Thursday, April 2, 2009

Identity and Experience

In the plethora of responses to my last blog I could not help but notice that one of you cited a few verses, but did not explicitly counter the Christological affirmations. In citing these verses are you suggesting that Jesus is not the Father’s eternal Son incarnate, and not the only one anointed in the Holy Spirit without measure, and not the Creator in and through and by and for whom all things were created and are constantly sustained, and not the reconciler of his creation? Do these verses disprove the central affirmations of the Christian faith? As far as I am concerned these affirmations were non-negotiable for the early Church, and functioned as the heart of the apostolic and patristic hermeneutic, or mind. The Christian community was and is called to take ‘every thought captive to the obedience of Christ’ (See 2Corintians 10:5) and to “see to it that no one takes us captive through philosophy and empty deception, according to the tradition of men, according to the elementary principles of the world, rather than according to Christ. For in Him all the fulness of Deity dwells in bodily form, and in Him you have been made full…” (Colossians 2:8ff).

The first order of business in taking these commands seriously is to answer the question, who is Jesus Christ? The second is to rethink everything we thought we knew about God, about creation, about ourselves and history, the past, present and future in the light of Jesus. He is the truth. The ministry of Perichoresis is committed to these two callings, faltering as we may be.

Or, in citing these verses are you wrestling with the biblical witness? Are you asking, given who Jesus is—the Father’s Son, the anointed One, and the Creator, sustainer and reconciler of all things, and as such the One who has included the human race in his own life—what are ‘we’ to make of verses which, as they are translated in certain translations, seem to contradict the fundamental affirmations? This, I take, to be what you were asking, and rightly so. It is a biblical issue. Any self-respecting bible scholar has to wrestle with how the meaning of a specific verse fits into the larger meaning or ‘scope,’ as Athanasius called it, of holy scripture. First, we ask the Holy Spirit to give us the eyes and perspective of Jesus himself. Second, we need to go back to the early Church fathers, for I suspect they have already answered all of these issues, as the Arians in particular were not shy about highlighting ‘problematic’ verses. Third, it is always a good idea to study the original languages, and then read several different translations.

For example, 1Corinthians 2:14 in the NASB reads, “But a natural man does not accept the things of the Spirit of God, for they are foolishness to him, and he cannot understand them because they are spiritually appraised.” This happens to be a verse that I use all the time. Your quoted translation says, “the man without the Spirit.” This is a great example of how the translator’s own theology figures into the translation, and an affirmation of the need to read different translations. Another example is Ephesians 4:17ff. “This is say therefore and affirm together with the Lord, that you walk no longer just as the Gentiles also walk, in the futility of their mind, being darkened in their understanding, excluded from the life of God because of the ignorance that is in them, because of the hardness of their heart.” I think this is a great translation, with the exception of the word ‘excluded,’ which should be ‘alienated.’ Paul is saying, because of the futility of their minds and because of their darkened understanding, they are alienated from the life of God, which is shared with them in Jesus. Bringing their confusion into Jesus’ relationship with them poisons their participation in the life of God. So don’t be like the pagans, give up your own vision, and let Jesus teach you about his Father, receive His love and live.

Luke 11:13, “If you then, though you are evil, know how to give good gifts to your children, how much more will your Father in heaven "give the Holy Spirit to those who ask him!" The context here is about the goodness of the Father, and thus the admonition to ask and seek and knock, and not just once, but as an ongoing relationship rooted in Jesus’ Father’s goodwill toward us. If we, being evil, know how to give good gifts to our children, how much more does my Father (the fountain of all goodness,) know how to give the Holy Spirit himself, to those who ask Him? Apparently, in citing this verse, you are troubled by the word ‘ask,’ as if to assume that unless we ask Jesus’ Father we will not have the Holy Spirit. Yet without Jesus sharing himself and particularly his parrhesia (freedom, courage, boldness, assurance) with us, and without the Holy Spirit bearing witness in our innermost beings that we are children of the Father in Jesus, we would never come out of the bushes and asks the Father for anything. This is about relationship. Pentecost is first. In and through Jesus, the Father has poured out the Holy Spirit upon all flesh. As my friend Ken Blue says, our response to the Holy Spirit is to say, ‘thank you Holy Spirit, we will have more please.’ This is also our ongoing response to the Father and all his gifts in Jesus, and to Jesus and all that he is sharing with us. How thrilled the Father is when we takes sides with Jesus and the Spirit against our own darkened notions, and thus dare to say ‘thank you’ and ask for more.

Romans 8. The argument in the first part of Romans 8 parallels Galatians 3 and revolves around the question as to which way are we going to live, according to the flesh (kata sarka), or according to the Spirit (kata pneuma). The way of the flesh leads to death and misery. The way of the Spirit leads to life and peace. Paul is assuming that the Spirit is at work through Jesus in the Romans, and in us. The question is not who has the Spirit of Christ or who doesn’t, but which way are we going to live. Eugene Peterson, in The Message, has a take that is worth pursuing. “But if God himself has taken up residence in your life, you can hardly be thinking more of yourself than of him. Anyone, of course, who has not welcomed this invisible but clearly present God, the Spirit of Christ, won’t know what we are talking about. But for you who welcome him, in whom he dwells—even though you still experience all the limitations of sin—you yourself experience life on God’s terms.”

Likewise Peterson’s translation of Jude 17-19 is worth careful reflection. “But remember, dear friends, that the apostles of our Master, Jesus Christ, told us this would happen: ‘In the last days there will be people who don’t take these things seriously anymore. They’ll treat them like a joke, and make a religion of their own whims and lusts.’ These are the ones who split churches, thinking only of themselves. There’s nothing to them, no sign of the Spirit!”

Acts 2:38 Peter replied, "Repent and be baptised, every one of you, in the name of Jesus Christ for the forgiveness of your sins. And you will "receive the gift of the Holy Spirit." When Jesus was baptized in the Spirit at the river Jordan did that mean that he did not have the Spirit prior to that moment? The coming of the Holy Spirit to Jesus at Jordan was not a movement from absence to presence, but from presence to another kind of presence. It is relational, not spatial. I think we are safe to begin here and see where this leads in wrestling with this verse.

Here are a few other thoughts about the Holy Spirit. First, it strikes me that we need to think about the Holy Spirit’s relationship in and with us relationally. He accustomed himself to dwell in us through Jesus, and that means through Jesus’ suffering from our bizarre blindness. So the Spirit knows how to relate to us, the real us, the broken us, but being so profoundly blind we cannot cope with the sheer weight of his goodness and beauty. So he walks with us relationally, giving us space to make fools of ourselves, all the while addressing us in ways that reach us, and thus calling us to relate to Him as a person, and to give ourselves to participate in Jesus’ life—step by step, moment by moment. Second, most of what I hear or read about the Holy Spirit is all but completely devoid of real relation to Jesus himself. It is as if Jesus died and did his part, and then went back to heaven. Then, on the basis of Jesus’ death, the Holy Spirit comes to do his. But apparently they don’t talk much, so the Holy Spirit has his own thing happening with us, instead of taking of the things of Jesus and relating them to us. There seems to be a remarkable devaluing of the fact that Jesus is the anointed one. He and he alone is anointed with the Holy Spirit, and without measure. Because we seem to have missed this, many seem to crave an anointing in the Spirit independent of Jesus’ relationship with them, and seem to be craving something from the Spirit altogether different from Jesus’ own life. As if it would ever cross the Holy Spirit’s mind to operate independently of Jesus or to give us a gift other than Jesus himself. The gift given is Jesus—and all is and has in his relationship with his Father and the Holy Spirit. When you see this Jesus and see yourself included, you don’t stop at a second or third blessing. Be bold. Live with expectation. Ask for more.

For serious study of the Bible, I recommend the New American Standard Bible, the Jerusalem Bible, the King James, the New English Bible, The Message, and J. B. Phillips’ translation.

One person said, “He will not have an answer for those verses as most Perichoresis messages are taken from passages in the books of John, Ephesians, Colossians and a handful of other books. It seems the whole perichoresis message is built on a select few passages and many other 'difficult' passages are just never mentioned or ignored.”

You speak as an authority on my references, but what you said I take as a high compliment. John, Ephesians and Colossians are reliable references. But you forgot Galatians, 1 and 2 Corinthians, Hebrews and 1John and Romans, and Irenaeus, Athanasius, Hilary and the Cappadocian fathers, Calvin, Luther, Thomas Erskine, John MacLeod Campbell, George MacDonald, Karl Barth, C. S. Lewis, J. B. Torrance and T. F. Torrance. If these brothers have an issue with me then I should be hanged. Either way, it is always wise, as Proffessor James Torrance used to say, to read widely.

Another response, “However, the question I hear behind the original post regarding "the Holy Spirit is in the little girl" was NOT addressed.

Here is the question I hear: What about those who do NOT take "small steps of faith"? What is the eternal destiny (and present state) of those who reject the light?

Please do not use all caps. And it would be better, in my opinion, if you would have said, however it did not ‘appear to me’ that the original question was addressed. I have addressed this question ad nausem, including in my blogs, so part of me wants to say read the blogs and the books and then we will talk. The other part of me never tires at answering one more time.

If one understands the distinction between ontology and soteriology a great many quibbles go away.

I have said repeatedly and in all of my lectures that the whole human race is included in Jesus Christ—and in his relationship with his Father, and in his anointing in the Spirit, and in his relationship with each person, and in his relationship with all creation. Jesus accomplished this inclusion in the power of the Holy Spirit in his incarnate life, death, resurrection and ascension as the fulfillment of his Father’s dreams for the human race. This is our ontology. It is our identity. It is who we are. It is what Jesus calls truth or reality. Our ontology or identity is distinct from our experience, because our experience is shaped by what we believe in our darkness (see Ephesians 4:17ff). We do not know the truth. We are in the great darkness. “I have come as light into the world, that everyone who believes in Me man not remain in darkness (John 12:46). So we bring into Jesus’ relationship with us, into his sharing life with us, profoundly broken notions of God, of Jesus, of his work, of others and of ourselves, and of the Holy Spirit and the future. Like trying to drive backwards in Los Angeles, these broken notions create brokenness in our relationships, in our attitudes, in our outlook, forming pain and chaos in our ‘experience.’ Such that we are a long way from ‘experiencing’ the abounding life that Jesus shares with us all. We are not being true to ourselves. It is our bizarre, wrongheaded beliefs, and our acting out of those bizarre notions that keep us of from ‘experiencing’ Jesus’ anointing in the Holy Spirit, which is constantly shared with us. So in terms of our identity (our ontology) we belong to the Father, Son and Spirit. Jesus has made this a reality forever. In terms of our experience, we live out the Trinitarian life shared with us, through our own beliefs, which are rooted in the darkness, and thus are profoundly at odds with reality. There is truth, reality, ontology. Then there is what we believe, and thus impose upon the truth, experiencing the consequences of such violation.

When Jesus says, “you shall know the truth and the truth shall set you free,” (John 8:31-32) he is saying first that there is something real whether we believe it or not—the truth—the real world that he and his Father and the Holy Spirit have established. And second, that by our not knowing (in the biblical sense) the truth, we are in bondage.

The Father, Son and Spirit have embraced us forever in Jesus. They walk with us relationally, not spatially, always treating us as persons, never as distant objects. Jesus has included us in his own life. The Holy Spirit works to give us eyes to see the real world in Christ. As we see ourselves love and embraced, as we take baby steps in saying our ‘Amen, to the glory of the Father,’ more relational room is opened in our darkness for the light to operate, and for us things get richer, deeper, more beautiful. John 14:20.

If one is really interested in my thoughts on these matters read my book, Across All Worlds: Jesus Inside Our Darkness.

As to what happens to people when they die, my answer is that they meet Jesus (see previous blog on judgment), and in meeting Jesus they will see themselves in his light. What they do with the revelation of Jesus Christ and of themselves in him, I cannot say, and neither can anyone else. Hopefully they will all say hallelujah. But it is entirely possible, as I have said repeatedly, that they may continue in their darkness and obstinate wrong belief, thus continuing to suffer the miserable brokenness of believing in themselves and their own marred vision, and continuing to suffer the non-peace and terrible self-centered sadness and anxiety that arise from not knowing (biblically speaking) Jesus so as to be set free from themselves and the darkness.

So, ontologically we are all in Christ and Christ is sharing himself and all he is and has with us, including and especially the Holy Spirit. Because of Jesus Christ our ontology never changes. Our identity is as strong and stable as his own relationship with his Father and the Holy Spirit. Thus we have something to believe in that is solid, not dependent upon what we make true, or create by our faith. It is this reality, this ontological truth in Jesus Christ that the Holy Spirit reveals in us, thereby creating the crisis of faith. Soteriologically (or experientially) we are all caught between our ontology and our blindness.

It strikes me that because many ‘modern’ evangelicals cannot see this distinction between our identity and our experience, they come across sounding like existentialists, whose faith and decision, actually create ultimate meaning in the universe.

Who is Jesus Christ? This is the question. I have put my answer on the table and tried to think clearly in his light about every jot and tittle of theology. Granted I am blind, and thus inevitably bring my own darkness into this life-long process. The premise, however, that Jesus is the light of the cosmos and thus we are to bring every thought captive to him, seeing to it that no one takes us captive…. stands. It is painful when the revelation of Jesus exposes cherished notions that are not faithful to him. He calls us to repentance, to a radical recasting and renewing of our fallen minds that we may live.

When we finally meet Jesus face to face we will not say to him, ‘Jesus, I overestimated your place and prominence in the whole scheme of things. I gave you too much credit.’ As we see him we will know how embarrassingly blind and obstinate we have been. We will understand that our greatest sin has been our insisting that Jesus repent and believe in us. That is what sin is at its heart, it is declaring ourselves to be right and Jesus to be wrong, wrong about his Father, wrong about himself, wrong about the Holy Spirit, wrong about life and history, and it is the unrelenting determination to impose upon Jesus and his world our own vision, and insisting that he join us in our darkness. And guess what? He did.


Florian Berndt said...

I've been really enjoying this discussion and it confirmed so many things I've learned since first pondering the 'Perichoresis' message, which has been part of my experience long before I heard anyone teach on it.

Thank you Baxter for writing this post. It was really a great help in sorting out some things. And actually I found a very good and exhaustive translation of Romans 8:9 that just confirms what you were saying here from the online Jonathan Mitchel Transaltion:

Romans 8:9: Yet you folks are not constantly existing within flesh (you are not in flesh), but rather within spirit, since indeed (if so be that) God’s Spirit is continuously housing Itself (making His abode; residing; dwelling; -- by idiom: living together as husband and wife) within you folks. Yet if anyone is not continuously having (does not habitually or progressively hold) Christ’s Spirit, this one is not His (is not habitually existing of Him or pertaining to Him).

It seems that the issue is about letting the Holy Spirit continuesly fill us and teach us about what our Abba has done for and with us through His Beloved Son.

In Father's Embrace,


Pastor Paul said...

Again, Baxter, a wonderful inspiring and encouraging post!!! Referencing a previous comment by some unknown one that Perichoresis and Trinitarian Theology can not address or deal with "Difficult" verses, here again you demonstrate that when we begin an explanation of Any 'difficult' verse with "Who Is Jesus?", then the explanation becomes quite clear and most especially when various translations and historical accounts are used.

I used to think that there were all these 'difficult' scriptures which mitigated against this Truth, but the more I understand Who Jesus Is and Who we all are in Him, the illuminating light of Jesus shines on these verses and they open up to understanding very nicely.

Western theological philosophical thinking just can't seem to agree that the Gospel- The Good News--is really this Good? And this Good for Everyone.

Keep answering the 'difficult' scriptures with the beauty of the Spirit you express.

Love in Christ,

Paul Kurts

Ron said...

Baxter, it is good for us to better understand these tough bible verses. Truth is uncovered in this and He is beautiful. In our darkness He reaches out in us and loves us. Too good to be true. But it is. It can be nothing less. Ron

Jerome Ellard said...

Amen, Baxter! I appreciate your kind and patient treatment of those who question or disagree - Jesus must be sharing His patience with you through the Holy Spirit, and this pleases the Father. When you ask us to start again with the question "Who is Jesus?" I totally resonate with what you are trying to get us to see. My own experience as a member of the Worldwide Church of God for over thirty years has been one of discovering who Jesus is. At first, I thought of him in a fairly utilitarian way: the one who came down and died for our sins (check!), and who went back to heaven to wait to return to take over the earth and bring world peace. He was a great guy and he said some great things, but he was "up there" and I was waiting for him. When my denomination went through what we used to call "the changes," I saw Jesus in a different light - I actually fell in love with him! He was now bigger in my mind and heart, right alongside of me. But now...I see myself immersed in him and he in me! I don't just see him beside me, it is much more intimate. It is the intimacy of being, of life itself. I and all of humanity and the cosmos are so bound up in Jesus and his relationship with his Father and the Spirit that you could truly say that the very fabric of the universe is Jesus! This is such Good News for everyone! We must shout it from the top of the mountains! Everything else pales in comparison with the Love we have discovered (we have been shown!) has been there all along. So, again, thank you, brother.

Anonymous said...

Hi Baxter,

Thank you so much for this enlightening blog. And as a follow-up, I want to stick up for the use of the writings of Paul and John as primary source material for understanding the faith.

You see, Paul and John fulfilled an amazing part in the plan of God. By this I mean that these two men were told by Jesus Christ Himself (Gal. 1:11-12 and Rev. 1:1-2) what the new faith is. It is as if Jesus turned from His pre-cross confrontations with the befuddled crowd and the legalists and told Paul and John, "Listen guys! I am done with all this law stuff. Now let us move to the belief in my name stuff so you can tell believers what I want." So Paul and John don't recite Old Covenant material like the Synoptic parables or the Sermon on the Mount to us. Instead, they tell us what Jesus told them to tell us, which is much different than the law instructions given to the pre-cross people.

However, it is my observation that modern Christianity does not use the writings of Paul and John as the primary sources for its explanation of the faith. Instead, modern Christianity tends to rely on law words spoken by Jesus to the unconverted, often hostile people of 2000 years ago. Because of this approach, modern Christianity is generally in a state of apostasy, and it really does not want to hear the voice of Jesus as relayed by Paul and John. And when it does use the words of Paul and John, Christianity usually does so in combination with Old Covenant ideas to produce a profoundly illogical faith.

The basic question is, "Can we fully accept what Jesus told Paul and John to tell us?" I hope so. Understanding the words of Paul and John opens our view to the wonderful salvation God gives us through Jesus Christ (2 Pet 3:15-16.)

The best to you always!


Unknown said...

Brother Baxter --

Thank you for taking the initiative to dig a little deeper here. I wanted to latch on to one point that I feel is where a lot of people want to stop short of agreeing with you on:

I quote from your post above: "Are you asking, given who Jesus is—the Father’s Son, the anointed One, and the Creator, sustainer and reconciler of all things, and as such the One who has included the human race in his own life ..."

I think this is right where some people balk - at the idea that Christ has in fact included the *entire* human race into His life - the divine, Triune life. These people seem to pull out the verses that make it look as if we have been "invited" into the life, but are not "in" the life yet - that somehow Christ is still waiting for us to make some kind of step toward Him before He will really let us in. What they fail to recognize is that as soon as this argument is made, they have shifted salvation back to being upon the basis of human effort.

Many people, it seems, are not entirely comfortable with the idea that the entire race of man and the whole of creation, are in fact already completely His, and contained in Him and Him alone. And yet when we start from this basis, as you are arguing, we find that people's "lost-ness" is not due to their actual spiritual *position* in Christ, but in their spiritual perception.

It reminds me of that bit in C.S. Lewis' "The Last Battle" where after the children are standing in the New Narnia with Aslan they notice a few dwarves sitting around acting blind to the reality of what the wonderful new creation. The children try to convince them of what has just happened and where they are really at, but they remain unconvinced of that reality - and thus, are completely unable to participate in the new creation that Aslan has brought. What an excellent allegory I think of what you are talking about, and I find this understanding to be very consistent in scripture.

Anonymous said...

A while back, I asked my readers who they thought Jesus was. As suspected, their views of salvation had everything to do with who and what they thought Jesus was. No wonder there is very little agreement of what salvation is! I tried to lead them back to Who and What Jesus Is and Who we are IN him. Needless to say, I am still getting a lot of flack, but I think they are coming around. Thanks for your teachings and clarity. I hope to one day be as clear.

Bill said...

Thanks, Baxter. What a wonderful message. And thanks to everyone here who has encouraged Baxter. I'm sure it's very tough and tiring being the target of so much criticism and so many attacks. However, I am so happy that you press on to share the good news. I am astounded at how many broken and hurting people there are out there who need to know the healing message of the Triune God of Grace. Thank you so much, my friend.

Unknown said...

God day,

it pains me to hear you all ramble away, especially the origin of the blog.

please do some reading in this web site, it is not mine but certainly will open your mind to know me beter as a person, sent son, in the flesh with a body of flesh and blood but a spirit of love in Him. i come to gather the lost, but the darkness is very thick.

read here

again not entirely correct, but as close as any reasoning who jesus was,is and will be when you see me again, minus the walking through doors and winking at water stuff,

in Him
in Truth and Trust

Ron said...

Hey you all. It is such a slow, beautiful, golden journey understanding this way of thinking. Slow, very slow and for the last few months as I would share it with someone it would fall flat.

But today, after listening to a Jehovah Witness pasionately witness his beliefs to my wife and me, my son and his wife (it is her Dad) and after he went home I realized I had to go for it. So I told my son and his wife, who both are visiting from California, the perechoresis message. For the first time it connected with someone I have told. They began to ask questions and I was able to use scripture, as the JW did all weekend to share his message, I used scripture to share the perechoresis message.

This post, "Identity and Experience" helped very much. I still haven't mined as much gold in it as I need to but I especially used the part that explains who Jesus is. By now I should know but it happens slowly for me. I actually had to memorize what Baxter wrote about that.

Thanks Baxter. Stay in there please, we need to hear this liberating message.

It keeps getting better. Ron

Pastor Paul said...

Comment for Joseph:

While I can appreciate your intense steadfastness to what you believe as a "Sacred Names" adherent, your beliefs are still old covenant oriented with your making a god our of a name(s) and just how one pronounces them.

I disproved that concept over 35 years ago as pure heresy with it being based upon the law and ones keeping of the law.

The good news for you, Joseph, is that you and your deceived followers were adopted from before the foundation of the world and saved in Jesus Christ just like everyone else. You are no different when it comes to that same salvation. You just don't know it yet nor do you yet know just WHO you are in Jesus. No matter, you are still loved by the Father and included in His life forever along with your decieved followers. Good News Huh?

I followed a cult like yours for over 30 years and praise God I saw the light and came into the Light of Jesus Christ.

The sooner you get over your name worship of Jehova and Yeshua, the sooner you will be able to see the real Triune God and Jesus Christ.

Keep studying my friend,

God Bless,

Paul Kurts

Unknown said...

Thank You Baxter for your transparency in truth. It is a great time in His history, which is ours, to be alive in the here and now, what an opportunity to come to know, consider, yield and obey in His reality. May the Holy Spirit come to open eyes and enlighten hearts so that we (I) may see in more clarity His heavenly kingdom, here on earth. What an honor for all humanity to be identified in Him and how awesome to be able to come to experience and participate in light. Darkness cannot be measured and it is light that exposes this truth. John

Jim Noseworthy said...

Hello Baxter and all:

Well, since it would appear that, for the most part, it was my post that you were quoting from, I should probably respond.

Your second assumption is correct. I am merely trying to understand scripture passages in the light of what you are teaching.

I note that at least one on this list was a former member of the WCG before "the change."
Well, I myself was a member for 30 years and I know what can happen when one cannot ask a question without seeming to draw hostile fire; thus, making it hard for folks to own the matter for themselves : that is to say, believing in the believer.

I remind myself, and anyone on this list who needs reminding, that it is the chief Shepherds voice that we need to hear. It is, after all, He, and His Truth, that will set us free.

Thanks Baxter for your courage and your passion for Christ. Just remember that this is "ratical" preaching/teaching and, for some, hard to get one's head around.

Thanks all over the place.

Anonymous said...

Well, I dare say that many of us who benefit from Baxter's teachings are WCG types. As such, we have in the past been tainted by the "If Jesus said it, it must be for us!" approach to the Bible. I call this the Synoptic Problem.

Well, for me, anyway, I have had to come to see that there is such a thing as the historical Jesus who tuanted the law types and that these historical words are not necessarily for us.

But Jesus does have words for us, and these words are conveyed through the writings of John and Paul and the other writers for the New Covenant.

With this understanding, I have been able to rejoice greatly in the message of hope found in the Gospel.

The best to you all always!


NightFlight said...

Here's my problem. If we are all accepted in Christ, and the only issue is one of believing it, then doesn't faith then become a work? I hear the message of the Incarnation and its implications, but then it seems the onus is thrown back on me to make sure I take this message and do the proper thing with it. I feel the same way as I do when I was told (in so many words and ways) that it's my behavior that is being judged. I feel like I'm under the watchful, cold gaze of God, just waiting for me to screw up the faith thing so I can be damned. If I knew that there wasn't some eschatological cut-off point, but instead that God never gives up, I think that would be the thing that would help me. But knowing that there is some kind of cut-off in the future throws it all back on me to be sure I have it right. Grace becomes a burden.