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Life & Death & Theology

You may or may not be aware of a current controversy in Christendom over the existence of hell.  If you aren’t, you can read about it here.  I know most people hate all the arguing that goes on over theology, but I’m not one of those people.  I sort of welcome these conflicts because it shows we’re still thinking, still wrestling out our faith like the apostles did and the early church fathers did and nearly everyone who has had to make a decision with eternal implications has done.  I haven’t read Rob Bell’s new book (it hasn’t been released yet, but some chapters and promo videos are floating around), so I wouldn’t presume to speak into his theology.  I do, however, think theology (an understanding of the nature and character of God) itself is important.  It’s not everything – but it is important.   I also love when I run into a passage that so easily sets the building blocks in place for me:

Ephesians 2:1  And you were dead in your trespasses and sins in which you previously walked according to this worldly age, according to the ruler of the atmospheric domain…


Such an in-your-face statement.  You were dead.  Done.  Toast.  Why?  Because there’s a Bad Guy.  An enemy.  And he is easy to follow since his ways permeate our culture to such a degree that we don’t know we’ve breathed in his smoke until we’re dead from the cancer it causes.  Often without even realizing it, we conform to an easy, evil way.  I can’t get over the power of those words:  You.  Were.  Dead.

Ephesians 2:4  But God, who is abundant in mercy, because of His great love that He had for us, made us alive with the Messiah even though we were dead in trespasses.  By grace you are saved!

Well, wow.  This is good news.  This is a miracle!  We were dead and now we’re not.  We were toe-tagged in the morgue and now we’re dancing in the streets…or at least we oughta be.  Because look at the rest of the story:

Ephesians 2:6 He also raised us up with Him and sealed us with Him in the heavens, in Christ Jesus so that in the coming ages He might display the immeasurable riches of His grace in His kindness to us in Christ Jesus.

He hasn’t just used chest compressions to  jump start our heart.  He lavishes us with grace and gifts to jump start our lives…He doesn’t just want us breathing, He wants us really truly living!

Beware of any gospel that starts with anything other than: you were dead.  We don’t get to keep the life of His story while also denying the death in our own.  In an effort to edit our sin out of the picture, we have often blurred and distorted the beauty of His extravagant grace by making it essentially unnecessary.

I wouldn’t pay you much for a good defibrillator right now because I don’t  need it (in fact, I probably wouldn’t even recognize one if I saw it.)  But if I was clutching my chest and falling to the floor, that device would be worth…well, everything I have.  Knowing that I’m dead without it dramatically increases its value.

I was dead.  He is life.

That’s my theology.

March 2, 2011 - 7:39 am

SmithJeremy78 - “Beware of any gospel that starts with anything other than: you were dead.” Well said!

Jesus didn’t die to make bad people good or to make good people better. Jesus died to make dead people alive.

Love your blog posts.

March 2, 2011 - 8:06 am

Ann Dunagan - Really appreciate your links about this heaven-and-hell theological discussion/controversy/debate. As mission evangelists the fact that people are LOST compells us to go. I remember a time about 10 years ago, when I wept at an altar — so hard — as God was showing me His love for the lost and our need to preach the Gospel, and the Cross of Christ, and God’s ONE WAY of salvation. These words were ringing in my mind: “Eternity is too long, and hell is to real, for you to focus on anything else.

March 2, 2011 - 8:07 am

ci - Bravo and Amen!

March 2, 2011 - 8:40 am

Nita Belles - Great Blog Bo!

It reminds me of something you said at Westside a few weeks ago. It went something like this ~ Somehow we think that God never disagrees with us!~

I’m with you friend, I love the theological arguments with myself best. 🙂 And with others if they can cheerfully agree to disagree and know that we both may be wrong when we get there.

Happy to be in those everlasting arms, no matter how ya slice it! 😉

March 2, 2011 - 9:51 am

Annie - I love that you wrote this amidst all this stuff surrounding Rob Bell’s new book. Thanks for saying things so well!

March 2, 2011 - 10:02 am

Tim - In an effort to edit our sin out of the picture, we have often blurred and distorted the beauty of His extravagant grace by making it essentially unnecessary. AMEN!

Yes, I think too often, in that Love that He exhibited through the sacrifice of His Son, and the only way to salvation, we forget that He is also a God of Wrath. Man has two choices, Him, or Lake of Fire.

His great Love is that He made a way for us to have eternal life and it is only through belief in the Son of God, Jesus Christ.

March 2, 2011 - 10:13 am

Tim - Really appreciate your links about this heaven-and-hell theological discussion/controversy/debate.

I think this is where we get in trouble about theological discussion. You see, IMHO, God says in His word (Deut 29:29) that “…the “secret things of God to the Lord our God, but the things that are revealed belong to us and to our children forever, that we mat do all of the words of the Law forever.”

This is why I believe we get into a dangerous area when we have “new revelation” that cannot be tested to the Word without taking scripture out of context in order to do so. God does not contradict Himself and there are many “new” theologies that are simply not based on scriptural truth. Even the apostles strongly spoke to only following the teaching of Jesus which they themselves taught to the people.

The scriptures in this post are speaking to the church, notice “previously” they must be believers that he is speaking to, therefore, it is indeed our duty to disciple those around us with the “Truth” and nothing but the truth.

Not some “social gospel” or “new” gospel, when it has worked for 2000+ years.

My soap box on emergent, dominion, New Apostolic Reformation, etc., etc. and many other theologies that fall within the camps that are out there today

March 2, 2011 - 11:12 am

Ann Dunagan - I just appreciated the links, to be aware of what is going on. It’s not that I think our foundational evangelical beliefs of Christianity are to be debated. For me, the truth of heaven and hell and our need for God’s salvation is as foundational as the Virgin birth and the Cross and resurrection of Christ.

March 2, 2011 - 12:23 pm

bo - I appreciate debate – not so that we can come up with a new idea – but so that we can help each generation understand why we believe what we believe. It happened between Peter and Paul, it happened at the Councils of the early church and it still happens today. When new and/or deceptive philosophies come along, it means that people who have believed what they were taught for years without being challenged have to figure out WHY they believe what they were taught.

Having said that, I have a certain threshold for argument and then I think it stops being productive and starts being distracting.

March 2, 2011 - 12:24 pm

Tim - Amen, I was actually agreeing with your statement and then added my thoughts. I apologize if it seemed like I wanted to get in a debate, not here!

I have other apologetic sites that I do that on… and we can get at the heart and root of the deception that I see and why I personally believe there is junk out there in the post-modern, pragmatic, style of preaching these days, …. but alas for another time.

I so appreciate Bo’s posts and they bring a few thoughts to my mind and spirit as well as they do to others.

Actually, I find myself in quite an emotional place at times when they come to my mind over what is going on in the Stern family that it causes me to interceed deeply for them.

March 2, 2011 - 12:27 pm

bo - And Ann, I totally agree with your comment regarding the implications to missions and the Great Commission .

March 2, 2011 - 12:27 pm

bo - Thanks, Tim – I hear your heart! 🙂

March 2, 2011 - 12:41 pm

Tim - By the way, you probably know this is Sr. and Jr and wife are at hospital. They are inducing today for the birth of their daughter.

Always appreciate prayers

March 2, 2011 - 1:01 pm

Kenda Hansen - Bo, This is a good write up on Ephesians 2 ….being dead and being made alive. worth reading!

March 3, 2011 - 1:26 am

Ann Dunagan - Amen Bo! I grew up in a godly home that loves to debate around the dinner table — in both theology and politics My mom loves the TRUTH, my dad loves wisdom, and all my siblings love to know why. In reading your comment here, I see how that heart for truth has been instilled into my spirit (and even into my personality). Bo, that’s such a good point that strong debate helps us to get grounded on “why” we believe what we believe, and to help the next generation to avoid deception.