"The Really Good News About God" is a popular edition paperback that presents a lay-person's introduction to Christian Universalism, rather than a theological or philosophical argument for that position.
This page discusses some of the thinking behind the views presented in Chapter Seven and also addresses several genuine questions that are often raised when topics such as these are debated.
Hopefully, this will put some meat on the bones in Chapter Seven and stimulate healthy, respectful discussion by those who choose to dig a bit deeper.
For those who wish to dig a lot deeper, other books and websites are listed in the Recommended References link towards the bottom of the Topic Menu on the left.
|Practical Hints||Popular Scenarios||Frequently Asked Questions|
Using St Paul as a Biblical example, let's begin with a general description of a Christ-follower. In his own words, Paul described his starting point ...
I was once a blasphemer and a persecutor and a violent man.
God's interception ...
I was shown mercy because I acted in ignorance and unbelief.
The grace of our Lord was poured out on me abundantly, along with the faith and love that are in Christ Jesus.
God's reason ...
So that in me, the worst of sinners, Christ Jesus might display his immense patience as an example for those who would believe in him and receive life in the ages.
[ 1 Timothy 1 : 13 - 16 BV ]
The Church was established by Jesus Christ in the first century AD and is called the Body of Christ in the Bible.
It is an organic body, the hands and feet of Jesus on this planet, empowered by the Holy Spirit to respond to the mindset and yearnings of the Head, Jesus Christ himself, and in training to rule with Christ in the coming ages.
The Body of Christ is present wherever genuine Christ-followers gather in authentic, missional community (which may or may not appear as part of the institutional church, the most visible expression of mainstream Christianity on the planet).
The Church is the most exciting, adventurous, revolutionary and productive body of people on earth.
Sharing the good news of God being at peace with us and of him desiring us to be a peace with him is one of the main purposes of being chosen as an early believer.
And what a privilege to be given such an important responsibility!
Firstly, I earnestly desire that my friends enjoy the same relationship with God that I have.
The Christian life is so rich and empowering that it is worth having, even if there was nothing beyond life on this planet to look forward to.
Secondly, By God's grace alone, I have been chosen as one of God's partners in fulfilling his plan for mankind.
God's plan is to save all, and he uses early believers as one of his means of achieving his goal.
Not everyone will have a "Saul on the road to Damascus experience" or a "Thomas in the locked house experience".
Most people come to faith on this planet as the good news is shared with them by others.
When the good news is made known ...
But how can they call to him for help if they have not believed? And how can they believe if they have not heard the message? And how can they hear if the message is not proclaimed?
And how can the message be proclaimed if the messengers are not sent out? As the scripture says, "How wonderful is the coming of messengers who bring good news!"
[ Romans 10 : 14 - 15 GNB ]
faith is given ...
So then, faith comes from hearing the message, and the message comes through preaching Christ.
[ Roman 10 : 17 GNB ]
and people move from darkness to light.
He rescued us from the power of darkness and brought us safe into the kingdom of his dear Son, by whom we are set free, that is, our sins are forgiven.
[ Col 1 : 13 - 14 GNB ]
Paul also declares that it is we who have been given this task of passing on the good news of reconciliation.
All this is done by God, who through Christ changed us from enemies into his friends and gave us the task of making others his friends also.
Our message is that God was making all human beings his friends through Christ. God did not keep an account of their sins, and he has given us the message which tells how he makes them his friends.
Here we are, then, speaking for Christ, as though God himself were making his appeal through us. We plead on Christ's behalf: let God change you from enemies into his friends!
[ 2 Cor 5 : 18 - 20 GNB ]
This is the way God has planned for his ambitious, gracious, reconciliation project to be implemented on planet earth.
Thirdly, it is so satisfying, so exhilarating, to be sharing the good news with friends and see them receive faith to believe and appreciate what God has done for them through Jesus.
Seeing God touch people's lives through little me is so exciting, yet very humbling.
The ministry of reconciliation is an awesome privilege God has given us.
Let's not allow our discovery of God's end result deflect us from the purpose of our early calling. Indeed let's be further stimulated by it.
Those who have been following our family cancer journey will know that for several months I have been researching alternative treatments that might kill and/or prevent cancer.
There seems to be some evidence that cancer cells cannot survive in an alkaline environment, while healthy cells flourish.
These destructive little cancer critters are themselves destroyed when the body they are invading is alkaline - has a PH somewhat above 7.
So our eldest son, who has had his third case of brain cancer in less than 10 months, is working at maintaining his PH at 8 or 9, a level which is about 50 or 60 times more alkaline than normal.
If the science we have been reading is correct, his cancer cells (and any other unwelcome products of an acidic environment) should be killed in this environment and expelled from his body.
I have also been thinking a lot about the kingdom of God lately, and how we can live successfully as members of it.
And I've been noticing an interesting parallel with my cancer research.
If the Scriptures are correct, being filled with the Holy Spirit also produces two outcomes.
Firstly, the sin/worldliness in us is killed and expelled from our lives and ministry, as evil cannot survive in a spirit-filled environment.
Secondly, the good/Godliness already in us is enriched and empowered to be even more effective in kingdom duties and responsibilities.
So just as my son is attempting to keep his body more alkaline to rid his body of unwanted nasties and to enrich his healthy cells and organs, we need to work at keeping ourselves more spiritually saturated and Christ-oriented to rid ourselves of the nasties that compromise our witness as followers of Jesus and to make us more responsible and productive members of Christ's kingdom.
* * * * *
Maybe, over a period of time, it might be something like this ...
(A more concise version for a one-off death-bed conversation follows at the bottom.)
When your time comes to leave this planet, your first conscious appointment will be with God.
This will be a huge event, because God is awesome - the Creator and Saviour of the world.
But let me tell you that ......
God loves you very much and holds absolutely nothing against you, no matter what you've done.
Indeed he is waiting for you as any loving and concerned father waits for his lost son to return home.
Jesus explained this in his story of the Prodigal Son.
I would read or relate this parable and follow with a summary like ...
The father offers no judgement, no paying off the debt, no penalty, only full acceptance, wild celebration and reinstatement into the family.
God does this for you too, because of what Jesus has done for all of us.
I would explain Jesus' Birth, Death and Resurrection.
Everyone's sins have been dealt with and everyone will live, eventually.
Isn't that just good news?
This great home-coming celebration depended only on the lost son ...
his change of heart towards his father
his readiness to admit his mistakes and selfish attitude
his desire to return home and be reconciled to his father.
The father had already forgiven the son and was reconciled to him, even before the son had started heading for home.
But the father couldn't show him his love until the son had decided to return.
It was all up to the son.
So it's up to you how you meet God.
As someone with a bad attitude to God and fearful of meeting up with him?
As someone confident and appreciative of God's love, forgiveness and full acceptance?
Yes, you can turn for home like the Prodigal did, be reconciled to your Father, and begin to live in a way that shows you've changed.
And live happily and in harmony with God forever.
We will all get to that point eventually, one way or the other.
But the sooner we do, the easier it is; and the sooner that life can begin.
In fact, if we become reconciled to God before we leave this planet, we can start that life straight away.
That's what God calls the good news.
Jesus has done everything that needs to be done for you and me to live in harmony with God forever.
God is already on your side.
We just need to get on his side to get the full benefit of what Jesus has done for us.
What would you like to do now that you know all this?
Here's a simpler, more concise version I might use when time is short.
Most people think that God is angry with them because of their sins.
Actually it's the other way around. God is in love with them and they are angry with God.
The message of the Bible is that God is waiting for us to be at peace with him.
God loves us and is on our side.
He has done everything to make sure there is nothing between us and him, from his side, through Jesus Christ.
God asks us to believe him in this, to admit our mistakes and selfish attitude, and to genuinely desire reconciliation.
Which means to drop whatever we hold between us and him, to be at peace with him, and to thank him for his generous invitation to live in harmony with him.
Hopefully this simpler version will be enough to get their attention so that they ask the questions necessary to fill out the story and be given the faith to believe it. [ Romans 10 : 17 ]
Those who know me are acutely aware that religion, including the Christian variety, is not my thing.
My Brisbane neighbours who eventually discovered I was a church pastor would often claim they were not religious in the hope they could avoid any discussion about God or of a spiritual nature.
They were then surprised when I admitted that I was not religious either (but enjoyed a great relationship with God).
It may also surprise many people to know that Jesus did not come to earth to establish a religion.
In fact, he didn't even mention the words religion, Christian or Christianity.
When you look at the original meaning of the word religion, it is easy to see why Jesus avoided it.
Religion comes from the Latin and means to tie, to bind, to obligate or to fasten.
The word conveys a sense of duty, living according to a set of rules and restrictions.
The highly restricted, performance-based life of a monk illustrates religious life in the extreme, but most people committed to a religion of any variety are dominated by the need to perform and to please in order to 'make it' or 'be accepted.'
Jesus came for something entirely different, indeed the opposite.
He came to set us free from religion, to reconcile us to God without the need to perform - nothing to do with religion or religious performance at all.
Religion is mankind striving after God.
Jesus did the opposite - He brought God to mankind, and ultimately will bring all mankind to God.
"And I, when I am lifted up from the earth, will draw all people to myself."
[ John 12 : 32 NIV ]
Religion is the outward performance of ceremony, conduct and service motivated by a sense of duty.
Jesus gives life that produces inner joy and peace and service motivated by a relationship of love.
Following Christ is the outworking of that life that brings us to God and Godliness.
This section contains the questions I have most frequently been asked on the broad topic of Our On-Stage Role, and my usual answers to these.
As you read, please remember that some questions may not have precise answers. There are so many things we creatures do not know about our Creator and how he operates, even though we often have many clues in the Scriptures.
However, if you have some better answers than I have presented here, please offer them through the last item, Ask Your Question, on the Topics menu on the left. I will really appreciate being able to add to my understanding through your input.
You can also ask a question of your own by selecting the same item, Ask Your Question, on the left. If your question gets asked frequently enough, your question and my answer will be added to this page.