Wednesday, March 15, 2006

Good News! There are two ways into heaven!

Working the third shift has given me a great perspective in the sense that in the darkest hours of night when things are very quiet God provides me with a time to reflect on the life God blessed me with, His church, His community and His world. I was in the process of putting up a post when I noticed John put one up an hour before me. The funny thing is I was going to write one along the same lines, so with that having been said we'll consider this a series.

Recently one of my assignments in school required me to critique a pastor's work on the salvation of those who have never heard the Gospel of Jesus Christ or even heard of His name for that matter. Do these people find salvation? Scripture clearly indicates that Jesus is the way, the truth, and the life and that no one comes to the Father but through Him. Scripture also indicates that some will be made for election while others for destruction and who are we as the clay to question the Potter (Romans 9:14-24)? Now I might get some comments on this but I must say it... there are two ways into heaven. One is through Jesus Christ, the other is perfect adherence to the law. In Luke 18:18 The question asked of Jesus was "Good Teacher, what shall I do to inherit eternal life?" I think it is fair and everyone would agree that Christ wasn't here to play word games and He certainly can't lie. He did answer with Truth. In all of scripture you will always find Christ giving law to the proud and grace to the humble. Case in point, the woman at the well, Jesus convicted her of her immoral lifestyle by telling her of her five husbands and her current live-in situation. With the woman caught in the very act of adultery, Jesus did not give her the law, her shame was there in the open public for all to see, but He did however write on the ground and then said "He who is without sin among you, let him be the first to throw a stone at her" (John 8:7 NASB). These are only a couple of examples of law to the proud and grace to the humble. So, in answering the young ruler, what Jesus said was Truth, ""You know the commandments, 'Do not commit adultery, Do not murder, Do not steal, Do not bear false witness, Honor your father and mother.'" Jesus was reading the law to this man. Why? God's law is perfect and just, to say it is not is blasphemy. Men are not perfect and cannot keep all of the law. Jesus knew this man's heart as He knows all men's hearts that is why He came here, Jesus knew (being deity), that no man ever could nor ever would be able to keep all of the law, hence He offered Himself up as the sacrificial lamb for the world. Jesus offered the young ruler redemption by showing him that he was in sin and needed a Savior the same as everyone else and that He was that Savior in verse 22. Most people think they are "good" people, ask anyone you meet on the street and they will proclaim their own goodness, the Bible says men will. That is why Jesus asked "Why do you call Me good?" No one is good except God alone." Most men rate themselves on man's standard, in most cases using that standard, they would be good, but God's standard is perfect and we all fall short. Jesus was showing the man this. Webster's defines "good" as morally perfect. So in light of scripture there is none good. Now we know that Jesus is good but He emptied Himself of His glory to be here among us and gave all glory to His Father in heaven, so His statement is True. Roman 3:10-11 clearly states "As it is written, there is none righteous, no, not one: There there is none that understands, there is none that seeks after God." Jesus again gives us a glimpse at this other way to heaven in Luke 10:25-28 where a lawyer asks Jesus the same question to test Him. Jesus didn't respond with "follow me, I'll give you peace, joy, love and a happy life", no... He asked him what was written in the law. How does it read to you? After the lawyer answered Him, Jesus responded by saying "You have answered correctly; do this and you will live."

Now after saying all that, does the person who has never heard of the name Jesus Christ find salvation? I guess my personal belief is that I truly don't know. However, scripture seems to indicate that because Jesus is the only way to the Father, and scripture also indicates that some are made for destruction (Romans 9:14-24), then unless Christ reveals Himself through dreams, visions, etc. I am left to believe that there are people that will perish. I guess this is where I think it gets sticky and people have a tendancy to question God's integrity. The one thing I do know for certain is that God is just and holy. He makes no mistakes. So if there are people that perish, then they were destined to perish whether or not they heard the Gospel. This would also include babies, which is where it can get extremely sticky, because no one wants to believe babies would perish. I certainly don't, but who am I, the clay questioning the Potter? God can see the life of that baby to it's conclusion and thus knows if that baby would repent and turn to Christ. Every fiber of my being wants to think that babies are exempt from judgment, but are they? What I have said in the past, and I will reitterate is we must not first, question the integrity of God and second we must be very, very, very careful not to create a god of our liking/understanding, this is idolatry and God hates it. We broach this when we start forming opinions and personal beliefs. We know that our conscience bears witness to the law. This is for all of humanity throughout the ages past and to come. What seperates us from the unregenerate soul? When the unbeliever wakes up they say "Today is (fill in the day), today I sin", not literally mind you, but in an essance they don't care that they have transgressed the law written on their hearts. To sleep around, or get drunk and high, or steal is not so bad and sometimes is kind of exciting and fun, and hey they're not as bad as some people, right? Wrong. But this is the mind of the unregenerate soul. When a believer sins, they fall into sin against their desire. They have no desire to anger or hurt the Lord. They know the heavy price He paid. It pains them to sin. Most accept that man is born with a sin nature and that he carries original sin from Adam. Everyone born since Adam and Eve and including them need a Savior. There is not one except Christ that can keep all of the law. Our sin nature deprives us of this ability. Hence our despererate need for a Savior. So if a person dies without knowledge of Christ which means no enlightenment through dreams, visions, stories, etc. Then that person is destined for destruction. This is an extremely difficult subject that challenges solid believer's because there is no text that is clear on either side. Although it would seem that it does lean on the side that some are made for destruction. I think some people have a hard time with that idea because why would a good an just God make people that are set for destruction. I think this is only simantics. It is because He is outside the boundries of time and can see through history, He already knows who is bound for destruction. To not make these people would be in an essence "stacking the deck" for another outcome. It's like saying He wouldn't make Adam because He knew he would fall. I feel that the key is what Jesus commanded us to do in the Great Commission. Are we doing that, or are we doing it in a friendship evangelistic sort of way? We are to seek and save the lost. Who are the lost? I don't know, so that means I need to share the Gospel with everyone I meet. To which I am guilty that I haven't and this is an obvious sin of omission. If anything it would seem that this post should compel people to share their faith, to get out of their comfort zone. Every 24 hours 150,000 people walk off into eternity, heaven or hell as I type this.


Nothing new under the sun

I love quotes from what the world would call famous people, I think most people do. It gives us an insight into how a person thought or felt and drives us to think about the things we might not normally ponder. Take the following quote:

“We have been the recipients of the choicest bounties of heaven. We have been preserved these many years in peace and prosperity. We have grown in numbers, wealth, and power as no other nation has ever grown. But we have forgotten God. We have forgotten the gracious Hand which preserved us in peace, and multiplied and enriched and strengthened us; and we have vainly imagined, in the deceitfulness of our own hearts, that all these blessings were produced by some superior wisdom and virtue of our own.

Intoxicated with unbroken success, we have become too self-sufficient to feel the necessity of redeeming and preserving grace, too proud to pray to the God that made us.

It behooves us then to humble ourselves before the offended power, to confess our national sins and to pray for clemency and forgiveness.”

As I think about the statements made above I cannot help but see their bold and correct stance on the state of the world today. I not only see the world but also the state of the church of Jesus Christ as well.

We have built churches all around the country; I don’t think we can travel the space of a few miles in any populated area without seeing at least 2 or 3 on every corner. We have been preserved in peace in a country where religious expression is not only allowed but encouraged. We have been multiplied and enriched with churches that would rival many rich people’s houses nowadays. We look at how far the “church” has come and we vainly imagine in our own deceitfulness of heart that we somehow did it, while giving passing glory to the Lord of how He has blessed it.

We look to men that might not even have the power of the Holy Spirit working in their lives to guide us because they appear successful. We gobble up their teachings while the Word lays dusty and untouched. We give glory to the Lord but ignore the commands He has given us to lead holy lives and instead flock to the same men that “tickle our ears” as it says in Timothy.

It’s time church to wake up! It’s time saints to grab the Word and sharpen the Sword that the Lord has given us. It is time as a nation we put aside the deeds of darkness and pray for forgiveness and start walking in the Light. It is time that as “Soldiers of Jesus Christ” as it tells us in 2 Corinthians that we rush into the battle.

But we are you say. We are signing petitions, we are demonstrating, and we are trying to show the world the morality that it is missing. WE, WE, WE but are WE turning to God or walking in our own wisdom? It is time we get back to the Word and see who it is who changes hearts and minds and it is only the Lord alone. Signing petitions and things of that nature are fine, but we first and foremost need to do what the bible tells us to do which is to go out and seek the lost. We need to get out there and tell them the Good News of Jesus Christ. We need to pray that the Lord would awaken the souls of people and bring the convicting knowledge of sin and judgment to come.

We do that you say. We make church inviting and pleasant so that people will be pulled in and join. Does that what the Word says? The Word says that the church is where the saints, the saved, meet for instruction in the Word, not where to bring lost people! We need to go out into the world where they are and speak to them there. That doesn’t seem quite logical you say. It doesn’t have to! The Lord has given us the blueprint in the bible of what we must do; our simple task is to obey it.

Well that was in different days you say. Dear church, sin has not changed. The nature of sin has not changed it has been exactly the same since the garden. There is nothing new under the sun, human nature is exactly the same as it always has been. To quote Leonard Ravenhill “Human Nature is still a sinful nature”. It is only by the blood of Jesus Christ that we can escape that nature, and that will never change. Nothing has changed, we need to reach this world with the message of Jesus Christ.

There is nothing new under the sun as Solomon said in Ecclesiastes. That quote from above that seems like it came from a man of God in the pulpit today was actually spoken by Abraham Lincoln in 1863 declaring a national day of prayer, fasting, and humiliation. Let us humble ourselves saints and realize we must be about the Work the Lord of the Harvest has given us.

Friday, March 03, 2006

What do you believe?

What do you believe?

A local newspaper here recently asked for people of the community to send in an essay of 500-750 words for possible printing in the weekly religion section of the newspaper. The topic of the essay was to be first person, what you believe, why you believe it, and how it applies to your life. First off I think it is very daring, specially in these politically correct times that we live in, to actually even ask for this type of information. Heaven forbid if we actually say why we believe in something, after all it might go against somebody else and start a riot across the world. Don't worry there are no cartoons in this article. :)

Of course I couldn't just let an opportunity such as this go by so I wrote up and sent in my article. Originally it was somewhere near a thousand words (just a little over the limit) so I had to cut it back a bit. As I look back over it I would be shocked if it got printed, so I thought "It is just way to good to never get viewed" so here it is for you to review and comment on.

"If you were to take a look at me I am sure there is nothing that would outwardly distinguish me as a Christian. Inwardly however I am a new creation in Jesus Christ and born again of the Spirit of God.

I knew I had to be born again, as it says in John 3:3, when I started to look at myself in God's law, the Ten Commandments. Instead of using them as a standard to live by however I used them, as God does, to judge myself. Had I ever lied? Of course I had and I knew in my heart what that made me, a liar. Had I ever stolen anything? Well nothing big of course, after all I hadn't robbed a bank or anything. As I looked at it more closely however I discovered that the value didn't matter, if I had taken $1 or $100 from a wallet I had still stolen something from someone. When I applied that to my life and how I acted I realized that I had stolen things, which invariably made me a thief. Had I ever taken God's name in vain? Yes, I had many times used His Name, the very name of God that gave me life, as just punctuation to a sentence or a cuss word and that then made me a blasphemer. As I looked at these I realized I was a lying, blaspheming, thief at heart and I still had seven other commandments to go! I realized that my breaking of the Commandments, or His law, was sin as it states in 1 John 3:4. I came to realize that I had fallen short of God's standard as it states in Romans 3:23 and I was guilty. If I was guilty then the next question would be would I go to heaven or would I go to hell?

I tried to console myself that God was loving, and kind, and merciful. As I kept reading the bible I came to learn that God does have another side as well though, a side that is holy, righteous, and demands justice. I knew that if God were to judge me by His law I would be guilty and that in order for His perfect justice to be carried out I would have to go to hell for eternity. Just being sorry wouldn't be enough, if I stood in a civil courtroom after stealing something and told the judge "I'm sorry" he wouldn't just let me off. The sentence would need to be carried out or a fine would be paid.

What if however someone did pay my fine? A large fine it was in God's eyes for breaking His eternal law, who could pay such a large fine and satisfy God's requirement on my behalf? I then found the loving, kind, and merciful side of God in the giving of His Son, Jesus Christ, to pay the fines for my sin as stated in John 3:16. Jesus Christ paid the fine for me at the Cross. Now that was what He did but was their anything I needed to do? The answer was yes, I had to accept the payment on my behalf by claiming it and by turning away from my lawlessness and instead serve the one who gave Himself for me, in common terms, I needed to repent. I needed to trust in the Lord Jesus Christ just as someone trusts a parachute on a plane that they knew was going down. It simply was not enough to know that Jesus Christ could save me but, like a parachute, I needed to put Him on and get ready for the ultimate jump, death. I needed to follow and trust Him. I needed to be born again of the Spirit.

So how does this show in my life today? I am not the man I once was, the things of this world that once enticed such as money, material things, etc mean nothing. I spend my free time on the streets of Syracuse ministering to people by telling them the Good News otherwise known as the Gospel. To show them they to have fallen short of God's standard and to prepare for the final jump that must come to each and every one of us by trusting in the Lord Jesus Christ, the only one who can pay our fine."

"The Firefighter"

"The Firefighter"

click on the video screen to watch it in full screen, double click again to

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