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Two Foundational Pillars


Before we get into the nuts and bolts in the later chapters, we must begin with a good foundation. Foundations are extremely important. How we begin largely affects how we finish. The house is only as good as its foundation. Many Christians suffer from continually getting “stuck” or they often slip into passivity and discouragement because things are off in their foundation. With a healthy foundation, we have a good baseline to pull us back towards healthy thinking and good heart postures.
This chapter covers some basic foundational issues in Christianity, which many have heard before, but are still lacking in. Even though you probably know or have heard a lot of the things in this chapter, you may have not heard them in quite the same way.


The First Foundational Pillar – The Fear of God

“The fear of the Lord is the beginning of wisdom: and the knowledge of the holy is understanding.” (Proverbs 9:10).

The fear of God must be first and foremost. God’s kindness and love mean nothing to us unless we first understand the fear of the Lord. If an alcoholic is only aware that God loves him, he’ll raise a toast to such a fact and then continue in his ways. However, if the sinner is made aware that his lifestyle will certainly lead to extreme and severe consequences – this reality just might get his attention.

To have the fear of the Lord is to understand that you will be repaid for whatever you have done. Whatever we sow, we will also reap. Another way to say it is that we will all get the just and right consequences of what we have chosen in this life.  2 Cor. 5:10-11 explains it to us like this: “For we must all appear before the judgment seat of Christ, so that each one may be recompensed for his deeds in the body, according to what he has done, whether good or bad. Therefore, knowing the fear of the Lord…”


Sin Defined

Sin is breaking God’s law. The ten commandments tell us exactly what sin is. Lying, murder, adultery, envy, idols in our lives (things more important than God), using the Lord’s name in vain, etc.; all these things are sin. If you’ve ever committed any of these, then you have sinned. You have violated the supreme law and you personally have offended a righteous and holy God.
Jesus Christ brings even more clarity to the definition of sin. He further defines sin as being something of the heart; not just outward actions. For example, if you’ve ever had hate toward someone in your heart, then it’s considered the same thing as committing murder.
Paul also explains to us the “deeds of the flesh” in Galatians which include drunkenness, impurity, sensuality, outbursts of anger, disputes, dissentions, factions, idolatry, fornications, uncleanness, strife, jealousy, and covetousness. All of these deeds and inward attitudes are evil and also violate the law of God.


The Implications of Your Sin

The implications or consequences of your sin can be categorized in two ways.

The eternal consequences of sin.
The consequences of sin during this present life.

Let’s briefly look at number one.
Because of our sin and breaking the commands of God, we are under judgment and are awaiting the wrath of God. Everyone who has violated any part of the holy law, God will pay back with fierce vengeance and anger (James 2:10). All who have sinned or broken any commandments will be condemned to a punishment of eternal damnation in hell fire and torment for all of eternity (Lk. 16:25, Matt. 24:51, Matt. 25:30, Matt. 25:41, Rev. 20:14-15, Rev. 21:8).
This language is so extreme and the consequences are so severe, that most people ignore it, pretend it away, rationalize it as not being true, or they simply cannot accept that such statements could be real.    

These people are like a man who is standing on the railroad tracks with a locomotive train coming toward him at 60 m.p.h. The man convinces himself, “It’s a marshmallow train”, thus ignoring the inevitable consequences. Just because he believes that it is a marshmallow train does not change the reality that he is about to experience the terrible wrath of 800 tons of steel.

We must face the fact that what is coming is absolutely inevitable. The entire world will fall under the coming fierce judgment of God. God first came as a Lamb in Jesus Christ. But He is coming back with judgment as a Lion. Very soon He will return in order to repay, to punish, and to destroy with great fire and retribution. “For behold, the day is coming, burning like a furnace; and all the arrogant and every evildoer will be chaff; and the day that is coming will set them ablaze,” says the LORD of hosts, “so that it will leave them neither root nor branch.” (Malachi 4:1).The Bible calls this “the great and terrible day of the Lord.” (Malachi 4:5).
How can a loving God do such a thing? It is certainly true that God is a loving God. But He is also just. Having the fear of God is having the understanding that you deserve what you have chosen in your life, and that you will get what is coming to you. God is completely justified and right to pay you back for exactly what you’ve chosen. He has given us the very breath of life; yet with anger, defiance, and blame we shake our fist in God’s face. All of mankind has rebelled against the Almighty Creator. We accuse and blaspheme God for our very own misery which we ourselves have created.
We are a sick and perverted species that deserves nothing less than to be blotted out from the face of the earth. “Then the Lord saw that the wickedness of man was great on the earth, and that every intent of the thoughts of his heart was only evil continually. The Lord was sorry that He had made man on the earth, and He was grieved in His heart. The Lord said, “I will blot out man whom I have created from the face of the land, from man to animals to creeping things and to birds of the sky; for I am sorry that I have made them.” (Gen 6:5-7).  After this passage we read that God found favor with only Noah, through whom He spared the entire human race.
Many people think that God is only a loving God. These people do not know God. Some people think that God is only a fierce and terrible judge. They do not know God either. The fact is He is loving, tender, kind hearted, humble, fierce, full of vengeance, and full of wrath and judgment. To know God, you must know all these things about Him. God is like an atomic bomb that hugs you.

The Second Implication of Sin

The second implication of sin is the consequences of sin during this present life. Understanding this is also a part of having the fear of God. As we move on to discuss the second implication, it actually becomes difficult to separate the first implication from the second. The first implication of our sin causes us to be apart from God for eternity. The second implication is that we are apart from Him during this life on earth.
Without God, human beings are miserable and tormented creatures. We are dry, empty, and desolate souls. Humans live a life of meaningless pursuits, defeat, distraction, sadness, despair, fear, and unhappiness. Divorce, broken relationships, hate, pain, abuse, and complete and utter selfishness rule our hearts. We therefore choose to drug and sedate ourselves with work, entertainment, alcohol, various chemicals, or the endless pursuit of relationships and false intimacy in order to make it all go away or to make it all feel better.
We bow down to worship the idol of money, but we never can get quite enough of it and it never satisfies us. We murder each other and we murder our unborn children. Desperate for satisfaction, we chase one rainbow after another, with only empty promises and broken dreams at the end of each one. We hate our jobs, we are sick of the people we are around each day, we are painfully lonely, and we hate our lives. After several years of wearing ourselves completely out, we are too tired to care about much of anything, so we succumb to the monotony and drudgery of the routines of life. Our sin and bad choices also invite demonic spirits into our lives. Many people and families have a cloud of demonic activity in and around them because of their arrogance and rebellion against God’s Word.
For those who are not walking with God (Christian or not), it is impossible to find true peace or contentment.
Again, knowing the second implication of sin, the death and emptiness of this life, is another element of having the fear of the Lord.
The ever present possibility of utter and complete misery in life should remain a clear and present danger to you as a Christian.

The Second Foundational Pillar – The Gospel
Having the fear of God is the first part of a good foundation. But there is a second part. We must also thoroughly understand the gospel.     
Without really understanding the gospel, we still have a very shaky foundation. The gospel is the good news. Yet it is often misunderstood. If we do not first clearly understand the gospel and believe it, we will be shooting ourselves in the foot the whole way through.
Let’s state the gospel as simply as possible. The good news is simply this: Jesus Christ was crucified for the forgiveness of sins (1 Cor. 1:23, 1 Cor. 2:2, 1 Cor. 15:3, 1 Pet. 3:18). Paul says in 1 Cor. 2:2 “I determined to know nothing among you but Jesus Christ and Him crucified.”  There is so much in this one simple statement. It affects so many things and the implications for us are truly extraordinary.


Good News for a Broken Heart
When the apostle Paul told people about the good news of Jesus, he often went to the God fearing (Acts 13:43, 17:4, 17). This is because those who are God fearing are primed and ready to receive the good news.  If you really have the fear of the Lord, your heart will be broken. You will be a prime candidate to receive some good news.
As a law breaking rebel who is destined for punishment and eternal damnation; if you believe and receive the good news, you are allowed to escape or be “passed over” the severe wrath of God which is coming on all the earth.
Why are we passed over and allowed to escape the coming judgment? Because the blood of Jesus cleanses us from all unrighteousness. Just like the children of Israel were passed over when the angel of death came to kill every first born (Exodus 12:23), we too are passed over from the wrath of God because of the blood of the Lamb, Jesus Christ (1 Cor. 5:7).

“Behold Then the Kindness and Severity of God…”(Romans 11:22)Escaping the wrath of God which is coming on all the earth is a great reason to trust in the blood of Jesus. But there’s more. Let’s go through some of the other benefits and impact the gospel has in our lives.


There is Plenty of Good News

The gospel removes all guilt. Because of the gospel, we should no longer feel too guilty to come into the presence of God.

The gospel frees us from the law. When we understand the gospel, we are freed from constantly trying to do good things in order to please God.

The gospel explains to us that God has come to us, and that we can’t get to Him. We can now stop trying to reach God. We can enjoy that He has already come to us.

Through the gospel we have life eternal. Our lives no longer have to be filled with fear and the endless pursuit of the temporal things in this present life.

The gospel assures us that God has chosen us before the foundations of the world.  We know God as the initiator and the one who pursues our hearts.

The gospel assures us of our right standing with God. Without it our focus is on sinning or on not sinning, instead of focusing on God Himself.

The gospel demonstrates God’s love for us. If we don’t understand the gospel, we would not fully know God’s heart and attitude toward us.

The gospel brings us to humility. Without the gospel, we are proud, self reliant, and with no need of God.

The gospel births us into the family of God and gives us a new corporate identity. We are no longer alone.

The gospel joins our human spirit to the Spirit of the living God. Without the gospel, we would be unregenerate and unclean.

The gospel sanctifies us. Without it, we would not change because we would have no power to change.
There are many more things we could mention because the list is extensive. But here is the point: Understanding and believing the gospel is essential to our beginning. Just like the fear of the Lord, everything in the Christian life is built upon our understanding of the gospel. The gospel is not only for when you first believed, but you need the gospel everyday. Through the gospel we are saved, sanctified, humbled, brought into the presence of God, and made alive on a daily basis. We never leave the gospel, we only build upon it.

The Object of Our Belief

When we believe the gospel, we are believing God Himself. When we are actively believing the gospel, we are fellowshipping with God, knowing God, and experiencing God.
To truly believe the gospel involves the whole heart, the mind, the emotions, and the soul. When we are truly believing something or someone, it becomes our entire life.
Before I came to the Lord, I believed that music was what life was all about. I believed that music brought me happiness and fulfillment. Therefore, because of my belief, I spent a large majority of my time playing the guitar, listening to music, playing in various bands, or reading about music in books and magazines. Music was my life and it consumed my thoughts and my time – all because of my belief.
I used to know a man who believed that hunting was what life was all about. Therefore, most of his time was spent hunting. During the off season he would spend his time preparing his hunting leases for the next hunt. When he wasn’t preparing the land to hunt he was practicing his shooting, watching videos, or reading hunting magazines.
Many people believe that having money is the primary thing that life is all about. Therefore because of their belief, most of their thoughts are about work and most of their time is spent making more money.
As Christians, our life is about Jesus and His people. He consumes our thoughts and our heart. Serving others and loving God’s people consumes our time. But this can only be the case for us if our beliefs dictate that this is what life is all about. We must begin with the gospel totally consuming us in order to have a good foundation for Jesus being our life. As we get into later chapters, we will see how we can further cooperate with Jesus being our only life.

You Are Clean
At the crux of the gospel message there is an amazing fact that we have to know completely through and through. We are completely clean because of the blood of Jesus (1 Cor. 6:11, Heb. 10:22, Titus 3:5).
We have been totally and completely washed. In fact, the scripture says in 2 Cor. 5:21 “He made Him who knew no sin to be sin on our behalf, so that we might become the righteousness of God in Him.”  This is one of the most amazing truths in all the New Testament, and it is at the heart of the gospel.  This statement means that because of the gospel, we have been counted as having the very righteousness of God.
How righteous is God? Totally and completely righteous! You have that same righteousness counted toward you. In other words, imagine God the Father looking at Jesus His son and Him seeing how righteous He is. In the same way that God the Father looks at Jesus and sees how righteous He is; He now sees you the same way. To the degree that God is pleased with Jesus and loves Him, He is pleased with you and loves you. This is the good news. Do you believe it? No wonder so many are struggling in their faith. Many Christians do not know or fully understand the depth of the gospel message.
What has been preached instead of the true gospel is that “Jesus died for you so now you need to make a commitment to Him. Now that you’ve been saved, go live for Him and do it right.” Many will say they’ve heard the gospel message. But, many do not fully understand it. Nor do they understand the incredible implications of it. We are not saved because of our commitment to Jesus. We are saved because of His commitment to us.
Most Christians agree that their sins have been forgiven. But they still feel as though God were “putting up with them” to some degree. This is not so. The implications of the forgiveness of sins is the actual taking away of sin forever (Heb. 10:1-22). Therefore, when sins are removed, righteousness is given in its place (Gal. 3:6, Phil. 3:9). Heb.10:22 explains to us: “Let us draw near with a sincere heart in full assurance of faith, having our hearts sprinkled clean from an evil conscience and our bodies washed with pure water.”
A huge part of the gospel that many Christians can’t ever really grasp is this total and complete right standing we have with God. As Christians, we should maintain a humble confidence in how God sees us, apart from anything that has to do with our behavior. It is such good news to know that God gives us His very own righteousness that totally has nothing to do with anything we do or don’t do (Phil 3:9, Rom. 3:28). It is such good news to know that we have God’s kindness, affection, and love toward us no matter what we do. God may not always be pleased with our choices – He is not pleased with sin. But because of the blood of Christ, He loves us and is delighted in the humble and broken heart that is believing the good news (Luke 15:11-32).

The Definition of Love
Because of the good news of the blood of Jesus, not only has God’s wrath been satisfied, and not only are we clean and forgiven, but He has now poured His love out on us which affects our lives during our stay on the earth (Rom. 8:37, Gal. 2:20, Eph. 2:4, Eph. 5:2, 2 Thes. 2:16). This also has tremendous and wonderful benefits.
Because of the blood of Jesus, we now have access to God and His incredible love for us now during this life. To understand and receive the benefits of God’s love for us, we must first understand what love is and what it is not.
Love is not an idea in our heads. It is not just a thought. Love is not only an intent. Contrary to popular belief, the Bible never defines love as being a choice, although this has become a popular saying.  However, love is expressed and demonstrated through choices and actions. Therefore, we can choose to love or we can demonstrate love. But we must understand that the essence of love is not an action – it is only demonstrated and delivered by action.
1 Cor. 13:4 gives us quite a list telling us what love is like, although it does not define it. It tells us that “love is patient, love is kind, is not jealous; love does not brag, does not act unbecomingly, it does not seek its own, is not provoked, does not take into account a wrong suffered, does not rejoice in unrighteousness, but rejoices with the truth, bears all things, hopes all things, endures all things, love never fails.” This list describes what love is like and what love does. It describes the characteristics of love. But we still have not said what love actually is.
Love has many characteristics, but 1 John actually tells us what love is. God is love (1 John 4:16). Love is actually a person. If you think about it, all of the qualities and characteristics of love we read above in 1 Cor. 13 are describing what God Himself is like. He is patient, He is kind, etc. Love is a Spirit. Love is an unseen spiritual commodity that actually is the person of Jesus.
When we choose to love someone, we are delivering the Spirit of Jesus to them. When we encounter and experience Jesus, we experience His love.

The Parable of the Treasure Hidden in the Field
“The kingdom of heaven is like a treasure hidden in the field, which a man found and hid. And from joy over it he goes and sells all that he has and buys that field.” (Matt 13:44).
Parables are not obvious. They are spiritual, and they are hidden (Matt 13). In fact, you can only see them to the extent that you are seeing the Kingdom. The parables Jesus taught often have many layers of meaning. Many times in scripture, parables are grouped together. If you can unlock one parable, it opens the others up as well. The above parable in Matt. 13:44 is an excellent parable that describes to us many things about love and God’s love for us. The popular explanation of this particular parable is that a man must sell everything to follow God and be His disciple. This is a true statement. However there is a deeper, more veiled meaning to this parable.
In this parable the man is Jesus. He found a treasure. The treasure is us. He sees you as a valuable treasure. He found us hidden in a field. The field is the world. Those few who would love Him and follow Him were amongst the rest of the world – we were hidden in the midst of the world. So what did He do? He hid us again. We are hidden in Christ and separated from the world, although we are still in the world. The world does not recognize us, nor has it been manifest to the world yet exactly who we are. The last line in the parable explains to us that from joy over finding us, Jesus bought the whole field. He paid for the sins of the world and bought the whole world, in order to own us and have right to us, the treasure.

God Is Pouring Out His Love Out On You – Right Now
Our hearts were made for God Himself, who is love. Love strengthens the heart, builds us up, empowers us with faith, and gives us the inner ability to love others and overcome temptation and sin.
Without the love of God we are dry, empty, and miserable souls. The love of God is the very strength of our hearts and life. If we are not filled with love (the Spirit of God) in our hearts on a daily basis, we will live a life of emptiness, business, defeat, distraction, anxiety, and eventually misery.
Without the power of God Himself and His love filling our hearts every day, hour by hour, and moment by moment, we wind up living a life of religious concept and theory.
Because of the blood of Jesus, we are clean – so we now have access to God, who is love. He has made Himself available to us and is pouring His Spirit out to whoever will receive Him (Romans 5:5).
You now have access to the greatest need of the human being: God Himself and His powerful, mighty, life-giving, strengthening, heart filling love.
Isn’t that good news! If you believe the good news, then your sins are forgiven. God is not angry at you. In fact, He loves you and you have His smile toward you.
The Greek word the Bible uses for God’s love toward us is “agape”.  Besides the word meaning unconditional love, the word also has the meaning of affection, good will, and benevolence. The word agape also comes from a root word agapao which translated means “to welcome, to be fond of, to love dearly, to be well pleased.”
If you believe the good news of Jesus being crucified on the cross for your sins, and if you receive it, you get God’s overwhelmingly kind heart toward you (Rom. 2:4, 11:22). God has heart felt affection toward you. His good will is toward you and His benevolence. He welcomes you, is fond of you, and He is well pleased with who you are in Christ.

It Is Unwise to Reject His Love
If God’s love and kindness toward you is ever hard to believe or difficult to take in, then you need to repent and believe the gospel. To not take in God’s kindness and overwhelming love toward you is to not believe Him. This is a serious thing. To reject His deep love for you, His affection for you, and His being pleased with who you are – is to reject Him and the gospel message.
“…you are saved by grace through faith…” (Eph 2:8). Let’s look at the words “through faith” in this scripture. It is only by grace that we are saved, but we are saved through faith. The gospel is applied to you and you get the benefit through your faith. In other words, because you believe the gospel, then you get the gospel. There are a couple of great scriptures that explain this. Colossians 1:22-23: “yet He has now reconciled you in His fleshly body through death, in order to present you before Him holy and blameless and beyond reproach–if indeed you continue in the faith firmly established and steadfast, and not moved away from the hope of the gospel that you have heard, which was proclaimed in all creation under heaven, and of which I, Paul, was made a minister.”  And again in Romans 11:22   Behold then the kindness and severity of God; to those who fell, severity, but to you, God’s kindness, if you continue in His kindness; otherwise you also will be cut off.
God views someone not taking in His kindness and love as rebellion and unbelief. This is not a one time thing. It is a daily thing we must continue in. We can believe God’s kindness for ourselves one day and then resist it in our hearts the next day. Note that He doesn’t require us to do good works or to do great things, only to believe His kindness and take in His love!
It is as if someone offered you a million dollars. But the only requirement for you to actually get the million would be that you had to believe that it was in your bank account. You could never actually see the money or get the cash, but you could use a debit card as much as you wanted. It was all set up to work only by faith. However, there would be severe consequences to you if you did not believe and therefore receive the money. If for some reason you refused to believe that the money was in your account,  then all of your possessions would be seized and confiscated and you would be wiped out financially. Why would someone be stupid enough to refuse such a gift? Because most people wouldn’t believe such a gift could be true. They would think the whole thing was silly. Why would anyone give me a million dollars? Why would God come down from heaven and become a man, die on a cross, and because of this – everything I’ve ever done wrong is now erased? What foolishness. “For the word of the cross is foolishness to those who are perishing, but to us who are being saved it is the power of God.” (1 Cor. 1:18).
Receiving such a lavish gift is difficult for most people, when we all intrinsically know what we really deserve. It requires a humble and broken heart – coupled with faith, in order to take in God’s love.
Rom 2:4 says, “Or do you think lightly of the riches of His kindness and tolerance and patience, not knowing that the kindness of God leads us to repentance?”  Many times we do not want to be humble, broken, and receiving. It makes us feel too undone and weak. Feelings and thoughts of “I’m not good enough, I’m not deserving of God’s love, I’ve been too rotten this week”, may seem like noble statements, but they are actually coming from a place of resisting and rejecting the gospel – which is a dangerous choice.

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