For so many years, and decades we have had an “upside down, wrong way round and back to front” gospel presented to us. Simply turning everything around has been a most illogical deception. Yet, it slipped into Christian Theology almost undetected and was curiously passed as accepted orthodoxy.
I am talking about the oxymoron of conditional love.
Many Christians adopted the idea that God loves everyone but, the individual must accept His love by believing in Christ or else they are still lost. What fortifies this concept is a set of scriptures, particularly in the New Testament that seem to substantiate this doctrinal view.
It is a critical discipline for the Christian to base our doctrine on the scriptures.
Sola scriptura, (meaning by scripture alone, is a Christian theological doctrine held by some Protestant Christian denominations, in particular the Lutheran and Reformed traditions of Protestantism, that posits the Bible as the sole infallible source of authority for Christian faith and practice) should be the fundamental source for our Theology.
However, the problems begin where scriptures are taken out of context. When that happens, we can still safely say “well, that’s what the Bible says”. And true it is, the Bible does maybe say that. But we must ask if the explanation given to that verse is congruent with the original intent of the author and fits within the context of the whole writing.
This is where many interpretations and explanations fail the test. Will we be honest and humble enough to uphold the integrity of the context of scripture even when it’s message turns out to be different from our explanations, doctrine, and theology? The more our understanding of the revelation from scripture grows, the more our doctrine should align. If we develop a doctrine and use scriptures to support our narrative then we will change the original message of scriptures. Taking verses out of context and projecting our explanations on to them could result in producing these theological impossibilities.
The messages, sermons, and teachings which propose the idea that God’s love is for everyone, but if you as an individual do not believe in Christ you will be eternally tormented and lost in a lake of fire are the oxymoron I’m referring to. This idea is an impossible construct.
Let’s see if we can de-construct the psychology of this type of supposed conditional love, set against unconditional love.
Conditional love can only be experienced when obedient. This kind of love precedes compliance to the set-out conditions. This means a person must first believe or accept Christ as Lord into their heart. By the way, an undisputed reality is the fact that Christ is Lord of heaven and earth. Whether or not a person accepts this to be true or not is irrelevant.
God loves everyone saved and lost, because once upon a time the saved had to be lost first to then become saved. So historically in our evangelistic efforts we operated from the default position that God loves those who are lost. We tell them that Jesus loves them, we tell them that He died for them because he loves them, we say things like: “Jesus loves you that’s why he came to save you from eternal damnation, so you don’t have to suffer in the lake of fire for eternity, but if you don’t accept Him, you will be lost forever.” The conclusion of this line of thinking leads to the idea that God doesn’t want anyone to got to hell (or the lake of fire), He came to save us from that horrible destiny, because He loves us. But if anyone goes to hell, it is because they rejected Christ and they chose for that destiny themselves, and God is not going to override their freedom of choice. Thus, even though people are forgiven of their sin, their real sin is their unbelief and hell is split wide open by people who are forgiven and chose to go there themselves.
Wow, and then to think that I used to preach this myself many years ago. I have since then come to see that our freedom of choice is still very limited, especially when it comes to things eternal of which we know very little about. Surely, if you have raised children, when they were little you regularly had to override their freedom of choice in their best interest. I suppose that was because you love them. Did they fully understand then why you said, no? What when you moved house when the children were still very young, and had no concept of the new life the whole family was about to embark upon?
Did they have a choice in the matter? So how do we think it is even possible to have a grasp of eternity in hell or heaven? We get the idea intellectually, but we have very little emotional intelligence from those realms. If we did, we probably couldn’t process it mentally, and certainly no one would choose to go to hell. The famous rock star (I won’t mention his name) who told me he wanted to go to hell, because he wanted to party forever definitely didn’t have a clue of what he was talking about. God chose to redeem us, because only He could fully comprehend the realistic outcomes of either destinies. That’s why God redeemed the whole of humanity, every man, woman, and child of every generation of all time, through Christ. That’s the decision He made, because it wouldn’t be fair to allow us to bear such a huge responsibility well beyond our capacity to comprehend. And the devil worked overtime to cause much pain, fear and hatred in this world to try and discourage people from believing this wonderful truth.
The other side of this theological paradox is that have been given sovereignty over our lives in this Earth. Though limited, to not being able to chose who your parents are, and their genetics being passed onto us, still is our dominion involves being powerful influencers and world changers.
Ok, God loves us, but why is there still so much evil in the world? If Jesus is Lord, why does He not stop all the horrors and harm caused to children, to people everywhere, and to our planet? Why doesn’t He stop pandemics and wars? The Lord could be more intrusive and make us obey and force us to stop committing horrible acts against each other. But consider this. If God would force our hand in all our decision making that would make Him a dictator and a tyrant. Well, He could stop evil people from doing evil things, and the truth is He can. But He needs to work through us who are willing to believe Him, to stand for the truth, for righteousness, love, and value for life and the freedom of humanity.
When we take up our responsibility then God can work through us and stop evil in this world. For this life here on Earth God gave all of us, including those people intent on causing harm to others a free will up to a certain degree. With this power of choice, He also gave us the responsibility to work with Him to make this world a better place. Many Christians pray to God to do something about the problems in this world. That’s great, but when you ask Him to do it and then walk away from the issue you are leaving a major part undone. God is saying what are you doing about it? You can pray all day long for God to stop corruption in Governments. Yes, God wants to intervene. But He needs you to speak His Word in the Earth and decree the required change. He needs you to be His vessel, His ambassador, and get involved within the capacity He has given you to declare His Word, to share His love and His truth. Consider your power to do this as influence. When Christ can work through you your influence is filled with the Holy Spirit and power of God.
Example: A dear Christian told me today that he prayed to God about the weather. At the time of this writing our national weather warnings were on red alert with the threat of floods, falling trees, power blackouts and danger to life. I said, “so you asked God to prevent the storm, and what did you do about it?” He then looked at me like I was growing pigs’ ears.
I said, “did you take God’s Word and declare the words pronounced by weather forecasters and the words spoken by the millions of people who believed their message as rendered powerless? Did you take God’s Word and command the natural order and balance, the way Yahweh intended it, to return to the atmosphere, climate and weather conditions in the earth? No? Well, God wants to balance the weather, but He wants to work through you.” Listening to the radio that day, an announcer stated that this storm was going to be the most severe storm we have seen in a hundred years. Well, I took all that information into Heaven’s court. I pleaded this case and declared the extreme weather threat as unlawful and decreed that by the power of God, divine balance would restore to the elements of nature, the atmosphere, climate, and weather conditions. I prayed this prayer whilst the storm was in full swing. That storm had come to our coastline, trees came down, the roof of the O2 arena in London came off, there were power cuts, but mostly we had some wind, nothing more than British weather we have seen many times before. But the severity of that storm was quickly broken and never reached its full potential. We need to learn what our responsibility is and what the tools are that God gave us to affect change.
And so, there are many evils in this world. And yes, God unconditionally loves every human, and by His Spirit, His power and the holy angelic armies of heaven He will do everything possible to intervene but it will be congruent with the New Covenant. He will speak to every man, woman, and child in this planet. It is the believer’s task to pray, and to ask God, and then to affect change by putting the power of God to work. This is done by speaking His Word and to share His love and truth where the opportunity is provided. God can then manifest through us in a most powerful way. In this way God can intervene and stop evil people by removing them from their position of influence thereby preventing them from causing further harm to come to others. Do evil people not have a free will then? Yes, they do, but it is not congruent with the New Covenant in Christ to allow their freedom of choice to encroach upon the welfare of others. At that point when the evil person is unrepentant God’s love and the New Covenant in Christ provides that God can intervene when we ask God and make a demand according to this New Covenant. That’s what the true meaning of the word “ask” means in scripture. It is covenant language. The definition in scripture for the word “ask” in this context is: the making of a demand of something that is due to you according to the relevant covenant.
God’s love for people is not conditional. Conditional love does not exist. Conditional love means that there will be rejection until the condition is met. Therefore, this so-called conditional love is a love that is earned. It would be more appropriate to call this kind of love performance-based acceptance. Once the conditions are met, there is acceptance. If they are not met there remains rejection. So, a person is accepted by God, when they accept or believe in Christ, but they remain rejected if they do not accept or believe in Christ. Now add to that the threat of eternal torment in the lake of fire if you do not accept or believe in Christ. Wow, do you see the problem here? For many years in my job role, I investigated high risk domestic violent crimes. Time and time again I have seen the characteristics of an abuser displayed who uses the manipulative psychological push and pull techniques. The abuser loves their victim when the victim does what they say and draws them in. They will reject their victim when they disobey. Is that the kind of relationship God is trying to have with us? If you must earn acceptance with God based on your performance, you must first believe that you are not accepted, which is rejection. So, the default setting is rejection. That is a bad place to operate from in any relationship.
The idea that God loves you as you are, is true. Come to Him as you are, and He will accept you as you are, is true as well. But you will recognize this statement: “God loves you as you are, but He loves you enough not to leave you as you are”. If that’s implying that you must change once you come to Him, that would mean you will not be accepted if you don’t change and comply. Therefore, this will undoubtedly lead to falling back into earning His love. Wait, God loves us as we are, He first accepts us as we are, but then we are rejected again if we don’t change? The need for change then becomes an obsession.
The perfectionist personality is tormented by this mentality, because the achieved change will never be good enough. There are many perfectionists in the Christian Church because of the religious law-based theology. It’s not just the law-based theology that is the problem. Because if a preacher were to just preach 100% law it would be easily identified as non-Gospel. The mark of the Sinaitic Law (Law of Moses) required perfect adherence. If a Hebrew transgressed in only one of the commandments, they would be guilty of breaking the whole law.
James 2:10 King James Version
10 For whosoever shall keep the whole law, and yet offend in one point, he is guilty of all.
The problem is the mixing of Law and Grace. This is much harder to recognize. The Christian Church has a mix of Grace and of works of the Law-based theology. That’s why many statements of beliefs by both the clergy and laity are the expression of this mixed theology. Those statements of beliefs are oxymora by nature. Anytime you hear a preacher say, ”God loves you but…” you are about to hear an oxymoron.
This is the state of the Christian Church world-wide. We tell the world that God loves them as they are. This is unconditional love or acceptance. Then if they join the Church, they have a two-month grace period but then they must begin to change to better behavior, or else God can’t bless them. This is conditional love or rather rejection. Then we wonder why so many Christians become frustrated or worse, many even have issues with depression.
I know I struggled with depression as a Christian for years, until I became established in the revelation of God’s love for me. Not my love for God, no God’s love for me.
Of course, the Gospel truth has trans-formative power. If we become established in the Gospel of the grace of God, the Good News of God’s love for us, then change will happen effortlessly. That’s because that change is becomes the fruit of our relationship with God.
Change is the consequent supernatural fruit of knowing and believing God’s love for us. Change or rather transforming from within becomes the fruit of our relationship with Christ, not the root of our relationship.
Romans 7:4 King James Version
4 Wherefore, my brethren, ye also are become dead to the law by the body of Christ; that ye should be married to another, even to him who is raised from the dead, that we should bring forth fruit unto God.
The legal requirement in the Law of Moses to love your neighbor as yourself from Leviticus 19:18 is still emphasized in the modern Christian Church, and is often termed as “the love walk of the Christian”. Added to that we see that the new commandment Jesus gives in John 13:34 “That ye love one another; as I have loved you, that ye also love one another”, as though both of these two commandments are part of the Christian mandate.
However, these two verses each belong to their own respective covenant. The sources on which these commandments depend for their fulfillment are different in nature and are diametrically opposed to each other. They are opposed to each other because, one is operated by the power of the flesh. The other by the power of the Spirit. The Mosaic Law was impossible to keep because of the weakness of human nature, until Christ came, and He was the one who loved His neighbor, that’s us, as He loved Himself. In this way Christ fulfilled the Law, abolished it, and gave us a New Commandment fitting for the New Covenant.
Leviticus 19:18 belongs with the Sinaitic Covenant, and John 13:34 belongs with the New Covenant. You can’t mix the two. You can’t put the new wine into old wine-skins. The wine-skin will burst and the wine will be lost. (my paraphrase of Mark 2:22). If you mix those two different commandments the whole thing won’t work. Leviticus 19:18 is part of the law of Moses, which carries a threat of punishment for not keeping the law. Not wanting to be punished whilst living under the law would be a good reason for being nice to your neighbor. But the question is whether treating your neighbor right then comes from a heart of love or rather from a sense of self-preservation. The new commandment Jesus gave in John 13:34 did not come with a threat of punishment if it was not adhered to. The fact that Jesus emphasized the “as I have loved you”, suggests that our loving one another is the consequence or automatic result, i.e. fruit of having a revelation of His love for us.
1 John 3:16 King James Version
16 Hereby perceive we the love of God, because he laid down his life for us: and we ought to lay down our lives for the brethren.
You see it is impossible to love your neighbor or brother with unconditional love (the love that is of God) unless you first perceive the love of God for you, which was demonstrated in the finished work of Christ. Living under the law of Moses people were not empowered to keep the law. They couldn’t love their neighbor as they love themselves. They failed. They were always going to fail. That’s what the law was designed to do. It exposed man’s inability to keep it. That’s why the Law provided the sacrificial system to make atonement for breaking the Law. More importantly the Law and the sacrificial system were prophetically pointing towards the Christ who would fulfill its purpose and then empower us live by His grace.
If you operate from a sense of obligation to love your neighbor as you love yourself, without first perceiving the love that God has for you, you are operating under a mentality of the law. Under law you are not empowered by His grace to walk the love walk. You are literally operating from your own ability. It’s just a matter of time until you fail. Not only that, the motivation is flawed. Without first perceiving the love that God has for you, you are trying the love your neighbor as you love yourself, but this is a psychological impossibility.
We have heard it so many times before. You must learn to forgive yourself. You must learn to love yourself. Now bear with me in this. Love is something that involves the communion of two. If you are one person there must be another person for there to be love. One person by themselves is incapable to love themselves. Only when another person joins can there be communion where love can thrive. That’s why loving your neighbor as you love yourself is impossible to fulfill. You must first perceive love for you from another, because you can’t give what you don’t have. Therefore, the New Covenant in Christ empowers us to love. This is why – we love Him because He first loved us. 1 John 4:19.
That’s what it means to walk in the light as He is in the light. 1 John 1:7. Throughout scripture God has given us revelation of the trinity within the Godhead. The Hebrew name Elohim revealed in Genesis is the first of the revelations of the nature of God. The name Elohim is in plural form. The second person of the Godhead became flesh meaning that Christ is God incarnated. This hypo-static union of God in a human body makes Christ both Son of man and Son of God. Christ is therefore 100% man and 100% God, co-equal with God the Father and God the Holy Spirit. Within this enigma we can just about see the concept of the perfect union of the Triune God of three persons, yet one God. We do not worship three different gods. No, God is One, three persons yet one being.
As 1 John 4:16 states that God is love we remember the preacher who said that God doesn’t have love, He is love. Think about the very small word “is”. It means: equal : homogeneous : uniform.
God is by nature love because of the perfect communion within the Holy Trinity.
Now that we are in Christ, we have been made ONE with the second person of the Godhead, in perfect union with the Father and the Holy Spirit. Wow!
So John invites us to walk in the reality of this revelation when he says:
1 John 1:7 King James Version
7 But if we walk in the light, as he is in the light, we have fellowship one with another, and the blood of Jesus Christ his Son cleanseth us from all sin.
As I’m writing this article, we will officially begin the spring season within a few weeks and it is noticeable as the weather is becoming warmer. I love spring, because it’s that time when the sun really begins to come out more often, and the temperatures are usually a lot more pleasant. It’s that time of the year I really enjoy walking in the light of the son. When the apostle John talks about walking in the light as He is in the light, this is how I imagine it. Light and truth are often used synonymous in scripture. Especially the apostle John tends to use these two words as meaning the same thing. If we walk in the truth we are walking in the light. I often heard Christians say “we must walk in love towards one another, but we must also speak the truth”. This is true, but one does not exclude the other. They are the same thing. You can’t separate love from truth or truth from love. If it’s not true, then it is not love. If it’s not love it is not true.
What kind of love are we talking about? Our ability to love? No. God’s love for us. The reality of God’s love for us in Christ is the truth. As Christ is a perfect man and yet the second person of the Godhead, He is in the light of the Father’s love for Him. It is a perfect union. As we are in Christ, and perceive the love that the Father has for us, we are walking in the light. Just as we can walk in the warming light of the spring son shining on us, we can walk in the light of this truth of the revelation of God’s love for us.
Ephesians 3:14-21 King James Version
14 For this cause I bow my knees unto the Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, 15 Of whom the whole family in heaven and earth is named, 16 That he would grant you, according to the riches of his glory, to be strengthened with might by his Spirit in the inner man; 17 That Christ may dwell in your hearts by faith; that ye, being rooted and grounded in love, 18 May be able to comprehend with all saints what is the breadth, and length, and depth, and height; 19 And to know the love of Christ, which passeth knowledge, that ye might be filled with all the fulness of God. 20 Now unto him that is able to do exceeding abundantly above all that we ask or think, according to the power that worketh in us, 1 Unto him be glory in the church by Christ Jesus throughout all ages, world without end. Amen.
I remember the many “Holy Ghost” meetings I attended with Rodney Howard Brown, Kenneth Hagin Sr. and others. Rodney was famous for laying hands on people and then repeatedly saying “filled”. Take note that the subconscious mind will deduct from that, that if we could be filled, we could also be empty. Consequently, many Christians developed the mindset that if they were not careful even the Holy Ghost or the anointing could leak out of them. Those who have a serious case of the mentality of sin consciousness would fear that the least mistake or a sin could cause the Holy Spirit to flow out and then write the word “Ichabod” over their forehead.
For the record it is possible to transfer anointing to another person, but in many cases that is a temporary solution. Ultimately everyone must become rooted and grounded in the Word of God, i.e. the truth. What truth? The truth of God’s unconditional love towards us. If we did something that we know to be wrong and we feel plagued by the sense of guilt we should come to the Lord at the first opportunity. We can acknowledge the fact that we missed the mark. Whether it’s an unacceptable action or a type of internal attitude. When you can identify it as something that does not reflect Christ’s nature in you and it’s causing you to bear a sense of guilt, then acknowledge it to God. Then confess your faith and say what God says about that situation. To truly confess means that you are saying the same thing that God says about that situation or any situation. It’s saying the same thing that God says about that situation or any situation. What does God say? God says it was forgiven, Christ bore the sin and carried it away. You died with Christ, His blood washed away all your sin and keeps you cleansed of all sin and cleansed of all unrighteousness. You are a new creation in the risen Christ. In Christ you now stand before God, holy, righteous and unreprovable in His sight. When the Father looks at you, He sees you in Christ. He sees Christ who is perfect and you hidden in Him. Those are the kind of things God says in His Word, so those are the kind of things you are to confess by faith.
So as the Apostle Paul says that we will be filled with all the fullness of God does that mean that we should pray and ask God to fill us with His fullness? That’s not what Paul says. The Apostle Paul states that by being rooted and grounded in love, and I believe he specifically means the love that God has for us, the automatic result will be that we will be filled with all the fullness of God. Remember God is love. Study His Word and every time you come across anything to do with the topic of love, add the addendum – the love that God has towards us – and see how this will cause some paradigm changes. The more we identify God’s love for us in the scriptures, the more we become established in that truth, the more our hearts and minds will help us to perceive God’s love for us.
In this prayer from the Apostle Paul, he talks about Christ dwelling in our hearts by faith. Could that mean then that Christ could not be dwelling in someone’s heart? Yes. Now let me explain. I do believe that the Spirit of Christ is present within everyone’s spirit. But the spirit is not the same part of us as the heart. The Greek word for heart in the set of scriptures above is the word “Kardia” and refers to “mind and feelings”. So then from that perspective it becomes clear that whatever we mentally focus on will ultimately affect our feelings. Once that process of focus and feelings runs its course, the subconscious levels of the mind begin to record the pattern. The pattern ultimately becomes the program run by our sub conscious mind. When the sub-conscious and conscious mind and feelings are harmoniously congruent with regards to a believe about something, we have become established.
If our focus is on sin or destructive behavior our mind and feelings work the same way. When the program of the mind and feelings are set in that pattern, it has become a stronghold. But imagine when the conscious and subconscious mind with the feelings are rooted and grounded in the truth of God’s love for us, then result will be that Christ will experientially dwell in our mind and feelings, where we will be filled with all the fullness of God.
One of the most comforting ideas about the love of God for us is that His love is unconditional. You can’t earn His love by your performance. You can’t lose His love for you when you sin. God’s love for you existed before you were born. Christ chose to die for you because He loved you, knowing you would be here one day. His love for you is the same yesterday and forever. There is not even a shadow of God changing His mind about you. God’s love for you is always growing stronger, never weaker. Maybe you’ve had a bad day, but God love’s you the same anyway. God want’s to help you, heal you, guide you, protect you, and provide for you, because He loves. Anything He has ever done and ever will do is because He loves you. His love for you is accessible 24/7, day and night. Approach Him in prayer knowing that you are operating from the default setting of His love for you.
Reading my Bible will not make God love me more. It puts me in a position where I can obtain revelation of His love for me. Going to a healthy Church is not going to make God love me more, it puts me in a position where I can obtain revelation of His love for His people.
We have all been exposed to performance based Christianity to some degree or another. It has left many Christians believing that if they are not holy enough, if they haven’t prayed or fasted enough or haven’t been to Church or read their Bible, that they must first get their lives in order, before they could get back into fellowship with God again. This is again the mentality of trying to earn the love of God. It leaves them working for conditional love, which is operating form the sense of rejection. Rejection is just another expression of fear. Fear is not faith. Fear is the opposite of love. But I can come to God no matter what state I am in. On my best and on my worst day will God accept me because I am already in Christ. In His presence I am restored, healed, renewed, empowered and inspired.
Therefore the revelation of God’s love for me will give me the faith I need.
Galatians 5:6 King James Version
6 For in Jesus Christ neither circumcision availeth any thing, nor uncircumcision; but faith which worketh by love.
The word “worketh” here in this verse is the Greek word “energeo” from where we get our word energy. Our faith draws its energy from the revelation and the internal experience of God’s love for us. With that kind of faith comes confidence, not fear, confidence. God’s kind of unconditional love for me drives out all sense of rejection, and fear.