Author: Fuel For Faith

NO FUTURE FOR UTOPIA

What makes a society or a civilization strong? Surely it’s a common view of truth, a reverence for all life, and a reverence for our Creator…

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When you have a love of truth you live it out-for the most part- willingly. If some form of political correctness is pushed upon a society it can only “work” when there’s an overbearing government to enforce it. Hence the beauty of freedom when compared to the darkness of tyranny.

As much as the politically correct folk among us hate to be told this, the unifying factor for the Western world until recently has been Judeo-Christian principles. We haven’t all been Christians by any means, and those of us professing to be Christians haven’t always been without hypocrisy. But up until the last couple of decades we’ve had a culture in which commonly held views and principles bound us together as much as any bunch of imperfect humans can be held together: honesty, truthfulness, politeness, longsuffering, a fear of God and of judgment, industry, enterprisedeference, and a common understanding of history. We’ve had reasonably shared acceptance of the things that matter and that held us together.

Up to now, Western nations, still having a sizable Christian population providing salt and light to the world, have thrived in an afterglow of commonly held ideals. We stand on the shoulders of past achievements, such as scientific discovery by those seeking to know how God has constructed our reality, and the abolition of slavery. We’ve had the benefit of strength and security so that we were able to live in comparative freedom, peace and knowledge to further our civilization. Civilization and culture isn’t the product of evolution, but of development allowed by security and an orderly society with laws and commonly held ideas of right and wrong.

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What’s threatening the West is the determination of some among us to enforce a model of “diversity” which is in reality the rejection of much of what made the West great in the first place, and of what makes any civilization great. This diversity can only be achieved by ignoring our creator. Of course I’m not talking about whiteness: how pathetic and disingenuous are those who attempt to make that accusation. Black, white and all shades in between could live in harmony and prosperity given shared principles, along with freedom from those attempting to incite a race war.

Those people talk about unity but what they mean is that we should all unite under their extreme prescription for society. This includes the total repudiation of all-yes all those standards which have held us together and kept our way of life civil and bearable. They have a hatred for the fundamental building blocks of a sane world: families consisting of mothers and fathers and their kids; accountability for all criminals; the right to life; the natural boundaries of gender; the freedom to prosper and enjoy the fruit of our labours without being forced to give it away to pay for sex changes and abortions and people who have no intention of working.

If you dismantle marital and natural family commitments, you’re dismantling a most fundamental building block of order. If you stamp on your own origins and revise history in order to destabilize things, you are working for the destruction of what has benefited your society and your own life in the first place. If you dismantle borders you are not creating a fair society for all but ensuring that what has been built will be torn down. You are causing instability, upheaval, stress, broken lives, and damage to your economy and to law and order.

Yes our world is imperfect, but it’s a lot better than it would be if you succeeded in tearing down our order and our progress. Tearing down is not evolution, it is regression and devolution. Those who have in the past succeeded in overthrowing their governments have not ushered in a perfect world but failure, while causing misery and hardship for the millions of people they pretended to be revolting for. There is only one destination if you steer away from truth: insanity.

There’s a spirit at work in our world to destroy civility, moral reason, tradition, faith, established norms and plain common sense. This can only lead to pain and trouble-for all of us. I’m convinced that the central goal, the motivating factor in all those who work to overthrow the West as founded and to create a global society, is to attempt to rid the world of the God who made us in the first place and who sustains us. It’s really nothing new: it’s been a movement at work since the beginning of time. It’s a movement doomed to failure for those behind it, a surely as it would be for some insane soul screaming at the ocean and telling the tide not to come in.

Why do the nations rage
    and the peoples plot in vain?
The kings of the earth set themselves,
    and the rulers take counsel together,
    against the Lord and against his Anointed, saying,
“Let us burst their bonds apart
    and cast away their cords from us.”

He who sits in the heavens laughs;
    the Lord holds them in derision.

(Psalm 2:1-4)

The universe is held together by its creator. You can’t remove God any more than you can remove all the water from the ocean. There is no future for anyone attempting to dethrone Him, and the utopia they seek cannot and will not ever exist. The creator of the world holds all the cards and all the power, and the future-all eternity- is in His hands. Glory to God!

ULTIMATE FREEDOM-IF YOU WANT IT

Sometimes I don’t think about God. Sometimes I don’t speak with Him. Sometimes I’m not completely honoring of Him in the way I live my life. But here’s the good news: God is still there: He’s everywhere. He is where you are, right now.

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When I fail my God, and when I ignore Him, and when I let Him down, He doesn’t act like a petulant jilted lover. To put it another way, He doesn’t act like we do. God is merciful and loving and patient. And herein are the riches of freedom in Christ. I’m not talking about a license to sin, or about being consistently luke-warm and uncommitted. I’m saying that God is far more patient and forgiving than we are.

We Christians are free to worship or not. In fact, all humans are free to worship or not to worship. God forces no-one to serve him, unlike the gods of other world religions I could mention. Jesus Christ imposes himself on no man, even though men have attempted to impose themselves in His name, denying the very grace that their claimed Lord brought to them.

It’s human nature, not divine nature, to want to impose ideas and philosophies upon others. Even in our supposed Western “civilization”. The philosophy of evolution is forced upon us from the earliest age, without a hint of evidence to back it up (have you seen any?). Try gaining a degree these days while opposing the theory and you’ll have problems.

In our “democracy” we’re all assaulted with political and social ideology, pushed onto us  without any real love for truth or for what’s genuinely best for everyone or for society. In the world of religion, and even under the umbrella of Christianity, there are plenty attempting to foist their own ideas and goals upon us. They work to take away the freedom we all have to choose Christ.

In this vein is the entire misinterpretation of predestination, in which certain Christians have been and still are proponents of a false freedom: a freedom in which you are not really free- you only think you are. According to this view you do not choose to follow Jesus Christ-he chooses you. I agree that we cannot save ourselves and that we need His Spirit to draw us and to lead us. But this philosophy leads to the inescapable conclusion that God allows literally billions of people to come into existence only to be sent to hell for all eternity, because Christ has not chosen them. To my mind, this is itself a hellish doctrine, denying the work of Christ, the words of Christ, and the will of Christ, who himself said:

“And I, if I be lifted up from the earth, will draw all men unto me” (John 12:32 KJV).

Little words are as important to our God as the big ones, and that little word, “all” is, in this subject, paradoxically one of the biggest words there could be in our language. He did not say “some”. He did not say “I will draw some men to myself”. Christ died for the sins of the whole world, says our Scripture, and as the deniers of freedom attempt to explain away such passages as meaning something they were never intended to mean, they risk adding to and subtracting from Scripture the deepest truths that are known to man. Christ died for the whole world-not just for some.

There is, however, as is also attested to in Scripture, a condition to our being accepted by the Father of the Son. That is, that we accept His Son, the will of the Son…that we become like Him… and the work that His Son accomplished on the cross. The creator of the universe holds out a loving hand of acceptance, but with that love comes the option for us to reject Him, as terrible a choice as that is, with all its immediate and long-term consequences.

Yes, some people have never heard about Jesus: I’ve written about that: please see my previous post if you’re interested in the subject.

But you have heard about Jesus. You have been blessed with the good news that there is a loving God who has done everything necessary for you to be accepted into an eternal kingdom of light and love. To you is given the incredible gift of a clear choice. Will you seek your Creator, and His Son, or will you reject Him? The best kind of freedom-ultimate freedom-comes from our submission to the One who made us, sustains us, and loves us.

WHAT HAPPENS TO PEOPLE WHO NEVER HEAR THE GOSPEL?

What happens to people who never get a chance to hear the gospel of Jesus Christ? Are they lost and outside of the plan of God, never to see the blessings of heaven? Many skeptics and atheists will pour scorn, noting that not just millions but billions of humans, past and present, have never even had the chance to hear the name of Jesus, but are instead born into a totally different culture and belief system, or a different time before the life of Christ. Christians often attempt to dodge the question, believing that there is no good answer to it.

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British comedians “Pete and Dud” mocked the preaching of the gospel on TV, assuming that it was the hearing of the gospel which condemns people when they choose not to respond to it. In this case, the gospel should not be preached. “I haven’t told anyone Dud”, said Pete in his usual wry fashion, suggesting that it was only common sense, missed by the ignorant evangelist, not to condemn a man by telling him the gospel.

The truth is that we are already condemned apart from the mercy of God, and it’s the gospel which can rescue us from that condemnation.

 

GOOD IGNORANCE?

The apostle Paul was a man locked into a hard and fast commitment to the Law of the Old Testament, and his anger against anyone deviating from that Law. But then he had a very remarkable conversion experience. This was one of the things he observed about his own conversion:

“Even though I was once a blasphemer and a persecutor and a violent man, I was shown mercy because I acted in ignorance and unbelief… Christ Jesus came into the world to save sinners-of whom I am the worst.” (1Timothy 1:13-16).

There are three important things to notice here:

1/ Paul was shown mercy because he had acted in ignorance (lack of knowledge);

2/ Christ Jesus came into the world to save sinners;

3/ Paul didn’t have to fulfill any formula or to get his theology right before God showed him mercy through the gospel.

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SALVATION IS A GIFT, NOT SOMETHING ANY OF US EARN

God showed Paul mercy even before Paul responded positively to the gospel. If this were not the case, a positive response would itself be a work and not an act of faith, and according to Paul and Jesus works have nothing to do with salvation (they are an evidence of salvation, not the means of salvation). Paul said:

“…it is by grace you have been saved, through faith-and this not from yourselves, it is the gift of God- not by works, so that no one can boast” (Ephesians 2:8-9).

This is not an evidence that we should all be followers of Calvin’s theology. Jesus said:

“…God so loved the world that he gave his one and only Son, that whoever believes in him shall not perish but have eternal life” (John 3:16).

A DISTINCTION

Jesus, when talking about salvation, frequently contrasted those who believe and so are saved, with those who do not believe and so are condemned (example, John 3:16-20). When reading the book of Revelation I’ve noticed that the people who will be recipients of God’s wrath are those who have rejected the gospel and refused to know God, not those who never heard it:

“…they cursed the name of God, who had control over these plagues, but they refused to repent and glorify him” (Revelation16:9).

So it’s my contention here that the hearing of the gospel is not a work, required of every human before they can be reconciled to God, but the means by which those who do hear it have the chance to be made aware of their lost condition, to repent of it, and then to find mercy and forgiveness. It’s a beautiful message which offers us a “free ticket” out of spiritual darkness and condemnation, without which we are completely lost. Hearing the gospel provides us with the opportunity we need to repent of our way of life, and to be reconciled to our heavenly Father. Without this opportunity, many people, for whatever reason, may never seek God.

MERCY

Are some people “good enough” to find salvation without responding to the gospel?

“All have sinned and fall short of the glory of God” (Romans 3:23).

And there is no way to make ourselves acceptable to God:

“…no one will be declared righteous in his sight by observing the law; rather, through the law we become conscious of sin” (verse 20).

It’s by the mercy of God that anyone finds salvation and forgiveness.

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NOT ONLY BUT ALSO…

Jesus died for the whole world:

“He is the atoning sacrifice for our sins, and not only for ours but also for the sins of the whole world” (1 John2:2).

“…God so loved the world that he gave his one and only Son” (John 3:16).

Christ’s sacrifice made it possible for “the whole world” to be saved from condemnation. This does not mean that everyone is automatically going to heaven- Jesus made that clear (John 3:18). And not everyone wants to be saved  from their sin. Not everyone loves God, and many people hate Him. If God were to take everyone to heaven, heaven would be as the world is now- full of violence, hatred, unfaithfulness, bigotry and division.

THE DANGER AND THE BLESSING OF KNOWLEDGE

From our example of Paul’s salvation from ignorance and unbelief, does it not seem possible also that others, in “ignorance”, can be the recipients of God’s mercy?

In God’s economy humans are judged according to what they are given, and not a fixed set of criteria:

“The servant who knows his masters will and does not get ready or does not do what his master wants will be beaten with many blows. But the one who does not know and does things deserving punishment will be beaten with few blows. From everyone who has been given much, much will be demanded; and from the one who has been entrusted with much, much more will be asked” (Luke 14:47-48).

This is why the Pharisees-full of pride and the knowledge of their history, their laws and traditions and the writings of Moses and the prophets- were the subject of Jesus’ scorn, since they did not actually live godly lives. In contrast Jesus associated with “sinners”, drunks, and prostitutes, the poor and the lowly, and the common thief on the cross next to him was told, “today you will be with me in paradise” (Luke 23:43).

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If we extrapolate backwards, perhaps we can consider those who have not benefitted from Scripture or from hearing the message of the gospel. They have been given little, so little is expected of them. Old Testament characters such as Abram and Jacob were called by God when they had very little or no knowledge of Him except perhaps some awareness from nature and from history, and from the spoken word which had been passed down to them through the centuries and millennia since creation. They had certainly never heard about Jesus Christ.

So, to stick my neck out a little here, my view is that many people over the millennia, although probably a small percentage, who had never heard the gospel or the writings of the Hebrew prophets, will be there in heaven when we get there. Although they knew little compared to what we know from Scripture, they searched for truth and wisdom, and they wanted, in the best way they knew, to understand and know the One who had originated all that they saw around them:

“…he rewards those who earnestly seek him” (Hebrews 11:6).

This is not a way of excusing sin or idolatry, or the worship of animals or stars or people: I’m not saying that humans can live as they want just so long as they don’t hear the gospel. I’m saying that those who respond to what they are given, potentially can be shown mercy.

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SILENT TESTIMONY FOR ALL PEOPLE OF ALL TIME

So what, you may ask is anyone given, spiritually, who has not read the Scriptures or been told the message of Jesus? Once again, Paul enlightens us:

“…since what may be known about God is plain to them, because God has made it plain to them. For since the creation of the world God’s invisible qualities-his eternal power and divine nature-have been clearly seen, being understood from what has been made, so that men are without excuse” (Romans 1:19-20).

Elsewhere in scripture we are told that nature shows us that God is there, and shows us many of his attributes:

“The heavens declare the glory of God;

The skies proclaim the works of his hands.

Day after day they pour forth speech;

Night after night they display knowledge.

There is no speech or language

where their voice is not heard.

Their voice goes out into all the earth,

Their words to the ends of the world” (Psalm19:1-4).

Nature also speaks to us on matters of morality and lifestyle:

“The acts of the sinful nature are obvious: sexual immorality, impurity and debauchery, idolatry and witchcraft; hatred, discord, jealousy, fits of rage, selfish ambition, dissentions, factions and envy, drunkenness, orgies and the like…” Galatians 5:19-21).

“…God gave them over to shameful lusts. Even their women exchanged natural relations for unnatural ones. In the same way the men also abandoned natural relations with women and were inflamed with lust for one another” (Romans 1:26-27).

So mankind does have a revealed set of standards and signs to live by, even when not blessed with the revelation of scripture or the gospel.

What I’m saying is that someone on the other side of the world from the Middle-East in the fifth century BC was not left without a witness: he had an idea that there is a God, and also of what that God is like. All he had to do was seek God and to look around. He only had to look to the skies to see that God could not be represented by a little hand-made idol in the shape of a dog or a snake; that He could not be manipulated to perform tricks and miracles and acts of service; that He was and is uncontrollable, un-representable, and unimaginably powerful, and that He is holy, separate from and higher than any human thought or deed. It would have been clear to the seeker that God was merciful, caring and loving to make such a beautiful world and to provide food and water and air and family and friends. God is unmistakably there, and anyone looking could not help noticing.250px-Lemon_Orchard_in_the_Galilee_by_David_Shankbone

THE ETERNAL GOSPEL

Not only did Christ die for the sins of the whole world, but he also died for those who lived before him and after him:

“…by that will (God’s will) we have been made holy through the sacrifice of the body of Jesus Christ once for all” (Hebrews 10:10).

“But when this priest (Jesus) had offered for all time one sacrifice for sins, he sat down at the right hand of God” (verse 14).

David, centuries before Jesus, observed:

“If you, O Lord, kept a record of sins,

O Lord, who could stand?

But with you there is forgiveness;

Therefore you are feared” (Psalm 130:3-4).

So the rule has always been that we look to what we can know about God, we repent of sin and find forgiveness- the forgiveness afforded by the sacrifice of Christ on the cross, even in times and places when men knew very little or nothing of the suffering Messiah.

THE WAY

And here’s the last but not least point to consider- there is no other gospel which is able to save us from our sin. This is the message of the apostles of Jesus:

“…then know this…It is by the name of Jesus Christ of Nazareth, whom you crucified but whom God raised from the dead”…”Salvation is found in no one else, for there is no other name under heaven given to men by which we must be saved” (Acts 4:12).

We spread the gospel, much to the annoyance of the skeptic and the atheist, because some people will never repent of their sin and seek the Lord until they learn that they are required to, and that there is a way-one way- to find forgiveness and acceptance with God the Father. To many people this is a liberating and an exhilarating experience, and not at all oppressive or offensive.  Yes, to some the gospel is offensive, as it must be (Galatians 5:11), but as Paul wrote:

“For the message of the cross is foolishness to those who are perishing, but to us who are being saved it is the power of God” (1 Corinthians 1:18).

Ignorance of the gospel is not a viable excuse for those who reject it, and who use that excuse to try to silence it:

“In the past God overlooked such ignorance, but now he commands all men everywhere to repent” (Acts 17:30).

PRIDE OR TRUTH

Over the years I’ve been blogging I’ve seen that the biggest yawn for readers, judging by their response-or lack of it-is any discussion of what truth is and what it means to us. I’m almost writing this post for myself, knowing that very few will be interested: hair color, hurt feelings and virtue-signaling are far more important to people now.

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Our post-modern culture has infected everyone, including the Church. Chat in some depth with a few people in your church, and you’ll find a surprising number who either don’t know their Bible-the indispensable source for the follower of the original Jesus Christ-or who think they and the “experts” know better than Paul, Peter, John, Jesus Christ, and even the Father himself. They know more about Creation, science, history, the reason for the suffering of Christ, what sin is, and almost every foundational doctrine. God didn’t create the universe or Adam, there was no world-wide Flood, Moses didn’t usher in a series of plagues to punish the Egyptians, Jesus wasn’t the Son of God and he didn’t rise from the dead.

I was once invited to dinner with a gentleman who attended the same church as I. He would always sit in a prominent place in the front row, singing louder than anyone else, as proud as he was of his voice, and his greatest efforts were always in the songs about the blood of Jesus. He was a nice guy-the model Christian, it seemed.

After dinner our discussion turned to Scripture at my request. When I read a few verses and commented on them, he replied that the passage didn’t mean what I said it meant. So I asked him what he thought it meant. His reply was “I don’t know, but it doesn’t mean that”. I pursued the issue and discovered that he believed nothing remotely similar to what we would consider to be generally accepted evangelical doctrine. The entirety of Scripture, to this man’s mind, is impossible to understand without imposing our own faulty views upon it.

Try telling the IRS that their demand for payment has no correct interpretation.

My friend attended church for years before finally and publicly renouncing his faith totally. He was not grounded in truth. He hadn’t built his house on the rock.

My response to the arrogant opposers of scripture within the Church is that you should either repent of your pride and distrust of God, or go off and start your own religion. Just don’t call it “Christianity”.

 

WHEN IT’S GOOD TO JUDGE

There’s a serious epidemic at large in the Church these days-and one of the symptoms is the refusal to make a judgment on whether something or someone is right or wrong…

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Somehow Christians have bought into the multicultural mindset to the extent that they think they would be committing a crime against humanity by pointing out that someone has got it wrong. Well pardon my incorrectness, but that’s just plain wrong!

I once wrote at some length in answer to the now common mantra that “it’s wrong to judge”, often linked to the words of Jesus when he said “Do not judge”. I pointed out that once you get that plank out of your own eye, said Jesus, you are free to lovingly help take the mote out of someone else’s eye. Therefore, Jesus wasn’t saying it’s always wrong to make a judgment: he was speaking of hypocrisy. Do not pass judgment on someone else if you are no better than they are, but do…do, once cleansed of your own hypocrisy, go on to point out faults in others, and to tell them they are wrong.

One of the many huge reasons this epidemic is a problem is that there is a multitude of false teachers out there. Some are just mistaken, but some are of the “wolves in sheep’s clothing” variety. And the wolves are leading sheep away, sometimes intentionally. The Church is in need of more sheepdogs, to give the warning that there’s danger, and then to chase off the wolves and the bloodsuckers. We’ve all been so conditioned by left-leaning philosophy that we’re afraid to point out anyone for fear of being called “judgmental”. Perhaps, in many cases, people either don’t know when a teaching is wrong, or they really do know and they’re happy to go along with it anyway.

We’ve wandered away from our Guide, which is the written Word of God. Or else the godless culture around us has had such an effect on us that we really like what we’re hearing, and we’re content to wander away from the true faith once delivered to the saints. But if we aren’t following what Christ and his apostles taught, we aren’t really Christ-Ones at all. Call that a judgmental statement if you like-I can take it.

Without the Maker’s instructions to guide us, we can only wander into mistakes, error, sin and eventually insanity. Isn’t that what’s going on in our culture already? And should we, the Church of Christ, go the same way? If we would only look at what He said we would know that it is not only the right thing to pass judgment on false teachings and false teachers, but it’s actually commanded repeatedly in the very Scriptures which tell us about our Lord and what He said to us. You can’t go a single chapter in the Bible without seeing that it’s vital for us to constantly make judgments about what is right or wrong: it’s fundamental to our faith. God has standards which He expects us to know and to keep, and there is no wishy-washy confusion or ambivalence in the mind of our Creator:

“Watch out for false prophets. They come to you in sheep’s clothing, but inwardly they are ferocious wolves…” (Matthew 7:15).

Yes, dear readers, some things are wrong, some people are wrong and some teachings are wrong and often in direct opposition to our God. Very often the ones promoting them are in our churches and on our TV and devices. And it’s up to us, and particularly those claiming to be our shepherds, to get rid of them! So get that mote out of your eye, get into the true Word, and then start judging!