Friday, October 10, 2008

The only way

Acts. 4:10-12 Be it known unto you all, and to all the people of Israel, that by the name of Jesus Christ of Nazareth, whom ye crucified, whom God raised from the dead, even by him doth this man stand before you whole. This is the stone which was set at naught of you builders, which is become the head of the corner. Neither is there salvation in any other: for there is none other name under heaven given among men, whereby we must be saved.
This is one of the strongest portions of scripture, that speaks of the exclusivity of Christ for salvation. It is becoming not only popular but expected that we believe that everyone can find their own to heaven and be okay. That what is right for one person may not be right for another, that there are many religions that all have the same goal but different terminology. The scripture is very explicit in its denial of this fallacy and those of us that claim to believe that it is indeed the very word of God, have no other recourse but to deny such heresy as well. When one understands the simplicity of the state of man and the justice of God we realize that such exclusivity is necessary.
Here is the situation man is in, everyone born of a woman has sinned. Either we have lied or we have taken something that did not belong to us or we have lusted in our heart and mind, one way or another we have all sinned and that in multiplicity. So then, knowing that the law states that the punishment for sin can be no less than eternal death, how can God grant us entry into heaven. We cannot say "A loving God wouldn't really let a basically good person go to hell". Here is why, what if you came home this evening and found that every member of your family had been brutally murdered, you catch the murderer with blood on his hands running out the back door and drag him to the police. On the day of his trial his defense before the judge is that he is a middle aged man with no record at all with the law. He admits that he did murder your family, but except for that he as never gotten so much as a speeding ticket. Could that judge be loving and merciful and allow that man to walk free because he is basically good? Of course not, to be a good and just judge he must sentence the murderer to what ever punishment the law has dictated. So God would be unjust and unrighteous to ignore his own law and let a guilty man (no matter how "basically good" he was) walk into heaven.
Now let us look at another possible scenario, what if the judge sentenced that murderer, in accordance with the law, to stay in prison until he could pay a twenty-five million dollar settlement to you. Now someone steps up and pays the twenty-five million dollars for that man, he is now free from the sentence of the law because the debt has been payed. So when the book of Acts says that there is no other name given under heaven whereby we must be saved, except for the name of Jesus it is not that ridiculous a statement if you look at it logically. Buddha could not pay that debt for you because he had his own debt to pay, as did Muhammad and Gandhi and even Mary the mother of Jesus was a sinner.
So then we can see that not only is perfectly right that God rejects everyone from heaven on their own merit, but we can equally see that if we will apply the payment of Christ alone for our sins we can be saved from hell in the afterlife and sin in this life.

Wednesday, October 8, 2008

False Pastors

Jer. 23:1, 17 Woe be to the pastors that destroy and scatter the sheep of my pasture! saith the Lord... They say still unto them that despise me, The Lord hath said, Ye shall have peace: and they say unto every one that walketh after the imagination of his own heart, No evil shall come upon you.
I mentioned in my last post how amazing it was that the prophet Jeremiah could write something so long ago and so far away, yet it still have such impact today. I have chosen a different portion of Jeremiah this time, but it too is extremely relevant in our culture today. God is speaking through Jeremiah to the religious leaders of Israel and rebuking them for destroying and scattering the children of God; but what I find so disturbing is the way in which they were destroying and scattering the people. God does not rebuke them for being insensitive to the feelings of the people, he did not say that he was displeased by their lack of making people feel good about themselves. God's quarrel with the false pastors is that they were telling those who were haters of God that God would give them peace, they were telling those that were ignoring God and living however they wanted to that God would never really recompense them for their evil deeds. The problem was that the pastors had abandoned truth for feel-good messages. This is a sin that is running rampant in our churches and seminaries today, so called "Bible colleges" teach the future preachers of our country to steer clear of speaking of repentance, because repentance insinuates sin and sin makes people uncomfortable. What they are missing is that the Bible says that repentance is part of the belief that is necessary for salvation. The problem is that most churches would rather have a church with three hundred souls in it that are headed for hell, than to have a church where thirty regenerated people worship. We have given up true spirituality in order to grow numerically and God says he hates it.
Our televisions are full of preachers who have built their entire "ministry" around telling people that they can have their best life now, or that God just wants you to be you, or that God is not mad at you no matter what. Their messages are the same as those in Jeremiah's day and if God does not change, why would we think that he condones now what he cursed then?
For any pastors or preachers that might be reading this I would exhort you to continue to preach the truths of the gospel, that the wages of sin is death and what a man sows that will he also reap. That without faith it is impossible to please God and if in this life only we have hope of Christ we are of all men most miserable, but thank God that we have a hope outside of this life. For the lay readers, let me encourage you not to fall prey to the false prophets that only tell you what you want to hear instead of what we all need to hear. A drowning man would probably rather hear that he is okay, but if I really care for him I will tell him of the danger he is in and provide him with a way of escape. The preachers that tell you that God just wants you to be rich, successful and comfortable, do not really care for your souls. Subject yourself to a man of God that will watch for your soul as the scriptures command him to, instead of conforming to everyone's whims in order to fill his pews. In reality the pastor that makes you feel better about yourself is probably the one that God says is scattering and destroying His church; but if you find a man that will preach on sin even when it makes you uncomfortable so that you will repent and turn back to Christ, that is the true man of God.

Glory in the Lord.

Jer. 9: 23, 24 Thus saith the Lord, let not the wise man glory in his wisdom, neither let the mighty man glory in his might, let not the rich man glory in his riches: But let him that glorieth glory in this, that he understandeth and knoweth me, that I am the Lord which exercise lovingkindness, judgment, and righteousness, in the earth:
It is amazing how much the prophecies of the Old Testament still apply to us today, they were written thousands of years ago, to a culture completely different than ours, in a country on the other side of the world. They remain relevant for two reasons, one is because they were directly inspired by God and he knows just what to write that will stand the test of time, the other is because mankind stays intrinsically the same. Our time passes, cultures change, and circumstances change; but the way we think and act stays the same. It was obviously a struggle for the people of that day to stay humble, it always has been for human beings. Ever since the fall, when Adam and Eve were tempted with pride and fell, it has remained one of the greatest weaknesses of their offspring. We are so quick to take the credit for the blessings that we enjoy, the rich men brag of their riches, the strong men brag of their strength, the smart men brag of their brains, and everyone of them are simply enjoying a blessing given by God. The first angle we can take on these verses is that every good thing we enjoy on this earth is a gift from God and therefore not to be bragged about or gloried in.
The second way we could look at it, (which in my estimation is most consistent with the context) is that all of those things listed by Jeremiah aren't really all that good. Strength is a good thing, but it takes a lot of upkeep. it requires you to exercise regularly, eat properly, and do many other things regarding you sleep, diet, and activities, to keep your strength. Wisdom is good, but with it comes much more understanding of how little you really know, combined with the fact that a lot of smarts requires extra responsibility and time and focus on your specialty. Riches are helpful, but they bring with them the burden of extra management and oversight of just how you are using those riches. On top of all this, every one of those things will one day fade away! No matter how wise you are you will one day lose it either to the degeneration of your body or for sure at the time of your death. The same goes for physical prowess or strength, and we all know that money never lasts. If you somehow manage to keep it all to the day of your death, you still can't take it with you.
Contrast all of this to the gain that comes with knowing more about God and his son Jesus Christ. The more knowledge and understanding and wisdom you gain in regard to them, the better off you are. It carries no eternal downside to it, sure you may have to sacrifice some here on this earth because of it, but you probably won't remember that at all in ten thousand years. It will not fade away, you will carry your relationship with Christ and your knowledge of him to the grave with you and into eternity. The story is told of John Newton the author of "Amazing Grace", when he had gotten so old he could no longer see and was beginning to forget much about his life, he would still tell those that came to speak to him, "I know this, I am a great sinner and Christ is a great Savior". History tells of the apostle John, when he had gotten so old he could no longer walk and eventually he got to a point to where he could no longer even speak in sentences, he would say to all who would listen "Love, love, love". If you read his three epistles you would see why that was such a preeminent theme in his mind. For both of them it was all about Christ.
I would encourage you to not be so worried about your body or your mind or your finances as you are about Christ. Let him be your most passionate obsession and all the rest will fall into place.

Monday, October 6, 2008

Godly sorrow

II Cor. 7:9-10 Now I rejoice, not that ye were made sorry, but that you sorrowed to repentance: for ye were made sorry after a godly manner, that ye might receive damage by us in nothing. For godly sorrow worketh repentance to salvation not to be repented of: but the sorrow of the world worketh death.
Paul here is writing the church in Corinth for the second time and is referring here to the strong words that he had with them concerning a sin within the church. Though he was sorry he had had to hurt their feelings, he was glad that they had heeded his words and repented of the sin, to repent means not only to be sorry in your mind and words, but in your actions as well. The very definition of the word repent is "to feel such sorrow for sin or fault as to be disposed to change one's life for the better; be penitent." This is a contrast to the word sorrow here, it is very easy to be sorry about something but to repent is another thing altogether. How many of us have seen the occasion when one child will smack another in a fit of anger, and then as soon as the second child begins crying immediately start expressing how sorry he is? Unfortunately this is not unique to children, we have all seen the public figure get caught acting in a immoral way only to stand before a microphone to tell the world how sorry he is for doing it. It is easy to be sorry, what's hard, is to forsake that way of life and begin to act differently, the child who is truly repent will not smack another child again, the dignitary will never again commit whatever indecency he was caught in.
Lets take this to a more personal level now, how many of us have ever heard a sermon or read a book that laid bare some particular sin in our life and we have felt sorrow and remorse throughout the entire speech or reading? Yet how often do we walk out of the church or put the book down, glad to have that burden off our shoulders, and continue to live the same way? No one cares if you are sorry that you did something, in fact Paul said that sorrow without repentance led to death. We know that continuing in our sin leads to death as well,(II Pet. 2:10-12) so then the issue is not whether you are sorry or not, but whether or not you repent.
So then following this train of thought I would exhort you as well, to be careful when you hear preaching that convicts you about a particular sin in your life that you waste no time in turning from that sin. Unfortunately, it has become a rare thing in this day to hear preaching against sin, the name of the game today is preaching that only makes people feel good about themselves and is encouraging. While there is no doubt in my mind that is important to preach encouraging messages, it is also true that we are reprove and rebuke as well as exhort. We live in a part of the country where if we don't like what's being said in the pulpit we can just pick up and move to the church across the street. However, the man in that pulpit is watching for your soul if he is a true Pastor, and he does not want to see you die spiritually, but to see you brought to the repentance that leads to salvation not to be repented of. I would then encourage you to examine yourselves to see whether you have repented and turned from your sins, or have you simply been sorry only to continue in them?