By Charles Slagle
Love… What is it? Love is Commitment. Caring, unceasing commitment. Love governs the universe. Love is not a what. Love is a Who. Love is God! God is Love! He is Holy and Pure Love that is guileless, passionate, tender, and kind. Unfailing! Far more than being a mere sentimental or affectionate feeling, Love is a Person who is Caring Commitment in ACTION. Love reveals Himself in deeds, deeds done in truth. Integrity! Love — God Himself — never fails, therefore He always succeeds. So we can count on Him — even when we can not count on ourselves — at all times, and in all realms, in all worlds. Forever! (I John 3:18, I Cor. 13:8)
Wonderful news, isn’t it? This is the Good News of Jesus Christ: not that we loved God, but that GOD LOVED US, and (freely!) gave His Son as a propitiation — a Love Sacrifice — for our sins. For the sins of the whole world! Through His Son’s love sacrifice, our Heavenly Father is reconciling ALL creation to Himself. He has covenanted with us to set all of us — every human being ever born — right with Himself. To “justify” and rightly align us with Himself and His good heart.
What does this mean? It means our Heavenly Father loves us with WHOLE-HEARTED COMMITMENT. It means God never gives up on ANYONE — not ever! His ever-active love is unfailing. So it will succeed in freeing everyone of us from all deception, confusion, bondage, tears, sorrow, and pain — somehow, some way, some day! (Isa. 25:7,8, Rev. 21:4,5)
|Any message that calls itself “good news” that leaves us with the feeling that Love will fail, or that Love is conditional — however sincerely presented — has to be wrong.
Any message that calls itself “good news” that leaves us with the feeling that Love will fail, or that Love is conditional — however sincerely presented — has to be wrong. It may contain much truth. It may be entirely good in many respects. In many ways the message may highly honor Jesus Christ, our Lord. But if it contains any hint that the Love’s ultimate success depends on our own ability to succeed, you are not hearing a message about Love. You are hearing a message about conditional love, which is not love at all. It is only a business deal.
The message, “the Lord loves you, but you must… or He is out of here forever!” is not good news. For what that message is telling you — bottom line — is this: “Good news, pal! You can count on God, if He can count on YOU.” Scripture tells us that by the works of the law (rule-keeping!) no one will be set right with God! For if scrambling to observe all the rules and keep all of our bases covered could produce righteousness, Christ came to us and died for nothing! (Gal. 2:16,21) If we could rescue ourselves, why would we need a Rescuer? A Savior?
I once believed that our Savior’s love was conditional. How so? I believed:
- that He could only lead people to repentance and save them IF they heard about Him and responded to Him in THIS lifetime.
- that those who did not hear of Him in this lifetime and turn to Him would be lost without hope forever.
- that it made no difference if Jesus Christ had been poorly represented to people! They must “believe” and “repent” nevertheless, for death would end all opportunity ever to know Him.
- that God loves us — BUT — in the end, it was OUR faithfulness to believe and obey that determines our destiny. For being “born again” is not enough. One must walk in CONSISTENT obedience to Christ in order “to go to heaven”. (Or to prove one has been truly saved and is going to heaven.)
- that there was no hope for anyone who died in sin. For it is appointed for men to die once, and after that, the JUDGMENT. (Which to my mind meant, “no hope!”)
- that God could not and would not help us unless at all times we exercised our free (!?) wills to assist Him.
And yet — would you believe I was so naive as to call that formidable list of conditions, “unconditional love”!? Many sincere Christians still believe what I once believed, and they also call their good (?) news message, “unconditional love”. Astonishing, isn’t it?
Here is what that message did for me:
- At times it made me feel a bit self-righteous. Why? Because I had exercised the good sense (wisdom!) to “choose” Christ before it was “forever too late”. (Thus, I felt that the Lord saved me because I was wise — not because I was hopeless and needed a Savior. So how can others be so stupid!?)
- It caused me to focus , not on learning to know and love the Lord, but on always finding ways to “fix” myself. Behavioral modification, SELF-improvement, was my focus.
- It caused me to drop friends that I thought might wrongly influence me so as to keep me from “going to heaven”. I cared about me going to heaven more than I cared about people! (But isn’t this attitude selfish and more descriptive of hell? St. Paul said he wished he were banished from Christ for the sake of other people! Romans 9:3)
- It caused me to view non-Christians, not as human beings needing friendship and love, but as “souls” I must somehow maneuver into “the kingdom”. Proselytes! Spiritual “pelts” to be added to my soul-winning “belt” if only I could CONVINCE them to “come to Jesus”.
- It kept me restless, nervous, fearful, inflexible. Unwilling to try anything “risky” or merely “different”. What if I were to fail, to fall into sin, and get hit by a truck before I could plead for forgiveness?
- It made me religious, legalistic, artificial — unnatural. I developed a “Christianese” lingo that was only decipherable to other religious robots like myself.
- It spawned a love/hate affair between myself and the Lord. My heart yearned for His presence and loved Him. After all, my heart was deeper than my intellect and was created to love God. However, my mind and emotions often resented Him — and at times — raged against Him. When I wrestled with deep sin-syndromes still inside me that I felt powerless to overcome, I would secretly yell out to God, “If You love me so much, WHY don’t you cure me!? Do You WANT me to be lost forever!?” etc. etc..etc…
- I sometimes “exploded” from exhaustion from trying and scrambling to be “holy” and went on sin-binges for hours. Sometimes, for days. “Why try? God isn’t helping me, and I will probably be lost anyway! So why not do SOMETHING that feels good once in awhile, since I am going to be miserable for all eternity?”
Can you relate? Well, if you SERIOUSLY believe God forever gives up on people who do not “measure up” before they die, I know you can relate. Lots of people say they “believe” that the “Savior of all men” and “Good Shepherd” sends all who miss their “chance” to a never-ending hell. But they do not really believe it. If they did, they would “get their rear in gear” and stop goofing off! They would stop calling their relaxed religious lifestyle “trusting in God’s grace”. They would SHOW that they are concerned about their heavenly destiny, right?
So there will always be folks who say they “believe” certain things while actually living out an entirely different belief-system. Those who say they believe their eternal destiny rests in their own hands — even while — they “rest in God’s grace”, can be found in large numbers in many churches. These folks will hardly ever give “eternal torment” a thought! That is, unless someone like myself comes along and gently challenges their denomination’s creed or their nondenomination’s dogma. Then, they will roar like lions to defend what they “believe” but do not actually believe. Interesting bunch, these double-talkers, aren’t they?
So this message is not for those who know how to “believe” and talk God is love/hate double-speak while not actually believing it. Our Good Lord will get them to the end of themselves sooner or later. Once they fully realize that they do NOT “qualify” for heaven — and never can qualify — they will thirst for hope that is more reliable than their own will-power and endurance. Our Faithful Lord got yours truly here cornered — BIG TIME. And I doubt there are very many religious robots around who are worse than this one!
Are you experiencing exhaustion, despair, or rage? Do you go through times of feeling bonkers with joy because you are “overcoming” and you seem to be succeeding? Yet you experience other times of despair because you keep falling into “I don’t give a rip” sin-binges?
Do you love the Lord, but also feel frustrated and angry with Him fairly often? And all because you fear He is not going to be there for you when you need Him the most? That in the end, He may write you off forever? There is a way out of that syndrome of satanic terror. But to come out of this pattern of frustration, you must be ready. Are you ready? If experiencing healing now has become more important to you than being “understood” and totally “approved of” by religious people or organizations — you are ready! If having DEEPEST PEACE (that will give rise to new feelings and behavior!) is more important than “looking good” and taking pride in your own accomplishment — you are ready!
|The Bible tells us the Lord does NOT cast people away forever! He may bring us to grief for a time to show us our need of Him. But His unfailing love always causes Him to act with compassion.
For starters… let’s just confront head on that old religious demon who dares call himself “everlasting” hell! That dude is NOT found in the Bible. Not in its original language, he isn’t! In fact the Bible tells us the Lord does NOT cast people away forever! He may bring us to grief for a time to show us our need of Him. But His unfailing love always causes Him to act with compassion. Thus, He is always devising ways so those who are banished from Him are brought back and fully restored. (Lam. 3:31-33, II Sam. 14:14, Heb. 13:8)
Love means commitment! So… Our Heavenly Father has made a covenant with all of us:
THROUGH CHRIST, ABRAHAM’S “SEED” ALL THE FAMILIES OF ALL THE EARTH WILL BE JUSTIFIED — BLESSED AND SET RIGHT — WITH HIMSELF. AND THE LAW — WHAT WE DO OR DO NOT DO — CAN NOT CANCEL THIS COVENANT. (Gen. 22:15-18, Gal. 3:8,17)
Why is this? It is the law (and our inability to perfectly fulfill it) that works “wrath”. (Be sure and look up all the Scripture I am sharing, ok? Note: Gal. 3:17 as well as Rom. 4:13-15.) Paul also tells us God gave us the Scriptures to comfort us and to bring us HOPE. Then he explains WHY the Bible brings us hope: it is because Christ has come to CONFIRM God’s covenant to set ALL who are in spiritual darkness free! Check Rom. 11:4-13 out for yourself!
So it does not matter how many “forever and evers” or “eternals” crop up in the Bible about fiery wrath or judgment. The Lord’s judgments may be “forever” — but only in the sense that they are continuous or on-going. But they are NOT endless! If they were never-ending they would cancel His covenant! The Lord’s judgments continue only as long as they are needed to SHOW us our need to cast ourselves upon His mercy. They continue throughout all earth’s redemptive “ages” in which God is allowing “fiery trials” to purify His human family.
But the PURPOSE of fiery trials is not to torture us, though they may bring torment for a season. Their purpose is to free us from all that keeps us in bondage. The Lord’s disciplines do not CANCEL God’s covenant to set us right with Himself (and our true selves). Our Heavenly Father’s “fires” are part of His means to FULFILL His covenant! They are NOT unending.
It bears repeating — the Lord’s fiery judgments and disciplines are only “everlasting” in the sense that they are THOROUGH. His purifying fires do not cease burning — until — they have done their good work! God’s corrective disciplines continue until they help to ACCOMPLISH the restoration of ALL things spoken of by all His holy prophets since time began! (Acts 3:21)
Everlasting life IS endless. Why? All death will be destroyed, there will be NO more death! (I Tim. 1:10, I Cor. 15:22-26, Rev. 21:4,5) So how can everlasting life come to an end? Life, restoration — is our Lord’s AGENDA for His creation, right? Not death! Unending death (which would mean endless separation from God) would defeat His purpose — not serve it! The Bible says, “He receives NO PLEASURE in the death of the wicked, and all of the human race was created for His PLEASURE.” (Ezek. 18:32, Rev. 4:11)
So the truth is, ALL OF US must pass through “fires” of tempering. Christians and non-Christians alike! (Mk. 9:49, I Pet. 1:6,7) However, for those who do not know — or do not obey the Lord — here is the problem: such ones are unleashing “wrath” from the laws they are violating. For it is God’s laws that undergird REALITY. So, they are starting their own fires! And we can start as many fires as we want — until — we are sick and tired of living in the furnace of self-inflicted torment all of the time.
But even though we ALL blunder through seasons of stupidity, God will work even these for our good, eventually. Haven’t you noticed this by now?
However, when we turn to walk with the Lord, we still occasionally will pass through fires of adversity that help form His good character in us. But in the conscious knowledge of our Lord’s fellowship and presence, they do not terrorize us — even if they are stressful. Why? We love Him, now! We know our Lord is committed to us. We also know we are responding to His call to fulfill His high PURPOSE. Thus we now KNOW that all is working for our good. (Rom. 8:26) Before we knew our Lord’s good heart, we could not know that He was working all for our good. But if He had not been, how would we know Him now? It was His faithfulness to guide and protect us during our days spent in self-centered folly that made it POSSIBLE for us to know Him now. I repeat — God gave us a COVENANT. He did that, knowing how many fires we would start and jump into! He knew His children would all go through a stage of playing with matches!
He knew each one of us long before we were born! Nothing we have done, or now do, or ever will do takes Him by surprise! God knew we would “screw up” BIG TIME, and He even planned to allow it. The Bible even says He “willed” it — not us! (Rom. 8:19-21) Why? Because His plan was to bring us far closer to Himself than would have been possible had we never needed His MERCY. He has committed us ALL to disobedience — so — He might SHOW MERCY to us all. (Rom. 11:32,36)
The quality of mercy God is developing inside all of us will equip us for a magnificent role we are destined to fulfill with Him. He intends that His human family act as co-regents with Him in His vast Cosmic Empire. Mind boggling, huh? I will let you think for yourself about what He may have planned for other cherished worlds and creatures yet to be — or yet to mature — and how our Father’s human family will bless them.
|The “church” is NOT the only people God intends to redeem, but they are His first born children who have been chosen to help bring about the restoration of everyone else.
I could share many other things the Lord has taught me. For example, how the “church” is NOT the only people God intends to redeem, but they are His first born children who have been chosen to help bring about the restoration of everyone else. (Col. 1:18, Eph. 1:22, Acts 15:14-18)
I could also show you how Christ gives indestructible and ENDLESS life (Heb. 7:16, Jn. 14:19) and how that no such words ever crop up in Scriptures that speak of wrath, judgment, or death. So there is no such thing as an “unpardonable sin”. Blasphemy against the Holy Spirit will not be forgiven in this AGE or the coming AGE — NOT eternity. For God does not retain His anger forever because He delights in mercy! (See NKJV, Matt. 12:32 and Micah 7:18-20)
Before I close and finish with a prayer, I will share just a few Scriptures. These are Scriptures that tell us God’s PURPOSE for His creation and the certainty of it coming to pass. And I paraphrase…
Col. 1:15-20 tells us that ALL THINGS came into being by — and for — Jesus Christ. So God is reconciling ALL THINGS to Himself through Christ’s death on the cross. This includes all in Heaven (the invisible realm) and all on the earth (the visible realm). For Christ promised (Jn. 12:32) that He will draw all of us to Himself! Also, Ephesians 1:9-11 basically tells us that God has made known to us the mystery of His PURPOSE and will. It is this: that in the fullness of the times He plans to unite all things — ALL CREATION — under the loving rulership (headship) of His Son, Jesus Christ. Why? It is because God works ALL things in harmony with His counsel (plans) and will. (Dan. 4:34,35; Dan.7:14,27; Isa. 45:21-24, Ps. 22:27,28: Phil. 1:9-11)
Isaiah 46:10,11 tells us that God’s counsel (plans) WILL STAND. He will accomplish ALL of His pleasure (His desire). He has spoken it; He will make it good. He has promised it, and will bring it to pass! (Rev. 5:13) Do you see it? Love Himself has willed us into existence, and we ALL must return to Him! (Rom. 11:32)
The law — all that has to do with the rules defining what is good or bad behavior — CANNOT cancel Love’s covenant and purpose. Nor can the “wrath” and the “judgment” that violated law unleashes cancel His will. These things are only “everlasting” in the sense that they continue until they accomplish His good purpose! (Isa. 55:11; Heb. 13:8) What does this mean? It means God will never — not ever — give up on you! For God is Love, and Love means commitment. Our Lord’s warnings of judgment ARE serious. We can suffer untold grief and heartache by living contrary to His commands. Yet He assures us that ALL of His judgments arise for our ultimate benefit — so that — all of us will honor and love Christ and our Heavenly Father. (Matt. 5:22,23; Ps. 62:12)
If you’ll ask the Lord to help you LATCH ON to these truths, you are in for the greatest day of your life! And — you are in for a “love-affair” with your heavenly Father that will SET YOU FREE from your bondages. Remember, gospel means GLAD tidings of great joy which shall be for ALL people! If it is not good news, it is not the gospel! (Luke 2:10)
I rejoice to acknowledge Jesus Christ as Lord of all creation and Lord of my life. He died on the cross to redeem me from sin and You, Father, raised Him to life again. He died and rose for every person ever born — including myself.
So dear Father will you now set me free from religious bondage? From the lie of conditional love? Love has to mean commitment, or it does not mean anything. Thank you, Father, Son, and Holy Spirit for loving me with total commitment. Please help me to begin to understand ALL You have taught us in the Bible in light of your commitment — Your covenant of unconditional love.
I receive Your love, and I ask for power to love others as You have loved me. I ask that the protective power of Jesus’ blood will cover my mind and my life as I study the Scriptures to discover the magnitude of Your covenant of love — and the magnitude of Christ’s victory through His cross.
In His Wonderful Name,
This article was originally published on Charles and Paula Slagle’s ministry website. Charles Slagle is the author of several books, an evangelist and prophetic psalmist originally from the Pentecostal tradition. He served as a founding member of the Board of Directors of the Christian Universalist Association.