of sins, [1 Peter 4:8]” so you just have to love him more), or trampled (Why are you telling me these things! Don’t you know that’s gossip!  Ephesians 4:29 says “Let no corrupting talk come out of your mouths, but only such as is good for building up, as fits the occasion, that it may give grace to those who hear.”  You can’t say anything bad about him (or her)).

It’s no wonder the church is dying!  If people by the thousands are told these things, why would they stay?  Why would anyone be drawn to this?

Jesus is not tolerant of wickedness.  He does not use the bleeding, hurting victim as a stepping stool to reach the abuser.  He cares for the hurting.  He cares for those who have no voice.  He sees every single one that has been oppressed.  He knows them by name.  And He remembers every wicked thing done to the victims.  This is a great comfort to the oppressed and hurting, but should terrify those oppressing the victims. God is in the corner of the victim, fighting for them.

Romans 8:31 “What, then, shall we say in response to these things? If God is for us, who can be against us?”