I’d Rather Be a Dog In Heaven than a Lion In Hell

From the book Whole Bible Christianity by Bruce Bertram, Chapter 10 section ‘Our True Identity’

Balancing the Word causes identity problems. Most Christians reject whole Bible beliefs because of the Law, and many Jewish people won’t accept us because of Jesus. So are we Christians or Jews? I don’t think we have to decide. “Whole Bible” can apply anywhere, anytime. You can be a whole Bible Lutheran, a whole Bible Baptist, and even a whole Bible Jew. Just remember His Word comes first. Nothing should get between you and Him.

Of course, in trying to live out the whole of the Word we are not going to be able to maintain any sort of sectarianism (dividing into sects) for long. The name Christian simply means “partisan of the Christ,” which is what we are. Lots of people wear the name but there are many degrees of partisanship. It depends on actual obedience. Some partisans don’t know any better because of false teaching. Some know better and don’t care. But just because many Christians (or Jews) have dragged His name through the mud doesn’t make the name invalid.

Okay, I’m a partisan of the Christ, but what kind? There are many combinations heavy on words and light on biblical living. So many people want to use His name and claim His blessings without actually living His Word. Accepting the whole of the Word as a valid lifestyle and discipleship method makes me distinct from most of them. So almost by default, I’m a “whole Bible Christian.”

We don’t really need a name, but a short hand way to refer to ourselves is simpler for those with short attention spans. Many labels have been co-opted by people for whom hypocrisy is an art form, and I’m sure this will get the same treatment. Lots of partisans of the Christ want to think of themselves as whole Bible because they “believe” it.

One lady told me she was whole Bible but “not like you.” What she meant was that she “believed” the whole Bible, but she didn’t follow the feasts or many other parts of the Law. Ye-e-ah. That’s like a Pharisee who “believed” the Old Testament (the Tanakh) and crucified Jesus. This is a clear example of one thing this whole book is about – Christians who “believe” but don’t follow. Believing without acting doesn’t make sense. Faith without works is dead (James 2:14-26). Seems to me we are either whole Bible or not. That word “whole” nails it down pretty well. There is no end to some people’s hypocrisy, but whole Bible Christians are dedicated to returning God’s love by living out the whole of His Word. In every detail and every part of our lives.

In Matthew 15:21-28 Jesus resists a little giving help to a Gentile woman (Mark calls her a Syrophoenician in Mark 7:26, a part of the Canaanites) asking healing for her daughter. This is where Jesus says that it is not right to give the children’s bread to dogs. Jews at the time generally referred to Gentiles as dogs. She has an amazing response, saying that “even dogs eat the crumbs that fall from the master’s table.” She doesn’t argue the point, but humbly accepts the fact that she wasn’t first in line for help. Jesus is so impressed with her faith He tells her the demon has left her daughter. Her faith was shown by her humble submission and obedience.

At first it might seem off-putting that Jesus would regard her (or me) as a dog. But I think this was more of a statement of where He was focusing His work at that time (“to the Jew first and also to the Gentile”) rather than a judgment against either the lady or me. Although Canaanites were historically pretty “doggy” too (Ephesians 2:12, Hebrews 11:6). Those who by nature do what God requires, even if non-Jewish, belong to Him because of their faith, and aren’t dogs at all. But even if it’s true that my identity (in the eyes of some) is that of a dog in the kingdom, I’m okay with it. He made me and can assign me any place He chooses. I’d much rather be a dog in heaven than a lion in hell!

The material in this book is not for the purpose of creating yet another separate group or doing away with existing groups. It may (and probably will) happen that we cannot fellowship with existing groups. Those of us who believe and practice the whole of God’s Word might have to find solace in meeting separately like the first century believers, but that is not our desire. Our desire is to be one Body. If you have to split because of the Word, remember you are not alone. God scatters His people like salt among the unbelievers, whether they have nothing to do with a church or attend religiously.

He wants us to be like priests, after the order of Melchizedek, representing His interests wherever we are. We are one Body with one faith and one God, and we don’t need to create a unity or identity for ourselves. Our identity is in the Messiah Jesus, our root and head and life force. All we need to do is maintain or preserve that unity in a bond of peace.

1Therefore I, the prisoner of the Lord, implore you to walk in a manner worthy of the calling with which you have been called, 2with all humility and gentleness, with patience, showing tolerance for one another in love, 3being diligent to preserve the unity of the Spirit in the bond of peace. (Ephesians 4:1-3 NASB95)

Shalom

Father of Mercies, God of Comfort

Blessed be the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, the Father of mercies and God of all comfort, who comforts us in all our affliction, so that we may be able to comfort those who are in any affliction, with the comfort with which we ourselves are comforted by God. For as we share abundantly in Christ’s sufferings, so through Christ we share abundantly in comfort too. (2 Corinthians 1:3–5, ESV)

 

It’s tough to find comfort in the middle of sadness, and it is usually tough to offer comfort too. My mother-in-law passed away recently after a few years of not knowing who her family was and not hardly being able to feed and dress herself. Comfort was a little easier in her case because she had lived a pretty full life. My dad died from a brain disease at 62, a nephew died by his own hand recently at 30, and a friend died from cancer a few years ago in middle age after adopting five children. A six year-old girl I know is fighting leukemia. I have trouble finding comfort in understanding sometimes, but I do find comfort in the Father of mercies and God of comfort.

 

Believers have comfort because we know this life is not all there is. Our hope is that we will be reunited with loved ones who have gone before. This life is hard and death abounds because of sin, but it’s not going to stay that way forever. God is righteous, just, merciful and loving and has offered us a way out of the eternal consequences of sin.

 

It is a comfort to realize in a way that we MUST die once in order to enter eternal life. Sometimes it happens sooner than we want, but it must happen. None of us is getting out of this alive. We have a resurrection hope, that even if we lose life in this age we will regain it in the next. It is a comfort that God is in control, and He knows what He is doing.

 

Pagans are a different story in the comfort department. It’s a super tragedy when someone dies without God. There is no hope there, except perhaps that we might be wrong, they really did have God, and maybe God will look with favor on them somehow. The other hope is that people will be moved to make their own position with God secure by accepting His mercy in the form of His only begotten Son Jesus the anointed.

 

Before we get uptight about bad things happening to good people, we really should make sure of our definitions of bad and good. We can take comfort in the fact that just because something feels bad doesn’t mean it really is. And we might think we are good, but is that really true? Are we really doing everything we can to pursue His kingdom? Yet even if we are good, we live in a sinful, wicked world and sometimes we suffer because of other people’s sin. In all of it believers find comfort that God is a God of reason and all things work together for good for those of us who love Him.

 

The bottom line is the mercy of God. We need to recognize that He doesn’t owe us anything. We owe Him everything. Pagans don’t acknowledge this (even though they owe Him everything too) so they have no comfort. Believers do, so we throw ourselves on His mercy and ask humbly for things to be different. If not, then we continue in comfort knowing that we are in the household of the Father of mercies. We suffer as sons and daughters of the most High God, brothers and sisters to the Messiah who makes adoption possible, and have the mercy of eternal life. In 10,000 years or so, we will look back on this life as a wisp of a memory, and only our walk with Him will remain.

Childbearing salvation

One of the more puzzling verses in the Word is directed at Timothy by Paul in what some refer to as a pastoral epistle.

 

Yet she will be saved through childbearing—if they continue in faith and love and holiness, with self-control. (1 Timothy 2:15, ESV)

 

It seems that Paul is saying that women can be saved through having kids. I’ve heard a lot of teaching connected with this, mostly focusing on the second part of the verse (faith, love, holiness, self-control) but also trying to work in how women are saved by having kids. I’ve tried to understand it myself by going with that teaching and thinking that perhaps the discipline of actually having kids (it is very difficult to bear children in case you didn’t know) was somehow helpful for learning salvation. Sort of going along with “work out your salvation with fear and trembling” (Philippians 2:12). But I could never really make it fit with my understanding of other parts of the Word, such as that salvation is by grace through faith.

 

I recently read a different take on this by Dr. Walter Kaiser in the book The Promise Plan of God. He says that we should think of this as the act of childbearing as in the fact that the Son of God was birthed by a woman. Salvation came to the world because a woman bore a child. Paul was trying to elevate women because of the gift of bearing children, contrasting their poor treatment at the time (which continues to the present time) with the godly point that they should be honored instead. Yes, Eve was deceived, but a woman was given the privilege of birthing our Messiah Jesus.

 

Nevertheless, in the Lord woman is not independent of man nor man of woman; for as woman was made from man, so man is now born of woman. And all things are from God. (1 Corinthians 11:11–12, ESV)

 

Paul is encouraging godliness by acknowledging faults in both genders and at the same time pointing out equal blessings from God. We are not independent; we are interdependent. We each have different jobs, we are made differently (thank you Jesus!) but one gender is not inferior to the other. Women are not property, they are sisters in the household of God and have equal standing with men before God. The childbearing gift was how God chose to bring the Messiah to us, and should not be discounted. Women are saved through the act or gift of childbearing, because our salvation Jesus came to us by way of a woman.

 

An interesting proposition, and one that fits better with the rest of Scripture than any others I’ve heard so far. It’s probably an old teaching in some places, but it’s the first I’ve heard of it.

 

But when the fullness of time had come, God sent forth his Son, born of woman, born under the law, to redeem those who were under the law, so that we might receive adoption as sons. (Galatians 4:4–5, ESV)

Adopted Into Salvation

God has given us space to “choose this day whom we will serve” as Joshua says (Joshua 24:15). But those who are born naturally also have to be adopted into God’s family no matter their family tree. As Jesus says in John chapter 3, everyone must be “born again” to enter God’s kingdom. This spiritual birth or adoption is much more binding than natural birth.
I was adopted at 14 by my own request. I asked my natural parents to relinquish their parental rights and signed my own adoption papers with my new family. So I understand the concept very well. Adoption means that the former family is not yours anymore. You have a new one. Even your birth certificate is changed to reflect the change in families.
I don’t agree with people who were adopted young and later search for their birth parents. Birth parents that let go of their offspring are just egg donors and sperm donors to me. They have nothing to do with the blood, sweat and tears of raising a child. So in my view they are not really the parents. Adoption is permanent, and at the age I was adopted I had the privilege of choosing a new family. They are more than merely genetic influences for me.
When we are adopted into God’s family, it is the same. We make the choice, and it’s permanent. God takes us as His children, with all of our faults and failures. He chooses us even if we are not the model child. Like my adoptive parents, He sticks with us through our teenage years when we know everything but are still dumber than rocks. He is patient, loving, and kind, and requires that we live by the rules of His household. We are treated just like any other son or daughter, protected and nourished and disciplined to stay on the right path.

From Whole Bible Christianity chapter 2 Salvation