ARE YOU AVERAGE OR NORMAL?
Commentary by Jack Kelley
Tired of just being average? Discover how to become normal instead. Among all of mankind, only Christians have the potential to become normal, because by one sacrifice He has made perfect forever those who are being made holy.
conforming to the standard—[Jesus is our standard].
Note September 2019: I’m interrupting Jack’s study on Isaiah briefly to feature this article. When we launched this website in September 1999, Jack had a thriving consulting business and spent the rest of his time leading Bible Studies. Many of his clients who ran large businesses weren’t online yet and asked us to send his articles to their offices over fax machine! Because of this, many of the original GTF articles Jack wrote were one-page long. Through the many redesigns and updated platforms in the last 20 years, we’ve lost the original dating.
This was one of the first articles Jack wrote for this new site. Truly, he was excited by the idea of teaching more and traveling less, but he wasn’t sure this site would catch on. The Lord has now been sustaining this for 20 years this month and millions of lives have been changed through Jack’s writings here and the outreaches we’re able to do because of them. I’m humbled and so very grateful. ♥ Samantha
Day after day every priest stands and performs his religious duties; again and again he offers the same sacrifices, which can never take away sins. But when this priest had offered for all time one sacrifice for sins, he sat down at the right hand of God. Since that time he waits for his enemies to be made his footstool, because by one sacrifice he has made perfect forever those who are being made holy. (Hebrews 10:11-14)
In the USA the average adult lives to about age 79 (it was 72 when Jack wrote this in 1999), earns roughly $31,000 per year (up 1k from 1999), gets married twice, has about 2 children … the statistics go on and on. While most of us find some categories we don’t fit in, the simple fact is that on the whole, we’re average. And it’s also apparent that there isn’t any big difference between believers and non-believers.
As a group, we’re not less educated or intelligent, and don’t earn less, as some secular “thinkers” contend. Nor do we behave any closer to the Lord’s standards, as some of us contend. We have about the same ratio of broken marriages, troubled children, and other dysfunctions as our unbelieving neighbors. We’re neither better nor worse than others—we’re just average. A bumper sticker I once saw declares, “Christians aren’t any better, we’re just forgiven.” Well said.
When it comes to normal it’s a different story. While we are average, we certainly are not normal. In truth the fact that we’re average automatically renders us abnormal. You see in all of history there has only been one normal man. He lived about 2000 years ago and is the only perfect example of the human race. To be normal is to conform to an established standard and only one man has lived the way our Creator designed us to live; only one has met the standards for the race. His name is Jesus. All the rest of us have fallen far short of His glory (Rom 3:23).
AN EXAMPLE FROM MANUFACTURING
In the manufacture of mechanical or electronic parts, a prototype is made first. The prototype is the perfect example of the part to be made and is the one to which all others are compared. Design specifications are then established and subsequent parts are compared to the prototype. Quality Control procedures assure that the specifications are met.
Sometimes the setting on a machine will slip and a flaw will be introduced into the manufacturing process. All parts produced from then on will fail to meet the specification. The Quality Control department alerts the machinist, who resets the machine to make the parts perfect again.
Throughout the manufacturing process a simple rule is followed. Parts conforming to the specifications are kept and those with flaws are rejected. A perfect part is normal; a flawed part is abnormal.
THE ULTIMATE PROTOTYPE
The Bible makes three sets of claims about The Lord (Rev 22:13). He is Alpha and Omega, the Beginning and the End, and the First and the Last. These aren’t just repetitious thoughts. Alpha and Omega are the first and last letters of the Greek Alphabet, equivalent to our phrase “from A to Z” which means all encompassing. The Greek word translated “beginning” is arche and denotes an order of time, place or rank. “End” comes from telos, which means the ultimate result or purpose; the upper limit.
The word translated “first” is protos and means the foremost or best. We get prototype from this one. And “last” comes from eschatos, a superlative meaning farthest or uttermost. The term eschatology (the study of the end times) originates here.
And so Jesus is the all encompassing model for mankind. He’s the first in order of time, place and rank (Col 1:18), and the ultimate result or purpose of man—to be one with God (John 17:20-23). He is the prototype, against whom all will be compared (Rom 8:29), the uttermost or perfect example of the race (Hebr. 1:3) the only normal man ever born.
What Went Wrong?
Adam was created in the image of God, conforming to the specifications of the prototype Jesus. He sinned and a flaw was introduced into the procreation process. All his successors became flawed as a result of that sin.
Just as a machine that gets out of adjustment will not correct its self but gets worse until readjusted, so the sin introduced in the Garden was not self-correcting and has been compounded through time. This is demonstrated in the example of the first priest in the quote from Hebrews 10 above. No matter how many sacrifices are offered, our sins remain.
MAN VS. MACHINE
In manufacturing, flawed parts are simply discarded, but our Creator loves us too much for that. He made it possible for us to be recreated without the flaw. It took two things: the sacrifice of His Prototype and our willingness to be born again. With that He could recreate us in His own image and make us into perfect specimens, new creations, as righteous as God. (2 Cor. 5:17-21) He did this so we could become normal; conforming to our specifications. Among all of mankind, only Christians have the potential to become normal.
SO WHAT’S THE BIG DEAL?
I began by saying that right now as a group we’re no better or worse than anyone else, when compared to God’s standards. But know this. Whether in the Rapture or Resurrection, one day soon you will be changed. That which has been completed in eternity will be consummated in time. The corrupt will be made incorruptible; the mortal immortal, and you will dwell in the house of the Lord forever. No longer average, finally normal. Because by His one sacrifice He has made perfect forever those who are being made holy. (Hebr. 10:14)
Thank you, Lord.
5 THINGS YOU SHOULD KNOW ABOUT HOW GOD SEES YOU
A Bible Study by Jack Kelley
I’m convinced most Christians don’t have a very good understanding of how God sees us. I’m not surprised about this because it’s really hard for us to comprehend. God sees us so differently from the way we see ourselves and the way others see us, that there’s really no comparison. It’s like He and we are looking at two different people. And in a way that’s true because we can only see ourselves from our past experience, but He has chosen to see us now as we will be in the future when we’re with Him forever. So let’s set aside how we see ourselves for a moment and take a look at five things the Bible says about how God sees us.
YOU ARE HIS CHILD FOREVER
“Yet to all who did receive Him, to those who believed in His name, He gave the right to become children of God—children born not of natural descent, nor of human decision or a husband’s will, but born of God”(John 1:12-13).
How many times have you heard someone say, “We’re all God’s children.” Did you realise that’s not a true statement? Only a born again believers can legitimately call themselves children of God because one of the things that happens when we become born again is that God actually adopts us as His own.
Galatians 4:4-7 says the way to our adoption into the family of God was opened with the death of Jesus. As soon as we were born again we received the adoption to sonship, and the Spirit of God’s Son came into our heart. So we are no longer slaves, but God’s children; and since we are his children, God has also made us His heir. This is why Ephesians 1:13-14 tells us the Holy Spirit was given to us as a deposit that guarantees our inheritance. As heirs of God we have an inheritance that no one can take from us.
From 2 Cor. 1:21-22 we learn that when we were born again, God set His seal of ownership on us and put His Spirit in our heart guaranteeing what is to come. Since then it’s God Himself who makes us stand firm in Christ. Having freed us from the one who held us in slavery, He set His own seal of ownership on us. We are no longer slaves but sons and daughters of God. Having been bought at a price, the precious blood of Jesus, we belong to God now, and no one can ever change that.
He has placed us under the care of His Son, as the owner of a flock of sheep would place them under the care of a shepherd. It’s the Father’s will that the Son should lose none of those He’s been given, therefore everyone who looks to the Son and believes in Him will have eternal life (John 6:37-40).
This is not something we accomplished through any personal effort of our own. It’s a work of the Father, the Son, and the Holy Spirit that cannot be undone. Nothing in all of creation can change what they have done in us (Romans 8:38-39) and no one can ever take us out of their hands (John 10:27-30). Once we are born again, we are God’s children forever.
You Still Sin, But He No Longer Counts Your Sins Against You
Blessed is the one whose transgressions are forgiven, whose sins are covered. Blessed is the one whose sin the Lord does not count against them and in whose spirit is no deceit (Psalm 32:1-2).
In Psalm 32:1-2 King David foresaw this and in Romans 7:15-24 Paul explained it. Having admitted that try as he might he just couldn’t completely stop sinning, he gave us God’s perspective on the matter. He said that when he sinned, it was no longer he himself who sinned, but the sin who lived within him.
Here’s what he meant. In Romans 7:9 Paul said,
“Once I was alive apart from the law; but when the commandment came, sin sprang to life and I died.”
He was talking about reaching the age when he became accountable for his sins. Before that happened he was not accountable and had eternal life. It’s not that he didn’t sin before then, but his sins were not counted against him. However, as soon as he was old enough to be accountable, the penalty for his sins was applied and he no longer had eternal life.
Now let’s look at two seemingly unrelated statements Jesus made about what it takes to enter God’s Kingdom. In Matt. 18:3 He said,
“Unless you change and become like little children you will never enter the kingdom of heaven.”
And in John 3:3 He said,
“No one can see the Kingdom of God unless he is born again.”
By putting these together with Paul’s comments on accountability we can see the Lord’s two statements really weren’t unrelated at all. Remember, Paul said little children have eternal life because their sins are not counted against them. Jesus said in order to enter the Kingdom we have to become like little children again. But He also said in order to enter the kingdom we have to be born again. Therefore, the way to become like little children so our sins are not counted against us is to be born again.
The proof of this is when Paul was born again God no longer counted his sins against him, but attributed them to the sin that still lived within him. He had become like a little child again, not accountable for his sins, and had regained eternal life even though he couldn’t prevent himself from sinning.
You Are Perfect In His Sight, As Righteous As He Is
For by one sacrifice he has made perfect forever those who are being made holy (Hebrews 10:14).
In Romans 3:20-24 Paul explained that no one will be declared righteous by keeping the Law because the purpose of the Law was to make us conscious of our sinfulness. Therefore, God made known a righteousness from Him apart from the Law that comes through faith in Jesus Christ to all who believe, being justified freely by His grace.
From 2 Cor. 5:17 we learn that if anyone is in Christ he or she is nothing less than a new creation in Christ. “The old has gone, the new has come.” This is not something that will happen some day, or that we have to bring about ourselves by changing our behavior. It’s something that from God’s perspective has already happened and is irreversible. It happened because we are “in Christ” or born again.
This is possible because when His Son, who was without sin, became sin for us, God was able to make us as righteous as He is (2 Cor. 5:21). From His perspective we’ve become perfect forever because the Son’s one sacrifice for sin applies for all time, covering the entire lifetime of every believer (Hebrews 10:12-14).
When Jesus went to the cross He forgave us all our sins (Colossians 2:13-14). Those who had already died believing He would come to save them were in Paradise awaiting His atoning sacrifice. When Jesus died, their sins were forgiven retroactively. Other believers were alive at the time of His death and received the benefits of His sacrifice immediately. Still others would not be born for many years, meaning all their sins were in the distant future. Their sins would be forgiven as soon as they heard the gospel and believed it no matter how far in the future that happened.
So even though the Lord’s death took place on a single afternoon in time, it had to apply for all time—past, present, and future. It also had to apply for the entire lifetime of each believer. Otherwise the phrase “He forgave us all our sins” could not be true. But because it is true, God can now see us as if we always have been and always will be perfect.
This is how He can guarantee our inheritance from the time we believed (Ephes. 1:13-14), and how He can assume responsibility for making us stand firm in Christ (2 Cor 1:21-22). Having already paid the penalty in full for all the sins of our life, He is able to regard us as being righteous, as if we never sinned in the first place. From His perspective we are innocent, like the little child Jesus said we have to become.
You Cannot Be Condemned For Any Reason
Therefore, there is now no condemnation for those who are in Christ Jesus (Romans 8:1).
Because of this, we can no longer be condemned for any reason. For God did not send His Son into the world to condemn the world, but to save the world through Him (John 3:17).
“I tell you the truth, whoever hears my words and believes Him who sent me has eternal life and will not be condemned; he has passed over from death to life (John 5:24).
None of the above has required anything of you except to believe that when Jesus went to the cross, He went for you. Everything was settled for you the moment you believed that.
When You Stand Before God You Will Be As Perfect As He Is
Dear friends, now we are children of God, and what we will be has not yet been made known. But we know that when Christ appears, we shall be like him, for we shall see him as he is (1 John 3:2).
At the moment of the rapture we will be instantaneously changed from mortal to immortal and what we are now by faith we will become in fact (1 Cor. 15:51-53). All physical, mental, emotional, and spiritual imperfections will be gone forever. All desire to sin will be gone, as will the disappointment, shame, and guilt that accompanied it.
Our spirit will be in perfect alignment with God’s Spirit, our will in perfect harmony with His. The restrictions imposed on our abilities by the curse under which we’ve labored all our lives will be lifted as we emerge from the dark oppressive past into a bright and limitless future.
No matter what kind of sinner we have been here on Earth, or how often we stumbled and fell, or how disapprovingly we’ve been looked upon by our peers, when we stand before our Creator every hint of our earthly self will have disappeared and we will finally be the perfect example of ourselves He created us to be, fit to dwell in the presence of the Lord forever in the most luxurious environment He has ever designed.
What Should We Do About This?
As you can see, none of the above has come to us as a result of our behaviour. As soon as we believed, it was accomplished in our lives as the free gift of God’s grace (Ephes. 2:8-9) and can never be reversed. We don’t know why God chose to make this act of His Grace such a polar opposite to His requirements of those who labored under the Law before us. And from reading prophecies that describe life on earth in the Millennium, we can see that once the Church is gone no other group of believers will ever enjoy such a lavish display of His love after us. The only explanation He gave was that through us He wanted to demonstrate the incomparable riches of His Grace in ages yet to come (Ephes 2:7).
But even though He placed no conditions on us other than to believe in the one He sent (John 6:28-29) I believe Paul was very clear in describing the appropriate response to such an overwhelming display of His kindness. We’ll cover this next time as we discuss “Responding To Grace.” See you then.
YOU MUST BE BORN AGAIN
A Bible Study by Jack Kelley
Jesus replied, “Very truly I tell you, no one can see the kingdom of God unless they are born again” (John 3:3)
This started out as my response to someone asking me to defend my view that children who die before reaching the age of accountability go to heaven. As you’ll see, it became much more.
We came into this world when our mother physically gave birth to us. This physical birth is what Jesus called being born of water in John 3:5 and flesh giving birth to flesh in John 3:6. It was our first birth.
Although we were born to earthly parents, we belonged to God in the sense that if our physical life ended for some reason, our soul and spirit, the eternal parts of us, would go to be with Him. We had what the Bible calls eternal life. We continued to enjoy this position with God until we reached a state of intellectual maturity sufficient to understand the sinful nature of our behavior. Throughout our young life we had committed various sins, but since we were unable to comprehend the nature of sin, God did not hold us accountable for them.
In referring to sins, I’m not talking about being disobedient to our parents, although some acts of disobedience are also sins. I’m talking about violations of God’s laws. Until we became intellectually mature enough to understand that violations of God’s laws are sins that carry eternal consequences, God did not hold us accountable for these violations, because to do so would be unjust. (We have similar provisions in human law where young children are not held to the same standards of accountability as adults are in matters of the law.)
Once we were capable of understanding the sin issue, God began holding us accountable for our sins. At that point, we no longer belonged to Him, and no longer had eternal life. Our sins had separated us from Him.
We see this transition, and its consequences, in Romans 7:9 where Paul wrote,
“Once I was alive apart from the law; but when the commandment came, sin sprang to life and I died.”
Obviously, Paul was still physically alive at the time. By saying, “Once I was alive apart from the law” he was referring to the eternal life he had before he became accountable for his sins. During that time, he was apart from, or outside, the Law and exempt from its provisions.
The phrase “When the commandment came, sin sprang to life, and I died” means that as soon as Paul became old enough to be accountable for his sins he was immediately scheduled for death, death being the wages of sin (Romans 6:23). Paul knew that although he was born with eternal life, he was not born immortal, so he would eventually experience physical death just like everyone else. Therefore, he was talking about losing his claim to eternal life.
The Greek word for “sprang to life” indicates Paul’s sin nature had always been there, but for accountability purposes, it’s as if it was dormant while he was a child. As soon as he came of age, it was revived, and when that happened everything changed for him.
The Bible does not give any exact age at which a child becomes accountable. Among the Jewish people, this age has been established by tradition as being 12 for girls and 13 for boys. But the point of this study is not to determine at what age we become accountable for our sins. Rather, it’s to confirm that we began life as a child of God with the assurance of eternal life and to show how we can qualify for that assurance again as adults.
“Truly I tell you, unless you change and become like little children, you will never enter the kingdom of heaven” (Matt. 18:3).
There are two important points here. The first is the confirmation that if they die, little children will enter the kingdom of heaven because they don’t have to change to do so. And the second is that we must change and become like them in order to enter ourselves. Remember, all children are born with eternal life and their sins are not counted against them. Therefore, as adults, we have to somehow regain that same status we had as little children.
Yet to all who did receive him, to those who believed in his name, he gave the right to become children of God— children born not of natural descent, nor of human decision or a husband’s will, but born of God (John 1:12-13)
God gives each one who believes in what Jesus did for us and receives Him into his or her life, the right (power, authority, permission) to become a child of God just like we were when we were born. Here’s how it happens.
But when the set time had fully come, God sent his Son, born of a woman, born under the law, to redeem those under the law, that we might receive adoption to sonship. Because you are his sons, God sent the Spirit of his Son into our hearts, the Spirit who calls out, “Abba, Father.” So you are no longer a slave, but God’s child; and since you are his child, God has made you also an heir.
Both this passage and Romans 8:15-17 convey the idea that adoption into the family of God is truly the most important event of our lives. God sent His son to die for our sins so we could receive the right of adoption into His family. According to John 1:12-13 belief in Jesus gives us the authority to claim this right and when we do God adopts us as His children and we become heirs to his estate. At that time, the penalty for all our sins is transferred to Jesus (Isaiah 53:5) and we’re no longer responsible for them.
That’s what it means to be born again as a child of God and have eternal life. According to 2 Cor. 5:17 we actually become a new creation from God’s perspective. The old has gone and the new has come. This is our second birth, what Jesus called being born again in John 3:3 and the Spirit giving birth to spirit in John 3:6.
Like the little children we once were, we still sin. And like them, God does not hold us accountable for our sins. But this time, it’s not because we don’t understand the sin issue, it’s because the penalties for all the sins of our life have been transferred to Jesus. They were nailed to the cross with Him, and when He died we were forgiven for every one of them (Colossians 2:13-14). Now, just like the children we once were, God doesn’t hold us accountable for our sins but attributes them to the sin nature that lives within us. Here’s how Paul described it.
I do not understand what I do. For what I want to do I do not do, but what I hate I do. And if I do what I do not want to do, I agree that the law is good. As it is, it is no longer I myself who do it, but it is sin living in me. For I know that good itself does not dwell in me, that is, in my sinful nature. For I have the desire to do what is good, but I cannot carry it out. For I do not do the good I want to do, but the evil I do not want to do—this I keep on doing. Now if I do what I do not want to do, it is no longer I who do it, but it is sin living in me that does it. (Romans 7:15-20).
Like He does with little children, God has separated the sins from the born-again believer and no longer counts them against us.
ARE YOU BORN AGAIN?
The phrase “born again” has picked up a lot of baggage over the years, to the point where some more “sophisticated” Christians don’t even like to use it. And the liberal denominations that follow reformed theology don’t even recognise the need to be born again. They teach that since you didn’t choose God but He chose you, there’s no need to be born again. All you have to do is become an official member of one of their denominations to receive your salvation.
This is by far the cruellest falsehood of reformed theology because it has resulted in millions of sincere people attending church every Sunday, believing that God chose them and actually obtained salvation for them, not knowing that they aren’t saved and never will be unless they undertake a personal effort to find the Lord and be saved apart from their denomination’s teaching.
But the Bible is very clear on two points. The first is, we must be born again to enter the Kingdom of God (John 3:3). And the second is, we become born again by believing, 1) that we are sinners in need of a saviour, 2) that Jesus came to die for our sins, and 3) that He rose again on the third day as proof that His death was sufficient to save us from our sins. Otherwise, we have believed in vain (1 Cor. 15:1-4).
By becoming born again we have become like little children in God’s sight and are therefore qualified, just like they are, to enter His Kingdom and enjoy eternal life with Him.
Blessed is the one whose transgressions are forgiven, whose sins are covered. Blessed are they whose sin the Lord does not count against them and in whose spirit is no deceit (Psalm 32:1-2).