Sub-objective Cycle

Philosophers and religious leaders have argued over the millennia whether we understand ideas, concepts, and religions either subjectively or objectively.  Some philosophers called it a priori, knowing something instinctively or subjectively, or a posteriori, knowing something through experiences or objectively.

Interestingly enough, few have examined the possibility that both have merit and can be used in a continuing cycle I call, “Sub-objective Cycle.”  It is an “east meets west” unification of eastern and western thought. 

Eastern religions emphasize subjectivism, while western religions focus on objectivism.  Zen Buddhists might say that, “All statements are absurd, so there are no moral objective principles.”  And some Christians might respond that, “The Ten Commandments, the Golden Rule, and the Beatitudes of Jesus are examples of objective moral principles.” 

So what happens when we combine the two methods of thinking?  If we start with subjective principles, we could say that the Holy Spirit was working within us to bolster our conscience.  Then you can complete the circle by utilizing the objective approach to show that there are morals that are universally an essential part of our human fabric like the Ten Commandments.

But you do not stop at that point because it is a continuing cycle.  Any objective laws or moral codes must be given the subjective test to determine if it runs counter to our conscience.  Just because society or a religion has established a law does not mean that it is perfect.  And, by the same token, just because you think that something is morally wrong, does not mean that you are perfect in what you believe.  Subjective and objective thinking must be counterweights and balance or moderate each other.  Running ideas through this dual cycle constantly is the best way to improve ideas.  I call it Sub-objective Cycles.

In law, there are subjective and objective tests to determine consequences.  In criminal law, the prosecutor has to prove in many cases that the accused intended to commit the crime.  This must pass a subjective test.  But in civil law, the plaintiff’s attorney has to prove negligence of the defendant by showing that a reasonably prudent person, under the same or similar circumstances, would or would not have taken that action.  This is an objective test.

As a judge advocate in the Air Force, I taught the Law of Armed Conflict to airmen entering the war in Iraq.  When leaders make a decision to bomb a school, being used as a military headquarters, which test do they use?  The political leaders typically utilize the objective test to determine how the average person on the street will view the bombing, while the military leaders employ a subjective test to determine in their minds if they will accomplish the mission.  As you can imagine, the results of these two tests can come up with opposing decisions.

What happens when you utilize both tests?  In the case of the school targeting issue, the politicians decided not to bomb the building and the military wanted to bomb the headquarters.  If you first examined this problem from the subjective standpoint, you would see the military value in bombing the headquarters; but the objective test shows that the bombing of a school would land you on the front page of newspapers throughout the world, especially if you killed innocent school children. 

So, run it through the cycle again.  We reexamine the problem subjectively and our conscience allows us to bomb the school after school hours because we can destroy the headquarters without killing any children.  We would limit our collateral damage and still accomplish the mission.  Then we reexamine the problem objectively and discover that a reasonable person would understand and appreciate this approach.  By running this problem through the cycle, you can arrive at an improved solution.  Typically, the two sides argue their cases and do not give an inch.  Not only is there nothing wrong with using both subjective and objective tests together, but it promises a better result.      

Scientific Evidence of God

About 16% of the world’s population is not affiliated with a religion, which makes it the third largest group coming in behind Christians with 31.5% and Muslims with 23% of the world population.  Overall, 84% of the world’s inhabitants, which it estimated at 6.9 billion, identify with a religion, according to the study entitled “The Global Religious Landscape” issued by the Pew Forum on Religion and Public Life.  The unaffiliated category covers all those who profess no religion, from atheists and agnostics to people with spiritual beliefs with no link to any established faith.

But the most interesting aspect of this Pew Forum study was that religious affiliations are growing throughout the world, but are declining in America.  In 2007, about 15% of American adults were not affiliated with a religion.  But in 2012, the unaffiliated group of adults increased to 19.6%.  This is about a 1% increase each year.   The agnostics are about twice as large a group as the atheists, but those who are nonbelievers through apathy or beliefs without a God or lack of information or distractions of life are, by far, the leading cause of this loss of Christians in the United States.  We cannot determine with certainty what is causing this 1% loss each year, but it may be from an increase in immigrants and younger adults who are unbelievers entering this census each year.

So, what could you say to turn the tide of nonbelievers?  Well, it is difficult to determine since there are many reasons for this upswing in America.  For example if the problem is primarily because of apathy and distractions by worldly problems and materialistic and self-serving concerns, then a logical discourse on why you should believe in God is probably not going to change anything.  Sometimes, it takes a life-shattering event to stem the tide of disbelief.  In other words, if we saw that earth was in the path of an asteroid that was going to cause a global disaster, killing off over 90% of our population, you would see a sharp rise in believers.  It is human nature for this to happen.  You turn to God when you need God and sometimes not before.

However, since there are some who can be persuaded by logic, I will offer three items of scientific proof or evidence:  (1) cosmological evidence, (2) teleological evidence, and (3) metaphysical evidence. 

First, cosmological  evidence.  As you gaze at the night sky, you see the evidence.  The universe is vast, stretching out for millions of light years in all directions.  Since the speed of light is faster than the speed of the expansion of our universe, there is much of our former universe that cannot be seen because the light of that time period has long passed us.  So, we are limited in what we can see.  Only about 4% of the universe is visible anyway as dark matter and dark energy comprise about 96%.  And if the universe is closed, it could be an ellipse like many of the other orbit in our systems, thus making it impossible for us to view the entire universe.  This may be analogous to standing on earth and trying to see the entire world.  The point is that we are impressed by the visible evidence and might be even more impressed if we could see the entire universe.

Some scientists might argue that this elegant universe could have just popped into existence from nothing, but there is little logic in that.  How could you even define nothing without something?  We know we are living in something, so how would you reverse engineer something back to nothing?  I suppose that if you had exactly the same amount of matter and anti-matter, they would cancel each other out.  But you would still have the energy that remained from the annihilation. 

In a closed universe like we probably have, matter and energy can only be transformed.  The total amount of matter and energy can neither be destroyed nor created.  In effect, creation had to occur outside our universe.  Scientists might argue that there was no creation since our universe has always existed in a perpetual recycling pattern. 

However, the Big Bang is the accepted theory that disproves the perpetual universe.  There is strong evidence for the Big Bang theory, including background noise of the event still being heard today.  It is not likely that we will ever see any evidence of the Big Bang because the light from that event would have long passed us unless it circles back around and laps us in a cosmic orbit.  So, the Big Bang is perhaps the best scientific evidence of creation. 

Of course, scientists can always ask what happened before the Big Bang.  The answer is that we do not know.  But if there were a creation known as the Big Bang, then there had to be a creator because creation must logically have a creator.  Even if you still believe that our universe was created from nothing, there must have been a creator to accomplish this.  But logically this does not work because the creator is something and with creation, there is always something that creates and something to create from.

When Frank Borman, the American astronaut, returned from Apollo 8’s flight around the moon, he was asked by a reporter if he saw God.  Borman smiled and said, “No, I did not see him, but I saw his evidence.”

Second, Teleological Evidence.  The design in nature is astounding.   The strands of connecting gasses and dust clouds in the universe stretching out to clusters of galaxies start to look like fibers of connecting tissue in our bodies.  The universal laws of physics and relativity and genetics and evolution and quantum mechanics are all elegant in their design.  The fragility of life that is found in the “goldilocks zone” where everything had to be just right for it to even exist also points to a design. 

Many believers argue that evolution runs counter to God’s design.  This simply is not true.  There is no conflict between God’s design in nature and the laws of evolution.  Clearly, the finches on the island of Galapagos developed their different beaks through adaptation, allowing them to break open the unique seeds on the island.  Survival of the fittest applies as well without disproving God’s design.  Darwin’s theory fits in rather nicely with nature’s design.

And who could examine DNA and not believe in a design and designer?  And who could examine the micro-world of quantum mechanics and not believe in a design and designer?  The complexity of both of these sciences is mind-numbing.  And just like in our discussion of a creation and a creator, a design begs to have a designer.  Some scientists argue that the randomness of the quantum world can satisfy the need of design through its roll of the dice.  But even Albert Einstein said, “I cannot believe that God plays dice with the cosmos.”

The mechanism of quantum theory could be like an engine propelling our universe in perpetuity, leaving the question of who designed the quantum world?  In effect, even if the quantum world is the basis for the recycling in our closed universe, it is still in our universe and had to be designed like all the other designs in our universe.  Thus, behind the elegant designs within our universe is a designer.

Third, Metaphysical Evidence.  This is the evidence that transcends physical evidence.  When we look through our eyes, we see a physical world.  All our senses detect this physical world, but sensory deprivation would leave us with a metaphysical world.  If we were not distracted by the physical universe around us, we could focus more on this metaphysical world. 

As an example, we know some things without experiences to guide us or a priori.  We intuitively know that we should not do certain things because they are wrong.  Our conscience is our moral compass that helps us in making choices every day.  No scientists has dissected a brain and discovered the conscience yet, probably because it is beyond physical.  This concept of doing the right thing originates somewhere or from something.  Perhaps it is similar to how birds instinctively know where to fly in the fall.  They don’t have maps or a global positioning system.  Yet, they know how to fly to a specific location each year.  This is metaphysical evidence of something higher than us, giving us innate guidance as part of creation.  But this is different than God creating physical things.  This is God creating metaphysical things.

In many ways, this may be the most important evidence of God because it is something inside us that we subjectively know.  The first two sets of evidence relate to objective tests, but the metaphysical evidence is deep inside you.  You either know it exists or you don’t. 

My guess is that atheists would say that they know that this evidence does not exist, and I cannot argue against them since, as I said, the test is very subjective.  However, I can state with certainty that I detect the Holy Spirit within me, enhancing the conscience.  I sometimes describe the Holy Spirit as my conscience “on steroids.”  It seems to me that if I feel guilty if I do not do the right thing, and the atheist says that he does not feel guilty because there is no right thing, these two statements cannot both be correct. 

Which one is wrong?  Well, it seems logical that the positive statement disproves the negative statement.  I would not feel guilty unless there were some emotions precipitating that feeling.  It is more likely that there is a conscience than there is none, because if there were no conscience, right and wrong would not exist and the atheist could not say there is no right thing.  The atheist would not know of the existence of good to deny its existence.

Relativists believe that everything is relative and that there is no absolute good or absolute evil.  They might say, “There are absolutely no absolutes.”  Since the absolutes cancel each other out, making the statement nonsensical, there must be absolute good and evil.  Mankind has dealt with good and evil since the Garden of Eden.  It has carried forward through the centuries and is part of our metaphysical being.  We have been given free will and so we make choices every day.  The consequences for our decisions are provided in some cases by society through peer pressure and laws, but the internal personal moral code is the primary barometer of the pressure you place on yourself for your acts.  This freedom of choice was given to us by a creator and the consequences are administered by the same creator.  

One of the gifts of Christianity is God’s grace, forgiving our sins through the death of Christ.  This allows us to erase the guilt within our souls, giving us a clean slate so that when we are thinking in the afterlife, we will not agonize over our past sins, punishing ourselves for what we either did or failed to do.

So, do you believe?

Hell Disguised as Heaven

In an article entitled “God’s Kingdom,” I entertained the idea that believers may go to hell, separated from the nonbelievers, where our actions could be tested in a very different, difficult, and deceitful environment.  This deceitful environment might look like heaven, but could be hell. 

This would be quite frightening to most Christians who have a rather peaceful image of heaven.  A believer might think they are following a white light to heaven, when, in fact, they are headed to a different environment altogether.  If your imagination is not under control by your belief in God, your thoughts can spiral out of control, headed toward your worst nightmares or phobias.  For example if you are afraid of drowning, you may find yourself under water gasping for air.

What could prevent this?  After you die, your thoughts must be unified with the Holy Spirit, Jesus, and God so that they are intertwined like steel wires forming a cable.  Otherwise, the Devil may appear with other fallen angels to welcome you to heaven.  They may make you feel comfortable in their kingdom and you may not have any idea that you are in hell, rather than heaven.  First perceptions can be very deceptive.  Then the nightmares from your fertile imagination could pull you down into purgatory for eternity.  Your self-control cannot fight the demons by itself.  It requires the Holy Spirit, Jesus, and God united within you. 

Without God, you may relax and let your guard down.  The demons might go to work on your conscience.  Their goal may be to get you to commit a little sin, perhaps a white lie.  Then they can build on that until you are being tugged down by the quicksand where you stand.  The demons may pry the Holy Spirit from you much like peeling a label off a can.  It would start very slowly, but then the label would come off very quickly in big pieces. 

The afterlife may offer the ultimate faith judgment.  The demons may test your belief in God and Jesus, because if you truly believe in Him, then you will not fall into the traps that they set.  If you did good works during your life, this should have disciplined you so that you would continue doing good works in the afterlife.  What better way to test your belief in God and Jesus than through the fires of hell?

If Jesus asked you to jump off a mountain ledge would you trust Him?  If Jesus asked you to walk on water with Him, would you do it?  Exactly how much do you trust Jesus?  These could be tests of your faith, as well.

Most Christians and religious believers prefer an entitlement to heaven without having to work for it or worse, suffer for it.  Yet, Jesus did.  Of course, we all know that if you believe in God and Jesus, you will be saved.  But it is not clear how salvation occurs.  We know that our sin debt has been paid in full by Jesus who died on the cross for us, so we should carry no guilt into the afterlife.  But we do not know how salvation works to clear up the fog and friction of the afterlife.  We know that works also are included as part of what is required of us.  The combination of faith and works not only during our lives, but also during our afterlives may be part of the answer to how we will be saved from chaos and the unknown. 

If demons attempt to tempt you during life or the afterlife, you should have the same response.  Your faith will lead to avoiding sinful activities or thoughts, which are the works that follow your belief.  The Holy Spirit will unite you with Jesus and God, and only as one will you have the ability to overcome the demons of hell.  We think that we can handle these things by ourselves, but this is not true.  Without becoming one with Jesus and God, you will not be able to overcome the unknown.  Unfortunately, your imagination will fill in the darkness with your worst nightmares.  Follow the Holy Spirit to Jesus and God. 

Galations 5:16-23 states:  “This I say then, Walk in the Spirit, and ye shall not fulfill the lust of the flesh.  For the flesh lusteth against the Spirit, and the Spirit against the flesh and these are contrary the one to the other so that ye cannot do the things that ye would.  But if ye had led of the Spirit, ye are not under the law.”

“Now the works of the flesh are manifest, which are these: Adultery, fornication, uncleanness, lasciviousness, idolatry, witchcraft, hatred, variance, emulations, wrath, strife, seditions, heresies, envyings, murders, drunkenness, revelings, and such like of the which I tell you before, as I have also told you in time past, that they would do such things shall not inherit the kingdom of God.  But the fruit of the Spirit is love, joy, peace, longsuffering, gentleness, goodness, faith, meekness, temperance, against such there is no law.”

This passage is important because it emphasizes both the wrong things and the right things to do.  We must gird ourselves with the powerful belief in the Spirit, Jesus, and God and let our heart not be hardened with the bad deeds, but be softened by all the good that we can do in life and the afterlife.  No matter what comes our way, even suffering and pain, cannot erase or distract us from our goal of reaching God’s kingdom through love, joy, peace, gentleness, goodness, faith, meekness, and temperance.

By allowing the Holy Spirit to bring Jesus and God inside you, the chaos and darkness of hell cannot consume you.  Demons certainly may scare you with their brutality, inflictions of suffering and pain, but they cannot defeat you if you are one with God.  1 Corinthians 2:16 states that God’s spirit dwells within you.

Geerhardus Vos in “The Eschatological Aspect of the Pauline Conception of the Spirit,” declared that there was a binary configuration between the first advent of Christ and the second.  In other words, salvation is now, but also in the future.  Justification is now, but also in the future.  Sanctification is now, but also in the future.  Glorification is now, but also in the future.  And certainly unification is now, but also in the future.  There may be some growth and development going on as faith and works are continuously pushed toward perfection, but they will always be the same binary configuration.

We may also consider these configurations to be on an eternal continuum that unites with the Holy Trinity.  In other words, salvation is inside you now and forevermore.  Justification is inside you now and forevermore.  Sanctification is inside you now and forevermore.  Glorification is inside you now and forevermore.

John 3:36 provides, “Whoever believes in the Son has eternal life…”  This is interesting because it is in the present not the future tense.  In other words, eternal life can start at the time you believe in Jesus and continue on into the afterlife.  This differs from some interpretations of the Bible which discuss eternal life as occurring in the future.  However, John’s interpretation, sometimes called “realized eschatology” makes sense to me because of my belief in an eternal continuum as described in the prior paragraph. 

Nothing can alter this, no matter how much darkness and chaos invades your thoughts.  This is your moral and philosophical foundation and it cannot be eroded or corrupted by outside forces, but you still must work every day on the three most important things to do before you die.  Prepare… prepare… prepare.

Prepare for the worst case, but pray for the best.


God’s Kingdom

What is God’s Kingdom and how does one prepare to arrive there?

Jesus talked about “the kingdom of heaven” in many of his parables in the Bible.  In order to be better prepared for this kingdom, I attempted to analyze sections of the Bible related to the kingdom.  I then made an effort to synthesize this analysis, bringing the scattered pieces together like completing a jigsaw puzzle, but with some pieces missing. 

One of the more confusing parts of the Bible to me is Judgment Day, determining whether we will enter God’s kingdom.  Is there one judgment or are there multiple judgments?  After we repent and accept Jesus as our savior, thus receiving God’s grace, is that the first judgment?  Is there a second judgment when we die, based on our faith and actions after repentance?  Or do we go to hell, separated from the nonbelievers, where our actions will be tested in a very different, difficult, and deceitful environment?  Or is heaven a destination where believers await the second coming or the end of times?      

We know that our sins are forgiven by God’s gift of grace since His son suffered and died for us.  This is called justification.  If this is the first test, many Christians will do very well.  It requires faith in and the acceptance of Jesus Christ as your savior.   

I will use many citations from the Book of Romans, since it is perhaps the best study of Christian theology, but I also will refer to the parables of Jesus and the Book of Revelation.  Romans, written by Paul, reveals God’s plan of righteousness and salvation for all humankind through both justification and sanctification.  One of the questions that I fairly raise in this article is whether these two are so intertwined that they form a single basis for Judgment Day or are they separate tests for purposes of judgment?  And if so, which judgment?   

Romans 5:1 states, “Therefore, since we have been justified through faith, we have peace with God through our Lord Jesus Christ…”  The Bible tells us that we cannot receive God’s grace through works, yet we also know that works are important.  But how important are they?

A minister who was working with a prisoner heard him shout that he was saved.  The prisoner’s cellmate asked the preacher if that were true or not, and the response was:  “We will see.”  This uncovers the danger of “cheap grace” first coined by Dietrich Bonhoeffer.  Grace is not a get-out-of-jail-free card and it is not an entitlement and it is not free.  Grace is granted at a great cost:  (1) Jesus Christ, who was tortured and crucified for us, poured out His blood for us and (2) God provides grace to believers who, after receiving this grace, need to work hard to become like Jesus, who should become their role model.  

Once we receive God’s gift of grace, we cannot continue sinning.  Romans 6:1-2 provides, “What shall we say, then?  Shall we go on sinning so that grace may increase?  By no means!  We died to sin; how can we live in it any longer?”  We are united with God through Jesus and our conscience is linked to the Holy Spirit so that we cannot sin any longer.  This is called sanctification.

Titus 2:11-12 provides that God has enabled us, through grace: “Teaching us that, denying ungodliness and worldly lusts, we should live soberly, righteously, and godly, in this present world.”  And Ephesians 2:8-10 states: “For by grace are ye saved through faith, and that not of yourselves: it is the gift of God.  Not of works, lest any man should boast.  For we are His workmanship, created in Christ Jesus unto good works, which God hath before ordained that we should walk in them.”  Thus, it appears that grace comes first and then works follow like a horse and carriage on our journey to God’s kingdom.

So, is there one judgment or multiple judgments?  The Eastern Orthodox Church believes in two judgments:  (1) the Particular Judgment that occurs at the time of death and (2) the Final Judgment that will happen after Christ returns.  The Protestants are not as clear on what happens after death but before the Final Judgment.  Some believe that the dead sleep in hell; others say that believers dwell in heaven leaving nonbelievers to wander the earth; but some think that there will be no time separating death and the second coming.  Many Protestants believe that Jesus will carry out the judgment of believers at the end of times, and God will judge the nonbelievers.  I’m not certain it matters since God and Jesus are united in the kingdom. 

However, some Protestants also believe in two judgments.  One is conducted at the end of time by Jesus sitting on a white throne judging the dead according to what they had done, Revelation 20:11-15.  The other is the God’s judgment seat, sometimes called the bema judgment, which is based on works in determining heavenly treasures.  Protestants believe that this judgment only applies to believers.  It is mentioned three times in the Bible.  Romans 14:10 provides, “For we all stand before God’s judgment seat.  2 Corinthians 5:10 states, “For we must all appear before the judgment seat of Christ that each one may receive what is due him for the things done while in the body, whether good or bad.”  It is not clear whether “things done while in the body” means while alive and/or after death if you still have a body in hell.  The Book of Romans mentions that the judgment is made by God, while 2 Corinthians indicates that it will be made by Christ.  I do not believe it matters since the judgment will be the same.              

It is unclear to me about the sequence of judgments.  There could be a judgment entirely based on faith when we declare our faith in Christ and an additional judgment when we die based on faith as proven by our acts or this faith judgment could be continuous.  It seems logical that God and/or Jesus would have to separate the believers and nonbelievers first, before administering any additional judgments.  A belief in Jesus is not a subjective test, so even if individuals think that they believe, it is an objective test determined by Jesus/God, who know everything about us.  This faith judgment could be during life or at death or continuously. 

Some Christians believe that there is an earthly location which Jesus visited for three days after His death.  In Matthew 12:40, Jesus foretold that He would spend three days and three nights in the heart of the earth, which may be a location or destination where believers and nonbelievers are separated, rather than the lake of fire mentioned in Revelation 20:14-15.  However, this would be a faith judgment days after death.  Whether these three faith judgments discussed are separate or one continuous judgment, I cannot find sufficient evidence in the Bible to prove one way or the other.  However, Matthew 10:22 states, “… he that endures to the end shall be saved.”  Matthew 12:32 also states, “… whosoever speaks against the Holy Ghost, it shall not be forgiven him, neither in this world, neither in the world to come.”  These come pretty close to saying that the faith judgment is continual during life, carried to the end or into the world to come.

Logic also tells me that the faith judgment probably continues throughout your life.  My wife and I approached a minister to baptize us since we had been baptized when we were younger when we did not have the faith that we have now.  The minister asked me if we could get married again, and I told him yes.  A couple could remarry since it would be a marriage between two new people, whose experiences had changed them and had made them different than when they first were married.  Since they were not the same people, they could remarry.  Baptism is the same.  Our current faith walk would make this a completely different baptism and, in our opinions, a new one.  We were not the same people who were baptized decades ago. 

The minister was trying to say that you can only get married or baptized once, but that is a legalistic examination.  That is a manmade limitation.  A spiritual marriage develops continuously over the years, so that at any point in time, you could take a snapshot of that marriage and declare it to be a new marriage based on the couple’s progress in loving and believing in each other.  Baptism should be the same as a marriage.  My wife’s and my love for and faith in Jesus and God had developed over the years, so we were completely different people coming before Jesus and God for holy baptism. 

After death, there could be three additional judgments after believers are separated from the others:  (1) the end of times judgment, (2) the glorification judgment, and (3) the rewards-of-heaven judgment.  It seems logical that the end of times judgment would occur before the glorification and rewards judgments since the end of times may be a second faith judgment of both believers and nonbelievers, but this time including a thorough evaluation of their works.  God can do anything, so God has the power to select special nonbelievers who converted to Christianity during their stay after death and showed by their good deeds in the earth that they should be accepted into His kingdom.  But, unfortunately, there will only be a few selected for His kingdom. 

The glorification judgment will be God’s testing of our remnants of humanness, squeezing out those remaining selfish aspects of our characters.  Jesus asked God to glorify Him with God’s own self, filling Jesus with the glory that He had with God before the world existed in John 17:5.  In effect, before the fall of man in the Garden of Eden, the humanness of man did not exist, so glorification removes those human characteristics and glorifies us before God.  

The rewards judgment appears to be based on a thorough analysis of all of our deeds and misdeeds with God finally deciding what our lives will be like in His kingdom.  What is this judgment based on?  In 1 Corinthians 3:13-14 we are told that in this judgment, “… his work will be shown for what it is, because the Day will bring it to light.  It will be revealed with fire, and the fire will test the quality of each man’s work.  If what he has built survives, he will receive his reward.”  Does this provision mean that all our actions during life will be examined in detail?   My wife and I have wondered if it would be like watching a movie of ourselves in humbling detail.  And is this judgment only for believers to determine what rewards they will receive in God’s kingdom?  I have not discovered the answer yet. 

But we know that there will be consequences for our choices made during life.  Many Christians believe Jesus died for their sins, and eternity is their entitlement based on their faith.  However, the Bible clearly refers to judgments before God, evaluating your actions. 

James, perhaps the best analysis of works in the Bible, states in 1:22-26: “But be ye doers of the word, and not hearers only, deceiving your own selves.  For if any be a hearer of the word, and not a doer, he is like unto a man beholding his natural face in a glass; for he beholdeth himself, and goeth his way, and straightway forgetteth what manner of man he was.  But whoso looketh into the perfect law of liberty, and continueth therein, he being not a forgetful hearer, but a doer of the work, this man shall be blessed in his deed.  If any man among you seem to be religious, and brideleth not his tongue, but deceiveth his own heart, this man’s religion is vain.”  This seems to say that we have freedom of choice and our actions will be judged.

James 2:14 offers, “What doth it profit, my brethren, though a man say he hath faith, and have not works?  Can faith save him?  Then James 2:17-18 answers the questions, “Even so faith, if it hath not works, is dead, being alone.  Yes, a man may say, Thou hast faith, and I have works: shew me thy faith without thy works, and I will shew thee my faith by my works.”  James concludes in 2:24 and 26:  “Ye see then how that by works a man’s justified, and not by faith only….  For as the body without the spirit is dead, so faith without works is dead also.”

It makes sense that faith and works are both judged since Christ told us that only a few will pass into God’s universe.  Matthew 7:13-14 quoted Jesus, “Enter through the narrow gate.  For wide is the gate and broad is the road that leads to destruction, and many enter through it.  But small is the gate and narrow the road that leads to life, and only a few find it.”  Jesus also said, “The harvest truly is plenteous, but the laborers are few…,” Matthew 9:37.  Revelation 14:1 indicated that there would be only 144,000, who would enter the kingdom.  Matthew 22:14 stated, “For many are invited, but few are chosen.”

Most of us do not like to hear bad news, particularly when the Bible focuses primarily on the Good News.  There is absolutely nothing wrong with the Good News of the coming of Jesus to save us from our sins, as long as we are realistic about what we need to do in response to the Good News.  The actions that we take after receiving God’s grace are critical to our final judgment. 

If you study the Beatitudes, Jesus told us that we could not even think about evil things.  So, Jesus took a big step from the Ten Commandments, telling us that we should not lust for others.  Don’t even think bad thoughts.  Who among us can reach that level?  There probably are only a few.  And God will know your every thought both during your life and when standing before Him in judgment.  Perhaps the best approach to this difficult task is to take baby steps.  For example, if you can limit your lusting to your spouse that would be a good start.  As Jesus and the Holy Spirit take up more room in your heart, it will become easier.

If you believe in God, you may have passed the first test, but your journey to God has just started.  If you follow the teachings of Jesus and do your best to have good works during your life, you probably are on your way to passing the second test.  However, there is no guarantee that you will be selected by God to enter His eternity.  Only God knows what He will be examining on the final Judgment Day.  He may examine both our thoughts and deeds, so that few of us will pass into His kingdom.  That seems to correspond to what Jesus said.

In Matthew 13:24-30, Jesus used the parable of the weeds and wheat to explain Judgment Day.  He said that the weeds, the people of the evil one, would grow beside the wheat, the people of God’s kingdom.  The wheat would not be harvested until it matured when it would be easier to distinguish between the weeds and the wheat.  Matthew 7:1 also stated, “Do not judge, or you too will be judged.  So, man should not do any “weeding” or evaluating in advance of God’s judgment.  In other words, leave the judging to God. 

Some of the weeds will die out before the harvest because they could not compete against the wheat.  In advance of death, you know whether you believe in God or not, so you also know whether you will be in the harvest or not.  God will conduct a harvest even though there are still weeds in the field.  The weeds will be separated out and burned and the wheat will be gathered and taken into the kingdom.  Revelation 14:14-20 also references a final harvest.

John, the last living of the twelve disciples, wrote Revelation in exile on the small island of Potmos.  He included enigmatic visions that were difficult to understand, but I included an analysis of John’s word pictures written in an apocalyptic style since he wrote about the end of times.  In Revelation 20:12-13, the dead would be judged according to what they had done.  This is the end-of-times judgment.  Revelation indicated that those being judged would be the dead coming from the earth.  This makes one think that part of God’s test of your works is how you did both above and below ground.

So, what do we do?  Well, I believe the answer is that we do the best that we can, knowing that we are human and will make mistakes.  If you fall back one step into sin, then try to move forward two steps along the path of Jesus.

I have no idea what Judgment Day or Days will entail.  Jesus, himself, may have gone below the earth before being raised with His Father.  It would not surprise me if those of us who were believers had to go through the tests of fire itself.  We might have to endure the same suffering that Jesus went through.  Perhaps we will be tested by the evil denizens to see how strong our faith really is.  I do not know, and this is one of the biggest missing pieces for me in the jigsaw puzzle.

I guess the best advice is to be prepared.  In Matthew 22:11-13, Jesus told about the king who invited everybody to his wedding banquet, which has been interpreted to be the kingdom of heaven.  There was one group that did not enter the kingdom of heaven because they did not accept the invitation.  In other words, they didn’t even believe.  There was a second group that had entered the kingdom, but was then kicked out into hell, not properly preparing for the event.  This guest did not wear proper wedding clothing.  What does this mean?  Some interpret it to mean that this individual accepted the invitation, but did not conduct himself properly.  In other words, he may have sounded righteous by his acceptance of the kingdom, but his deeds and actions showed otherwise.  Jesus described these as two separate events:  (1) accepting the invitation and (2) being judged for wearing inappropriate clothing.  Even though, faith in God and acts supporting this belief are linked together, the judgments for these two events do not have to occur simultaneously.  Jesus may have been talking about two separate judgments. 

Your imagination and your thoughts may be your worst enemy, so it makes sense that we cannot make it through our earthly travels or the afterlife without God’s help.  That seems to be the importance of unification with God, who provides control and peace.  If you are separated from God, you will face chaos alone in both the present world, but also in the following world.   

There are two parables in Matthew that related to workers in a vineyard.  The vineyard may have been analogous to the kingdom of heaven, which Jesus had been discussing in Matthew, including Chapter 20, verses 1-16, the Parable of the Workers in the Vineyard.  In this parable, a landowner agreed to pay a denarius to men who would work in his vineyard.  He would continually add workers as the day progressed, finally hiring workers for the eleventh hour of a twelve-hour workday.  He paid all the workers a denarius, even those who joined at the final hour.  The workers who started early in the morning were not happy because even though they received what they had been promised, the workers who worked for less than an hour got the same wages.  The landowner told them that he had the right to do what he wanted with his money and he wanted to reward the last man the same as the first.

There may be several interpretations, but the most logical is that all those who work to enter the kingdom of heaven will be considered equally, even those who convert at the eleventh hour.  If a murderer receives Jesus as his savior right before the fatal injection, he might still enter the kingdom of heaven.  The real test of Judgment Day is did the murderer truly confess his sins and turn his life over to God or was he just hedging his bets at the last minute?  Only God will know that.      

In Matthew Chapter 21, verses 28-32, the Parable of the Two Sons, a father asked his two sons to work in his vineyard.  The first son flatly stated that he would not, but after thinking about it, he changed his mind and worked for his dad in the vineyard.  The second son politely responded, “I will, sir.”  However, he walked away and did not do the work.  Jesus asked the people inside the Temple in Jerusalem, “Which of the two did what his father wanted?” 

They answered, “The first son.”  The chief priests and the elders condemned themselves by this answer since they were more like the second son, because they agreed to serve God, yet refused to have anything to do with Jesus.  Their actions betrayed their mouths.

In the military, we called it “Walking the walk.”  There were two primary types of soldiers:  (1) those whose actions showed the courage of their convictions, and (2) those who told a good story, but were nowhere to be seen when the actions started.  We called this “Talking the talk.”  Jesus seemed to be saying that the Scribes and the Pharisees were only “talking the talk,” but not “walking the walk.” 

As it turned out, Jesus was correct, because the elders forced the Romans to torture and crucify Him.  They proclaimed that they were devoted to God, but had the Son of God put to death.

There may be a second level in this parable.  Jesus may have been talking about two judgments.  The first judgment would be based on what you say or believe.  In this case, the second son, falling in the category of those who preach and attend church, would pass the first judgment as a believer in God.  However, the second test may be the final judgment, which is based on your acts that showed your true faith and beliefs.  In this case, the first son, representing those who originally were sinners, did what was right and obeyed God’s will after accepting Jesus as his savior.       

In effect, the first son did not initially have enough faith to enter the vineyard to do works.  But he had a change of heart and did good works in the kingdom.  The second son initially had the faith to enter the kingdom, but he never did good works.  As between the two, the son who actually did the works for God entered the kingdom ahead of the second son, who had no works.  Sinners, who initially renounced God but later decided to work for God, could enter heaven before preachers, who mouthed words without matching them with deeds.

The perfect son was Jesus, who answered his Father that he would obey and then acted accordingly, accepting lashings and crucifixion.  Jesus is our only role model, and we should try to be like Him in every way.  Jesus both talked the talk and walked the walk.

In Matthew 13:1-23, the first parable given by Jesus was the story of a farmer who scattered his seed on (1) a hard path, (2) a thin soil, (3) a thorny ground, (4) and a rich soil.  The birds ate the seed on the hard path, the plants died from lack of water in the shallow soil since there were no deep roots, the thorns chocked out the plants, but the good soil produced a great crop. 

Jesus instructed the disciples to study the parables because they contained the secrets of the kingdom of heaven, Matthew 13:11-13.  The disciples were instructed to question and study the parables in depth to better prepare for the kingdom. 

The traditional interpretation of the Parable of the Sower is that the seeds of wisdom about God’s kingdom can fall on a hardened heart, a shallow heart, a distracted heart, or a deep heart.  Those who would inherit the kingdom of heaven would have the deep heart.  The belief in God would allow the seed to germinate, so that only the hardened heart prevented germination.  The shallow and distracted hearts allowed the plant to grow through belief in God, but the plant withered and died because it did not have a strong faith.  Matthew 13:23 summed it up by saying that good soil is found in the “understanding” of God’s word.  In other words, ask questions.  What does the parable mean?  What was Jesus trying to say?

Another lesson of the Parable of the Sower may be that a farmer continues to sow his seed even though he knows that some of the seed will be wasted.  Jesus knew that his parables were falling on deaf ears and even the disciples did not fully understand, but He knew that His parables would be studied later and would serve as the keys to understanding the kingdom of God.  It was worth it since His word would be studied later in good soil.

Perhaps the most important parable about God’s judgment is found in Matthew 25:31-46, the Parable of the Sheep and the Goats.  It talks about Jesus separating people like a shepherd separating the sheep from the goats with the sheep on the right and the goats on the left.  The basic test behind this judgment is “What did you do to make life better for others?”  And the evaluation is not based on how much money you gave or how many people you impacted, but is founded on selfless generosity and kindness to others.  As Jesus said, “… whatever you did for one of the least of these brothers of mine, you did for me.”  If your charitable acts are based on personal rewards, this will not earn many points with Jesus.  For example if you give to the poor because you expect this will be your ticket to heaven, you may be disappointed.

Matthew 25:46 discusses eternal punishment and eternal life.  It is important to think about our universe as being infinite with time going on forever and God’s world as being eternal where time does not exist.  In our closed universe, matter and energy can neither be created nor destroyed.  God’s kingdom is outside our closed universe, where creation may occur.  Being trapped forever in our closed universe would lock you into a recycling nightmare.  God’s kingdom allows you to escape from this universe for perpetuity.  In Luke 21:33, Jesus said that both heaven and earth would pass away at the end of times.  He may have meant that the destinations of heaven and hell are both within our closed universe and will be left behind after the end of the Messianic Age.   

These musings are not meant to interpret the parables and the teachings of Jesus with any degree of certainty, because that may not be possible.  Our humanness will prevent a perfect understanding of Jesus.  However, by asking questions and by probing the parables and other parts of the Bible, we may stir up some thoughts from the depths of our minds that may help us understand and reach the kingdom.

God bless us one and all on our journeys to reach the kingdom.

Philosophy of God

There are two subsets of the philosophy of God:  (1) the analysis of facts from different evidentiary sources and their relationship to each other, and (2) the synthesis of putting everything back together after taking it apart and analyzing it.

We start with epistemology of God.  We will analyze the reasons to believe in God and what evidence exists that proves God.  In other words, if you say there is a God, then, like they say in Missouri, “Show me!”

In litigation, the attorneys would present evidence before a judge or jury.  This is our first step too: analyzing the facts before us.  Perhaps, we are the judge or jury, in a subjective sense, when it comes to answering the question of whether we believe in God.  But when we present evidence proving that God exists, this becomes an objective test that must satisfy the reasonable person, whoever that is.

First, let’s examine whether we believe in God.  Many of us have attended church for years and have read many parts of the Bible, most examined out of context, but what really makes you believe in something?  My grandfather was a Baptist minister in Mississippi and Kentucky, so I was raised in a religious environment where you were going to hell if you did not believe and if you sinned.  You might think that this vision of hell and damnation would have worked wonders on making people believe, but it did just the opposite.  Most of the young children couldn’t wait to get out into the world and sin.  Most of the adults avoided sin for one hour each Sunday, and that was it. 

So, a belief in God that rests on a solid foundation must not be based either on fear of Hell or on receiving a reward in Heaven.  Both reasons are equally flawed.  The true believer is thoughtful and has made a decision after evaluating all the evidence.  It is a personal belief that is supported by that specific individual’s experiences.  Each person is unique in this regard, but I can tell you that my reasons to believe in God were very practical:  (1) there was no downside in believing in God, (2) it seemed more logical to me that God created our universe than nothing created our universe, (3) God’s creation must occur outside a closed universe, and it makes sense that there is an outside boundary to our universe, otherwise it would not be closed, (4) more than 96% of our universe is invisible, so it is not surprising that we cannot see God, and (5) I am aware of something that is more than our universe.

Second, now you are the attorney providing evidence to the jury.  The question now is do you have to prove there is a God or prove that there is no God?  Quite frankly, you cannot do either one.  As I stated earlier, 96% of our universe is hidden from our eyes, and God may even be outside our closed universe.  In effect, we don’t know enough to prove that God exists or does not exist.  Perhaps, the best we can do is to decide which of these questions are the most important.  If we believe in God, then we do not have to prove that God exists, so we would require the opposition to prove that God did not exist, which they cannot do.  

On the other hand if the individual is an atheist and claims that God does not exist, this would require evidence of a negative, which is illogical.  There would have to be some presumption that there was a God to even attempt such a proof.  Some proof of God is required to even discuss the non-existence of God, because without some evidence of God, there can be no basis for God not existing.  In other words, if there were no concepts of God, you would not have to prove that God does not exist because there would not even be the thought that God existed to disprove.  Clearly, the idea of God preceded atheism.

Finally, we must pick up the pieces that we have dismantled and put them back together like a completed jigsaw puzzle.  We know that belief in God must pass a subjective test, so that each individual must evaluate the evidence and make their own decision.  There is insufficient evidence either to prove with certainty that there is a God or to prove there is no God.  Therefore, the objective test for God is a nonstarter.  This, of course, leaves us with the only test that has any merit and that is the test of what you believe.      

If I were presenting a logical argument for other individuals to believe in God, I would simply say, “There is no downside in believing in God and being wrong, but there is a tremendous downside in not believing in God and being wrong.  Why gamble with such a risk?”  It would be like asking a murderer on death row to believe in God the day before his lethal injection.  It would cost the murderer nothing to believe in God and, in return, would give him a chance for salvation.  Even if the odds of the criminal receiving any benefit from his belief were a billion to one, it still would be worth it.  The reality of these death-bed confessions to God is that the individual may not truly believe in God and is only pretending to believe for the reward of Heaven.  That probably will not work.

In summary, you can either believe in God or not.  It is your choice.  However, it is interesting to note that there would be no consequences to either believers or nonbelievers if there were no God.  But the consequences for failure to believe in God are severe if God does exist.  We have free will to make choice, but there are always consequences from those choices. 

Examination of Distant Stars

Scientists believe that we can see stars in deep space that are about 11-13 billion light years away from us.  In effect, we would be viewing stars that were only about a billion years older than the Big Bang.  This is impossible with the current accelerating universe theory.

If the galaxies in the universe were expanding away from each other in a straight path, the light from past galaxies would have passed us up years ago.  This is because our acceleration, even though increasing, would never match the speed of light.  The light from distant stars and galaxies would always be in front of us.  Those stars in deep space are not at those locations anymore, and the light emanating from those past positions would have zipped past us billions of years ago, never to be seen again.

Think of it like a straight racetrack.  All the mass and energy would start off at the Big Bang racetrack at the same time, rushing toward the finish line.  The light emitted from the stars would soon be far ahead of the mass and energy hurtling away from the Big Bang’s starting line because, as Einstein said, the mass could not reach the speed of light.  Now, if the racetrack were oval, there might be some interesting possibilities that could account for us viewing the distant stars, but scientists have not been able to prove that theory.

Yet, there may be another reason why we can see these distant stars.  If our universe were not expanding, but was contracting, this might lead to an explanation.  Let’s analyze this theory of contraction.

The universe is estimated to be about 13.8 billion years old based on:  (1) comparison with the oldest objects in the universe and (2) by reverse engineering the expansion of the universe.  Since the oldest globular clusters are about 18 billion years old, the universe must be at least that old.  Scientists have measured the thermal radiation left over from the Big Bang or cosmic microwave background with NASA’s Wilkinson Microwave Anisotropy Probe (WMAP) and the European Space Agency’s Planck spacecraft.  WMAP estimated the age of the universe to be 13.772 billion years old, while Planck measured it at 13.82 billion years.

But these calculations would be flawed if our universe were collapsing rather than expanding.  We know that whichever way it is going, the speed is accelerating.  The expansion theory does not make sense because galaxies would be slowing down rather than accelerating as they traveled further out into empty space. 

The shrinking universe theory makes more sense because if the galaxies were collapsing at an equally increasing rate, they would remain proportionate as to each other, but would be separating from each other as they decreased in size.  From our perspective, it would look like they were expanding.  This would also explain the red shift we see as they speed away from each other.

If we believe the expansion theory, we would not be able to see the globular clusters that are over 10 billion years old.  Since the universe would be expanding at less than the speed of light, the light from globular clusters that had been traveling for over 10 billion years would have passed us long ago.  These clusters would no longer be sending light from old locations, so there would be no way we could see them as they were over 10 billion years ago.

So, let’s examine the more likely scenario that the universe is contracting at an increasing rate.  Since 74% of our universe is dark energy, 21% is dark matter, and 4% is our regular known universe, we can make some general calculations.  As our regular known universe continues to decrease in size, the percentage of dark energy and dark matter should increase.  We can make this assumption because the total of all matter and energy in our universe remains the same.  It can transfer from one to another, but the total amount remains constant.  Thus, if the regular known universe is contracting, it must be transferring its mass and energy to dark energy and/or dark matter. 

As the percentages of dark energy and/or dark energy increase, the contraction of our regular known universe also will increase.  If our regular known universe has been decreasing in its density, our universe should be older than 13.8 billion years, because the calculations by WMAP and Planck were both using higher densities.  Their calculations further did not factor in the increasing ratio between dark energy and/or dark matter vs. regular known universe.

There could have been an initial expansion from the Big Bang and then when the dark energy and dark matter took control, there could have been the next phase, which could have been a contraction period.  The complexities of the calculation of the age of our universe would be increased exponentially.

However, the light from a globular cluster traveling over 10 billion years might still reach us because we have not been constantly expanding in a straight line away from a cluster.  It would not be a race down a straight track, because the light from the cluster would zip ahead us so that we would never see it. 

The reversal in the space-time continuum may cause a rip in that fabric that also permits a reversal in the travel time of the light from the cluster.  This is pure speculation, but something is allowing the old star light to reach us.  It is also possible that it reached us in a circular path as the speed of light may have lapped our accelerating speed many times. 

Then why can we see the sun?  The light traveling from our sun to earth is not affected by the expansion or contraction theory because the earth and the sun remain locked into the same position in relationship to each other.  This is the same for all objects within our solar system and galaxy because they remain generally at the same distance.  But galaxies are shrinking at an increasing rate and are distancing themselves from each other. 

The exception would be those galaxies in our Local Group, which include over 50 galaxies, the two largest being our Milky Way and Andromeda.  These two will merge in about 4 billion years.  It is quite possible that the galaxies in the Local Group are still being attracted to each other by gravity or are connected in some fashion to each other like strands in a membrane.  They could still be shrinking in size, but gravity or some force could be locking them into remaining about the same general distance from each other.

But galaxies outside the Local Group may be headed away from each other as evidenced by Hubble’s red shift.  For instance, the light from the Virgo cluster of galaxies, which appears to be about 48 million light years away, could actually be anywhere in the universe or even not exist anymore because we do not have a recent picture of Virgo and the old one that we do have is not reliable.

Quite frankly, we do not know much about anything.  Cosmologists who think they are getting closer to explaining the universe may be wrong. It appears that their explanation of matter in the universe getting farther away was also getting farther away from reality.


Truth or Consequences

Ralph Edwards created a game show called “Truth or Consequences” broadcast on NBC radio from 1940 to 1957.  Edwards introduced the show to television from 1950 to 1954.  Bob Barker took over the show in 1956 and had a long run until 1975.  The show was unique in that it mixed in wacky stunts as the consequences for failure of contestants to discover the truth.

As a Christian existentialist, I believe that there are consequences in both our lives and the afterlives.  We make choices every day.  Some days, we make thousands of decisions, some insignificant and others that could impact many people.  Do we think about the consequences to other people and do we think about the consequences to us?

If you are focused entirely on your needs and do not care what happens to other people, then you are probably in either a large minority or the majority today, depending on how heinous and unconscionable the acts are.  There do seem to be lines that even selfish people will not cross, varying, of course, from one individual to the next. 

But if you are in this self-serving group, your internal compass or conscience probably will be ignored most of the time.  The only concern about personal consequences may be the chances of getting caught and arrested by the police.  And typically, people are very optimistic that they will not be caught and even if they are caught, they will not be convicted and even if they are convicted, they will receive a light sentence.

But a Christian existentialist thinks about consequences for all their actions.  We think about consequences to other people.  We think about consequences during our lives and during our afterlives.  The inner voices within us or our conscience is also called the Holy Spirit.  We have a modicum of conscience before the Holy Spirit enters us, but once we are one with the spirit, it is like a conscience on steroids.  Everything you do has consequences and you must weigh and evaluate each and every decision.  

It is interesting to note that Christians who are not existentialists tend to believe that once they believe in God, they are not accountable for their actions anymore.  They are going to Heaven because of their faith and there are no consequences for their decisions.  They believe that they are allowed to sin because God will forgive them for all their sins, both before and after the moment they started believing in God.

Christian existentialists believe that there is an accounting for all our actions.  Nobody gets a “free pass” from accountability for their actions.  Even other Christians believe in a Judgment Day, but many believe that the only test is whether you believe in God and Jesus, who died for our sins.  Some Christians say that you are not judged by your acts, but only by your faith. 

Unfortunately, this is only half true.  True, your faith in God and Jesus must be powerful as you enter into the afterlife.  If you believe in God and Jesus, you will become one with them in the afterlife, just as you became one with the Holy Spirit during your life. 

Even though, nobody knows what will happen in the afterlife, Christian existentialists believe that there will be consequences, otherwise, our “free will” in life is absurd.  Just like in the game show “Truth or Consequences,” if you do not know the truth, then there will be consequences.  Otherwise, the show is meaningless.  The truth can be found in the teachings of Jesus.  By following the path of Jesus, we can avoid consequences in both our life and the afterlife. 

Entitled to Heaven

America has become a nation of entitlements.  Americans are entitled to Social Security, welfare checks, food stamps, health care, Medicare, Medicaid, and, of course, Heaven.  Religion in America must offer entitlements or the congregation will shrink.  Religion must offer an entitlement to Heaven.  All you have to do is believe in God and Jesus, who died for your sins, and you get a free pass to Heaven.  It does not matter what you do after you receive Jesus as your savior; it is a gift from God not requiring any works on your part.

This is called justification, meaning that we are justified through our faith and we are reconciled with Jesus when we receive this gift of grace from God.  It cost Jesus everything, but cost us nothing other than believing in Him.  So what happens after justification?  Many ministers stop at this point because this is where Americans want to stop.  Christians receive a free ticket to Heaven without having to do anything other than saying they believe in God. 

However, there is much more to the story of faith.  If you truly believe in God and Jesus, you will follow the path of Jesus and avoid sinning.  This is called sanctification, which is rarely mentioned by ministers.  Sanctification is hard work.  It requires us to act on our belief in God by going out and doing good works.  And it requires us to fight our sinful nature constantly. 

The majority of Christians are happy with justification.  They console each other on Sunday that they can reach Heaven by just believing.  Since they do not reach Heaven through works or deeds, they can attend church one hour on Sunday and then sin from Sunday afternoon through next Sunday morning.  These Christians go back to church each Sunday, repent, and then start sinning all over again.  But they ignore the most important evidence of truly believing in God and that is avoiding sin and being like Jesus.

In Romans 6:5-7, when we believe in God, we are united with Jesus/God, leaving our bodies of sin behind so that we no longer are slaves to sin.  The Holy Spirit enters us and we become one with God.  It seems very clear that true believers do not believe in God only one hour per week and then repent their actions taken over the last six days and 23 hours.  True believers fight their sinful nature every second of every day with the power that the Spirit provides in a moral and ethical code that is embedded in our conscience.  When we unite with God, the Holy Spirit enters us and guides us.  If we do not follow that guidance, then we are not united with God and are not true believers.

Our actions to please God are the best evidence of our true belief in God.  Those Christians who seek a church for self-serving reasons and use it to wash away their weekly sins without making any effort towards self-discipline are no better than atheists.  They do not believe in God since they do not fight their demons on a daily basis.

Belief in God is your key to enter Heaven, but you are not entitled to the key.  You have to work to earn it.  Your works are the true justification of your belief.  There can be no justification without sanctification.  They are entwined so that you cannot have one without the other.