Monday, February 6, 2017

Is God Inclusive or Exclusive?

The short answer is yes. 

With tensions high in the political arena, not to mention various social problems dominating media of all kinds, I thought it might be time to talk about how God views some of these issues. You may be asking yourself, “How do you know how God views these issues or anything else?” God has preserved His Word, the Bible, for many years in order to help us answer many difficult questions and navigate issues such as we are currently facing. We can look to the Bible in order to see the big picture as well as the details.

There is much talk today about “inclusiveness” or “tolerance” or making everyone feel welcome, accepted, loved, valued, etc. Many people even say things like “God loves everyone”, “God loves you just as you are”, “Love your neighbor as yourself”, etc. Let’s examine some of these ideas and statements in light of the entire Bible.

The Bible tells us the God created mankind, Adam and Eve, in His image (Genesis 1:27) meaning, Adam and Eve had a spirit that was alive to God and in perfect fellowship with God. When Adam and Eve sinned (Genesis 3) their spirits were considered “dead” to God due to their sin (disobedience). Subsequently they did not have a perfect relationship with God and were in desperate need of some way to be restored to proper fellowship with God. The worst part of this story is that every human being born after Adam and Eve inherited their dead spirits or sin nature, meaning every human being that has ever been born, except Jesus, has been born spiritually dead and cut off from God. This means that every human being, including you and me, was born “excluded” from God and the promises of God.
Ephesians 2:1-3 says, And although you were dead in your transgressions and sins, in which you formerly lived according to this world’s present path, according to the ruler of the kingdom of the air, the ruler of the spirit that is now energizing the sons of disobedience, among whom all of us also formerly lived out our lives in the cravings of our flesh, indulging the desires of the flesh and the mind, and were by nature children of wrath even as the rest…

Today those who do not know God only do what comes natural. Many people stress the importance of humans above all while diminishing the importance of God. They focus on human reason, experience, and science as the source of all truth instead of the supernatural revelation that comes from God in the form of His Word and His Son. Some people do not want to be “restricted” by any sort of religious rules or teachings but would rather rely on themselves as their own religion. God is considered irrelevant to their lives. Some of these people would even call themselves Christians. 

Speaking of relevant, the vast majority of people living in America today have been taught that absolute truth does not exist and that everything is “relevant” based on whatever circumstances one may find themselves. Their ultimate authority is not God or His Word but is, in fact, their personal opinion since everyone’s opinion is no more valid than anyone else’s opinion. If God is irrelevant or does not exist, then all that does exist is ultimately physical. If this is the case, then why not seek pleasure and happiness at all costs? If no after-life exists, then why not attempt to fulfill every desire that one’s fallen nature produces? This is the way the world thinks and acts, and why shouldn’t they? They are only doing what comes “natural”.

What does the Bible say about what God did for the world? What has God done for people like I just described? 

John 3:16: "For this is the way God loved the world: He gave his one and only Son, so that everyone who believes in him will not perish but have eternal life. 17 For God did not send his Son into the world to condemn the world, but that the world should be saved through him. 18 The one who believes in him is not condemned. The one who does not believe has been condemned already, because he has not believed in the name of the one and only Son of God. 19 Now this is the basis for judging: that the light has come into the world and people loved the darkness rather than the light, because their deeds were evil. 20 For everyone who does evil deeds hates the light and does not come to the light, so that their deeds will not be exposed. 21 But the one who practices the truth comes to the light, so that it may be plainly evident that his deeds have been done in God."

Jesus did not come into the world to condemn the world because the world is already condemned based on the sin nature that every human inherited from Adam. God does love everyone enough to provide a way for everyone to be saved from His wrath and from a ruined life. He has provided His own sinless Son as a sacrifice which paid for all sin for all time. Hebrews 10:14 “For by one offering he has perfected for all time those who are made holy.”

How does the Bible say that a person accesses this gracious gift? By faith, trust, reliance on the finished work of Jesus. This means trusting that what Jesus did by shedding His blood on the cross was enough to satisfy God’s demands.

How can a person know if they have done and are doing this? John 3:19-21 tells us. When a person is exposed to the light, the truth, the gospel of Jesus, how do they respond? Verse 21 is very definite in this matter, “But the one who PRACTICES the truth …” Practice for sports, music, or any other activity is done in order to improve one’s skills. When a person practices the truth, one shows that the truth lives in them. This person practices trusting Jesus as a lifestyle. Those who practice a lifestyle that is contrary to God’s Word may think they know God but in fact are deceived.

In conclusion, God is both inclusive and exclusive. He excludes everyone who does not have eternal life and remains dead in their naturalness. This includes those of all races, religions, genders, etc. It makes no difference. Likewise, God includes all those who have eternal life in His Son Jesus. He includes all those from any background. God does not identify people by race, gender, behavior, etc. He identifies all people based on one and only one criteria; How did/do you respond to the light of the truth of His Son Jesus?  If He has given you eternal life then you are included in His family and will live with Him forever. 

By Daniel Niceley
Author of "The Lie of Forgiveness"  

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